Climate change: France's monstrous wildfires show why heatwaves are no longer a cause for celebration – Scotsman comment

Warm weather is traditionally a cause for celebration. But the scorchingly hot, dry summer being endured around Europe should give us pause for thought.

Record-breaking heatwaves that will lead to the deaths of thousands of people should not be painted as rosy pictures, as if everything is well, particularly given we know they are going to get hotter and more frequent.

For a vision of the future for children in the UK, as global warming or ‘global heating’ as some now call it gathers pace, we can look to France, where nearly 150,000 acres of land have gone up in flames this year, six times the recent average.

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In Gironde, the mayor of Hostens, Jean-Louis Dartiailh, said the last few weeks had been a disaster. “The area is totally disfigured. We're heartbroken, we're exhausted... [this latest fire] is the final straw,” he told Radio Classique.

As France’s weary firefighters continued to battle the flames, including a fire one described as “an ogre... a monster”, at least seven countries from across Europe – from Sweden in the north to Greece in the south – sent reinforcements to help fight the common foe. “Our partners are coming to France's aid against the fires. Thank you to them. European solidarity is at work!” said French President Emmanuel Macron.

But, at some point in the future, unless we take urgent action, such help may well dry up with each country having its own conflagrations to fight.

The fires of climate change are growing and heading north to burn forests and farms unused to such hot and dry conditions. And the 41 homes that burned in London last month, on the “busiest day for firefighters since the Second World War”, will not be the last.

In normal conditions, burned forests regrow, reabsorbing the carbon lost in the smoke, but repeated fires eventually stop this process of regeneration, turning woodland into scrub and creating another source of greenhouse gas emissions. There are already signs this is happening in California, and fears for the vast northern boreal forests of Canada, Russia and Alaska.

In a way, we all need to be firefighters now, doing everything we can to stop the over-heating of the planet. Otherwise, one day, that will not be a metaphor.



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