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'The future is already here': How climate change is affecting Germany

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'The future is already here': How climate change is affecting Germany
Youngsters playing in the Hopfensee in Füssen, Bavaria, on an extremely hot day in July. Photo: DPA
15:17 CET+01:00
From prolonged droughts to unpredictable weather and hotter days: the effects of global warming are already becoming increasingly noticeable in Germany.

Now a new report has shone a light on how bad the situation is.

The average air temperature in Germany increased by 1.5C between 1881 and 2018, according to the German government's Climate Monitoring Report, published on Tuesday. In the past five years alone, the temperature has gone up by 0.3C.

"The consequences of climate change are becoming increasingly apparent," said Environment Minister Svenja Schulze of the centre-left Social Democrats.

Global warming leads to higher health risks due to heat stress, while an increase in the mean surface temperature of the North Sea results in greater fluctuations in agricultural yields. Cities, in particular, need to be better prepared for heat, heavy rainfall and flooding.

Here are the results at a glance:

- The increase of the mean temperature will lead to more hot days in Germany when the temperature rises above 30C. Whereas in 1951 there was an average of three days of extreme heat per year, there are now 10.

- The report lists heat-related deaths in Germany for the first time. Around 7,500 more people died in 2003 than would have been expected without heat waves. In both 2006 and 2015, there were 6,000 additional deaths each year.

- Over the past 10 years, prolonged drought has increasingly led to low groundwater levels. As a result, some communities have had problems with drinking water supplies.

READ ALSO: Climate crisis: Berlin to be 'as hot as Australia' in 30 years

The six large reservoirs in the Harzwasserwerke, Lower Saxony, were only 46 percent full in September. Photo: DPA

- Low water levels in rivers affect not only the ecosystem, but also the economy, because ships can only navigate through rivers in these conditions to a limited extent. Plus the supply of cooling water to power plants and industry is endangered.

- The available water in agricultural soils has declined significantly over the past 50 years, the report said. In 2018, heat and drought caused €700 million of damage to agriculture.

The study shows that climate change is not an abstract problem for future generations. "The future has already reached us," said Maria Krautzberger, President of the Federal Environment Agency (UBA), which was also involved in putting together the report.

READ ALSO: What does Germany's planned climate protection package mean for you?

The effects of climate change need to be researched further. "It is conceivable that the federal government and the states will support and finance a special climate protection programme," said Krautzberger.

UN report on global emissions

The UN has warned that the current measures in the fight against climate change are not sufficient. Countries would have to step up their efforts immensely if they were to jointly achieve the target of a global temperature increase of no more than 1.5C, according to a study by the UN Environment Programme Unep, which was also unveiled on Tuesday.

If the world's population continues to live as it does today, the temperature could rise by up to 3.9C by the end of the century instead of the 1.5C target, compared to pre-industrial levels.

From December 2nd to 13th, representatives from 200 countries will meet at the UN Climate Change Conference in Madrid to discuss the fight against climate change.

READ ALSO: What are the key points of Merkel's new climate strategy?

Vocabulary

Global warming - (die) Erderwärmung

Consequences - (die) Folgen

Heat related deaths - (die) hitzebedingte Todesfälle

German government's climate report - (der) Klimabericht der Bundesregierung

Drought - (die) Dürre / (die) Trockenheit

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