Sweltering summers and intense tropical nights will become the norm throughout France by the end of the century if humans do not step up the fight against climate change, a report by Météo France has warned.
The mild weather conditions of today will disappear regardless, the study’s authors say, with the Alps, Pyrenees, French Riviera and southern region of Occitania set to be hardest hit by global warming.
“For the next two or three decades, the future is already written,” Jean-Michel Soubeyroux, deputy director of climatology at Météo France, told Le Monde – adding the future beyond that will depend on our efforts to cut emissions.
“Either the warming will slow down, or we will reach a climate far removed from the one we are currently experiencing in France…a leap into the unknown, into a climate that has never before been experienced.”
Three potential futures
Based on modelling carried out for the UN, climatologists from the French national forecaster produced regional-scale estimates adapted from three potential global emissions scenarios.
The first involves a drastic reduction in greenhouse gases to reach carbon neutrality by 2070 (warming of +1°C), the second shows emissions growth until the middle of the century only (warming of +2.2°C), and the third is of a world with uncontrolled fossil fuel use (warming of +4.5°C).
The two more pessimistic scenarios are a long way off the targets of the Paris Agreement, which hopes to limit warming to 1.5°C – a threshold that could be reached as early as 2024.
Using the UN models, the scientists looked at the repercussions for France over three time periods: 2021-2050, 2041-2070 and 2071-2100. Warming in each scenario is contained to about 1°C until 2040, at which point the three trajectories sharply diverge.
Even under the most optimistic conditions forecast, the number of heatwave days in France is on track to double. In the second scenario they would triple to quadruple, and in the most extreme scenario they would multiple by five to 10 times.
The high mountain regions of the southern Alps and Pyrenees will see the most dramatic hike in temperatures, up to 6°C or 7°C above levels seen at the start of this century, drastically shortening ski seasons.
North-western parts of France, notably Brittany, will suffer least.
Citizens' convention thwarted
Environmental NGOs have criticised a lack of ambition by the government for a draft bill they say "sabotages” the work of 150 citizens who were asked to devise emissions-cutting proposals for the country.
Well-known French climatologist Jean Jouzel says the Météo France report highlights the country's vulnerability to climate change, and the urgency for France to meet its climate commitments.
“France needs to work three times faster to reduce its greenhouse emissions,” he told Le Monde. “It is a pity that all the proposals of the Citizens' Climate Convention have not been implemented.”