Half of Europe in drought in vulnerable moment of energy war with Russia
More than half of Europe is currently under drought warning or alert, a European Union agency said Tuesday, conditions it warned could extend through November and severely exacerbate the energy crisis caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The report, published by the EU’s Joint Research Center, found that 47% of Europe is under a drought warning, with an additional 17% under drought alert, meaning vegetation is affected.
Experts said the drought conditions appear to be the worst Europe has seen in at least 500 years.
The report said drought conditions are likely to have “severe impacts” on the EU’s energy sector, as countries race to fill their gas storage tanks and brace for a feared cutoff of Russian supplies this winter.
Russia has throttled gas deliveries via its Nord Stream 1 pipeline to just 20%, and leaders have scrambled to secure a range of energy alternatives amid fears that that amount could soon fall to zero.
But these alternatives could be at risk. Nuclear and coal-powered plants, which many countries have embraced as a short-term energy alternative, rely heavily on water for the cooling process.
And Norway, the EU’s second-largest natural gas supplier behind Russia, relies heavily on hydroelectric power. It warned earlier this month that it would have to curb its gas exports to Europe if drought conditions persist.
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The EU report noted that many parts of Europe are currently experiencing “severe-to-extreme” drought conditions, including Italy, eastern Germany, southeastern and northwestern France, and large parts of the Balkans.
“Warmer and drier than usual conditions” are likely to persist in much of the bloc through November, experts warned.
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“The combination of a severe drought and heatwaves has created an unprecedented stress on water levels in the entire EU,” EU Innovation Commissioner Mariya Gabriel said in a statement.