Nearly half of EU territory ‘at risk’ of drought
Researchers at the European Commission warned yesterday that nearly half of the EU's territory is currently at risk of drought, as southwest Europe wilted under a punishing heatwave.
In a report for July, the European Commission's Joint Research Centre said that 46 percent of the EU's territory was exposed to warning-level drought, with 11 percent at an alert level, with crops already suffering from the lack of water.
Italy was the hardest hit, with the Po River basin in the north of the country facing the highest level possible of drought severity, the EU said.
In Spain, water reservoir volumes are currently 31 percent lower than the 10-year average, the report said, while in Portugal, water to produce hydroelectric energy is at half the average of the previous seven years.
The EU researchers also warned that the lack of water and strong heat are driving crop yields lower in France, Romania, Spain, Portugal and Italy.
Weather forecasts predict more of the same, the report said, adding to an already "very critical situation" that will exacerbate the effects on agriculture, energy and water supply.
Weather catastrophes triggered by climate change have cost Germany at least 80 billion euros since 2018, another "horrifying" official study said yesterday, as disasters grow more frequent and intense.
The report commissioned by the economy and environment ministries estimated the impact of drought, floods and extreme heat in Germany between 2000 and 2021 was nearly 145 billion euros ($147 billion), most of it seen in recent years.
Since 2018 alone, damage to buildings and infrastructure as well as lost revenue in sectors such as forestry and farming in Europe's top economy reached over 80 billion euros.
Environment Minister Steffi Lemke said the "horrifying scientific data" illustrated the "enormous damage and costs" of the climate crisis.
"The numbers sound the alarm for more prevention when it comes to the climate," she said in a statement.
"We have got to and will invest more in climate protection and adaptation to protect our people."
Economy Minister Robert Habeck, whose brief includes climate policy, said national measures would have to go hand-in-hand with accelerated global action to "keep the impact of the climate crisis at a bearable level".
The study showed accelerated effects over time, with the abnormally hot, dry summers of 2018 and 2019 and deadly floods in the Rhineland one year ago recorded as particularly devastating.
The 2018-2019 droughts were shown to have cost 34.9 billion euros, the floods an estimated 40.5 billion euros, and damage from severe storms another 5.2 billion euros.
However, the authors of the study said their estimates were almost certainly too low as key factors including health effects and the consequences for biodiversity were not included.
The report came as a heatwave engulfing parts of southwest Europe was expected to reach regions of Germany. Scientists blame climate change and predict more frequent and intense episodes of extreme weather.