How Europe’s summer of climate change-driven destruction heralds the need for better climate change management strategies and offers the opportunity to rebuild climate resilient infrastructure. Europe’s 2021 summer brought waves of destructive fires and floods, leaving many people homeless, jobless and isolated. Over the past decade the mean average temperature in Europe has increased 1.7-1.9 °C from pre-industrial levels, faster than the global average. According to the IPCC sixth assessment.
According to the IPCC sixth assessment report this past summer’s extreme weather is consistent with predicted impacts; with a 1.5°C increase projected to bring increased rainfall in Western and Central Europe, followed by an increase of drought and fire conditions at a 2 °C increase. Could Europe be the canary down the mine shaft, foreshadowing the type of impacts awaiting the rest of the world?
Many countries across Central and Western Europe experienced catastrophic flooding in July this year, leading to 242 deaths, power outages and infrastructure damage. In some areas, three months worth of rain fell in just over 48 hours and flood waters reached up to 32 feet (smashing previous records of 16 feet). The last recorded flooding event of this magnitude was over 400 years ago, but scientists say, as temperatures increase, these events are likely to occur more and more frequently. Climate change has shifted atmospheric circulation patterns. With increased temperatures it is currently predicted that rainfall events will become 6% more intense in Europe as we approach 2°C warming.
Cars piled up by the floods at a roundabout in Verviers, Belgium, July 15, 2021. AFP Photo
As heatwaves soared as high as 47 °C, ideal fire conditions resulted in over 600,000 hectares of burnt land (2.5 times higher than previously recorded averages). Over the course of the summer the European union helped mobilise over 14 firefighting planes, 3 helicopters, some 1,300 rescuers and 250 vehicles. Majority of resources were directed to Greece where at least 1,000 homes were damaged due to the fires. Although there has been little loss of life recorded, the economic aftermath of these fires could prove equally devastating.
What does the future hold?
Europe is warming faster than the rest of the world, leaving it particularly vulnerable to the physical impacts of climate change. This means it is even more important that communities and governments in Europe adapt, anticipate and mitigate the future impacts of climate change and extreme weather.
Some European countries have begun adopting Australian and American backburning methods to reduce the risk of wildfire. Many are adopting green town planning principles and there has been a significant rise in climate risk services providing quantitative analysis on the future risks to land, infrastructure and assets.
While the devastation from the recent European floods and wildfires was significant, the opportunity for these communities is to rebuild with climate resiliency in mind. At Climate Valuation we seek to help individuals, communities and businesses to quantify and manage the physical and financial risks of climate change to residential property assets. Our aim is to democratize climate risk information so that individuals, organisations and governments can make more informed decisions and manage the financial impact of climate change and extreme weather now and into the future.