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Brussels, 31 October 2014
Contribution of EU-funded research to IPCC's 5th Assessment Report
The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) is planning to publish its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) on 2 November 2014. It will provide an up to date view of the current state of scientific knowledge relevant to climate change, since it integrates the results of assessments on the latest research carried out over the past six years. That is why it will be instrumental to the forthcoming negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on 1-12 December in Peru.
Numerous research projects funded under the EU's 6th and 7th Framework Programmes for Research (FP6 and FP7) were essential for the key findings of the Report. A summary of some of the EU-funded projects that fed into the Report are highlighted here.
EPOCA (European Project on Ocean Acidification, 2008-2012, FP7, EU budget contribution: €6.5 million). Ocean acidification is a critical consequence of the uptake of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, as it severely threatens marine ecosystems. This project has helped to better understand the biological, ecological, biogeochemical, and societal implications of ocean acidification. It has identified the most vulnerable ecosystems to ocean acidification by analysing the rate at which ocean acidification proceeds and the hotspots where critical pH values will be reached first. The project shows that climate change has an exacerbating effect on acidification in the Arctic, mainly from freshening due to ice melt. Results indicate that around 10% of Arctic surface waters will become undersaturated from essential components for shell-making, within 10 years during summer. Other areas are also highly vulnerable. The project also collected robust evidence that many organisms are adversely affected by ocean acidification.
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 million) bridges this gap by assessing the mutual impacts of air pollution and climate change in Europe. Using a Zeppelin, the project compiled the most accurate dataset in the world, quantifying the formation of new particles and secondary pollutants in the atmosphere. The scientists now have an unprecedented view of how pollution is distributed in the lowest one or two kilometres of the atmosphere over Europe, where most pollutants emitted on the ground react with other atmospheric actors. PEGASOS looks also at the future impacts of air pollution on climate, in particular the role of deep-ocean circulation on weather systems and air-pollution as well as the role of feedbacks between pollution, clouds, aerosols and vegetation emissions and climatic factors, with a view to contributing to climate mitigation options.
Ice2Sea (Estimating the future contribution of continental ice to sea-level rise, 2009-2013, FP7, EU budget contribution: €10 million) contributes to the development of policies to protect our coastlines, and to reduce the impact of climate change on the lives and livelihoods of European Union citizens. The project set the challenge of reducing uncertainty in sea-level rise projections, which was identified as a key problem in climate change modelling by the IPCC AR4. According to Ice2Sea, projections based on simulations of physical processes show that melting sea ice contributes less to sea-level rise than expected in many studies published since AR4. By the year 2100, storm-surges along Europe’s coastline could be up to 1 metre higher than they are today, strongly threatening flood defences and natural habitats.
COMBINE (Comprehensive Modelling of the Earth System for Better Climate Prediction and Projection, 2009-2013, FP7, EU budget contribution: €8 million) used new components in Earth system modelling to contribute to the latest set of climate predictions and projections on expected physical, economic and social impacts over the next few decades. Analyses incorporated carbon and nitrogen cycles, aerosols coupled to cloud microphysics and chemistry, including proper stratospheric dynamics and increased resolution, ice sheets and permafrost. COMBINE confirmed the overall positive carbon cycle feedback on climate change. The Greenland ice sheet was found to shrink substantially and analyses confirmed significant consequences on hydrological extremes. Despite a global increase of water availability, in regions such as Central America, the Mediterranean and Northern Africa, renewable water resources were assessed to diminish.
FUME (Forest fires under climate, social and economic changes in Europe, the Mediterranean and other Fire-affected areas of the world, 2010-2013, FP7, EU budget contribution: €6 million). Fire regimes — the patterns and frequency of fires in a certain area — result mostly from interactions between climate, land-use and land-cover (LULC), and socioeconomic factors. FUME has documented and evaluated changes in LULC and other factors that have affected forest fires in Europe and beyond, in the last decades. During this century, temperatures, drought and heat waves are very likely to increase, while rainfall is expected to decrease. The project found that these variations combined to socioeconomic changes will affect land-use and land-cover. More areas will be abandoned as they become unsuitable for agriculture or other uses, while fire danger and fire hazards are very likely to increase and affect fire regimes. Learning from the past, FUME proposes adaptive options to cope with future changes in fire regimes. These look at the economic costs and identify the policies needed at the European level to revise current protocols and procedures for fire prevention, fire-fighting and the management of fire-prone areas.
CLIMATECOST (The full costs of climate change, 2009-2011, EU budget contribution: €3.5 million) Global warming comes with a big price tag for every country in the world but defining the cost of inaction is very difficult, involving complex permutations and a myriad of computer models. ClimateCost has been able to give a clearer answer, by providing a comprehensive and consistent economic analysis of climate change, which includes the costs and benefits of adaptation and mitigation. The study took climate model projections and looked at impacts in Europe, such as the number of additional people affected by flooding from sea level rise or the additional heat-related deaths from high temperatures. It then assessed these in monetary terms. Under a 'no-global-policy-action scenario', the study revealed costs worth billions of euros. A 'mitigation scenario', would have much lower costs, in addition to other benefits, like improving air quality and thus health. Mitigation was also likely to avoid catastrophic events such as an irreversible collapse of the Greenland ice sheets and the resulting sea level rise.
WASSERMED (Water Availability and Security in Southern Europe and the Mediterranean, 2010-2013, EU budget contribution: €3 million). Growing water stress in the Mediterranean and Southern Europe has wide environmental and social implications both at local and national scale. Agriculture and tourism already suffer the effects of water stress, an issue that is expected to exacerbate as a result of climate change. Through a series of case studies in Southern Europe and the Mediterranean Region, the project is looking at average rainfall amounts and frequency, including extreme rain phenomena, runoff water and groundwater levels.
Associated to the CLIMB and CLICO projects, the project has provided a better understanding of the changes in water flows and water balance of specific catchments, and their global impacts on key economic sectors and activities. The project has developed different policy and adaptation options and has identified similarities and recurrent issues, including solutions for increased water productivity, recycling, desalination and water harvesting.
AMPERE (Assessment of climate change mitigation pathways and evaluation of the robustness of mitigation cost estimates, 2011-2014, EU budget contribution: €3 million) AMPERE assessed different mitigation pathways and related costs to reach a low carbon society. The project found that stringent global policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next two decades are essential for achieving ambitious climate targets at low costs. Current international climate policy remains uncertain despite some movement by major emitters. A strong climate policy signal by the European Union reciprocated by other major emitters can effectively limit global warming, with large climate benefits for all. Decarbonisation holds many challenges but also economic opportunities for Europe, for example in the sector of clean energy technologies. To reach these conclusions, AMPERE used a sizable ensemble of state-of-the-art energy-economy and integrated assessment models to analyse mitigation pathways and associated mitigation costs in a series of multi-model comparisons.
LIMITS (Low climate impact scenarios and the implications of required tight emission control strategies, 2011-2014, EU budget contribution: €3.5 million) aims to assess what is needed for developing and implementing a stringent climate policy in line with the 2°C target. The project looks at the physical changes in energy and land-use structure on a regional and global level, needed to implement the policies. It also analyses the interactions between climate policies and other great challenges, such as socioeconomic development, in order to identify the best policies for reaching the below 2°C climate targets. According to LIMITS, investments into low-carbon and more efficient energies must dramatically increase worldwide within the coming fifteen years in order to achieve stringent objectives such as those compatible with the 2°C target. Delaying the global peak of emissions by a decade, as a result of a failure to implement a comprehensive global climate agreement by 2020, will likely put the 2°C target out of reach. Only a global climate agreement that leads to peak and decline of global emissions shortly after 2020 can keep the 2°C target within reach.