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Europe Dries Up

Scenes and pictures have been circulating of broken earth, lacking moisture, cracked and yearning. But these are not from traditional drought-stricken parts of the planet, where the animal carcass assumes near totemic power amidst dry riverbeds or desert expanses. Neither Australia nor Africa feature on these occasions – at least in a prominent way. Europe, continent of historical arable sustainability, is drying up.

This is not to say that the continent is immune to drought. The International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River notes the impacts of a number of dry and severe summers from the 1990s till 2015. In 2015 alone, “drought phenomena” were recorded in countries from Austria to Ukraine.

What makes the current crisis in Europe significant is its scale. According to the European Drought Observatory, 64% of the land in the European Union is being affected by drought, with 47% of the territory classed as having “warning” conditions, and 17% facing “alert” conditions. The European Commission Joint Research Centre (EC-JRC) has gone so far as to warn that the current drought may be the worst in 500 years.

That particularly bold assessment, to be more precise, comes from senior researcher Andrea Toreti. “Just to give you an idea, the 2018 drought was so extreme that, looking back at least the last 500 years, there were no other events similar to the drought of 2018, but this year I think it is really worse than 2018.”

The story, however, is the same across the Northern Hemisphere. Deutsche Welle showed alarm in declaring that, “from Hungary to Hawaii, from the drying Rhine River to the now-recovering Rio Grande, or from Casablanca to California, summer droughts and high temperatures are having a serious impact on everything from agriculture to the freight industry.”

The German broadcaster then goes on to note the lowering of Lake Garda’s levels, and the observation from one tourist. “We came last year, we liked it, and we came back this year.” Unfortunately, the landscape had altered. “We were a bit shocked when we arrived because we had our usual walk around, and the water wasn’t there.”

Across Europe, water levels in famed aqueous bodies have been falling and vanishing. Italy’s River Po has fallen to such a level that rice fields can no longer be watered consistently, nor clams sustained. In France, the warming of the Rhône and Garonne have made their water prohibitively hot to cool nuclear reactors.

Europe’s major waterways have been suffering a fall, producing colossal headaches for those involved in the transportation sector. (The focus on economic matters has the effect of ignoring the more attritive consequences that climate change has for both environment and species.) For countries such as Germany, which rely on suitably filled inland waterways, the signs are ominous, a point not helped by the ongoing problems with reduced delivery of Russian natural gas through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline.

The Rhine River has been so depleted that the standard number of vessels have been unable to sail with regularity and appropriate tonnage. The Rhine Waterways and Shipping Authority (WSA Rhein) confirmed that the lower water levels would lead to the passage of fewer barges transporting petrochemicals and oil products. Those that did could only make use of the river with reduced capacity.

For logistics wonks in the petrochemical business, this has meant sharp increases in costs, though a spokesperson for WSA Rhein tried to suggest that the “exceptionally low level” of water at this time of the year “was not significant.” The German logistics company HGK also urges calm, suggesting that things are “not as dramatic yet as in 2018.” The consultancy Elwis, which specialises in German waterways, disagrees. Were the water levels to fall to 20cm by mid-August, nothing would be able to navigate along the Rhine.

A spokesperson for the world’s largest chemical producer, BASF, summarised matters with gloomy precision: “The mark of 60cm of the Rhine has been undercut at Kaub. Levels in the range of 35-55cm are forecast for the next two weeks. For the predicted levels, some types of ships can no longer be used and will stop sailing; all others will sail with reduced loads.” To alleviate problems with cost, the company has been resorting to alternative modes of transport, including rail.

Another astonishing European waterway – the Danube – is also diminishing, suggesting how climate change is, quite literally, altering landscapes and transport systems. In Romania, Greenpeace activists tried to draw attention to the issue by dragging kayaks to a stretch of shoreline exposed by the retreating water. “We want Danube waves, not heat waves,” the protests declared in their banners.

In less transport related matters, scenes of parched earth have been beamed across the globe from the UK, a country famed for its rather mild climate. Parts of the country have experienced their driest July on record. Hosepipe bans have been introduced, and one can almost hear Britain’s drought-hardened cousins in Australia: shower less and shower together. Exacerbating the problem of decreased rainfall has been the unusually high temperatures, at times rising savagely beyond 40 degrees Celsius.

Globally, the earth is changing in violent, displacing fashion. Climate change will cause displacements in the order of tens of millions, if not more. Whole territories are vanishing, while other tracts of land are being exposed. Nature is not just being reordered but doing much of the reordering. What will humanity’s response be?


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  1. Alasdair

    It’s long been known that one of the worsening effects of climate change is access to, and use of, fresh water. (A few years ago somebody – I can’t remember who – said that the next global war would be fought about water rights.) That there are catastrophic droughts, floods, fires, storms of all sorts, is really just par for the course as we go about radically altering our climate, with no real thought for the future. Any change we do now can at most mitigate the very worst possible outcomes, not prevent them. We have long ago passed that tipping point. What amazes me still is the incredible short term thinking not only of governments (which is perhaps understandable; in most countries a government is only in power until it’s voted out) but of the people who vote for them. Locally we have had nine years of Coalition inaction, which has irrevocably damaged not only our current ecosystems, but our international standing. Nobody is going to look to Australia now as a shining example of How To Do It. And we could just as easily been a global leader! And Labor seem to be adopting a softly softly approach which is, quite frankly, far from good enough.

    Back to Europe: like Australia, the USA, and indeed most modern democracies and groupings of countries, we are seeing the result of government inaction, possibly (but not entirely) heavily linked to lobbying by vested fossil fuel interests, and grubby underhand dealing.

    Enjoy what future you you have left to you, folks. Who knows how long we’ll have one.

  2. Andrew Smith

    One does not follow legacy media much but I guess such reports have been disappeared, just in case it’s linked to climate science and fossil fuels…..

    Related, withstanding droughts etc. is the damage done by over extraction of river and artesian water sources, yet few if any remedial measures are taken….

  3. leefe

    And even this will not be enough to convince the fossil fools that urgent action is required.

  4. Fred

    On the bright side, some missing persons are now being found in the deepest points of dried reservoirs 🙂

  5. Phil Pryor

    We are stuffed, The real news is here. Ignore the media maggot muck about scandals, murders, crashes, crims, sports results, thefts and a hard luck story. This news topic is about our death and misery, soon enough. Runaway stupid out of control population expansion, excess consumption, acquisition, possession, ambition and that queue of egofixated loud pushy fools who dominate politics, control, markets, our very balance and existence. Xmas chooks, sacrificial, doomed…

  6. Canguro

    More than twenty-five years ago I worked in a national R&D Quango. We had a paper across our desks from the CSIRO that laid out how water would become a subject of contention between competing interests and nations, and would in all likelihood lead to confrontations.

    A quarter of a century on, and the reality of that prediction is approaching its nascency. Aquae vitae, the water of life, has, more or less, always been taken as a given, a never-ending and always available resource, until it isn’t. This century is significant in so many ways and more so for all the wrong reasons; the looming crises snowballing – pun unintended, even snowballs are on the way out – and a never-ending series of social, political, economic and environmental stressors piling one on top of the next on the already over-burdened shoulders of collective humanity.

    Elon Musk may be able to indulge in his rich man’s fantasy, albeit one unlikely to come to fruition, about hopping in his rocket and jetting off to a new life on Mars, but that option is, appropriately, not available for the greater bulk of earthbound planetoids. We’re stuck, metaphorically, in the mud of the drying out rivers, and must make the best of it.

    Spare a thought for the Turkish farmers of the Konya province, who must now think twice before venturing out at night should they wish to relieve their bursting bladders; a combination of drought, overextraction of water, increasing number of wells, many ‘illegal’, has led to a dramatic increase in the falling of the water table, has in turn led to a dramatic increase in the phenomenon of spontaneously arising sinkholes. As Mr Pryor so succinctly suggests, we are stuffed.

  7. Phil Pryor

    And, the Canguru is with my train of view, in that we are using up OURSELVES, but the Biggies, Egos, Incrowd self appointed new style executive nobility, hiding behind corporate, government, financial ramparts and walls, seem to think they are above this coming self inflicted disaster, this DEFEAT. We are STUFFED because the rude weilding arsehole dickheaded dodgy droppings are in control of the orthodox success story of hoarded wealth, of tarts, yachts, tax boltholes, the NOW with no sense of putting us ALL in the future SHIT of self inflicted ANNIHILATION. The wrong arseholes in control, as usual, THEATEN…

  8. andy56

    We have our own disaster in the making. The Murray river. The libs pissed $13b up a wall trying to put a square peg in a round hole.
    There is just not enough water for whats required for the environment AND prop up the irrigation industry. We are trying to do both and both sides appear to be somewhat pissed off that its failing everyone.
    We need to decide how much for the environment. If there is surplus it goes to irrigation, if not , it doesnt. On first read it sounds like i want to piss off the farmers, on the contrary. I want a realistic assessment of water requirements. If we want farmers to thrive, and i am sure most australians do, we need to make the decision to get more water and invest the money. That $13b could have done a hell of a lot.
    I predicted that the Murray scheme would collapse because it cant realistic please both sides with out creating other major problems.
    Barnaby should be strung up for trying so hard to appease the farmers that he didnt bother looking at the facts on the ground. Proper planning is not a popularity contest arsehole. Just to rub it in, the absolute lack of enthusiasm for conserving water shown by the Libs and Nats hasnt helped the farmers one bit.

  9. Graham

    Andrew, there has been a lot of that of late, reports and other inconvenient points of view disappearing from the internet. There’s a video on BitChute – Disturbing Proof They’re Quietly Deleting the Internet – ONLY the official narrative must survive apparently.
    As far as Europe drying up, why can’t it be politicians instead? This fact is certainly a man-made event. I watched a news clip last month of house fires in London ’caused’ by global warming and included in the vision were the skies above the fire zones. I have seen so much evidence of chemtrailing in the UK, but there it was. The Arctic must be melted, so what choice to resource hunters have other than to blanket the earth in heat-retaining high altitude ice particulates? Now, try searching the internet for impartial articles on the subject and relate your findings to the ‘deleting the internet’ analysis. Idiocracy in full flight.

  10. Gangey1959

    “Nature is not just being reordered but doing much of the reordering. What will humanity’s response be?”

    Humanity, or at least the leaders of humanity with the actual power and ability to take real action, have kept their heads firmly in the sand.

    Whatever the result, be it the cataclysmic events from Legend, great floods, atomic anihilation, Nature will have her way. Planet Earth will survive. Species Humanus Kindus, not so much. It will be sad that the rest of Nature’s current other amazing creations will peruish with us, but that is the way things go.

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