Climate Now Debate | How can we build our resilience to weather extremes?

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From scorching heatwaves to deadly floods, Europe is still reeling from a string of extreme weather events this summer. Scientists warn such disasters will only become more frequent and more severe as the climate crisis worsens. So how can we better prepare for it?

Put your questions to our panel and join the discussion on weather extremes and climate change on September 20 at 5pm CEST.

This important conversation will come just a few weeks after the IPCC international panel of scientists warned time was running out to avert the worst effects of climate change, and ahead of crucial UN climate talks in Glasgow known as COP26.

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What's the problem?

Scientists say there is little doubt climate change drives extreme weather events.

According to the World Meteorological Organisation (WM0), the number of weather-related disasters has increased by a factor of five as the planet warmed over the past 50 years.

"We have more water vapour in the atmosphere, which is exacerbating extreme rainfall and deadly flooding. The warming of the oceans has affected the frequency and area of existence of the most intense tropical storms,” says WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

Global warming increased the likelihood of the floods that claimed more than 200 lives in Germany and Belgium in July by up to nine times, a study by the World Weather Attribution (WWA) scientific consortium has shown.

The European Union’s climate monitoring service Copernicus said average temperatures across the continent this summer were the warmest on record at almost 1 degree Celsius higher than the 1991-2020 average.

Meanwhile, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a bleak report last month warning that such extreme weather events were poised to become even more common in the future.

The kind of heatwave that used to happen only once every 50 years now happens once a decade, the IPCC said. If the world warms another degree Celsius, it will happen twice every seven years.

What can we do about it?

In this context, building up our societies' resilience and preparedness for extreme weather is a matter of urgency.

The devastation wrought by the multiple summer disasters has highlighted that governments and societies were insufficiently prepared to face the effects of climate change.

Countries are already starting to rethink their disaster preparedness strategies. The large wildfires last month fueled by record-high temperatures prompted Greece to appoint a new minister of climate crisis and civil protection, for instance.

As destructive floods exposed the weakness of dams, dykes, bridges and drainage systems, major investments in infrastructures will also be required.

Improving early warning systems — and how authorities and communities respond to them — is another priority.

Ultimately, scientists say a drastic cut in carbon emissions remains the only option to avert climate damage in the long term. But even sweeping efforts will not substantially influence the weather for decades. So in the meantime, how can societies reduce their vulnerability to weather extremes?

What policies are needed on a regional, national and local level to prevent and mitigate the impacts of these events? How can we build climate-resilient infrastructure and improve our early warning systems?

How do we articulate immediate action for disaster preparedness with longer-term policies for carbon neutrality? And what can the COP 26 summit due to start at the end of next month achieve in this regard?

On September 20 at 5pm CEST, Euronews science correspondent Jeremy Wilks will put these questions and more to leading climate scientists and policy-makers, including:

Ask your questions to our panel as they discuss the weather extremes and climate change on this page or on our YouTube channel.

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