Thursday

11th Aug 2022

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

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe 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.

Feature

Arctic warming alert moves on from polar bear symbol

Environmentalists seek to tell bigger story of Arctic climate change, after studies show that the polar bear - the main symbol of the problem - does not risk extinction as previously feared.

Brazil pitches itself as answer to Ukraine war food shortages

Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is pitching his Latin American country as the answer to the world food crisis following the war in Ukraine. The traditional wheat importer has now exported three million tonnes of the grain so far in 2022.

Opinion

Exploiting the Ukraine crisis for Big Business

From food policy to climate change, corporate lobbyists are exploiting the Ukraine crisis to try to slash legislation that gets in the way of profit. But this is only making things worse.

News in Brief

  1. Sweden overtakes France as EU's top power exporter
  2. Italy's far-right star in European charm offensive
  3. Another migrant tragedy claims 50 lives in Greek waters
  4. Russia hits area near town with 120 rockets, says Ukraine
  5. UN expects more ships to get Ukrainian grain out
  6. Greece to end bailout-era oversight
  7. Denmark to train Ukrainian soldiers in urban warfare
  8. Russian helicopter flies into Estonia's airspace

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Latest News

  1. Russian coal embargo kicks in, as EU energy bills surge
  2. Only Western unity can stop Iran hostage-diplomacy
  3. Kosovo PM warns of renewed conflict with Serbia
  4. EU Commission shrugs off Polish threats on rule-of-law
  5. EU urged to stop issuing tourist visas to Russians
  6. Russia puts EU in nuclear-energy paradox
  7. Almost two-thirds of Europe in danger of drought
  8. West needs to counter Russia in Africa, but how?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us