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Climate change integrated assessment methodology for cross-sectoral adaptation and vulnerability in Europe

There is widespread acceptance that the climate is changing due to human emissions of greenhouse gases. Such changes in climate will affect all sectors of society and the environment at all scales, ranging from the continental to the national and local. Decision-makers and other interested citizens need to be able to access reliable science-based information to help them respond to the risks of climate change impacts and assess opportunities for adaptation.

The overall aim of the CLIMSAVE project was to deliver an integrated methodology to assess cross-sectoral climate change impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. It has put science in the service of stakeholders and policy-makers by providing a common platform for an improved integrated assessment of climate change impacts, vulnerability and related cost-effective adaptation measures covering key sectors in Europe. There were six specific objectives: (1) to analyse the policy and governance context for adaptation; (2) to develop an integrated assessment platform which includes linkages and feedbacks between key landscape sectors; (3) to apply the integrated assessment platform to assess climate change impacts on, and adaptation options for, ecosystem services; (4) to integrate stakeholder input into climate change impacts and adaptation research through the development of participatory scenarios; (5) to analyse the cost-effectiveness of adaptation strategies; (6) to identify vulnerability hotspots through metrics of impacts and adaptive capacity across sectors; and (7) to investigate sources of uncertainty to inform appropriate policy options.

CLIMSAVE was developing a user-friendly, interactive web-based tool that allows stakeholders to assess climate change impacts and vulnerabilities for a range of sectors, including agriculture, forests, biodiversity, coasts, water resources and urban development. The linking of models for the different sectors enables stakeholders to see how their interactions could affect European landscape change. Outputs from the linked models will be translated into ecosystem services (the benefits that people obtain from ecosystems) in order to link climate change impacts directly to human well-being. The tool also enables stakeholders to explore adaptation strategies for reducing climate change vulnerability, discovering where, when and under what circumstances such actions may help. It highlights the cost-effectiveness and cross-sectoral benefits and conflicts of different adaptation options and enable uncertainties to be investigated to better inform the development of robust policy responses.

Main results

CLIMSAFE is a pan-European project that has developed an integrated assessment approach that enables stakeholders to explore and understand the cross-sectoral benefits and conflicts of different adaptation options to better inform the development of robust policy responses. The main findings were:

·         The CLIMSAFE Integrated Assessment (IA) Platform; a unique user-friendly, interactive web-based tool that enables European stakeholders to explore the complex multi-sectoral issues surrounding impacts, adaptation and vulnerability to climate and socio-economic change across Europe within the agriculture, forest, biodiversity, coast, water and urban sectors.

·         A range of climate change scenarios, incorporated into the IA Platform to allow users to explore the effects of climate change uncertainties on impacts and vulnerabilities. Projections of Europe-wide average temperature change range from 1 to 5o C in the 2050s, whilst precipitation changes range from increases of between 1 and 13 % in winter and decreases of between 2 and 30 % in summer.

·         Four contrasting socio-economic storylines; developed in a series of participatory workshops by European stakeholders and quantified to be included in the IA platform. This led to strong feelings of ownership of the scenarios which illustrate that a broad range of futures are envisioned to be plausible for Europe ranging from the very positive (We are the World) to the very negative (Should I stay or should I go). Due to these scenarios Europe will be significantly influenced by both climate and socio-economic change. Urban development increases in most scenarios. The number of people affected by a 1 in 100 year flood increases in western and northern Europe. Biodiversity vulnerability and water exploitation both forests and unmanaged land vary depending on the scenario, but food production generally increase across Europe at the expense of forest area to satisfy the demand from an increasing population.

·         A broad range of adaptation options to address the impacts of climate change in Europe in the IA Platform; which allows the user to consider their costs, capital requirements, applicability, effectiveness and secondary (synergistic and cross-sectoral) impacts. Detailed assessment is needed to take account of local conditions and constraints.

·         However, effective adaptation emerging out of decisions made by local community actors needs to be strongly supported by an empowering national and EU institutional setting which facilitates coordination and knowledge sharing among Member States.

·         A Mapping of vulnerability hotspots; which suggests that human well-being is most at risk from water stress and biodiversity loss in southern Europe, and from the lack to food provision and land use diversity in northern Europe.

·         The most robust policy strategy (defined in terms of beneficially reducing vulnerability to climate and socio-economic change in across sectors, scenarios and spatial scales) is one that increases coping capacity through an increase in social and human capital.

·         A review of adaptation and mitigation measures; which showed that almost all had impacts beyond the original intended one, often in a different sector(s) and many of these were cross-sectoral interactions. Those between adaptation and mitigation measures were positive, representing potentially cost-effective synergies for addressing climate change.

Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford GB
TIAMASG Foundation RO
Prospex bvba BE
Department of Natural Resources , Cranfield University GB
Centre for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications (CREAF) ES
Center for Environmental Systems Research , University of Kassel DE
Institute of Agrosystems and Bioclimatology, Mendel University in Brno CZ
Department of Environmental Studies, University of the Aegean GR
Rob Tinch BE
Centre for the study of Environmental Change and Sustainability, University of Edinburgh GB
Department of Earth & Ecosystem Sciences, University of Lund SE
Land Dynamics Group, Wageningen University NL
School of Civil Engineering and the Environment, University of Southampton GB
Institute of Environment and Sustainable Development in Agriculture, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences CN
Faculty of Science, Health & Education, University of the Sunshine Coast AU
Centre for Strategic Economic Studies, Victoria University AU