European mountains face climate change

A new report published by the European Environment Agency (EEA) in January 2017 describes the effects of climate change that Europe’s different regions are facing, including its mountain regions.

"Climate Change, Impacts and Vulnerability in Europe 2016" is a comprehensive, mainly indicator-based assessment of past and projected climate change and its impacts on ecosystems and communities. It looks at society’s vulnerability to these impacts and at the development of adaptation policies and the underlying knowledge base.

Detailed in several sections of the report are the impacts of climate change on ecosystems and communities in European mountain regions, including the Alps, the Carpathians and the Pyrenees. The report states, “Many mountain regions are experiencing a particularly large increase in temperature, as well as reduced snow cover, loss of glacier mass, thawing of permafrost and changing precipitation patterns, including less precipitation falling as snow.” However, the impacts of climate change on mountain regions do not stop there. Loss of biodiversity, adversely affected water resources, reduced potential for winter tourism, and increased risks to infrastructure and settlements from floods, landslides and rock falls are some of the topics further discussed within these sections.

The report also highlights positive impacts of climate change: “Hydropower potential is projected to change, with positive impacts in some regions (e.g. Scandinavia) and negative impacts in others (e.g. the Alps).” Although some regions may experience some positive impacts, most regions and sectors will be negatively affected.

The report was presented to policymakers, the press and the wider public on 24 January 2017 jointly by Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director, and Jos Delbeke, Director General for Climate Action of the European Commission. Bruyninckx said, “Climate change will continue for many decades to come. The scale of future climate change and its impacts will depend on the effectiveness of implementing our global agreements to cut greenhouse gas emissions, but also ensuring that we have the right adaptation strategies and policies in place to reduce the risks from current and projected climate extreme.”

Key findings

Full report