Friday

19th Apr 2019

Heat, drought, fires: climate change shows Europe's future

  • A burnt-out car in the Greek port town Rafina, hit by wildfires (Photo: Lisbeth Kirk)

Get used to it.

The hot weather gripping large parts of Europe this summer are probably going to be more common than before.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Dogs waiting for their owners to return to a burnt-out house near Rafina (Photo: Lisbeth Kirk)

Temperatures are expected to shoot above 30C again in many European countries on Monday (6 August), with 32C predicted for Paris, 36C for Rome, and 39C for Madrid.

Wildfires continued over the weekend in Portugal, while the Greek government on Sunday (5 August) replaced the chiefs of its police force and firefighters.

The Greek opposition party New Democracy has called on Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras to step down over his handling of the fires, following the deaths of 90 people in fires near Athens.

Greek minister Nikos Toskas, responsible for the police force, already resigned on Friday.

Meanwhile, farmers are facing crop losses due to an extreme drought and parts of Europe are becoming yellow and brown instead of green.

"I have never seen this type of hot and dry weather, and I've been farming over 30 years," said Finnish farmer Max Schulman according to NBC News recently.

While the heatwaves once were extreme exceptions, they are becoming the norm, due to human-induced climate change.

"What was once regarded as unusually warm weather will become commonplace – in some cases, it already has," said researcher Friederike Otto from the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University recently.

A new study coming from Oxford last month said that the likelihood of European heatwaves has more than doubled due to climate change.

Otto said that the results showed society had to prepare for more frequent heatwaves "but equally there is no doubt that we can and should constrain the increasing likelihood of all kinds of extreme weather events by restricting greenhouse gas emissions as sharply as possible".

Some 90 people were killed by the Greek fires (Photo: Lisbeth Kirk)

Human activity like burning fossil fuels in cars and power plants and increasing cattle has made the level of greenhouse gas emissions rise sharply since the industrial revolution. It has already raised the average global temperature by around 1C.

Another study, published last year, said that extreme weather events can become a lot more frequent if emissions continue to rise.

"In Europe, each year about five percent of Europeans have to face an extreme climate event — be that a heat wave, a flood, a drought," said Jean Jouzel according to the New York Times on Saturday.

Jouzel was deputy chairman of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the United Nations' climate science body.

"But in the second half of this century, if the global warming is not checked, we could see two Europeans out of every three who have to face extreme climate events," noted Jouzel.

Wildfires like the one in Greece will become more common if global warming continues (Photo: Lisbeth Kirk)

So it could get even worse.

That was also the message of a draft version of an important IPCC report for policymakers, the leaked contents of which were published on the Climate Home website, a specialist news outlet.

It said that the scientists were highly confident that for every 0.5C increase in global average temperature, the likelihood of hot extremes increases.

The IPCC is also looking at what is needed to limit average global warming to 1.5C – which will still have enormous impacts, but could be manageable.

By contrast, scientists believe that once the 2C threshold is reached, irreversible changes to the earth's ecosystem may occur.

In 2015, the European Union and its countries, together with most of the world's other nations, signed an agreement in Paris in which they promised to limit global warming to 2C, and do their utmost to limit it to 1.5C.

To stay under that crucial 1.5C, the IPCC draft report said, emissions need to come down quickly, and society needed drastic changes.

"Limiting global warming to 1.5C would require rapid and far-reaching systems transitions occurring during the coming one to two decades, in energy, land, urban, and industrial systems," it said.

Investigation

US in denial on EU climate forum

An Obama-era climate change working group has been in limbo since Trump came into office. Other areas of transatlantic energy cooperation also face uncertainty.

Germany to let slip 2020 climate target

Prospective governing coalition partners give up on reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent in 2020, saying instead they will achieve that in the early 2020s.

Opinion

Nordic and Baltic farmers urgently need EU support

Drought is causing severe problems for farmers in the Nordic region and the Baltic countries. This is the third year in a row that the region has experienced extreme weather conditions, pushing farmers' financial situation to a breaking point.

Single EU railway signalling system faces delays

'A reality check shows that we are already falling a little bit behind in the first few years,' said the new coordinator for the European rail traffic management system (ERTMS).

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us