Climate Change Could Crowd Middle of Europe
DENMARK: May 23, 2005
COPENHAGEN - The middle of Europe could become crowded by "climate
change refugees" escaping a thawing Arctic to the north and
Mediterranean droughts to the south, the head of the European
Environment Agency (EEA) said on Friday.
Indigenous peoples in the Arctic say global warming is a threat to
their culture because it melts the ice on which their hunts of seals
or polar bears depend. And some scientific models indicate southern
Europe may get drier.
"I do see even within the confines of Europe from the Mediterranean
to the Arctic there is enough momentum to consider we will
have 'climate change refugees'," said Jacqueline McGlade, executive
director of the EEA, an arm of the European Union.
"The difficulties are going to be when the northern people are moving
away because permafrost (hard-frozen ground) is melting and southern
people are moving up because of drought. They (are) all going to end
up in the middle," she told a news conference.
The panel of scientists that advises the United Nations projects
world temperatures are likely to rise by 1.4 to 5.8C (2.5 to 10.5F)
by 2100, triggering more frequent floods, droughts, melting icecaps
and driving thousands of species to extinction.
Many scientists say emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide from
cars, power plants and factories are mainly to blame for blanketing
the planet and nudging up temperatures. Others say models are
unreliable and exaggerate the effects.
McGlade said a warming climate might discourage people from living or
retiring by the Mediterranean.
"If in the next 20 to 30 years those conditions around the
Mediterranean are going to move towards an extreme with drought and
lack of water, will people then retire to such countries?" she asked.
She said people already living in those areas might also migrate
northwards when that started to happen.
A report last year by 250 experts said climate change was happening
fastest in the Arctic, partly because dark soil or water, once
exposed, soaks up far more heat than snow or ice. (Additional
reporting by Alister Doyle in Oslo)