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The European environment – state and outlook 2010

The European environment – state and outlook 2010

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Climate change mitigation - Why care? (SOER 2010)

Why Belgium cares about climate change.

Key message

Some signs suggest that climate change is already having an impact in Belgium. We are starting to obtain interesting data on future climate change from emissions scenarios and socio-economic forecasts. The coastal region, water resources, flood risk and human health could be a concern in such scenario’s, but there is still great uncertainty about the issue.

There are signs suggesting that climate change is already having an impact in Belgium with very high annual average temperatures being recorded over the past two decades, roughly a 7 % increase in annual mean rainfall since 1833 and early migration of some species of birds. All climate scenarios clearly indicate, by 2100, an increase in the ambient temperature (e.g. by 1.5 °C to 4.4 °C in winter and by 2.4 °C to 7.2 °C in summer), a higher evaporation in both winter and summer and, finally, more precipitation during winter. The sea level at the Flemish coast may rise by 20 to 200 cm this century. The majority of climate scenarios indicate a drop in the average summer precipitation. Combined with higher evaporation this will decrease the lowest river flows during dry summers by over 50 % by the end of the 21st century. The chances of severe water shortages increase as a result. Despite a drop in summer precipitation, an increase in the number of extreme summer storms may be expected. This increases the probability of flooding of sewers [1].

We are starting to obtain interesting data on future climate change from emissions scenarios and socio-economic forecasts. Current data lead us to believe that ecosystems and forests will be vulnerable in Belgium, even if average regional temperatures rise by less than 3 °C (2 °C worldwide) (in summers from the end of the 20th compared to summers at the end of the 21st century). The coastal region, water resources, flood risk and human health could also be a concern in such a scenario, but there is still great uncertainty about the issue. Ecosystems and forests will probably be seriously threatened if temperatures rise by 3 °C or more locally (2 °C worldwide). Droughts and heatwaves are likely to pose major health and water availability problems and could prove harmful for agriculture and the soil functions [2].

 


[1] Environmental Outlook 2030 for Flanders (2009), http://www.milieurapport.be/nl/publicaties/milieuverkenning-2030/

[2] Belgium’s fifth national communication. Climate change. http://www.climat.be/IMG/pdf/NC5_EN.pdf