A new report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service has found that Europe had its warmest year on record in 2022, with average temperatures about 2.3 °C above the pre-industrial average (1850-1900).
The report, titled “State of the Climate in Europe 2022,” also found that climate change is taking a major human, economic, and environmental toll on the region. Extreme heat, drought, wildfires, and marine heatwaves all had devastating impacts in 2022.
Using information from the Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT), the report found that severe weather events in 2022 resulted in 16,365 reported deaths and directly impacted around 156,000 people.
Around 67% of the events were related to floods and storms, causing the most damage with an estimated cost of about $2 billion (£785m). However, the most devastating in terms of lives lost were the heatwaves, which led to over 16,000 additional deaths.
“The alarming figures in this report cannot be considered a one-off occurrence or an oddity of the climate,” said Dr Carlo Buontempo, director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service. “Our current understanding of the climate system and its evolution informs us that these kinds of events are part of a pattern that will make heat stress extremes more frequent and more intense across the region.”
However, the report also found a silver lining: renewable energy generated more electricity than natural gas in Europe last year. Wind and solar power generated 22.3% of the EU’s electricity in 2022, while natural gas accounted for 20%.
“For the first time, more electricity was generated by wind and solar than by fossil gas in the EU. Increasing use of renewables and low-carbon energy sources is crucial to reduce dependence on fossil fuels,” said Petteri Taalas, WMO secretary-general.
This is a significant milestone, and it shows that Europe is making progress in its transition to a clean energy future. However, the report also warns that more needs to be done to reduce emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change.
In addition, the report found that the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet contributed around 14.9 mm to global mean sea-level rise, and according to scientific assessments, it continued to lose mass during 2022.
The report was released to coincide with the 6th European Climate Change Adaptation Conference in Dublin, Ireland, and is accompanied by an interactive Story Map.
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