Southern Switzerland will feel the biggest effects of climate change in the future, but the rest of the country will not escape unscathed as temperatures rise, according to a University of Bern report.
The CH2014-Impacts report says that canton Ticino can expect lengthy heat waves, with temperatures at night staying above 20 degrees Celsius for more than two months a year. People, livestock and forests will suffer particularly from this situation.
Presented on Friday, the report warns that unless radical measures are taken to counter global warming, Switzerland’s plateau region, where most of the population lives, will only see snow cover a few days a year by the end of the century.
The ski season will also become shorter and 90% of the country’s glaciers will eventually vanish. Groundwater quality could also be negatively affected.
Birds and plants will continue to migrate towards higher altitudes, while biodiversity will fall away in lower-lying regions. The tree line will also rise, but some varieties will be less abundant than today at lower altitudes.
In alpine valleys already considered dry, trees will face stunted growth and be more vulnerable to attacks from insects. This will in turn affect their capacity to protect the population and infrastructure from rock falls and avalanches.
On the plateau, more flooding can be expected, along with more dry spells. It’s good news though for winegrowers, who can expect a wider variety of grapes.
The likelihood that thanks to global warming savings could be made on heating are hosed down by the researchers. While less will be spent on keeping buildings warm, this will be offset by heightened air conditioner use at other times of the year.
Because temperature extremes will become frequent, people can expect to fall ill more often, requiring more medication and more frequent hospital stays.
The researchers say that some of these effects could be mitigated if something is done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Switzerland could adapt to climate change, but would have to reconsider how it manages water resources for example.
Only a limited number of climate scenarios were covered by the report, but the aim is to study additional scenarios so that politicians have a solid basis for future decisions.
The report, which includes results from 20 research groups from all over the country, was published by the Oeschger climate centre at the University of Bern. It was produced with the support of the Federal Environment Office and the Swiss national weather service, MeteoSwiss.
swissinfo.ch and agencies