Science - November 3, 2005

Climate change favourable for Netherlands

The Netherlands is likely to profit from the current climate changes. In traditional holiday destination countries, such as Spain, the summers are becoming too hot, while the Dutch weather is becoming more attractive for holidaymakers. Agriculture also benefits from a longer growing season.

The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (MNP) presented a study on the effects of climate change on the Netherlands to the secretary of state for the environment. And last week some fifty scientists published a study of the effects at European level in Science. Both studies point in the same direction, one of the reasons being that both make use of the vulnerability maps produced by PhD researcher Marc Metzger of the Plant Production Systems Group.

Out of the Dutch study comes the striking conclusion that climate is changing in the way that scientists had expected. Eighty percent of the observations recorded on climate change correspond with the model calculations that scientists had already done. The remaining twenty percent of the observations can nearly all be explained, states Professor Rik Leemans of the Environmental Systems Analysis Group, who worked on both studies. ‘For some types of butterfly, for example, we expected that they would move more towards the north, but that did not occur because the host plants from which they get their nectar did not spread.’

The European study indicates that the Mediterranean and alpine areas are most affected by the climate changes. The drought, extreme heat and forest fires that are already increasingly common in southern Europe are not only bad for agriculture, but in the long term will also drive tourists away. In the Alps, the rise in temperature means that the snowline is creeping higher, leading to negative effects for winter sport activities. Water is becoming more of a problem in the Netherlands as the sea level is rising, rivers are fuller, but at the same time summers are drier.

Nevertheless, it looks as though the Netherlands will profit from climate change. Although neither report explicitly mentions economic developments, it is not hard to draw conclusions. A higher average CO2 concentration, higher temperature and longer growing season are favourable for agriculture. And the Dutch tourist industry can expect an increase in visitors avoiding the heat of the Mediterranean. / MW

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