3 Nov 2022

Europe warms more than any other continent in past three decades

8:18 am on 3 November 2022
A view of the Edersee dam in Waldeck, Germany on 1 September, 2022, as an intense drought affected the region.

The Edersee dam in Waldeck, Germany on 1 September, 2022, as an intense drought affected the region. Photo: AFP / Anadolu Agency

Europe has warmed more than twice as much as the rest of the world over the past three decades and experienced the greatest temperature increase of any continent, according to a report by the World Meteorological Organization.

The report on the state of the climate in Europe follows a summer of extremes. A record-breaking heatwave scorched Britain, Alpine glaciers vanished at an unprecedented rate, and a long-lasting marine heatwave cooked the waters of the Mediterranean.

"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 in a statement.

From 1991 to 2021, temperatures over Europe warmed at an average of 0.5 degrees Celsius per decade, the report said, while the global average was just 0.2C.

Last year, extreme weather events made worse by climate change - chiefly floods and storms - delivered damages exceeding US$50 billion in Europe.

The reason Europe is warming faster than other continents has to do with the fact that a large part of the continent is in the sub-Arctic and Arctic - the fastest warming region on Earth - as well as changes in climate feedbacks, scientists said.

For example, fewer clouds over Europe during the summer has meant more sunlight and heat now reaches the continent, said Freja Vamborg, senior scientist with the Copernicus Climate Change Service.

Some scientists have called Europe a "heatwave hotspot" as the number of heatwaves on the continent have increased faster than in other regions due to changes in atmospheric circulation.

Although temperatures are rising, the European Union has managed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 31 percent between 1990 and 2020, the report said, and aims to slash emissions by 55 percent by 2030.

On 6 November delegates will arrive in Egypt for COP27, the annual United Nations climate summit.

French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commision President Ursula von der Leyen are expected to attend.

Britain's Sunak reverses decision to skip COP27

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has decided to go to COP27 after making progress on domestic issues, including a fiscal statement, that he had said would prevent him from going to the climate conference.

Rishi Sunak, Britain's former chancellor of the exchequer, during the campaign in July 2022 to become the Conservative leader and prime minister.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has reversing a much-criticised decision to skip the annual climate summit. Photo: AFP / Justin Tallis

"He wanted to make sure that we were making good progress on the government's domestic agenda ... Following discussions with the chancellor this week, he has now agreed to attend," his spokesman said, referring to finance minister Jeremy Hunt, who is due to give an Autumn Statement on 17 November.

"There was progress made towards dealing with some of these domestic issues, particularly the Autumn Statement, so the prime minister feels there is sufficient space for him to make this trip."

Climate activists, opposition politicians and even some within his own party criticised Sunak after his office said last week he was not expected to attend the 27th session of the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

"The prime minister has been shamed into going to COP27 by the torrent of disbelief that he would fail to turn up," the opposition Labour Party's climate policy spokesperson Ed Miliband said. "He is going to avoid embarrassment not to provide leadership."

Britain's COP26 president Alok Sharma, who had been critical of Sunak's initial decision, said he was delighted the prime minister would attend the conference.

- Reuters

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