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EU Projects Dire Climate Season of Drought, Fires, Heat

The European Union’s executive warned last week that the continent is facing one of its toughest years when it comes to natural disasters like droughts and wildfires because of increasing climate change.

With extremely dry weather hitting several Mediterranean nations, EU Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič told legislators last Thursday that “the present drought in Europe could become the worst ever.” Wildfires ravaging huge swaths of countryside only exacerbate the climate crisis, he said.

“Statistics show that since 2017, we have the most intense, intense forest fires ever seen in Europe. And that we unfortunately expect the 2022 forest fire season could follow this trend,” he said.

Extended drought conditions have hit several member states like Greece and Italy, a heat wave last month went as far up as northern Germany, and temperatures this week hit extremes of 33°C in the UK and 36°C in Paris. All of which heightened concerns across Europe for more disasters for the rest of the summer.

Šefčovič said the EU is already funding the deployment of over 200 firefighters from across the bloc to deal with fires in Greece.

Italy is in the midst of an early summer heat wave, coupled with the worst drought in the northern part of the country in 70 years. Those conditions were linked to the disaster earlier this month when a huge chunk of the Marmolada glacier cleaved off and crashed onto hikers.

The death toll stood at nine last week, with five hikers still unaccounted for.

“The tragic event in Marmolada is just the latest example of disasters linked to warmer temperatures and thus to climate change,” Šefčovič said.

This Associated Press story was republished by The Canadian Press on July 7, 2022.