Just two months ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its report on Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. It included this warning:
“In Southern Europe, climate change is projected to worsen conditions (high temperatures and drought) in a region already vulnerable to climate variability, and to reduce water availability, hydropower potential, summer tourism and, in general, crop productivity. It is also projected to increase health risks due to heat waves and the frequency of wildfires.”
“Projected climate change-related exposures are likely to affect the health status of millions of people, particularly those with low adaptive capacity, through … increased deaths, disease and injury due to heat waves, floods, storms, fires and droughts …”
If you’re inclined to write those forecasts off as hysterical alarmism, consider this article, published by Agence France Presse yesterday:
Europe Hit by Killer Heatwave and Floods
by Anca Teodorescu
June 26, 2007
A searing heatwave has killed at least 46 people across southern Europe while in Britain torrential rain claimed three lives and forced hundreds to flee a creaking dam.
Twenty-nine heat-related deaths were recorded in Romania where temperatures Tuesday hit 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit). Four people have died in Greece, six in Italy, three in Albania and at least four in Bosnia, Croatia and Turkey.
Three elderly people died Tuesday in the Italian island of Sicily, taking the nationwide toll in the current heatwave to six.
Two men, both aged over 80, died in the southern town of Calabria while a 59-year-old woman was found dead in her home in the northwestern town of Palermo in Sicily.
Italian firefighters have dropped tanks of water from aircraft to control more than 30 forest fires after temperatures in the south topped 45 Celsius.
Bucharest was Europe’s hottest capital on Tuesday with temperatures at 45 Celsius but a heat alert was sounded for much of the south of the country.
Ambulance services were besieged with calls to help people fainting in the street, officials said. Fourteen people have died from the heat in the city over the past week, according to authorities who have set up more than 30 first aid tents in Bucharest alone to cope with the casualties.
Police have been handing out water in the street and the health ministry has warned the elderly and those with debilitating illnesses not to go out during the day.
Temperatures hit 44 Celsius in Athens and central Greece Tuesday, the hottest this year, and the government urged the public to save power as electricity consumption hit new highs.
The Greek military has suspended all exercises and public services were closed in the afternoon.
Temperatures in Bulgaria beat the record for a second time this week with the mercury shooting up to 43 Celsius Tuesday in the southeastern town of Radnevo.
Authorities sprayed water on the tram rails to prevent them from buckling in the heat but no casualties have been reported. Trains ran at slower speeds, in some cases at 30 kilometres (18 miles) per hour as rails were deforming under the heat.
Police also banned heavy trucks from the roads at the hottest hours.
Authorities in seven Turkish provinces have given two or three days of leave to handicapped or pregnant civil servants, Anatolia news agency said.
Northern Africa was also affected by the heatwave with temperatures of over 40 degrees Celsius recorded in Tunisia, where several fires were fanned by the heat and strong Sirocco winds.
There were power cuts across the country, notably in the seaside capital Tunis.
Northern Europe was meanwhile drenched by torrential downpours.
Three people have died in floods in England and hundreds have been evacuated from their homes because the rains threatened to cause a dam to burst. A bridge collapsed in western England.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the country faced “a difficult situation” as flood defences struggled against the weather.
Authorities in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, told people living near Ulley Dam to leave their homes after receiving a warning that the walls could collapse. A section of the nearby main M1 motorway was also closed.
In nearby Sheffield, Royal Air Force helicopters airlifted people in flooded areas to safety. A 14-year-old boy was swept to his death in a swollen river and a 68-year-old man was killed as he crossed a flooded road.
In Hull, on the east coast, a man drowned after becoming trapped up to his neck in a drain on a flooded street.