The heatwaves in Europe will become more frequent, more intense and last longer. An IPCC climate report suggests that by 2050, about half of the European population may be exposed to high or very high risk of heat stress during summer.
Heatwaves are induced by human-caused climate change that has exposed the poor and those practising traditional livelihoods to greater risk and social inequality. Several among them depend on the sea and the land for food and livelihood. However, with rising temperature, land, soil, water bodies, forest etc are getting impacted, thus creating livelihood challenges for the poor and those practicing traditional livelihood.
It is pertinent to note that poverty is unequally distributed across Europe, with higher poverty levels
in Eastern Europe. The oldest and youngest in society are often most vulnerable. Further, social inequalities in Europe arise from disparities in income, gender, ethnicity, age as well as other social categorisations as per the IPCC report.
Impact on Ecosystem
Ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss have been evident across Europe since 1950, mainly due to land use and overfishing; however, climate change is becoming a key threat. Across Europe, heatwaves and droughts, and their impacts such as wildfires, add further acute pressures, as seen in the 2018 heatwave, which impacted forest ecosystems and their services.
This year too, Europe is struggling with heatwaves and extreme cases of wildfires. For instance, From Greece to Italy, Spain and Portugal, Turkey and Switzerland, European countries have been battling wildfires in the recent times as the continent continues to be gripped by a heatwave. The effects of scorching, dry weather, has led to wildfires in many regions.
Further, July has been confirmed as the hottest month on record globally after several heatwaves in parts of Europe, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S). Earlier, June was recorded as the hottest month in the 174-year history of temperature monitoring.
Heatwaves affect people in different ways. However, the risk is more for the elderly, pregnant women, small children, people with pre-existing health conditions and low-income groups.
By 2050, about half of the European population may be exposed to high or very high risk of heat stress during summer, particularly in Southern Europe and increasingly in Eastern Europe and Western and Central Europe. The severity of heat-related risks will be highest in large cities, due to the UHI effect.
Adapting to changing climate, formulating policies that address climate change and preparedness along with climate action is now the only way the adverse time ahead can be faced.