Europe is warming twice as fast as other continents

Europe is the fastest warming continent in the world, according to a report recently published by the World Meteorological Organization.

The State of the climate in Europe report cites the loss of more than 25 meters of ice loss in alpine glaciers, and 20 meters of loss in Greenland (a Danish territory), as particularly responsible for the rise in sea levels.

Events related to climate change have also caused more than $50 billion in damage.

In its statement releasing the report, the WMO described Europe as the “live image” of a world burdened by global warming. Since 1990, temperatures in Europe have experienced an average rate of temperature increase of 0.5 degrees each decade.

This rate is twice that of the next fastest warming continent.

The WMO says high-impact weather and climate events – nearly 85% of which were floods and storms – directly affect around 510,000 people.

Extreme heat has also taken its toll, with provisional record temperatures recorded in southern Italy in August reaching 48.8C. These temperatures have influenced drought and low rainfall across the Mediterranean, leading to deadly wildfires that have burned three times as much land as the region’s 15-year average through 2020.

But are carbon emissions falling in Europe?

Fuel prices and the COVID-19 pandemic have had a major influence on reducing the continent’s carbon emissions, the WMO has found.

A 31% drop in carbon emissions between 1990 and 2020 has been recorded, although it is expected to be much less in 2021 due to the easing of COVID-19 restrictions and changes in fuel prices.

2021 also marked the introduction of EU legislation to make net zero by 2050 a legally binding goal for member countries.

Although temperature data provided by six datasets showed a decrease in 2021 from the previous year, it still marked one of the 10 warmest years on record.

And observers will be eagerly awaiting the release of the 2022 assessment next year, after record summer droughts and heat waves put pressure on European nations.

Even now, parts of the continent are recording their hottest temperatures for November on record.

“[Europe] reminds us that even well-prepared societies are not immune to the impacts of extreme weather events,” said WMO Secretary-General Professor Petteri Taalas.

“This year, as in 2021, large parts of Europe have been affected by widespread heat waves and drought, fueling wildfires. In 2021, exceptional flooding has caused death and devastation.

“On the mitigation side, the good pace of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the region should continue and ambition should be further increased. Europe can play a key role in achieving a carbon neutral society by mid-century to meet the Paris Agreement.

Read more: What Europe’s heatwaves mean for Australia

Future prospects

The release of the report comes ahead of the global climate change conference to be held in Egypt, where delegations from around the world will gather to recalibrate efforts to combat climate change.

Last year’s COP26 conference in Glasgow was criticized for removing language to phase out coal from the final deal. In its place came the language to “phase out” its use. Coal is the main source of carbon emissions from energy consumption.

Likewise, several countries have failed to renew important carbon reduction targets by the end of the decade, seen as a major tipping point if we are to reach net zero by 2050.

The WMO has echoed the most recent predictions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that weather, climate and water disasters will increase in the future and that Europe will experience temperature increases at rates above the world average.