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How we are Losing the Alpine Region

The Alpine region covers an area of approximately 190 700 km² and includes eight European countries: Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Slovenia and Switzerland. It is a unique and beautiful part of the world, home to some of the most spectacular mountain ranges in Europe.


Unfortunately, due to climate change, this region is facing an uncertain future. It is facing many threats to its environment and biodiversity. These include land-use changes, pollution and over-exploitation of natural resources. In this article I will unravel the topic of climate change and its threat to the Alpine region.


No Snow


I recently went skiing myself in the French Alps for a week. The weather was warm, the sky was clear but the snow was slushy. The effects of climate change on the Alps already being felt. As temperatures rise, the glacier ice melts faster and there is less fresh snow. According to a 2017 study by the Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research, the Alps could lose up to 70% of their snow cover by 2100, if global temperatures continue to rise as the current rate. It is also feared that by 2050, ski resorts below 1200m are unlikely to have enough snow cover and the correct temperatures to function at all. This can have a major impact on local economies that rely on winter tourism for income.


However, this article is not me being snobby about how we won't be able to continue to ski for much longer and the struggles we will face but to make you aware of what this actually means. As for some people to take action or to become aware and concerned it has to directly affect them.


White Gold


About 400 million people visit ski resorts each year. The alps accounting for almost 50% of these winter tourists. So while people won't focus on the environmental impacts of global warming, maybe I can get through to people by sharing the economic impact. The alps bring in a hefty $33 billion dollars a year. The term 'white gold' emphasises where the money lies in the alpine region. However with the effects of climate change this won't be the case for much longer, as local communities to big companies will struggle to make money out of what the mountains have to offer.


What is happening

The Alps are particularly vulnerable to climate change. Glaciers are retreating and ice and snow bridges are disappearing. This has lead to a decrease in snow cover which is effecting the alpine ecosystem. With this change, plants and animals are at risk as they are not adapted to live in these conditions. Studies have found species have changed their life cycles to earlier in the season and moved their elevations further up the mountains, but these changes are often lagging behind the rate of climate changes.


In addition to loss of biodiversity, natural disasters are also increasing due to climate change. Extreme weather events are occurring more often, this includes intense storms, floods, landslides and avalanches. This is having serious negative effects on the environment but also for the local communities as infrastructures are being damaged, methods of transports being disrupted and more.



What needs to be done


The state of the alps is difficult to reverse, but there are steps and measures that can be taken to prevent the situation worsening and to slow the process down. Governments and business should focus on investing in renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power so they can cut their carbon emissions down, as this is a major contributor to global warming. They should also research and develop more into carbon capture technology, this is when carbon dioxide from our atmosphere is captured and is now being considered a key method for fighting climate change. Strict restrictions should also be put in place such as how land is used and so that deforestation doesn't occur which would reduce the impact of climate change. Also introducing more transport to the slopes, as multiple cars driving up and down the mountains each day releasing fumes add to the carbon emissions. For example, introducing designated buses and increasing lift shares. Lastly, more research should be taken to see how we as a whole can make a difference so future generations can see the alpine range as we once did.


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