The State of the Climate in Europe 2022 report has been published by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service.
Dr Mike Rivington, senior scientist and Land Use System Modeller, James Hutton Institute, Aberdeen, said:
“State of the Climate in Europe 2022 paints a very clear picture of the trajectory we are on in terms of future climate change and its impacts on our lives, economies and environment, reflecting much of what we already know. It also reflects the broader lack of understanding of how climate change impacts will affect biodiversity. Our work shows that increasing heat stress, coupled with reduced water availability, will place additional strains on people, agriculture and the environment. An emphasis on the economic costs of extreme weather from storms and floods also means we’re underestimating the economic costs of heatwaves; the largest cause of climate-related deaths1, according to the report. Looking at this data would better represent the costs of heatwaves in terms of increased risk of death and reduced productivity.
Does the press release accurately reflect the science?
Is this good quality research? Are the conclusions backed up by solid data?
“Yes, ECMWF / Copernicus / WMO do thorough assessments, and appear to have been able to pull together and analyse last year’s data quickly, but as they point out there are still data gaps.
How does this work fit with the existing evidence?
“Initial impressions is that there is nothing particularly new about the overall details on the pathway we are on, as it reflects what’s already been said in IPCC reports.
Have the authors accounted for confounders? Are there important limitations to be aware of?
“The report probably is conservative in its assessments, and reflects a lack of overall understanding of how climate change impacts will affect biodiversity.
What are the implications in the real world? Is there any overspeculation?
“The report is yet another clear signal of the direction of travel Europe and the world’s climate change trajectory. I think there is more likely to be under speculation.”
1 Figure 11 on page 15 shows that the 99.6% of deaths due to the climate were caused by heatwaves
Dr Radhika Khosla, Co-lead of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Sustainable Cooling and Associate Professor at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford, said:
“The State of the Climate Report is right to highlight the dangers of heatwaves, which are known to be the most deadly of all extreme weather events. The fact that heatwaves accounted for just 13% of all extreme weather events in Europe in 2022 but 99.6% of mortalities, and that this is based on extensive observed data from the world’s largest disaster database (EM-DAT), provides further compelling evidence that extreme heat must be taken seriously. The real world implications of this report could not be more clear: alongside reducing emissions to mitigate climate change, Europe must invest in sustainable cooling solutions to keep people safe.
“In the UK, BEIS estimates that UK national peak demand for cooling during a heatwave could reach 65x times our annual average consumption. However, relying only air conditioning only is not the answer, as it can lead to a vicious cycle where more AC leads to higher energy consumption and carbon emissions, and further global warming. Europe needs to explore sustainable cooling options, which can range from simple behaviours like hydration, to medium term solutions like urban green spaces. While efficient ACs powered by renewable energy could be part of the solution, innovative building design with ventilation and shading is key to unlocking a cooler future.”
Prof Cameron Hepburn, Professor of Environmental Economics at the University of Oxford, and Director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, said:
“The WMO and Copernicus team are right to see hope for the future in the acceleration of renewables. This is the first time renewables overtook fossil electricity production, and we anticipate more firsts coming imminently: the first time electric buses outsell conventional buses, the first time EVs outsell fossil passenger vehicles, the first time more kilometres are travelled on electricity rather than fossil fuel: all these firsts are coming to Europe soon. All of these are being driven by the clear economic advantages of transforming the energy system which is only going to get more favourable, as Way et al showed in their paper in Joule last year.”
Prof Amanda Maycock, Professor of Climate Dynamics, University of Leeds, said:
“The pace of climate change is far outstripping the pace of climate action. We have to build climate adaptation into all building plans now, or in a few decades our infrastructure will be insufficient to cope with the frequency and severity of extreme weather and climate events. The progress in European renewable generation is positive, but it must be put in the context of greenhouse gas emissions as a global problem. As well as cleaning up our own back yard, Europe needs to increase support to the rest of the world to develop in a sustainable way.”
Dr Leslie Mabon, Lecturer in Environmental Systems, The Open University:
“This report confirms two things that we already know well: that climate change is having severe impacts right now in Europe, but also that we already have the solutions we need to hand in the form of renewable energy technologies. The most important thing that governments can do is accelerate the deployment of these renewable technologies, at the same time as rapidly phasing out the fossil fuels that are causing these climate change impacts in the first place.
“The rigorous and careful data which reports like this provide are absolutely vital in helping decision-makers and governments to understand how they can scale up renewable energy, and ensure our energy systems are resilient to the climate impacts we are seeing already.”
Prof Hannah Cloke, Professor of Hydrology, University of Reading, said:
“This is a good report using the best quality data available and is put together by some of the leading scientists in the field.
“This annual report is just a snapshot of the state of Europe’s climate. It provides a sobering picture. It documents a broad overview of what happens when heat builds up in the environment, and provides just some of those impacts that are affecting people now.
“Extreme weather killed 16,000 people in Europe last year, mostly due to the effects of the summer heat. The loss of ice from the Alps was the largest ever recorded, and comes on top of a downward spiral. Spain’s ongoing mega drought means that water reserves are now so low that many farmers are unable to grow crops, which has a knock-on effect on food prices.
“The evidence is clear that the effects of climate disruption by humans on our own society are mounting.”
Prof David Reay, Professor of Carbon Management; Executive Director of Edinburgh Climate Change Institute, University of Edinburgh, said:
“This impressive report is built on a very robust and longstanding scientific research base across Europe. In many ways Europe has the world’s best analytical eye on the impacts of climate change, making what it is now observing all the more chilling.”
Prof William Collins, Professor of Climate Processes, University of Reading, said:
“This report includes the most robust measurements of climate change over Europe made so far, using multiple sources of climate data. This measurement of 2.3 degrees of climate change over Europe is shocking news. The traditional focus on global temperatures tends to overlook the fact that over Europe the rate of warming can approach double the global average. This latest report highlights that climate change is happening here and now and affecting all of us in Britain and in Europe. The upside to the report confirms that we can still do something about this. Investments in renewable energy are already reducing our use of fossil fuels, but this investment will need to ramp up dramatically if we are to avoid the most dangerous levels of climate change.”
Prof Richard Allan, Professor of Climate Science, University of Reading, said:
“The science points to faster warming over continents than the global seas, yet Europe is the reluctant leader of this continental pack. The report, based the highest quality global and regional data, finds 2.3 degrees Celsius of European warming since the industrial revolution and this is already increasing the severity of hot, dry and wet weather events – these super-charged extremes are wreaking havoc on livelihoods and infrastructure, including (ironically) the growing renewable energy sector that is identified in the report as helping to tackle the root cause of warming by reducing the reliance on greenhouse gas emitting coal, oil and gas.
“The report also highlights record depletion of Alpine glaciers in 2022 which along with continued melt of Greenland and the expansion of the warming oceans contributed to ongoing sea level rise – the record North Atlantic Ocean surface temperatures observed last year along with ecosystem damaging marine heatwaves are continuing into 2023 with exceptional warmth currently hugging coastal regions of the British Isles.
“While pledges to tackle climate change could keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial conditions, in the same ballpark as the Paris climate agreement targets, when only the most credible pledges are included, warming is expected to be more than 2.5 degrees C by the end of the century. More ambitious and credible actions to cut greenhouse gas emissions and continued monitoring of these emissions and the heating they inflict are essential to avoid worsening damage from climate change across the continents and throughout the oceans.”
Prof Daniela Schmidt, Professor of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, said:
“The impact of the heat and drought in 2022 across Europe are currently considered an extreme event. These events are still the exception when warming is globally 1.1C above baseline but will become common on our path of warming the planet well above 2C. The excellent analysis provided by Copernicus provides us with the urgently needed information about how far reaching the impacts are and the regional differences across Europe.
“The impacts of climate change are projected to dramatically grow with every increment of warming increasing the risk to human life, to nature’s resilience, to crop production, water scarcity and floods. This information is fundamental for decision makers to understand the scale of the adaptation needs while we are mitigating to reduce the emissions. If there would be a different catastrophe resulting in the death of over 16000 people, there would be an outrage and outpouring of help. Death caused by climate change regrettably is not resulting in the necessary actions.”
Prof Albert Klein Tank, Director of the Met Office Hadley Centre, said:
“The data in this report makes a vital contribution to the understanding of the changes we are seeing in Europe’s climate. Met Office research indicates that European citizens will need to prepare for new extremes including a strong likelihood of seeing 50.0°C in Europe for the first time. As our atmosphere changes with the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases then the chances of new temperature extremes become ever more likely as we have been seeing with the UK’s high temperature records.
“In 2021 Europe saw values reach 48.8 °C in Sicily so this is only a small threshold below 50.0 °C. A new record is likely at some stage soon – maybe even this year – and it is most likely to occur in the Mediterranean region during a period bringing in air from North Africa, where temperatures have also been rising markedly.”
‘State of the Climate in Europe 2022’ was published by the World Meteorological Organization and the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service at 13:00 UK time on Monday 19 June 2022.
Prof Amanda Maycock: “No conflict of interests to declare.”
Dr Leslie Mabon: “No conflicts of interest.”
Prof Hannah Cloke: “Prof Hannah Cloke’s research has been funded by UKRI NERC, UKRI EPSRC, FCDO, the European Commission, and Copernicus. She is a member of UKRI NERC council and a fellow of ECMWF. She advises the Environment Agency and DEFRA on environmental hazards.”
Prof David Reay: “No conflicts of interest to declare.”
Prof William Collins: “No interests to declare.”
Prof Richard Allan: “No competing interests.”
Prof Daniela Schmidt: “No competing interests.”
For all other experts, no reply to our request for DOIs was received.