Austria is a well-developed European country with relatively few major problems. However, in the past, most major concerns have been environmental and energy-based. For years, the need for fossil fuels and natural gas has plagued Austria. Although some fossil fuels occur naturally in Austria, the country's use far exceeds their supply. In order to help solve this problem, Austria has created plans and restrictions such as the Regional Energy Action Plan. In addition, air pollution (which leads to acid rain) has been a leading problem in Austria for decades.
The increased use of cars and fossil fuels has led to an increase in nitric and sulfuric oxides as well as other air pollutants ("Chapter 7," par. 3). In the 21 st century, Austria will continue to face environmental issues, including acid rain, wetland destruction and deforestation, and the need for more electricity and fossil fuels will continue to add to the country's energy problems; the government must both promote better public awareness of these environmental and energy issues as well as increase government regulation of industry. Acid rain is one of the worst environmental concerns in Austria. Currently, one quarter of all forests in Austria suffer some sort of acid rain damage ("Land and Resources," par.
8). This damage is also a major cause of habitat destruction and biodiversity loss in the Austrian forests. Acid rain is caused by nitric acid (HNO 3) and sulfuric acid (H 2 SO 4) that are formed in the atmosphere when nitric oxides (NOx) and sulfuric oxides (SOx) combine with water (Levy 1). The NOx's are emitted mainly by cars. The institution of the catalytic converter has decreased the amount of NOx's given off per car; however, the number of cars has drastically increased, thus leading to continually rising NOx levels in the atmosphere (Levy 5). Cars from neighboring countries also contribute to the rising NOx levels, since all the chemicals end up in the same atmosphere.
Burning fossil fuels such as coal is the major cause of SOx's. In the last few years, the burning of fossil fuels in Austria has increased and is projected to continue increasing. As long as these pollutants are being produced, acid rain will continue to create problems. In Austria, as well as other European countries, many old buildings, such as Saint Stephen's Cathedral, City Hall of Vienna and the Votive Cathedral are being destroyed by acid rain (Johanesan 4). These buildings were built out of limestone.
The acid breaks down the limestone, thus destroying the buildings. Acid rain is a major environmental hazard that cannot be ignored. This problem will continue to grow worse until a multitude of measures are taken. Wetlands depletion is also a major problem facing Austria today.
Wetlands are home to many species who can not survive anywhere other than their natural habitat. Currently, only 10 % of the original wetlands in Austria still exist ("Land and Resources," par. 9). The other 90% have either been destroyed or severely damaged due to human activity.
Wetlands are an important and irreplaceable part of the ecosystem ("European Environmental Agency" 2). Many species rely on these wetlands and if the lands continue to be destroyed, the entire ecosystem will be drastically affected. Unless something is done, the wetlands will continue to be destroyed to make room for buildings and species will continue to die, disrupting the natural order of life. Deforestation is another major problem in Austria.
Currently, large timber harvests continually deplete the once vast forests of Austria. Eighty-five percent of the forests that remain in the country are reserved for future timber harvest (Pregernig and Weiss 4). And, in Austria, agricultural expansion is a major related issue. The need for more agricultural land leads to large timber harvests and subsequent deforestation. Currently, 18% of Austria is farmland and this number will continue to rise throughout the 21 st century ("Austria-Economy," par.
4). In addition, this loss of forest cover leads to other problems such as erosion and habitat destruction. Many of Austria's environmental issues can be solved relatively easily. In order to help preserve their wetlands and forests, Austria simply needs to increase the number of national parks and wilderness areas which prohibit logging and destruction. As of 1997, 28. 3% of Austria has been protected ("Land and Resources," par.
10); however, since the rate of deforestation has not dramatically decreased, more protection is needed. By decreasing the number of forests reserved for timber harvests, Austria would prevent collateral environmental damage issues, such as erosion and biodiversity loss. Austria has already tried to help deforestation by creating the Forest Act. This act stated that forest projects needed to by approved by the appointed Forest Authority and it also started projects to help manage watersheds and control erosion. This was a step in the right direction, except more action is needed to help stop these problems. This one act is not enough to stop deforestation, erosion and wetland destruction.
Creating more public awareness would be a solution to many of Austria's environmental issues. Often the public is unaware of serious issues like deforestation, acid rain and erosion. If they were aware of the situation, perhaps they could help in the restoration of things damaged by acid rain or buy more recycled products to reduce the number of trees cut down. Financial incentives are another way to help people do the right thing.
Austria could give tax breaks to those who continually buy recycled products or give businesses subsidies if they agree to help solve environmental problems. Acid rain is a more difficult problem to solve. As Marc Levy wrote in his article on acid rain, "European countries need more stringent automobile exhaust standards (Levy 5)." By reducing the air pollution caused by cars, such as NOx's, major environmental issues including acid rain and global warming will be greatly reduced. The Austrian government needs to institute strict laws on cars in order to accomplish this decrease in air pollution. However, Austria is not the only country contributing to the acid rain issue. Treaties with other European countries need to be negotiated to institute limits on car exhaust throughout Europe.
With these limits, the air pollution that causes acid rain will be reduced and will eventually no longer be an issue throughout all of Europe. However, without extreme and immediate action the problem will not be solved. Austria's other major problem concerns energy consumption. Austria suffers from a great energy shortage. The country uses a large quantity of fossil fuels in order to keep up with their developing industry. Austria is an export-oriented country with a large industrial sector that uses up the fossil fuel supply naturally found in the country.
Austria is forced to import tons of fossil fuels from other countries each year. The major fossil fuels used are: lignite (a form of coal), natural gas and crude oil. Austria's supply of crude oil is quickly diminishing. Currently, the country is forced to import almost seven eighths of the amount of crude oil it needs to continue functioning and almost three times as much natural gas as it produces each year (Sarabaugh 53). Most of this imported gas goes to thermal power stations, in order to generate electricity. The use of all fossil fuels has steadily increased over the past decade.
In recent years, the supply of fossil fuels has been less than the consumption, meaning the difference has come from other countries. If this trend continues, Austria will completely deplete their own resources and be forced to import many from neighboring countries. Austria faces another issue related to energy: the need for more electricity- generating industries. To help solve the problem of depleting their supplies of fossil fuels, Austria began creating hydroelectric power plants along the Danube and other rivers during the 1980 s. As of 2000, almost seventy percent of the electricity generated in Austria was generated by hydroelectric power; but, almost thirty percent of the electricity was still generated through the burning of fossil fuels (CIA 3). Hydroelectric power, however, also leads to several environmental problems including the damming of rivers and habitat destruction.
The amount of power produced by a dam also depends on the seasons. In spring, the rivers are high so Austria is usually able to export about 13. 5 billion kilowatt hours of electricity; however, in the fall, rivers are low so the country is forced to import approximately 11. 5 billion kilowatt hours (CIA 4). To help stop the depletion of natural resources and fossil fuels, Austria needs to begin using more renewable raw materials and encourage a society based on reusing and recycling.
This allows the industries to get what they need without completely destroying the fossil fuel resources. Austria has begun instituting the Regional Energy Action Plan which includes reducing the amount of energy used for heating, reducing specific energy consumption and constructing heat pumps and thermal solar collectors among other things (Energy Policies 1). The Austrian government also passed the Energy 21 action plan. This plan includes new energy research, industry-specific energy efficiency policies, addition of more solar power, and reducing the amount of energy used for heating. This plan will hopefully help stop Austria's energy shortage, however, decades may pass before the effects of the plans begin to show.
The main solution to Austria's electricity issues is to limit the monopoly on electricity. A "lack of competition in the electricity sector has hindered efficiency (Energy Policies 1)." Verbundgesellschaft is the company that monopolizes electricity sales in Austria. To help add competition in electricity sales Austria needs to "abolish import / export monopoly rights of Verbundgesellschaft, create maximum transparency for grid access and ensure sufficient competition and free choice by consumers (Energy Policies 2)." By creating competition in the electricity sector and beginning to use renewable resources and alternate energy sources, Austria will eventually overcome her energy issues. In the 21 st century, Austria will continue to face environmental and energy-based problems that can only be solved through a combination of efforts, including better education in order to raise public awareness of these issues and government intervention. Once the public is aware of the problems, they can help by reusing and recycling items. This will help slow, and possibly stop, deforestation as well as decreasing dependence on fossil fuels.
When people know the causes and effects of acid rain they may begin to change their habits to become more environmentally-friendly by driving less or carpooling more. While the government has taken some promising first steps (e. g. Forest Act and Energy 21), they need better education so they see the importance of continuing and increasing their efforts. In this way, more stringent laws will be put into place and additional solutions to Austria's environmental and energy problems can be found and implemented. Austria will continue to face environmental and energy-based problems until the government and its citizens realize the seriousness of these issues and begin implementing solutions.
Bibliography "Austria." web (11 April 2002). "Austria." web (10 April 2002). "Austria-Economy." Encarta. 1999.
CD. Microsoft. "Austria- Land and Resources." Encarta. 1999. CD.
Microsoft. "Austria." Newsweek. 8 April 1991. Boustany, Nora. "For Austrian Official, the Plain Truth." Washington Post. 20 Feburary 2002.
Boustany, Nora. "The Latest World News." Washington Post. 17 January 2001. "CIA- The World Factbook- Austria." web > au. html.
(8 April 2002). "Chapter 7: Energy and Environment." Federal Environmental Agency. web statistischeuebersichten / englisch /k 07. shtml. (2 May 2002). "Economy." Austria.
web (8 April 2002). "Energy Policies of IEA Countries: Austria." web (2 May 2002). "European Environmental Agency." web (2 May 2002). Johanesan, Robert.
Austria. New York: American Heritage. 1992. Levy, Marc A. "International Co-operation to Combat Acid Rain." Green Globe Yearbook. 1995: 59-68.
"Paving the Way for Renewable Raw Material Resources." National Activities- Austria. web (2 May 2002). Pregernig, Michael and Gerhard Weiss. "Underlying Causes of Deforestation and Forest Degradation." World Rainforest Movement. web Europe/Austria. html.
(2 May 2002). Sarabaugh, James. Austria. Chicago: Ox. Press.
1994. Smith, Donald. "Is Europe Far Right on a Comeback Trail?" National Geographic. 24 February 2000.
"U. S. Embassy in Vienna." http: //www / us embassy -vienna. at/.
(15 April 2002).