located in central Europe, Austria covers 32,383 sq. mi. (83,872 sq. km.) and has a population of 8,316,487 (2007 est.), with a population density of 257 people per sq. mi. (99 per sq. km.). Some 17 percent of the land in the country is arable, with a further 23 percent used for meadows and pasture. In addition, 41-47 percent of the country is forested, making it the most extensively wooded country in Europe.
As a wealthy country, Austria's population uses electricity and private cars extensively. However, use of bicycles has increased in recent years, and there is an extensive train service covering much of the country, in part duplicated by bus service.
The prosperity of the country has resulted in a relatively high rate of carbon dioxide emissions per capita: 7.5 metric tons in 1990, rising to 8.6 metric tons by 2003, significantly lower than that of the Czech Republic and Germany, but higher than its other neighbors. As for electricity generation in Austria, only 28.4 percent of it comes from fossil fuels, with 68.6 percent from hydropower. As a result, the country produces extremely low rates of emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and carbon monoxide.
The effects of global warming in recent years in Austria include the melting of some of the Alpine glaciers. The melting glaciers in the Otztal Alps led to the November 1991 discovery of the preserved body of a frozen Stone Age person, nicknamed Otzi, indicating that the glacial ice is smaller than at any period in the last 5,000 years. One study has shown that alpine plants in the Austrian Alps are now growing higher and higher on mountain slopes, in response to the rise in average annual temperatures. These changes, as well as an increase in development, have led to the endangering of the Kaiseradler, or Imperial Eagle.
A United Nations environmental report in 2003 claims that if global warming continues to raise the temperature in Austria, many ski runs, and even entire ski resorts, will have no snow by 2030. The expected rise of between 2.5-10-4 degrees F (1.4-5.8 degrees C) by 2100 would result in the snow line moving from 3,937-5,905 ft. (1,200 m. to 1,800 m.), which would mean that many resorts, such as Kitz-buhel, might not have any snow. This also poses a threat to the fauna such as the chamois, the mountain goat, and the ibex.
The Austrian government of Fred Sinowatz took part in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change signed in Rio de Janeiro in May 1992, and the Global Warming International Conference & Expo (GW7) was held in Vienna on April 1-3, 1996. The government of Viktor Klima signed the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change on April 29, 1998. It was ratified on May 31, 2002, and took effect on February 16, 2005. Focusing on a reduction on greenhouse gas emissions, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change held a round of climate change talks in Vienna on August 31, 2007. During this period, there was a reduction in air and soil pollution from industrial chemicals, including the banning of leaded gasoline. Later government policies have encouraged wind power and solar power, with tax concessions given to people who install solar panels.
sEE ALso: Climatic Data, Ice Observations; Glaciers, Retreating; Global Warming; Ice Ages.
BIBLIogRAPHY. S.S. Hall, "Who Iced the Iceman?" National Geographic (v.212/1, 2007); Tim O'Riordan and Jill Jäger, eds., Politics of Climate Change: A European Perspective (Routledge, 1996); David Roberts, "The Iceman," National Geographic (v.193/6, 1993); Sinyan Shen, Global Warming Science & Policy: Proceedings of 7th Global Warming International Conference & Expo (GW7), Vienna, Austria (April 1-3, 1996); Erla Zwingle, "Meltdown in the Alps," National Geographic (v.209/2, 2006).
JUSTIN CORFIELD Geelong Grammar School, Australia
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