Copernicus programme: Europe temperatures up by twice global average in last 30 years

Even well-prepared societies are not safe, says WMO chief

The Swiss Tsanfleuron pass no longer has the ice that covered it for at least 2,000 years. AFP
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Temperatures have risen by more than twice the global average in Europe over the past 30 years, according to the latest report on the state of the climate by the World Meteorological Organisation and Copernicus, the EU's Earth observation programme.

Temperatures rose at an average of about 0.5°C a decade, making it the fastest warming continent.

“Europe presents a live picture of a warming world and reminds us that even well-prepared societies are not safe from impacts of extreme weather events,” WMO Secretary General Petteri Taalas said.

“This year, like 2021, large parts of Europe have been affected by extensive heatwaves and drought, fuelling wildfires. In 2021, exceptional floods caused death and devastation.”

He added: “On the mitigation side, the good pace in reducing greenhouse gases emissions in the region should continue and ambition should be further increased.

“Europe can play a key role towards achieving a carbon neutral society by the middle of the century to meet the Paris Agreement.”

The report focused on last year, when Europe was hit by devastating floods, storms and other weather and climate events, which claimed lives, directly affected more than half a million people and caused $50 billion of damage.

The report also reveals that Alpine glaciers lost 30 metres in ice thickness from 1997 to 2021.

Greenland's ice sheet is melting, contributing to an accelerating rise in sea levels, and the summer of last year saw a melt event and rainfall for the first time ever at its highest point, Summit Station.

There were droughts and high temperatures last year which fuelled significant wildfires, particularly in Turkey, Italy and Greece, and summer heatwaves saw temperatures reach 48.8°C near Syracuse in Sicily, in August — a provisional record.

The report showed some European countries are having success in cutting the greenhouse gas emissions driving global warming, with EU climate pollution falling 31 per cent between 1990 and 2020, and a target for 2030 of a 55 per cent reduction.

But recent reports from other UN bodies have shown how far off track the world is in limiting temperature rises to 2°C or 1.5°C, to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, as countries signed up to under the Paris Agreement in 2015.

Updated: November 02, 2022, 3:15 PM