How climate change might affect Germany by 2050
How climate change might affect Germany by 2050
The EU wants to be climate neutral by 2050. However, the wheels of climate change are in motion and Germany could look very different by then. With temperatures expected to soar in the coming years, and extreme weather becoming more frequent, let’s take a look at how Germany might change by 2050.
Climate changes expected in Germany
Just before the floods that devastated the states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) analysed the climate changes in Germany on behalf of Deutsche Bahn. According to the PIK’s report, temperatures in the federal republic are expected to soar in the coming years and, by 2060, Germans can expect a lot more hot days in the year and much milder winters. It has been estimated that, from now, the Upper Rhine Graben will see double the number of hot days by 2050, compared to the period between 1970 and 2000.
A study from the UK suggests that warmer weather will likely lead to an increase in the number of slow-moving storms, with computer models predicting they could become as much as 14 times more common by the end of the century. Slow-moving storms pose a particular problem, as the slower a storm moves, the more water is dumped over a small area, greatly increasing the risk of flooding. The research shows that "in addition to the intensification of rainfall with global warming, we can also expect a big increase in slow-moving storms,” said Professor Lizzie Kendon from the UK Met Office. “This is very relevant to the recent flooding seen in Germany and Belgium, which highlights the devastating impacts of slow-moving storms.”
Could weather changes lead to social changes in Germany?
While the promise of warmer temperatures might initially fill you with thoughts of sunny skies, sandy beaches, and lunchtime football, experts warn that rising temperatures will pose a number of problems in the future. According to Daniela Jacob, the director of the German Institute for Climate Services, hot climates can seriously affect our health. “If the temperature does not even drop below 20 degrees at night, it means that we cannot rest properly and are less productive,” she said.
In order to escape the heat, people will usually retreat indoors and employ the use of energy-intensive air conditioning systems, which, as Jacob points out, contributes to and exacerbates the effects of climate change. Running air conditioning systems more often will also translate to higher energy bills, meaning that households will have to pay more for their living costs, or try and cope with the heat.
Jacob has also suggested that hotter temperatures around the world could lead to people rethinking where they go for their holidays. Summers on the coasts of the North Sea and Baltic Sea are expected to become warmer and more stable, as compared to typical tourist destinations like the Mediterranean area, which is expected to hit over 40 degrees in the summer months - too hot for people on their holidays. This shift in tourism might bring money and help fortify the economy in northern German coastal towns. However, tourism brings its own problems, and crowds of people flocking to these places for their holidays might prove contentious for the locals.
Dealing with the rain
More rain in the future will likely have a number of effects on the people of Germany. Long, heavy rain, coupled with the expectation of higher temperatures, poses a problem for Germany’s farmers. Jacob suggests that “in agriculture, we have to rely on varieties that can cope with these strong temperatures and humidity variations.” And while heavy downpours and slow-moving storms might become more frequent, the hotter temperatures mean that the ground will become drier in the summer months, and water will become scarcer. Jacob has warned that the agriculture industry will have to adapt, lest traditional crops become harder to cultivate and harvest.
Slow-moving storms and sustained heavy rain will also lead to an increased threat of flooding, particularly in northern and western Europe, according to Ralf Merz, a hydrologist at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research. Sustained heavy rain can cause rivers to overflow and flash flooding to occur, and one only has to look at the damage caused by the rains and floods in Germany last week to understand how serious of a problem this could pose in the future.
Most climate experts agree that more needs to be done to combat the threat of climate change. While experts warn that climate change has gotten to a critical point in recent years, Merz believes there might be hope yet. “We are still, hopefully, at the tipping point at which the climate will change significantly over the long term. That means we have to stop the development now before it is too late,” he said.