Chart of the Day, 23 Jan 2015: Davos and the Incredible Melting Country

The rich and powerful are in Davos, Switzerland, for the annual gathering of the World Economic Forum from 21-24 January. While climate change is one topic up for discussion, I doubt the following image will pop up on many Powerpoint presentations (Source: Swiss Office of Meteorology, click for larger image):

Swiss Yearly Mean Temperature Anomaly jpeg

For the general public, the idea that the planet has warmed by 0.6 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial levels is hard to get too excited about. But Switzerland shows what happens when you translate 0.6 degrees into high elevations, at higher latitudes, and in areas distant from the sea. In short, we get warming many multiples higher than 0.6. And if you think 2014 was a one-off, it wasn’t: as usual with climate, its a bumpy, but consistent, upward path (source: here).

Swiss Average Mean Temperature Trend jpeg

Having spent a year in Switzerland, I know the people are of a stolid disposition. Yet I am surprised that they are not more agitated over the wholesale transformation of their country that is currently underway. Much of culture is born of climate and doubly so for the Swiss.

You can get a sense of what a different country Switzerland will become in the decades ahead by reading the Swiss Climate Impacts 2014 report, put together by leading Swiss government agencies, universities and research centres. For just a taste, here is the future for Switzerland’s snow and ice (note: we are currently progressing along the highest emissions scenario A2):

Switzerland Snow and Ice jpeg

I am stunned by how the people of any country, not just Switzerland, remain mute in the face of forces transforming a nation’s climate–and so culture–before their eyes.

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