Air quality in Europe is improving, and the other climate change stories you need to read this week

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Stefan Ellerbeck, Senior Writer, Formative Content

  • This weekly round-up brings you key climate change stories from the past seven days.
  • Top climate change and environment stories: Europe’s summer heatwaves caused 20,000 excess deaths; Canada looks to adapt to climate change.

1. News in brief: Top climate change stories to read this week

Air quality in Europe is improving, but it still poses high risks according to the European Environment Agency (EEA). Exposure to fine particles led to at least 238,000 premature deaths in the EU in 2020, the EEA says .

Canada has published its first national climate adaptation strategy, including C$1.6 billion ($1.2 billion) in new federal funding commitments to help protect citizens against the increasing impacts of global warming.

A land court in the Australian state of Queensland has recommended that a new thermal coal project should not go ahead on the grounds that its emissions will contribute to climate change and harm human rights.

More than 90% of Italian municipalities are at risk of flooding, landslides or other natural disasters, according to the head of the country’s Civil Protection Department. It comes after a recent landslide on the Italian island of Ischia killed at least seven people.

Farmers in the Andes say drought conditions are threatening crops in several South American countries. Many areas around Bolivia have declared an emergency due to the drought, which the country’s Meteorology and Hydrology Service expects to last until 2023.

A group of young people including activist Greta Thunberg have filed a class action lawsuit against the Swedish state for failing to take measures to prevent climate change, Bloomberg reports.

2. Europe’s 2022 heatwaves cause thousands of excess deaths

Summer heatwaves in France, Germany, Spain and the UK in 2022 led to more than 20,000 “excess” deaths. Climate scientists from the World Weather Attribution group found that such high temperatures would have been “virtually impossible” without climate change.

A heatwave in 2003 caused more than 70,000 excess deaths across Europe and led many countries to implement measures such as early-warning systems and asking people to check on others. This and related action plans may have eased some of the impact of heatwaves in 2022, but the death toll was still “higher than expected”, said Chloe Brimicombe, a heatwave researcher from the University of Graz in Austria. “I consider this … the most impactful heatwave since 2003,” she told Reuters.

The World Meteorological Organization says Europe has warmed more than twice as much as the rest of the world over the past three decades. The Copernicus Climate Change Service said summer 2022 was the hottest year on record.

Chart showing averages of daily maximum and minimum surface air temperature anomalies for southwestern Europe

In 2022, southwestern Europe recorded the highest average daily maximum temperatures for May since data became available in 1967. Image: Copernicus Climate Change Service

Because authorities do not attribute most deaths directly to heat, statisticians use the excess formula to give an estimate. They look at how many more people died in a given period than would be expected compared with an historical baseline.

3. More on climate change on Agenda

Water is vital to global trade with 90% of products moving around the world via oceans and waterways. But summer 2022 illustrated just how sensitive some key waterways are to droughts – the Mississippi, Yangtze and Rhine rivers all experienced serious bottlenecks.

Many people are familiar with flash floods – torrents that develop quickly after heavy rainfall. Antonia Hadjimichael, Assistant Professor of Geosciences at Penn State University in the US explains that there’s also such a thing as a flash drought – and that these sudden, extreme dry spells are becoming a big concern for farmers and water utilities.

Endurance swimmer and UN Patron of the Oceans Lewis Pugh has swum 123 kilometres across the Red Sea to raise awareness of the impact of climate change on corals. He timed the feat to coincide with COP27 and told world leaders at the UN climate summit that “every fraction of a degree matters” in terms of global warming.

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