Causes and consequences for Germany

Heat, drought, heavy rain: the consequences of climate change are already being felt. Not only globally, also in Bavaria. What awaits us?

There are a lot of people Germany I still have the feeling: the climate change happens in other parts of the world. What do you say?

Diana Rehid: We clearly see a trend with rising temperatures and this is above average in Germany. There is a lot of talk about global warming rates that the world has warmed by 1.2 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times. In Germany, this value is significantly higher because the air near the ground warms up more on land than on water.

Warming comes from the emission of greenhouse gases such as CO2 or methane. What temperature rise are we talking about? Germany And Bavaria?

hide: In Germany, if you look at it as a linear trend, we have 1.6 degrees warming and in Bavaria this is 1.8 degrees by 2021 from 1880 – weather observations have since been reliably recorded in Germany. .

However, for many people these values ​​are abstract. What are the concrete consequences of this warming?

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hide: In this way, more extremes can be reached. In recent years, new heat records have been measured in various locations in Germany, where the temperature has even exceeded 40 degrees. This is something we humans feel directly, which also has health implications. The heat affects many people and, if you look at the year 2003, for example, it has caused many deaths from heat.

Where is the danger of heat? Bavarian Swabia the biggest?

hide: Especially in the lower regions, for example on the Danube. The temperature is already higher than in other areas. And it affects cities where the temperature is slightly higher than the surrounding areas.

The increase in hot days should become a problem, especially for an aging German society, right?

hide: This is a problem, right. The technical term is exposure. This means that more people are exposed to these risks, as older people are at a much greater risk of, for example, cardiovascular disease.

Dr Diana Rechid heads the Department for Regional and Local Climate Change at the Climate Service Center Germany (GERICS) of the Helmholtz Center Hereon in Hamburg.

Photo: Nicole Keller / Gerics

What other effects are there?

hide: In the Alpine region, for example, there are some permafrost regions. This means that underground areas are frozen all year round. As temperatures rise, they may thaw. This makes the rock unstable, which can lead to breakage in mountainous regions. So everything on the spot is under threat, such as mountain huts or mountain railways. There are also impacts on forests. Due to the high temperatures, there is a longer phase in which fires can occur. Even in spring, when the soil is also very dry due to strong evaporation and the green vegetation is not there yet, but only last year’s withered vegetation, a forest fire can quickly break out.

Is there a vicious circle why forests are important for storing CO2?

hide: Forests absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it into biomass and humus in forest soil, where the carbon can be stored over the long term. Increased heat and drought weaken many trees and thus reduce their sinking function. And as forest fires increase, more CO2 is released into the atmosphere, which in turn increases climate change.

About this dryness A current report fits: Based on this, groundwater in many Bavarian regions has low water levels. Much of our drinking water is obtained from groundwater. That’s all climate change it is not a marginal phenomenon, but it affects many people.

hide: Exactly. With higher temperatures, more water evaporates and, as a result, groundwater storage can be reduced. In spring they should actually be full.

Elsewhere, too much precipitation can fall at the same time.

hide: We have these contrasts between much and little rainfall, which is a particularly big challenge. This has also been demonstrated in Germany, particularly in recent years, due to heavy rains. Compared to heat and drought, these are small-scale effects such as in the Ahr Valley, where a lot of precipitation per unit of time has fallen over a longer period of time. Ultimately, the danger of heavy rain is everywhere in Germany and will also increase as warming increases.

It sounds dramatic. To what extent can we slow down global warming?

hide: The agenda is that we must do everything possible to achieve zero net emissions as quickly as possible. At the moment, emissions are still on the rise around the world. We need to prevent more of these greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere as quickly as possible.

What can individuals contribute?

hide: There are so many possibilities. We must avoid burning fossil fuels. We can use climate-friendly means of transport. We should consume consciously and not waste anything. In Germany we waste a lot of food and clothes, that is, things that cause a lot of emissions.

What to do policy do?

hide: We need to use electricity from renewable energy sources, which is becoming particularly evident in view of the Ukrainian crisis. For example, you could try to keep vehicles with internal combustion engines out of cities. A simple measure that is being discussed again: speed limits. It costs nothing and has a lot of potential. There is no measure and then everything is fine. There are many small measures that need to work together.

In addition to federal policy measures: what must happen at the municipal level?

hide: Green areas on roofs, for example, are useful, ideally combined with solar cells. Or parks and water areas. These surfaces allow the water to evaporate, which in turn can lead to local cooling. And we can also create white areas. They reflect the radiation instead of heating up. Building insulation can also help keep the heat out in the summer and keep the building warm in the winter, even without a lot of heating.

So the cities are not powerless in the fight against it climate change?

hide: No Much of the world’s population lives in cities and this is where most of the emissions are caused. In this sense, the potential for reducing emissions is also greater.

However: the large number of necessary measures sounds uncomfortable – for policy And the society.

hide: It’s a change for everyone, yes. A change for the whole of society. A change that will also make our life possible in the future.

Per person: Dr Diana Rechid heads the Department for Regional and Local Climate Change at the Climate Service Center Germany (GERICS) of the Helmholtz Center Hereon in Hamburg.

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