ecostory 13-2004 - "Water and Climate Change"

International Water Day 2004 - Impressions of a conference on Water and Climate Change, at the International Environment House in Geneva.

Natural Disasters: Is climate change responsible? A round table on the occasion of World Water Day

How do we get the message across? That was the main focus of the panel. Everybody seemed to agree that climate change is bad. No wonder, since participants of this kind of meetings belong to the environmental lobby.

So - how DO we get the message across? Well, basically by being hard-hitting and repetitious.
Tim Redford, science editor of the Guardian newspaper even said opinion-leaders require as many as ten thousand repetitions.

Yes. People must hear the hard facts. But we think that is not enough. Too often the subject is the others. This panel was no exception. The effects of climate change on some small island states in the oceans was reiterated. The coastal areas of Pakistan and other poor countries were mentioned. It was stressed that those are the people most at risk: the poor. So why should we worry? We are fine, except for a bit warmer summers.

But what about us, the rich? What about Geneva? And Switzerland? How will we be hit when - not "if" - permafost and glaciers will have melted away?

Can WE survive Can our own children survive if/when this has become reality, possibly before the end of this century? Those are the hard-hitting questions we would ask our institutiuons and opinion-leaders to address.

The Swiss Government Department for the Environment, BUWAL, could calculate the physical mass of earth and rocks that will loose its stability without permafrost. How many cubic kilometers of soil and rock will slide down to the valleys? Which areas will then becomme uninhabitable? The Swiss weather man (der "Wetterfrosch") could tell the public in his Saturday morning radio talk, how much water would run down the then naked mountain slopes and inundate which areas. Would down-town Geneva still be safe? Will the Middle Land of Switzerland, with the large cities of Zürich and Bern, be flooded regularly?

Surprisingly the BUWAL web page about the possible effects of climate change does not mention Permafrost at all. But with a bit of surfing we hit on "Was ist Permafrost? " (What is permafrost?) of the ProClim - InfoSystem of the Swiss Academy of Sciences. Permafrost can have a depth up to 1000 meters, it appears. One of Switzerland's most famous mountain tops, the Jungfraujoch consists to a large part of permafrost.

Can we "mitigate" against the resultung mudslides, when these masses melt down, by dams like the ones built in Pontresina? We believe not. We think we should tackle the cause at its roots: our exorbitant (economic) activity and restlessness. If we want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we will have to reduce speed and consumption.

Compare: Risk assessment

What do you think?


GEN Roundtables The Geneva Environment Network Roundtables bring together Geneva-based UN agencies, NGOs, IGOs, industry, embassies and missions to discuss emerging issues relating to the environment and sustainable development. The Roundtables also function as meeting points for the coordination of strategies for international conferences and meetings as well for specific environmental issues.

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