Brussels Report Details Extreme Climate Change
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BRUSSELS REPORT WARNS OF DESERTS IN SOUTH AND STORMS IN NORTH
EUROPE TOLD THERE IS NO CHOICE BUT TO ADAPT
Paul Brown, environment correspondent
The Guardian & Observer
Thursday November 2, 2000
Europe must adapt to extremes of climate which will cause new deserts in the
south and floods and wind storms in the north, according to a new report
before the European commission.
The report, compiled by climate scientists, warns that traditional holiday
destinations on the Mediterranean will lose their beaches as sea levels
rise, temperatures will become too hot for comfort and many older people
will die due to excessive heat. The Alps will lose most of their glaciers
and uncertain snow patterns will lead to serious problems for the ski
Agriculture in the south will suffer as underground water is exhausted and
already sparse summer rain disappears. There will not be enough water to
grow the fruit and vegetables that fill northern supermarkets. Hot summers
will double in frequency by 2020 and be five times as likely in Spain.
Forest fires will increase across the whole region.
Species of wading birds which live on the Mediterranean wetlands will become
extinct as sea levels rise, and environmental refugees will invade from
Africa as local people move north in search of a gentler climate.
The north-west of Europe will suffer least and has the technology to adapt
to climate change. There will be some gains, including faster growing
forests, less snow and lower heating bills. Cold winters will be half as
frequent by 2020 and disappear altogether except in the extreme north.
Dangers include more droughts, floods, storms, tidal surges and insects
bringing new diseases.
The 350-page report to the commission is edited by Martin Parry of the
Jackson Environment Institute at the University of East Anglia, and was
released yesterday -- two weeks before EU governments meet in the Hague to
discuss reducing carbon dioxide emissions to try to slow global warming.
Prof Parry said climate change was already measurable and the extra
greenhouse gases in the atmosphere would usher in a warmer, stormier world.
"It is imperative that we take the first steps to adapting to climate change
now by factoring the coming effects into environmental and regional
policies," he said.
Although sea walls could be built higher, buildings adapted, water conserved
and agriculture changed to meet new conditions, the report makes clear that
many species will disappear. Prof Parry said nature reserves would suffer as
the climate changed. Mountain-top species such as alpine plants would
disappear as vegetation changed. Cold-water species such as salmon, arctic
char and sturgeon would die out in southern rivers.
Dr Jorgen Olesin, a co-author of the report from Denmark, said:
"Agricultural crops will move an average of 50km [30 miles] north per decade
so there can be advantages in places too cold to grow crops now. But unless
we make changes to make new habitats as water temperatures rise and salt
marshes in the Mediterranean and Baltic disappear, because of sea level
rise, we will see extinctions of fisheries and loss of wading birds."
Tony Juniper, campaigns director of Friends of the Earth, said: "The report
is about adapting to climate change, but arctic char, salmon and wading
birds cannot evolve fast enough to cope with the dramatic changes being
caused by people polluting the atmosphere. The catastrophic consequences of
rapid climate change are being made clear in ways that should focus
governments' attention at this month's climate change negotiations on the
urgent measures that are now absolutely necessary to reduce greenhouse gas
"The longer governments delay what must be the inevitable transition to a
renewable energy economy, the worse the consequences will be."
Global warming is destroying coral reefs, scientists have confirmed. New
Scientist reports that US researchers have discovered the first direct
evidence that mass deaths of coral are caused by rising temperatures.
The alarm was raised after reports of "bleaching", which occurs when warmer
waters force corals to expel algae. During the 1997-98 El Nino weather
system, reefs bleached throughout the world and there were mass deaths of
coral in the Caribbean.
Cores drilled from Caribbean reefs off Belize show nothing like this has
happened for at least 3,000 years.
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