European cities will require radical changes in infrastructure to cope with the effects of climate change, scientists have warned.
EU body the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) has concluded that an increase in extreme weather throughout the continent is going to pose major challenges to engineers.
“We have seen an increase in the frequency of intense precipitation and heat waves in Europe,” said Peter Hoppe, head of geo risks research and corporate climate change at insurance firm Munich Re and contributor to EASAC’s weather trends report.
“The data shows it is becoming more necessary to do something about urban heat islands – the phenomenon of cities being warmer than surrounding areas due to the volume of sealed surfaces.”
Hoppe said urban planners needed to design infrastructure to counter increases in rain and heat.
“We need to see more green space - whether it be parks or living walls and roofs,” he told NCE.
“Another major thing that can be done is to increase the urban sewerage system to take rain away from city streets.”
Hoppe said large canals and underground storage tanks could be used to reduce the risk of flooding in event of major rainfall.
He added that all civils schemes would have to be designed and built to deal with extreme weather.
“We need to plan rail and road projects to withstand high temperatures,” he said.
EASAC analysis of insurance industry data showed that “loss relevant” weather-related catastrophes in Europe had soared by about 60% over the past three decades.
Its report said record-breaking heat waves in central and western Europe in 2003, and in Russia in 2010, led to tens of thousands of deaths, crop shortfalls, forest fires and high energy prices.
It added that unusually cold winters in 2005/6 and 2009/10 caused travel disruption, cold-related mortality and high energy consumption in parts of Europe.
Financial losses caused by floods have also increased, and the death toll continues to be high, according to the report.
The economic burden of extreme weather events was estimated at €405bn (£335bn) between 1980 and 2012, at 2011 values.
EASAC warned that climate modelling suggested some significant worsening of weather was ahead.
It said heat waves in Europe were “very likely” to become more frequent, intense and lengthy. It also warned incidences of intense rainfall were likely to become more frequent.
Hoppe said he hoped politicians would take notice of the report.
“We will share this information with political decision makers to help them think about loss prevention measures,” he said.
“It is in our interest to reduce losses, but also in society’s interests as often many of the losses from an extreme event are not insured.”