To the latest report of the European Environment Agency, climate change “poses a grave threat” to the snows of the Alps, and thus will decrease the amounts of water received by many rivers like the Danube, Rhine, Po and Rhone.
At the center of Europe the Alps – like the Himalayas are for Asia – are the water towers of the continent and play an important role for our environment, societies and economies.
Knowing how much the decreasing amounts of snow in the Alps would harm our agriculture, tourism industry and so on I hope our representatives will pledge to action in Copenhagen.
As the Agency notes in its report :
Troublingly, the alpine climate has changed significantly during the past century, with temperatures increasing more than twice the global average. This makes alpine mountains especially vulnerable to changes in the hydrological cycle and decreases in snow and glacier cover, which are already occurring.
Global climate change threatens to continue altering the alpine hydrological system drastically. Projected changes in precipitation, snow-cover patterns and glacier storage will further alter run-off regimes, leading to more droughts in summer, floods and landslides in winter and higher inter-annual variability.
Projected water shortages and more frequent extreme events, combined with increasing water demand (for irrigating agriculture or tourist influxes, for example), are likely to have severe adverse effects on ecosystem services, such as the provision of drinking water.
Furthermore 60 % of mountain plant species may face extinction by 2100 if unable to adapt by moving northward or uphill. Economic sectors, including households, agriculture, energy production, forestry, tourism, and river navigation, are already now vulnerable to water shortages.
Climate change may worsen current water resource issues and lead to increased risk of conflicts between users in the alpine region (particularly the south) but also outside the Alps where droughts are also expected to become more frequent. Observed and projected reductions in permafrost are also expected to increase natural hazards and damage to high altitude infrastructure.