South, southeast face Europe's most adverse climate change impact: agency

(Reuters) - Southern and southeastern regions of Europe will face the continent’s most adverse effects from climate change as heatwaves and droughts become more intense and frequent, the European Environment Agency (EEA) said on Wednesday.

Snow covers a statue of a bull during a snowfall outside a bullring in Ronda, near Malaga, Spain January 19, 2017. REUTERS/Jon Nazca

Climate change is causing more frequent and severe flooding, droughts, storms and heatwaves throughout Europe as global temperature rise hits new records, sea levels rise and sea ice melts in the Arctic.

World temperatures hit a record high for a third year in a row in 2016, scientists said last week, with extremes including unprecedented heat in India and ice melt in the Arctic.

Climate-related extreme events accounted for nearly 400 billion euros ($430 billion) of economic losses in EEA member countries from 1980 to 2013, and were responsible for 85,000 deaths in the same period, the EEA said in a report.

“All European regions are vulnerable to climate change, but some regions will experience more negative impacts than others,” the report said.

“Southern and south-eastern Europe is projected to be a climate change hotspot as it is expected to face the highest number of adverse impacts,” it said.

The region is already experiencing big increases in heat extremes and reduced rainfall and river flows, which have raised the risk of more severe droughts, lower crop yields, biodiversity loss and forest fires.

The agency said coastal areas and floodplains in western parts of Europe are also hotspots as they face increased risks of flooding from rising sea levels and a possible increase in storm surges.

Although some regions in Europe might experience some positive impacts from climate change, such as improving conditions for agriculture in parts of northern Europe, most regions and sectors will be negatively affected, it said.

Even though temperatures this year are unlikely to set a new record after the fading of the natural weather phenomenon El Nino, heat-trapping gases from burning fossil fuels will keep building up in the atmosphere.

A global accord called the Paris Agreement entered into force in November last year, aiming to phase out net greenhouse gas emissions in the second half of this century.

($1 = 0.9304 euros)

(This version of the story corrects the number of deaths in paragraph 4)

Reporting by Nina Chestney in London; editing by Jason Neely