Measuring Environmental Degradation
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Measuring Environmental Degradation

Developing Pressure Indicators for Europe

Edited by Anil Markandya and Nick Dale

Measuring Environmental Degradation is a unique book that provides a comprehensive yet concise overview of the key issues of environmental significance addressed as part of the Eurostat ‘Environmental Pressure Indicators Project’. The book is part of the ‘Towards Environmental Pressure Indicators for the EU’ (TEPI) series that has resulted from the project.
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Chapter 7: Climate change

J. Houghton


J. Houghton 1. THE MAIN IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE Since the last Ice Age, generations of human beings have organized their activities to take advantage of locally available resources of food, fuel, fibre and forage. Human settlements, their agriculture, water use and commercial activities have adapted to the current climate (that is, temperature and rainfall, including their variability). Any large, rapid change in climate will affect these activities and the resources on which they depend and will require rapid, and probably costly, adaptation to re-establish the match between climatic resources and human needs. Climate extremes are an important manifestation of the natural variability of climate. During recent decades, different parts of the world have experienced extreme temperatures, record floods, droughts and windstorms. There is no strong evidence that these events are outside the range of the variability of the natural climate that has been experienced during the last few centuries. However, their impact serves to emphasize the vulnerability of human communities to climate variation and extremes. In particular, during the later years of the 1980s and into the 1990s, the insurance industry has experienced unparalleled losses due to extreme weather events, which well illustrate the increased vulnerability. Significant climate change over the twenty-first century is expected because of the increase in ‘greenhouse gases’ (especially carbon dioxide and methane) which is occurring as a result of human activities (especially fossil fuel burning and deforestation). This increase is leading to an average warming of the earth’s surface, such that, if...

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