Europe’s Historic Heat Wave a Sign of Worsening Weather Extremes, Warns Meteorologists
“Heat waves will become more intense, they will become more drawn out, they will become more extreme, they will start earlier, and they will finish later.”
Monthly and all-time temperature records have been breaking across Europe as an extreme heat wave scorches the continent – a weather phenomenon environmentalists say demonstrates the immediate dangers of climate change. France reached 114 degrees Fahrenheit for the first time in recorded history over the weekend as the continent suffered multiple heat-related deaths from the extreme conditions.
“This is historic,” a Météo-France meteorologist, Etienne Kapikian, told the Guardian. “It’s the first time a temperature in excess of 45°C (113°F) has ever been recorded in France.”
Europe Responds to Heat Wave
The current heat wave is showing European leaders the importance of adapting their infrastructure to rising temperatures. Densely packed cities tend to get hotter than rural and suburban areas, as traffic and heat-trapping surfaces prolong high temperatures, and growing numbers of people are expected to migrate to cities in the coming years. Public cooling rooms were opened in Paris and other cities as part of a broader plan to remedy the conditions that allowed 14,000 people to die in France during a heat wave in 2003.
On Wednesday, Germany placed speed restrictions on the autobahn due to fears that extreme temperatures could cause dangerous cracks in road surfaces, as the country recorded its highest-ever June temperature. The Czech Republic and Poland also broke their temperature records during the week.
Around 4,000 schools were closed in France in response to the searing temperatures, which experts warned was unsafe for students. Extreme heat can also lessen productivity, as a 2018 Harvard School of Public Health study found students in rooms with inadequate air conditioning had 13% slower reaction time than students in cooler rooms.
“We will need to change our set-up, our way of working, build differently,” said French President Emmanuel Macron, stressing a necessary “adaptation of society and its habits”.
Other parts of the world also endured extreme heat over the past month, including a heat wave in India that resulted in dozens of deaths. Greenland broke records with the largest ice melt at this point of the year on record, as temperatures soared 40 degrees above normal.
Scientists say climate change will cause heat waves to become longer and more severe.
“Heat waves will become more intense, they will become more drawn out, they will become more extreme, they will start earlier, and they will finish later,” Clare Nullis, a spokesperson for the World Meteorological Organization, told Reuters.
Trump Continues Campaign Against Paris Agreement
Meanwhile, during the G-20 Summit in Japan last week, President Trump tried to convince leaders of countries like Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Australia and Turkey to oppose their Paris Agreement commitments, according to Politico. The other countries ultimately chose to back their commitments, leaving the USA as the only outlier.
“We have the cleanest water we have ever had, we have the cleanest air we’ve ever had, but I’m not willing to sacrifice the tremendous power of what we’ve built up over a long period of time and what I’ve enhanced and revived,” said the president, explaining his decision.
However, the US ranks 123rd out of 195 countries for air quality, according to AP News, with 24,000 people killed by smog pollution annually. Tens of millions of Americans also use unsafe drinking water, as shown by growing awareness of PFOA “forever chemicals” contamination in US food and water supplies.
“It doesn’t always work with a windmill. When the wind goes off, the plant isn’t working. It doesn’t always work with solar because solar’s just not strong enough, and a lot of them want to go to wind, which has caused a lot of problems.
“Wind doesn’t work for the most part without subsidy. The United States is paying tremendous amounts of subsidies for wind. I don’t like it, I don’t like it,” said the president.
The president’s comments come as renewables surpassed coal in U.S. energy production for the first time in April.