You are on page 1of 5

Melting glaciers

Scientists have been monitoring the state of the glaciers since 1869.
Between 1850 and 1970 alpine glaciers lost at least one third of their
surface area and about half their density. When glaciers melt, the outflow
of water does not necessarily increase gradually. It is usually dammed by
boulders for a certain time, until it breaks through with great destructive
force onto the valley below.
In the longer term, glaciers are the source of many of Switzerland's major
rivers, including the Rhone. Should they disappear, water levels in these
rivers will fall. This will have a knock-on effect on the generation of
electricity and on navigation.

Impact of climate change
Switzerland is acutely aware of the threat of climate change. In
Switzerland the immediate impact of temperature rises on the human
population will come from the mountains and their cover of snow and ice.
In the last few decades the temperature in Europe's higher mountain
regions has increased by one degree Celsius. Research shows that the
trend is continuing.
Human settlements will be affected by landslides and floods. The allimportant tourism industry will suffer as the areas available for winter
sports shrinks more and more. Agriculture will also be hit.
Climate change is a cause for concern both economically and socially. The
leading reinsurance company, Swissre, has called for strategies to
implemented now to tackle climate change before it is too late.

Water quality
Switzerland's water resources are used for a variety of different purposes,
including drinking, power generation, transport, irrigation and leisure
activities.
The Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) is responsible for
protecting these resources from pollution and from overuse. It also has
the task of flood prevention.
Protection of waterways is inscribed in the Swiss Constitution.
Water quality is constantly monitored. The FOEN has two programmes to
oversee this task. The National Long Term Investigation of Flowing Swiss
Waters (NADUF) is responsible for rivers, while The National Network for
Groundwater Quality Observation (NAQUA) monitors ground water.
The drinking water that comes out of Swiss taps is as pure as bottled
mineral water - and 500 times cheaper.

Scots pine and spruce) grow at up to 1. some have disappeared but others have become established or re-established. Biodiversity in Switzerland It is estimated that Switzerland is home to over 50. Between 1990 and 2000 there was a particularly sharp rise in greenhouse gas emissions by planes. Coniferous forests (like pine. mainly road transport (in particular diesel engines) and industry. Switzerland signed the non-binding UN convention on biodiversity in 1994. most of them bats and other small species. Thirty thousand of them are insects. The role of forests Some 31 % of Swiss territory is covered by woodland. While there are no enormous forested areas in Switzerland. Transport accounted for nearly 31% of greenhouse gases in Switzerland in 2000. carbon monoxide and ammonia. In some cases the new species have arrived of their own accord. there are no areas without forests either. It is thought that species diversity reached its highest point in the middle or end of the 19th century. The pollutants include nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and volatile organic compounds and come from a range of different sources. sulphur dioxide.264 feet).Air pollution Air pollution is a constant source of concern.900 meters (6. birds. while in others they were reintroduced. Other pollutants are benzene.232 feet). The different types of pollution are dangerous to human health and damaging to the environment as well as to buildings and monuments. . both national and international.300 meters (4.000 jobs in Switzerland depend on timber in one way or another. This aims to reverse the world-wide decline in the number of different species of animals.000 species of plants and animals – although only 83 of these are mammals. There have been considerable fluctuations in the diversity of species in the past. amphibians and fish) remained more or less constant between 1997 and 2005. Today some 90. but whereas industry is much less polluting than formerly. reptiles. the increase in transport of all kinds has more or less cancelled out the gains made in this area by technical advances. Technical improvements have helped to reduce the emission of pollutants in the last two decades or so. plants and other organisms. The number of animal species (mammals. Deciduous forests (beech and oak) grow at altitudes of up to 1.

. Switzerland is considering the introduction of incentives to persuade people to buy cleaner cars. of which transport is responsible for 2. The Swiss built their homes out of wood and used wood to heat them. Vehicle fuels The main producer of greenhouse gases in Switzerland overall is transport.Chestnut grows mainly on the southern side of the Alps. which accounted for nearly 31% of such emissions in 2000. more environmentally friendly fuels. The number of diesel cars on Swiss roads trebled between 1990 and 2005. and a world average of about four.6 tonnes. Nearly 30% of new cars in Switzerland are diesel powered. and together with other vegetation they act like a sponge to reduce flooding. Drivers are encouraged to turn off their engines when waiting for short periods. but wood is one of the few that it has. according to the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association. This compares with a total of 20 tonnes for the US. and to abolish them completely on fuels from renewable resources. Traditional vehicle fuels Ever stiffer legislation has been introduced since the 1970s governing the lead content of petrol (gasoline) and the sulphur content of diesel.6 litres in neighbouring countries. Historically charcoal was used in furnaces for the country's own modest metal production and for glassmaking. In addition they act as a windbreak. The Swiss government has proposed legislation to lower taxes on fuels that produce fewer harmful emissions. The main gases involved are carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (NO2). Switzerland wants all new diesel vehicles to be fitted with particle filters as of 2007. And many of the ships of the great seafaring nations of Europe (in particular the Dutch) were built of Swiss timber. The Swiss produce about six tonnes of carbon emissions per head per year. Their roots help stabilise the soil and prevent landslides and erosion. They help to prevent avalanches by stabilising the snow cover. Projects are underway at different Swiss research institutions to develop new. Their trunks block rockfalls. Switzerland is poor in natural resources. For centuries Switzerland's trees have had an important commercial function as well. compared with only 1. In order to combat air pollution. The average car in Switzerland has a two-litre engine. but much more was exported to larger metal producing countries. and they help to purify the air. Forests play an essential part in preserving the landscape.

and hazardous. In general. Every year the SBB collects from its trains: 2.recycling them saves 116 tonnes of bauxite and takes only a 20th of the energy that it takes to produce them from scratch Nearly 1 million glass bottles. The Swiss are champion recyclers.000 kg (63. The type of waste determines how it is disposed of.000 T-shirts or filling for 39.However. which works out at 50 kg (110 lb) per carriage per year. combustible waste in Switzerland must be incinerated.5 million plastic bottles. weighing 65. infectious or otherwise toxic waste.608 tonnes of newspapers and magazines.enough for 276.300 lb) . This acts as an incentive to dispose of anything recyclable at recycling points for which they do not have to pay. Companies like the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) play their part too. 85-90% of aluminium cans and 75% of tin cans. Some 16.000 kg (143. In 2004 Switzerland's incineration capacity reached 3. Incineration Waste consists of two general types: municipal. 47% of all urban waste was recycled . Municipal waste Since January 2000 all non-recyclable. In many cantons householders pay a tax according to the volume of rubbish they put out for the dustmen to collect. Municipal waste is refuse from households and small businesses. Not only individuals are involved in collecting this rubbish. weighing 190 tonnes. It is no longer necessary to dispose of any . 71% of plastic bottles.000 army diesel trucks were still on the road in 2006 without filters. 95% of glass. They recycled 70% of paper.500 sleeping bags 2 million aluminium cans. hazardous waste includes chemical.930 lb) . the government has been criticised for not being stricter and for not setting a good example.29 million tonnes. weighing 29. In 2003. which are resmelted 3. there are two main ways to dispose of waste: by burning it (incineration) or by placing it in a lined pit (landfilling). Ordinary citizens are encouraged to recycle as much as possible. Household waste The Swiss attach a lot of importance to recycling.a new Swiss record.

This in turn means that 215.000 homes. Incinerators have undergone vast improvements in recent years and burning municipal waste now produces only minimal amounts of air pollution in Switzerland.000 tonnes less oil derivatives need to be imported for heating purposes. . The cement industry burns suitable waste such as used oils and solvents in order to cover a large amount of its energy needs. Energy from waste Incineration plants are also a source of energy: the 28 Swiss facilities generate enough electricity for 250. It is not only the incineration of municipal waste in Switzerland which produces energy.combustible waste in landfills.