Climate change could DOUBLE the frequency of extreme regional summer droughts in Europe by 2099
What utter rubbish! Warming oceans would bring MORE rain and snow, not less. Elementary physics
Climate change could result in the number of ‘extreme summer droughts’ in Europe doubling by 2099, a report has warned.
The climate crisis has already had a number of drastic global impacts, including an increase in the number of droughts, ‘causing considerable social, economic, and environmental costs’, according to the researchers from the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU) in Germany.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says droughts are the most serious hazard to crops and livestock in every part of the world, affecting 55 million people every year.
To determine future risk, researchers used archive data on rainfall levels throughout Europe, the British Isles and Scandanavia with future climate prediction models.
Their analysis suggests that all areas will see some increase in the number of summer droughts, but in France, the Alps, the Mediterranean and the Iberian Peninsula the number could double.
What is a meteorological drought?
Drought is a complex climate phenomenon covering a wide range of definitions and conditions.
Their impacts are economically, socially, and environmentally complex, and a universal definition that covers all consequences does not exist.
Droughts are instead classified by their impact: meteorological, hydrological, agricultural, or socio-economic.
Meteorological droughts are a predecessor of other drought types.
They have no clear start and end, unlike hurricanes, for example, which can easily be seen as they develop.
Drought is the absence of water, a creeping phenomenon that slowly sneaks up and impacts many sectors of the economy, and operates on many different time scales.
Meteorological drought happens when dry weather patterns dominate an area and can begin and end rapidly.
In contrast, hydrological drought takes much longer to develop and recover.
In their study, the researchers analysed the ‘percent of normal index’ (PINI), designed to give a percentage of rain in any given period.
They then compared that figure to the prediction of rainfall in a single climate model for eight regions of Europe over the next 80 years.
Each region they studied had a different climate, covering the British Isles, Scandinavia, mid-Europe, the Alps, Eastern Europe, France, the Mediterranean and the Iberian Peninsula.
In the long-term future, from 2080 to 2099, Europe will see an increase in frequency and intensity of summer droughts, but a drop in winter droughts, according to the research.
There will be greater differences between winter and summer rainfall levels as well, increasing during winter and decreasing over the summer months.
For mid-Europe there’s a sharp rise in the likelihood of an extreme drought – up by about a quarter of current levels.
In Eastern Europe and the Alps, severe and extreme droughts have higher probabilities in the future, going from a 20 to 40 per cent increase.
France has one of the higher levels, with a 60 per cent increase in frequency of extreme droughts, while in the Mediterranean, the chance of extreme droughts in the future is around 80 per cent for the summer months.
Meanwhile, in the Iberian Peninsula, the chance of extreme droughts is the highest of all regions, reaching 96 per cent in July and 88 per cent in August.
In these two regions, however, the absolute rainfall values in July and August are already low, meaning that comparatively small absolute changes can lead to high percentages of the PNI, which is a relative measure.
Destructive events including storms, flooding and drought are causing seven times more damage than in the 1970s, but they’re killing far fewer people, according to the UN’s World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).
In the 1970s and 1980s, these events killed an average of about 170 people a day worldwide, but in the 2010s that dropped to about 40 per day.
The WMO’s report looks at more than 11,000 weather disasters between 1970 and 2019, based on data from the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters.
A disaster related to a weather, climate or water hazard occurred every day on average over the past 50 years – killing 115 people and causing $202 million (£146 million) in losses daily, it found.
In total, just over 2 million deaths and $3.64 trillion (£2.64 trillion) in losses were attributed to such catastrophes.
The report follows Hurricane Ida and drought-worsened wildfires in the US, as well as catastrophic floods in mainland Europe this summer.
Researching the future occurrence of droughts is crucial for adequate climate crisis mitigation, according to the study, published in Frontiers in Water.
‘Summer droughts are a highly relevant topic in Europe,’ said author Magdalena Mittermeier, who shares the first authorship with Andrea Böhnisch.
‘We find a clear trend towards more, longer and more intense summer droughts, in terms of a precipitation deficit, towards the end of the century under a high-emission carbon scenario (RCP8.5).’
This is the emission scenario currently most likely under global average emission levels, although governments hope to change this with new climate measures.
The impacts of droughts are economically, socially, and environmentally complex, and a universal definition that covers all consequences does not exist.
Instead, droughts are classified by their impact as meteorological, hydrological, agricultural, or socio-economic.
Meteorological droughts are a potential predecessor of other drought types and are therefore important to research, and are the type covered by this study.
Regional differences between drought events are high, and there is an urgent need to identify geographical hot spots for future drought events, the team added.
‘Our study shows that unabated climate change will worsen the risk of hot-spot droughts drastically,’ said Mittermeier.
‘But also, in some regions where droughts currently play a minor role, the future drought risk is expected to get serious. We show that the Alps should be considered an additional future hot-spot.’
She said these extreme future events can be avoided by climate mitigation, including those agreed to under the UN Paris Agreement.
‘These three key features of: first, increasing drought occurrence in summer; second, wetter conditions in winter as well as; and third, interannual variations due to the natural variability of the climate system are visualised in what we call “drying stripes”.
‘These allow an overview of our results at first glance. The drying stripes show the percentage of precipitation for every month and year summarised over our ensemble compared to the long-term mean in a counterfactual world with pre-industrial greenhouse gas concentrations.
‘With this, they show the projected summer drying trend throughout the 21st century compared to a world without climate change.’
The findings have been published in the journal Frontiers in water.
Britain starts coal plant after gas prices surge
Britain has fired up two coal units at one of its power plants to help keep up with energy supply demands.
National Grid ESO asked Électricité de France to heat up the units at its West Burton A power station in Lincolnshire following an increase in gas prices.
While the British government hopes to phase out coal-generated power by 2024, the alternative energy the country uses is either providing insufficient power or becoming too expensive, the Daily Telegraph reports.
Wind power produces energy for Britain but at a varying rate. Monday morning’s power report showed wind power produced 474 megawatts, much less than the 14,286 megawatts that wind power produced on May 21.
Gas prices have also led to a return to coal as the price for gas has now jumped to £219.46 ($303) per megawatt-hour on Monday morning, according to Bloomberg. The result has forced Britain to return to using coal in order to keep up with its energy demands.
Australian superannuation juggernaut says it will not divest its substantial oil and gas holdings to meet newly detailed climate targets, as it announced plans to phase out thermal coal investments by the end of the decade
IFM, which is owned by 23 industry superannuation funds, is one of the world’s biggest infrastructure investors and owns substantial oil and gas pipelines in the US. The company announced plans to achieve net zero emissions in its $74 billion infrastructure portfolio, including by fully exiting thermal coal by 2030.
IFM’s global head of infrastructure Kyle Mangini said there is “relatively little debate” on the outlook for thermal coal – an energy source that governments around the world are rejecting in the quest to reduce carbon emissions and transition to renewable energy sources.
“We acknowledge that it is part of the energy mix today but it will be phased out of the energy mix over time, and from that perspective, it’s not a sound long-term investment,” Mr Mangini said. “We put the blanket exclusion on coal really because of the view it’s not viable and that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.”
Major investment firms have set net zero emissions targets in recent years and are now using either divestment – selling out of carbon-heavy assets- or engagement – remaining invested to advocate for change – to achieve these goals.
IFM’s remaining exposure to thermal coal is limited to the Polish district heating business bought in 2006. But the fund manager owns other carbon-heavy assets including North American oil and gas infrastructure projects Colonial Pipeline and Buckeye Partners. Chief executive David Neal said there were no plans to sell these assets to meet decarbonisation targets.
“We’re really focused on transition rather than divestment,” Mr Neal said. “So what can we do to help the assets in the oil and gas sector at the right time and in the right way transition to support the new cleaner economy? There is a lot of opportunity to do just that.”
“Divestment might get the emissions down in our portfolio but it does absolutely nothing for the planet’s emissions and it certainly does not help the global economy. This is about being a responsible investor.”
IFM’s interim targets include reducing scope one and two emissions (direct emissions and emissions from electricity use) across infrastructure assets by 40 per cent by 2040. This will be achieved, for example, by encouraging its airports and ports to install solar panels or diversify operations to include clean energy projects.
Reducing scope 3 emissions is not part of IFM’s climate plan, which includes indirect emissions like those from airplanes using IFM’s airports or gas passing through IFM’s pipelines. Mr Neal said these were “incredibly important” to understanding long-term risks but were outside IFM’s “direct influence and control”.
“The more people are concerned about the emissions that come from flying, the less airports get used. Those sorts of things,” he said. “There’s a difference here between what we’re worried about and what risks we’re managing.”
The International Energy Agency in May released a report claiming there could be no new oil and gas projects if the world was to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Mr Neal said retaining its oil and gas assets would “in many cases but not exclusively” rely on the development of new technologies or carbon offsets.
Mr Mangini added the oil and gas sector would play a “really important stabilising role” for the adoption of renewable energy until “storage capability is built into the system more broadly”.
“The fact you can generate [energy] now with a renewable source that is less expensive than fossil fuels means you don’t require government subsidies in many cases is a huge development. Now you have investment being led by the market instead of being led by the government,” he said. “There has been tremendous progress, there is so much RND [research and development] I feel very optimistic we will see a lot more progress.”
Nationals MP George Christensen last week accused the major banks of “caving” to international investor pressure when making decisions to phase out exposure to thermal coal. Mr Neal also rejected any “pressure” from investors and said decarbonisation was rather a collaborative approach to managing investment risk.
“I think we are all on this same journey. Our investors are working through how is their long-term risk being managed? How are the opportunities from this massive energy transition that’s going to occur over the next couple of decades, how are those opportunities being embraced?
“There’s no doubt those engagements are much more intense than they used to be. There’s huge momentum across the investment world in understanding how climate risk can be managed.”
IFM will soon release interim decarbonisation targets for the remainder of its $174 billion portfolio including listed equities, private equity and debt.
Australian State bans single-use plastics
Queensland has banned single-use plastic straws, stirrers, cutlery and plates, as well as containers and cups made from expanded polystyrene.
Initially announced in March, businesses had until September 1 to stop using items listed under the first stage of the state government ban.
The plan received huge support from the community during consultations, with 94 per cent of 20,000 respondents supporting the proposal.
The related legislation also makes provision for more single-use items to be banned through regulation in the future.
Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon confirmed earlier this year more restrictions are likely in the future.
“There’s been a lot of commentary around things like coffee cups, a range of other plastics, so we’ll be making sure that we’re consulting widely around what the next phase of those products is,” she said in March.
“Queensland really is ahead when it comes to the rest of the country on single-use plastics, but we want to make sure that we’re continuing to progress with this.”
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