'A glaring red flag': Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists predicts a hellish near future for continental Europe

'A glaring red flag': Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists predicts a hellish near future for continental Europe
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Economy

A multitude of effects manifesting from anthropomorphic climate change has piled onto Europe in 2022, with record-shattering heat, historic droughts, and massive wildfires wreaking havoc across the continent.

On Monday, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists which invented the Doomsday Clock – published a warning about what lies in store for Europe in the near future.

The problem is gigantic, as authors Alexandre Tuel and Elfatih A. B. Eltahir explained:

Much of Europe has been in the grip of a powerful drought, the worst in at least 500 years, that has wreaked havoc on natural ecosystems, crops, and many sectors of the economy. Water use has been severely limited in many countries, with drinking water having to be trucked in to more than 100 towns in France. Many European rivers are hitting record low water levels, with major implications on crop and power production, and fluvial shipping. Italy’s Po River, whose basin accounts for 40 percent of the country’s agricultural production, shrunk significantly, jeopardizing the rice harvest. The Loire in France could be crossed on foot in places, while the Rhine fell so low that shipping had to be severely reduced, causing important supply issues in Switzerland and Germany. High river temperatures have forced power plants to lower production and also lowered oxygen levels, threatening fish populations. Stored water volumes in reservoirs are particularly low in Portugal, Spain, France and Italy, limiting hydropower production. Yields of major crops are expected to fall by at least 10-20 percent due to precipitation deficits and water restrictions, while livestock culls may soon occur as farmers already tap into their winter food supplies. Falling river levels have also led to saltwater intrusions near the coasts that further threaten agricultural production. The combination of drought and high temperatures has created ideal temperatures for wildfires. As of August 27, 740,000 hectares had been lost to the flames across the European Union, about three times the average for this time of year. Spain, Portugal, Romania and France have been particularly hard hit.

Summer heat waves have been becoming more frequent and intense in Europe, and at a much faster rate than at comparable latitudes. There was one in 2003, 2010, 2015, 2018, 2019, and now 2022; the list of heat wave summers is growing longer rapidly, and it seems that the continent may literally be turning into a 'hotspot.' Climate change is blamed for this recent trend, but what makes Europe, especially its southern half, a 'hotspot' for climate change?

READ MORE: Zero CO2 emissions by 2045: California passes multiple bills to mitigate climate change

Changes in Earth's atmosphere – driven by accumulating concentrations of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane from burning fossil fuels – have disrupted the Mediterranean Sea, Tuel and Eltahir continued. They highlighted that there have already been quantifiable drops in precipitation and crop yields, particularly in low-lying areas that depend on tides or glacial meltwater for irrigation and consumption.

"By early summer, the Iberian Peninsula, Morocco and Algeria were suffering from a 1-in-a-1000-year drought," Tuel and Eltahir emphasized, adding that "the situation was especially dire as water was already in short supply, following three years with low rainfall. The warm and dry winter also led to a severely reduced mountain snowpack, on which major rivers like the Rhine and Po usually rely during summer."

Tuel, a researcher, and Eltahir, a professor, ended with a sobering prediction.

"The 2022 European heat waves were exceptional in magnitude and duration, and would have been highly unlikely without human-caused climate change. Still, with further warming inevitable as long as greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise, in less than a couple of decades, the 2022 summer might become the norm," Tuel and Eltahir concluded. "That Europe, one of the most developed regions on the planet, is already struggling to withstand today’s extreme summer climate, should raise a glaring red flag—that the time for mitigating emissions and adapting to climate change is now or never."

READ MORE: 'Climate dystopia at our doorstep': Historic monsoon flooding in Pakistan displaces tens of millions

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