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

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.

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

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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Massive hornet-trapping campaign begins in south west France

Across south west France trapping campaigns have begun in an attempt to control the numbers of dangerous Asian hornets.

Massive hornet-trapping campaign begins in south west France

Trapping campaigns are organised annually at this time of year, as the weather begins to get warmer and queens begin to emerge from hibernation.

And the Charente-Maritime town of Royan Atlantique, on France’s west coast, is leading the way, as the below video shows.

Experts say that now is the time to begin using the traps, as catching queen hornets in the process of building their nests will lead to far fewer insects later in the year. 

Some 2,000 traps are installed in and around Royan this year, including 300 that were distributed to householders in the week of Valentine’s Day. 

Once installed, the traps can capture several dozen insects at a time.

In order to capture a maximum of hornet queens, traps should be installed between mid-February and mid-May. Especially since during this period, these predators end up coming out of their hibernation.

It is believed Asian hornets arrived in France around 2004. They have now spread nationwide.

Although their venom is not more powerful than that of normal bees or wasps, they are known to be more aggressive towards humans, and their stings can cause anaphylactic shock in allergic people.

The hornets also damage beehives and kill bees, damaging honey stocks and destroying the native ecosystem.