The Current Impact of Climate Change in Germany

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Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze said, “Climate change is threatening the sources of livelihood of future generations and limiting their freedoms. The most important precaution is resolute climate action. But we also need comprehensive precautionary measures for the consequences of climate change that are already unavoidable: Germany needs more trees in the cities, more greenery on the roofs, more space for rivers and much more. And it must happen 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 levels of government 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 matches their needs. From July, the Federal Environment Ministry will support municipalities in finding individual solutions with a dedicated advisory center. We will also promote the assignment of adaptation managers who promote climate adaptation on the ground. In the next step, the Federal Government will have to create a reliable financial and legal framework for effective climate adaptation based on the climate impact and risk analysis.

President Dirk Messner of the German Environment Agency said, “By the end of the century, the number of risks in Germany could increase to such an extent that they can only be reduced by taking far-reaching precautionary measures. We must act now. This involves the consistent implementation of nature-based measures, including flood and coastal protection, for example, alluvial zone restoration. At the same time, we must drastically reduce the pollution and overexploitation of water, soil, and air, and invest in massive greening of open spaces and buildings. We need to transform landscapes and cities so that they can absorb and release water like a sponge without damaging ecosystems, homes, and infrastructure. We need to reduce asphalt surfaces or replace them with water-permeable building materials, create open spaces and greenery, and reduce land use as soon as possible. Many of these adaptation measures not only strengthen ecosystems but also improve people’s quality of life and health.”

Tobias Fuchs, Head of Climate and Environment at the Deutscher Wetterdienst, said, “Climate change is advancing. Greenhouse gas emission is increasing unchecked. The consequences are clear: the average annual temperature in Germany has already risen by 1.6°C – more than anywhere else in the world. We are feeling the effects here at home: the number of hot days with maximum temperatures above 30°C has almost tripled and winter precipitation has increased by 27 percent. What does our climate future look like? In a worst-case scenario, by mid-century we expect the average air temperature in Germany to rise between 2.3 and 3 degrees compared to the early industrial age. If greenhouse gas emissions rise continuously and plateau at a very high level by the end of the 21st century, temperatures here could climb by 3.9 to 5.5 degrees.”

The Climate Impact and Risk Assessment 2021 for Germany examined over 100 climate change impacts and their interactions, and around 30 of them were found to require very urgent action. These include deadly heat stress, especially in cities, water shortages in the soil and more frequent low water, with serious consequences for all ecosystems, agriculture, forestry, and the goods transport sector. The economic damage caused by heavy rainfall, flash floods and flooding to structures was also studied, as well as the species change caused by the gradual rise in temperature, including the spread of disease vectors and pests.

Only a few regions in Germany have so far been very intensively affected by heat, drought, or heavy rainfall. In the event of strong climate change, many more regions would be confronted with these effects by the middle of the century. The greatest changes to the climate relative to today would occur in the west and south of Germany. Climate extremes would occur most frequently in the southwest and east. Rivers and river valleys could be affected by the consequences of water-specific risks such as low water and floods. On the coast, hazards from sea-level rise would increase significantly in the second half of the century. If climate change is strong, all of Germany would become a hotspot for climate change risks by the end of the century.

The report shows the risks associated with various climate scenarios in the middle and end of the century. For the first time, it analyzed how the risks in individual sectors are linked and interact with each other. Adaptation options were also analyzed for the highest climate risks and assessed in terms of how much they can reduce future climate risk.

The study was commissioned by the Federal Government and prepared by a research consortium involving experts from 25 federal authorities and institutions from nine government 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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