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How the Summer of 2023 Had Some of Europe’s Most Extreme Ever Weather

Almost the entire European continent experienced tragedy related to weather events this summer.

A man runs his head under a water fountain.
A man running his head under water during the European heatwave in Pompeii, Italy on July 16, 2023. Credit: Shutterstock/ Adam McCullough.

Extreme weather tormented the European continent this summer. Atypical hail storms hit Northern Italy, extreme heat blanketed Southern Europe, wildfires raged across Greece and the Mediterranean, and Balkan countries flooded.

Almost the entire continent and many other parts of the world experienced tragedy related to the weather this summer.

Large hailstones fell from the sky and injured more than 110 people in Veneto, Italy, in July.

In this same month, hospitals in Italy registered a 25% increase in emergency cases of illnesses related to heat exposure, including dehydration. 

This month, more than ten people died in Mediterranean and Balkan countries after flash floods wiped out bridges, homes and buildings.

Extreme weather, especially severe heat, is affecting other regions around the world as well. According to NASA’s global temperature analysis, June was the hottest month on record globally.

Economic Effects

In addition to the devastating effects of climate on health, goods, and wildlife, the European Commission warned about the effect of extreme weather on regional economies earlier this month.

The European Commission predicted that economic growth will be slower this year, averaging 0.8% instead of 1%. In 2024, the growth rate decreased from 1.7% to 1.4%. 

The cause behind this drop is extreme weather. 

Extreme weather conditions can lead to the loss of natural capital and the slowing of economic activity. 

One economic sector affected by extreme weather is tourism. This past summer, tourists were told not to visit Maui, HI, after fires destroyed significant areas of the island in August.

Additionally, this summer was the hottest summer ever recorded. Tourists faced extreme heat in crowded cities over the hottest months. 

Now, top travel destinations like Italy, Spain and Greece may be replaced with countries where the heat is more bearable.

According to the European Travel Commission, places like the Czech Republic, Denmark and Ireland have surged in popularity among tourists.

Tourism makes up at least 10% of GDP in Europe. Extreme weather and climate change pose a significant threat to the economic sector—especially for individual countries like Greece, where tourism produces around 20% of the economy.

The EU’s Next Steps

Before the summer of extreme heat, floods and storms, the European Parliament promoted the European Climate Law.

This law raised the percentage of net greenhouse gas emissions that countries need to reduce to 55% by 2030. Initially, the goal was a 40% reduction by 2030. 

The European Green Deal includes legislation like the Climate Law that aims to protect a safe and healthy future for everyone.

After this summer, however, there may be an even greater effort from the European Union and its climate policies.

For example, this summer, Europe’s car-free movement gained popularity. 

The idea originally started in Pontevedra, Spain. It was intended to combat car-related deaths and incidents. However, car-free lifestyles benefit the environment too, as alternate forms of transportation emit fewer greenhouse gases.

Despite the EU’s impressive efforts, change still needs to be generated from domestic levels. Individual countries must use their resources, like tax incentives, strong fiscal institutions and efficient spending, to focus on combatting climate change.

Ultimately, climate change and extreme weather is a global problem that involves every country and economy. It isn’t just about hotter temperatures and rising ocean levels, how we can protect livelihoods and lives.

Written By

I'm Jessica Walker and I'm a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill majoring in journalism and international relations. Along with writing and reporting, I'm also interested in foreign affairs and politics. I love traveling, reading good books, and watching and playing tennis.

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