Italy's environmental protection agency has warned that the Alps will need to adapt even more to extreme imbalances in the weather, as climate change is increasingly linked to deadly avalanches and snowless slopes that have left businesses worried for their financial future. Italy endured a prolonged heat wave last year before a massive piece of the Marmolada glacier broke off and killed 11 hikers in July. Higher temperatures, coupled with below-average winter snowfall, were among the factors that triggered the event. Glaciers are in retreat throughout Italy, the Alps and across the world, temperatures in the Alps have increased twice as quickly as the global average. The UN has identified the Mediterranean basin, that includes Italy, as a climate change hot spot prone to heat waves.
Before the avalanche, daytime temperatures at the glacier's altitude were around 50 degrees Fahrenheit when they normally don't rise much above freezing. This year, record-high winter temperatures swept across parts of Europe over the new year, bringing calls from activists for faster action against climate change. Hundreds of sites saw their temperature records smashed, from Switzerland to Poland to Hungary, which registered its warmest Christmas Eve in Budapest and saw temperatures climb to 66 degrees Fahrenheit on January 1. Extreme weather events have wreaked havoc across Europe at an alarming rate in recent months. A landslide on the island of Ischia, off the west coast of Italy, last November is just one of the latest examples of the devastating consequences such incidents can cause.
A landslide in the town of Casamicciola on Ischia (an Island in the Gulf of Naples) last November claimed twelve lives and forced five hundred residents to be evacuated from their homes. But despite the devastation, some locals still defend their right to live in a natural hazard zone, where much of the housing was built illegally. Last year, extreme floods swept through the Ahr Valley, in Germany, causing more than 130 deaths. All except 34 houses among the thousands damaged will be rebuilt. As is the case in Italy, residents there insist they have no choice but to accept the risk of flooding as they cannot afford to move to a different area. In the coastal town of La Faute-sur-Mer, in western France in 2010, authorities developed a complex legal system to shield cities and residents from the effects of climate change. Residents are now legally obliged to build an elevated refuge floor for times of flooding which is so common the locals refer to the area as the “Death Basin”. Six hundred homes were demolished in the so-called 'death basin', where a golf course now stands and over €100 million has been invested in the Vendée region to restore major flooding infrastructure, such as dams.
Despite all this, it is clear that cities across Europe are facing a race against the clock. And fear is mounting that climate change is unfolding faster than they are able to respond. leaders are aware that they are in a race against time. The European Commission has proposed that the worst (15-20 percent) of residential buildings in each country be improved by 2030 non-residential buildings face a similar timetable. Environmental activists say Italy’s opposition to the long-standing project risks undermining the EU’s goal of becoming a climate-neutral continent by 2050. Europe must do this because its infrastructure is such that it will be hardest hit if it does not act in a proactive manner to prepare for extreme climate events which will become commonplace unless all nations stop using fossil fuels and that is highly unlikely.
In one of its first acts after taking power last October, Italy's right-wing government initially gave its blessing to the green buildings plan. It has since reversed course and cited concerns over the high cost of compliance, as the country has an older population and older and less energy-inefficient housing than many of its neighbors. 74 percent of Italians own the house or flat they live in, compared to 65 per cent in France and 50 per cent in Germany. This leaves Italians particularly exposed and its aging housing adds to the problem, experts say.
"Italy's building stock is more obsolete. In fact, 60 percent of buildings here are in the two worst energy classes. According to data, the share of individuals owning a primary residential property increased with the age group considered. In fact, only 49 percent of people between 25 and 34 years of age owned a primary house. The share of people owning a primary house in Italy was the highest among individuals between 55 and 64 years of age (84.1 percent).Rising temperatures risk stunting the growth of the Italian economy over the coming decades, with sectors such as agriculture and tourism among the hardest hit, a Bank of Italy research project said. Italy is already feeling the effects of a changing climate and in July of 2022, the government declared a state of emergency in areas surrounding the river Po in the north. The Po valley accounts for roughly a third of the country's agricultural production and has been suffering its worst drought in 72 years. The Po, Italy’s longest river, once called “the king of rivers” is now drying up during summer and fall because of periods of severe drought.