The devastation in Europe caused by the severe weather came just days after the European Union announced an ambitious blueprint to pivot away from fossil fuels over the next nine years as part of plans to make the 27-country bloc carbon-neutral by 2050. Environmental activists and politicians were quick to draw parallels between the flooding and the effects of climate change.
Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, said on Friday that the flooding was a clear indication of climate change.
“It is the intensity and the length of the events that science tells us this is a clear indication of climate change,” Ms. von der Leyen said. “It shows the urgency to act.”
Flooding is a complex phenomenon with many causes, including land development and ground conditions. While linking climate change to a single flood event requires extensive scientific analysis, climate change, which is already causing heavier rainfall in many storms, is an increasingly important part of the mix. Warmer atmosphere holds, and releases, more water, whether in the form of rain or heavy winter snowpack.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s president, also blamed climate change for the floods: “Only when we take action against climate change can we keep the events that we are now experiencing within limits,” he said in a televised statement from Berlin.
The impact of climate change is one of the issues that has been fiercely debated in Germany before the September elections in which the Greens party is in the running for second place, behind the conservative Christian Democrats.
“The catastrophic results of the heavy rain in the past few days are largely homemade,” said Holger Sticht, who heads the regional chapter of Friends of the Earth Germany in North Rhine-Westphalia. He blamed lawmakers and industry for building in floodplains and woodlands. “We urgently need to change course.”
Armin Laschet, the leader of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, said at a news conference on Friday, “Our state is experiencing a flood catastrophe of historic scale.”
“We have to make the state more climate-proof,” Mr. Laschet said. “We have to make Germany climate neutral even faster.”