The Effects of Climate Change in the Alps

The Alps stretch 1,200 km with an area of 200,000 km2. Spanning across several countries, the Alps are in: Austria, France, Italy, Germany, Slovenia, Monaco, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. Tens of millions of years were needed to form the Alps, and nearly one hundred peaks are 4,000 meters or higher.

The size of the Alps impacts Europe’s climate, and these mountains have five different climate zones.

Many of these zones are suffering from the effects of climate change. The impact will be felt across Europe.

Temperatures Are Rising and Will Continue to Rise

The Alps have suffered from temperature rises of nearly 2C over the past 120 years. Putting this figure into perspective, The Alps have suffered nearly twice as much temperature increase as the rest of the world.

This is a major concern for Europe which relies on the Alps to help stabilize climate.

Researchers state that the outlook is even grimmer for the Alps. The mountain range is expected to:

  • Increase an additional 2C in the next 40 years

While this might seem like a small increase in temperature, the temperatures will be enough to affect the climate.

Looking for evidence of rising temperatures, one only needs to look at the Alpine glaciers. These massive glaciers have started to melt. The problem is so bad that the glaciers are now half their size when compared to just decades ago.

Researchers suggest that by the end of the century, the Alps will lose all of its glaciers.

As the glaciers begin to melt, this will cause:

  • Mudslides
  • Landslides
  • Rocks falling

Animals that rely on the colder climate will need to adapt or die from the change in temperature.

A Rippling Impact Across Europe

Glaciers play an important role in controlling the temperature in Europe and The Alps. Glaciers act as huge solar mirrors that reflect solar energy. When the glaciers start melting, there is less surface area for the solar energy to reflect off of.

Ultimately, the less reflection will result in the sun heating up the earth further.

The conditions will continue to amplify as glaciers continue to melt away. The question of what can be done has been studied intensely. Researchers have pointed to a lot of concerns and actions that have led to the Alps melting. A few of which are:

  • Mankind
  • Energy consumption
  • Tourism
  • Transport

Mankind has played a key role in climate change thanks to the burning of fossil fuels heating up the atmosphere. There’s also the fact that energy consumption per capita in the Alps is 10% higher than the European average.

The harsh weather conditions may be one reason for higher energy consumption in the area.

But there’s also the concern that many of the buildings in the area are in need of renovation. A lot of the buildings, primarily private residences, need renovation to be more energy efficient.

Tourism and transport in the area has also increased. The tourism industry helps boost local economies, but the uptick of activity in the Alps and increase in transportation have caused the temperature to continue to rise.

Motor cars are used for 84% of travel to the Alps, with motorised traffic accounting for 93% of all traffic in the regions. The Alps are one of the most important regions for holiday in Europe. Rising climate and melting glaciers will have an impact on the tourism industry as a whole.

Climate change will have a long-reaching impact on The Alps, with challenges including:

  • Erosion of the natural environment
  • Loss of wildlife
  • Increase in natural disasters, mudslides and falling rocks
  • Economic concerns and loss of tourism
  • Industry and trade loss
  • Loss of home and habitat

CIPRA is conducting a project to determine what can be done to help reduce global warming on the mountain ranges. The group is also looking at ways to help mitigate the coming damages that will occur if climate change is allowed to continue on its path of progressing.

CIPRA will also be trying to conform to the principle of sustainability to find a sustainable way to lower the impact of climate change on the Alps.

If researchers and scientists are correct, the majority of the glaciers that help the Alps control the climate will be gone. The loss of the glaciers will cause irreversible damage to Europe and the Alps as a whole.