Environment

The End of the Alps?

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  • It is far too late to save the Alpine glaciers. And now, the dangers caused by tons of melting ice are rising sharply. Every year, climate change is destroying two of the currently 70 square kilometers of glaciers left in the Alps.

    The permafrost in the Alps is thawing, and transforming what used to be sturdy slopes into loose screes. In addition, climate change is leading to significantly more extreme weather conditions every year, while heavy rainfall causes serious erosion. The result: avalanches and landslides like those in Bondo, Switzerland, or Valsertal in Austria.
    In Switzerland, residential areas are shrinking as people are forced to leave their homes forever.

    The disappearance of glaciers as water reservoirs is already posing a major problem. Farmers in Engadine, who have been using meltwater for irrigation for centuries, are already facing water shortages. Last summer, they had to rely on helicopters to transport water to their herds in the Grison Alps.

    Above all, alpine villages depend on winter tourism to survive. Yet experts are forecasting that by mid-century, there will only be enough natural snow left to ski above 2,000 meters, which will spell out the end for about 70 percent of the ski resorts in the Eastern Alps. But instead of developing alternatives, lots of money is still being invested in ski tourism. Snow cannon are used to defy climate change, and artificial snow systems are under construction at ever higher altitudes.

    As usual, it’s the environment that is set to lose as the unique alpine landscape is further destroyed by soil compaction and erosion. Some municipalities are now working on new models of alpine tourism for the future. As global temperatures continue to rise, the cooler mountain regions will become increasingly attractive for tourists, especially in the summer.

    Directed by: Michael Hoffman

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