Skip to content
Subscriber Only
Business
Climate changed

Europe’s Most Important River Is Running Dry

The Rhine waterway, critical to moving coal, car parts, food and thousands of other goods, risks becoming impassable because of climate change.

Vessels on the Rhine river.

Vessels on the Rhine river.

Photographer: Maja Hitij/Getty Images

From

Kevin Kilps’s car ferry churns the waters of Germany’s Rhine river as he steers toward the bank opposite Kaub, a scenic village just south of the rocky outcropping named after the legendary siren Lorelei.

It’s typically a busy stretch of waterway. On a normal day, the commuter ferry vies for space with cargo barges shuttling supplies to factories in the south and German goods to ports on the North Sea as well as tourist boats heading for nearby medieval castles and vineyards.