News Analysis: Call for action to mitigate extreme weather impacts as heatwave grips Europe


  • World
  • Wednesday, 12 Aug 2020

ROME, Aug. 11 (Xinhua) -- Most of western Europe has been held in the grips of a major heatwave since early August, forcing governments to make drastic moves in many countries. Analysts have called for action as they say that hot spells are expected to become more common in the coming years.

Just in the last two weeks, England, Spain, France, Switzerland, and Germany are all reported to have set record highs: the coolest among them -- the sizzling 37.8 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) -- was recorded at London's Heathrow Airport, and the highest, 44 degrees Celsius in northern Spain.

Authorities in Paris and Amsterdam are reportedly handing out free water bottles to help combat the impacts of the heat. In Italy and Spain, health officials are encouraging people to stay inside during the hottest hours of the day, while Italian farmers are worried crops may wilt in the fields due to a lack of rain and a shortage of workers. In Portugal, officials expressed worries that the heat might cause wildfires, while in Germany people fleeing steaming cities were turned away from over-crowded beaches.

"What was unusual a generation again in terms of hot and extreme weather is becoming normal now," Klaus Rohrig, European Union (EU) climate and energy coordinator for the Climate Action Network, or CAN, told Xinhua. "In the same way, if countries do not take action, Europe can expect that what now seems out of the ordinary will become commonplace in the future."

The high temperatures are complicating what is already a challenging year due to the impacts of the global coronavirus outbreak.

According to data gathered by CAN, 2019 was the hottest year on record in Europe so far, with temperatures in some areas consistently as much as 4 degrees Celsius above normal. Because of unusually cool spring, 2020 as a whole may not pass last year's record, but Rohrig estimated that so far this summer is at least as hot as last year's in Europe.

According to data from the European Commission's Joint Research Center published at the start of the summer, if average temperatures rise by 3 degrees Celsius, it will cost Europe's economies a devastating 175 billion euros (205 billion U.S. dollars) or more each year, the equivalent to around 1.4 percent of the EU's gross domestic product, and more than the EU's total budget last year, which was 166 billion euros.

The report said the costs will come from reduced crop yields, erosion, weather damage to infrastructure, energy production, and other factors.

"The economic damage will not have the same impact across all coun tries," Rohrig said. "Southern Europe will suffer more and countries that have weaker economies will have a harder time adapting."

Roberto Race, a cofounder of Competere, a policy think tank, said in an interview that as countries emerge from the global coronavirus pandemic they should spend money to emphasize sustainability and green technologies.

"European leaders should be focusing on trying to strike the correct balance with a kind of 'green new deal,'" Race said. "They should focus on green development without burdening businesses with too many regulations that would make them uncompetitive in a global marketplace."

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