Floods, fires and tropical diseases: The bleak forecast for France due to climate change

Floods, fires and tropical diseases: The bleak forecast for France due to climate change
Coastal flooding could become commonplace in France, scientists warn. Photo: AFP
Parts of France could become a desert while 377,000 people would be at risk of being flooded out of their homes. That is the stark warning of what lies ahead for France if climate change is not addressed.

A report published in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change has laid out predictions for the effects that could be felt by France if global temperatures continue to rise.

Among the effects listed were widespread coastal flooding rendering large areas of the country uninhabitable, desertification of parts of southern France, regular prolonged and intensive heatwaves and wildfires and the spread of tropical diseases by mosquitoes.


French expert Hélène Jacot des Combes, a paleo-oceanographer and lead author of one of the chapters in a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that was released on Wednesday, explained: “Some extreme events observed once a century could eventually become more frequent.”

The report in Nature Climate Change has identified coastal flooding as a risk that France is particularly vulnerable to, and says that in the worst case scenario 377,000 people would be at risk.

Currently, the foreseeable damage from coastal flooding in Europe is estimated at €1.25 billion per year, of which about 10 percent is in France, but this number could triple by 2100. 
But the French coastline is not the only area that is predicted to be hard hit by rising temperatures – snow and ice in the French Alps and Pyrenees is predicted to melt, causing big losses for ski resorts.
The glaciers in the Alps are already melting and current predictions are that they will disappear entirely by the end of the century. As they melt there is the increased risk of landslides – this week roads around Mont Blanc are closed because of the risk of collapse of part of the mountain's glacier.
A sign shows how far the Mont Blanc glacier has shrunk since 2015. Photo: AFP
The glaciers are also a major source of water for rivers including the Rhône, which could see a dramatic loss of flow, impacting in turn on the French hydroelectricity industry.
“Glaciers not only play the role of high-altitude freezers to conserve snow, but they are also water towers that feed downstream rivers,” said Pierre Canet of the WWF.
Extreme heatwaves like the ones that brought record-breaking temperatures to France in June and July this year are expected to become more regular, bringing with them drought and wildfires.
And the rising temperatures are also expected to bring with them insects currently only seen in tropical areas.
Asian tiger mosquitoes have already colonised half of France, experts warned earlier this year, and bring with them a range of potentially fatal tropical diseases including dengue fever, zika and chikungunya.

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