BRUSSELS - Climate change is making European summers ever drier and hotter, and not just in the south: During the extremely dry summer of 2018, the drought was mostly limited to the part of Europe north of the Alps. In many places, the summers of 2019 and 2020 were again unusually dry.

The negative consequences of the drought for nature and its ability to take up CO2 during the growing season are significant. This is bad news for ambitious EU plans to store more carbon in nature, and the controversial idea that this might be considered equivalent to a reduction in CO2 emissions.

How do we prevent nature from becoming a source of CO2 itself, and how do we keep the trees we plant from dying or catching fire as a consequence of the drought?

Is planting trees always the most sustainable way of storing more carbon, or do we have to protect and perhaps even recreate other ecosystems as well?

How do we make sure the large amounts of carbon stored in the soil in formerly wet areas, many of which have now been drained, stay where they are?

To answer these and many other questions, Tim Vernimmen visited scientists in six European countries during the summer, when they were investigating the impacts of summer drought.

This revealed not just the damage done by ever drier summers, but also some possible solutions.

Tim Vernimmen

Tim Vernimmen is a Belgian freelance science journalist.
€ 3.450 allocated on 25/08/2020.
Fonds Pascal Decroos