The climate

Quotation: Kros, H. 2013: Introduction to the environmental Impact Climate: http://beta.liaise-toolbox.eu/node/1207

Description

Climate change is considered as a major threat to human existence and future development. Since the late nineteenth century, the mean global temperature has increased by 0.4-0.8 °C and the sea level has risen by 10 to 15 cm. The average global temperature is projected to increase further by anywhere between 1.1 ºC and up to 6.4 ºC over the course of the 21st century unless the world takes action to limit the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Indirect knock-on effects of climate change - though differing largely between biomes and regions of the world - comprise:

  • impact of drought and heavy weather events on agriculture;
  • increase of forest fires including effects on air quality;
  • increased probability of food-borne illness;
  • impacts of heat waves on vulnerable habitats and their species populations;
  • contamination of surface water due to extreme rainfall events; and
  • effects of floods and other hazards on physical safety and mental health.

Human influenced climate change is triggered by a concentration change of chemical substances (greenhouse gases – GHG) in the stratosphere through human influence. The greenhouse gas most commonly produced by our activities is carbon dioxide (CO2). The main sources of CO2 in the atmosphere are the combustion of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) and deforestation. Since the Industrial Revolution, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by around 37%, and it continues to rise. 
Other greenhouse gases are emitted in smaller quantities than CO2. However, they all trap heat far more effectively than CO2 does, in some cases by a factor of thousands of times, making them also powerful contributors to global warming. Methane is the next most common greenhouse gas after CO2 and one reason behind rising methane emissions is the expansion of intensive livestock farming.
Some substances, such as chlorofluorocarbons, do not 'only' have dangerous impacts on the global climate by trapping heat but also deplete the Earth`s protective ozone layer leading to an increased level of UV radiation. They are being phased out, but in some cases are being substituted by fluorinated gases which can be even more powerful greenhouse gases.
Please find here further information on concrete policies.

This impact area is further specified by the taxonomy terms: Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Emissions of Ozone Depleting Substances and Adaptation to Climate Change.

This text is for information only and is not designed to interpret or replace any reference documents.

Relevant Policies

Roadmap for moving to a competitive low-carbon economy in 2050 (COM(2011) 112 final) sets out key elements that should shape the EU's climate action helping the EU become a competitive low carbon economy by 2050.
The reduction of fossil fuel use is encouraged through the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol and the EU climate and energy policy package. Energy saving, more efficient energy use and promotion of renewable energies such as wind, biomass, small-scale hydro power, photovoltaic and bio-fuels from organic matter, as well as a stronger international cooperation are essential objectives. 
The 2009 EU energy and climate change package hopes to lead Europe towards a sustainable future with a low-carbon, energy-efficient economy by the "20-20-20" targets to be met by 2020:

  • Cutting greenhouse gases by 20% (30% if international agreement is reached),
  • Meeting 20% of our energy needs from renewable sources,
  • Reducing energy consumption by 20% compared with projected levels through increased energy efficiency.

In protection of the ozone layer, the regulation (EC) No 1005/2009 is the corresponding legislative instrument at EU level, to phase-out ozone depleting substances, which goes beyond the requirements of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.
For more information on EU climate policies, please refer to http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/environment/tackling_climate_change/index_en.htm

Legal Basis for the Commission to act

According to Article 191 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, the EU policy on the environment shall contribute to promoting measures at international level to deal with regional or worldwide environmental problems, and in particular combating climate change.

Web Resources 

The European Commission's site on Climate Action: http://ec.europa.eu/climateaction/index_en.htm
The EU Emission Trading System (EU ETS): http://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/ets/index_en.htm
The European Environment Agency's site on Climate Change: http://www.eea.europa.eu/themes/climate
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC: http://www.ipcc.ch/
The 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol: http://www.unfccc.int/
The 1985 Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer and the Montreal Protocol: http://ozone.unep.org/

Contact

http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/clima/contact_en.htm

Related Terms

Greenhouse Gas Emissions 

Emissions of Ozone Depleting Substances

Adaptation to Climate Change