Number of the Month: 35 countries

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The UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn in mid-November focused on the major issues relating to our climate. More than 20,000 people from all over the world met in Germany’s former capital to thrash out the details of the Paris Agreement and to drive forward international climate protection. Researchers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) will also have been watching the conference very closely. They have been conducting research into climate change in Europe in a project that so far is one of its kind.

Drastic changes

Together with colleagues from the USA, Anders Levermann from PIK studied climate data from 35 European countries, allowing conclusions to be drawn about the future impact of climate change on electricity consumption. Their findings illustrate how the lives of Europeans will change over the coming decades. The researchers found that the inhabitants of Northern Europe will need less electricity in future, whereas those in the countries of Southern Europe will consume all the more.

"Our study shows that electricity demand in Europe will shift from countries like Sweden or Norway to countries such as Portugal or Spain. At the same time, the peak load each year will probably shift from winter to the summer in most countries", explains Leonie Wenz, a postdoc at PIK and one of the study’s co-authors.

Artificial cooling

Because heat and poor air quality make people feel stressed, Southern Europeans in particular will increasingly have to cool their surroundings if they are to be productive and feel comfortable. "The most important available means of adapting to high outside temperatures is to cool indoor areas, which in most cases requires a great deal of electricity", says the third author of the study, Max Auffhammer from the University of California, Berkeley. So while more air conditioning will be needed in future in Southern Europe, Northern Europeans will not require as much heating as before due to rising temperatures.

The researchers explain that the shift in electricity consumption from north to south and from winter to summer means that electricity demand as a whole will not increase in Europe – but that this shift in consumption patterns will pose a major challenge in terms of infrastructure.

Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

Global change, climate impact and sustainable development are the three areas on which the 280 or so employees of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research work. They conduct their research in interdisciplinary teams of natural and social scientists. The institute belongs to the Leibniz Association, an alliance of 86 research institutes in Germany.