WWF: Global Warming Already Affecting Europe

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Global warming is making life more dangerous for people across Europe and even starting to hurt businesses, necessitating urgent action from the European Union, the WWF environmental group said last Tuesday.

"The citizens expect to see real action from the EU because climate change is already a reality in their daily life," said Stephan Singer, head of WWF International's climate change unit.

"Snow disappearing in Scotland, fewer bees in Italy, crop losses in Spain, forests on the decline in Germany and sea levels rising off the coast of England are dangerous signs of climate change in Europe," WWF International said, saying the changes hurt the livelihoods of laborers, like foresters and farmers, whose work depends on nature's predictability.

After meeting with EU Commission officials, the Switzerland-based group brought five people from across the continent to Brussels to describe how climate change is affecting their daily lives.

Cassian Garbett, 45, from England, said he is the last permanent resident in one of five coastguard cottages near the town of Seaford — a position that has allowed him to observe a rise in the sea level there.

"What we've been experiencing in the past four to five years is that the sea is a very different animal."

The sea defenses that protect his home from flooding have broken four times since 1999, he said, and nobody in the region can remember them breaking before that.

Giuseppe Miranti, 26, an Italian organic beekeeper, said warmer temperatures are making flowers bloom outside their regular season, which changes the behavior of his bees. It prevents him from producing honey made from the pollen of a single flower — the highest quality honey — and keeps parasites that attack bees alive longer.

"To get my job done now, I have to combat nature itself," Miranti said.

EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said he will keep those people's experiences in mind as he heads to a United Nations climate change conference in Montreal this week.

The Nov. 28 - Dec. 9 conference will be the first since the UN emissions-reducing Kyoto Protocol took hold this year.

Dimas said the EU has set up a program to meet its commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 8 percent by 2012, and he wants to use the Montreal meeting to discuss an international global warming program that would extend beyond that year.