Thursday, May 29, 2008

Europe faces climate stress On this date, May 28, 2008, the US National Weather Service registered the highest temperature ever measured in Austria's history for the month of May (NOAA's 24 hour summary). At 10.00 AM, in the metropolitan region of Graz-Thalerhof-Flughafen (airport), it soared to a stifling 95 degrees fahrenheit (34.8 degrees Celcius). Local residents were stunned that it could have gotten so hot so early in the day, in a mountainous region not yet into its Summer season. Austria's, and Europe's, medical and public health authorities are concerned that this could be yet another year with deadly temperatures.

In August of 2003, a heat wave in Europe killed 35,000 people - 15,000 in France. On the 10th of that month, London experienced its first ever historically-recorded temperature over the 100 degree Farenheit mark... and 900 died. That August also went into the history books as the Northern Hemisphere's warmest ever registered. The issue of such high temperatures in temperate regions is critical. Many elderly residents in these urban regions live a sedate life, unacclimatized to such extremes, and if the human body's core temperature cannot adequately adjust through reorienting blood circulation, then vital organs are at risk and deadly toxins are released through this breakdown. The same thing happens if one has a fever that goes over 104 degrees fahrenheit.

It also intensely overloads the electric grid and related infrastructures - spewing even more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere - further compounding the long-term problem. England's weather and environmental research service, MetOffice, projects that the "mean summer [2008] temperatures are more likely to be above 1971-2000 averages over much of Europe, with the highest probabilities of warmer than average over Mediterranean regions."

…The issue also is daunting purely on the economical front. For example, here is how The Geneva Papers on Risk and Insurance sumarises the concern: This paper has shown that climate change is a crucial issue for the insurance sector, because of the direct impacts from the altered climate system, and the indirect ones from policies to reduce emissions or prevent damage. Already the impacts in Europe are growing serious. At the global level, the economic cost of weather damage could reach over 1 trillion USD in a single year by 2040. The impacts will be worse in developing countries.

Austria's coat of arms, Wikimedia Commons

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