Europe’s brutal heatwave could be the new normal

Scorcher: Heat records were broken across the continent last week.

Can Europe adapt to rising temperatures? Last week, France sizzled in 45.9C heat — the hottest the country has ever seen — while soldiers fought wildfires in Spain. Is global warming winning?

What’s happening

Villages were evacuated, schools closed and wildfires broke out across Europe last week after a heatwave swept the continent.

One town in southern France recorded 45.9C, the country’s hottest-ever temperature. Experts fear it is evidence that the climate crisis is making extreme heat the new normal.

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In England, it was a scorching 34C last Saturday, and temperatures are set to rise to 25C again by the weekend.

In Spain, more than 24,700 acres of land were destroyed by fires that soldiers were called in to battle.

The heatwave was the result of hot air from Africa’s Sahara desert sweeping over into Europe. However, it was not just a freak event. The hottest summers in Europe in the past 500 years have all come in the last 17 years. “It is quite clear one has to treat it as an emergency,” said Kai Kornhuber, a climate scientist.

Greenhouse gases have caused global temperatures to rise by 1C since the start of the Industrial Revolution.

The number of heatwaves in France has doubled in 34 years, and are expected double again by 2050. Can Europe adapt?

Some say…

It’s not looking good. Every year, the weather gets more extreme and we are still so unprepared. Many countries are ignoring the Paris Agreement. Even if we limit global warming to 2C, as the climate deal says, the likelihood of a heatwave like this will be 60% each year. Yet, we still do not have measures in place to prevent the destruction.

Others think…

We can find a way to adapt. Europe can learn lessons from hotter countries around the world, where air conditioning is a feature in every building. Most importantly, countries need to work together to fight global warming. For example, the UK has become the first country to commit to net-zero emissions by 2050. Finally, we are taking action!

You Decide

  1. Will your generation solve the climate crisis?


  1. Design a poster with advice on how to stay safe during a heat wave. Illustrate your poster and label it.

Some People Say...

“Adults keep saying: ‘We owe it to the young people to give them hope.’ I don’t want your hope. I want you to act.”

Greta Thunberg, Swedish, 16-year-old climate activist

What do you think?

Word Watch

Degrees celsius. Some other countries, like the USA, use degrees fahrenheit (F) to measure temperature.
Greenhouse gases
Gases, like carbon dioxide, that are released into the air by burning fossil fuels. They make the air hotter and more polluted.
Industrial Revolution
Roughly, 1760 to 1840 when countries started using machines and new technologies, which burned fossil fuels, to make goods in large factories.
Paris Agreement
195 countries have signed the deal to keep global warming below 2C. However, the agreement does not say exactly how countries will do it.


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