Heavy downpours have flooded various parts of Germany. The storm has caused havoc with streets being waterlogged, trees uprooted. This has also led to cancellations of flights at Frankfurt airport, bringing the busiest airport in Europe to a standstill.
The storm swept over southwest Germany late Wednesday, dumping huge quantities of water and reportedly unleashing over 25,000 bolts of lightning in about an hour.
But this is not the first time the country has been swept by floods, rather it has become a frequent scenario. Scientists are connecting the rise in climate change with the increase in floods in Germany.
Over the years, Germany has been dealing with some intense floods, resulting in heavy losses to the economy and people. But the deadliest in recent times was in 2021. It resulted in the deaths of over 180 people, as per the official data.The states of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia were particularly hard hit.
The estimated amount of water that flowed through the Ahr River in the 2021 flood was comparable to that of the historic floods of 1804 and 1910, but the measured water levels were considerably higher at several locations in 2021.The July 2021 flood was one of the five worst and costliest natural disasters in Europe in the past 50 years. More than 180 people lost their lives, and well over 10,000 buildings were damaged. Critical infrastructure, e.g. electrical grids, water supply networks, bridges, rail lines and roads, was partially or completely destroyed.
Germany has a temperate climate throughout the country with some differences in temperature and precipitation. The temperature regime in Germany is homogeneous with slight differences between regions and inter-annual variability.
The precipitation in Germany is abundant, well-distributed and varies between regions. It is lowest in the North German Plains and increases in the Central German Uplands and Alpine regions where annual mean precipitation is up to and exceeding 2,000 mm per year.
According to the ‘G20 Climate Risk Atlas’, climate change is already having devastating effects on Germany. This report collates scientific projections of how climate impacts will play out up to 2050 and 2100, on low, medium and high emissions pathways.
“Science shows that Germany will experience devastating climate impacts if it follows a high-emissions pathway. This past summer, many regions experienced the worst flooding in more than 1,000 years. Without urgent action, Germany will see a 466% increase in the population vulnerable to floods by 2050,” adds the ‘G20 Climate Risk Atlas’.
According to the analysis by the economic research company Prognos, the Institute for Economic Structures Research and the Institute for Ecological Economic Research, climate change could cost Germany up to 900 billion euros released earlier this March. The costs include declining farm yields, damage or destruction of buildings and infrastructure due to heavy rain and flooding. And also impairment of goods transport and impacts on the health system, the report added.
As per government officials, climate change extreme weather events have already cost Germany at least 145 billion euros between 2000 and 2021.
The German government is taking necessary steps in order to deal with existing climate change and its impact on the nation. In April this year, Germany’s environment ministry proposed a federal climate adaptation law that sets a framework for action at the national and state level.
According to the government, the draft bill is “intended to create a binding framework for a precautionary federal climate adaptation strategy and cooperation between the federal government, the states and other administrative bodies in all necessary fields of action”.
It will make the government present a report on climate adaptation strategy by September 2025. And it will be updated every four years. The proposed draft will also have a programme to monitor the visible effects of climate change that should be introduced (and reported on every two years), and that the relevant ministries will be held accountable if any set deadline is missed.