May 27, 2024
Europe Warming Twice as Fast as Global Average, Scientists Warn

Europe Warming Twice as Fast as Global Average, Scientists Warn

The European Environment Agency (EEA) has released a troubling assessment on climate risks, painting a bleak future for Europe. The report highlights that extreme heat, droughts, wildfires, and floods that have intensified over recent years are set to worsen across the continent, even under optimistic global warming scenarios, impacting living conditions throughout Europe.

While global temperatures continue to rise, Europe’s warming rate is doubling the global average. This alarming trend is underscored in a joint report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service. Findings clearly indicate a climate emergency: European temperatures are now 2.3 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels, compared to a 1.3 degrees Celsius increase globally.

“Europe experienced yet another year of rising temperatures and escalating climate extremes, including unprecedented heat stress, record wildfires, heatwaves, glacial ice loss, and reduced snowfall,” explained Elisabeth Hamdouch, Deputy Director of the Copernicus unit at the EU’s executive commission, regarding the 2023 European climate status report.

The rapid temperature increase has led to more frequent and aggressive heatwaves, wildfires, floods, and droughts. Since the 1980s, Europe has been warming twice as fast as the global average, making it the fastest-warming continent on Earth. Last year, the highest temperatures above the average were recorded in the European Arctic, and the continent’s sea surface temperatures were the warmest ever recorded. The summer heatwaves were so severe that some were described as “extreme” or even “beyond extreme” in regions of Ireland and the UK.

The WMO has previously warned that global efforts are insufficient in combating the repercussions of global warming.

Some European regions are identified as critical hotspots for multiple climate risks, particularly in Southern Europe, which faces heightened risks of wildfires and the impacts of heat and water scarcity on agriculture, outdoor work, and human health. Coastal erosion and saltwater intrusion pose significant threats to low-lying coastal areas of Europe, including many cities. Heat exhaustion and heatstroke have increasingly affected vulnerable populations across Europe, with heat-related mortality rising by about one-third over the past two decades, affecting 94% of the countries studied.

“In 2023 alone, hundreds of thousands were impacted by extreme climate events, causing massive losses estimated at tens of billions of euros across the continent,” said Carlo Buontempo, Director of Copernicus.

The three hottest years on record have occurred since 2020. Since the early 1990s, Europe has been warming by approximately 0.5 ºC per decade, outpacing the global average of 0.2 ºC.

The European Environment Agency stresses that over half of the major climate risks identified require more immediate and decisive action, with eight being particularly urgent. These include preserving ecosystems, protecting individuals from heat, and safeguarding infrastructure from floods and wildfires to ensure the viability of European policies, like the EU Solidarity Fund.

Additionally, the economic toll from extreme weather is profound. In 2023, natural disasters inflicted over 13.2 billion euros in economic damages in Europe.

To tackle and mitigate climate risks, the EEA’s assessment underscores that the EU and its member states must collaborate and also engage at regional and local levels, where urgent and coordinated action is required.

For the first time in history, the WMO declared a public health emergency in July 2023 due to extreme heat in parts of the continent, marking a record number of “extreme heat stress” days with temperatures soaring above 46 degrees Celsius.