Europe’s temperatures rising more than twice global average, UN warns

Temperatures in Europe have increased at more than twice the global average over the past three decades, showing the fastest rise of any continent on earth, the UN said Wednesday.

Europe's temperatures rising more than twice global average, UN warns

The European region has on average seen temperatures rise 0.5 degrees Celsius each decade since 1991, the UN’s World Meteorological Organization and the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service found in a joint report.

As a result, Alpine glaciers lost 30 metres (just under 100 feet) in ice thickness between 1997 and 2021, while the Greenland ice sheet is swiftly melting and contributing to accelerating sea level rise.

Last year, Greenland experienced melting and the first-ever recorded rainfall at its highest point. And the report cautioned that regardless of future levels of global warming, temperatures would likely continue to rise across Europe at a rate exceeding global mean temperature changes.

“Europe presents a live picture of a warming world and reminds us that even well-prepared societies are not safe from impacts of extreme weather events,” WMO chief Petteri Taalas said in a statement.

WMO splits the world into six regions, with the European region covering 50 countries and including half of the swiftly warming Arctic, which is not a continent in its own right.

Within Antarctica — which is a continent but falls outside the six WMO-defined regions –only the West Antarctic Peninsula part is seeing rapid warming.


The new report, released ahead of the UN’s 27th conference on climate set to open in Egypt on Sunday, examined the situation in Europe up to and including 2021.

It found that last year, high-impact weather and climate events — mainly floods and storms — led to hundreds of deaths, directly affected more than half a million people and caused economic damage across Europe exceeding $50 billion.

At the same time, the report highlighted some positives, including the success of many European countries in slashing greenhouse gas emissions. Across the EU, such emissions decreased by nearly a third between 1990 and 2020, and the bloc has set a net 55-percent reduction target for 2030.

Europe is also one of the most advanced regions when it comes to cross-border cooperation towards climate change adaptation, the report said. It also hailed Europe’s world-leading deployment of early warning systems, providing protection for about 75 percent of the population, and said its heat-health action plans had saved many lives.

“European society is vulnerable to climate variability and change,” said Carlo Buontempo, head of Copernicus’s European Centre of Medium-range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF). “But Europe is also at the forefront of the international effort to mitigate climate change and to develop innovative solutions to adapt to the new climate Europeans will have to live with.”

Health concerns

Yet, the continent is facing formidable challenges.

“This year, like 2021, large parts of Europe have been affected by extensive heatwaves and drought, fuelling wildfires,” Taalas said, also decrying “death and devastation” from last year’s “exceptional floods”.

And going forward, the report cautioned that regardless of the greenhouse gas emissions scenario, “the frequency and intensity of hot extremes… are projected to keep increasing.”

This is concerning, the report warned, given that the deadliest extreme climate events in Europe are heatwaves, especially in the west and south of the continent.

“The combination of climate change, urbanisation and population ageing in the region creates, and will further exacerbate, vulnerability to heat,” the report said.

The shifting climate is also spurring other health concerns. It has already begun altering the production and distribution of pollens and spores, which appear to be leading to increases in various allergies.

While more than 24 percent of adults living in the European region suffer from such allergies, including severe asthma, the proportion among children is 30-40 percent and rising, it said.

The warming climate is also causing more vector-borne diseases, with ticks moving into new areas bringing Lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis. Asian tiger mosquitos are also moving further north, carrying the risk of Zika, dengue and chikungunya, the report said.

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Politics in Sweden: Is the Green Party’s past to blame for its current problems?

Per Gahrton, the founder of Sweden's Green Party, has died aged 80, leaving his party still struggling with many of the identity and organisational issues he bequeathed it, writes The Local's Nordic editor Richard Orange.

Politics in Sweden: Is the Green Party's past to blame for its current problems?

Per Gahrton, the scruffy, eccentric, uncompromising, and intellectually gifted MP who broke away from Sweden’s Liberals to found the country’s Green Party, has died, aged 80.

His death comes at a time when the party he founded is struggling.

The party is polling persistently near to the 4 percent threshold to enter parliament, something that is a bit of a mystery, given the extent to which current government’s policies are sabotaging Sweden’s chances of meeting climate goals which most Swedes think are important.

A lot the explanation goes back to Gahrton and his founding of the party in 1981. 

Gahrton was never chiefly an environmental activist, but a politician with a broad liberal-left agenda, with strong views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, on sexual freedom, on gender equality.

For him, the problem with the modern economic model and its ideology of perpetual growth, was as much about its impact on the individual and society as on the environment, and the Social Democrats, as proponents of industrial socialism, were at least as big a part of the problem as right-wing proponents of industrial capitalism. 

He spotted the opportunity, in the aftermath of the 1980 referendum on nuclear power, to harness support from the losing anti-nuclear campaign to form a new party, entering parliament in 1988 in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster. 

But he was never primarily an anti-nuclear activist. 

He was also an anti-politician, viewing party politics, with its compromises, hypocrisies and strategising, as dishonest and empty. This was part of the reason why the party, at its founding meeting, voted not to have a traditional leader but to instead be run by a political committee, with two spokespersons – one male and one female – who could at first not be active MPs. 

Fully 42 years later, the party is still struggling with Gahrton’s legacy.

It has never escaped Gahrton’s scatter-gun approach to become a single-issue environmental party, instead burning political capital on its open migration policy, on education under Gustav Fridolin, or on integration and combating the far-right under Märta Stenevi. 

As it was not founded as the political wing of the environment movement, it has never won the movement’s broad support, so while Sweden’s blue-collar unions will back the Social Democrats even when they compromise, environmental groups more often accuse the Green Party of betrayal. 

While it has become a party of the liberal left, its origin as a breakaway from the liberal Folkpartiet means it has never been trusted by its allies in the Social Democrats and Left Party.   

When in government between 2014 and 2021, the party became less scruffy and more practical, with clean-cut politicians like Fridolin, Isabella Lövin and Per Bolund focusing on the policy detail, on getting through concrete reforms to reduce emissions and protect the environment. 

But they were always hobbled by the split between two spokespeople, which meant that each of the party’s leaders only ever got half the air-time of their counterparts in other, similarly sized parties. 

The Green Party at a meeting in Örebro in 1981. Sitting left is Per Gahrton. Photo: Andi Loor/Scanpix

Last Friday, after a long internal debate, the Green Party voted narrowly to keep this unwieldy two-spokesperson system, despite its youth wing calling for the party to move to a single leader. 

The various wings of the party are now jockeying over who will be voted in to replace the outgoing spokesperson, Bolund, at the party’s congress in mid-November. 

Will it be Daniel Helldén, who is distrusted by the party’s left for his decision to go into coalition with the conservative Moderate party to become Stockholm’s transport councillor, and who wants a tighter focus on environmental issues? Will it be Pär Holmgren, the former TV weather man, again promising a tighter focus on climate change?

Or could it be Martin Marmgren, the serving police officer who wants to combat populistic approaches to immigration and criminal justice? Or Henrik Blind, the councillor from Jokkmokk, a member of the indigenous Sami people from northern Sweden, who would increase the party’s focus on indigenous rights.

Each of these figures will have to wrestle in their own ways with the difficult questions Gahrton has left as his legacy.

Politics in Sweden is a weekly column looking at the big talking points and issues in Swedish politics. Members of The Local Sweden can sign up to receive an email alert when the column is published. Just click on this “newsletters” option or visit the menu bar.