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European Geosciences Union

Climate change & its impacts

The Earth is warming due to an increased quantity of greenhouse gases (GHGs) being emitted into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxides, and fluorinated compounds are the major substances which contribute to this effect. Their major sources, as well as other contributors to climate change, are listed below:

Effects of climate change

The global effects of climate change are wide-ranging and dependent on the level of warming. Some research has shown that a small warming (1-3 °C by 2100) can have a positive impacts on some areas of the world and negative on others. More negative impacts throughout the globe will occur with increased warming. If global emissions continue to rise at current rates the world will be ~5 °C warmer by 2100. This is roughly the same temperature difference between present day readings and the last ice age (~12,000 years ago). Current and future climate change effects include:

Current EU policy

EU emissions represent about 10% of total global GHG emissions. In October 2014, the EU proposed legislation which included a 40% reduction in GHG emissions compared to 1990 levels by 2030. Renewable energy should make up at least 27% of energy production and there will be a 27% minimum improvement to energy efficiency.

The EU already has extensive climate change legislation which cover (among others) greenhouse gas monitoring, the EU emissions trading scheme, carbon capture policies, and transportation/fuel legislation. These policies must be strengthened and maintained to ensure that 2020 and 2030 targets can be met.

Future challenges

The regulation and monitoring of emissions must continue to ensure the EU is meeting its legal requirements. Delaying mitigation action now increases future mitigation costs as more extreme steps will be necessary to produce the same results. In addition, further research must be conducted increase science’s understanding of the world’s natural mechanisms, their feedback systems and the impact human activity is having on these processes. Climate modelling must also be developed to give an improved understanding of the regional impacts a changing climate has to support potential mitigation and adaptation policies.

EGU climate change research areas:

Recent EGU papers


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