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The Rhine is the lynchpin of Europe’s network of inland waterways. 

The Rhine is the lynchpin of Europe’s network of inland waterways. 

Photographer: Alex Kraus/Bloomberg
Green
The Big Take

Historic Drought Threatens to Cripple European Trade

From the Rhine to the Danube, waterways are failing at the worst possible moment as the climate crisis worsens.

Updated on

In the midst of an arid summer that set heat records across Europe, the continent’s rivers are evaporating.

The Rhine — a pillar of the German, Dutch and Swiss economies for centuries — is set to become virtually impassable at a key waypoint later this week, stymieing vast flows of diesel and coal. The Danube, which snakes its way 1,800 miles through central Europe to the Black Sea, is gummed up too, hampering grain and other trade.