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Consequences of climate change in Hesse


Research into climate change and possible consequences

A majority of the consequences that a changing climate might bring to Hesse (until the middle or end of the century) are described below. They are based on research projects of the Hessian agency for Nature Conservation, Environment and Geology


Possible consequences in Hesse:


Human health

  • Increase in sunburns and skin cancer due to increased UV irradiation
  • Increased stress of the cardio-vascular system; particularly vulnerable are older and sick people
  • Increased deaths due to heat-related stress
  • Increased risk of injury and death due to extreme weather events
  • Increased distribution of disease-bearing animals such as ticks and mosquitos
  • Increased distribution of infectious diseases
  • Increased risk of infection from drinking and bathing water after floods
  • Increased risk of harmful germs spreading due to warmer open water
  • Increased air contamination with harmful particles (e.g. ground-level ozone and nitrous oxides)
  • Increase of allergic illnesses due to increased presence of pollen and spores as well as parasites (such as oak processionary moths or mites)
  • Decreased productivity

Agriculture

  • In general, in the coming five decades decreasing yields and a high annual variability in yields is expected; the bandwidth is from –40% to +20%; for rape seed the yields will probably decrease by up to 14%, for wheat around 10%; yield increases are also possible, e.g. 5% for corn and sugar beets
  • Phenological phases, for instance the onset of flowering, will come earlier
  • Soil erosion in Hesse will increase by 10% (e.g. due to long dry periods and strong precipitation)
  • Green feed as basis for the milk economy could become scarce in particularly dry and hot years
  • Increasing amounts of carbon stored in the soil will reach the atmosphere as CO2
  • The character of wine grapes could change in the wine regions of Hesse
  • Fruit could be increasingly damaged by late frost, hail, and excessive sun
  • Potential cultivation areas will shift north by about 200 to 400 km and to higher altitudes by around 100 to 150 meters

Forestry

  • Higher temperatures and (longer) dry periods in the summer threaten trees with flat roots such as firs
  • Erosion increases strongly (e.g. due to long dry periods and periods of strong precipitation)
  • Like it will be the case for agricultural grounds, increasing amounts of carbon stored in forest soils can reach the atmosphere as CO2
  • The risk of forest fires increases
  • Parasite infestation increases

Ecosystems, biodiversity and water

  • Due to precipitation changes, the water level in rivers may reduce in the summer and increase in the winter
  • Ground water levels may increase regionally due to greater new formation rates; but they may also decrease in summer when water is needed the most
  • Local restrictions to water supply in the summer are possible
  • Phenology of plants and animals, e.g. onset of flowering, egg laying, or waking from winter sleep, come earlier
  • Distribution area of animal and plant types will shift to the north and higher altitudes
  • Animal species which are unable to adapt to climate change or shift their habitat north / to higher elevations quickly enough will go extinct; especially moisture-loving animals and plants as well as those used to cool locations will become victims of climate change
  • Moist green land and forest ecosystems in the central mountains and swamps as well as other wetland biotopes are increasingly threatened
  • Predator-prey relationships will change
  • New species will move into Hesse and compete with indigenous species
  • Increase of pest infestation

Infrastructure, mobility and energy

  • Extreme low water levels in the summer hinder shipping and the operation of large power plants or could completely shut them down
  • An increasing amount of infrastructure damage and downtime (or even destruction) of complete infrastructures as well as traffic jams will be caused by extreme weather events, e.g. storms, severe precipitation, flooding, or extreme temperatures


Global developments will also have consequences in Hesse

Future changes in climate in Hesse, will have far-reaching consequences for people, all other living creatures, and the natural systems on which all life is based. In addition, it needs to be considered that climate change is global. The rise in sea levels, the breakdown of agriculture in other regions of our world, or new migrations of people fleeing from climate change in their home country, will also impact Hesse and the FrankfurtRheinMain region.