Plans to place giant statues of the cartoon character Sponge Bob in the sea off one of France's top natural sites have been scrapped in the face of stiff local opposition.

"/> Plans to place giant statues of the cartoon character Sponge Bob in the sea off one of France's top natural sites have been scrapped in the face of stiff local opposition.

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Local opposition sinks Sponge Bob sea statue plans

Plans to place giant statues of the cartoon character Sponge Bob in the sea off one of France's top natural sites have been scrapped in the face of stiff local opposition.

Plans to place giant statues of the cartoon character Sponge Bob in the sea off one of France’s top natural sites have been scrapped in the face of stiff local opposition.

Nickelodeon, the US children’s television network, wanted to place several four-metre (13-foot) statues under water off the Calanques — deep narrow inlets noted for their biodiversity — near the southern city of Marseille.

The idea was that children would be able to see them when they took diving lessons in the area, Thierry Reboul of the public relations agency working for Nickelodeon on the project, said Wednesday.

But the plan was scrapped after local activists opposed it, arguing that that the spectacular natural site should not be used for marketing purposes.

Much of the action in the Sponge Bob series centres on the adventures of the title character and his friends in the submarine city of Bikini Bottom.

CLIMATE CRISIS

Scorching summer was France’s second hottest on record

Three heatwaves since June produced France's second-hottest summer since records began in 1900, the Météo France weather service said on Tuesday, warning that scorching temperatures will be increasingly common as the climate crisis intensifies.

Scorching summer was France's second hottest on record

With 33 days of extreme heat overall, average temperatures for June, July and August were 2.3C above normal for the period of 1991-2020.

It was surpassed only by the 2003 heatwave that caught much of France unprepared for prolonged scorching conditions, leading to nearly 15,000 heat-related deaths, mainly among the elderly.

Data is not yet available for heat-related deaths this summer, but it is likely to be significantly lower than 15,000 thanks to preventative measures taken by local and national authorities. 

Most experts attribute the rising temperatures to the climate crisis, with Météo France noting that over the past eight summers in France, six have been among the 10-hottest ever.

By 2050, “we expect that around half of summer seasons will be at comparable temperatures, if not higher,” even if greenhouse gas emissions are contained, the agency’s research director Samuel Morin said at a press conference.

The heat helped drive a series of wildfires across France this summer, in particular a huge blaze in the southwest that burned for more than a month and blackened 20,000 hectares. 

Unusually, wildfires also broke out even in the normally cooler north of the country, and in total an area five times the size of Paris burned over the summer. 

Adding to the misery was a record drought that required widespread limits on water use, with July the driest month since 1961 – many areas still have water restrictions in place.

MAP: Where in France are there water restrictions and what do they mean?

Forecasters have also warned that autumn storms around the Mediterranean – a regular event as air temperatures cool – will be unusually intense this year because of the very high summer temperatures. A storm that hit the island of Corsica in mid August claimed six lives. 

“The summer we’ve just been through is a powerful call to order,” Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said on Monday, laying out her priorities for an “ecological planning” programme to guide France’s efforts against climate change.

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