The Guardian • Issue #2058


  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2058

Forest fire warnings have been issued in northern European countries as the “high risk” of summer wildfire season spreads up the continent. A lack of rain and rising temperatures have led to dangerously dry conditions in the region, from Scotland to the Nordic and Baltic countries. The warnings have raised concerns of a repeat of the summer of 2018 when major wildfires swept across Sweden in particular. While wildfires are common in the Mediterranean countries, the phenomenon is rare in northern Europe where summers are cooler and wetter in comparison. Small wildfires are already burning in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Scotland, and experts worry it could get much worse unless there is significant rainfall in coming weeks. Swedish weather agency SMHI head of hydrological forecasting Niclas Hjerdt said, “These countries are relatively new to drought problems. We usually have an excess of water up here in northern Europe and Scandinavia. So there isn’t this historic knowledge of how to deal with drought situations that you could find in countries further south in Europe.” SMHI says that southern Sweden received very little rain in May and not a single drop so far in June, leaving the soil exceptionally dry. A warming climate is making the Nordic region more vulnerable to forest fires by making summers longer and winters shorter. It also prolongs the “vegetative” season when most precipitation evaporates or transpires rather than sinking deeper into the ground. The Federation of Swedish Farmers said the drought had already affected grassland crops and could have an impact on cereals. “If there is no rain soon, future harvests will suffer,” the labour group said in a statement. It noted that due to the hot and dry summer of 2018, the industry lost almost the entire grain harvest at a cost of approximately 10 billion Swedish krona (AU$1.38b).

PARASITE OF THE WEEK: The Queensland Palaszczuk government is continuing to waste tens of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money subsidising the gas industry. The state budget included $21 million for “exploration for new gas reserves in the Bowen and Galilee Basins over the next two years”. Lock the Gate Alliance Queensland Coordinator Ellie Smith said, “Queenslanders have once again been let down by the Palaszczuk government and its thirst for dirty, polluting gas. Unfortunately the Palaszczuk government remains hooked on gas industry-fed spin. Gas is a fossil fuel like any other that is driving dangerous climate change. Queensland gas is expensive and the overwhelming majority of it is sucked up for exports. This budget sensibly contains significant funds for clean renewable energy – it’s a shame the Palaszczuk government has tarnished this by continuing to prop up dangerous fossil gas. The parts of Queensland now targeted for gas drilling have so far managed to escape the damage caused by the industry further south. It’s clear the Palaszczuk government hasn’t paid any attention to the woes afflicting farmers near Dalby and Chinchilla where hundreds of groundwater bores have been drained and communities fractured.”

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