‘Losing all the glaciers in Switzerland is not that far away’


‘Losing all the glaciers in Switzerland is not that far away’
The Rhône glacier. Photo: Max Schmid/Swiss Tourism
By Sean Mowbray/The Local
A child born in Switzerland today will likely live to see the turn of the 22nd century. If scientists are right, the views they’ll see will have changed remarkably, writes The Local contributor Sean Mowbray.
For one, they will likely shiver less in winter and only see glaciers in the highest reaches of the Alps. It’s a grim vision of a future depleted of snow and ice, but it’s a vision that can be avoided. Well, sort of.
Glacial retreat
This past year alone was nigh-on catastrophic for Switzerland’s glaciers.
Matthias Huss, a glaciologist at the University of Fribourg, tells The Local that many of Switzerland’s glaciers were snow-free by July this year. That meant the icy surfaces of glaciers were at the direct mercy of the sizzling August temperatures. The result is that over a single year, three percent of Swiss glacial mass melted away.
That’s enough ice melt to provide every single Swiss household with a rather cold 25m2 swimming pool, Huss says.
“This really indicates that losing all the glaciers in Switzerland is not that far away,” he warns.
That’s not to say that the epic ice loss of 2017 will be necessarily repeated next year, nor even in the next five years. But, Huss explains, Swiss glaciers are still going through a steep decline with no end in sight. For the past 30 years they’ve been losing mass, sometimes in epic proportions, overtimes in small amounts.
The result of all this loss is that by 2100, when a Swiss child born in 2017 is lighting their 83rd birthday candle, there’ll be far fewer glaciers left in Switzerland, with up to 90 percent of them lost.
“The troubling thing is that this is not even that much dependent on future CO2,” says Huss.
Will scenes like this, of the Aletsch glacier, become a thing of the past? Photo: The Local
He points to the Aletsch glacier, which is currently the longest glacier in Europe. Unfortunately it’s too big for the current climate. Even if temperatures stabilize, glaciers such as the Aletsch keep on melting for a time until they retreat to a place they can survive, says Huss. Unfortunately, the Alps just aren’t high enough to offer refuge.
“We cannot preserve the Aletsch glacier, for example, with its beautiful glacial tongue, even with strongly reduced CO2 emissions,” Huss continues.
The Aletsch won’t disappear altogether, but it will likely retreat nearer to the Jungfraujoch and become a shadow of what it once was, with around 70-80 percent of its current volume reduced to meltwater.
Snow’s not so sure 
Glacier-lovers may have a grim view of the future in Switzerland, but skiers need not despair completely – for now.
Christoph Marty, of the Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research, is more optimistic about what’s to come. That’s because we can still do something about the amount of snowfall in Switzerland, he says.
“We say that glaciers have a memory,” Marty tells The Local. “A bad year with little snow and lots of melt means they have a bad start to the next year.” However, for snow, “each year is like resetting the dial back to zero”.
In a study released earlier this year, Marty and his team said that snow cover will largely disappear from the Alps by 2100.   That’s hardly great news, but crucially, his research points out that this is dependent on CO2 emissions and the amount of warming that happens between now and then.
“If we don’t cut emissions, enough snow for winter sports can only be guaranteed above 2,500 metres,” the researchers said in a statement back in February.
Since less snowfall also comes with a loss of snow days in general , the ski season simultaneously shortens while snow cover worsens – bad news for skiers.
The ski slopes in Grindelwald in mid March 2017. Photo: The Local
Marty believes that as things stand, we are probably on course to raise the snow-sure altitude level from its current 1,400 metres by a good 500-700 metres. But if we tackle emissions then that could be reduced greatly.
However, that seems a big ‘if’.
Switzerland, for its part, is committed to the Paris agreement and aims to halve its CO2 emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. The new Energy Strategy 2050, which enters into force on January 1st 2018, also envisages a Switzerland that’s more energy efficient and less reliant on fossil fuels.
But with the US pulling out of Paris, it remains to be seen if enough can be done worldwide to tackle climate change.
Not such a quick fix    
By now, you’re probably thinking perhaps these problems could be fixed with a few good snow blowers. These water and energy hungry snow producers are now a common sight at many alpine ski resorts. Couldn’t they be used to save glaciers?
Glaciologist Felix Keller has been figuring out how to put them to use to save the Morteratsch glacier. He plans to blow snow over the glacier during the summer months to ward off any melt. Previously, it had been thought that thousands of snow machines would be needed, but Keller’s new calculations mean that only around 200 would be needed, he tells The Local.
However he concedes this would be a stop-gap measure and that glaciers cannot be saved forever – we can only slow their decline. On top of that, using snow blowers is incredibly costly, both financially and environmentally, making it a measure that Huss says simply isn’t feasible across the hundreds of glaciers in Switzerland.
Efforts to save glaciers should only be considered if it’s absolutely essential to preserve water sources, says Keller, who is concerned about what the loss of glaciers means for freshwater availability, particularly during summer time, something that’s not yet entirely clear.
So it’s likely we can’t engineer our way out of this one. Switzerland’s glaciers are melting away, one year after another, and while we can still hope to see snow-sure slopes for some time to come, as temperatures rise this will become more challenging and be at further cost to the environment. What is sure is that children born today or in the coming decades will look out on to an alpine landscape that’s vastly different from our own.
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Swiss hotel sparks outrage by asking Jewish guests to shower before swimming


Swiss hotel sparks outrage by asking Jewish guests to shower before swimming

Arosa. Photo: Stephen Colebourne/Flickr

Visitors to Arosa’s Aparthaus Paradies shocked to discover anti-Semitic notices, which have now been removed

A sign put up at a Swiss hotel calling on Jewish guests to shower before going swimming (Courtesy)
Last month, a hotel in Switzerland put up signs telling “Jewish guests” to shower before swimming, sparking outrage from the guests.

Another sign, this one on the refrigerator, said: “For our Jewish guests: You may access the refrigerator only in the following hours: 10:00-11:00 and 16:30-17:30. I hope you understand that our team does not like being disturbed all the time.”

While guests said they were horrified by the signs and Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely in a statement expressed her outrage at the situation, the hotel said it was a misunderstanding and there was no anti-Semitic intent at all.

“It was very strange and the sort of anti-Semitic incident we have not been exposed to before,” she said.“Everyone had been very nice to us; suddenly we came down and saw the sign, we were in shock,”

Hotovely called the incident “an anti-Semitic act of the worst and ugliest kind.”

Hotovely also said she had spoken with Israel’s ambassador to Switzerland, Jacob Keidar, who confirmed that the signs had been removed. The ambassador said he had spoken with the Swiss Foreign Ministry about the incident.

Hotovely said that removing the signs was not sufficient. “Unfortunately, anti-Semitism in Europe is still a reality and we must make sure that the punishment for incidents such as these will serve as deterrents for those who still harbor the germ of anti-Semitism,” she said.

 Ruth Thomann, the manager of the hotel, confirmed the signs had now been removed. She insisted that many Jews visit the hotel, particularly at this time of year, and they are very welcome.

The hotel was popular with ultra-Orthodox Jewish guests from around the world because it was usually very accommodating to their needs.

The hotel managements said, it meant no harm by the signs. “There was no anti-Semitic intent and the signs were removed,” it said. “We have no problem with Jewish guests at the hotel.”

The hotel explained why, it said, the signs related specifically to Jews.

“The sign on the freezer was hung because only Jews used the workers’ refrigerator,” it said. “The sign regarding the showers was hung after two Jewish girls entered without taking a shower, ignoring a sign addressed to all guests. Therefore, a specific sign was hung to focus their attention on this.”

Switzerland:Why slow-burn Lausanne is a place you grow to love


Photo: Swiss Tourism
From its creative vibe to its lakeside location, here’s why Greek freelance writer Rania Margari thinks her adopted city of Lausanne,Switzerland  is a great place to live.
Lausanne may not be a city you instantly fall in love with, but it has the power to grow on you, and one day you suddenly wake up and realize there are so many reasons to love living here. That’s what happened me at least. So here’s why I think Lausanne is a great place to be.
It’s easy to live in
Chilling out at Ouchy. Photo: The Local
With a compact town center – which nevertheless has some ruthless uphill roads, as the whole city is built on three hills – and an amazing lake promenade stretching all the way from Pully and Ouchy port to the residential area of Saint Sulpice and beyond, there are countless possibilities for walks.
Around the city, green parks abound, offering some stunning views of the Alps and Lake Geneva: my favorite panoramic spots are Lac Sauvabelin, Esplanade de Montbenon, Parc de Milan and the botanical gardens, plus Le Denantou Parc near the Olympic Museum, right next to the lake.  In summer every single park is packed and having a picnic next to the lake with friends and family becomes an all-day ritual.
Festivals such as Festival de la Cité and Lausanne Estivale, during which the city becomes a big open-air music and theatre show, help make the city an enticing place to be in summer.
Its architecture is a pleasing mix of old and modern 
Lausanne’s pretty Place de la Palud includes the city hall. Photo: Christof Schuerpf/Swiss Tourism 
Lausanne has some stunning buildings spread around the city. In fact, there are 46 buildings and sites listed as Swiss Heritage sites of national significance, such as the Casino de Montbenon and the city hall. Naturally, there are also a few modern, blunt buildings but for the moment they are in the minority.
La Cité, the Old Town below the cathedral as well as the neighborhoods spreading from the train station down to the lake are particularly charming. I often find myself walking around avenues Grancy and Frédéric-César de La Harpe admiring Lausanne’s fine architecture.
But I love the modern face of the city as well, such as Le Flon with its restaurants, cafés and shops including my favorite, vintage furniture shop La Malle au Trésor.
Modern architecture is represented by such gems as the Rolex Learning Center, a university study centre located on the campus of science and technology university École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), which is open not only to students but also to the public. I often like to take my guests there for a tour.
It’s family-friendly
Ouchy is a great place for families. Photo: Rania Margari
Having recently acquired a baby boy joining me on my adventures around Lausanne, I have started to notice how kid-friendly the city is. Going for walks is such a pleasure since access is easy with elevators and ramps almost everywhere. The challenge of going uphill is solved by taking public transport, which is free for kids up to six years old. There are also plenty of kids’ corners in various shops and cafes. My favorite so far is Culture Café inside FNAC.
“I appreciate the ludotheques here where you can rent quality toys, bikes, instruments, costumes, games (for kids and adults) for as little as one franc for a month,” says Karin Ling, an expat mother of two.
“We also love the toy markets that pop up twice a year in different neighborhoods where children and their families sell their used toys super cheap. Because of how expensive things can be in Switzerland, my husband and I get as excited about the second hand toys as our kids do.”
It has a thriving gastro scene
Lausanne’s food truck festival in Riponne was a big success in 2016 and returns in June this year. Photo: Rania Margari
It’s hardly Lyon or San Sebastian but the gastronomy in Lausanne is quite diverse.
Its celebrated each summer in the Lausanne à Table festival,  which includes a vast array of foodie events. From May to September, there are visits to the city’s chocolate artisans, guided gourmet walks, farm visits, workshops for kids, unusual dining experiences, a lively food truck festival, and a massive picnic, all of which turns the city into a gourmet oasis.
Street food is also gaining in popularity, as is the case across the country. Over the last few years Riponne has become a centerpiece for street food vendors and on a sunny day there is nothing better than eating your Lebanese lunch or sweet crepe amidst the buzz here. That’s where you’ll also find coffee trucks including Rush and Sydney, which serve killer espressos, flat whites and hot chocolates.
Microbreweries are booming as well. Two local ones, La Nébuleuse and Docteur Gab’s, have experienced big demand for their craft beers which can now be found in numerous bars and restaurants around Lausanne. Sample those and many other  craft beers at Pi Bar.
It’s young, creative and dynamic 
EPFL helps create a young, dynamic vibe in the city. Photo: Lausanne Tourism
The presence of EPFL, the University of Lausanne and the hotel school École Hôtelier de Lausanne (EHL) means there are tons of students in the city. These institutions play a pivotal role in the city’s vibrant energy,  attracting people who are curious, international-minded and have a willingness to learn, grow and embrace the new. You can feel that by a simple visit to EPFL’s premises.

This youthful creativity has helped fuel a recent boom in crowd-funded spaces such as Ta Cave wine bar, Mood Café and Crazy Wolf burger restaurant.

“In the last few years many entrepreneurial initiatives have been launched across Lausanne, from design studios to cafés and co-working spaces,” says Géraldine Morand, founder of the design blog withatouchofseasalt.com.
“All these projects, led with talent and passion, keep inspiring and enabling more and more people to reinvent the city they live in. As Lausanne isn’t too big, global ideas meet local insights and this unique combination gives the city its own creative vibe.”
Alex Barakat from Crazy Wolf thinks Lausanne’s diverse, international population makes creating a trendy restaurant, bar or theatre show easier. “As crowdfunding requires engagement from the local inhabitants, Lausanne is a good city in which to launch a crowdfunded project, as long as it is well-designed, attractive and that locals can identify with the project and the team behind it,” he says.
The great outdoors is on your doorstep
The beautiful vineyards of Lavaux are on the doorstep. Photo: Marcus Gyger/Swiss Tourism
Lausanne’s location is a winner: firstly, it’s a grape’s throw from the Lavaux, the Unesco World Heritage vineyards next to Lake Geneva. That’s a great place to escape city life, walking or biking among the vineyards and the quaint, medieval villages with their spectacular views and wine cellars.
There are also numerous ski resorts nearby for skiing in winter or hiking in summer. Portes du Soleil, Villars and Chamonix, to name just a few, are all easily reachable for a day excursion or a weekend recharge.
Lastly, being in the center of Europe means you can drive to various European destinations like Italy, France, Germany and Austria, while Lausanne’s proximity to Geneva airport means it’s easy to discover further-flung destinations. Weekend in Iceland anyone?

Swiss taxi drivers to protest against Uber once again


Taxi drivers across Switzerland will stage a mass demonstration against rival Uber next Tuesday.

Traffic will be disrupted in Geneva, Lausanne, Basel and Zurich on Tuesday between 11.45am and 1.30pm as licensed taxi drivers protest against the low-cost UberPop ride-sharing system, reported 20 Minutes.

The Californian company has been a thorn in the side of professional taxi drivers across the world since it launched back in 2010.

Launched in Zurich in 2013 and now also available in Lausanne, Geneva and Basel, Uber uses location technology to connect riders with private car drivers by means of an app.

Rides are often cheaper than traditional taxi services and drivers need not be accredited taxi drivers.

Budget version UberPop allows ordinary drivers to essentially become taxi drivers using their own car.

The service operates in a grey area where Swiss legislation is concerned, leading many licensed taxi drivers in the country object to it, saying it breaks regulations.

Speaking to 20 Minutes, a professional taxi driver in Lausanne, Daniel Kamponis, said Tuesday’s demonstration aimed to show people what Uber hides behind its low prices.

“UberPop doesn’t respect the law because it transports people without authorization and its drivers do not have the required permits.”

Their anger is exacerbated by the fact that Uber is becoming very popular with the public in Switzerland.

In March Uber’s head of French-speaking Switzerland, Steve Salom, told newspaper 24 Heures that the company was doubling the number of clients it has in Switzerland every six months.

Since it launched in Geneva in September 2014 the service has gained 100,000 users, he said, with figures similarly high in Lausanne and Zurich.

Another Lausanne taxi driver told 20 Minutes she is losing half her business to Uber on nights and weekends, and said professionals can’t compete with Uber’s marketing budget.

“Public authorities must react and make them respect the rules, because with its money, Uber thinks it’s above the law,” she told the paper.

But Salom said the anger of Swiss taxi drivers was misdirected.

Taxi drivers could benefit by driving for Uber themselves, he told 24 Heures, but taxi firms prevent them from doing so.

Last year Uber appealed against a ban on its activities by the Geneva cantonal government, but in January this year the supreme court said the appeal was inadmissible.

However it is currently allowed to operate under certain conditions while legal proceedings are ongoing, Salom told 24 Heures.

Meanwhile, Geneva’s parliament is currently debating a transport bill which, if passed, would allow the company to operate legally in the city.

Switzerland isn’t the only country to battle against Uber.

On Wednesday the company said it would suspend its UberPop service in two Swedish cities after several of its drivers were deemed by a court as acting illegally.

The American company has also been forced to suspend services in Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium and France, where French taxi drivers were demanding 100 million dollars in compensation.

Unhappy Living in the US? Try Switzerland


Apparently, this goes beyond the great taste of Swiss chocolate. Switzerland is the happiest country in the world, according to a global ranking of happiness unveiled by the United Nations in New York on Thursday.

The 2015 World Happiness Report is the third annual report seeking to quantify happiness as a means of influencing government policy.

Switzerland takes over top spot from Denmark, ranked first in the last edition of the study first published by the UN in 2012, and now demoted to third.

Iceland ranked second, while Norway came fourth followed by Canada, Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden, New Zealand and Australia in the top ten.

Small or medium-sized countries in Western Europe accounted for seven of the top ten happiest countries.

To rate happiness in different countries, academics identified such variables as real GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on, perceived freedom to make life choices, freedom from corruption and generosity.

These are all areas that Switzerland scored highly in, after coming third in the previous Happiness Report issued in 2013.

Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and one of the editors, said the top 13 countries were the same a second year running although their order had shifted.

They combined affluence with strong social support, and relatively honest and accountable governments, he told a news conference.

“Countries below that top group fall short, either in income or in social support or in both,” Sachs explained.

The United States trails in 15th place, behind Israel and Mexico, with Britain at 21, pipped by Belgium and the United Arab Emirates.

France ranks number 29, behind Germany in 26th place.

Afghanistan and war-torn Syria joined eight sub-Saharan countries in Africa — Togo, Burundi, Benin, Rwanda, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Guinea and Chad — as the ten least happy of 158 countries.

Despite the conflict raging in Iraq, that country was ranked 112, ahead of South Africa, India, Kenya and Bulgaria.

The 166-page report was edited by Sachs, John Helliwell of the University of British Columbia in Canada and Richard Layard from the London School of Economics.

“One of our very strong recommendations is that we should be using measurements of happiness . . . to help guide the world during this period of the new sustainable development goals,” Sachs said.

Iceland, Ireland and Japan resilient 

The report would be distributed widely at the United Nations and closely read by governments around the world, he said.

“We want this to have an impact, to put it straight forwardly, on the deliberations on sustainable development because we think this really matters,” Sachs said.

Besides money, the report emphasized fairness, honesty, trust and good health as determinants, saying that economic crisis or natural disaster themselves did not necessarily crush happiness.

Iceland and Ireland were the best examples, the report found, of how to maintain happiness through resilient social support despite the severity of banking collapses during the financial crisis.

The Fukushima region of Japan also saw “increased trust and happiness” after the 2011 earthquake by allowing people to build their mutual dependence and cooperative capacities, it said.

On the other hand, recession-hit Greece was the “biggest happiness loser,” down almost 1.5 points from 2005-2007 to 2012-2014, and where data points to the erosion of trust, it said.

They said more and more governments are listening and responding with policies that put well-being first.

Political consensus in Britain, Layard said, had fueled “a major transformation” in mental health services to give evidence-based treatment to 500,000 people with 50 percent recovery rates.

But he singled out German Chancellor Angela Merkel as “the most interesting world leader” in responding to happiness data.

He praised her for initiating a grass roots project “of very great importance” that seeks to find out “what people want to see changing in order that their well-being might change.”

A positive outlook during childhood also lays the foundation for greater happiness during adulthood, the report found.

“We must invest early on in the lives of our children so that they grow to become independent, productive and happy adults, contributing both socially and economically,” Layard said.

Swiss sex tourists slapped with seatbelt fine


Swiss sex tourists slapped with seatbelt fine

The sexed-up Swiss willingly accepted to pay the penalty there and then, which meant it was reduced by half. Photo: German Lama/AFP

Three married Swiss couples who were having sex in a van when their driver was stopped by Ibiza,Spain policemen have been fined for not wearing their seatbelts.

A routine breathalyzer test on the Spanish party island of Ibiza didn’t go as expected for officers who stopped a van in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

The driver wasn’t speeding, nor had he drunk a single drop of alcohol; but he was carrying six half-naked people having sex in the back of the van.

Rather than caution them for public indecency, officers decided to fine each of them €200 ($270) for not wearing their seat belts.

The Swiss couples willingly accepted to pay the penalty there and then, which meant it was reduced by half.

Officers said they’d already apprehended people having sex in a car but never before had they come across anyone doing it in a moving vehicle.