The warning that the sea returned to give a week ago ended up becoming viral; it's hard to find someone you have not seen those gigantic waves hit a building off the coast of Tenerife, in the Canary Islands. The images are a new reminder of the impacts of sea level rise and the damage that will arise in the future due to climate change. Europe plays a lot – also in economic terms – in the international battle against warming.
The European Union risks losing the equivalent of 1.9% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at the end of the century. Or expressed in another way: Europe can suffer annual losses of at least 240,000 million euros if global warming at the end of the century exceeds three degrees centigrade, as indicated by the current projections that will occur if the main powers of the planet do not give a swerve in their greenhouse gas reduction policies, responsible for global warming according to scientific consensus.
This estimate of losses is collected in the latest monitoring report on the impacts of climate change prepared by the Joint Research Center. This center – known by its acronym in English JRC – is the scientific advisory body of the European Commission and is responsible for providing political representatives with information to make decisions, for example, in the fight against global warming.
Sources of the JRC explain that the losses of the report refer only to six large areas in which researchers have clear economic implications. The team in charge of the analysis – formed by almost fifty specialists – has calculated the losses linked to mortality related to heat waves, coastal floods, lower labor productivity, impacts on agriculture, floods caused by rivers and energy costs of households. And it has established two great scenarios: one in which it is fulfilled the Paris Agreement -And the average increase in the temperature of the planet at the end of the century remains below two degrees centigrade- and another in which it fails -and the temperature rises above three degrees-.
For the first of the scenarios, the JRC calculates annual losses at the end of the century of 79,000 million euros -0.65% of GDP-; if the three degrees centigrade are exceeded, the losses calculated in the report would be multiplied by three, up to 240,000 million euros.
The most exposed south
If the whole of the European Union agrees that the warming is within the limits established by the Paris Agreement, Spain – which does not even have a climate change law – much more. Because the southern region of the EU – where Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta fit – will be the one that suffers the greatest economic impacts.
The analysis of the JRC highlights that on average the daily temperature in summer can be increased at the end of the century by 4.7 degrees in the Iberian Peninsula, more than twice the expected, for example, in the United Kingdom.
For the southern area of the EU, the report estimates annual losses of around 4.2% of GDP if the three-degree scenario is reached, more than double the European average. "The south will suffer eight times more impacts than the north," sources from the JRC summarize, highlighting as one of the conclusions of this report the "great geographical asymmetry2 of the impacts that should lead Southern States to act. The three countries in the EU that increased their greenhouse gas emissions most between 1990 and 2016 are in the southern region, according to UN inventories, while the EU as a whole reduced its emissions by 24% in that period. , Cyprus, Portugal and Spain increased them by 56.9%, 13.1% and 12.9% respectively during those 26 years.
Mortality and heat waves
In the overall calculation of economic losses of the JRC for the EU as a whole, mortality associated with heat waves ranks first. "It represents about half of the losses in the high warming scenario," the report said.
And also in this section the south leaves very badly stopped. At this time, the report states that each year 2,692 people die in the EU for reasons linked to heat waves. In the best scenario (an increase in temperature of two degrees), that figure would increase at the end of the century to 57,674 deaths per year. In the worst scenario (more than three degrees), deaths would increase to 132,150; and more than 60% would be concentrated in the southern region.
Floods on the coast
The report points out that one third of Europeans live at the moment in the first 50 kilometers of coastline. "If adaptation measures are not taken, the annual damage from floods due to climate change could increase between 20 and 50 times," warns the JRC. Therefore, these specialists recommend "strategies of adaptation of the coast in the long term" to avoid "great economic damages and the displacement of the population".
In these moments, the damages by this type of floods suppose to the year 1,250 million euros in the EU (half of the losses center in the United Kingdom, France and Italy). In the worst case scenario – the three grades – the annual flood losses would increase by the end of the century to 59,800 million euros. And more than 2.1 million people will be affected.
"The main cause [de las pérdidas ]is the rise in sea level, which in turn increases the magnitude of coastal flooding, "the report said." It is expected that the greatest economic damage will be for France, the United Kingdom and Italy, "he adds.
Spain, where those huge waves are a reminder of global warming, the annual losses at the end of the century due to these coastal floods could exceed 3,000 million euros if the fight against climate change fails.
Brussels is planning to present this week the document that will help the EU to have a long-term strategy – until 2050 – to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. The EU has already committed to cutting its emissions by at least 40% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. What it needs now is to set a long-term trajectory.
A dozen countries – including France, Italy and Spain – have sent the Commission a letter urging that this strategy be set in a clear and detailed way so that by 2050, greenhouse gas emissions will be zero. Within this pressure group in favor of more ambitious climate policies, as has been the case in recent months, Germany, which a year ago has already acknowledged that it will not comply with the goal it had set for reducing greenhouse gases by 2020. Before the Paris Agreement was signed, EU members set a goal for 2050 of an 80% reduction of their greenhouse gases. Now, the signers of the letter argue that it is necessary to be more ambitious and go towards zero emissions in 2050.
The document that the Commission will present, in principle, will not opt for a single alternative. The foreseeable thing is that several routes are offered and that the States end up agreeing the route to follow.