All the Heat in Europe

Firefighters extinguish a forest fire in Alvendre, near Guarda, Portugal, on July 18.


Miguel Pereira da Silva/Shutterstock

Europe is experiencing another miserable bout of summer weather this week. The heat is bringing the predictable jeremiads about climate change and carbon emissions, so it’s worth a quick recap of what European governments have and haven’t done to protect their citizens.

The heat wave is real enough. Temperatures in Portugal reach 115 Fahrenheit (over 46 degrees Celsius) in some places and wildfires are raging in some areas. The thermometer has topped 100 Fahrenheit in France, Spain and Italy are hot and parts of the UK are bracing for temperatures of 104 Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) in the coming days.

Those numbers might not impress residents of Arizona or Baghdad, but northern Europe is less equipped to deal with them. The vast majority of homes lack air conditioning, and many public spaces also lack adequate cooling – including some UK hospitals. Add the danger to the elderly and those with chronic conditions like asthma that make them more vulnerable, and it’s not uncommon for European countries to suffer hundreds of deaths during extreme summer weather.

Note the word “weather” which often varies extremely. Climate lobbyists in the media and politics blame climate change for every turn in the weather, and according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world has warmed by 1.1 degrees Celsius since the late 19th century. But the temperature variations of each season are much more due to weather variations.

Europe has spent hundreds of billions of dollars over the past few decades to reduce its carbon emissions, which are now at half their 1990 emissions level per dollar of GDP. These reductions have come at the cost of less reliable power and greater vulnerability for Vladimir Putin. Even assuming that carbon emissions alone are causing all climate change, further emission reductions in Europe without much larger cuts in China, India and developing countries in Africa will do nothing to change global temperatures, which will not happen.

While European leaders are bragging about supporting net-zero emissions targets in 2050, they are not investing nearly enough in mitigation and adaptation in 2022. If they are convinced that climate change is an emergency, then that doing nothing to make life better today and for years to come is unforgivable.

A plan to reduce emissions in 30 years is no plan at all for the real and current weather emergencies in Europe. Ordinary Europeans will again pay the price for their leaders’ folly this week.

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Appeared in the print edition on July 19, 2022. All the Heat in Europe

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