Hanne Hendrickx / Teaching and Research assistant

Ghent University / Geography

The translation of this testimony was generated automatically by a translation program. Thanks for your understanding.

The disappearance of glaciers is one of the effects of climate change that is the most visible to the general public. Year after year, alpine glaciers are receding to higher grounds. However, there are effects of climate change that are far less visible. Frozen layers in the underground, called permafrost, are thawing and can cause dramatic changes of the surface.
Permafrost consists of frozen soil, gravel, sand and rock, usually bound together by ice. A general warming trend, and especially hot summers, can cause permafrost thaw, leading to its disappearance in the high mountain environment. As the permafrost disappears or warms up, slopes may disintegrate. Processes such as rock fall, debris flows, landslides and avalanches can be observed. These processes are clearly visible in the picture from last summer, taken in Switzerland. On the left you see evidence of recent debris flows, clearly discernible by its bright colour, where loose sediment was entrained by water after an intense thunderstorm. This event led to the evacuation of the local camping ground down in the valley. In the future, such hazards are expected to impact the mountain environment in an unpreceded way. This will not only damage the beauty of these landscapes, but also make them more hazardous for any infrastructure that is present. Moreover, impacts will not only stay confined to these high mountain regions, but will also affect the downstream lowlands, where higher population densities and the presence of denser infrastructure will have a wide range of socio-economic consequences.
What are my personal efforts to halt climate change? I do not fly within Europe, neither for work nor for holidays. I rarely eat meat and I try to avoid car transport. I try to buy local and seasonal products. But being an ecological consumer is not always easy or the cheapest option. Policy makers should motivate consumers in making the right ecological choices, from your products in the supermarket to subsidising train rather than budget airline transport. More importantly, companies and producers should be stimulated to implement more ecological chains of production. I do not think this will reduce our own comfort, if this also results in benefits such as clean air in our cities and close by natural areas.