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Climate change may increase Europe’s north-south divide

When impacts of climate change affect regions with low adaptive capacity, the consequences can be severe.

When impacts of climate change affect regions with low adaptive capacity, the consequences can be severe.

Rising temperatures could widen the gap between the Europe’s rich and poor nations, an EU agency warned yesterday, as it announced the warmest decade on record in the continent.

Greenland’s ice sheet has been melting at an accelerating pace, and exceptional melting took place this summer

The warning came in the latest report from the European Environment Agency (EEA).

The divide between Europe’s rich and poor nations could deepen as poorer countries in the south were hit by spiralling costs for natural disasters such as floodings, storms and extreme heatwaves, it said.

Existing socioeconomic gaps between countries could widen because poorer countries had more limited resources to cope with and adapt to the effects of climate change, it said.

“When impacts of climate change affect regions with low adaptive capacity, the consequences can be severe,” the report said.

“An integrated assessment of European regions’ vulnerability to climate change suggests that (it) may negatively affect the territorial cohesion. The average temperature over land in Europe in the last decade was 1.3 degrees Celsius warmer than in the preindustrial level, which makes it the warmest period on record,” it said.

In the same period, rainfall increased in northern and northwestern Europe, while decreasing in the south, which has been plagued by heat waves and forest fires.

Greenland’s ice sheet has been melting at an accelerating pace and “exceptional melting” took place this summer, the report found.

The extent and volume of Arctic sea ice had also been decreasing much faster than previously thought, it said.

The agency predicted that the economic challenges posed by climate change would vary significantly across the continent.

Southern countries will face rising energy costs and heatwaves, while western Europe will have to combat coastal flooding, as well as extreme heat spells.

In the northern and eastern parts of the continent, river and (in the north) coastal floods will be the most costly consequences for governments as temperatures rise, it said.

The EEA said damage costs could be significantly reduced by implementing global and European policies in line with a UN-backed pledge to limit global warming to 2˚C.

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