Last week abnormally hot weather was recorded in most of Europe. France smashed its all-time temperature record. On June 28, France's meteorological agency, Meteo France, announced a new record high temperature of 114.6 degrees Fahrenheit (45.9 Celsius). Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic have also experienced the highest temperature ever recorded in the month of June.
Over the last century, Europe has increasingly experienced heat waves, and since 1500 AD, the region's five hottest summers have occurred in 2018, 2016, 2010, 2003, and 2002.
Heat waves occur across northern Europe when high atmospheric pressure draws up hot air from northern Africa, Portugal and Spain, raising temperatures and increasing humidity. In this instance, the exceptionally hot air has come from the Sahara.
Heat waves are not uncommon, but according to weather experts they are being amplified by a rise in global temperatures and are likely to become more frequent - one of the more predictable impacts of our warming climate.
Extreme weather events have always happened, and heat waves would occur even without global warming. But a growing field of research called attribution science allows experts to assess how much global warming has stacked the deck in favor of any given weather event. These studies typically use computer models that compare the world as it is now to one in which greenhouse-gas emissions had never occurred.
The 2018 heat wave across Northern Europe, for example, was made five times more likely by climate change, according to an assessment by a group of scientists called World Weather Attribution. The year before, in 2017, a heat wave nicknamed Lucifer, which devastated the Mediterranean, was made at least 10 times more likely by climate change.
What is the danger of climate warming?
Global warming will have serious consequences for human health, biodiversity, ecosystems and the goods and services they provide, as well as for many social and economic sectors, including agriculture, tourism, and energy production.
More frequent high-temperature extremes, such as hot days and nights and heat waves, as observed and projected, will affect human health. This could lead to an increase in the cases of temperature-related mortality, as already experienced in recent heat events.
Warming is affecting the distribution and abundance of many plant and animal species (insects, birds), which already show problems in adapting to the changing climate. Mountain areas are particularly affected.
Warmer temperatures increase the risk of desertification in southern parts of Europe, and they also cause a greater risk of droughts.
Temperature extremes will therefore affect sectors such as agriculture, tourism and energy production. Cities can face new challenges for supply of water and other basic resources.
What is the EU doing to solve this problem?
In 2013, the European Commission adopted an EU strategy on adaptation to climate change, welcomed by the EU Member States. The strategy aims to make Europe more climate-resilient. By taking a coherent approach and providing for improved coordination, it aims to enhance the preparedness and capacity of all governance levels to respond to the impacts of climate change.
On April 22, 2016 the Paris Climate Accords were signed by all but three countries around the world. The conference to talk about this document was held in Paris, France. This put Europe in the epicenter of talks about the environment and climate change. The EU was the first major economy that decided to submit its intended contribution to the new agreement in March 2015. The EU ratified the Paris Agreement on October 5th, 2015.
In these talks the countries agreed that they all had a long-term goal of keeping global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius. They agreed that global emissions need to peak as soon as possible, and recognize that this will take longer for developing countries. On the subject of transparency the countries agreed that they would meet every five years to set ambitious goals, report their progress to the public and each other, and track progress for their long-term goals throughout a transparent and accountable system.
On 28 November 2018, the European Commission presented its strategic long-term vision for a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate-neutral economy by 2050. The strategy shows how Europe can lead the way to climate neutrality by investing into realistic technological solutions, empowering citizens, and aligning action in key areas such as industrial policy, finance, or research – while ensuring social fairness for a just transition.
Following the invitation by the European Parliament and the European Council, the Commission's vision for a climate-neutral future covers nearly all EU policies and is in line with the Paris Agreement objective to keep the global temperature increase to well below 2°C and pursue efforts to keep it to 1.5°C.