Melting glaciers alter alpine border

Italy and Switzerland are planning to redraw their shared border in the Alps, New Scientist reported, because global warming is melting the glaciers that originally guided mapping of the frontier. Although the move is a peaceful one, it raises fears of future conflicts over shifting borders and resources as global temperatures increase, melting glaciers and ice fields.

Europe’s high mountains have been particularly hard hit by global warming. “I think it’s fantastic that these two countries are talking about adjusting their borders,” said Mark Zeitoun of Britain’s University of East Anglia, an expert on international resource management and conflict. “Elsewhere in the world you see a much more nationalistic attitude.”

The Italian parliament must approve a new law before the change can happen, but Switzerland does not need to go through this process. The final border will be agreed by a commission of experts from Switzerland’s Federal Office of Topography and Italy’s Military Geographic Institute.

The proposal would move the border by up to 100 metres in several regions, including the area surrounding the Matterhorn peak, which will still straddle the Swiss-Italian frontier. Because the area in question is more than 4,000 metres above sea level, and uninhabited, border communities would be unaffected by the changes. Elsewhere in the world, however, other areas of glacial melting and geographic change could prove more contentious, including the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, the Arctic and the south Patagonian ice fields.


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