This week, parts of northern Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region received half their average annual rainfall in just 36 hours. Rivers burst their banks and thousands of acres of farmland lie submerged, an estimated 20,000 people had been left homeless and 13 were confirmed dead.

It is just the latest weather disaster to hit the country. Six months ago, 12 people died on the southern island of Ischia in a landslide triggered by torrential rain. Eleven more were killed last September by flash floods in the central region of Marche. Last July, amid a heatwave and Italy’s worst drought for at least seven decades, an ice avalanche in the Italian Alps killed 11. Across Europe, as atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide increase, so too does extreme weather – consecutive years of drought have afflicted farmers in Spain and southern France, while last year there were unprecedented heatwaves across the continent. The frontlines of the climate crisis have hitherto been in the global south, leading to the oft-repeated refrain that those least responsible for the climate crisis are facing the worst effects. But for Italy now, and probably soon the rest of Europe, the enemy is at the gates. Last August, a weather station near Syracuse on the southern island of Sicily recorded 48.8C, which is thought to be the highest temperature ever measured in Europe. While the world fights a losing battle to keep the increase in global average temperatures below 1.5C, in Italy average temperatures over the past 10 years are already 2.1C higher than in pre-industrial times.

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