EUROPE – On the heels of a damning U.N. report warning “code red for humanity” unless drastic action is taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and keep warming to limits set by the Paris climate agreement, France and Portugal have become the latest European countries to face the devastating wildfires that have torn across the continent amid scorching, tinder dry conditions.
Thousands of people, including tourists in campsites, have been evacuated from France’s Var region to escape a swift-moving blaze that broke out on Monday, officials said, adding there “are no victims.”
Some 5,000 hectares (12,000 acres) of forest and scrubland have already been consumed by the fire and officials said 900 firefighters and 120 gendarmes (a branch of the French military) have been mobilized to combat the blaze Tuesday morning.
In Portugal, firefighters are struggling to control a fire near the Spanish border in the tourist-friendly region of Algarve, with three firefighters reportedly receiving medical attention for burns or smoke inhalation.
Strong winds fanned dozens of new wildfires into existence across Greece on Monday, prompting evacuations near the capital of Athens.
Greece has been fighting to contain fierce wildfires raging across the country for much of August amid scorching heat and bone dry conditions, something Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis attributed to climate change.
Wildfires have also been tearing through parts of Spain as the country saw its highest temperature on record Saturday of 117.3F (47.4C).
Overwhelmingly, experts believethatclimate change through greenhouse gas emissions is making the hot, arid conditions favorable to wildfires more likely to occur. It is also responsible for a number of other extreme events like flooding and storms. A recent report from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s foremost climate science authority, said it is now “unequivocal” that human activity is driving this change and that even in the best case scenarios some changes, including sea level rise, may be irreversible for millennia. Drastic and immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could help stave off more severe heating and the ensuing devastation, the group said. Leaders have warned the severe fires devastating much of Mediterranean Europe, as well as in many other parts of the world, are a consequence of the warming climate and are set to become more intense and frequent in the future.
The U.S. has endured several severe heat waves this year and a number of states are battling to contain some of their largest wildfires ever. Nearly six in ten Americans were placed under some form of heat alert in mid August after the country’s hottest June on record this year. This included the brutal heat dome which killed hundreds across the country and in neighboring Canada. Scientists are sure the extreme conditions would have been “virtually impossible” without climate change.
July was the hottest month ever recorded on Earth, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The combined land and ocean surface temperature around the world was nearly one degree Celsius, 0.9C (1.6F), hotter than the 20th-century average of 15.8C (60.4F).
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Hundreds of people have been evacuated to avoid a massive wildfire spreading near Jerusalem in Israel and officials have requested international assistance in battling the blaze.