One of the greatest environmental, social and economic threats our planet is facing, climate change, and its impacts, is becoming a key international problem of the 21st century. There is no scientific doubt that human-induced climate change is a fact and that society is facing enormous challenges. The global dimension of the problem and the need to improve our understanding of the processes, impacts and the mitigation and adaptation strategies required has led to a number of international collaborative research efforts, in which Europe has played – and continues to play – a leading role.
Research history and policy relevance
Research into climate change has an illustrious European history. In the 19th century Germany’s Wladimir Köppen laid the foundations for climatology, while in the 1930s it was the British scientist Guy Stewart Callendar who first drew the link between rising carbon dioxide levels and global temperature. Climate change research has been present in the EU’s Framework Programmes since the 1980s. An early focus was on the stratosphere – i.e. ozone layer. In the 1990s, research concentrated on the carbon cycle and the ecosystem functioning. Since then climate change research has proliferated in size and complexity. FP5 supported projects in the action “Global Change, Climate and Biodiversity”, while FP6 backed many integrated projects on climate change, with research areas ranging from atmospheric pollutants to the prediction of climate change and its impacts.
Climate change research findings and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessments have provided the scientific basis for global policy actions, such as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Kyoto Protocol and the international post-2012 process launched at the UNFCCC conference in Bali (December 2007). The EU – together with its international partners – is now aiming at a new comprehensive global agreement tackling climate change which will set priorities, commitments and goals for the near to long term.
Climate change in FP7
Research on climate change processes and impacts on natural resources and humankind helps us to identify and assess key drivers and improves our understanding of their interactions. Such research has been carried out during previous Framework Programmes and will continue during FP7. Research aims to quantify not only global but also local impacts of climate change in the most sensitive regions of Europe and worldwide, and is underpinning further policy options.
In FP7 (2007–13), climate relevant research is dealt with across various themes such as ‘Environment (including Climate Change)’, ‘Energy’ and ‘Food, Agriculture, Fisheries and Biotechnology’. Targeted climate change research fall under the theme ‘Environment (including climate change)’, ‘Activity 6.1 Climate Change, Pollution and Risks’, focusing in particular on the following issues:
1- the earth system and climate, and related abrupt changes
2- natural and anthropogenic emissions
3- the global carbon cycle
4- greenhouse gases
5- future climate
6- the natural, social and economic impacts of climate change
7- mitigation and adaptation strategies, including novel responses to climate change
8- natural climate-related hazards such as floods, droughts, storms or forest fires
9- climate change impacts on health