Europe's extreme summer: what are the lessons?

Forest fires, crop failures, melting glaciers and water shortages even in the Netherlands: for months Europe has been suffering under extreme heat and drought conditions. Scientists see the weather as a visible consequence of global warming. Commentaries from individual countries testify to growing anxiety and often read like urgent appeals.

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Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

Our children will pay for our inaction

Sweden's highest peak is now its second-highest: one consequence of the hot summer is that the glacier-topped south summit of the Kebnekaise massif is now lower than the rocky north summit. It's high time more was done to slow climate change, Dagens Nyheter warns:

“Our well-being is very closely linked to fossil fuels. ... That's what makes the structural incentives to deny the increasingly prevalent greenhouse effect and its causes and to delay strong measures so powerful for politicians, businesses and normal citizens. The term 'systemic collapse' is used too much in public debate in our country. What it describes, however, is the failure of business and political leaders to react to climate change in a timely way. We - and above all our children - will pay dearly for this mistake.”

De Telegraaf (NL) /

When a land of water struggles with drought

The authorities in the Netherlands declared a water shortage on Thursday and took measures to ensure that water is distributed fairly. De Telegraaf sees this as a turning point:

“We are seeing that the country is ill-equipped to deal with this drought. And that's understandable because the low-lying Netherlands have always been used to fighting against water. Efforts to save water are therefore unusual. And yet the Netherlands will have to invest in research and infrastructure to gather water and cut down consumption. Climate researchers are predicting that lengthy periods of drought will become more frequent. And this summer is teaching us that dry weather is not fun for everyone.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

Too much talk about climate change

Hot weather alone is no reason to panic, Lidové noviny believes:

“We are sweating these days, but this won't be a record year. We shouldn't start talking about climate change every time it gets hot. At the end of the last ice age the temperatures were three degrees higher than they are today. Far worse is the combination of heat and extreme dryness. But in 2018 there can be no talk of that in the Czech Republic. ... A visit to the countryside suffices to see the trends. Even in colder areas like the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands, the harvest is already coming to an end. Those who are fond of Slivovitz plum brandy are already complaining that you can't make high-quality liquor with plums that were harvested before the first frost.”

Die Presse (AT) /

Agriculture is part of the problem

Climate change demands a change of thinking in agricultural policy too, Die Presse explains:

“The agricultural sector is not just a victim but to no small degree also a perpetrator as regards the climate change that is leading to the capricious weather. Fifteen to twenty percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from agricultural production globally. As agents of climate change agricultural producers are therefore on a par with traffic and industry. ... Instead of continuing to provide full cover from tax revenues for an agricultural sector that is increasingly out of touch with the reality, the money should be invested in funding the conversion to new products that are compatible with the changing climate conditions and for methods of production that reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.”

Politiken (DK) /

Fewer steaks and trips to Barcelona

Products should be labelled with information about how much carbon dioxide is emitted during their production, Politiken demands:

“The impact goods have on the climate is not transparent to consumers. Regional products can be worse than those imported from overseas, and organic products can leave a bigger carbon footprint than conventional farming products. This is why it's not always easy to tell the differences, but more knowledge and information clearly help. ... Labelling alone won't save the world, but it can contribute to changing consumer behaviour. The same could happen in the transport sector where information about carbon dioxide emissions could be printed on boarding cards. Then we could exercise more restraint when it comes to steaks and city breaks in Barcelona.”

Hürriyet Daily News (TR) /

The threat of devastating famine

The effects of climate change must not be ignored any longer, warns Hürriyet Daily News:

“As warming depresses productivity and turns whole regions into desert, mass starvation is imaginable, although actual extinction seems improbable. It's also still possible that we will react fast enough to stop well short of mass death. When dealing with the future, you can only deal in probabilities, and even those are very slippery. The situation is already quite grim. Bad news, of course, but when you find yourself in a high-stakes game you should know what the stakes are.”

Helsingin Sanomat (FI) /

No interest in the long-term repercussions

Helsingin Sanomat complains about Finns who worry about trivial details during the heatwave:

“How do you cool the bed sheets to be able to sleep at night? (put them in the freezer for a while). Why do shops still not sell non-melting ice? (it's already in development). ... It's typical that even during this period of extraordinary heat only a handful of politicians have brought up the global warming, climate policy, our way of life which is harming the planet and the possibility of a dystopic future already becoming reality in the 2040s. ... A unique weather phenomenon is not yet a trend, but we know for sure that climate change will make extreme weather such as extreme heat, extreme cold and heavy storms more frequent.”

Aftonbladet (SE) /

Poor and old particularly hard hit

Aftonbladet explains who will bear the brunt of the consequences of climate change:

“Sweden is unprepared for extremely hot temperatures - this summer is bitter proof of that. But ironically those who use the most energy, those who can afford to fly and consume the most, will be the last to feel the impact of the heat. With a humming air conditioner they'll fend off the hell that they helped to cause. ... The elderly will be the first ones hit, but the biggest burden will be borne by the coming generation. ... How much hotter does it have to get for the world to show political courage?”

Postimees (EE) /

What will the weather be like tomorrow?

The current heatwave makes it clear that the consequences of climate change are here for all to see, Postimees points out:

“Global warming is a future scenario whose consequences we can predict more easily than tomorrow's weather: growing migration pressure, crop failures, the growing frequency of epidemics, higher water levels and increased acidity in the world's oceans. Other scenarios for climate developments are also possible, even if they lie outside the scope of scientific logic. Hot days like these should make us think about what the weather will be like for coming generations.”

Der Bund (CH) /

No one can be bothered to kick up a fuss

The consequences are plain for all to see but no one is seriously discussing the climate catastrophe we are facing, Der Bund complains:

“Although science is providing us with far more facts today than in the past, it seems that there is less public debate about climate change than ever. Who is voicing concern about the melted Swiss glaciers - in 2016 alone they lost a cubic kilometre of ice? Floods and droughts have become the norm in media coverage. And anyone who dares talk about climate change on these days when temperatures are rising above 30 degrees is called a spoilsport by sunbathers. What could be better than warm days in the summer holidays? Yet now would be the perfect time to focus public attention on the issue.”

Libération (FR) /

Stop sawing off the branch we're sitting on

When are we going to take action against climate change if not now, Libération asks:

“One can say without sticking one's neck out too far that 2018 will no doubt be one of the hottest years on record and will confirm that climate change is linked to global warming. ... How can you make it more clear that we're sawing off the very branch we're sitting on? How can you better stress the urgency to do all we can, not to reverse the trend - no one believes that's possible any more - but to limit global warming? The Paris Conference of 2015 gave the impression that people were finally taking the problem seriously. Unfortunately Donald Trump's arrival in the White House dashed these hopes.”

Expressen (SE) /

How the heat could spark a global crisis

The heatwave could have dramatic political consequences according to Expressen:

“Russia, the world's granary, is predicting the worst harvest in many years. ... Egypt is a major importer of Russian wheat because state subsidised bread is a staple food for many of its 100 million inhabitants. Already the price the government is paying for wheat imports is at its highest level in three years. Rising food prices have led to several rebellions in the region in the past, for example in 2011 in Tunisia, where the Arab Spring began. ... Unrest in Egypt could spread to its neighbours and have an impact on Europe. We only need think of Libya, whose coastguard and refugee camps effectively represent the EU's outer border. ... The extreme heat could be the spark that triggers a global crisis.”

24 Chasa (BG) /

Wildfires accelerating global warming

A tragic aspect about the wildfires is that they make global warming even worse, 24 Chasa observes:

“The fires release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which enhances global warming. Ash particles that land on snow and ice increase the absorption of sun rays. This accelerates the warming of the Antarctic - a region where the temperature is rising faster and faster. The melting of the eternal ice is releasing methane, which is another greenhouse gas. The surprising thing about the fires right now is that they are breaking out in unusual places in Scandinavia. The woods in the north are burning more often than they have in tens of thousands of years.”