Heatwave In Europe: Mercury Rises To All-Time High

From Tokyo to London, the Northern Hemisphere this year experienced one of its hottest summers in recent times with unusually high temperatures. The record-breaking heatwaves in Europe this year raised concerns over public health and questions about whether this trend in weather patterns will continue in the future. Several parts of India too have experienced heatwaves in recent years leaving millions on the lookout for ways to beat the heat.

In addition to heat-related ailments, Europe was devastated by wildfires, with Greece being the worst-affected. In July, the mercury in the United Kingdom rose to over 40 degrees Celsius for the first time ever. Earlier this year, France recorded its hottest May ever. The scorching heat in Spain has left over 1,000 dead, all over the age of 74 years, while Italy was forced to declare a state of emergency. Temperatures in Germany are expected to reach 42 degrees Celsius, with mounting fears about loss of life.

Why is Europe burning?
The upward trend in record-breaking temperatures is due to a confluence of global and local factors. Climate change has accelerated and temperatures are rising, which can be observed in Europe, parts of India and all across the planet.

However, the record-breaking temperatures experienced in Europe this year cannot be attributed entirely to climate change. These previously unheard-of high temperatures are the result of a peculiar confluence of regional warming processes, which heighten the already high baselines brought on by climate change.

It has been observed that there are five separate high-pressure systems that caused these extraordinary heatwaves. One of these systems steadily draws hot air from Northern Africa into Europe. The temperature differential between the Arctic and the Equator is also a factor, making Europe a hot spot of sorts for heatwaves.

Such climate occurrences have been observed earlier from time to time, with the duration usually being short and the intensity fading over a few days. For instance, in France, where the 45°C thresholds were crossed in July, the temperature dropped by as much as 15°C after a few hours on the same day.

Challenges Faced
More than 1,700 people died due to heatstroke and other health complications as a result of heatwaves across Europe in July, which was called “unprecedented, terrible, and apocalyptic,” according to the regional director of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Deaths due to heatwaves are not limited to Europe. People across the globe, including in India, are developing health problems and are losing lives due to the rising temperatures. In 2022, Indians faced one of the hottest summers ever recorded with the number and intensity of heatwaves increasing.

Extremely high temperatures sparked wildfires across Europe, and the UK Met Office issued its first “red alert” for extreme weather and heat. Nineteen countries in Europe were put on high alert for wildfires.

The scorching weather put additional stress on the continent’s energy infrastructure, driving up power prices and raising the possibility of significant gas supply shortages this winter. This summer’s record-breaking heat increased the need for cooling energy, hurting nuclear, hydroelectric, and coal-based electricity output at a time when Europe has been trying to reduce its dependency on Russian gas.

The disruption to the energy supply due to the heatwaves, which scientists warn are growing more frequent and violent due to climate change, fuelled a record-breaking rally for power prices in certain areas of Europe.

Tackling The Heatwave In Europe
As temperatures rose to over 40 degrees Celsius for the first time ever, Britain issued advisories to the public to stay indoors, with schools being dismissed early and railway services being cancelled.

Even as hundreds of deaths were caused due to high temperatures and heatstrokes, authorities in nations like Spain, Greece, Croatia, and France tried to contain the massive flames of the wildfires. In Spain, as firefighting became more difficult due to high temperatures and steep terrain, helicopters were used to drop water on the fire.

The UK government declared a “national heat emergency” when temperatures were predicted to rise over the 38.7 degrees Celsius C (102 Fahrenheit) record high of 2019. Italy declared a state of emergency until the end of the year to deal with the prolonged and repeated heatwaves and the drought the country is facing.

India and Climate Change
India, listed as the fourth country most affected by climate change in 2015, is experiencing severe repercussions. India emits fewer greenhouse gases than the rest of the world on an average, roughly 2.5 tonnes of CO2 per person annually. Having 7% of the world’s population, the nation produces 7% of global emissions.

Due to climate change, an increase in the frequency and intensity of heatwaves in India has been noticed. The record temperature rises on the Tibetan Plateau have caused Himalayan glaciers to retreat, putting in jeopardy the flow rates of the Ganges, the Brahmaputra, the Yamuna, and other essential rivers. More and more rivers are expected to slowly dry up as smaller glaciers will lead to lesser glacial melt.

In states like Assam, which also experience high rainfall, severe landslides and floods are expected to occur more frequently. Between 1901 and 2018, India’s temperatures rose by 0.7 °C (1.3 °F). According to some current forecasts, the frequency and intensity of droughts in India will have significantly increased by the end of the current century.

Climate Change: The Long-Term Impact
Climate change impacts the natural environment, ecosystems, and even human society. The effects of ice melt, rapid sea level rise, and longer, more extreme weather and heatwaves are already being felt.

Not every part of the Earth will experience the same effects due to climate change. Terrestrial regions change faster than marine areas, and high northern latitudes change faster than tropical areas. In addition to changing planetary climate trends, the regional climate will also alter due to changed hydrological cycles (evaporation and precipitation), and modification in ocean currents.

The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and how governments adapt to climate change will determine how the planet as a whole and human beings feel the effects of climate change in the future.

How India is Dealing With Climate Change
India’s pledge to reach Net Zero emissions by 2070 is lauded globally. To accomplish this goal, the Indian Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi, announced a five-step plan known as the Panchamrita during the 26th Conference of Parties (CoP26).

India will have 500 GW of non-fossil energy capacity by 2030.

India will achieve 50% of its energy needs through renewable sources by 2030.

India will reduce its expected total carbon emissions by one billion tonnes between now and 2030.

By 2030, India’s economy will reduce its carbon intensity by less than 45%.

India will thereby achieve the Net Zero objective by 2070.

According to the UN Environment Program’s Emission Gap Report, India is the only major nation on track to meet its goals outlined in the Paris climate agreement.

Climate Change: India and Europe
Like the heatwaves in Europe, India has experienced a protracted heatwave, with many cities experiencing temperatures higher than 42°C this year. This comes after India saw the warmest March on record in over 120 years, according to the country’s meteorological department.

India is known to experience extreme weather conditions – heavy rains, floods during some months of the year, heatwaves and droughts. Europe is increasingly experiencing such extreme weather due to the amplified effects of climate change.

India and the EU have strong cooperation on the issue of climate change. They have jointly pursued the Clean Energy and Climate Partnership (CECP) since 2016 in order to advance cooperation in clean energy and the implementation of the Paris Agreement, including in the fields of energy efficiency, smart grids, renewable energy, storage, climate mitigation and adaptation, and sustainable finance.

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