A rare warning is in place. For the first time, the UK has released a red weather warning for extreme heat. Scorching amidst its earliest and hottest heatwaves in record, Europe is now at the forefront of climate change-instigated calamity.
But, what is driving the unseasonably brutal heat in sweltering Europe? And exactly, how dire is the situation? Here’s an explainer:
Blazing Wildfires in the Iberian Peninsula
A spade of wildfires is scorching parts of Europe, with firefighters battling the blazing fires in France, Portugal, Spain, and Croatia. In addition, the fires are driving record-high temperatures in the Iberian Peninsula, shooting up as high as 46 degrees Celcius.
Almost half of droughted Portugal is currently under red alerts, a grave fire risk. And mass evacuations depict the severity of the blazes. Fire authorities are at work but stretched thin, with many arriving too late.
On Croatia’s dalmatian coast, picturesque seaside towns are smothered in smoke. Flames fueled by high winds have already destroyed substantial homes and farms. Whereas Spain is amidst its second suffocating heatwave in less than a month.
The extreme temperatures in the Iberian peninsula have created the conditions for blazes to run more quickly, making fire-fighting operations more tricky. Furthermore, with the high winds and low humidity in Europe, fires are wreaking havoc in tourist spots.
Authorities are blaming the wildfires on a mass of hot and dry air blown in by African winds. But, as climate change evolves into an un-escapable reality; experts fear that Europe should brace for more extreme temperatures, wildfires, and droughts.
Red Warning Amidst Scorching Summer
As temperatures have continued to climb over the past several days, the UK Meteorological (Met) Office on Friday issued the first-ever “red” warning for areas of England, including London, next week. The ‘red’ alert conveys a severe heat warning, with the potential to risk lives.
With several water reservoirs recording abnormally low levels of storage at the beginning of the summer season, following an arid winter (mainly January/February) and a dehydrated May as well; the hot and dry weather has exacerbated the drought difficulties across the area.
Since hydropower facilities provide more than 10% of Spain’s electricity, this will have a significant impact on energy output, availability, and costs.
In the coming weeks, the dry and hot weather is expected to spread across northwestern and central Europe before spreading further north and east into Eastern Europe over the weekend.
Since earlier this week, England and Wales have been under an Amber Extreme Heat warning.
The officials fear that if temperatures continue to rise, Europe could face an extreme health crisis.
G7’s Struggle to Balance Climate Change Amidst Global Energy Crisis
In the last month’s G7 summit, the leaders of the seven wealthiest nations struggled to balance the need to tackle climate change amidst the global energy crisis. The US, the UK, Canada, Germany, Italy, and Japan ended their summit by reaffirming their goals to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
Surprisingly, the countries also approved investments in new international fossil fuel-based projects. This shows how even the most developed countries are scrambling to break free from the Russian oil and coal due to the Russia-Ukraine Crisis.
On paper, however, the G7 aims to halt public investment in overseas fossil fuel projects by the end of 2022. But, under exceptional circumstances, publically supported investments in the gas sector will be allowed for the time being.
Countries heavily reliant on Russian energy, including Germany and Italy, are already pushing for the amended text. Currently, most European countries are racing to stockpile gas before winter and diversify suppliers amidst fear that Russia will turn off their energy supply soon.
For example, Germany and Australia are already reactivating coal-fired plants to tackle the energy shot fall. At the same time, Europe is eyeing new gas projects.
Europe Increasing its Fossil Fuel Amidst Extreme Heatwaves
Fossil fuel usage is the primary driver behind toxic greenhouse gas emissions. However, facing the energy void created by the Ukraine war; European countries are now turning to fossil fuels amidst record-breaking heatwaves.
Around 80% of Austria’s gas is imported from Russia. As a result, the country has triggered the first stage of a three-part emergency plan. Currently, Austria is looking at ways to diversify its gas supply and will convert a gas-fueled power plant to produce energy using coal.
Bulgaria, which receives more than 90% of its gas requirements from Russia, has agreed to buy LNG from the United States and has intensified negotiations with Azerbaijan to enhance its gas supply.
The Czech Republic claims it has increased gas delivery from other sources to make up for a drop in deliveries from Russia’s Gazprom. On the other hand, Greece has stated that it will temporarily increase coal mining during the next two years.
Europe’s Extreme Heatwave: The Warning
With the climate change calamities reaching the wealthy nations, the issue has become inescapable. However, despite the devastations, countries are forging new fossil-fuel projects to further deteriorate the already dire global warming.
No doubt, the Russia-Ukraine war has created a huge energy void. However, as gas-hungry Europe revives coal plants in the bid to suffice its energy demands, it is also complicating its climate ambitions.
But, Europe is not alone. Countries are witnessing scorching heatwaves across borders, and the blistering heat this summer shows just what is at stake.