(NEW YORK) — Climate change is taking a major human, economic and environmental toll in Europe, which has now been dubbed the fastest warming continent of the world, according to a new report.
Europe has been warming twice as much as the global average since the 1980s, the report, released Monday by Copernicus, the European Union’s climate change service, and the World Meteorological Organization, states.
Summer 2022 in Europe was characterized by rolling heatwaves, record-breaking temperatures and more than 100 heat-related deaths in a single event.
In 2022, Europe was approximately 2.3 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial revolution average — global temperatures between 1850 and 1900, which are used as a baseline for the Paris climate accord.
Several countries, including Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and the U.K. had their warmest year on record in 2022, according to the report.
Europe’s 2022 annual average temperature was between the second and fourth highest on record, with an anomaly of about 0.79 degrees Celsius above the average between 1991 and 2020.
Summers with extreme heat will likely be “frequent and more intense across the region” in the future, Copernicus Director Carlo Buontempo said in a statement.
“The record-breaking heat stress that Europeans experienced in 2022 was one of the main drivers of weather-related excess deaths in Europe,” Buontempo said. “Unfortunately, this cannot be considered a one-off occurrence or an oddity of the climate.”
The pattern of extreme heat has already continued into 2023. An early season heat wave that plagued countries along the Mediterranean Sea such as Spain, Portugal, Morocco and Algeria in April was found to have been prompted by anthropologic, or human-caused, climate change, according to a study published last month.
In addition to extreme heat, the year was also marked by drought, wildfires and sea surface temperature reaching new highs, which were then accompanied by marine heatwaves, the report states.
Meteorological, hydrological and climate-related hazards in Europe in 2022 resulted in 16,365 reported fatalities (many of them due to heat stress, the No. 1 weather-related killer in the world.
Glaciers in Europe lost a volume of about 880 cubic kilometers of ice from 1997 to 2022. The Alps were the worst affected, with an average reduction in ice thickness of 34 meters, the report said.
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In 2022, glaciers in the European Alps experienced “unprecedented” mass loss in one single year, caused by very low winter snow amounts, a very warm summer and Saharan dust deposition, the researchers said.
The report also noted a “hopeful future” for renewable energy, which generated more electricity on the continent than polluting fossil gas for the first time in 2022.
Wind and solar power generated 22.3% of European Union (EU) electricity in 2022, overtaking fossil gas at 20%, the researchers said.
Increasing use of renewables and low-carbon energy sources is crucial to reduce dependence on fossil fuels,” World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement. “Climate services play a key role in ensuring the resilience of energy systems to climate-related shocks, in planning operations, and in informing measures to increase energy efficiency.
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