June 27, 2023
Last updated:
June 29, 2023

Europe heatwave must kick climate action into next gear

Global mean temperatures at the start of June 2023 were the warmest ever recorded for the period by a “substantial margin” – rising by 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels.

This was published in a statement from the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) on the 15th of June. Let’s take a deeper look at what they found.

This is not the first time that global temperature rises have exceeded the 1.5ºC level. In fact, temperature rises exceeded 1.5°C in December 2015, then again in 2016 and 2020. Previously, however, it has always occurred in the northern hemisphere’s winter and early spring, at which time winter warming has occurred over regions with lower ice cover. Summer warming has been inhibited by the seasonal melting of sea ice. Until now. June 2023 is an outlier. 

The 1.5ºC and 2ºC limits set in the Paris Agreement are targets for the average temperature of the planet over the twenty or thirty-year periods usually used to define climate. Passing the long-term global limits does therefore not signify a global failure just yet. But the fact remains that the global-mean temperature continues to rise. And the cumulative effects of these exceedances will become increasingly serious.

Every single fraction of a degree matters to avoid even more severe consequences of the climate crisis.

Deputy Director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service, Samantha Burgess, said this in their statement in June 2023.

Heatwave in Europe 2022

And the record-highs keep coming. A new report from C3S and the World Meteorological Organization, The State of the Climate, also shows the concerning extremes experienced in Europe last year. It found that Europe is the fastest warming continent in the world. And last summer was the warmest on record in Europe. The continent has been warming twice as much as the global average since the 1980s. In 2022, Europe was approximately 2.3°C above the pre-industrial (1850-1900) average. 

Constantly hitting new records should never become the norm. We cannot become complacent about reaching new extremes year after year. We must use these breaches as fuel for more decisive, accelerated action. Rather than sitting idly by, we must make up for decades of inaction by driving change now. Because there is still hope.

There was no shortage of severe consequences in Europe’s 2022 heatwave. In fact, meteorological, hydrological and climate-related hazards in Europe in 2022 resulted in 16,365 reported fatalities and caused USD 2 billion in economic damages.

Ocean heat content in 2022 was the highest on record, causing accelerated loss of ice mass and record-high sea levels. The monthly mean sea ice extent in the European arctic was 6% below average. Since 1997, glaciers in the alps in Europe have reduced in ice thickness by an average of 34 meters, experiencing a new record mass loss in a single year in 2022.

2022 also saw flash flooding in Italy and Türkiye, 10 countries on the continent had their warmest year on record, France had its driest January to September, Spain’s water reserve decreased to 41.9% of its total capacity by July, and marine heatwaves led to mass instinctions and disruptions of ecosystems and biodiversity.

Clean energy to the rescue

Rather than reducing global energy-related CO2 emissions, in 2022 they grew by 0.9%, reaching a new high of over 36.8 Gt. The very foundation of energy systems needs a re-write as we cannot continue on the current path. To foster this radical transformation, the EU adopted the European Climate Law, which requires Europe to be climate neutral by 2050 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 – a key pillar of this is significantly cutting energy sector emissions. The EU also recently passed a binding renewable energy target of 42.5% by 2030. This is helping to trigger change, but it is still too slow. 

In 2022, electricity generated from wind and solar overtook fossil gas and coal power for the first time, largely due to the huge increase in solar power capacity. The share, however, was still just 22.3%. To get this number higher, we must see a drastic turning point in the latter part of this decade.

But the effects of global warming are actually making the decarbonization of energy even trickier, sending us into a dangerous spiral. Extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, droughts and storms make it increasingly difficult to bring resilience to clean energy systems. Interconnectivity between variable renewable energy sources, storage systems and energy-consuming assets is critical to increasing the share of intermittently renewables in the power mix and reach our ambitious climate targets, while also guaranteeing energy security. 

Renewable energy projects can only be quickly and cost-efficiently scaled by leveraging digital technologies. We must unlock demand-side flexibility, enable prosumers to actively contribute to the energy transition and integrate clean heating and mobility with renewables. Without smart and holistic energy management systems, we won’t make the switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy in time. 

So, what are you waiting for?

Get the report!
Heat Pump Report
Heat pumps are the future of heating. Learn how you can unleash the full power of heat pumps through intelligent integration with an energy management system.
Stay in the loop!
Sign up for our newsletter. We won't spam you. Just one update per month. Unsubscribe any time.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.