• The deadly combination of extreme heat and drought has resulted in wildfires across Southern Europe, leaving thousands without homes.
  • Temperatures of up to 45 degrees Celsius turned bone-dry forests into tinderboxes.
  • As of August 10, roughly 2.5 times the annual average number of wildfires had already blazed in Europe, according to the EFFIS.

Stoked by extreme heat and drought, huge wildfires are currently raging across Southern Europe, forcing thousands of people to abandon their homes and destroying vast stretches of forestland. Turkey, Greece and Italy have been hit particularly hard by the fires, as an extreme heatwave with temperatures of up to 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) turned bone-dry forests into tinderboxes.

And while the fires that have been ravaging Southern Europe for the past two weeks are by far the most devastating ones, accounting for 60 percent of total area burned this year, 2021 had already been an extreme year for wildfires across the continent before the latest blazes. According to data from the European Forest Fire Information System, the number of large scale fires (30 hectares and upwards) registered in Europe had already surpassed the average annual total for 2008-2020 by early July, before the latest outbreaks.

What’s the World Economic Forum doing about climate change?

Climate change poses an urgent threat demanding decisive action. Communities around the world are already experiencing increased climate impacts, from droughts to floods to rising seas. The World Economic Forum's Global Risks Report continues to rank these environmental threats at the top of the list.

To limit global temperature rise to well below 2°C and as close as possible to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, it is essential that businesses, policy-makers, and civil society advance comprehensive near- and long-term climate actions in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The World Economic Forum's Climate Initiative supports the scaling and acceleration of global climate action through public and private-sector collaboration. The Initiative works across several workstreams to develop and implement inclusive and ambitious solutions.

This includes the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders, a global network of business leaders from various industries developing cost-effective solutions to transitioning to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy. CEOs use their position and influence with policy-makers and corporate partners to accelerate the transition and realize the economic benefits of delivering a safer climate.

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As of August 10, the EFFIS registered 1,877 fires across the EU 27 and 11 European non-EU members this year, burning more than 600,000 hectares. That’s roughly 2.5 times the annual average for the the period from 2008-2020, both in terms of the number of fires and the total damage.

wildfires climate change environment global warming nature natural disaster greenhouse gases
This chart shows how wildfire frequency is increasing every year in Europe.
Image: European Forest Fire Information System