The UK can expect more floods but lower winter fuel bills as a result of global warming, according to an EU-funded report from the University of East Anglia.
The report, edited by Martin Parry, concludes that southern Europe will suffer more from climate changes than northern Europe.
In the south, hot summers will double in frequency by 2020, potential water supplies will de-crease by a quarter, desertification and forest fires will increase and air quality in cities will deteriorate.
In the north, cold winters will be half as frequent by 2020 and the natural environment will suffer with the loss of 50 to 90 per cent of alpine glaciers by the end of the century. However, the report also predicts an increase in agricultural and forest activity in the north - and an improvement in the water supply.
The report is Europe's input into the Third Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, due to be published next summer. It comes two weeks before an international climate change conference at the Hague, which deputy prime minister John Prescott and environment minister Michael Meacher will attend.
"We make almost 50 recommendations for policy and research," said Professor Parry. "It really is imperative that we take the first steps in adapting to climate change now by factoring climate change impacts into revised EU environmental and regional policies."
He added: "We need to work towards implementing the Kyoto Protocol for greenhouse gas reductions, but it takes time to get agreement and for actions to bite. In the meantime, we must adapt to the changes around us."
Mike Hulme, one of the report's authors, said: "The recent floods are not proof or disproof of global warming. The real proof is that temperatures have been rising for over half a century and one of the predicted changes as a consequence of this was intense rainfall in winter."
He said public disillusionment with scientists over BSE advice should not taint other scientists.
"We have been open and honest in observing climate changes and alerting society to the dangers of polluting the atmosphere with greenhouse gases," he said.