According to UN and EU climate experts, Europe must prepare for increasingly deadly heat waves due to global warming. Last year, the average temperature was about 2.3 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, according to the annual report published Monday by the European Earth observation program Copernicus and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
This confirms Europe’s status as the fastest-warming continent on Earth. According to the report, temperatures in Europe rose by 1.5 degrees in the three decades to 2021 alone. Last year, all of Europe groaned under the hottest summer on record.
Over 16,000 people died from extreme heat last year, while economic losses from weather and climate extremes totalled $2 billion (1.8 billion euros).
High temperatures have exacerbated widespread drought in Europe, caused the number and extent of forest fires to skyrocket, and resulted in thousands of heat-related deaths, WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said.
Unfortunately, last year’s developments cannot be dismissed “as one-offs or outliers of the climate,” explained Carlo Buontempo, director of Copernicus’ Climate Change Service (C3S). Instead, he said, the developments can be predicted to be “part of a pattern that will make heat stress extremes more frequent and intense across the region.”
However, the report took it as a positive sign that for the first time within the European Union, more electricity was generated by wind and solar power than by natural gas. Their share of electricity production last year was 22.3 percent, 2.3 percentage points higher than natural gas.
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