Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Swiss Elections See Green ‘Tsunami’ After Climate-Focused Campaign

Politics
Swiss Elections See Green ‘Tsunami’ After Climate-Focused Campaign
Visitors look at the Aletsch glacier above Bettmeralp, in the Swiss Alps, on Oct. 1. The mighty Aletsch — the largest glacier in the Alps — could completely disappear by the end of this century if nothing is done to rein in climate change, a study showed on Sept. 12. FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP via Getty Images

Switzerland's two Green parties made historic gains in the country's parliamentary elections Sunday, according to projections based on preliminary results reported by The New York Times.


Together, the left-leaning Green Party and the more centrist Green Liberal Party (GLP) doubled their share of the vote from almost 12 percent in 2015 to almost 21 percent. The official vote tallies will be announced Wednesday, but are expected to match the projections.

"It's really spectacular," Geneva University political scientist Pascal Sciarini told The New York Times. "We expected a Green wave but it's a tsunami, almost."

According to projections reported by Reuters, the right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP) stayed in first place, but lost 3.6 points compared to its record win in 2015, when it campaigned on anti-immigrant rhetoric during the height of the European refugee crisis. It now holds 25.8 percent of the vote for Switzerland's lower house. The center-left Social Democrats (SP) also maintained their second place spot with 16.6 percent of the vote, and the center-right Liberals (FDP) kept their third-place spot with 15.3 percent of the vote. But the Greens beat out the Christian Democrats (CVP) for fourth place, earning 13 percent of the vote on their own.

The Greens' victory could potentially shake up the composition of Switzerland's governing seven-member Federal Council, which has remained shared by the SVP, SP, FDP and CVP since 1959. But the Greens have now knocked the CVP, which holds one seat on the council, out of fourth place.

"The Federal Council in its current composition no longer fits (the changed political situation)," Greens leader Regula Rytz told Swiss TV, as Reuters reported.

Rytz said the Greens would probably try to take a seat from the FDP, but, in the past, it has taken two election cycles for the council to change based on shifting voting patterns. Switzerland's two parliamentary chambers will elect the government in December.

The Green parties' gains followed an election campaign in which the climate crisis was the "single most important issue," BBC News reported.

Glaciers in the Swiss mountains are melting, and this is leading to rock and mudslides that pose a risk to mountain communities. A recent study found that more than 90 percent of the glaciers in the Alps could melt by 2100 if nothing is done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, an Associated Press story published by The Guardian noted. Switzerland is also heating at twice the global average, according to Reuters.

"I think it is pretty obvious that is the most important topic of all in our time and age. There is really not any time to lose," 25-year-old psychology student Anja told Reuters at a Bern polling station.

The call for climate action has been building in Swiss civil society ahead of the election. In September, 100,000 people attended a rally in Bern following a year of climate strikes, according to BBC News.

Switzerland has already pledged to zero out carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, but the green parties will now work to pass other measures including stricter vehicle emissions standards, a tax on flying and a transition to renewable energy, The New York Times reported.

A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A new study invites parents of cancer patients to answer questions about their environment. FatCamera / Getty Images

By Jennifer Sass, Nsedu Obot Witherspoon, Dr. Philip J. Landrigan and Simon Strong

"Prevention is the cure for child/teen cancer." This is the welcoming statement on a website called 'TheReasonsWhy.Us', where families affected by childhood cancers can sign up for a landmark new study into the potential environmental causes.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Madagascar has been experiencing ongoing droughts and food insecurity since 2016. arturbo / Getty Images

Nearly 1.6 million people in the southern part of Madagascar have faced food insecurity since 2016, experiencing one drought after another, the United Nations World Food Program reported.

Read More Show Less
Lakota spiritual leader Chief Arvol Looking Horse attends a demonstration against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico in front of the White House in Washington, DC, on January 28, 2015. Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden is planning to cancel the controversial Keystone XL pipeline on the first day of his administration, a document reported by CBC on Sunday suggests.

Read More Show Less
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and German ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst stand at the Orion spacecraft during a visit at the training unit of the Columbus space laboratory at the European Astronaut training centre of the European Space Agency ESA in Cologne, Germany on May 18, 2016. Ina Fassbender / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

By Monir Ghaedi

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to keep most of Europe on pause, the EU aims for a breakthrough in its space program. The continent is seeking more than just a self-sufficient space industry competitive with China and the U.S.; the industry must also fit into the European Green Deal.

Read More Show Less