As thousands of people die and thousands of hectares of forest land turn to ash, Europe struggles to break the cycle of heat waves and wildfires caused by climate change.
As heatwaves continue to scorch Europe, firefighters face an uphill battle to put out wildfires – a direct result of climate change – across much of the region.
France, Spain and Portugal, among other European countries, have been forced to evacuate thousands of people to safer areas due to extreme heat that has seen wildfires burn across thousands of hectares of land.
Arthur Wynes, policy manager of the Climate and Health Alliance, says the world is not yet ready to deal with the dangers of climate change.
“There is a real public health risk over the next few days and weeks – and many people will suffer health problems and even die from this extreme weather,” he said.
Although we are generally better at responding to heat waves, the death toll from these events is still high. Those at risk are the elderly, those with chronic cardiovascular disease and those in urban areas.
Wins says temperature records are being broken in the Northern Hemisphere, with wildfires and extreme heat destroying communities.
“The climate crisis has arrived,” he said.
The French weather service is forecasting new temperature records on Monday (today). Some regions in the UK are also bracing for temperatures of 41C. Portugal saw temperatures hit 47C last week, while Spain hit 45C, killing more than 1,000 people in the two countries alone.
25-year-old Jovana Fleck lives in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. She says that seeing such warmth is something new.
“It’s around 27C but the high is expected to go to 32C today. I can’t remember a heat wave like this last year,” she said.
“This year the heat has been distributed differently over the months. For example, March was very hot and that is very unusual. We didn’t have that last year,” she added.
Fleck doesn’t have air conditioning in her house, so to beat the heat, she and her loved ones go to cool places around town, including beaches. “Going to the park to sit in the shade and enjoy the breeze helps a lot,” she says.
Fleck shares an apartment in Amsterdam with Marius Buet, who lives in Paris, France.
Buet, 27, who is currently in Marseille to visit a friend, said: “Winter was getting warmer every year and it was very intense at the weekend in Paris.”
Like Amsterdam, Bout has no air-conditioning culture in France, except perhaps in theaters and supermarkets.
“So we stay indoors most of the day, closing the curtains to let fresh air in when we open the windows at night,” he says, adding that it’s nice to be in Marseille, which is pleasant because of the air. Coming from the sea.
Climate change will cause more heat, fires and disasters.
Flake says it’s a worrying development. “I am concerned because what we are seeing is not natural for the country and not natural for Amsterdam. It is definitely a result of the climate crisis and human action,” she said.
“I’m more concerned when I see the news and the predictions about how many people will die in a heat wave.”
Buet also expressed concern but blamed the country’s government for “not doing enough”.
“Our re-elected president[Emmanuel Macron]has done nothing for the climate in the last five years,” he said. “I try not to think too often that my friends and I may face some serious things in the future.”
The signs of climate disaster could not be clearer. But Europe, faced with an energy crisis caused by the conflict in Ukraine, is hinting at a return to coal. Austria, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands announced plans to restart their coal plants at the end of June as gas supplies dwindle.
Such a move would undermine climate goals and commitments by developed countries, many of which are responsible for most of the world’s carbon emissions.
If the current heat and wildfire crisis is anything to go by, Flake says efforts should be directed toward producing clean energy sources for a better environment.
“I think what we can do as citizens is to pressure lawmakers to meet climate goals and invest more in clean energy,” she said.
“We must also ensure that political parties and legislators who historically do not believe in the climate agenda do not use the conflict in Ukraine as an excuse to escape from neutral policies.”
Source: TRT World