EUROPE: As the world dreads on to the next decade, climate change tags along inducing high temperatures, never before recorded in human history, leading to a dire shortage of water in several nations across the European continent, as well as rising degrees in the UK, experiencing its first heatwave in decades.
Europe’s most severe water crisis is hitting households, factories, farmers and freight across the continent as climate experts predict that soaring temperatures and drier winters brought on by climate change will inevitably become “the new normal”.
The EU European Drought Observatory has evaluated that 45% of the bloc’s territory was already under drought warning by mid-July, with 15% on red alert, compelling the European Commission to warn of a “critical” situation in multiple regions.
As heatwaves surged across the continent, several countries called upon their leaders to take charge of the crisis and bring relief to the people. The French Prime Minister, Élisabeth Borne, last week activated a crisis unit to tackle drought in Météo, recording temperatures never seen since 1958.
As French municipalities have been supplied water-filled trucks since there is no running water available, green transition minister Christophe Béchu has advised all to rely on this “new normal” and that: “Adaptation is no longer an option. It’s an obligation.”
Spain’s water reserves are also running low at 40% and have been consistently falling at a rate of 1.5% per week through a combination of consumption and evaporation, according to the government. The country has reportedly received just half of its required rainfall in the past three months, with raging wildfires all across the nation.
This year is also set to become the hottest and driest ever recorded in Italy. Luca Mercalli, the president of the Italian Meteorological Society was quoted saying, “No similar data in the last 230 years compares with the drought and heat we are experiencing this year. Then we have had storms … These episodes are growing in frequency and intensity, exactly as forecast by climate reports over the last 30 years. Why do we continue to wait to make this a priority?”
Italy’s part in the crisis has manifested in the form of the parched River Po. The flow rate of Italy’s longest waterway has fallen to one-tenth of the usual figure, while its water level is 2 meters below normal. The government declared a drought emergency in five northern regions, rationing drinking water, in early July. As of now, villages around Lake Maggiore are being supplied by truck.
The Rhine Waterland which has supplied the industrialised country of Germany with major ports for the trade of oil, petrol, coal and other raw materials, has also taken a dangerous dip.
Amidst all the shortage and crisis, the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict which has halted and delayed grain imports from Ukraine has added to the looming trouble. France’s agricultural minister declares that grain harvest is likely to be 18% lower than last year and farmer’s unions have warned that a reduction in cattle feed could result in low production of dairy products in autumn and winter.
However, the climate crisis in Europe is not new. The infamous drought of 1540 was a climatic event in Europe, resulting in little rain and megadrought conditions, according to the paleoclimatic analysis conducted over eleven months. Swiss historian Christian Pfister recorded the details of that year in a newspaper interview: “For eleven months there was practically no rain…Many forests in Europe went up in flames, choking smoke darkened the sun, and not a single thunderstorm was reported in the summer of 1540. Water was already scarce in May, wells and springs dried up, mills stood still, people starved, animals were slaughtered.”
“Everything began in northern Italy, with a winter that felt like July. Not a single drop fell from October 1539 to early April 1540. Then the drought advanced north.” July brought such an “ember-like heat that churches made prayers while the Rhine, Elbe and Seine could be crossed on a dry foot.”
Since the climate crisis is already well underway, without any relief counter methods to overturn the looming trouble, all that is possible now is to reduce reliance on fuel burning, deforestation and pollution to sustain this planet longer than it is necessary.