Warming climate prompts Europe to think outside the box – POLITICO

 In Politics
Illustrations by David Doran for POLITICO


From snowless ski slopes to green roofs and handling forest fires, the Continent is adapting to its new reality.



Climate change is linked to heat waves, floods, shrinking glaciers and forest fires. Those conditions have been the inspiration for European countries to find ways to keep some of the effects at bay. Here are six of those attempts:

Illustration by David Doran for POLITICO

Roofs in Rotterdam: Some 80 percent of this Dutch city is below sea level, so it wants to turn its rooftops into a second ground level to deal with flooding, bad air quality and a lack of green space. The city already counts around 250,000 square meters of green roofs, and is trying to financially encourage more people to join the effort. Green roofs are covered with soil and plants — and some host solar panels to make them even more energy efficient. They cool buildings during increasingly hot summers and can become mini-gardens for residents to grow vegetables. Green roofs also allow rainwater to slowly trickle down to the sewers, reducing the risk of flooding on the city’s small and winding streets. The municipality is offering a €20 subsidy on the cost of creating each square meter of green roof this year and next, and €15 for 2019 and 2020, after which the incentives are expected to end.

Illustration by David Doran for POLITICO

Schoolyard oases in Paris: City authorities think schoolyards can be used for more than play: They can work as cooling spots for the city’s vulnerable population during heat waves. Parisian playgrounds total more than 600,000 square meters but are largely covered with asphalt and closed to the wider population, even though most Parisians live within 200 hundred meters of a school. The authorities’ vision is to gradually replace asphalt with vegetation or other environmentally friendly materials and use the transformed yards as educational programs on climate change open to the public. Several research labsin the city are interested in monitoring the process, according to information compiled by a network called 100 Resilient Cities. The idea will be tested on a few schools, with the first “oasis schoolyard” expected to open in September 2018. If all goes well, 700 Parisian schools could take part.

Illustration by David Doran for POLITICO

Snowy homes for Finnish seals: Saimaa ringed seals — which number only about 360 in Finland’s Saimaa Lake — need deep snow to breed and protect their newly born pups from predators and harsh weather. Warming temperatures and scarce snow threaten the seals’ survival. To step in where nature has flagged, more than 200 people built 519 artificial snowdrifts during the previous three winters. The plan, developed at the University of Eastern Finland, is part of the country’s national conservation strategy. The volunteers gathered nearby snow and sculpted it into snowdrifts about 15 meters long and 1 meter high. Seals used more than three-quarters of these man-made snowdrifts, significantly increasing their pups’ chances of survival, according to the European Climate Adaptation Platform, which showcases adaptation examples across Europe.

Illustration by David Doran for POLITICO

Portugal’s killer forests: Wildfires are becoming an annual scourge in Portugal, made worse by rising temperatures. The future looks grim, with even hotter summers that could lead to tinderbox conditions. Past decisions to plant vast areas with eucalyptus trees for use in the country’s paper industry have exacerbated the problem. The trees are highly flammable, turning normal brush fires into raging infernos, as happened this year, killing more than 100 people. Thousands of people protested in Lisbon in late October, and the government promised more than €400 million in aid in response. When planting choices were made, climate change wasn’t much of a concern. Now that it is, the country is being forced to reconsider the trees it uses. “You can no longer grow your forests like you used to do or they will be just ravaged,” said Yvon Slingenberg, director for climate negotiations at the European Commission.

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