Again, you need to specify the conditions carefully. To benefit implies being able to make a potential opportunity work for you. As a generality, in northern Europe north of a line from Paris to Warsaw, climate change will probably bring more opportunities than dis-benefits when seen in the global context. Agricultural potential will, for example, likely increase northern Europe's competitive position agriculturally. But this would only be the case for locations where rainfall is expected to increase in Europe, and we do not yet have an accurate projection of that.
In Britain we have actually seen new crops appearing in the past 20 years, such as sunflowers and soya. Similarly in Germany, temperature increases may generally bring increases in agricultural potential, but the more detailed regional pattern will be affected by how rainfall alters.
However, what may benefit agriculture may be a disadvantage for the natural environment. Let me take a more severe case: Iceland. It is just about possible to grow wheat in Iceland now, and it will be more practicable to do so in a warmer future. But what would that mean for Iceland's soils and its wild grasslands? Climate change will bring 'pluses' and 'minuses' in a very mixed-up arrangement.
A widely discussed question is: Under which circumstances would it be preferable to adapt to climate change rather than trying to mitigate. What is your view on this problem?
It is clear that we need to find a balance between reducing emissions and adaptation. That balance may vary from place to place. Mitigation may require local action but has global consequences because we all contribute to global emissions. Adaptation will require local action but has a local effect, here and now.
We lost about 10 years by not realizing the importance of adaptation. During the years following Kyoto, the effort was almost wholly on mitigation. Only during the last 5 years have we started to consider adaptation seriously. We thought we could mitigate completely, but in fact we have done very little yet in reducing emissions. And now we realize that, even if we mitigate to the fullest possible extent, we still need to adapt to probably 2.5°C of global warming, which will be extremely challenging.
So, now there is a realization that we have to act both on adaptation as well as mitigation. The best mix of these two will likely vary from place to place. In some countries which are most vulnerable, especially in tropical regions, there will certainly need to be more adaptation. Whereas in developed countries, which are major GHG emitters, there will need to be much more effort towards reducing emissions.
There is a huge public discussion about keeping temperature increase below some critical magnitude. You often hear about this 2°C limit, it is stated that it still would be possible to adapt to that amount of warming. Is this limit coming from scientific studies or is it a political number?
There is evidence that we can adapt to 1°C without much difficulty—we actually have experienced 0.7°C of warming already. Beyond 1°C we will see some important adaptation costs; and beyond 3°C some adaptation will not be possible. So, 2°C is a reasonable adaptation limit, based on limited evidence. But it also happens to be the case that 2°C is approximately the amount of warming that will occur even with the fullest mitigative efforts we can manage. Consequently, there is a pragmatic element here: We will need to adapt to at least 2°C of warming.
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