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19.8.04

Climate Suffering

Europe 'Must Adapt On Climate'

Europeans must learn how to live with a changing climate as well as seeking to limit its effects by cutting emissions, the European Environment Agency says.

... The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests the global average temperature could on present trends be from 1.4 to 5.8C warmer in 2100 than in 1990.

The EEA says the comparable temperature increase for Europe is between 2 and 6.3C.


Grist bills the EEA report as showing that "Europe will suffer worse, and sooner, than other parts of the world from climate change." I found that a surprising claim, given that the standard view is that climate change will hurt people in the developing world most. But as it turns out, Grist's phrasing was not quite right. The report shows that Europe will experience greater warming. We already knew that climate change will be greatest in temperate zones (though some secondary effects, such as rising sea levels, would be more evenly distributed). But greater climate change does not necessarily mean greater suffering. Suffering is a combination of exposure and vulnerability. By a stroke of luck, countries in the temperate zone not only contribute the most to causing climate change and experience the most climate change, but are also the richest and therefore the most able to adapt to climate change. It's a lack of adaptability that leaves the largely tropical developing world at a disadvantage in the suffering department.

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