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Increasing heat stress in Europe


Europe is increasingly confronted with heat that is so intense that the body has difficulty dealing with it. This is evident from the new Copernicus climate report.

A record number of days of “extreme heat stress” were recorded in 2023, and Europe is the fastest warming continent on the planet. This is evident from the ‘State of the Climate in Europe’ report by the European climate service Copernicus and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Spain, France, Italy and Greece experienced extreme heat stress for up to ten days: this measures the perceived temperature based on humidity and temperature, and the impact thereof on the body. In reality, this concerns temperatures above 46 degrees Celsius.

Heat stress is a health concern: the heart is put under pressure and it is more difficult to stay hydrated. The extreme heat is particularly risky for heart or diabetes patients, the elderly and outdoor workers. Heat-related deaths have increased by 30 percent in Europe in the past 20 years, the report said.

Increase in frequency and intensity

“In 2023, Europe witnessed the largest forest fires on record, one of the wettest years, severe marine heatwaves and widespread devastating flooding,” said Carlo Buontempo, Director of Copernicus, summarizing the past year. “These phenomena will only increase in frequency and severity in the coming years.”

The economic damage caused by these weather phenomena amounted to 13.4 billion euros in 2023, although this does not yet include the costs of the heat waves. The extreme weather also killed 151 people. The number of people who died as a result of the heat has not yet been added.

Renewable energy

Greenhouse gas emissions remained the main cause of the exceptional heat last year – 2023 was the warmest year since measurements began. Yet there is also a bright spot: in 2023, a record share of 43 percent of electricity production from renewable energy was achieved. That is 7 percentage points more than the year before. For the second consecutive year, more energy was generated from renewable energy than from fossil fuels.

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