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Tomorrow's Climate - Today's Challenge

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Climate Change Champions visit the Gurschen Glacier

Climate Change Champions visit the Gurschen Glacier

The nine England Climate Change Champions today witnessed at first hand the effects of climate change on one of Switzerland's well-known glaciers.

View photos from the day >>

The nine, who are spending five days in Switzerland after becoming climate change champions for the region, visited the 3,000 metre high Gurschen Glacier, overlooking the Swiss  tourist town of Andermatt.

They were given a lecture and tour of the glacier by eminent Zurich-based glaciologist Professor Wilfried Haeberli. Professor Haeberli said the effects of increasing carbon emissions stemming from the time of the Industrial Revolution (1860s), which had led to higher temperatures, were now causing increasing problems to his nation's glaciers.

Glacial retreat had become more marked over the past 15 to 20 years due to increasingly hot summers, caused by climate change, that was melting the snow and ice and effectively starving the glaciers. This has now become so marked that he added that if the rate continued the champions would see, in their lifetime, the extinction of the majority of Swiss glaciers.

The champions also heard from fellow glaciologist Dr Michael Zemp, that the effects of the retreating glaciers threatened the Swiss infrastructure. Agriculture, power from hydro-electricity and tourism, such as skiing, were being placed at particular risk.

The nine were told by Herr Heinzer, from the Gotthard Sportbahnen Firm, who run the cable car access to the glacier, that the ski sector had put down plastic sheeting at the top of the glacier to prevent further snow and ice melt. Last year, the covering saved two metres of snow from melting, aiding the ski sector.

The champions were filmed by Swiss television company Swiss Info and conducted 11 UK radio interviews. They have also been writing their blogs >>

See the location of Andermatt >>