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WILDFIRES

Europe facing record year for wildfire destruction: EU

Europe's blistering summer may not be over yet, but 2022 is already breaking records, with nearly 660,000 hectares ravaged since January, according to the EU's satellite monitoring service.

Firefighters douse smouldering rubbles in a burnt house in spain
Firefighters douse smouldering rubbles in a burnt house after a wildfire in the Valle del Arlanza, near Burgos in Spain on July 25, 2022. (Photo by CESAR MANSO / AFP)

And while countries on the Mediterranean have normally been the main seats of fires in Europe, this year, other countries are also suffering heavily.

Fires this year have forced people to flee their homes, destroyed buildings and burned forests in EU countries, including Austria, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Some 659,541 hectares (1.6 million acres) have been destroyed so far, data from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) showed, setting a record at this point in the year since data collection began in 2006.

Europe has suffered a series of heatwaves, forest fires and historic drought that experts say are being driven by human-induced climate change.

They warn more frequent and longer heatwaves are on the way.

The worst-affected country has been Spain, where fire has destroyed 244,924 hectares, according to EFFIS data.

The EFFIS uses satellite data from the EU’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS).

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How the climate crisis is hitting Europe hard

The data comes after CAMS said Friday that 2022 was a record year for wildfire activity in southwestern Europe and warned that a large proportion of western Europe was now in “extreme fire danger”.

“2022 is already a record year, just below 2017,” EFFIS coordinator Jesus San-Miguel said. In 2017, 420,913 hectares had burned by August 13, rising to 988,087 hectares by the end of the year.

“The situation in terms of drought and extremely high temperatures has affected all of Europe this year and the overall situation in the region is worrying, while we are still in the middle of the fire season,” he said.

Since 2010, there had been a trend towards more fires in central and northern Europe, with fires in countries that “normally do not experience fires in their territory”, he added.

“The overall fire season in the EU is really driven mainly by countries in the Mediterranean region, except in years like this one, in which fires also happen in central and northern regions,” he added.

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2022 SWEDISH ELECTION

Greta Thunberg deplores lack of climate debate in Swedish vote

Sweden's most famous climate activist, Greta Thunberg, on Friday deplored the lack of debate on the climate as the nation prepares to go to the polls on Sunday.

Greta Thunberg deplores lack of climate debate in Swedish vote

Climate concerns have taken a backseat in the election campaign. Voters are more focused on rising gang violence and soaring energy prices.

“The climate crisis has been more or less ignored in this election campaign. At best it’s been reduced to an issue about energy. So we have a lot to do,” she told AFP.

Sporting a striped T-shirt, the young activist took part in a protest with several hundred others in central Stockholm on Friday.

Sweden’s legislative elections on Sunday, where 349 seats in parliament are up for grabs, are expected to be a nail-biter, with the left- and right-wing blocs polling dead even.

READ ALSO: Your guide to The Local’s Swedish election coverage

“I am protesting because only voting is not enough,” Thunberg said, criticising politicians for not doing enough on the climate.

“Right now none of the political parties are delivering,” she added.

The 19-year-old activist, who is eligible to vote in her first election this year, has said she had not yet made up her mind which party to vote for.

But she stressed it was important for people to voice their concerns “to show politicians that the climate and the environmental emergency is something that we care about and we are not going to let them get away with another four years of nothing”.

In recent years, Sweden’s left-wing Green party has struggled to attract voters and stay above the four-percent threshold needed to be represented in parliament.

READ ALSO: LATEST POLLS: Who is in the lead with two days to go until Sweden’s election?

The latest polls credit the Greens with between 4.5 and 7.9 percent of voter support.

Thunberg, who began her “School strike for the climate” outside Sweden’s parliament two weeks ahead of the 2018 election when she was 15, has risen to become one of the world’s most famous champions of action on climate change.

Spearheading a global youth movement, Thunberg has spoken at the United Nations, been named a Time person of the year and been tipped as a favourite to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

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