The Impacts and Costs of Climate Change Page: 8
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The Impacts and Costs of Climate Change
The main categories of impacts have been described below, and relevant key indicator data for Europe
and also the world.
Sea level rise
By 2100, sea level rises of 0.09 to 0.88 metres, with a central value of 0.48m, is predicted to occur16
Sea level rise will cause flooding, coastal erosion and the loss of flat coastal regions. Coastal
protection is possible, though this leads to additional costs. Rising sea levels increases the likelihood
of storm surges, enforces landward intrusion of salt water and endangers coastal ecosystems and
wetlands. Estimates in the European Union, where the coastline is about 89,000 km long, indicate
some 68 million people could be affected by sea level changes (EC 1997).
At a global level, the effect is potentially more extreme. Populations that inhabit small islands and/or
low-lying coastal areas (e.g. small island states such as the Maldives, the Bangladesh delta) are at
particular risk of severe social and economic effects from sea-level rise and storm surges. The loss of
these areas (e.g. for those living on small island states) will have potentially important secondary
effects through migration and potential socially contingent effects.
Higher average temperatures are predicted in Europe, with both warmer summers and winters. There
is also likely to be changes in seasonal temperature variability, with increased summer peaks (heat
waves) (EEA 2004). The changes in average and peak temperatures will have positive and negative
effects on energy use. There is likely to be a decrease in winter energy demand for heating, but this
will be offset by an increase in summer energy use for cooling (air conditioning). The pattern of
changes in energy use will vary across Europe, with northern latitudes likely to experience more
benefits. Changes in energy use will also occur at a global level.
Health: thermal stress
More than 20 000 excess deaths attributable to heat, particularly among the aged population, occurred
in western and southern Europe during the summer of 2003. Heat waves are projected to become more
frequent and more intense during the twenty-first century and hence the number of excess deaths due
to heat is projected to increase in the future17. However, rising temperatures will reduce winter excess
deaths (and at present the cold leads to far more deaths than the heat). This will have particular
benefits in northern latitudes of Europe. By 2080 in Europe, it is likely that cold winters will have
almost entirely disappeared (EEA 2004).
Health: disease burden
In Europe tick-borne encephalitis cases increased in the Baltic region and central Europe between
1980 and 1995, and have remained high (EEA 2004). Ticks can transmit a variety of diseases, such as
tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) and Lyme disease (in Europe called Lyme borreliosis). It is not clear
how many of the 85 000 cases of Lyme borreliosis reported annually in Europe are due to the
temperature increase over the past decades.
Recent work on climate change and human health risk and responses (McMichael et al, 2003) has
looked at disease risk at a global level. They estimate:
* In 2030 the estimated risk of diarrhoea will be up to 10% higher in some regions than if no
climate change occurred.
* Estimated effects on malnutrition will vary markedly among regions. By 2030, the relative risks
for unmitigated emissions, relative to no climate change, vary from a significant increase in the
South- East Asia region to a small decrease in the Western Pacific. Overall, although the estimates
of changes in risk are somewhat unstable because of regional variation in rainfall, they refer to a
major existing disease burden entailing large numbers of people.
16 IPCC Third Assessment Report (2001).
17 Impacts of Europe's changing climate An indicator-based assessment EEA Report No 2/2004
AEA Technology Environment, August 2005
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Watkiss, Paul; Downing, Tom; Handley, Claire & Butterfield, Ruth. The Impacts and Costs of Climate Change, text, September 2005; Oxford, England. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc29337/m1/19/: accessed December 18, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .