The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its latest assessment of human-made climate change on Monday, warning that the planet will pass the warming threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius in the next two decades, resulting in more heatwaves, droughts, and other extreme weather events, unless drastic and immediate action is taken to reduce carbon emissions.
Reading the report, the events of the past few weeks – temperature records in Antarctica, floodings in Germany, widespread heatwaves and raging wildfires – seem like an ominous sign of what’s to come, with the latter in particular wreaking havoc in parts of the United States and Europe at the moment.
In Southern Europe, Turkey and Greece have been hit particularly hard by wildfires this year, as extreme heat stoked the flames displacing thousands of people and burning tens of thousands of hectares of forest land. The Greek island of Evia, the country’s second-largest behind Crete, has been engulfed in flames for days in what the Greek prime minister described as “a natural disaster of unprecedented proportions.”
While Greece is still fighting the flames with the aid of firefighters and aircraft from several countries, Turkey’s efforts to contain the fires that have ravaged the country since July 28 were helped by rainfalls over the weekend. According to the country’s agriculture and forestry minister, 268 of 270 forest fires were under control on Monday, after firefighters had combatted the blazes for 13 days straight.
The following chart, based on data from the European Forest Fire Information System, shows the scale of this year’s fires in Turkey, Greece and Italy, as the area burned by wildfires through August 9 already outstrips the annual average of the past 13 years by a wide margin. Interestingly, Portugal and Spain, both at high risk of wildfires, have not been affected as badly this year, with Portugal’s fire season in particular relatively quiet so far.
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