Climate change

This page is focused on national and international scientific research into climate change. But we will first explain briefly what climate change is and what is causing climate change.

What is climate change?

The climate is changing: planet Earth is getting warmer. And this global warming is developing at an ever increasing rate. As a result, climate change is becoming increasingly manifest. Over the past 130 years, global temperatures have risen by an average of 1.0 °C. The Netherlands has experienced an even higher rise: according to the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute KNMI climate dashboard, the average temperature in our country has risen by a good 2 °C between 1901 and 2020; cf. the figure below. In addition, the dashboard shows that the “normal” is shifting increasingly higher. The normal is the thirty-year average. For example, this means that a temperature that we used to regard as normal is now perceived as considerably colder. The new normal for the period 1991-2020 was set down in January 2021.

The graph shows the average annual temperatures between 1901 and 2020, and the four KNMI'14 climate scenarios for 2050 and 2085.

Why is the climate warming up?

Greenhouse gases such as CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide affect the temperature on Earth. The gases retain heat like a blanket, and the temperature will rise because this “blanket” is growing thicker. The large volume of CO2 in the air poses a particular problem: it is increasing because people burn such fossil fuels as oil and gas. The current volumes of CO2 in the air can be found on this website. The animation below explains how climate change is brought about, what effects it can have, and how it is impacting the Netherlands.

Would you like to read more about the origins of climate change? Then take a look at the Milieu Centraal website.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

In 2013 and 2014, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published four reports on climate change, totalling nearly five thousand pages. Together, these reports constitute the fifth IPCC Assessment Report. The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) and the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute KNMI have summarised this fifth IPCC Assessment Report in a 134-page Dutch-language report (PDF, 7.4 MB). In addition to presenting a clear overview of the state of affairs regarding climate science, this summary also provides insight into the consequences for the Netherlands. The Dutch summary gives politicians and policy-makers quick access to facts and the outcomes of scientific research.

KNMI'14 scenarios

A key component of the fifth IPCC Assessment Report involves the KNMI'14 scenarios. These scenarios are based on the latest insights. Together, they outline the framework within which climate change is likely to develop in the Netherlands. The scenarios show how the climate will be changing around 2050 and 2085 compared to the period 1981-2010. The four KNMI'14 scenarios differ as to the global rise in temperature (“Moderate” and “Warm”) and as to the change in airflow patterns (“Low value” and “High value”). The KNMI'14 climate scenarios paint a picture of higher temperatures, a more rapidly rising sea level, wetter winters, more severe downpours, and drier summers. In 2023, the KNMI will publish a set of new climate scenarios.

Climate Proof Cities

Climate change poses a major threat to cities. In the Netherlands, 40 per cent of the population live in the 36 largest cities, and this percentage is growing. These cities account for three-quarters of our gross national product. This means that extreme weather, such as heatwaves and severe downpours, will not only affect a large number of people, but also jeopardise vital infrastructure and value chains. From 2010 to 2014, the Climate Proof Cities (CPC) research programme has been developing knowledge in the purview of climate-proof urban policy. The results have been set down in its report entitled Climate Proof Cities (PDF, 7.2 MB). This knowledge puts cities in a better position to decide on the adaptation of existing structures to the changing climate. In addition to the proper application of scientific knowledge, a comprehensive approach is also vitally important.

Climate adaptation in actual practice

Knowledge for Climate is a research programme developing knowledge and services to enhance the climate resilience of the Netherlands. Several universities, consultancies, provinces, district water boards, municipalities, and companies have been conducting research to this end. The results have been compiled into nine booklets:

  1. Flood Risk Management:Climate and flooding
  2. Freshwater Supply and Water Quality:Climate and freshwater supply
  3. Rural Areas:Climate, nature, and agriculture
  4. Climate-proof City:Climate and the city
  5. Infrastructure and grids:Climate and vital infrastructure
  6. Climate perspectives:Future climate
  7. Governance:Climate and governance
  8. Policy support instruments: Instruments to support climate policy
  9. Innovation in Climate Adaptation:Overarching booklet

Recent scientific insights

Climate change is impacting our daily lives in many ways. For example, we need to protect ourselves against flooding, severe downpours are causing increasingly frequent waterlogging, dry summers pose a higher risk of forest fires, and during heatwaves we need to pay additional attention to the elderly and other vulnerable people. Many scientific studies are being conducted into our vulnerability to the current and future impact of climate change and into ways to adapt to such impacts. The ClimateChangePost is monitoring a range of scientific journals and summarising the results of such studies in accessible reports. The ClimateChangePost reports cover the whole of Europe, with an individual page for each country, including the Netherlands.

Another website sharing new scientific knowledge on climate change is NEMO knowledge link. The information is presented in a low-threshold and accessible manner. The website features narratives on science and technology, press reports and backgrounds, news releases, and interviews.

Climate Helpdesk

Any questions about climate change may be emailed to the Climate Helpdesk. Through the Climate Helpdesk, a team of experts and scientists will answer all sorts of questions regarding climate change. The Climate Helpdesk is intended to make scientific knowledge on the climate accessible to everyone.