Europe is heating up alarmingly, quicker than any other continent, says the latest warning from the UN weather agency. The year 2022 reached an unwanted milestone, with temperatures shooting up 2.3°C above the preindustrial era average. The consequences of this increase has been obvious: extreme heatwaves, severe drought and devastating forest fires which have resulted in over 16,000 deaths. In this respect, support for renewable energies has become critical for mitigating the impacts of climate change and protecting Europe’s future.
What will I learn from this article?
- Temperature increase in Europe
- Consequences of temperature increases in Europe
- Renewable energies give hope
What is the climate situation in Europe compared to other continents?
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has published the second edition of its annual report, State of the Climate in Europe 2022. The report, prepared with the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, says the temperature on the continent in 2022 rose around 2.3°C above the preindustrial era average, a worrying data if we consider that global warming worldwide was in the order of 1.1 degrees.
Not only that, Europe has been experiencing warming double the rate of the global average since the 1980s, more than any other continent.
“The temperature on the continent in 2022 rose around 2.3°C above the preindustrial era average”
Although there are still a few months to go before the end of the year, 2023 seems to be following in the wake of its predecessor. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres commented in the summer that the era of global warming had now given way to the era of global boiling when it was announced that July 2023 had been the hottest month in the past 120,000 years.
Temperature increases not only endanger biodiversity and ecosystems, but also have profound implications for the economy and health of people. Changes in sea level and rainfall patterns are already manifesting themselves and extreme climate events, previously unusual, are becoming the norm.
Consequences of temperature increases in Europe
The unprecedented thermal stress Europe suffered in 2022 was one of the main causes of excess deaths related to the climate, pointed out Carlo Buontempo, director of the Copernicus Climate Chante Service, at the presentation of the report. The climate events recorded were responsible for over 16,000 deaths and directly affected 156,000 people in Europe in 2022. In this article we discuss in depth the dangers of high temperatures.
For Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, this was the hottest year ever recorded. As for rainfall, there were also new records, with huge consequences for agriculture and energy production.
The months of January to September were the driest in France’s history. As for the United Kingdom, these months were the driest since 1976. On 26 July, Spain’s water reserves fell to 41.9% of their total capacity, with even less in some reservoirs.
“The climate events recorded were responsible for over 16,000 deaths and directly affected 156,000 people in Europe in 2022”
The temperature increase is also behind greater melting of the continent. European glaciers experienced a loss of approximately 880 cubic kilometers of ice from 1997 to 2022. The Alps suffered most with an average reduction in the ice cap of 34 meters. During 2022, Alpine glaciers recorded an unprecedented loss of mass in one year, caused by the lack of snowfall in winter, an extremely hot summer and dust deposits from the Sahara.
Melting of the Greenland ice cap contributed to around 14.9 mm of the average rise in sea level. According to scientists, it continued to lose mass in 2022, the WMO report says.
Average sea surface temperatures throughout the North Atlantic were the highest ever recorded and large areas of the seas in the region suffered intense marine heatwaves. Warming rates on the surface of the oceans, especially in the eastern Mediterranean, the Baltic Sea, Black Sea and southern Arctic, shot up to over three times the world average.
A ray of hope for the climate: growth in renewable energy in Europe
The report highlights a ray of hope vis-à-vis the future of Europe’s climate: renewable energies. To reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit the temperature rise, it is necessary to substitute fossil fuels for clean energy sources. Thankfully, the EU is on the right path, it seems.
According to an analysis of electricity in Europe carried out by EMBER, wind power and solar energy in Europe generated 22.3% of electricity in the EU in 2022, for the first time rising above that produced from natural gas (20%) and coal (16%), in part due to the large increase in solar power generation capacity.
This milestone, which we discuss in this article, is the consequence of several factors, including a significant increase in the installed capacity of solar energy in 2022. Annual solar surface radiation recorded in Europe in 2022 was also the highest since 1983 (when satellite data records began), 4.9% above the average for the 1991-2000 reference period, the report added.
Such data only endorses the EU’s plan to increase renewable energy production to at least 42.5% of total consumption by 2030, almost double 2019 levels.
To summarize, the WMO report on the State of the Climate in Europe 2022 presents a worrying picture. However, there are also reasons to be hopeful. The transition toward renewable energies is underway. But this change needs to accelerate.
The situation in Europe demands that we intensify efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and thus mitigate the temperature increase in this and other continents.