Temperatures in Brussels hit 40 degrees at the weekend.

Sorry to rain on your parade... but climate change is very real

Honestly I could get used to this life. Lunch outside in the sunshine chatting to colleagues, sunset drinks in the park after work, apéro (what French people call drinks and snacks) on the patio, trips to the beach, city walks with new landmarks to see and people to meet. My all-time favourite thing about this city is going to the Sunday morning markets under the sun and trying the foods, fruits, juices and coffees they have to offer.

The entire experience has been enhanced by the weather. After spending the weekend at Blankenberge beach, I am once again burnt to a crisp, resembling a pink and white squashie sweet. And I’m not the only one if reports from home are anything to go by. I have gotten several snaps revealing that the weekend’s heatwave has left many in a similar state. Speaking for myself anyway, it wasn’t stupidity that got me into the situation of wincing each time I move. I applied two layers of factor 30 sunscreen on myself and still managed to get burnt. Annoying as it is, in a few days I know the redness will fade revealing a bronzed, sun-kissed glow. Not that I purposely go out and get burnt for this reason, I am very aware of the dangers of the sun, but it’s one of those things that you can’t reverse once it happens. Nonetheless I was alarmed when I saw the extent of my burn when I returned home from the beach on Saturday evening. The rays were obviously a lot stronger than what I had expected.

Most of us love to see the announcement of a heatwave. It invigorates us, prompting pursuits such as pulling out the barbecue, painting, gardening, taking trips to the beach and just enjoying more time outside. As of late, I have started taking guilty pleasure in enjoying the sunshine. Pleasure because I adore it, but guilt because I know temperatures as of late are unnatural.

Europe’s second heatwave of the year has not been without its consequences. While temperatures here in Brussels hit the 40 mark yesterday, they are closer to 50 degrees Celsius in Portugal. Wildfires have been raging across Portugal, Spain, Greece, Morocco, Croatia and Hungary causing hundreds of deaths, injuries and loss of land. These disasters are happening in Europe as we speak, but in the not so long term we are also facing a drought crisis.

In Ireland, a comparison of spring temperatures and rainfall levels from 2016-2022 show temperatures progressively increased while rainfall decreased. Our country has faced many weather extremes in the past few years, as we well know with snow storms in late spring, wind storms, heavy rain and now a heatwave. Spring 2022 reports show that the average temperature was above normal and rainfall was below. While the prospect of drought may be laughable to us Irish, countries across the water are not laughing. In areas of northern Italy, there has been little or no rain from December 2021 to March 2022, which is a continuing trend into the summer months. Italy is already experiencing record high energy prices due to shortages in the Italian hydropower system. In agriculture, farmers depend on the River Po, which is currently at very low levels. Where fields were once lush with crops, they are now filled with wilted plants or nothing. Earlier this month, the collapse of the Marmolada glacier killed seven people and injured others.

These are just a few examples of how climate change is affecting one European country, with others in similar situations. It is only when I moved abroad that I started to realise how stark the situation actually is. I mean if you mention drought to an Irish person, you can almost guarantee they will laugh in your face. What sparked my interest in this was a few scary predictions for the future. According to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) estimations, 50% of the global population will live in a water stressed city by 2025 (that’s only three years away). By 2050, predictions indicate a one fifth decline in crop yield, meaning there will not be enough food to feed the world’s population. WHO also predicts that between the years 2030 and 2050, the effects of climate change will cause one quarter of a million more deaths each year.

Truth be told, I am no Greta Thunberg but my eyes certainly have been opened. Living in the centre of Brussels, it is easier to be that bit more environmentally friendly. I am able to walk everywhere and, where I can’t, I use public transport. Coming from the Irish countryside, I know this is not possible for everybody. However, we can turn off lights when we leave the room, only use the washing machine when there is a full load of laundry to go into it, fix that dripping tap, use the dishwasher for washing up as opposed to washing at the sink, stop buying too much food and later throwing it out. I have noticed that, if you actually think about it, there are little areas where you can adapt to be more environmentally friendly.

So now, when I am out enjoying the scorching hot weather, these are my thoughts. Sorry to rain on everybody’s parade!

* Gemma Good is from Killeshandra and a second year journalism student in University of Limerick.


A supercharged weekend