UN climate report paints bleak picture for decades ahead

Underwater: flooding at Lake Biel/Bienne, July 2021. Keystone / Marcel Bieri

Extreme weather events are set to become more frequent in Switzerland as well as globally, say the Swiss scientists who contributed to the United Nation’s latest climate report, published on Monday.

This content was published on August 9, 2021 - 12:43

Switzerland runs the risk of experiencing more heat waves, heavy rains, and droughts, said Sonia Seneviratne from the Federal Institute of Technology ETH Zurich.

“Affecting agriculture and ecosystems, these [extreme weather events] will increase in frequency and intensity in the western part of Central Europe, and thus in Switzerland, as global warming continues,” said Seneviratne in a press release by the Swiss Academy of Sciences (SCNAT).

Seneviratne was one of five Swiss among the 234 international scientists who drafted the latest report by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which UN boss António Guterres on Monday called a “code red for humanity”.

The report says that unless immediate, fast, and large-scale action is taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the average global temperature will likely cross the 1.5°C warming threshold within the next 20 years.

Scientists warn that crossing this threshold could lead to runaway climate change with catastrophic impacts, such as heat so intense that crops fail, or people die just from being outdoors.

Seneviratne, who was involved in drafting the extreme weather section of the report, said it was another sign that “all the evidence” is there to show that the world is facing a climate crisis.

She also said that recent events, in particular heat waves (such as in the American Northwest and the southern Mediterranean) would have been “extremely unlikely […] without human influence”.

The report says cutting out the use of fossil fuels is needed to contain the situation. Even when this is done, temperatures will continue to rise in the next decades, it predicts. But if nothing is done, then the planet could see a 2°C increase by 2060 and 2.7°C by the end of the century.

The report comes three months before a major UN climate conference in Glasgow (Scotland), where nations will be under pressure to sign up to more ambitious climate action.


Swiss Environment Minister Simonetta Sommaruga said the report gave a realistic picture of the situation, promising that Switzerland was committed to pushing for more climate protection.

Her environment ministry also reiterated on Monday that Switzerland, as an Alpine nation, was "particularly affected by climate change": temperatures have risen here twice as fast as the global average, the ministry said.

Various Swiss climate groups reacted to the report by calling on Sommaruga and the government to take more action. Greenpeace said that after the “no” by Swiss voters to a CO2 reform package in June, new measures need to be drawn up that can be supported by a majority.

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