What is climate change?
Human activity is gradually influencing the Earth’s climate by adding enormous amounts of greenhouse gases to those occurring naturally in the atmosphere.
These extra greenhouse gases mainly come from burning fossil fuels to produce energy, as well as from other human activities like cutting down rainforests, agriculture, farming livestock and the production of chemicals. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the greenhouse gas most commonly produced by human activities.
These extra gases amplify the ‘greenhouse effect’ on our planet’s atmosphere, causing Earth’s temperature to rise at an extraordinary rate and resulting in major changes to the climate.
Where are we now?
We have already warmed the planet by more than 1°C compared to the level of temperatures we had before the industrial era.
Scientists at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have warned that global warming of 1.5°C will have serious and even irreversible consequences for our environment and societies.
The more we disturb the climate, the greater the risks to our society and environment.
- Global and European temperature (European Environment Agency)
- European State of the Climate 2019 (Copernicus Climate Change Service)
- Special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)
What are the effects of climate change?
The effects of climate change are already felt across the world and are predicted to become more frequent and more intense in the coming decades.
Without action on climate change, in the lifetime of our children the EU could see:
- 400,000 premature deaths per year due to air pollution
- 90,000 annual deaths as a result of heatwaves
- 40% less available water in southern regions of the EU
- 2.2 million people exposed to coastal inundation each year
- €190 billion in annual economic losses
These changes to the climate have the power to transform our planet, affecting food and water supplies and our health. While everybody is at risk, the impacts hit the poor and the vulnerable harder.
The bigger the problems, the more difficult and expensive it will be to solve them – which is why taking early action to deal with climate change is the best option.
- Consequences of climate change (EU Climate Action)
- Impacts of climate change (Our planet, Our future)
- Climate change impacts in Europe (European Environment Agency)
What is the EU doing about climate change?
The EU has long been a global leader in the fight against climate change.
Our efforts take the form of ambitious policies at home and close cooperation with international partners.
By 2050, Europe aims to become the first climate-neutral continent. This means cutting our emissions as much as we can and increasing the removals of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere so that we reach “net-zero” emissions.
This goal is part of the European Green Deal: an ambitious package of measures to cut our greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero while ensuring a fair, healthy and prosperous society for future generations.
Alongside cutting emissions, we must adapt to the changes happening now and in the future. The EU is helping to improve preparedness and capacity to respond to the impacts of climate change at national, regional and local levels.
The EU works with other countries and regions to advance global climate action and support partner countries in their efforts, in particular the most vulnerable.
The EU is also working to ensure that the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic goes hand in hand with the transition to a greener, more digital and more resilient Europe.
- EU action on climate and sustainability
- EU climate action and the European Green Deal(EU Climate Action)
- 5 facts about the EU’s climate neutrality goal(European Council)
What are the benefits of climate action?
The transition to a climate-neutral society is both an urgent challenge and an opportunity to build a better future for all.
By taking action for the climate and the environment, every one of us can help preserve and protect the planet today and for future generations.
Some of the benefits for society include:
- new, green jobs
- improved competitiveness
- economic growth
- cleaner air and more efficient public transport systems in cities
- new technologies such as electric or plug-in hybrid cars, energy-efficient homes or buildings with intelligent heating and cooling systems
- secure supplies of energy and other resources – making Europe less dependent on imports
Studies show that the transformation to a green and digital society is feasible and affordable. The costs of climate change for the economy and the society will be much higher than the costs of fighting climate change now.
What can I do?
All parts of society and all economic sectors will play a role – from the power sector, to industry, transport, buildings, agriculture and forestry. Much of the knowledge needed and many proven solutions already exist.
Our everyday choices matter, too. Many of the changes we make will improve the way we live, move around, cool or heat our houses, produce and consume.
Everyone can contribute, and no action is too small!