Heatwaves and severe droughts are causing searing pain in Europe
* Heat waves scorched Europe earlier than usual, particularly in the south, west and centre. Several countries reported record high temperatures.
* While global food and fuel prices have spiked since the escalation of the Ukraine crisis, the drought has dealt another blow to European agriculture.
* This flamboyant summer has sounded the alarm that mitigating global warming requires the immediate and serious implementation of green actions.
ROME, Aug. 20 (Xinhua) — Historic heat waves and droughts have set the tone for Europe this summer, which has been gripped by scorching heat, devastating wildfires, scant rainfall and rivers and dry lakes.
Prolonged extreme weather conditions are weighing heavily on European countries, which are still plagued by rising prices and the energy crisis. Experts have warned of reduced agricultural production, hampered shipping and insufficient power generation, among other challenges.
Climate change, a major cause of extreme weather events, has become more than ever an urgent issue to deal with, as Europe struggles to achieve its green ambition without risking energy insecurity.
A woman pours water on her head during a heat wave in Athens, Greece, June 22, 2022. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)
SPOUT HOT AND DRY
Heat waves scorched Europe earlier than usual, particularly in the south, west and centre. Several countries, including Spain and Britain, reported record high temperatures, while Portugal recorded a new high of 47 degrees Celsius in mid-July.
The National Research Council of Italy’s Institute of Atmospheric and Climate Sciences said in early August that this year was on track to be the hottest and driest year on record in Italy since 1800. .
Forest fires have become more frequent. This year, some 660,000 hectares of European land has been scorched by major fires as of August 13, a record at this point in the year since data collection began in 2006, according to the European Forest Information System. forest fires.
Firefighters fight a forest fire in Cebreros, Castile and Leon, Spain, July 21, 2022. (Junta de Castilla y Leon/Handout via Xinhua)
In addition to Mediterranean countries that are not new victims of summer fires, such as Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece, the fires have also ravaged central and northern Europe, damaging buildings and forcing people to flee their homes.
The first heat waves worsened the severe drought that began to trouble much of Europe since the start of 2022 due to the persistent lack of precipitation.
Britain has officially declared a drought over much of England. The source of the Thames in the country has dried up further downstream and major rivers that cross the European continent have seen their water levels drop significantly, including the Rhine.
Photo taken on August 14, 2022 shows the view of a dry river bed near the source of the River Thames, southwest of the city of Cirencester, Britain. (Photo by Tim Ireland/Xinhua)
In Slovenia, drought has led to restrictions on the use of tap water and agricultural irrigation, and similar actions are underway in many other countries.
Recent data from the European Commission’s Joint Research Center (EC-JRC) showed that around 47% of the territory of the European Union and Great Britain was on drought alert and 17% in state of emergency.
The current drought could surpass the 2018 drought to be the worst in 500 years, senior researcher Andrea Toreti at the center was quoted by media in August as saying.
Withered sunflowers are seen in the Karst, Nova Gorica, Slovenia, August 16, 2022. (Photo by Zeljko Stevanic/Xinhua)
Heat waves and droughts are having a multifaceted impact on Europeans, experts have warned.
“Droughts affect nature’s ability to function and provide society with the essentials for life. Biodiversity, especially soil microorganisms that maintain soil fertility, can struggle to recover, which will impact agricultural productivity next year,” said Mike Rivington, a senior researcher at the James Hutton Institute in Britain.
Dutch media have reported a growing risk of salinization in the western Netherlands, as rivers and lakes provide less fresh water. Lack of water and rising water temperatures have also caused blue-green algae to appear and contributed to fish kills.
While global food and fuel prices have spiked since the escalation of the Ukrainian crisis, the drought has dealt a further blow to European agriculture, with agricultural production expected to be reduced and food prices fearful. to increase further.
Rising fertilizer, energy and feed prices are putting pressure on farmers, the German Farmers’ Association told local media, adding that if it doesn’t rain regularly soon, crop yields could be reduced by 30-40%.
In Greece, France, Italy and Hungary, weather conditions are expected to reduce the production of olive oil, wine, corn and animal feed. Hungarian Agriculture Minister Istvan Nagy told local media in July that aridity damage to farmers this year was already double the total of the past 10 years.
Falling water levels have also caused a headache for shipping, which is having a ripple effect on the economy. Due to scorching temperatures and a lack of rain, the Rhine – one of Europe’s most important waterways – is seeing ships “sailing with less than half the usual cargo volumes”, local media reported.
Photo taken on Aug. 17, 2022 shows the Rhine bank in Düsseldorf, Germany. The water level of the Rhine has dropped due to high temperature and drought. (Xinhua/Ren Pengfei)
Fuel and raw materials, including grain, chemicals, minerals, coal and petroleum products, are all frequently shipped along the Rhine. Reduced water transport is affecting industrial production, including limited coal transport for coal-fired power plants, which have regained prominence in the region following the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.
Heat and droughts are making Europe’s energy crisis even more intractable, as they disrupt power generation from hydroelectric, nuclear and wind power plants. Hydroelectricity has been reduced in Italy, Spain and Norway, while several nuclear power plants have been closed in France.
“Run-of-river power generation through early July was below the 2015-2021 average for many European countries… The same decline is true for hydroelectric reservoir levels” , according to a July report by the EC. -CCR.
Climate change is a major driver of this worrying situation, experts noted, calling for an immediate global response to tackle the crisis.
“The record temperatures we expect and experience are not surprising. Climate change is driving changes in extreme temperatures, changes in the number of heat waves around the world,” said Corinne Le Quere, professor of climate change science at Britain’s University of East Anglia, told Xinhua.
The World Metrological Organization warned in July that heat waves would occur more frequently in the 2060s.
According to a report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), temperatures will rise faster in Europe than elsewhere.
The IPCC expects a worrying combination of changes in climate impact factors by mid-century if global warming exceeds 2 degrees Celsius in the Mediterranean, such as extreme temperatures, increased droughts and wildfires, and a decrease in precipitation and snow cover.
This blazing summer has sounded the alarm that mitigating global warming requires immediate and serious implementation of green actions.
While drought mitigation strategies are of utmost importance today, “additional efforts are also needed to preemptively adapt to climate change by protecting energy supplies and applying sustainable solutions to agriculture,” the European Commission said in its report on the drought in Europe in July.
But the crux of the matter is ensuring Europe’s energy security in its green transition bid, especially after the region suffered an energy supply disruption amid the Ukraine crisis.
A dried corn field is seen as severe drought hits France, in Puiseux-Pontoise, about 30 km northwest of Paris, France, Aug. 18, 2022. (Xinhua/Gao Jing)
The drought has forced some countries to turn to coal-fired power plants to fill the green energy gap, analysts have said, while warning of rising energy bills in Europe this summer.
“Climate change is happening faster than actions are taken to adapt society to the changes,” Le Quere said.
Globally, “we must come together to fight climate change, because global emissions must be brought to net zero for the climate to stabilize”, but people must also “find solutions that will enable society to operate as the climate gets warmer and warmer until it stabilizes,” the professor said.
(Web Editor: Zhang Wenjie, Bianji)