Ah, summer! The sun, the beach, the ice cream cone … but also the stifling heat, even in the northernmost cities. Is this normal? With a new heatwave in mid-July 2022, the question of global warming is more than ever on everyone’s lips. How has it evolved over the last few years, and above all, what does it predict for the future?
Last December, the CNRS (Centre National de Recherche Scientifique), in collaboration with Météo France, the European Climate Prediction System and the European Union, put out a video which offers a visualisation of Europe’s climate in 2050.
Indeed, thanks to scientific advances, we can already have a precise and located idea of the climate in 2050 if nothing changes. Beyond the terrifying effect of such projections, they allow us to better anticipate the necessary future adaptations.
Here, we are told that the Earth’s climate has never been immutable; it has always evolved naturally with variations that are generally almost imperceptible on the human time scale. Today, however, this is no longer true, as global warming is accelerating at an unprecedented rate and force – and it is not getting any better over time. By way of comparison, the Earth gained one degree Celsius between 1850 and 2021, in 170 years. We are expected to gain 2 degrees by 2050, in less than 30 years.
Where does this come from? We know that global warming is a direct consequence of the use of greenhouse gases generated by human activity (industry, transport, agriculture, etc.). Let’s be clear – there is nothing we can do about the past emissions that started the global warming process. What we can do, however, is reduce greenhouse gas emissions to reduce the impact on the future.
This is precisely the aim of the measures taken by many of the world’s nations under the Paris Agreements (signed at the end of 2016). The aim of these agreements is to mitigate the effects of climate change and stabilise global warming below two degrees, rather than the four degrees expected if nothing is done.
Global warming is global (duh), but its impact varies across the world. Global warming in continental Europe (yes, that’s us!) would be higher than the global average: +3 degrees (instead of 2).
Summer in 2050 will be far from the dream postcard: in the Mediterranean basin, which will suffer more from the impacts of global warming, it will be hot and dry. Andalusia, for example, could reach 40° more than 20 days per year. Even a city like Berlin would regularly exceed 35°. In general, heatwaves (like the one we are currently experiencing) will be much more recurrent.
The only positive point is that the increase in solar radiation at the surface could boost solar energy production. But this is a meagre compensation.
More sunshine does not mean less rain – on the contrary! Global warming would lead to heavier and longer rains, especially in autumn, with an increasing risk of flooding. In winter, an increase of almost 3.5° in temperature (especially in Northern & Eastern Europe) would lead to less frost, less snow and more ice melting (especially as global warming is faster in the mountains than in the plains).
The climate in cities will also change, accentuated by the ‘urban heat island phenomenon‘ which generates more heat in cities than in the countryside. One only has to look at Paris or Brussels during heatwaves to see a recent example. In 2050, London’s climate will resemble Barcelona’s in 2000; Paris will be the equivalent of Istanbul.
Europe, like the rest of the world, will therefore have to adapt. Every citizen, European or not, will have a role to play. Curbing global warming can only be done collectively.