The Impacts and Costs of Climate Change Page: 11
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The Impacts and Costs of Climate Change
There are likely to be significant effects on ecosystems in Europe from climate change. For some
species, there may be benefits from warmer winters from modest levels of climate change, for
example with the survival rate of most bird species likely to increases, and potential benefits from
increases in vegetation growth. However, there are also likely to be significant impacts, particularly
for sensitive species such as alpine and mountain plant species and vegetation. There are also
potential impacts from water shortages, especially if combined with high summer temperature peaks.
Significant impacts on ecosystems and water resources are likely with a temperature rise of between
1-2C above pre-industrial levels, and the risks of net negative impacts on global food production
occur with between 2-30C global warming. Recent studies19 indicate that a rise of up to 1 C above pre-
industrial levels will cause up to 10% of ecosystem areas worldwide to shift. Some forest ecosystems
will exhibit increased net primary productivity, increased fire frequency and pest outbreaks. Some
hotspots with high biodiversity and protected areas of global importance will begin to suffer first from
climate-change induced losses. Coral reefs will suffer increased bleaching. Range shifts of species and
higher risks for some endangered species are likely. Most of these impacts can already be observed
A rise of 1-2C above pre-industrial levels will shift up to 15-20% of ecosystem areas worldwide.
Some protected areas of global importance and hotspots are likely to suffer severe losses of both area
and species. Wildlife in arctic ecosystems will be harmed e.g. polar bear, walrus. Bleaching events are
likely to be so frequent that coral reef recovery will be insufficient to prevent severe losses of
biodiversity. For a rise of more than 2C above pre-industrial levels, the global share of ecosystems
shifting due to climate change is likely to be above 20%, and much more in some regions. Global
losses of coastal wetlands may exceed 10%. At a global scale, reefs will undergo major disruptions
and species loss, but will possibly not disappear completely. A large number of species will be
endangered by range shifts. There is a risk that some protected areas of global importance will lose
most of their area due to climate change.
There has been some work on the various ecosystem impacts under different temperature changes
(Leemans and Eickhout, 2004). The key results are shown in the table below.
Table 6. Ecosystem impacts under different temperature change
Impact/ adapt IC increase in global 2 C 3 C
% area of ecosystems 10.5 16 22
% total of nature reserves 10 19 30
% of strict nature reserves 9 18 26
% area of the affected 52 44 30
ecosystems that can adapt
% total of affected nature 50 39 27
reserves that can adapt
% of affected strict nature 49 38 24
reserves that can adapt
Table constructed from Fig 4 from Leemans and Eickhout (2004) Impact and adaptations of all ecosystems, all nature reserves and structure
nature reserves. For a global mean temperature increase of 1, 2 and 3 OC based on HADCM2. Numbers extracted visually from graph.
Leemans and Eickhout (2004) report some emerging benefits of climatic warming. Benefits from
temperature increase are only realized when an ecosystem responds immediately by dispersing into
19 WBGU : Climate Protection Strategies for the 21st Century: Kyoto and beyond Special Report; Berlin 2003
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/m1/22/: accessed February 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .