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24 Aug 2021, 13:40
Charlotte Nijhuis

Climate change made floods in western Europe more likely – report

Clean Energy Wire / Tagesspiegel

Climate change has increased both the likelihood and the intensity of extreme rainfall events like those that led to flooding in western Europe in July, according to a new report by the World Weather Attribution Initiative. The devastating floods that hit Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Luxembourg and caused over 200 fatalities are an extreme weather event that is expected to happen once in every 400 years, according to the researchers. Since the globe has warmed around 1.2 °C since pre-industrial times, heavy flooding is now 1.2 to 9 times more likely than it was in the absence of human-induced climate change, they write. The researchers also found that climate change has increased the intensity of precipitation by 3 percent to 19 percent. For the analysis, the scientists combined weather records with computer simulations. Although it is unclear exactly how big the influence of climate change on the extreme weather events is, the overall trend is clear, researchers say. "All values point in the direction of plus. Climate change is influencing the amount of precipitation that falls in the region,” Frank Kreienkamp of the German Weather Service (DWD) told Tagesspiegel Background.

German environmental NGOs have reacted to the study by calling for more political action on climate change. “This is a final wake-up call to politicians to finally reduce greenhouse gas emissions through effective measures instead of through mere target definitions,” said Leif Miller, head of NABU. The study brings with it a “double message”, said Christopher Bals of Germanwatch: “First, get out of coal, oil and gas quickly. And secondly, significantly improve risk prevention on the ground.” “Future weather extremes will be even more severe and correspondingly more expensive. Governments and corporations must act now so that they do not become unaffordable in the future,” added Karsten Smid from Greenpeace. German Environmental Aid (DUH) called on the government to restore flooded areas in an ecological way. “This is the only way to mitigate the devastating consequences of future heavy rainfall events,” said DUH director Sascha Müller-Kraenner.

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