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CLIMATE SCIENCE
A large part of Europe could be flooded by the middle of the century
by Estelle Winters
Moscow (Voice of Russia) Feb 28, 2014


File image.

The recent climate change study quoting vice-president of the International Expert Group on Climate Change Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, says the recent floods in the UK are just a first sign of dramatic changes threatening our world. The repercussions of global climate change are tremendous and affect the world's entire population.

For the last years the world has faced a record number of natural disasters - floods, tsunamis, hurricanes. There is still no plan on how to prevent further climate changes and stop global warming, meanwhile some researchers have revealed that a large part of Europe could be flooded by the middle of the century. Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, Belgian Professor of Climatology and Environmental Sciences at the Universite catholique de Louvain talked on the issue with the Voice of Russia.

You suggest that the recent floods in the UK are just the first sign and by 2050 we will see a much larger part of Europe sink. I'm fascinated by this as I come from the UK myself. Could you please elaborate on these findings, please?

Yes, sure. What I said has been a little bit exaggerated in the media. Actually what I mentioned is the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report has shown repeatedly we are heading in a warmer climate towards climate which is at least in Europe in the broad sense wetter in the winter. Simple reason for that is that with warmer climate there is more water vapor in the atmosphere and in general there is more rain in mid to high latitude in Europe and also more intense rains. And you have intense rains a lot of water raining in a short time - this of course increases the risk significantly of having floods. That is what I pointed to. I also pointed to the fact that given that sea level is rising- it has increased by 20 centimeters already over the past 100 years or so- and this increase is due clearly to the warming of the climate as well because water expands, because ice is melting and adding water to the oceans. With that increasing sea level coastal regions are increasingly threatened by having extreme value of sea level when there is a storm pushing the water towards the coast. If the starting level, if the average level is already higher because of climate change then it means that when there is a storm pushing the water against the coast the extreme level can become higher. This is also a factor increasing the risk of flooding. So for all those reasons overall the risk of floods in Europe is due to increase over the coming decades at least if climate continues to change the way it does and if serious measures are not taken to bring back the omissions of greenhouse gases so that climate is stabilized.

So, professor, thanks to wonderful high-tech nowadays we can look into the future and we can imagine what could happen then. So, we've had a warning, so should people like town planners already start for instance not building too many building near to the coast, they should start moving things further in land, this kind of thing?

It is actually a key example of adaptation measures - in the planning of space is to think twice before building new infrastructure in coastal regions or in the floodplains of river. Sometimes people are allowed to build in the floodplain of rivers and of course when that river leaves its main bed then those infrastructures are flooded. So key preventive measure that can be easily taken in all countries is actually to do exactly what you suggested- to think twice before building too close from the sea and also too close from rivers which could be flooded later.

Professor, do you believe yourself that climate change is really a natural process?

First of all, it is not at all a question of believe, it is not religion, it is science. And the science has clearly shown, I mean the overwhelming proportion of the international scientific community, the IPCC report, etc have shown repeatedly of the last 20 years that the dominant factor now has become human activities. It is very clear. So greenhouse gases, mostly CO2 coming from the burning of fusel fuel, has become over the past 50 years the main factor explaining the warming and explaining much of the changes in the climate that we are seeing today. Of course natural factors continue to play a role, but it has become a minor role now compared to human activities.

Because there is a lot of debates still on this, isn't there?

Well, there is debated in some quarters and I know media like controversies but this debate is not happening at all in the scientific community. I mean, more than 95% of the scientists really working on this seriously and publishing the literature etc are absolutely convinced that this is mostly a human caused problem which is in a sense a good news because it means that humans can also find solutions and try to solve the problem which the IPCC is going to report on in April in its report on the mitigation of climate changes and in March on the adaptation to climate change. So there are solutions and that is the good news when you look at it.

Source: Voice of Russia

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