European Heat Wave Sparks Several Deaths, Ideological, And Policy Conversations

As a record-breaking heat wave strikes some regions of Europe, European leaders have renewed ongoing conversations surrounding national adaptations to combat the impacts of climate change on infrastructure and lifestyles, as well as increased safety measures. The south of France is reported to be facing much of the brunt of the heat, according to the BBC, as the village of Gallargues-le-Montueux documented a temperature of 45.9° C (114.6°F), more than four degrees above the previous record. These record temperatures have not occurred without losses of lives: several deaths have been reported in France, Spain, and the UK. Red alerts have been issued by the French weather service in four areas, breaking more previously held records, as well as in eight Spanish provinces, while the Italian Ministry of Health has issued reports and warnings of emergency heat levels in sixteen cities, according to the BBC. Overall, France, Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic have all noted record high temperatures for the month of June, while heat-related wildfires rage in Spain, as reported by ABC News.

In addition to the social concerns raised by European governments, climate researchers and meteorologists are weighing in on the heat wave itself, as well as its broader implications for Europe and the rest of the world. According to the Guardian, Météo-France meteorologist Etienne Kapikian has stated, “This is historic. It’s the first time a temperature in excess of 45C has ever been recorded in France.” Statements from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in Geneva have indicated that 2019 is now on course to be among the world’s hottest years ever, and that the period of 2015-2019 would consequently become the hottest ever five-year period on record. WMO spokeswoman Clare Nullis told journalists that “heatwaves will become more intense, they will become more drawn out, they will become more extreme, they will start earlier and they will finish later.” The Guardian additionally reports that French President Emmanuel Macron stated, on the topics of the heatwave and climate change, that “we will need to change our set-up, our way of working, build differently,” further mentioning an “adaptation of society and its habits.”

The current and impending damages of climate change do not exist only in the field of environmental or climate science, and therefore must not be evaluated and addressed as such. Climate change is poised to exacerbate existing systems of global and national economic and social inequalities. It threatens to intensify ongoing refugee, asylee, and migrant crises throughout across the globe. It will challenge even the most equipped and equitable healthcare system in the world. Climate change is not the concern only of the privileged nature lover of the global north. It is a concern for those advantaged and disadvantaged, those near and far from the equator. Privilege will not protect even the most self-interested global figures from the ravages of climate change. It is thus imperative to elect and appoint leaders who not only recognize but have and will continue to address the ominous nature of climate change. We must live day-to-day seeing the ways we have injured our environments and ourselves.

While the average professional journalist appears reluctant to definitively blame climate change, even partially, for the historic heat waves not only in Europe but across the world, a climatology institute in Potsdam, Germany has collected data which point out that Europe’s five hottest summers since 1500 have taken place during the twenty-first century. In addition, the BBC reports that scientists in general have expressed growing concerns that rapid warming linked to the use of fossil fuels has unignorable implications for the stability of the planet’s climate. It also increases the challenges which accompany the pursuit of a just and peaceful world.