Rhein on Energy and Climate

In 2013 weather conditions in Europe have been marked by high instability and unpredictability.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish the seasons.

In March winter weather prevailed, in December spring time. The rain distribution has become very uneven, with heavy rains causing massive inundations, especially in Northwestern Europe.

Strong and frequent winds have become a familiar component of European weather, making wind power generation an increasingly reliable and attractive renewable power source.

The weather vicissitudes have caused unusually high insurance damage, mostly from inundations and storms.

They are also hurting winter sport activities. Hardly any winter resort below 2000 m can survive without artificial snow, particularly visible in preparation of the Olympic Games in Sotchi where snow had to be collected and stored over months to be available in February 2014.

Climate change is thus becoming a cost factor of rising importance. If it continues like this many resorts will have to painfully adapt to “green winters” in the coming 30 years.

Compared to milder and stormier winters summer heat spells have not been a prominent aspect of climate. If this trend continues expenditures for heating will fall, especially if helped by more effective insulation.

Thanks to its geographic position surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean and the Baltic Sea tiny Europe seems far less threatened by the arrival of severe climate change than other continents, especially Asia and North America. The waters around, combined with the heat provided in winter by the Gulf Stream, shield Europe against excessive changes.

At the same time, its geographic diversity offers plenty of wind, solar and marine energy to supply a rising chunk of Europe’s energy needs from non-fossil sources. Its scientific prowess should enable it to develop additional technologies for mitigating climate change globally.

All these factors combined place Europe in a privileged position for the forthcoming negotiations on a global climate compact in 2014-15. China, India, many parts of Africa and the USA need such an agreement far more than Europe.

We should keep this in mind, without forgetting our responsibility to fight against climate change. After all, we are a rich continent with huge financial and technological means. Moreover, we should always keep in mind the rising risk of being overwhelmed one day by millions of climate refugees having lost their livelihood in their home countries! If that were to happen it is likely to be the end of European civilisation.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 8/1/2014

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