By ESS team

  • Three climate experts from the Barcelona Supercomputing Center took part in the preparation of the first report published by the European Environment Agency to highlight Europe's climate risks.
  • The report highlights that many risks have already reached critical levels and could become catastrophic if urgent and decisive action is not taken.

The European Environment Agency (EEA) published this week the report of the first European Climate Risk Assessment (EUCRA), to which three climate experts from the Earth Sciences Department of the Barcelona Supercomputing Center-Centro Nacional de Supercomputation (BSC-CNS) contributed.

In the report, the agency warns that the European Union is not prepared for climate risks that are increasing faster than the containment and prevention policies to stop them, which are several steps behind. Specifically, experts highlight up to a total of 36 crucial climate risks, with serious human, economic and political consequences (there is even talk of “political turbulence”), which require “urgent and immediate measures” since there are “hundreds” at stake thousands of lives” and losses worth up to one trillion euros annually.

One of the BSC climate experts who contributed to the report is ICREA Professor Francisco Doblas-Reyes, director of the Earth Sciences Department, who has co-led chapter 2 of the report. This chapter describes the climatic and non-climatic factors responsible for the risks in Europe. In particular, it assesses the most detailed climate information so far on Europe's climate in the recent past and the future until the end of the century, including a list of "wildcards" or surprise factors.

According to Professor Doblas-Reyes: “The report illustrates the way forward to obtain information and take into account many climatic and non-climatic factors behind a number of risks that have so far been underestimated.” He adds: “These factors include the possibility of surprises such as extreme weather phenomena or socioeconomic events that can significantly alter the most probable joint trajectory of the climatic and socioeconomic systems considered up to that point.”

Also participating in the elaboration of the report was ICREA professor Rachel Lowe, the leader of the Global Health Resilience (GHR) group from the same department. Professor Lowe specialises in co-designing policy-relevant decision-support tools to enhance surveillance, preparedness, and response to global health challenges, focusing on climate-sensitive infectious diseases. Her contribution to the report has been framed in assembling a robust evidence base to support EU climate-health policies, playing a leading role in analysing human health and infectious diseases and storylines. According to Professor Lowe: “Coordination between EU & Member States is urgently needed, including the implementation of infectious disease control programmes, early warning systems, health action plans, adaptation strategies, to build  resilience against emerging health threats.”

The third contribution from BSC comes from Dr Marina Baldissera, from the Earth System Services (ESS) group of the ES Department. Dr Baldissera is a climate-related social sciences researcher. She led the innovative chapter 10 of the report, “EU outermost regions”, dealing with the risks in regions outside mainland Europe, mainly islands.

According to the report, the problem with many European policies is that they are gradual; they do not plan to incorporate shock measures into the systems and are designed to be implemented in the long term. But some of the risks highlighted in the report now being presented require “urgent and forceful” action if they are not to end up being “catastrophic”, even in the short term.

Enhanced warming in Europe compared to global warming. European summer (June to August) mean air temperature trend (temperature regressed on time as the independent variable) expressed as multiples of the annual mean global temperature trend between 1950 and 2023.