Deadly heatwaves, such as those experienced in Europe during the summer of 2022, are anticipated to become ever more frequent, longer and intense.
On Wednesday, the European Environment Agency (EEA) warned that global warming is projected to bring a "new normal" to Europe that will lead to more heatwaves, severe flooding, catastrophic wildfires and climate-sensitive diseases during the summer months.
Adaptation measures are therefore urgently required to prevent the loss of life, the EEA, the European Union (EU) agency that provides independent information on the environment, said.
Deadly heatwaves, such as those experienced in Europe during the summer of 2022, are anticipated to become ever more frequent, longer and intense, with Southern Europe in particular likely to bear the brunt of additional deaths and hospitalizations. The elderly and the sick are bound to be particularly vulnerable.
The EEA also forecasts heavy rainfall events leading to more frequent and severe flooding in North-Western and Central Europe. Between 1980 and 2021, damages due to flooding amounted to nearly US$280 billion in Europe, with a yearly increase of over 2 percent.
Such extreme events are expected to increase as the ongoing development of floodplains continues to put vulnerable populations and essential facilities at risk.
��As our #climate changes ⛈️weather is becoming more extreme. Our EEA web portal takes a deep dive into the main summer #weatherextremes #heatwaves #floods #droughts #wildfires that have increasingly impacted Europe.— EU EnvironmentAgency (@EUEnvironment) June 14, 2023
��Explore interactive maps & charts: https://t.co/XHYXIVvR8Y pic.twitter.com/bz01uXTi4S
Europeans must also brace themselves for more frequent and severe droughts. Following the dry winter, low soil moisture, reduced water storage in reservoirs and low river flows across much of Southern and Western Europe are raising the alarm for the coming summer.
The recent increase in wildfires is also a major concern. Since 1980, wildfires across Europe have claimed 712 lives. The 2022 wildfire season was the second worst since 2000, burning over 5,000 square kilometers during the summer months.
As temperatures increase across Europe, disease-carrying species can spread further North or be present at higher altitudes in Europe, leading to a rise in climate-sensitive diseases. In an effort to combat these threats, the EU and its member states have established national adaptation policies and adopted the EU Climate Law.
The EEA believes that it is necessary for the EU member states to link their adaptation policies with sectoral policies, for example on health.
It calls for the urgent implementation of measures, such as heat-health action plans, boosting green and blue spaces (natural and semi-natural areas) in cities, and early warnings for climate-sensitive diseases across Europe to avert an environmental catastrophe.