Europe’s temperature rises more than double the global average: UN
GENEVA: Temperatures in Europe have risen more than twice the global average over the past three decades, marking the fastest rise of any continent on Earth, the United Nations said on Wednesday.
A joint report by the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization and the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service found that the European region has seen an average temperature increase of 0.5 °C every decade since 1991.
As a result, alpine glaciers lost 30 meters (just under 100 feet) in ice thickness between 1997 and 2021, while the Greenland ice sheet is melting rapidly and contributing to accelerating sea level rise.
Last year, Greenland experienced melting and the first recorded rainfall at its highest point.
And the report cautioned that regardless of future global warming levels, temperatures across Europe will continue to rise at a rate higher than the global average temperature change.
“Europe presents a vivid picture of a warming world and reminds us that even well-prepared societies are not safe from the effects of extreme weather events,” WMO chief Petrie Talas said in a statement.
The WMO divides the world into six regions, with the European region covering 50 countries and half comprising the rapidly warming Arctic, which is not a continent in itself.
Within Antarctica – which is a continent but falls outside the six WMO-defined regions – only part of the West Antarctic Peninsula is warming rapidly.
The new report, released ahead of the 27th UN conference on climate set to open in Egypt on Sunday, examines the situation in Europe and beyond.
It found that last year, high-impact weather and climate events – mainly floods and hurricanes – caused hundreds of deaths, directly affected more than half a million people and cost more than $50 billion across Europe. There was financial loss.
At the same time, the report highlighted some positives, including the success of several European countries in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
In the EU, such emissions have been reduced by about a third between 1990 and 2020, and the bloc has set a net target of 55% reductions for 2030.
Europe is also one of the most advanced regions when it comes to cross-border cooperation towards climate change adaptation, the report said.
It also praised Europe’s deployment of world-leading early warning systems, which provide protection to about 75% of the population, and said its heat-health action plans have saved many lives.
“European society is vulnerable to climate variability and change,” said Carlo Buontempo, head of Copernicus’ European Center of Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF).
“But Europe is also at the forefront of the international effort to mitigate climate change and Europeans will have to stick together to develop innovative solutions to adapt to the new climate.”
Nevertheless, the continent faces formidable challenges.
Talas downplayed the “death and devastation” from last year’s “extraordinary floods”, saying “this year, as in 2021, large parts of Europe have been hit by widespread heatwaves and droughts that have triggered wildfires. “
And going forward, the report cautioned that regardless of the greenhouse gas emissions scenario, “the frequency and intensity of warm extremes … are projected to increase.”
This is concerning, the report warned, given that the deadliest extreme climate events in Europe are heatwaves, especially in the west and south of the continent.
“The combination of climate change, urbanization and population aging in the region will further increase its sensitivity to heat,” the report said.
The changing climate is giving rise to other health concerns as well.
This has begun to alter the production and distribution of pollen and spores, which cause an increase in various allergies.
While more than 24% of adults living in the European region suffer from this type of allergy, including severe asthma, the proportion in children is 30-40% and rising, it said.
Warmer climates are also causing more vector-borne diseases, with ticks growing in new areas causing Lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis.
The report said that Asian tiger mosquitoes are also moving north, posing a threat of Zika, dengue and chikungunya.