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Home ยป Climate warming in Europe doubles global average of last 30 years

Climate warming in Europe doubles global average of last 30 years

Climate warming in Europe doubles global average of last 30 years

Europe has recently seen an increase in droughts, forest fires and melting ice. Not a single part of the continent has been spared from these blows of climate change, the main reason being that temperatures in Europe have risen more than twice the world average in the last 30 years.

As a consequence of this increase in temperatures measured between 1991 and 2021, alpine glaciers have lost 30 meters of thickness and Greenland’s ice is melting, which contributes to accelerating sea level rise, says the first report on Europe developed jointly by WMO and the United States.

The study warns that, regardless of the measures taken to curb climate change, and despite the fact that the EU has managed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 31% in three decades, “temperatures will rise in all areas of European at a higher rate than the world” and with it, extreme phenomena such as heat waves will rise.

“Societies, economies and ecosystems will be affected by episodes of exceptional heat, forest fires and floods, as well as other effects of climate change,” warn the United Nations agency and the EU research program.

Critical thresholds

With global warming of 2 degrees or more, critical thresholds affecting ecosystems and people will be exceeded in Europe, says the study, which forecasts an increase in winter rainfall in the north of the continent and a decrease in summer rainfall in the Mediterranean.

“If levels of global warming are reached above 1.5 degrees, extreme rainfall and flooding will increase in all regions except the Mediterranean,” adds the report, which is published a few days after it begins in Sharm el Sheikh (Egypt) the Climate Change Summit (COP27).

The WMO and the EU recall that in 2021 extreme weather events caused hundreds of deaths in Europe (in the case of floods with more than 200 deaths in Germany, Belgium and other countries), affected half a million people and caused economic losses of about 50,000 million euros

The report highlights that despite the great challenges that Europe faces, this continent, especially the EU, which has set a net reduction in emissions of 55% by 2030, leads the global fight against climate change in many aspects.

It is, for example, one of the most advanced regions in cross-border cooperation for adaptation to climate change, particularly in river basins that cross several countries, and a world leader in effective early warning systems against extreme weather events, which protect 75% of their populations.

Vulnerable despite preparation

“Europe is a living reflection of a warming world and reminds us that even well-prepared societies are not safe from the consequences of extreme weather events,” the WMO Secretary-General said in a statement.

The “old continent” can play “a decisive role in achieving a carbon-neutral society by mid-century and in meeting the provisions of the Paris Agreement,” he added.

The report warns of the harmful effects that rising temperatures can have in the medium and long term on the health of Europeans, due to the deaths that can be caused by heat waves, the increased risk of zoonoses (diseases transmitted from animals and men) or the increase in mental health problems.

The aforementioned heat waves, such as the one that caused 70,000 deaths in Europe in 2003 or the one that caused 55,000 deaths in Russia in 2010, are the deadliest climatic phenomena in Europe, since their incidence, together with high urbanization and ageing the population, make the continent very vulnerable to them.

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More allergies and zoonoses

But the report also warns of how climate change, by altering pollen and spore emissions, can multiply allergic disorders and asthma episodes in Europe, which already affect 24% of adults and between 30 and 40% of children, percentages that are already increasing.

In the case of zoonoses, the WMO warns of a possible increase in tick-borne diseases, in the case of encephalitis, which is a growing problem in alpine regions.

Regarding pollution, also influenced by global warming, the report recalls that in 2019 half a million people died prematurely in Europe due to pollution, while reducing it could prevent some 138,000 premature deaths each year.

Climate change also “creates conditions for fires to be more frequent, intense and devastating in Europe”, warns the WMO, which points out that even the infrastructures are at risk, since they were not built taking into account a greater frequency of waves of heat, storms and intense winds.

Future Scenarios

Disasters related to weather, climate and water are expected to increase in the future, according to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Working Group I, IPCC AR6 IWG). It was assessed that there was “high confidence” that:

  • Regardless of future levels of global warming, temperatures will increase in all European areas at a faster rate than global mean temperature changes, similar to previous observations.
  • The frequency and intensity of hot extremes, including marine heat waves, have increased in recent decades and are projected to continue to increase regardless of the greenhouse gas emissions scenario. Critical thresholds relevant to ecosystems and humans are projected to be exceeded for global warming of 2°C or more.
  • The observations have a seasonal and regional pattern consistent with the projected increase in winter precipitation in northern Europe. A decrease in summer rainfall in the Mediterranean is projected to spread to the northern regions. Extreme precipitation events and pluvial flooding are projected to increase to levels of global warming greater than 1.5°C in all regions except the Mediterranean.

Climate Impacts

  • Health: The health of Europeans is affected by climate change in many ways, including death and illness from increasingly frequent extreme weather events (heat waves), increased zoonoses and food-borne diseases, water and vectors, and mental health issues.
  • Ecosystems: Most of the damage from wildfires is due to extreme events for which neither ecosystems nor communities are adapted. Climate change, human behaviours and other underlying factors are creating the conditions for more frequent, intense and devastating fires in Europe, with important socio-economic and ecological consequences.
  • Transportation: Transportation infrastructure and operations are at risk from both increased climate change and extreme events (eg, heat waves, heavy downpours, strong winds, and extreme sea levels and waves). Much of the transportation infrastructure was built based on historical values ​​for various thresholds of weather events and is therefore not resilient to current extremes.

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