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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

New analysis shows risks of global warming for Germany

In the event of unchecked climate change, the risks from heat, drought and heavy rain would increase sharply throughout Germany in the future.

Svenja Schulze
German Environment Minister, Svenja Schulze

This is shown by the results of the federal climate impact and risk analysis (KWRA), which was presented on Monday, June 14, 2021, by the Federal Environment Ministry and the Federal Environment Agency.

The damage is said to have the same effect as a domino effect of already heavily polluted ecosystems such as soils, forests and bodies of water, affecting people and their health.

Environment Minister, Svenja Schulze, said: “Climate change threatens the livelihoods of future generations and limits their freedoms. The most important precaution is resolute climate protection. Comprehensive precautions are also necessary for the consequences of climate change that are no longer avoidable: Germany needs more trees in the cities, more green on roofs, more space for the rivers and much more. And it has to be done quickly, because many measures take time to take effect. It takes time for a city tree to grow and provide shade in overheated cities.

“At the same time, all political levels must be able to participate. Municipalities are the first to be affected by the consequences of climate change. Cities, districts and municipalities should therefore now receive the support that suits them. From July onwards, the Federal Environment Ministry will support municipalities with their own advice center in finding individual solutions. We will also encourage the use of adaptation managers to drive climate adaptation on the ground. In the next step, the federal government will have to create reliable financial and legal framework conditions for effective climate adaptation on the basis of the climate impact and risk analysis.”

Dirk Messner, President of the Federal Environment Agency, said: “At the end of the century, some risks in Germany could increase so much that they can only be reduced through far-reaching precautionary measures. We have to act now. This includes the consistent implementation of nature-based measures, including flood and coastal protection, such as floodplain renaturation and the improvement of retention in the area, both in the countryside and in the cities. At the same time, we have to drastically reduce the pollution and overexploitation of water, soil and air, and invest in massive greening of open spaces and buildings.

“We have to rebuild landscapes and cities in such a way that they can soak themselves up with water like a sponge without damaging ecosystems, houses and infrastructure and then release it again. We have to reduce the size of asphalted areas or replace them with water-permeable building materials, create open spaces and greenery and reduce land consumption as quickly as possible. Many of these adaptation measures not only strengthen the ecosystems, but also improve the quality of life and people’s health.”

Tobias Fuchs, Director Climate and Environment of the German Weather Service: “Climate change continues. The increase in greenhouse gas concentrations has so far been unchecked. That has consequences. The average annual temperature in Germany has risen by 1.6 degrees since 1881 – more than worldwide. We are feeling the effects in this country. For example, the number of hot days with maximum temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius has almost tripled and winter precipitation has increased by 27 percent.

“And what does our future climate look like? If the worst case in our scenario occurs, then we expect the mean air temperature for Germany to rise by between 2.3 and 3 degrees by the middle of the century – compared to the early industrial age. If greenhouse gas emissions rise continuously and stabilise at a very high level towards the end of the 21st century.”

In the Climate Impact and Risk Analysis 2021 (KWRA) for Germany, over 100 effects of climate change and their interactions were examined, and around 30 of them identified a very urgent need for action. These include fatal heat loads, especially in cities, water shortages in the soil and more frequent low water levels, with serious consequences for all ecosystems, agriculture, forestry and the transport of goods. The economic damage caused by heavy rain, flash floods and floods to structures as well as the species change caused by the gradual rise in temperature, including the spread of disease vectors and pests, were also examined.

So far, only a few regions in Germany have been severely affected by heat, drought or heavy rain. In the event of severe climate change, many more regions would be confronted with these effects by the middle of the century. In the west and south of Germany, the climate would change the most compared to today. In the southwest and east, climatic extremes would be most common.

The rivers and river valleys could be affected by the consequences of water-specific risks such as low and high water levels. On the coast, the dangers of rising sea levels would increase significantly in the second half of the century. In the event of severe climate change, the whole of Germany would become a hotspot for the risks of climate change at the end of the century compared to today. 

The KWRA shows the risks of various climate scenarios in the middle and towards the end of the century. For the first time, it was analysed how the risks in individual sectors are related and how they influence each other. Adaptation options were also analysd for the highest climate risks and assessed to determine how much they can reduce future climate risk.

The study was carried out on behalf of the Federal Government by a scientific consortium and with the involvement of experts from 25 federal authorities and institutions from nine departments in the “Climate Change and Adaptation” network of authorities. The results of the study are an essential basis for the further development of the German Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change (DAS).

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