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‘The future is already here’: How climate change is affecting Germany

From prolonged droughts to unpredictable weather and hotter days: the effects of global warming are already becoming increasingly noticeable in Germany.

'The future is already here': How climate change is affecting Germany
Youngsters playing in the Hopfensee in Füssen, Bavaria, on an extremely hot day in July. Photo: DPA

Now a new report has shone a light on how bad the situation is.

The average air temperature in Germany increased by 1.5C between 1881 and 2018, according to the German government's Climate Monitoring Report, published on Tuesday. In the past five years alone, the temperature has gone up by 0.3C.

“The consequences of climate change are becoming increasingly apparent,” said Environment Minister Svenja Schulze of the centre-left Social Democrats.

Global warming leads to higher health risks due to heat stress, while an increase in the mean surface temperature of the North Sea results in greater fluctuations in agricultural yields. Cities, in particular, need to be better prepared for heat, heavy rainfall and flooding.

Here are the results at a glance:

– The increase of the mean temperature will lead to more hot days in Germany when the temperature rises above 30C. Whereas in 1951 there was an average of three days of extreme heat per year, there are now 10.

– The report lists heat-related deaths in Germany for the first time. Around 7,500 more people died in 2003 than would have been expected without heat waves. In both 2006 and 2015, there were 6,000 additional deaths each year.

– Over the past 10 years, prolonged drought has increasingly led to low groundwater levels. As a result, some communities have had problems with drinking water supplies.

READ ALSO: Climate crisis: Berlin to be 'as hot as Australia' in 30 years

The six large reservoirs in the Harzwasserwerke, Lower Saxony, were only 46 percent full in September. Photo: DPA

– Low water levels in rivers affect not only the ecosystem, but also the economy, because ships can only navigate through rivers in these conditions to a limited extent. Plus the supply of cooling water to power plants and industry is endangered.

– The available water in agricultural soils has declined significantly over the past 50 years, the report said. In 2018, heat and drought caused €700 million of damage to agriculture.

The study shows that climate change is not an abstract problem for future generations. “The future has already reached us,” said Maria Krautzberger, President of the Federal Environment Agency (UBA), which was also involved in putting together the report.

READ ALSO: What does Germany's planned climate protection package mean for you?

The effects of climate change need to be researched further. “It is conceivable that the federal government and the states will support and finance a special climate protection programme,” said Krautzberger.

UN report on global emissions

The UN has warned that the current measures in the fight against climate change are not sufficient. Countries would have to step up their efforts immensely if they were to jointly achieve the target of a global temperature increase of no more than 1.5C, according to a study by the UN Environment Programme Unep, which was also unveiled on Tuesday.

If the world's population continues to live as it does today, the temperature could rise by up to 3.9C by the end of the century instead of the 1.5C target, compared to pre-industrial levels.

From December 2nd to 13th, representatives from 200 countries will meet at the UN Climate Change Conference in Madrid to discuss the fight against climate change.

READ ALSO: What are the key points of Merkel's new climate strategy?

Vocabulary

Global warming – (die) Erderwärmung

Consequences – (die) Folgen

Heat related deaths – (die) hitzebedingte Todesfälle

German government's climate report – (der) Klimabericht der Bundesregierung

Drought – (die) Dürre / (die) Trockenheit

We're aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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WEATHER

Germany braces for more severe storms and heavy rain

Storms have been sweeping across Germany since Friday. Residents in the south-west were hit first, but other regions can expect thunderstorms and severe rain from Tuesday.

Germany braces for more severe storms and heavy rain

Parts of Bavaria, Rhineland-Palatinate, Hesse and Saarland should be prepared for thunderstorms and heavy rain.

“On Tuesday, another low-pressure zone will form over Germany, increasing the risk of severe weather,” said the German Weather Service (DWD).

Over the Whitsun weekend, a series of storms hit Germany. Residents in Saarland and south-west Rhineland-Palatinate in particular battled against flooding.

A deluge of rain caused landslides as well as flooded roads and cellars in these two regions. Rail services also came to a temporary standstill, but resumed on Saturday.

According to Saarland state premier Anke Rehlinger (SPD), emergency services were called out on 4,000 rescue operations. However, tragedy struck when a 67-year-old woman died after being hit by an emergency vehicle. Authorities said no one else was seriously injured.

READ ALSO: Floods easing in Germany’s Saarland but situation remains serious

From the Eifel via central Hesse to Bavaria

From Tuesday, stormy weather will affect other regions in Germany.

“This time, the focus will probably not be in Saarland and southern Rhineland-Palatinate, but a little further north, in the area from the Eifel region to central Hesse and south-east Bavaria,” said meteorologist Nico Bauer from the DWD.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (L) and Saarland State premier Anke Rehlinger (R) wades through water as they visit flood stricken town of Kleinblittersdorf.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (L) and Saarland State premier Anke Rehlinger (R) wades through water as they visit flood stricken town of Kleinblittersdorf. Photo: Iris Maria Maurer / AFP

From the early afternoon, thunderstorms, some of them heavy, are expected in a strip from south-east and eastern Bavaria via Hesse to northern Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia.

Heavy rainfall of up to 25 litres per square metre is forecast to hit these areas. Locally, up to 40 litres per square metre is possible. Hailstones and high winds are also expected. According to the DWD, heavy rain and thunderstorms are likely to move to the north-east of Germany during the night to Wednesday.

Isolated storms have also affected other regions in Germany. Four people are fighting for their lives and a further six are seriously injured following a lightning strike on the banks of the Elbe in Dresden on Monday evening. 

Damage ‘in the millions’ 

While the current crisis is not yet over, the areas affected by heavy flooding are already beginning to come to terms with the situation. According to initial estimates, the floods have caused damage “well into the millions”, Saarland’s state premier Rehlinger said. The exact extent will only be known once the water has receded completely.

“However, it is already clear today that we will have to deal with massive damage to private property, but also to infrastructure such as roads, bridges and day care centres,” she said. “We have been fighting against masses of water for a few days, but we will certainly have to deal with the consequences for years.”

According to DWD meteorologist Bauer, heavy rainfall like this is becoming more frequent in Germany due to climate change.

“They are becoming more frequent and more intense, simply because a warmer atmosphere can absorb more moisture and the rainfall is therefore heavier,” he said. 

READ ALSO: ‘Record heat deaths and floods’: How Germany is being hit by climate change

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