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Forecast Podcast: A scorched Europe grapples with fires amid record heat

A gif built from satellite imagery that shows wildfire burn scars in France

Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Jess Fino discuss Europe’s brutal heat wave, plus more on Macau reopening, Pope Francis visiting Canada, a constitution referendum in Tunisia and French President Macron visiting Benin and Cameroon.

These stories and more are also available in our weekly Forecast email and you can subscribe for free.

This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Alex Moore, Awais Ahmad, Joe Veyera, Sophie Perryer and Jess Fino.  Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe

Have feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed? Drop us a note: hello@factal.com.


Factal Forecast Podcast Transcript

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.

JIMMY LOVAAS, HOST:

Welcome to the Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories and what they mean from the editors at Factal. I’m Jimmy Lovaas.

Today is July 21st.

In this week’s forecast we’ve got casinos reopening in Macau, Pope Francis visiting Canada, a constitutional referendum in Tunisia, French President Macron visiting Benin and Cameroon and an update on the heat wave gripping much of Europe. 

You can read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you can find a link to in the show notes.

Macau reopens

Information compiled by Alex Moore

JIMMY: The Chinese territory of Macau will attempt to reopen casinos and other businesses on Friday.

Macau, which is the world’s preeminent gambling hub, originally shut down businesses on July 11th before extending the closure through Friday. The shutdown was a move to abide by Beijing’s “zero Covid” policy. 

The city has also ordered all of its residents to get coronavirus tests as it deals with its worst outbreak.

Now, despite 90 percent of the city being vaccinated against coronavirus and this being the first major outbreak the city has faced since the introduction of the omicron variant, the densely populated city still has some significant challenges – not the least of which is that it only has one public hospital

The reopening comes as China grapples with coronavirus clusters elsewhere, including cities like Shanghai, that have prompted lockdowns, testing and other measures under China’s strict policies.

Pope Francis to visit Canada

Information compiled by Awais Ahmad

JIMMY: Pope Francis will begin his week-long visit to Canada on Sunday. He called the trip a “pilgrimage of penance” for abuses toward the country’s indigenous people.

This is the first trip the pope will take after suffering a knee injury that prompted the cancellation of a trip to Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan earlier this month. 

The pope is scheduled to deliver nine homilies and addresses and celebrate two Masses as he visits Edmonton, Maskwacis, Lac Ste. Anne, Quebec and Iqaluit.

The trip comes after last year’s scandal over the discovery of the remains of more than 200 indigenous children. Remains that were found at a former state-sanctioned school run by the Catholic Church to assimilate the children into Canadian culture. 

These state-sanctioned schools operated between 1831 and 1996. They also saw thousands of Indigenous children taken from their homes, with many subjected to abuse, rape and malnutrition.  

Through this trip, which includes apologies during at least five encounters with the country’s native people, the pope hopes to help heal the “evil” committed against Canada’s Indigenous population.

Tunisia constitutional referendum

Information compiled by Joe Veyera

JIMMY: Exactly one year to the day after President Kais Saied dismissed his government and suspended parliament, voters in Tunisia will weigh in Monday on a new draft constitution for the country.

Saied has ruled by decree since last July, invoking emergency powers in the wake of widespread protests. Protests, in response to the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing economic woes. 

In months that followed, he further tightened his grip on power with the dismissals of several more high-ranking officials and a suspension of the current constitution

Saied’s opponents likened those moves to a presidential coup

The proposed draft constitution would cement further powers in the president’s office, allowing him to appoint government ministers without parliamentary approval  and the ability to declare a state of exception in cases of “imminent danger” without oversight.

Now, analysts say the measure is likely to pass, with several opposition groups calling on their supporters to boycott the vote instead of voting no. 

Political rivals have also expressed concern that, if passed, the new constitution could trigger further unrest.

French president visits Cameroon and Benin

Information compiled by Sophie Perryer

JIMMY: France’s President Emmanuel Macron will travel to Cameroon and Benin for a three-day visit beginning Monday. It will be his first trip to the African continent since his re-election in April.

Macron will be accompanied by Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna. 

In Benin, Macron will visit 26 stolen artifacts that France returned last year as part of an initiative to remedy colonial-era lootings. 

In Cameroon, he is expected to meet with President Paul Biya to discuss bilateral relations and funding to support the reconstruction of Cameroon’s crisis-ridden Anglophone regions.

Now, Macron’s visit comes in the context of French troops withdrawing their military support from other West African nations including Mali, which has led to a rise in anti-French sentiment from the military government there. 

Macron is said to be concerned about rising Russian influence as French troops withdraw, with this visit designed to serve as a reminder of France’s links with and support for its former colonies.

Europe heat wave

Information compiled by Jess Fino

JIMMY: Our last item for this forecast is on the stifling heat wave underway in Europe. For more on that, I spoke with Factal Editor Jess Fino.

JIMMY: Hi, Jess. 

JESS: Oh, hi, Jimmy, thanks for having me.

JIMMY: Always. Glad you’re here. Hoping you can tell us about the heat wave over there. I know warmer weather in Europe in the summer shouldn’t be all that surprising, but this heat wave sure seems pretty brutal. I guess to start, is this unusual and is it as bad as it sounds?

JESS: You’re right, high temperatures in Europe in summer is not that surprising, but what is happening right now is that these heat waves are coming sooner and sooner and becoming more frequent. So, usually we would expect some countries like France and Spain to hit the high temperatures in August, but this year the first heat waves were felt from mid June, I’d say. And over the past week, western and southern Europe have been hit by a particularly extreme heat wave with record temperatures being recorded in several cities of France, including 42 degrees Celsius, which is around 107.6 degrees Fahrenheit in Nantes, for example. Portugal recorded 116.6 degrees last Thursday, which is a record for July. And then in the UK, a country that is not particularly known for heat waves, experienced its hottest day, hitting a record of 104 degrees on Tuesday, which is pretty unexpected. And you know, the Met Office over the weekend sent its highest warning ever – a red alert warning – for most parts of England, warning this was going to happen. 

JIMMY: That kind of heat usually comes with pretty heavy consequences. What are some of the effects Europe has been seeing from this heat wave?

JESS: So the most visible consequences have been deadly wildfires across Europe, for example, Spain, Portugal, France, and more recently, Italy, Greece as well in the UK. So these fires have forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes with several fires still burning right now and destroying London homes. So right as we speak, we still have really active fires in Spain, Greece, France, Italy. And just an example, so in Greece, hundreds of people were evacuated this week with several residents damaged by a fast-moving wildfire in Penteli. The country has since seen fires intensify by strong winds, which seem to be staying for the rest of the week. So we can expect more fires in Greece as the summer moves along as well and as temperatures continue to rise. In the UK, as I’ve mentioned, at least 40 houses were damaged outside London on Tuesday. And this is a country that is not really prepared for such high temperatures. So people were left with two options this week, either face the heat and travel to the office where there’s aircon or stay at home and deal with super warm houses that are not really prepared for this heat. As well as fires, this has health consequences. So hundreds of deaths have also been blamed on these temperatures in Portugal and Spain. So Portuguese authorities have said they expect the impact of high temperatures to cause at least 1,000 additional deaths than what is expected for this time of the year. And Spanish health authorities have recorded more than 500 deaths just last week due to the heat wave.

JIMMY: What’s the outlook going forward? Any signs of relief?

JESS: Not really, Jimmy. We’re still in mid-July, which means we still have a lot of summer to go through. So after the heat wave first hit Spain, Portugal and France, the soaring temperatures spread to the UK and Netherlands. And now forecasters say it is going to continue to head north, with Belgium and Germany also expected to see temperatures close to 104 degrees.

JIMMY: Well, besides just watching for cooler temperatures and fire activity, what else should folks be looking for or considering?

JESS: So, as I’ve mentioned before, these temperatures are usually uncommon so early in the summer, meaning some areas were unprepared to deal with the heat. So when the first heat waves hit France, for example, the school year was still running, meaning several schools were forced to close. And because recent studies have concluded climate change is making heat waves worse and more frequent, countries are now trying to better prepare for what scientists say could become the new normal. So the worry is that what we’re dealing with today is a preview for the future as a result of climate change. And also, I should mention that the methods we use to try to deal with the heat waves could potentially be helping make things worse. So, for example, the growing use of air conditioning and massive energy consumption as a result threatens to accelerate greenhouse gas emissions and results in even more global warming. And this also has consequences in people’s lives if we think about the rising energy prices coupled with the economic crisis and the rising inflation.

JIMMY: Well, Jess, that’s all the time we have for today, but I thank you for keeping us up to speed. Hopefully things cool down a bit sooner rather than later.

JESS: Thanks, Jimmy. Let’s hope so. 

JIMMY: Take care.

JIMMY: Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Alex Moore, Awais Ahmad, Joe Veyera and Sophie Perryer. Our interview featured editor Jess Fino and our music comes courtesy of Andrew Gospe.

Until next time, thanks for listening to the Factal Forecast. We publish our forward-looking podcast each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. You can, of course, subscribe for free. And if you have feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed, drop us a note by emailing hello@factal.com

This transcript may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability not guaranteed. 

Top Photo: The European Space Agency is monitoring record temperatures and deadly wildfires across Europe, including in Gironde, France, seen in the animation above. The images show burn scars between July 12 and 17. (Gif: European Space Agency)

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Music: ‘Factal Theme’ courtesy of Andrew Gospe.

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