Introduction

Detail of the cover image for the DAS Monitoring Report 2019, a magnifying glass is shown that magnifies letters and symbols with the text Monitoring Report 2019.
© 2019 Monitoring Report on the DAS / KomPass

2019 Monitoring Report on the German Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change


Table of Contents

 

What are the impacts of climate change and how do we adapt?

Climate change and its consequences are already noticeable in Germany. The hot and dry summers of 2018 and 2019 as well as the heavy-rain events of 2016 and 2017 have resulted in raising public awareness of climate change. Consequences for human health, agriculture and forestry as well as private and public buildings and infrastructures have become more obvious, and climate change also triggers dynamic adaptation processes in nature (e.g. the displacement or immigration of animal and plant species) which in turn impact on humans and their economic activities. A total of c. 1,200 heat-related mortalities were recorded for summer 2018 in Berlin and Hesse by the Robert Koch-Institut (RKI/Robert Koch Institute). Drought also impacted on agriculture: Drought aid amounting to 340 million Euros was made available at Federal and Länder level. At the same time the GDV (German association of members of the insurance industry/Gesamtverband der Deutschen Versicherungswirtschaft e.V.) states an amount for 2018 of 2.8 billion Euros in terms of insured damage to buildings as well as trade and industrial enterprises. caused by storms, hailstones and heavy rain.

These losses make clear how urgent it is to take action, both in respect of protection from climate change and adaptation to the consequences of climate change. Even if humanity succeeds in limiting global warming in accordance with the climate targets agreed at the Paris Conference, our climate will continue to change. It is essential to make concerted efforts and to apply a co-ordinated approach to actions at all government levels in order to create the prerequisites for adaptation to the consequences of climate change in Germany.

In this light, the Federal government has, as early as 2008, under the auspices of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, submitted the Deutsche Anpassungsstrategie an den Klimawandel (DAS/German Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change) which has been continually advanced ever since. This strategy provides the framework at Federal level for formulating policies regarding adaptation to climate change. The objective is to reduce the vulnerability of German society, economy and environment and to increase the country’s freedom to act. In 15 central action areas the essential requirements for action are listed, and (within relevant competences) the concrete steps and measures taken at Federal level are described (in alphabetical order): Building Industry, Biodiversity, Soil, Energy Industry, Financial Services Sector, Fisheries Woodland and Forestry, Trade and Industry, Agriculture, Human Health, Tourism Industry, Transport and Transport Infrastructure, Water Regime, Water Management, Coastal and Marine Protection as well as cross-sectional activities such as Civil Protection as well as Spatial Planning, Regional and Urban Development. This work was carried out in close collaboration with administrations at Länder (Federal States of Germany) and municipal level.

The DAS is a well-established, ongoing long-term task. It is based on an inter-agency network consisting of 28 Federal Government agencies, e.g. the Umweltbundesamt (UBA/German Environment Agency), the Deutsche Wetterdienst (DWD/German Meteorological Service), the Bundesamt für Bevölkerungsschutz und Katastrophenhilfe (BBK/Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance), the Bundesinstitut für Bau-, Stadt- und Raumforschung (BBSR/Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development), the Bundesanstalt Technisches Hilfswerk (THW/Federal Agency for Technical Relief) and the Bundesanstalt für Gewässerkunde (BfG/Federal Institute of Hydrology). This network incorporates a continuous reporting system

As required by the DAS framework, the Federal Government now presents its second report, i.e. the 2019 Monitoring Report. This Report underpins the impacts of climate change with solid scientific data, at the same time as providing the public as well as decisionmakers in all sectors of society with information on tangible impacts of climate change. The 2019 Monitoring Report therefore represents an update of the 2015 Monitoring Report. Future updates are to be carried out every four years. Indicators and measured data selected from the 15 action areas by experts were incorporated in the Report in order to demonstrate any climate-related changes which have already become apparent in present-day Germany; the Report also features any measures that were taken to counteract this trend. The consequences of temperature rise can already be seen, for instance, in terms of obvious impacts on uncultivated ecosystems (such as changes in seasonal phenology leading to extended growing seasons, as well as incipient changes in the composition of tree species in natural woodland reserves). The Monitoring Report furthermore shows evidence for precautionary efforts made at Federal Government level in view of increasing risks. The Report also makes clear that it is of vital importance to intensify our efforts in respect of protection from climate change in order to limit its impacts, at the same time taking action to adapt to climate change. This is essential in order to find effective ways of countering the unavoidable risks arising in ecological, social and economic terms and to minimise losses.

For this very reason, the Federal Government undertakes regular reviews of the DAS and subjects it to further development based on progress reports which are enacted every five years at Cabinet level. Action plan measures are agreed in conjunction with these progress reports. The next progress report on DAS is expected to be submitted in autumn 2020; it will contain the findings of the 2019 Monitoring Report.

The work was supported and approved at Federal Government level under the auspices of the Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz und nukleare Sicherheit (BMU/Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety) within the Interministerial Working Group on Adaptation to Climate Change (IMAA). This working group incorporates representatives from nearly all federal ministries and the scientific agencies assigned to them. The Report and the underlying indicator system were developed with contributions from numerous experts in competent agencies at Federal and State level and from scientific establishments and private institutes. The work was organised by the UBA’s department Fachgebiet ⁠KomPass⁠ – Klimafolgen und Anpassung in Deutschland (climate impacts and adaptation in Germany), acting as administrative office.

Key Findings

The Reporting Period 2014–2017 of the second, i.e. the 2019 Monitoring Report on DAS was characterised by a series of very warm years with extended droughts and violent downpours of heavy rain. The 2019 Monitoring Report on DAS does not contain a systematic indication of data from 2018 and 2019, because the processing of nationwide, statistically backed data tend to involve delays. Rather than illustrating the latest up-to-date developments, the ongoing monitoring under DAS focuses on the systematic observation of climate impacts and adaptation, on the basis of statistically well-founded time series. Nevertheless, as far as possible, an initial estimate of developments in 2018/19 was included in some texts of the report.

Increasing heat stress

The summers of 2003, 2018 and 2019 were the warmest in Germany since meteorological records in this country began. The annual air temperature as an aggregated mean for Germany between 1881 and 2018 was determined statistically to have risen by 1.5°C. In the course of past decades, there is evidence for a trend towards extreme weather events marked by increasing heat extremes. In particular, the number of ‚hot days’ on which the highest measured temperature amounted to 30°C or more, has gone up significantly (Indicator GE-I-1). Based on nationwide data in 2003 the number of people dying from heat-related conditions was higher by 7,500 mortalities than would have been expected in the absence of a heatwave. For the years 2006 and 2015 respectively, approx. 6,000 additional mortalities were recorded (GEI-2). Apart from preventative measures to protect human health, adaptation is also implemented at planning and construction levels, in order to reduce heat stress, especially in urban contexts (BAU-I-1, BAU-I-2, BAU-R-1, BAU-R-2, RO-R-4). Likewise, public awareness of health impacts from periods of great heat is on the increase, as demonstrated by the uptake of warning and information services and indicated by the outcomes of representative surveys (HUE-2, GE-I-1, GE-R-1, GE-R-3, BS-R-1)

Adverse effects on water usage owing to increased warming and more frequent summer droughts

The data of groundwater levels selected from nationwide statistics indicate that, in comparison with the long-term annual mean, the frequency of months with low groundwater levels below average has been increasing significantly (WW-I-1). In particular, precipitation deficits occurring in the course of several consecutive years led to reductions in groundwater levels or reduced spring flow in the years between 2013 and 2017. In view of a distinctly dry period, the data for 2018 point to the likelihood of a similar, presumably even more extreme situation arising.

The time series beginning in the 1960s for the mean flow levels of 80 river areas across Germany indicates distinct fluctuations between the years. For the hydrological winter season from early November till end of April, no statistically significant trend was discernible for the mean flow level. However, during the summer season, the flow level mean clearly drops significantly. This suggests a decrease in water availability during summer (WW-I-2). The difficult situation with regard to soil water supply (BO-I-1) as reported in 2015, is continuing. Agricultural management techniques have to be adapted in a way as to augment the soil’s humus supply and to boost the soil water supply, in order to ensure being better prepared for drought periods. Between 2000 and 2017, climate change impacts were increasingly taken into account in aspects of landscape planning (in UK known as town and country planning) and in other specific fields of planning, e.g. the designation of surface areas for preventive flood protection (BD-R-1, RO-R-3).

Damage from heavy rain and flash floods in urban areas

For the first time, illustrations of heavy rain events in residential areas (BAU-I-4) have been incorporated in the 2019 DAS Monitoring Report. This is to focus the DAS Monitoring process more precisely on the outcomes of the vulnerability analysis which in 2015 identified heavy rain and flash floods as strategic focal points. One precaution against losses from heavy rain and flash floods in urban areas is incorporated in DAS Monitoring by means of addressing the density of extended insurance cover for damage from natural hazards. The data show that although the insurance density has increased significantly in recent years, looking at it nationwide, it is still relatively low, i.e. with 43% for building insurance and with 24% for building contents insurance.

Floodwater and river flooding

The development of floodwater days does not show any significant trends for the time series, either for the summer or for the winter season (WW-I-3). The development of floodwater is always related to specific combinations of weather conditions which have so far not occurred either systematically, regularly or repeatedly. One example of this are so-called Vb (or Five-B) weather conditions which e.g. caused the river Elbe to flood in 2002 as well as causing other floodwater events. The distribution of floodwater days impacting on hydrological winter and summer seasons has so far not indicated a trend. Apart from climate change, there are however numerous other developments which affect the phenomenon of floodwater events.

Sea level rise and storm surges

The levels of North Sea and Baltic Sea covered in the 2019 DAS Monitoring Report indicate a predominantly significant rise in sea levels (WW-I-8). The increasing intensity of storm surges (WW-I-9) can be attributed mostly to sea level rise. For coastal regions, especially for estuaries and low-lying coastal areas, this signifies a gradually increasing threat.

Changes in species composition and natural development phases resulting from gradual temperature rise

Rising temperatures also affect natural systems. As a result, the duration of the growing period has increased further since submission of the 2015 DAS Monitoring Report (BD-I-1). A comparison shows that e.g. characteristic development phases of wild plants (such as unfolding of leaves, development of flower buds or fruiting bodies in spring, summer or early autumn, begin earlier, and typical development phases at the height of autumn, in late autumnn and winter begin later than before. Changes in seasonal weather phases can have both positive and negative effects on agriculture. An earlier onset of apple blossom, for example, signifies a greater risk of late frost damage which can result in crop shortfalls or failures (LW-I-1).

Likewise, in ecosystems hardly affected by management activities, the greater frequency of warm and dry years demonstrates a distinct impact. For example, the content of beech trees compared to species better adapted to droughts in warm-dry natural woodland reserves has decreased (FW-I-1). The current condition of woodlands and forests and any changes since the last National Forest Inventory recorded in 2012 will not be available for consideration in the third monitoring report until after the next National Forest Inventory in 2022. Any impacts from increasing warming are also noticeable in significantly increased water temperatures in lakes (WW-I-5) and in the North Sea (WW-I-7).

Even if the annual mean temperatures rise continuously, impacts on ecosystems from long, cold winters will remain active. This is illustrated by the development of bird species communities (BD-I-2). Since 1990 the composition of bird species communities has shifted in favour of thermophilic species. In the years 2009/10 to 2012/13 there were a number of hard winters with adverse impacts on the numbers of many breeding birds. These hard winters particularly affected species which had migrated to Germany from more southerly climate zones.

Figure 1: Chart of average temperature for Germany between 1881 and 2018 (each stripe representing one year, based on the DWD’s dataset)
Figure 1: Chart of average temperature for Germany between 1881 and 2018

Figure 1: Chart of average temperature for Germany between 1881 and 2018 (each stripe representing one year, based on the DWD’s dataset)

Source: Ed Hawkins / showyourstripes.info
 

The methodology of the DAS Monitoring Indicator System


Indicators

For the second report, i.e. the 2019 Monitoring Report, the indicator system dating back to 2015 was reviewed and developed further. The majority of indicators was updated in accordance with the methodology applied in 2015. A total of 21 indicators were reviewed and, where necessary, developed further.

In particular, the indicators for the action areas Human Health, Water Regime, Water Management, Coastal and Marine Protection, Building Industry as well as Transport and Transport Infrastructure were enhanced and extended by adding essential themes.

The action area Water Regime, Water Management, and Coastal and Marine Protection was developed in close collaboration with experts from the Federal and Länder governments within the framework of the German Working Group on water issues of the Federal States and the Federal Government (LAWA). The indicators were partly underpinned by comprehensive data made available by various authorities in individual states (Länder) of the Federal Republic. The objective was to establish a jointly agreed and approved indicator system on water management for use by the Länder for their own reporting systems alongside the Federal Government’s reporting system on consequences of climate change.

In total, the DAS Monitoring Indicator System comprises, since redevelopment, 105 monitoring indicators, 56 of which describe climate change impacts (impact indicators), while 44 describe adaptation measures or activities and conditions to support the adaptation process (response indicators). In addition, there are 5 monitoring indicators which span several action areas; these indicators are not classified in the impact or response categories.

There are five indicators which cannot be featured in the report as their underlying data are no longer available. This applies to the following indicators covered in the 2015 DAS Monitoring Report: GE-I-4 Risks from oak processionary moth infestations, BO-R-3 organic soil areas, WW-I-6 duration of the stagnation period in standing water, LW-I-3 quality of harvested products, EW-I-4 potential and actual wind energy yields.

Principally, all monitoring indicators are intended to illustrate developments across the whole of Germany. Regional differences are illustrated only in a few exceptional cases. In respect of thematic aspects which are not sufficiently underpinned by nationwide data to allow the creation of indicators, it was possible to portray so-called case studies. Such case studies demonstrate by means of concrete spatially limited data sets, what statements might be generated at the nationwide scale given the relevant data.

Handling uncertainities

It is not possible, within quantitative analysis, to illustrate all relevant processes and action approaches by means of monitoring indicators. Many processes of data collection are still in their initial stages, and extended time series will be required before it is possible to interpret any developments. Restrictions on the availability of data also mean that the number of monitoring indicators used currently does not necessarily reflect the importance of relevant action areas or cross-cutting themes.

The data closing for updating the time series in the second, i.e. current Monitoring Report was 31.12.2017. It follows that principally, the last-named digits in the charts refer to the year 2017. Wherever possible the report texts provide a perspective of the developments in 2018 and 2019. In a few cases, the processes of data collection underpinning 10 Monitoring report 2019 on the DAS Trend description Rising trend Falling trend Trend with trend reversal: first falling, then rising Trend with trend reversal: first rising, then falling No trend Trend appraisal Favourable development Unfavourable development Appraisal of development impossible the monitoring indicators take place at longer intervals, as e.g. for the inventory of the national forest; in this case updating will take place when the next monitoring report is generated.

In several monitoring indicators it is difficult or impossible to identify the causality of climate change, owing to the multitude of various factors such as changes in the environment, society or economy. When assessing damage to forests, for example, it is necessary, in addition to any consequences of climate change such as seasonal heat or drought periods or severe storms, to take into account other impacts not related to climate change, such as nutrient inputs, acidification and high ozone concentrations which may impact on the health of trees. Intense discussions took place in the course of developing the DAS monitoring system regarding cause-and-effect-relationships.

Fuzzy interpretations can also occur in the course of allocating adaptation measures. It is indeed possible to describe many specific adaptation measures such as the operation of the DWD’s heat warning service. However, other measures intended to further the adaptation to climate change impacts are not necessarily restricted to this objective alone, or indeed, they may have been motivated by completely different reasons. Nevertheless, these measures can be useful in supporting an effective adaptation process.

In view of the uncertainties and a degree of data fuzziness as discussed above, the intention is to continue reviewing and redeveloping the monitoring indicator system in the course of future updating cycles.

Lists of comprehensive related literature were intentionally not included as they might go beyond the range and multitude of themes addressed and they might also go beyond the framework of this Monitoring Report.

 

Assessing the developments

DAS Monitoring Indicators are intended to facilitate an assessment of developments. Benchmark is the DAS objective to reduce the vulnerability to climate change impacts and to maintain and increase the adaptability of natural and social systems to the inevitable impacts of climate change. The intention is that the political objectives outlined in various action areas can be maintained even when faced with changes in the climatic framework conditions. The objectives adopted here make reference to the objectives set in DAS 2008 and/or objectives laid down in other political strategies, laws and directives.

The actual DAS Monitoring Indicators do not contain any specific objectives or ratings. For this reason, the assessment is restricted to the outcomes of statistical trend calculations and an appraisal whether, judging by the DAS objectives, the trend is basically heading in the right direction.

Nevertheless, the appraisal of trends does not seem to be useful in all cases, because the consequences of changes are not always fully known. For example, an earlier flowering of winter rapeseed as a consequence of climate change is a sign that unwelcome climate change impacts on agricultural cultivation. However, the earlier flowering is not itself necessarily a negative phenomenon. In cases of this kind, the illustration is restricted purely to the outcome of the trend analysis without making an appraisal.

In respect of their trend developments, the time series were classified within the framework of statistical trend analysis. For all indicators the analyses were carried out by the Statistische Beratungslabor (Consulting Laboratory at the Institute for Statistics) of Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich. Both rising and falling trends and also trends with trend reversal (square trends) are illustrated. Trend reversal is useful for describing, especially when observing extended time series, developments which started out as negative trends but, owing to successful adaptation measures, have recently become positive.

For all time series, trends were analysed by means of setting seven or more data points. In the process of trend analysis, all data points of the relevant time series were taken into consideration. Any data series with insufficient data points or based on surveys that were irregular or temporally too far apart were eliminated from analysis.

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APPENDIX

Authorship

Contributions

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