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Germany's average temperature rises 1.5 degrees

November 26, 2019

A new report has revealed the extent to which Germany has already been affected by climate change. Temperatures have risen markedly in the past five years, and it is expected to get worse.

Power station in Gersteinwerk
Image: picture-alliance/S. Ziese

The average temperature in Germany rose 1.5 degrees Celsius between the years 1881 and 2018, with a 0.3 degree rise just in the last five years, a new climate change report revealed on Tuesday.

"The observations of the German Weather Service are unambiguous. It is rapidly getting warmer, more heat waves are threatening our health and everyone must expect damage from heavier rainfall. Germany is in the grip of climate change," said Tobias Fuchs, head of the Climate and Environmental Consulting Department of the German Weather Service (DWD). 

Fuchs was speaking at the presentation of the "Monitoring Report on Climate Change Impacts" in Germany.

Read more: Is Germany too stingy to fund the fight against climate change?

Infographic showing how Germany is affected by climate change

What the report found

The report revealed, among other things, more health risks due to heat stress, an increase in the mean surface temperature of the North Sea and greater fluctuations in agricultural yields.

The report found there was an increase in the number of days that are 30 degrees or above, rising from three to 10 between 1951 and 2018. It also said there were up to 7,500 deaths in some years due the heatwaves.

In the past 10 years, groundwater levels have receded, leading to problems with drinking water supplies in some communities, according to the findings. Increasing drought and increasingly frequent low water levels in rivers have impaired ecosystems, led to restricted shipping and endangered the supply of cooling water to power plants and industry.

Economic toll

In the past 50 years, according to the report, heat and drought caused €700 million ($771 million) in agricultural losses. Growing seasons had expanded from 222 days in 1951-1981 to 232 days in 1988-2017. Animal and plant species from warmer regions of the world also spread into the country, including sardines and anchovies in the North Sea and the Asian tiger mosquito on land, increasing the risk of disease.

Damage to infrastructure from extreme weather events affected the economy, with insurance losses of about €3.1 billion incurred on houses, motor vehicles, household goods, commerce, industry and agriculture in 2018. 

Read more: Foresters fighting to save Germany's threatened woodlands

Farming and climate change

Things will get worse

Fuchs warned that climate change models predicted further increases in mean air temperature across Germany, between 3.1 to 4.7 degrees by the end of the century. 

He said there would likely be a significant increase in the occurrence of extremely high temperatures and the frequency of heat waves in the future, while frost events will probably occur less frequently. Precipitation conditions will become more extreme, Fuchs added, with an increase both in the frequency and intensity of heavy precipitation — but also in the frequency of dry days.

Read more: Climate change: What Germany can learn from the Netherlands

Calls for change

Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze said the "alarming" report revealed an imminent need to adapt to climate change through design and planning.

"All construction and infrastructure projects must be better equipped to withstand the adverse effects of heat, heavy rain or flooding. This also applies to the design of urban residential areas. Green roofs and building facades, water areas and shaded areas alleviate heat and improve rainwater retention. At the same time, they improve air quality." 

"Such sustainable climate adaptation not only makes our infrastructure more robust; it also safeguards Germany as a business location and adds value to our quality of life."

Read more: Germany's Angela Merkel no longer leading the charge on climate change

The president of the Federal Environment Agency, Maria Krautzberger, called for state investment in the monitoring and mitigation of climate change.

"The future has already reached us. Germany is in the midst of global warming, with far-reaching consequences for the environment, society and health. There is an urgent need to take precautions to counter these consequences," she said

"Monitoring must be further improved and the consequences of climate change on the one hand and state investments on the other must be fully understood. For example, a special climate protection program supported and financed by the federal and state governments is conceivable."

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