Europe is struggling with high temperatures, water scarcity and extensive fires as countries in the southern part of the continent are imposing water restrictions. Maroš Šefčovič, the European Commission's Vice-President for Inter-Institutional Relations, said: “Since 2017, we have witnessed the most intense forest fires ever seen in Europe and unfortunately, we expect the 2022 forest fire season could follow this trend,” adding that “the Copernicus emergency management service indicates the present drought in Europe could become the worst ever.”
Over 95% of the Portuguese territory, for example, is going through severe drought as the country lived its hottest May in 92 years. While the European Union is working on ways to provide the appropriate support to the most affected countries, Šefčovič warned that "in the long run, what we need to do is to scale up better water use. In agriculture, we have to look at sustainable soil management and vegetation cover and we have to invest, as it was said by many, (in) drought resistant crops and restore damaged areas”.
With extreme heatwaves destroying crops in the Mediterranean countries, the attention is now turning to wildfires in Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal.
The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre has also published a report on the drought in Europe in July. It points out that a dry Winter and early heatwaves have put 44% of the territory (EU+UK) at risk. In particular, the Centre found that current conditions in Europe were conducive to wildfires and generated stress in energy production.
A new report by the German Weather Service indicates that, due to climate change, hotter, drier summers are to be expected in Europe in the future and drought episodes will become more frequent.
Agriculture is the dominant water-consuming activity and the sector which is carrying the brunt of the water scarcity situation. Even as authorities try to implement more water-efficient systems, these changes will not come in time to save many crops in Southern Europe, which are at risk of failure.