Thursday June 20, 2024

Europe is world’s fastest warming continent: report

June 20, 2023

PARIS: Europe should brace for more deadly heatwaves driven by climate change, said a sweeping report on Monday, noting the world´s fastest-warming continent was some 2.3 degrees Celsius hotter last year than in pre-industrial times.

Crop-withering drought, record sea-surface temperatures and unprecedented glacier melt are among the consequences laid out in a report by the World Meteorological Organisation and the European Union´s Copernicus Climate Change Service.

The continent, which has been warming at twice the global average since the 1980s, saw its warmest summer on record last year, with countries including France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom experiencing their warmest year on record.

The world has warmed an average of nearly 1.2C since the mid-1800s, unleashing a devastating cascade of extreme weather, including more intense heatwaves, more severe droughts in some areas and storms made more ferocious by rising seas. Hardest hit are the most vulnerable people and the world´s poorest countries, who have done little to contribute to the fossil fuel emissions that drive up temperatures.

But impacts are becoming increasingly severe across the world, with regions in the northern hemisphere and around the poles seeing particularly rapid warming.

In Europe, the high temperatures “exacerbated the severe and widespread drought conditions, fuelled violent wildfires that resulted in the second largest burnt area on record, and led to thousands of heat-associated excess deaths,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

Temperatures across the continent rose 1.5C in 30 years, from 1991 to 2021, according to the report, the State of the Climate in Europe 2022.

Severe heat left more than 16,000 people dead last year, the report said, while floods and storms accounted for most of the $2 billion in damages from weather and climate extremes.

“Unfortunately, this cannot be considered a one-off occurrence or an oddity of the climate,” said Copernicus Director Carlo Buontempo in the report.

“Our current understanding of the climate system and its evolution informs us that these kinds of events are part of a pattern that will make heat stress extremes more frequent and more intense across the region.”

The increasing temperatures have taken a toll on economies and ecosystems, the report said.

In the Alps, glaciers saw a new record mass loss for a single year in 2022, caused by very low winter levels of snow, a hot summer as well as deposits of wind-blown Saharan dust.

The story was similar in the oceans, with average sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic the hottest on record, with warming rates in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, the Baltic and Black Seas and the southern Arctic more than three times the global average.