5 Things to Know About Europe's Scorching Heatwave
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5 Things to Know About Europe’s Scorching Heatwave

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5 Things to Know About Europe’s Scorching Heatwave

5 Things to Know About Europe’s Scorching Heatwave

For the last few months, Europe’s smoldering heatwave has been wreaking havoc across the region, causing destructive wildfires, severe droughts, and thousands of deaths.

The EU’s record-breaking temperatures are making headlines around the world, as experts worry these extreme heatwaves could be the region’s new normal.

Given the volume of coverage on the topic, we sifted through dozens of articles and Twitter threads (so you don’t have to) and complied a list of the five major things to know about Europe’s smothering heatwave.

① High Temperatures are Shattering Records

Temperatures have been hitting all-time highs across the region.

On Monday, July 18, dozens of towns across France reported record-breaking temperatures of up to 42°C (107.6°F). In the same week, the UK experienced its hottest day on record at 40.3°C (104.5°F), breaking Britain’s previous record of (38.7°C) 101.7°F that was set back in 2019.

The heat in London was so unprecedented, the city’s national rail service issued a warning to the public, urging passengers to stay home and only travel if necessary. Some major rail lines were even closed for parts of the day on Tuesday, July 19.

② Europe is Feeling the Burn

The smoldering heat is fueling disastrous wildfires across the continent. As of July 20, an estimated 1,977 wildfires have blazed across the region in 2022—almost 3x the average amount, according to historical data from the European Forest Fire Information System.

Mediterranean countries have been hit particularly hard, with thousands of people in Portugal, Spain, and France evacuating their homes.

③ Going With the (Low) Flow

Along with the devastating wildfires, Europe’s heatwave is also causing a series of droughts across the region.

While most European cities have at least one river or lake crossing their urban landscape, these rivers and bodies of water are at risk of drying out. For instance in early July, Italy’s Po River was experiencing a drought so severe, that the country’s government issued a state of emergency in five different regions.

④ Energy Demands are Creating an Awkward Situation

Last year, Europe set ambitious goals to cut 55% of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

But, in the wake of a global energy crisis, many European countries have put their green transition plans on hold as they turn to “dirtier” fuels like coal to keep their economies running business-as-usual. This timing is a tad awkward, considering the fact the region is currently ablaze with record-breaking temperatures that experts believe are human-induced.

The aforementioned “low flow” on many European rivers are also impacting hydroelectricity and even nuclear electricity generation, as too little water is available for cooling purposes.

On the bright side, at least Germany has made some progress in the realm of renewable energy—on July 17, the country generated a record-breaking amount of electricity from solar panels.

⑤ Climate Change is a Factor, but Heatwaves are Complicated

Experts claim that climate change is playing a part in these record-breaking heatwaves. Around the world, global surface temperatures have risen by about 1.0°C (1.8°F) since the 1850s, and scientists claim this temperature increase has been indisputably influenced by human activity.

However, there may be other factors that are influencing these extreme heatwaves. While the exact specifics are difficult to nail down due to the variable nature of the climate, a recent study published in Nature Communications found that Europe’s escalating heatwaves could be partly attributed to changing air currents, which are blowing hot air from North Africa to Europe.

The Bottom Line

At least 1,500 lives have been lost so far amidst this record-breaking heatwave. And since temperatures are expected to remain high across the region for at least another week, this figure will likely increase.

European homes are generally not well equipped for exceptionally high temperatures, and since the continent has the oldest median age of any region, its population is particularly susceptible to the negative effects of extreme weather.

Livelihoods are also being impacted by the extreme weather. Temperatures are drying out soil, which is creating poor growing conditions for corn farmers in France, Romania, and Spain, the region’s top corn producers.

Long story short—Europe’s heatwave is having disastrous effects on its economy and infrastructure, as well as the overall wellbeing of the region’s population.

Update: The map from cool.wx was revised to better reflect Europe’s present day borders.

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Green

Mapped: Carbon Dioxide Emissions Around the World

This graphic maps out carbon emissions around the world and where they come from, using data from the European Commission.

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mapping carbon dioxide emissions worldwide

Mapped: Carbon Dioxide Emissions Around the World

According to Our World in Data, the global population emits about 34 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO₂) each year.

Where does all this CO₂ come from? This graphic by Adam Symington maps out carbon emissions around the world, using 2018 data from the European Commission that tracks tonnes of CO₂ per 0.1 degree grid (roughly 11 square kilometers).

This type of visualization allows us to clearly see not just population centers, but flight paths, shipping lanes, and high production areas. Let’s take a closer look at some of these concentrated (and brightly lit) regions on the map.

China, India, and the Indian Ocean

As the two most populated countries and economic forces, China and India are both significant emitters of CO₂. China in particular accounts for about 27% of global CO₂ emissions.

And looking at the oceans, we see how much shipping adds to emissions, with many shipping lanes east of China clearly outlined as well as the major Indian Ocean lane between the Strait of Malacca and the Suez Canal.

The United States and Central America

The United States is one of the world’s biggest carbon emitters. While other countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia technically have higher emissions per capita, their overall emissions are relatively low due to smaller populations.

Across the U.S., the most brightly lit areas are major population centers like the Boston-Washington corridor, the Bay Area, and the Great Lakes. But also lit up are many of the interconnecting highways linking all these population centers, even in the less-populated middle of the country.

With so much traffic in and out of the U.S., the oceans become a murky mix of shipping and flight paths. To the south, very clearly visible is the major concentration of people around Mexico City and the traffic flowing through the Panama Canal.

South America’s Network of Emissions

Like the other regions, some of South America’s most populated areas are also the biggest emitters, such as São Paulo and Rio in Brazil and Buenos Aires in Argentina. This map also highlights the continent’s rough terrain, with most of the population and highway emissions limited to the coasts.

However, the cities aren’t the only big emitters in the region. There are clear lines intersecting the Amazon forest in many sections where cities and roads were constructed, including the economic hub city of Manaus along the Amazon River. Likewise, the oceans have many major shipping lanes highlighted, particularly East of Brazil.

Europe and North Africa

Germany is one of Europe’s biggest carbon emitters—in 2021, the country generated almost 644 million tonnes of CO₂.

Also making an impression are Italy (which is the second-highest CO₂ emitter after Germany) and the UK, as well the significant amount of trade along the English Channel.

Compared to the intricate network of cities, towns, and bustling highways spanning Europe, across the Mediterranean are far clearer and simpler lines of activity in Northern Africa. Two major exceptions are in the Middle-East, where Egypt’s Nile River and Suez Canal are massively lit up, as well as Israel on the east of the sea.

But a more significant (albeit murkier) picture is drawn by the massive amounts of shipping and flight paths illuminating the Atlantic and Mediterranean at large.

Net Zero by 2050

To mitigate the negative effects of climate change, countries around the world have made commitments to reach net-zero emissions.

Imagining the global map of emissions with these commitments in action requires a complete transformation of energy production, consumption habits, transportation infrastructure, and more. And even then, a future generated map wouldn’t be fully dark, as “net-zero” is not equivalent to zero emissions but a balance of emissions and removal.

How might this map of global emissions look in the near and distant future? And what other interesting insights can you generate by browsing the world this way?

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Environment

The Construction Industry’s Growing Waste Problem

Globally around 2 billion tonnes of waste is generated every year and the construction industry is a large contributor.

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The following content is sponsored by Northstar Clean Technologies

The Construction Industry’s Growing Waste Problem

Globally around 2 billion tonnes of waste is generated every year and the construction industry is a large contributor.

What’s more, demand for construction materials is growing alongside population and economic development, but the production of new materials to support this growth consumes both energy and resources.

The above infographic from Northstar Clean Technologies highlights the final destinations of construction and demolition (C&D) debris.

Breaking Down Waste

The sad truth is that only a small amount of C&D debris that could be repurposed actually is.

So where do these materials end up? Let’s take a look at the breakdown of C&D debris by destination in 2018, recorded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Material C&D Debris Type (million tons)LandfillCompost & Mulch Manu. Products Aggregate, Other Fuel Soil Amend.
Concrete71.2032.8301.200
Wood29.62.51.207.50
Gypsum Drywall13.200.2001.9
Metal 1.103.6000
Brick and Clay Tile10.8001.500
Asphalt Shingles13020.10.020
Asphalt Concrete4.9091.810.300

143.8 million tons of C&D waste was sent to landfill in 2018, consisting of a mix of materials ranging from wood, concrete, and asphalt.  

Concrete was the highest repurposed C&D material while other materials like asphalt shingles were primarily sent to landfill. In fact, 86% of total asphalt shingles waste was dumped in landfills in 2018, where they do not decompose or biodegrade. Asphalt shingles are a material found on the roofs of approximately 75% of homes in the U.S. and Canada.

All in all, the average U.S. home can generate around 3-4 tonnes of tear-off waste during a common renovation process, such as re-roofing.

The Benefits of Repurposing Materials

Repurposing materials reduces waste while being both energy and cost-efficient.

The global asphalt market is growing, expected to reach $321.5 million by 2027, a CAGR of 4.8% compared to 2020. With this expected growth, repurposing asphalt shingles is not only a big business opportunity but a path forward to reducing the environmental impact of the construction industry. 

By repurposing materials like asphalt shingles, the waste that goes into landfills can be reduced.

Northstar Clean Technologies reprocesses waste asphalt shingles to target three main sectors: road paving, flat roof manufacturing, and new shingle manufacturing.

Find more on how Northstar Clean Technologies repurposes asphalt shingles by clicking here now.

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