Greece battled four major wildfires on Sunday that forced hundreds to evacuate as rising temperatures there and in Spain heightened fears of more fires.
The United States, meanwhile, was bathed in scorching heat that exceeded already record-setting temperatures, exacerbating an uncontrollable wildfire in central California.
Scientists say man-made climate change is amplifying extreme weather — including the heatwaves, droughts and floods seen in various parts of the planet in recent weeks — and say these events will become more frequent and intense.
The international community agrees that climate change poses an existential threat to human systems and the natural world.
The Earth’s average temperature has warmed just over 1.1 degrees Celsius (34 degrees Fahrenheit) since the industrial age, and the United Nations says it is currently on track to warm by some 2.7 degrees Celsius this century. .
Greece is gripped by a heat wave that started on Saturday and is expected to last 10 days. In some regions, temperatures rose to 42 degrees.
Fires raged in the north, east and south of the country, including on the tourist island of Lesbos, where about 200 people had to leave the village of Vryssa on Sunday to escape the flames.
Danger to people and wildlife
Older women left the village with a few belongings in plastic bags, as thick smoke engulfed the first houses.
On Saturday, residents and tourists were told to leave the beach village of Vatera on the island.
In the northeastern region of Evros, hundreds of firefighters have battled a wildfire that has been ablaze for four days in Dadia National Park, known for its colony of black vultures.
Evros Governor Dimitris Petrovits told the Athens News Agency that authorities were doing everything they could to protect locals and treat injured wildlife.
In the south, a fire in the Peloponnese caused the evacuation of three villages and a summer camp for children, while a fire raged in a ravine on the island of Crete.
In Spain, a heat wave lasting two weeks was expected to set record high temperatures of 45C in the southern region of Cordoba.
This part of Andalusia only registered the highest temperature ever in Spain last year – 47.7C.
The national weather agency said the brutal heat wave since July 9 and the lack of rain since the beginning of the year in the Iberian Peninsula meant there was an “extreme” risk of fires.
In total, fires in France, Spain and Portugal have set fire to more land so far this year than have been destroyed by flames in all of 2021. Its area – some 517,881 hectares (1.28 million acres) – is equivalent to the size of Trinidad and Tobago.
The World Health Organization said Friday that the heat wave in Europe has resulted in “more than 1,700 unnecessary deaths… in Spain and Portugal alone”.
Wasting energy is ‘absurd’
In the United States, where President Joe Biden warned this week that climate change posed a “clear and present danger,” California tinderbox conditions sparked a fire near Yosemite National Park and its giant redwood trees on Friday.
The fire, described by officials as “explosive,” expanded from 250 to 4,800 acres within 24 hours and had consumed more than 5,750 acres by early Sunday, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.
Evidence of global warming was on display elsewhere in the country, with 85 million people in more than a dozen states under a weekend heat advisory.
A heat emergency was in effect for cities along the northeast coast, from Boston to Philadelphia to Washington.
In France, the government announced on Sunday that it would introduce rules to curb energy waste, which unnecessarily contributes to greenhouse gas emissions fueling climate change.
Shops will be ordered to keep their doors closed when their air conditioning or heating is on or risk a fine, Energy Transition Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher told RMC Radio.
Leaving the doors open when the air conditioning is on leads to “20 percent more consumption and… it’s absurd,” she said.
Southwestern Europe is sweltering as forest fires burn
© 2022 AFP
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