The devil behind the hottest October in Europe: climate change
news from the world
21 november '22
Reading time: 5 minutes
The month of October broke all records as several European countries recorded their hottest October ever. This fact resulted in repeated heatwaves and climate-related catastrophes. So, what are the causes behind the hottest October? And what are its effects in the future?
Words by Ines Chargui
Picture by Centre for Aging Better
It is undeniable that climate change is a pressing issue for governments, businesses, and individuals all over the globe, as its impact is alarming and noticeable on many levels. France, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia recorded their warmest October ever, while Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg experienced their joint warmest. France, for example, had its hottest October since 1900, according to the national weather agency, Meteo France’s statement. It recorded an average temperature close to or above 17 degrees Celsius, which was three to four degrees above normal levels. Spain also had its hottest October on record, with an average temperature of 18 degrees Celsius, 3.6 degrees Celsius higher than the average temperature recorded in October between 1981 and 2020, according to the Ministry for Ecological Transition. The country also recorded a 68% decrease in the rain compared to the usual level for that month. This record-breaking warm October everywhere in Europe caused significant climate-related catastrophes, including repeated heatwaves that fuelled wildfires and aggravated drought conditions.
Unquestionably, the unusual heat waves will become more frequent due to the notable acceleration in climate change. So let’s dig deeper into its major causes and effects.
Picture by Pixabay
Causes of the hottest October
1. Gas Emissions and Fossil Fuels
Most electricity is generated by burning fossil fuels, including coal, oil, or gas, which produce carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, which, in turn, trap the sun’s heat.
Industries are also responsible for producing emissions due to the burning of fossil fuels to make things like iron, steel, cement, steel, plastics, clothes, etc.
Transportation, on the other hand, is a major contributor to greenhouse gases. It accounts for significant carbon dioxide emissions, as most cars, planes, and ships run on fossil fuels.
2. Cutting down forests
Cutting down forests contributes to the increase in gas emissions. Trees absorb carbon dioxide, and when they are cut, they release the carbon they have been storing. Therefore, privileging industrialisation at the expense of planting, or even keeping trees, limits nature’s ability to keep emissions out of the atmosphere.
Climate change is a human-made disaster that spreads because of humans’ overconsumption of goods such as food, clothing, plastics, and electronics. Our lifestyles generate greenhouse gas emissions that are destructive to the planet. The wealthiest bear the greatest responsibility, with the richest 1% accounting for more emissions than the poorest 50%.
Picture by Matt Palmer
Effects of climate change
October’s alarming records are predominantly caused by climate change and the previously mentioned reasons. In this section, we will highlight some devastating effects of climate change that we experienced and, more likely, will continue to feel in the future.
1. Increasing Heat Waves and Wildfires
Europe has warmed at more than twice the global average over the past 30 years. It is the fastest-warming region, according to the World Meteorological Organisation’s (WMO) report. The rising temperatures were conducive to devastating wildfires in the Mediterranean region, with more than 500 wildfires burning across Italy in August 2021. It also had a significant impact on Europe’s glaciers. The Alps recorded a loss of 30 metres of ice thickness between 1997 and 2021, and the melting of Greenland’s ice sheet contributed to a rise in global sea levels.
In Europe 2021, much of the western Mediterranean region and parts of the central and eastern Mediterranean region witnessed moderate to severe drought conditions linked to multiple heatwaves. Italy, for instance, experienced its fifth-driest spring and the driest since 2017.
3. Heavy Precipitation and Floods
Heavy precipitation led to an unprecedented death toll and damages in parts of Western and Central Europe. Central Europe experienced its most severe flooding on record in July 2021. Several rivers experienced intense flooding, and water levels exceeded historical records.
According to the WMO’s report, scientists found that for a given location within a larger region (between the north of the Alps and the Netherlands), climate change increased the prospect of such an event by a factor between 1.2 and 9, and the intensity of the maximum one-day rainfall by about 3%--19%. This figure will mostly endanger vulnerable communities that cannot face such natural catastrophes.
Picture by Matthew TenBruggencate
Climate change is a human-caused phenomenon and will disproportionately affect the Global South. It is more urgent than ever to take responsibility and serious actions to minimise its risks, as it will not stop with just the hottest October. One of the actions taking place right now is the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP27, being held in Egypt from 6-18 November. The conference aims to turn pledges of climate-friendly measures into an implementation phase based on the agreed work streams in the Paris Agreement. How successful would this conference be? Would it push towards concrete and valuable changes? Or would it be just words without any intention to turn them into realities?