The snowball effect of climate change in France

For the past year, the French people have experienced the repercussions of climate change, which propelled them to execute major and long-term changes to their way of life.

Visitors who came to France during the past few years were surprised by its climate. It has been raining much more than it used to in the regions of Languedoc-Roussillon and Provence-Alpes-Côtes-d’Azur in southern France, and the temperature is much warmer in regions that usually experience a continental climate, like Haute-Savoie.

Marie Larose, a 45-year-old lifelong resident of Montpellier in Languedoc-Roussillon, believes the climate is changing drastically.

“So far, the climate in southern France has been Mediterranean, while the middle and north of France have experienced a continental climate, but now this is changing,” Larose said. “The middle of France is witnessing a Mediterranean climate while the south is becoming more tropical.”

This statement might seem scary and alarmist, but it surprisingly coincides with the forecasts made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Groupe d’Experts Intergouvernemental sur l’Evolution du Climat) or simply GIEC.

Two maps below show the climate of France in 2000 compared with the projected climate in 2050. The map of 2050 is an economic and environmental scenario proposed by the GIEC.

The dark blue represents cold areas (when the mean annual temperature is 0), while the dark red stands for extremely warm areas (when the mean annual temperature is 18 degrees celsius or more), according to the scale. What Larose expects is actually in line with the estimates of the GIEC.

Credit: Datar.gouv.fr

The map also highlights the current temperatures of French cities compared to their future temperatures. For example, the temperature of Rennes in northeastern France in 2050 will be close to the temperature of La Rochelle in southwestern France.

Impacts of climate change on France

Skeptics will say this is due to a change in the environment that would have happened anyway, whereas climate change believers will say that this increase in global temperature and change in climate is due to our over-consumption of nonrenewable resources, leading to an increase in pollution.

May we be from one side of France or the other, the consequences are the same. France will have to adapt its agriculture to this climate change. While corn production will keep stable, and even expand due to the high adaptability of its culture (according to the GIEC), the production of maize will ineluctably decline.

Moreover, viticulture and forestry will see major changes in production as well. Similarly, urban areas will experience changes. For example, the construction of buildings will have to adapt to the increase in temperature. They will need to be more isolated, and might have to adopt green roofs.

Sanitary problems will arise more frequently, due to the aging population and the growth of parasites. We are already observing the appearance of dangerous mosquitoes in southern France, like the Asian tiger mosquito, which originally lives in Africa, in the regions of Gironde and Lot-et-Garonne.

Tourism will also be affected (and in some ways, it already is). Ski stations are directly concerned with the increase in temperature because of the length of the period of snow and the quality of snow itself. In fact, ski stations below 1,800m are already impacted, like Avoriaz, Thollon or Bernex in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of eastern France.

This is especially alarming since winter sports are a major contributor to the economic development of mountainous areas.

Global impact

If France is impacted by global warming, the consequences on southern countries and extreme northern ones must be disconcerting. The melting of glaciers is not a myth, nor are forest fires.

“We need to remember the sense of awe that nature has given humanity,” the 45th Vice President of the United States Al Gore once said. “It’s something that should be preserved.”

Cover credit: Cartooningforpeace.org