Climate change is increasingly making itself felt in Europe, too: flash floods, heat waves, droughts and forest fires are on the rise on the continent.
After the heat wave at the end of June, already designated historic, the second half of July saw a second one sweep across the European continent, setting new temperature records in the South of France, in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, too. In a number of European countries, the extreme heat has reduced the water yield of large rivers.
The eastern regions of Germany are supplied with water by the Elbe and the Oder rivers, but their water levels were already low before the heat waves set in. Drought had already caused major damage in German agriculture last year, and now experts warn that the residential water supply could also be at risk.
New temperature records were recorded in the South of France, for instance in Bordeaux. Alarming images published by the AFP news agency showed the bed of the Loire, the country’s longest river which crosses a number of regions, almost completely dry at Montjean-sur-Loire, not far from the Atlantic Ocean.
The crisis is not limited to Western Europe: the rivers of Poland are also very low. At Warsaw, the Vistula’s water level is so low that it is close to drying out.
The low water level of rivers has an adverse effect on transportation and therefore on trading and the economy, too, as the countries along the Rhine, which connects Switzerland with the Dutch sea ports, had to face the issue caused by the reduction of the river’s water levels.
Up to 180 thousand people may be left without drinking water due to the severe drought.
Extreme drought is putting one of the world’s most important trade routes at risk.
The characteristic sand banks of the river have grown larger, some branches have dried out completely.
Zimbabwe’s capital city, Harare, shut down its main water works on 23 September citing shortages of foreign currency to import chemicals required for water treatment. The situation may not only lead to a severe water shortage for the population, but also increases the risks of diseases carried by contaminated water, such as cholera.
A comprehensive report by the European Environment Agency claims that over the next 30 years, agricultural yields could drop by up to 16 percent in Europe due to the phenomena accompanying climate change.
This year’s was the third hottest summer in Germany since the beginning of regular meteorological records in 1881, according to preliminary data from the Federal Meteorological Service.
In 2011, Laguna de Aculeo, one of the country’s favourite bathing resorts, still covered 12 square kilometres, and the lake was 6 metres deep – but since then, it has completely dried out.
The problem of the water shortages caused by global warming is much more complex than we have thought. In some parts of Africa, people not only need to face thirst but also the fact that the regions impacted by drought emit a quantity of carbon dioxide equivalent to the emissions of two hundred million cars each year.
According to a new report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that focuses on the interaction between climate change, desertification and food security, if present land use habits are maintained, the planet’s capacity to produce food will drop drastically.
The EU is contributing a further 50 million euro to alleviate drought damage in a number of Eastern and Central African countries. According to estimates, more than 4 million children and about 3 million pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers are undernourished in the region.