EXPLAINED: How the climate crisis is hitting Europe hard

From deadly wildfires to catastrophic floods, Europe is seeing the impact of the climate crisis with episodes of extreme weather only likely to increase in the coming years as average temperatures rise.

EXPLAINED: How the climate crisis is hitting Europe hard
Tourists watch from the roadside as dense smoke darkens the sky from reignited forest fires north of Grimaud, in the department of Var, southern France on August 18, 2021. - (Photo by NICOLAS TUCAT / AFP)

Europe endured record extreme weather in 2021, from the hottest day and the warmest summer to deadly wildfires and
flooding, the European Union’s climate monitoring service reported Friday.

While Earth’s surface was nearly 1.2 degrees Celsius warmer than pre-industrial levels last year, Europe saw an average increase of more than two degrees, a threshold beyond which dangerous extreme weather events become
more likely and intense, the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) said.

The warmest summer on record featured a heatwave along the Mediterranean rim lasting weeks and the hottest day ever registered in Europe, a blistering 48.8C (120 degrees Fahrenheit) in Italy’s Sicily.

In Greece, high temperatures fuelled deadly wildfires described by the prime minister as the country’s “greatest ecological disaster in decades”.

Forests and homes across more than 8,000 square kilometres (3,000 square miles) were burned to the ground.

Front loaders work to move branches and uprooted trees near a bridge over the Ahr river in Insul, Ahrweiler district, western Germany, on July 28, 2021, weeks after heavy rain and floods caused major damage in the Ahr region. – At least 180 people died when severe floods pummelled western Germany over two days in mid-July, raising questions about whether enough was done to warn residents ahead of time. (Photo by Sascha Schuermann / AFP)

A slow-moving, low-pressure system over Germany, meanwhile, broke the record in mid-July for the most rain dumped in a single day.

The downpour was nourished by another unprecedented weather extreme, surface water temperatures over part of the Baltic Sea more than 5C above average.

Flooding in Germany and Belgium caused by the heavy rain — made far more likely by climate change, according to peer-reviewed studies — killed scores and caused billions of euros in damage.

As the climate continues to warm, flooding on this scale will become more frequent, the EU climate monitor has warned.

“2021 was a year of extremes including the hottest summer in Europe, heatwaves in the Mediterranean, flooding and wind droughts in western Europe,” C3S director Carlo Buontempo said in a statement.

“This shows that the understanding of weather and climate extremes is becoming increasingly relevant for key sectors of society.”     

A picture taken on July 15, 2021 shows damaged cars on a flooded street in the Belgian city of Verviers, after heavy rains and floods lashed western Europe, killing at least two people in Belgium. (Photo by François WALSCHAERTS / AFP)

‘Running out of time’

The annual report, in its fifth edition, also detailed weather extremes in the Arctic, which has warmed 3C above the 19th-century benchmark — nearly three times the global average.

Carbon emissions from Arctic wildfires, mostly in eastern Siberia, topped 16 million tonnes of CO2, roughly equivalent to the total annual carbon pollution of Bolivia.

Greenland’s ice sheet — which along with the West Antarctic ice sheet has become the main driver of sea level rise — shed some 400 billion tonnes in mass in 2021.

The pace at which the world’s ice sheets are disintegrating has accelerated more than three-fold in the last 30 years.

“Scientific experts like the IPCC have warned us we are running out of time to limit global warming to 1.5C,” said Mauro Facchini, head of Earth observation at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Defence Industry and Space, referring to the UN’s science advisory panel.

“This report stresses the urgent necessity to act as climate-related extreme events are already occurring.”

Member comments

  1. The global run-up in temperature prior to the Maunder Minimum before the industrial revolution, during the middle ages was greater than the current run-up. Look to sunspots, not CO2.

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MAP: Which regions of Italy have the most Blue Flag beaches?

The list of Italy's high quality beaches has grown again this year. Here, we take a look at the regions where you can find the most beaches that meet the highest global standards.

MAP: Which regions of Italy have the most Blue Flag beaches?

A total of 427 beaches across Italy have been awarded the internationally recognised and coveted bandiera blu (Blue Flag) status for 2022. That’s 11 more beaches than the 416 awarded last year, and up from 246 in 2020.

The north-western coastal region of Liguria took the top spot for the number of best beaches again, claiming 32 stretches of coastline of Blue Flag quality.

It’s followed by Tuscany, Puglia, and Campania, with 18 beaches each.

Beaches only get awarded this status if they meet excellent water quality and environmental standards, assigned by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE).

According to the latest edition of the list, Italy is home to 10 percent of the Blue Flag beaches worldwide.

Having a clean sea or good water quality standards aren’t enough to claim the recognition. The criteria for achieving the Blue Flag status comprises 33 areas of environmental, safety and educational specifications, including beach waste management, recycling, the presence of lifeguards and the cleanliness of changing facilities.

READ ALSO: Is Italy’s west or east coast the best place for a holiday?

We looked at the regions with Blue Flag status across Italy, based on the latest FEE data. In this map, you can find where to go for a beautiful and environmentally safe day by the sea.

Watch out for the specific beach with the classification, as some municipalities have been known to put flags across the whole coastline, rather than just on the stretch where the award applies.

Here’s a list of the Blue Flag beaches, according to region:

Liguria – 32 beaches

Bordighera, Sanremo, Taggia, Riva Ligure, Santo Stefano al Mare, San Lorenzo al Mare, Imperia, Diano Marina. Ceriale, Borghetto Santo Spirito, Loano, Pietra Ligure, Finale Ligure, Noli, Spotorno, Bergeggi, Savona, Albissola Marina, Albisola Superiore, Celle Ligure, Varazze, Camogli, Santa Margherita Ligure, Chiavari, Lavagna, Sestri Levante, Moneglia. Framura, Bonassola, Levanto, Lerici, Ameglia.

Liguria’s beaches have the highest concentration of Blue Flag status in Italy. Photo by Florencia Potter on Unsplash

Tuscany – 18 beaches

Carrara, Massa, Forte dei Marmi, Pietrasanta, Camaiore, Viareggio, Pisa Livorno, Rosignano Marittimo, Cecina, Bibbona, Castagneto Carducci, San Vincenzo, Piombino, Marciana Marina, Follonica, Castiglione della Pescaia, Grosseto.

Puglia – 18 beaches

Rodi Garganico, Peschici, Zapponeta, Margherita di Savoia, Bisceglie, Polignano a Mare, Monopoli, Fasano, Ostuni, Carovigno, Castellaneta, Maruggio, Ginosa, Melendugno, Castro, Salve, Ugento, Nardò.

READ ALSO: OPINION: How tourism could help save Italy’s coastline – instead of destroying it

Campania – 18 beaches

Vico Equense, Piano di Sorrento, Sorrento, Massa Lubrense, Anacapri, Positano, Capaccio, Agropoli, Castellabate, Montecorice, Pollica, Casal Velino, Ascea, Pisciotta, Centola, Camerota, Ispani, Vibonati.

Marche – 17 beaches

Gabicce Mare, Pesaro, Fano, Mondolfo, Senigallia, Ancona, Sirolo, Numana, Porto Recanati, Potenza Picena, Civitanova Marche, Fermo, Altidona, Pedaso, Cupra Marittima, Grottammare, San Benedetto del Tronto.

Breathtaking Puglia waters. Photo by Massimo Virgilio on Unsplash

Calabria – 17 beaches

Tortora, Praia a Mare, San Nicola Arcella, Santa Maria del Cedro, Diamante, Roseto Capo Spulico, Trebisacce, Villapiana, Cirò Marina, Melissa, Isola di Capo Rizzuto, Sellia Marina, Soverato, Tropea, Caulonia, Roccella Jonica, Siderno.

Sardinia – 15 beaches

Badesi, Castelsardo, Sorso, Sassari, Santa Teresa Gallura, Aglientu, Trinita’ d’Agultu e Vignola, La Maddalena, Palau, Budoni, Oristano, Tortolì, Bari Sardo, Quartu Sant’Elena, Sant’Antioco.

Abruzzo – 14 beaches

Martinsicuro, Alba Adriatica, Tortoreto, Giulianova, Roseto degli Abruzzi, Pineto, Silvi, Pescara, Francavilla al Mare, Fossacesia, Vasto, San Salvo, Villalago, Scanno.

Sicily – 11 beaches

Alì Terme, Roccalumera, Furci Siculo, Santa Teresa di Riva, Lipari, Tusa, Menfi, Modica, Ispica, Pozzallo, Ragusa.

To find your nearest blue flag beach, you can search the interactive map here.

Trentino-Alto Adige – 10 beaches

Bedollo, Baselga di Pine’, Pergine Valsugana, Tenna, Calceranica al Lago, Caldonazzo, Lavarone, Levico Terme, Sella Giudicarie, Bondone.

Lazio – 10 beaches

Trevignano Romano, Anzio, Latina, Sabaudia, San Felice Circeo, Terracina, Fondi, Sperlonga, Gaeta, Minturno.

Veneto – 9 beaches

San Michele al Tagliamento, Caorle, Eraclea, Jesolo, Cavallino Treporti, Venezia, Chioggia, Rosolina, Porto Tolle.

Emilia Romagna – 9 beaches

Comacchio, Ravenna, Cervia, Cesenatico, San Mauro Pascoli, Bellaria Igea Marina, Riccione, Misano Adriatico, Cattolica.

Basilicata – 5 beaches

Maratea, Bernalda, Pisticci, Policoro, Nova Siri.

Piedmont – 3 beaches

Cannobio e Cannero Riviera, Gozzano.

Friulia-Venezia Giulia – 2 beaches

Grado, Lignano Sabbiadoro.

Molise – 1 beach


Lombardy – 1 beach

Gardone Riviera.

To find your nearest blue flag beach, you can search the interactive map here.