Environment

Climate change: The effects

Retreating glaciers, falling rocks, economic damage and heat-related deaths: global warming has devastating consequences in our country.

Switzerland is hard hit by climate change. Since measurements began in 1864, warming has been nearly 2°C, twice the global average (0.9°C). How is climate change affecting Switzerland?

Glacier melting:

Since the mid-1980s, a strong retreat of glaciers has been observed throughout the Alpine region. This is directly related to the increasing greenhouse gas emissions of industrial society and the resulting rise in global temperatures. The well-known Swiss point of reference, the 23-kilometer Aletsch Glacier, is melting: since 1870, the largest and largest glacier in the Alps has already retreated by 3 kilometers. Due to the melting glaciers, the slopes of the Aletsch region become unstable.

Less permafrost:

The warming of permafrost, or permafrost, permanently frozen underground in high mountains, is a slow process that has a long-term impact. Thawing permafrost is an onerous risk for many lifts, as the foundations of high-altitude towers and stations are often secured in the ice rock. In addition, this increases the risk of rock falls and landslides in the mountains.

lack of snow:

In the future, the winter sports season will be shortened by a few weeks and the snow limit will rise by several hundred meters. In the Swiss Alps, snow cover settles about 12 days later and disappears 25 days earlier than in 1970. At the moment, climate change is particularly hard on ski resorts below 2,000 meters.

Economic impact:

In addition to winter tourism, the direct economic consequences are particularly noticeable in manufacturing and production industries. Agriculture in particular is suffering from drought and farmers will be more dependent on irrigation in the future. Drought also affects pine plants. Spruce, which plays an extremely important role in the wood industry, is threatened with extinction from the forests of the Swiss Plateau due to the lack of water and the increase in the number of bark beetles.

Changes in the animal world:

Animals also suffer greatly from climate change. According to National Geographic, one in six animal species is expected to disappear over the next century due to warming temperatures and resulting changes in the environment. Other researchers even say that only four out of five animal species will know by the next century.

Climate change influences, to varying degrees, the time of spring awakening of different species. As a result, time shifts between bees and plant species are possible, and the danger is that bees must do without food plants by ending their hibernation too soon. Hedgehogs suffer the same fate: spiny animals begin to hibernate once temperatures are below 6°C for a long time. In recent years, hedgehogs have stopped hibernating earlier, once the temperature has stagnated above 6°C. During sleep breaks, animals consume huge amounts of fat stored in their stores. The sudden return of winter often leads to the death of hedgehogs. For other species, climate change means leaving their habitat. Marmots, for example, react appreciably to the heat and move towards the high regions of the Alps. However, at some point, the high-altitude humus layer is no longer sufficient and the soil is literally too thin to dig deep enough to hibernate safely. The Alpine hare is facing the same problem. By 2100, it is expected to have lost more than a third of its territory on average. Cold-sensitive species benefit from global warming. Various butterflies and snail species such as the Spotted Snail, also known as the Arboreal Snail, can spread further and develop their habitat. Insect pests such as bark beetles, potato beetles or aphids reproduce better at warmer temperatures, posing a threat to wildlife and agriculture.

More allergies:

According to doctors, allergic people are already feeling the signs of global warming. Allergists suspect that the increase in CO2 concentration significantly stimulates pollen production in plants and thus leads to an increase in allergies.

Summer heatwave:

A direct consequence of rising temperatures in Switzerland will be warmer summers in the future. The number of summer days when the thermometer will exceed 25°C will increase, as will the number of tropical nights. Hot summers can be deadly, especially for the elderly. The reason for the higher mortality rate is not necessarily the daily temperatures, but those of warm nights over 20°C. This prevents the body of sensitive people from recovering. In the summer of 2003, an additional 1000 deaths were recorded.

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