Western Europe, climate leader, still suffers from global warming
Western Europe has done more to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions over the past three decades than any other region in the world.
He greatly developed solar and wind energy. He introduced carbon taxes and other policies to drive up the cost of dirty energy. In total, the European Union has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by around 30% since 1990, far more than the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia or other rich countries.
But Europe’s progress in clean energy has not shielded the continent from the growing ravages of global warming. “That’s the problem with CO2,” as my colleague Henry Fountain said, referring to carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas. “He doesn’t respect borders.
Britain experienced its hottest temperatures on record yesterday, around 104 degrees Fahrenheit. The heatwave is particularly problematic because much of Britain is not designed to withstand high temperatures; the normal average high on a July day in London is in the low to mid-70s.
Many British homes not only lack air conditioning, but are built with materials that retain heat. Most parts of the London Underground also lack air conditioning. An airport had to halt flights for hours on Monday after heat damaged a runway. To prevent the aging Hammersmith Bridge from collapsing, workers wrapped parts of it in foil to prevent the cracks from expanding.
In Paris, the temperature also exceeded 104 degrees yesterday, a peak the city has only reached two other days since the late 1800s. In southwestern France, firefighters battled wildfires to the eighth consecutive day. In Greece, dry conditions helped spark a wildfire north of Athens that forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes. Firefighters also fought blazes in Portugal and Spain.
All of this reminds us of both the extreme dangers of climate change and the unjust burdens it brings.
As experts have long noted, the greatest climate injustices are in low-income countries who will suffer deeply because they already tend to be warmer. The Horn of Africa is struggling with drought, and South Africa, Chile and Brazil have faced water shortages.
These same countries have produced only a small share of cumulative greenhouse gases since the beginning of industrialization: these gases tend to come from electricity consumption, driving and other forms of production. economic. Africa, for example, produced about 4% of historical emissions. (You can look up the numbers for the US, China, and other countries in these tables by my colleagues Nadja Popovich and Brad Plumer.)
Today, Europe is becoming another example of the unfair burden of climate change, at least compared to other wealthy countries that are responsible for much of the historical emissions. Admittedly, not all European clean energy policies have succeeded. But the shortcomings can sometimes obscure the reality that it has made more progress in reducing emissions than anywhere else. One reason: Conservative parties tend to agree that climate change demands a response, unlike the position of the Republican Party in the United States
Despite these reductions, Europe is emerging as one of the world’s newest climate hotspots.
Why? Slowing winds and weakening ocean currents in the region can both play a role. (If you want the details, Henry Fountain explains them.) Henry says experts are still debating the causes. But scientists agree that the current heat wave in Europe would not occur without human-induced climate change. “Global warming plays a role in every heat wave at this point,” he said.
Russia and the future
Going forward, it’s still unclear how much warmer Europe will get, in part because it depends on what actions the world takes to tackle climate change. The United States appears to be backing away from aggressive action, due to Supreme Court rulings as well as opposition to President Biden’s climate bill from Republicans and Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat. of West Virginia.
Whether Europe will continue its rapid transition to clean energy has also become uncertain. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led the EU and Britain to seek energy sources other than Russian gas – and substitutes, such as coal or liquefied gas, may end up being more sales, notes Somini Sengupta, who hosts the Times’ Climate Forward newsletter.
The EU has promised to make up the difference and has adopted several new policies in recent weeks. One would accelerate the shift to electric cars by banning the sale of new petrol cars in 2035. The EU would also develop solar and wind power even more than expected.
If it keeps these policies in place, the EU will likely continue to lead the world in reducing greenhouse gases. “Fears of a major EU climate rollback may be overblown,” Bloomberg’s John Ainger and Akshat Rathi wrote last week.
Either way, it won’t be enough to avoid terrible climate damage, as Europe is experiencing this week.
Learn more about the climate
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