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Adoption of the IPCC's Working Group I 5th Assessment Report: contribution of EU research

European Commission - MEMO/13/826   27/09/2013

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European Commission


Brussels, 27 September 2013

Adoption of the IPCC's Working Group I 5th Assessment Report: contribution of EU research

Numerous research projects funded under the EU's 6th and 7th Framework Programmes for Research (FP6 and FP7) have contributed to the IPCC's Working Group I 5th Assessment Report (IPCC AR5). The European Commission's in-house science service, the Joint Research Centre (JRC) has actively contributed through its research activities and its participation in projects dealing with climate change assessment and projections.

A summary of some key EU supported projects and JRC's climate change related research activities is presented here.

Projects contributing to the observations of the climate system

RECONCILE (Reconciliation of essential process parameters for an enhanced predictability of arctic stratospheric ozone loss and its climate interactions, 2009-2013, FP7, EU budget Contribution: €3.5 mln) studied the depletion of ozone layer through dedicated laboratory and field measurements, working to improve model representations which can simulate and predict current and future Arctic stratospheric ozone loss. The project contributed to the detection and explanation of the first ever observed ozone hole in the Arctic region, and demonstrated that low temperatures in the Arctic stratosphere trigger large-scale ozone depletion.

EPOCA (European Project on Ocean Acidification, 2008-2012, FP7, EU budget Contribution: €6.5 mln). Ocean acidification is one of the most critical aspects of the ever increasing CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere due its severe impacts on the ocean ecosystem. EPOCA has generated key information on ocean acidification including the rate at which ocean acidification proceeds and the hotspots where critical pH values will be reached first. Also the consequences of ocean acidification in terms of biodiversity, ecological services provided by marine ecosystems, biogeochemical processes and feedbacks on the climate system have been assessed and the ecosystems most vulnerable to ocean acidification have been identified.

Projects contributing to the carbon cycle, the science of clouds and aerosols, radiative forcing and sea level change

NITROEUROPE (The nitrogen cycle and its influence on the European greenhouse gas balance, 2006-2011, FP6, EU budget contribution: €16.5 mln) addressed the major question: what is the effect of reactive nitrogen supply on net greenhouse gas budgets for Europe? The project provided key elements to answer this question and was a key driver of the European Nitrogen Assessment which, for the first time (worldwide) provided a comprehensive assessment of the impact of nitrogen management in Europe.

EUCAARI (European Integrated project on Aerosol Cloud Climate and Air Quality Interaction, 2007-2010, FP6, EU budget contribution: €10 mln). Measurements of the effect of aerosols on the cooling or heating of the planet are needed in order to better inform climate change projections. EUCAARI reduced the uncertainty of impact of aerosol particles on climate by 50% and quantified the relationship between anthropogenic aerosol particles and regional air quality. Assessing that present-day aerosol cooling effect will be strongly reduced by 2030, as more stringent air pollution abatements are implemented worldwide; the project demonstrated that these actions would increase the global mean temperature by around 1°C.

Air quality and climate change have traditionally been viewed separately by scientists and politicians alike. PEGASOS (Pan-European Gas-Aerosol-Climate Interaction Study, 2011-2015, EU budget contribution: €7 mln) bridges the gap by assessing the impacts of European air pollution on climate change and vice versa, combining field measurements at different heights with state of the art atmospheric and climate models. Thanks to the unique flight characteristics of the airship used by the project, the scientists had an unprecedented view of how pollution is distributed in the lowest one or two kilometres of the atmosphere over Europe. It is in this layer of the atmosphere that most pollutants emitted on the ground react with other atmospheric actors. PEGASOS provides better quantification of regional and global links between air pollution and climate change to underpin mitigation options and other policy initiatives, and contributes to the review of the EU's air policies and the scientific assessments of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Ice2Sea (Estimating the future contribution of continental ice to sea-level rise, 2009-2013, FP7, EU budget contribution: €10 mln) set the challenge of reducing uncertainty in sea-level rise projections identified as a key problem in modelling climate change by the IPCC 4AR report. Over the past four years a team of scientists from 24 institutions across the world have worked together, providing a pan-European effort to build a scientific foundation for policy development surrounding sea-level rise and to provide the best basis for European coastal defence planning. Amongst the major findings of the project, the Ice2Sea projections based on simulations of physical processes suggest a lower contribution from melting sea ice to sea-level rise than many studies published since AR4. By 2100 Storm-surges along Europe’s coastline could be up to 1 metre higher than they are today, presenting challenges to flood defences and natural habitats. The work of Ice2sea contributes to the development of policies to protect our coastlines, and to reduce the impact of climate change on the lives and livelihoods of EU citizens.

Projects contributing to the climate change projections

EUCLIPSE (EU Cloud Intercomparison, Process Study & Evaluation Project, 2010-2014, FP7, EU budget contribution: €3.5 mln) focusses on the modelling of clouds in the atmosphere. The project provides new evaluation tools and climate simulation data for cloud research and delivered vital analyses of climate simulations in support of the IPCC AR5.

COMBINE (Comprehensive Modelling of the Earth System for Better Climate Prediction and Projection, 2009-2013, FP7, EU budget Contribution: €7.9 mln) brings together research groups for better assessment of changes in the physical climate system and their impacts on the economy and society over the next few decades. COMBINE looked at a number of new components in Earth System modelling, including key physical and biogeochemical processes that will allow it to model more accurately the magnitude of climate change in the 21st century. Analyses incorporated the carbon and nitrogen cycles, aerosols coupled to cloud microphysics and chemistry, for example, proper stratospheric dynamics and increased resolution, ice sheets and permafrost.

ENSEMBLES (Ensemble-based Predictions of Climate Changes and their Impacts, 2004-2009, FP6, EU budget contribution: €15 mln) has developed computer-based models that give insights into climate change research. Modelling the simultaneous activity of oceans, land and atmosphere, ENSEMBLES has been able to develop scenarios of future climate across different timescales and spatial scales. The projections show that Europe and the world will experience further measurable climate change that will affect health, water resources, agriculture, energy supply and demand, and natural ecosystems such as forests and lakes. The open access ENSEMBLES database of possible future climates can be used by experts in governments, consultancies and research institutes to develop policies based on the latest scientific research.

Climate Change Research at the European Commission's Joint Research Centre

The JRC provides scientific support for the development and monitoring of European Union policies to tackle climate change and other environmental issues. It carries out research activities in the area of climate change observations, impacts, vulnerability and adaptation.

Keeping track of worldwide CO2 emissions

The JRC's Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR) has been used throughout the Working Group I 5th Assessment Report to coordinate model analyses of past and future climate change drivers.

EDGAR uses the latest scientific information and data from international statistics on energy production and consumption, industrial manufacturing, agricultural production, waste treatment/disposal and the burning of biomass, in order to model emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants for all countries of the world in a comparable and consistent manner. EDGAR is unique for the fact that it provides emissions data dating back as far as 1970, 20 years prior to the reference year for the Kyoto protocol, 1990. The trends in global CO2 emissions are published annually and global past and present day anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants by country are publicly available through the EDGAR website.

Climate change impacts on extreme weather events

The JRC develops and runs systems to create awareness about extreme weather events and their impacts, and helps the Commission and Member State services to be better prepared for such events by forecasting and monitoring their development. The European Flood Awareness System (EFAS) provides flood forecasts to more than 30 national and regional hydrological forecasting centres in Europe as well as to the European Commission’s services dealing with civil protection. The JRC warning systems are expanding to other world regions and will support systems such as the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS) that the JRC runs on behalf of the European Commission and the United Nations.

The JRC also studies expected changes in temperature and precipitation and their consequences on weather events occurrence, based on climate change scenarios and vulnerability study for a range of sectors such as energy, transport, agriculture, tourism and health.

Climate change impact modelling

PESETA and PESETA II (Projection of Economic impacts of climate change in Sectors of the European Union based on bottom-up Analysis) provided consistent multi-sectorial assessments of climate impacts in Europe based largely on FP6 and FP7 projects, particularly high-resolution climate scenarios for Europe (the FP6 ENSEMBLES project) and biophysical impact modelling capabilities (e.g. the FP7 ClimateCost project), as well as on JRC large biophysical models. The PESETA projects have provided first insights regarding how climate change can impact Europe (both geographically and by sector) and the role adaptation policies can play in reducing impacts.

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