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France battles a “monster” fire that has forced thousands from their homes. Wildfires have raged across Europe this summer as heatwaves scorch the continent and renew focus on climate change.



MARY LOUSE KELLY, ACTIVE:

In France now, which is battling monster fires as heat and drought scorch much of Europe this summer. Scientists say the catastrophic consequences of global warming are here sooner than expected. NPR’s Eleanor Beardsley reports.

(ARCHIVED RECORDING SOUND)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (Speaks French).

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: French television footage showed a wall of fire engulfing a pine forest and threatening villages in France’s southwestern Gironde region, not far from the vineyards of Bordeaux. 1,500 firefighters battle 24/7 alongside water-bombing jets. Commander Matthieu Jomain told French television that this is unprecedented.

(ARCHIVED RECORDING SOUND)

MATTHIEU JOMAIN: (Through translator) It’s the first time we’ve had fires like this that last this long and we don’t see an end in sight with the weather they’re predicting.

BEARDSLEY: Which is over 100 degrees without rain. Ten thousand people have been evacuated in the Gironde, many for the second time. One man told French television that he had not slept for the past month for fear of the fires rekindling. One hundred and fifteen square kilometers of forest have burned in the Gironde in just 10 days.

(ARCHIVED RECORDING SOUND)

GERALD DARMANIN: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin called on employers to release all volunteer firefighters so they can join their units. Firefighters are also arriving from across Europe to help France. The European Space Agency said successive heat waves, shrinking rivers and rising ground temperatures measured from space leave no doubt about the consequences of climate change. A European satellite recently measured extreme land surface temperatures of 113 in Britain, 122 in France and 150 degrees Fahrenheit in Spain. Sorbonne Professor Herve Le Treut is a prominent climate change scientist. He says that everything has come much faster than anyone imagined.

HERVE LE TREUT: What’s happening now is kind of a surprise to a lot of people, because it’s very intense.

BEARDSLEY: Le Treut says trapped greenhouse gases have ushered the planet into a new phase where old ways of dealing with climate catastrophes will no longer work. He says we will have to find new ways to protect forests, agriculture and cities.

LE TREUT: We’re in a situation that’s not what we wanted to see, and it’s something that a few years ago people thought we could avoid, that maybe we could work to reduce greenhouse gases enough to not have to deal with this. But now it’s too late.

BEARDSLEY: On Thursday, researchers in Finland announced that the Arctic has warmed four to five times faster than the global average over the past four decades, not two or three times as fast as previously thought. Sebastian Mernild is professor of climate change and glaciation at the Climate Institute of the University of Southern Denmark. He says this is because the snow cover has decreased and there is 40% less sea ice than in 1979.

SEBASTIAN MERNILD: So today energy is absorbed more than reflected, which means that we now have more energy available to heat both the temperature of the ocean, but also the temperature in the lower part of the atmosphere.

BEARDSLEY: Both scientists interviewed for this story say disasters like the fires and drought in Europe this summer will intensify and become more frequent as global warming accelerates. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris.

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