Europe’s record summer ‘impossible’ without global warming Climate crisis

The heat waves and wildfires that caused devastation in Europe this summer would not have happened without global warming, new analysis shows.

The summer of 2021 was the warmest ever on the continent, with average temperatures around 1C above normal. The elevated heat caused wildfires and premature deaths.

Scientists have calculated how much more likely the climate crisis made the high temperatures. For almost all of the last 150 years, the expected frequency of a European summer as hot as 2021 was no higher than once every 10,000 years.

But since the 1990s, when carbon emissions continued to rise, the expected frequency has increased to reach once every three years.

The analysis is a stark reminder to leaders meeting at the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow that global warming is causing terrible damage to lives and livelihoods. If countries do not achieve drastic reductions in CO2 emissions by 2030 and hit net zero in 2050, the record heat in 2021 will hit every year at the end of the century, the researchers say.

Despite the extraordinary increase in the probability of record heat in recent years, Nikos Christidis of the Met Office, who led the analysis, said: “This kind of result is no longer surprising. Climate change is already making our extreme weather conditions more serious.”

“Extreme events are the new norm,” said Professor Petteri Taalas, head of the United Nations World Meteorological Organization. A European temperature record of 48.8C was set in Sicily in August. “Cop26 is a make-or-break opportunity to get us back on track,” Taalas said.

The analysis used 14 climate models and scores of model runs to calculate how frequently the record summer of 2021 is expected to occur in today’s human-influenced climate compared to a climate without human influence.

The research analyzed the period from June to August and covered the whole of Europe, as far east as Yekaterinburg in Russia.

For large stretches of the 20th century, the estimated frequency of such a hot summer in a world without climate change was more than one in 10,000 years. “This event was so rare that it was almost impossible to calculate a probability,” Christidis said.

The same scientific approach has shown clear links between global warming and other severe weather. The record-breaking heat wave in the Siberian Arctic in January and February 2020 was made at least 600 times more likely, while the terrible floods in Germany and Belgium in July were made up to nine times more likely.

Professor Peter Stott, also at the Met Office, said: “We can be more confident than we have ever been about linking extreme weather events to climate change. Science is aware that the faster we reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, the more we can we avoid the most serious impacts. “

“The new study is yet another sharp reminder of what 1.2C [of global heating to date] means, ”said Friederike Otto, of Imperial College London, who conducted the Siberian study. “I really do not want to imagine the summers we would have at 2.7 C.” She said looking at large regions gives a stronger signal of climate change than smaller areas.

Bob Ward, a political director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change at the London School of Economics, said: “The study clearly shows that the severe intensity of this summer’s heat wave was due to man – made climate change due to the burning of fossil fuels, fuels and other human activities.

“The costs to humans and wildlife were significant, with heat wave conditions killing humans across the continent and the increasing evaporation of higher temperatures that turned forests into fuel for devastating wildfires.

“These extreme temperature events in Europe will continue to increase in severity and frequency for at least the next 30 years until the world reaches net zero greenhouse gas emissions.”

Other previous studies have shown an extreme heat wave in 2017 that saw deadly forest fires in Portugal and Spain made 10 times more likely by global warming. In Portugal, 64 people died. Previous work has also shown that floods in England and France – as far back as 2000 – were made significantly more likely by global warming.

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