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Global warming hits Switzerland

Switzerland's retreating snowline is blamed on global warming

(Keystone Archive)

Global warming is hitting Switzerland harder than most other countries, according to a new report. Experts warned of drastic consequences for the Swiss tourism industry and hydroelectric power supplies.

An international report, released by the Swiss environmental authorities, showed that between 1961 and 1990 average temperatures increased by one per cent in Switzerland, whereas it rose by 0.6 per cent in other countries over the entire century.

The level of rainfall rose by 12 per cent in Switzerland, compared to a global average of between five and 10 per cent.

"Short-term gain is still prevailing over an assessment of the situation which would guarantee long-term gain," said Beat Nobs, a senior official in the Swiss environment agency.

The agency said Switzerland had been severely affected by receding glaciers and frequent rainstorms - a trend which was likely to worsen.

The winter tourism business is already starting to feel the negative effects, according to the authorities. The snow line has risen from around 1,200 to 1,800 metres, and ski resorts are already feeling the effects of the lack of snow.

Meanwhile, higher rainfall levels could have an effect on the water table and may require structural changes in hydroelectric power stations and new policy on the provision of water supplies.

Both at home and abroad, Switzerland is acting to combat greenhouse gas emissions, Nobs told swissinfo.

"Firstly, we've got our carbon dioxide law in place which will require the economy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 10 per cent by 2010. Internationally we are engaged very actively in trying to put the Kyoto Protocol (on environmental protection) into effect."

The report is the third in a series produced by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Despite the gloomy prognosis, Swiss experts think global warming can be beaten.

New technology is helping to reduce emissions said Professor Eberhard Jochem director of the centre for energy policy at the federal institute of technology in Zurich.
"In the future, we will use much less energy thanks to new building stock and the increasing efficiency of cars."

Dr Fortunat Joos from the university of Bern and vice-chairman of one of the Panel's working groups, said it was a long-term problem and there would be no short-term solutions.

"The negotiation process which started about 10 years ago will continue and I am optimistic that in the long run, these negotiations will produce a meaningful and useful result."

swissinfo with agencies


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