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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.
After a prolonged summer drought, the bustling traffic at one of the shallowest points on the Rhine ground to a halt for nearly a month late last year, choking off a critical transport artery. The impact damped Germany’s industrial machine, slowing economic growth in the third and fourth quarters. It was the latest sign of how even advanced industrial economies are increasingly fighting the effects of global warming.