Parts of Europe and the United states are experiencing near-record temperatures and droughts, which have led to a wave of wildfires scorching parts of the continents. Last year, southern Europe suffered through a brutal heatwave dubbed ‘Lucifer’. Wildfires swept across Spain and Portugal killing over 60 people. This year, wildfires are currently raging around the Swedish Arctic Circle, Latvia and the death toll in Greece is rising as we write. The wildfires in California are so hot they create their own weather system.
Please also read: Weather extremes versus climate overheating
Tragedy in Greece
Wildfires in Greece have been burning for several days, and so far 92 people have died. The government has declared three days of mourning. It is too early to decidedly state the cause of the fire, although people talk of climate change, arson, a lack of funds for forest maintenance and the disregard of zoning laws.
What is clear, is that strong winds, drought, unusually high temperatures and a dry winter all contributed towards the severity of this wildfire. These are all side effects of climate overheating, and are leading to further climate crises and worry over the future European climate.
Sweden calls for help
Scandinavia has also experienced unusually high temperatures this year. This coupled with the lowest rainfall since record-keeping began has led to fires raging across the Sweden and Norway. Firefighters were battling day and night, but were unable to slow the blaze. Sweden sent out an emergency call for help, which Norway and Italy answered.
Germany needs rain
The extreme heat has led to several wildfires in Northern Germany, and even close to Berlin. Even the agricultural sector is impacted by the continuing heatwave, some areas haven’t seen any rainfall since April which is putting crops and livestock at risk .
Even the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom, known to most of us for their wet weather, has been hit with an extreme heat wave causing many heat-stroke related illnesses and deaths.
Worry about the future
Sweden and Greece have shown the catastrophe that can happen in a changing climate with extreme weather events. As we look to the future, scientists warn that we may experience more extreme heatwaves. This would result in drier forests and greater risks of fire.
Politicians must wake up to the extreme weather battering the planet and take tough and urgent steps to slash the climate-wrecking pollution being pumped into our atmosphere.
-Rachel Kennerley, climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth.
If we can learn anything from the wildfires currently burning through Europe, it is that they are dangerous, powerful and devastating. Climate overheating and extreme weathers cause catastrophes worldwide. What can we do to combat this? Besides tackling greenhouse gas emissions, pollution and such, we can also work on disaster management strategies, and look to protect the nature we have left.
More and larger Wilderness would help mitigate the impact of climate overheating, stabilise the ground water levels and assist the surrounding human impacted areas to be more resilient to droughts, heatwaves and wildfires. An increase in WILDForests would also help, because forests can act as a cooling factor in the local climate. That is why the German biodiversity goal of 2% of Wilderness and 5% of natural forest is an important to prevent future tragedies and should be an example for other European countries.