Germany at the two-degree limit (nd currently)

Left in the picture: the past, right is the future.

Photo: dpa / Julian Stratenschulte

If you look back at the pre-industrial era, Germany has actually already exceeded the two-degree limit. According to a fact sheet published on Wednesday by the German Weather Service (DWD), the period from 2011 to 2020 was already around two degrees Celsius warmer than that from 1881 to 1910. The temperatures in Germany have risen significantly more than the global average, where there is a Plus 1.1 to 1.2 degrees there. The difference illustrates how strongly the oceans are still absorbing a large part of the additional heat. DWD board member Tobias Fuchs, responsible for climate and environment, put the temperature rise in Germany since 1881 at 1.6 degrees before the “Extreme Weather Congress 2021” started on Wednesday. This information can also be found in the DWD’s national climate report published in June last year.

Fuchs explained the different information that the 1.6 degrees are based on so-called trend analyzes. The comparison to the end of the 19th century, however, shows an increase of 1.9 to 2.0 degrees. That is a question of method. At least in the fact sheet, the DWD is now following the view taken by the renowned climate researcher Stefan Rahmstorf in October last year that mean temperatures in Germany have risen by a full two degrees since the late 19th century.

There is consensus that the pace of warming is accelerating. Over the entire period from 1881 to 2020, according to the DWD, Germany was on average 0.12 degrees warmer per decade, but since 1971 the rate of warming has been more than three times as high at 0.38 degrees per decade.

At the start of the congress, DWD board member Fuchs also mentioned the good news that there is still a chance of at least “dampening” the effects of climate change. But that requires turning around immediately. Only with sufficient climate protection could it be prevented that weather extremes worsened further unchecked, said Fuchs. At the same time, the effects of climate change can only be limited with early adaptation. Even 50 years from now, Germany must be a country in which “one can live healthily all year round”.

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Fuchs listed a number of weather extremes that can already be identified today, which are exacerbated by climate change: According to this, the number of hot days with a maximum temperature of 30 degrees and more has increased from three to nine a year since the 1950s. If CO2 emissions continue unchecked, the number of such hot days in the period from 2031 to 2060 could increase by five to ten in northern Germany and by ten to twenty in the south.

The number of consecutive dry days also increases, especially in summer. This leads to increasing water deficits in the soil. The number of days with a high to very high forest fire risk was around 27 in the period from 1961 to 1990, 33 in the period from 1981 to 2010 and even 38 from 1991 to 2020.

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The number of days with precipitation of more than 20 liters per square meter changed only insignificantly between 1951 and 2020. For heavy rain events, however, there are still too few reliable measurements because the rain radar used for this has only been active since 2001. According to the DWD, it can currently only be determined for some regions that there are signs of an increase in heavy rain. It is already evident, however, that the sea level in the North and Baltic Seas has risen by 15 to 20 centimeters in the last 100 years.

According to the meteorologist and TV presenter Sven Plöger, people are concerned about climate change. As he reported at the start of the congress, the most frequently asked question at the moment is whether it is still possible to change course. According to his impression, this also expresses discouragement and fear. He also noticed this in the letters from viewers, most of which were from men over 65. They asked themselves whether their hard-won prosperity would be lost if so many things had to change because of climate protection. This fear can paralyze.

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In this context, Plöger asked whether it was right for the media to increasingly paint the apocalypse on the wall and put the most extreme forward. In this way, fear is promoted and people may not be won over to the common goal. As an alternative, however, he only has in mind to communicate more »positively« and to make the opportunities clear. You can show where in the world there are “great” practical examples, such as start-ups that do “fantastic” things. On the other hand, telling yourself all day how bad it will be is “very, very tiring.”

At the same time, Plöger complained of inadequate political framework conditions. Currently the world is in a state where a person who pollutes the environment can become richer than one who keeps it clean. As long as nothing changes, no fundamental successes are possible.

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