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Climate change adaptation and climate-related disaster risk reduction have been recognized as a priority worldwide. Ambitious initiatives have been taken at global level, such as the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the 2015 Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, as well as several European policy actions like the 2013 EU strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change.

JRC's PESETA project studies some of the consequences of climate change in Europe. In the next sections, the following aspects are presented:

The JRC PESETA projects objective

The series of JRC PESETA projects of the Joint Research Centre (JRC) have intended to better understand the possible biophysical and economic consequences of future climate change for Europe. The JRC PESETA III project builds upon the knowledge and experience derived from previous PESETA projects: PESETA and PESETA II.

The JRC PESETA III project results have been included in the report on the evaluation of the EU adaptation strategy, just adopted by the European Commission.

JRC PESETA III project scope and methodology

The methodology of the JRC PESETA III project is based on a consistent framework that integrates climate and socio-economic projections, impact models and economic analysis, implemented in three steps:

  1. In the first stage, climate model runs from regional climate models (RCMs) are selected.
  2. In a second stage, the climate model runs are used as inputs to biophysical impact models, which are run to compute the biophysical impacts.
  3. In a third step, the impacts are valued and integrated in economic terms using a computable general equilibrium model.

Two climate scenarios have been considered: High warming scenario and 2°C warming scenario.

The following climate impact categories have been assessed: coastal floods, river floods, droughts, agriculture, energy, transport, water resources, habitat loss, forest fires, labour productivity, and mortality due to heat.

The JRC PESETA III project, compared to JRC PESETA II, uses the new family of climate futures (Representative Concentration Pathways, RCPs; and Shared Socioeconomic Pathways, SSPs). Furthermore, EURO-CORDEX climate data consistent with the high-end emission scenario (RCP8.5 family) are used, instead of the older IPCC SRES scenarios of the JRC PESETA II project.

In general, the climate impact results have not taken into account planned or public adaptation.

Main findings

Overview of sectoral impacts

Climate change due to human-induced global warming will induce a broad range of environmental and socio-economic impacts across Europe, without taking into account planned or public adaptation.

Rising temperatures will result in reductions in labour productivity. Shifts in flower/plant blooming, growing season and changes in soil water content will affect agriculture productivity and habitat suitability. Net impacts on crop yield remain uncertain for some crops due to the uncertainties in the CO2 fertilization on crop growth and the adaptation options that might be adopted. Energy demand for heating will decrease, yet energy requirements for cooling spaces will rise rapidly with warming. Reduced water availability due to changes in precipitation may disrupt energy provision that depends on cooling with surface water and lower the potential of hydropower production. Southern parts of Europe may face increasing water shortage, whereas water resources will generally increase in Northern Europe.

Many impacts on society and the environment will be connected to changes in climate extremes, due to their disproportionate rise compared to the corresponding change in climatological averages. River flood risk is projected to increase in many regions of Europe. Coastal floods, especially in the second half of this century with accelerating sea level rise, will show a dramatic rise along most European coastlines. Transport and other critical infrastructures in river flood plains and close to the sea will be increasingly at risk of damage and disruption by inundation. More frequent and severe drying of soils and vegetation, mainly in Southern Europe, will increase the risk of wildfires. There will be a strong rise in human mortality from heat, not taking adaptation into account.

North-South divide in the geographical distribution of impacts

In several impact areas there is a clear geographical north-south divide: countries in the south will be impacted more by global warming compared with the northern parts of Europe. This is clearly the case for the effects on heat-related human mortality, water resources, habitat loss, energy demand for cooling and forest fires, where the Mediterranean area appears to be the most vulnerable to climate change.

Economic analysis of climate impacts

From the economic perspective, the potential impact on welfare (expressed as consumption) due to six impact categories (residential energy demand, coastal floods, inland floods, labour productivity, agriculture and heat-related mortality) has been assessed, but it should be noted that the list of considered impacts is incomplete because key climate impacts cannot be quantified.

The main findings of the economic analysis are:

  • The losses associated with heat-related mortality represent a very significant share of the (unmitigated) high warming scenario damages, the remaining being, in order of importance, coastal flooding, labour productivity, agriculture and river flooding. There would be a small welfare gain thanks to lower energy consumption.
  • Most of the assessed welfare losses would be greatly reduced under the 2oC scenario.
  • The project estimates the additional welfare impact in the EU associated to changes in trade flows due to climate impacts occurring in third countries associated to four impact areas (residential energy demand, river flooding, labour productivity and agriculture). The transboundary effect is estimated to increase the EU welfare loss by 20%.


Although this study covers many of the important damage mechanisms, the coverage of possible climate impacts in Europe is still incomplete. Key biophysical and socio-economic impacts like the effects of changes in ecosystems services, migration and irreversible climate tipping points have not been considered. Therefore, this study should not be interpreted as a complete assessment of the benefits of climate mitigation policy.

In interpreting the results one should consider the many sources of uncertainties involved in climate impact and adaptation assessments, the so-called cascade of uncertainties, following the three steps of the PESETA analytical framework: the climate modelling, the impact modelling and the economic assessment.


The JRC PESETA III project has benefited from previous related studies, like projects funded by DG Research (e.g. FP7 HELIX) and the AgMIP agriculture impact modelling exercise. The authors wish to thank C. Piani and J.O. Haerted who kindly provided the bias correction code (to correct the climate data), which was originally developed under the European Union FP6 integrated Project WATCH (contract 036946).

The EURO-CORDEX data used in this work were obtained from the Earth System Grid Federation server.

We are grateful to all the modeling groups that performed the simulations and made their data available, namely, Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement (IPSL), Institut National de l’Environnement Industriel et des Risques, Verneuil en Halatte (INERIS), the CLM community (CLMcom), the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI), the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), and the Rossby Centre, Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI).

The project also builds on the advice and comments from the members of the JRC PESETA III project Advisory Board: Clare Goodess (University of East Anglia), John Mac Callaway (UNEP - Risø Centre), Ole B. Christensen (Danish Meteorological Institute), Jim McFarland (USA Environmental Protection Agency) and Michael Hanemann (Arizona State University).

This report has been subject to additional peer review and the authors would like to thank the comments and suggestions received from Simon Gosling, James Rising, the colleagues at the Adaptation Unit of DG CLIMA and JRC colleagues, to whom the authors are grateful.


(1) JRC PESETA III final report

(2) Policy Cards

(3) Links to Technical Sectoral Reports

(4) Explanation of the map appearing in the Report on the Evaluation of the EU Adaptation Strategy

The Commission Report on the implementation of the EU Strategy on adaptation to climate change - COM(2018)738 includes the following map (page 3) that shows initial evidence on how much impacts in the rest of the world can affect Europe via international trade.


Geography of global transboundary effects (due to climate impacts in the rest of the world, via international trade) in GDP terms (bn €)