Climate-change threatening marine life, scientists say

In a new study, the Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) argues that climate change is fundamentally altering marine life and that the problem is compounded by human activity such as fisheries, energy production and tourism.

A report presented by the JRC at the “Climate and the European Water Dimension” symposium (12-14 February 2007) found that the degree to which water temperatures have increased in the Mediteranean has differed significantly with that of Northern Europe. For instance, scientists found that waters around Scotland have increased by up to 0.5°C higher than the Mediteranean. Sea levels around Europe have also risen by varying degrees, ranging from 8mm per year to 3.0mm per year.

This has had a knock-on effect on tide behaviour, sea ice conditions, evaporation and various tectonic developments on land, such as rising land masses due to the melting of glaciers, according to the authors.

In turn, this has caused more severe weather conditions, and less marine diversity, problems which have been compounded by human activities involving fisheries, energy production, trade and tourism.

Speaking at the conference, Sigmar Gabriel, president of the EU Environment Council said: “We must learn to consistently take the impacts of climate change, especially on the water balance, into account when making long-term decisions, for example with regard to infrastructure or regional development.”

DG Environment Director-General Mogens Peter Carl added: “We first have to make more efficient use of available water resources and reduce our consumption before we start tapping new sources.”

The Commission is due to present a Green Paper on adaptation to climate change before the end of the year and a Communication to the Council and European Parliament on the problem of water scarcity and increasing periods of drought.

Carl also said that the Commission “is considering a range of additional measures, for example a Europe-wide initiative on saving water in all other areas such as private households and industry”.

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