Although the popular image of climate migrants involves poor people, usually Indigenous to Asian, South American and African poor countries, Europeans are increasingly being pushed out of their homes and forced to move by the consequences of global warming. This was one of the glaring messages of a recent study on the climate emergency and migration.
Nine out of 10 young Europeans agree that tackling climate change can help improve their own health and well-being (91% of 15–24-year-olds) while 87% of all respondents to a poll released by The European Parliaments Youth Conference on the Future of Europe also shared this sentiment.
Over 10,000 migrants and refugees traveled from Eastern to Western Europe via Hungary over the weekend, fleeing conflict-ravaged and impoverished homelands in the hope of finding a more secure life abroad. Even as Europe wrestles over how to absorb the new arrivals, human rights activists and migration experts warn that the movement is not likely to slow anytime soon. An ongoing refugee crisis began in Europe in late February 2022 after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Around 7.4 million refugees fleeing Ukraine have been recorded across Europe. Tourism in Europe failed to rebound over the summer. Europe simply wasn’t ready. Pandemic-related staff shortages, monkey pox cases, massacres of migrants, forest fires, extreme weather events, droughts and floods led to massive lines and flight cancellations at many airports; meanwhile, prices for food,fuel, hotels and taxis soared. Then there were the record-breaking temperatures that caused roads, airport runways and railroad tracks to buckle, leading to further disruptions.
Those who did choose to vacation there found out that they were forced to find refuge from the extreme heat in cinemas, old stone cathedrals and the many art museums that are air-conditioned to protect the paintings. Some refused to stand in sweltering lines to buy tickets for anything without first checking to see if admission can be purchased online so some of the most popular European attractions in many cities found attendance had fallen significantly.
Europe’s record-smashing heatwave has given many who live in the global north a sobering look at what’s ahead. It removed any doubt that climate change would only affect generations to come or "other" so called “third world” countries. It showed Europeans what much of the rest of the world already knew — that the climate crisis is a costly danger in lives,economies, and should be a priority concern. For everybody.
Europe, where at least 22 million farmers and agricultural workers are exposed to climate extremes, is also likely to see dramatic change in farming, mostly the type of crops grown. The United nations has suggested millets to replace the shortages of other crops like wheat and rye which can be more easily destroyed by temperature changes.
Europe began to see some problems with energy supply back in 2021. Especially, during the winter months, the EU imports liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the United States, Latin America, and Russia. However, the power grid trouble in Texas (caused by lack of solar power infrastructure including home batteries) reduced the cargos of liquefied natural gas during the winter, and on top of that, the 2020/2021 winter was colder than average and the same is expected for 2022.
Latin America also faced droughts, leading to less hydropower to transport LNG to Europe. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the EU increased its gas consumption by 25.6 percent, leading to surging energy prices due to the lack of supply.
Europe also had below-average renewable energy generation due to lack of investment in energy storage, especially in wind power due to less than ideal wind conditions. This led to an even higher demand for energy imports, explains the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUSS).the irony of the situation is currently, when African refugees flee to Europe to seek asylum, they meet with hostility at European borders. Climate change is predicted to lead to major changes in water availability across Europe, due to less predictable rainfall patterns and more intense storms. This will result in increased water scarcity, especially in southern and south-eastern Europe, and an increased risk of flooding throughout much of the continent. Since water is essentially life there will be migrations out of Europe and historically Africa has been the lifeboat for Europe since time immemorial.
So why the anxiety when Africans, or even the Portuguese or Asians come to Europe? This is mostly because of the low birth rates of Europeans as a whole. Because of this Xenophobia and fear of a loss of national identity Europe has handled non European immigrants with a long handled spoon despite the fact that it was their historic colonization that caused and continues to profit from the instability of their former colonies. Ironically during World War II if Africans had held the same attitude millions of European refugees escaping the Third Reich would have been killed. Geographical proximity, colonial history, and the wide variety of human relations make Africa an important partner for Europe.
The EU wants to benefit economically from the African continent's riches and its great potential to produce green energy. This is still true but what has changed in the relationship dynamic is the knowledge that Europe was wrong about the effects climate change would have on the world. In 2005 it was believed that all the added land-value benefits of a warming world might accrue to Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Russia, and Scandinavia. Instead we find that the land masses of most of these lands are largely supported by frozen ice called Permafrost! This raises the possibility that an artificial greenhouse effect will do the most harm to nations that are affluent and benefit nations that are supported by higher elevation ,Terra firma and large inviolate aquifers i.e. Africa!.
If warming reaches 2 degrees, 200 million Europeans, not only in the south, but many in the north and the U.K., will live at high risk of heat related illness and death. “The whole European population doesn’t have a good understanding of this yet,” said Piers Forster, director of the Priestley International Center for Climate at Leeds University. The heat is literally maddening. Italian researchers found a strong link between psychiatric emergencies and daily temperature. Suicides doubled in Moscow during a heat wave in 2010. In Madrid, incidents of domestic violence and women being murdered by their partners jump when the temperature goes over 34 degrees. Hot nights bring climate insomnia. We aren’t helping ourselves. An increasing share of Europeans have made their homes in giant, heat-concentrating concrete crucibles. Cities are typically 5 to 10 degrees warmer than the surrounding countryside.
If little is done to reduce global emissions, Europe’s cities could warm 6 to 10 degrees on top of that. The south will see the greatest increases. In Rome and other Mediterranean cities, the heat will become so intense that traditional architectural systems relying on natural ventilation will no longer function. It’s bad timing for an experiment in heat endurance. Not only are millions migrating from rural areas into cement cities; Europe is also getting older and more vulnerable. Better medicine and falling birth rates mean the number of Europeans older than 60 is expected to rise by around 40 million by 2040, even as the overall population is undergoing a global natural decline. The effects from rising temperatures, a symptom of climate change, have become a significant concern. One study found that one additional day with a maximum temperature of 30–32 °C (86–89.6 °F), relative to a day with a temperature of 28–30 °C (82.4–86 °F), decreases the birth rate 9 months later by 0.24%, or 92 babies per month in South Korea.
The effect is even more pronounced on populations with pheomelanin (Caucasian, European) instead of Eumelanin(Black, Brown Africa, Central America).In 2020 UCLA researchers showed that the number of births in the U.S. fell in the nine months after an extreme heat event while a study of 18,000 couples in China in 2021 showed that climate change, and particulate pollution in particular, was associated with a 20% increase of infertility. Conversely during this time span there was a major population increase in sub-Saharan Africa due to high fertility rates, which were twice that of the global average. In 2021, sub-Saharan Africa recorded approximately 4.7 births per woman, whereas the global average fertility was only 2.2 births per woman. In the long run, low rates of fertility are associated with diminished economic growth. As in many parts of the world ,If it is true as many scientists believe, that climate change is the causal factor for the decline in Europe’s births, changes in social and economic organization on a wide scale will not work to change the demographic decline. Instead the natural population change (live births minus deaths) even slightly below population replacement levels... leads to a high dependency rate, which can stall or lower economic development.