The World Today for August 26, 2022


Lights Off


Not a drop of rain has fallen this summer on the reservoir in Sau, a town in Spain around 65 miles north of Barcelona. Now, as Vice reported, the entire Santa Romà de Sau Church is exposed as if the reservoir had never submerged it decades ago. So-called “hunger stones,” or markers of past droughts, as well as sunken ships and other relics of the past such as ordinances from World War II have been showing up in dried-up rivers throughout the continent, added BuzzFeed News.

The drought, the worst in Europe in 500 years, has hit many other parts of the world hard. More than 60 percent of Europe is under drought warnings or alerts. But, spurred by climate change, it’s also coming at the same time that European leaders are grappling with how to cut back on importing Russian gas – the energy that emits the same greenhouse gas emissions that have helped create the problem in the first place, adding a sense of urgency to the changes that the drought might bring.

In France, the country’s storied agricultural regions are grappling with rationing, CNN reported. Mustard, for example, has all but disappeared in shops as customers fight over remaining jars.

In major French cities, shops that use air conditioning must now make sure their doors are closed or face $750 fines, even though electricity is cheap due to the county’s robust nuclear power infrastructure, the Guardian added.

In Germany, the water levels of the Rhine River, one of the most important industrial lifelines in the world, are so low that even empty vessels can no longer navigate them, Reuters wrote. The crisis is extending the supply chain problems that have wreaked havoc on the global economy in the post-pandemic era.

Meanwhile, the lights on landmarks in Berlin are dimmed or turned off in the evenings, noted Euronews.

The implications are not just economic. Writing in a Bloomberg opinion column University of Georgia historian Stephen Mihm warned that environmental upheaval usually leads to social disruptions, too, as resources dwindle and costs skyrocket. He cited records showing how drought – and consequent privation and malnourishment – caused headaches for Roman emperors, and worsened the Black Death.

Europeans are already asking if the drought could affect the continent’s cost-of-living crisis, for instance, added Al Jazeera.

Proposals to cut Russian gas consumption in Europe dovetail nicely with politicians seeking ways to respond to the crisis. The EU, which obtains around 40 percent of its gas from Russia, aims to cut that consumption by two-thirds within a year. By 2030, European officials aim to be free from all Russian fossil fuels entirely, the BBC wrote.

It’s not clear how that reduction will be possible: Wired magazine believes it is – if Europeans can tolerate big sacrifices – though importing more American natural gas might ultimately be the answer, according to the Atlantic Council.

Will those efforts help with the drought today? Not at all. Will they help years from now? Maybe.

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