European Commission Quantifies Cost of Climate Impacts

European Union 25 June 2014: Climate change-related damage could cost the EU €190 billion or more unless further climate action is taken, according to a study by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC). The study seeks to quantify the biophysical impacts of climate change on household welfare and economic activity by examining climate impacts on ten sectors in five EU regions through a broad set of climate model simulations.

The report, titled ‘Climate Impacts in Europe,' is the result of the JRC's Projection of Economic impacts of climate change in Sectors of the EU based on bottom-up Analysis II (PESETA II) project, which examined sectoral and regional patterns of climate change impacts in Europe for the 2071-2100 time horizon. The project methodology is based on bottom-up biophysical impact models, and characterized by consistency in data use across all models and consideration of other horizontal issues. The study considers ten impact categories: agriculture; energy; river floods; droughts; forest fires; transport infrastructure; coasts; tourism; habitat suitability of forest tree species; and human health.

The study concludes that, if global temperature increases by 3.5°C, household welfare losses could amount to nearly 2% of the EU's current GDP. Doubled frequency of weather-related extremes could: lead to 200,000 heat-related deaths; result in 8,000 km2 of burned forests; cost €10 billion in river flood damages; and increase the number of people affected by droughts seven-fold. In addition, coastal damage could more than triple due to sea-level rise.

The study also finds an asymmetric geographical distribution of climate change-related damages, with the highest losses occurring in Southern Europe. It finds that over half of overall expected financial damages in the EU would be caused by additional premature mortality. In a 2°C world, however, climate damages, at €120 billion, would be reduced to 1.2% of the GDP.

Noting that “no action is clearly the most expensive solution of all,” Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action, underscored the need to "invest in reducing our climate impacts and becoming a competitive low-carbon economy,” rather than pay for the damages. She emphasized the importance of a decision on the EU's 2030 climate and energy framework in October 2014 in this regard.

The JRC, a Directorate-General of the European Commission, is the Commission's in-house science service, tasked with providing independent, evidence-based scientific and technical support to EU policies. The JRC PESETA II project seeks to contribute to the EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change, adopted by the European Commission in 2013, by providing background information on expected climate change impacts on a broad range of areas across the EU. [JRC Press Release] [PESETA II Project Website] [Publication Website] [Publication: Climate Impacts in Europe] [The JRC Science Hub] [EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change]