Extreme droughts ‘may very well be the norm’ within the EU by 2050, consultants say

The drought Europe is experiencing might change into the norm by the center of the century except efficient, cross-border mitigation actions are rapidly carried out, MEPs have been informed on Wednesday.

Repeated and extreme droughts would have important impacts on a rising variety of financial actions together with agriculture, transport, vitality and healthcare, the European Parliament’s Committee on Setting, Public well being and Meals Security (ENVI) heard from consultants.  

Andrea Toreti from the European Drought Observatory informed ENVI members that based on the company’s evaluation, the intense occasions Europe suffered by way of over the last summer time “may change into the norm” by 2050 “if efficient mitigation actions usually are not put in place.”

“These occasions are going to hit Europe nearly yearly,” he added.

The drought Europe is at the moment experiencing is believed to be the worst it has seen in 500 years with 64% of the continent’s territory now below drought circumstances, though to various levels.

“Extreme impacts have already been reported in a number of areas,” Toreti stated. 

‘European strategy wanted’

Agriculture is among the many sectors most impacted with the harvest of grain maize, soybean, sunflower and rice sharply down this yr.

However the drought, which began in late 2021 as a result of a robust decline in rain and snow precipitation within the earlier months and which was exasperated by a collection of record-defying heatwaves that began as early as Could in some elements of Europe, has additionally put important pressure on the transport and vitality sectors.

Transport on key waterways together with the Rhine and the Danube was perturbed over the summer time as a result of low water ranges which additionally impacted hydro and nuclear energy technology.

Toreti confused that “drought is a world phenomenon, is a risk and if we focus solely on Europe, we mainly underestimate the chance” and stated that adaptation and mitigation measures should due to this fact be carried out at totally different ranges, together with a “European strategy with enhanced cooperation”.

“Droughts do not know something about borders,” he stated.

However he added that “the primary threat comes from concurrent occasions as we’ve seen this yr”, i.e droughts and heatwaves. 

“We’ve got previously underestimated the chance linked with concurrent excessive occasions,” he informed MEPs. 

His requires an acceleration in adaptation and mitigation measures have been echoed by Hans Bruyninckx, govt director of the European Setting Company (EEA).

“We’re witnessing numerous cross border dimensions (comparable to) impression to infrastructure” and meals techniques, he informed ENVI members.

“I feel it’s clear {that a} European strategy is required,” he added, emphasising that “lots of the coverage devices are already there however are sometimes missing in sturdy implementation and robust connectivity between these insurance policies.”

Mediterranean agriculture below risk

On agriculture, he stated that “it is relatively clear that there are totally different impacts relying on the area but additionally the kind of crop”, forecasting that as droughts and heatwaves change into extra common and intense, “a part of the Mediterranean area will change into problematic in relation to agriculture”.

Among the many adaptation and mitigation measures he listed to the committee have been utilizing totally different breeds of crops, enhancing irrigation techniques, rolling out precision agriculture, and restoring soil and different ecosystems.

Nonetheless, he warned, local weather change represented “a meals system problem” for Europe.

Janez Lenarčič, Commissioner of Disaster Administration, in the meantime stated that “Europe now not has enough sources to battle its wildfires” in one other stark warning to ENVI members.

Greater than 750,000 hectares of EU forest have been burnt over this wildfire season, the best tally noticed since information started in 2006.

“Europe has simply witnessed one of many worst wildfire seasons in latest reminiscence this summer time,” he stated.

“Clearly local weather change is bringing extra warmth and extended intervals of drought and in consequence, the wildfire threat is spreading throughout all Europe and the fires have gotten extra frequent and extra intense.”

The Fee, he stated, has ready a four-point plan to arrange in opposition to this elevated threat together with a fast ramp-up in firefighting capacities comparable to planes and helicopters, the prepositioning of extra firefighters in areas significantly susceptible to wildfires in the beginning of the season and a greater prevention technique.

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