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16th Swiss Global Change Day - Meeting Report and Conference Documents

On 1 April 2015 the Swiss global change science community met for the 16th time on the annual Swiss Global Change Day. About 250 participants attended the event and 66 posters were exposed. Distinguished researchers presented scientific highlights and the program provided enough time for discussion and networking.

16th Swiss Global Change Day - Meeting Report and Conference Documents / Kaffeepause fgb

Heinz Gutscher, Chair of the ProClim– steering committee, welcomed the participants and speakers. Following his introduction, six key note speakers presented research highlights and challenges. The topics encompassed the physical climate system, the biochemical and geochemical processes and impacts, biodiversity and the human dimensions of global change:

Helmut Haberl from the Alpen-Adria University Klagenfurt, Institute of Social Ecology, talked about Land-use-change in a resource-constrained world. Land may contribute to climat-change mitigation, but the largest potentials are with reasonable certainty on the demand side: changing diets with less animal products and reducing food-chain losses as well as energy saving. The option of a sustainable intensification may cause effects on biogeochemical cycles and new risk spirals. Bioenergy and carbon sequestration in biota and soils are a form of Geoengineering under uncertainty with huge data and knowledge gaps, in particular related to systemic effects. (--> Presentation)

In his talk, Christian Körner from the Institute of Botany Basel focused on the biology of the carbon cycle and its paradigm shift. Carbon uptake is largely controlled by C-sinks (growth) and not by C-source (photosynthesis). Drought and low temperature act upon sink activity in the meristems first. Nutrients are often the limiting factor and control the amount of carbon that can be taken up. This paradigme shift fundamentally influences the modeling of the carbon cycle. (--> Presentation)

Harini Nagendra from the Azim Premji University of Bangalore, India talked via Skype about adaptation to climate change and urbanization. She showed how highly vulnerable fast growing cities are to the double pressures of global climate change and local environmental change. Bangalore exemplifies these coupled environmental climatic stresses of a growing Southern city in India. Pollution, heat and water stress are the major challenges. In this context the importance of urban nature like big street trees or lakes is undervalued in urban planning and practice. Urban ecosystems play an important role for resilience to environmental and climate change. (--> Presentation)

Alan Robock from Rutgers University, USA, compared possible benefits of geoengineering of solar radiation to the related risks. In fact, five benefits are in contrast with 26 possible risks, which reveals that such measures should not be called 'engineering' - which implies the handling of a well-understood technical tool - but rather an 'intervention', which leaves more open the result of the action. The mostly discussed geoengineering possibility of incoming solar radiation is the injection of sulphate in the stratosphere, where sulphate aerosols reflect solar radiation and thus lower temperature on the Earth's surface. But they strongly influence precipitation patterns in an unfavorable way as well. And this is only one of many possible negative effects. Moreover - as Robock pointed out - such action has to be performed constantly over time since aerosols are washed out within a few years. (--> Presentation)

Brigitte Buchmann of EMPA demonstrated the value of airborne observations of atmospheric components. They are very important for climate and air pollution policies. On the one hand as a basis of setting policies and on the other hand for the control of implemented measures and regulations. Especially the measurements at high elevation stations like the Jungfraujoch in some cases allow to identify specific sources like a single factory. Measurements of single events like the passage of ash clouds form Eyjafjallajökull can help verify atmospheric dispersion models. To close her talk, Buchmann highlighted the possibility of converting unused biomass to fuels with a sustainable CO2 balance to support the reduction of traffic emissions. (--> Presentation)

In the last talk, Anthony Patt from the ETH Zurich discussed the question if climate mitigation has been trapped in the wrong paradigm. He explained the value of international treaties, economic incentives, system integration and critical challenges concerning the transformation of the energy systems. For a long time, a set of theories have guided climate policy that are appropriate for marginal reductions in pollution, but not the transitions needed to completely eliminate pollution. Theory suggests, and empirical research confirms, that the associated policy instruments have been largely ineffective. Empirical evidence also confirms that policies grounded in an evolutionary understanding of transitions offer far more promise. (--> Presentation)

Poster session:
In the poster session the best posters in the fields of Atmosphere/Hydrosphere, Geosphere/Biosphere, Biodiversity and Human Dimensions/Sustainability were selected by a jury and honored with a travel award of 1000 CHF each. The following posters were awarded:

Atmosphere/Hydrosphere (awards sponsored by the ACP, the Commission for Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, SCNAT):

  • Ana Franco, ETH Zurich: Ocean Acidification in the Peru – Chile Current system (--> Poster)
  • Martina Messmer, University of Bern: Climatology of Vb-cyclones, physical mechanisms and their impact on extreme precipitation over Central Europe (--> Poster)

Geosphere/Biosphere (awards sponsored by the Swiss IGBP Committee, SCNAT):
  • Céline Dizerens, University of Bern: Webcam imagery rectification and snow classification (--> Poster)
  • Sia Gosheva, WSL: Are SOC-stocks in Swiss forest soils controlled by historical land-use, climate or soil chemistry? (--> Poster)

Biodiversity (award sponsored by the Swiss Biodiversity Forum, SCNAT):
  • Miriam Zemanova, University of Bern: Global Change and genetic impact of invasive species (--> Poster)

Human Dimensions and Sustainability (award sponsored by the SAGW):
  • Guillaume Rohat, University of Geneva: On the use of the climate twins approach to pose the challenges of urban adaptation (--> Poster)
16th Swiss Global Change Day - Meeting Report and Conference Documents / Kaffeepause fgb
16th Swiss Global Change Day - Meeting Report and Conference Documents / Kaffeepause fgb