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4th Swiss Global Change Day - Meeting Report

Wetter und Klima (Symbolbild)
Image: NASA

(un) On 4 April 2003 ProClim- and the Forum Biodiversity organized the fourth Swiss Global Change Day in Bern. The already established yearly meeting provides a platform where the Swiss global change research community can meet as a whole and discuss current problems in a transdisciplinary manner. About 170 participants took the opportunity to hear about new findings and future challenges in the broad field of global environmental change research.
The topics addressed were:
The need for innovation and systems change (P. Vellinga): The technological change cannot be easily separated from the structural and cultural change in the society and any major transformation towards sustainability will imply a high level of social-cultural change combined with a similar high level of technological change.
Learning of organisations and their influence on the public (Finger): Major global changes require collective answers, namely basically input (e.g., resources) and output (e.g., irreversible changes of global proportions) problems. The major challenges to such collective learning are the challenges of stakeholder involvement, of actor-structure relationships, of multi-level articulation, and of the appropriate use of technology.
Recent changes in the atmospheric circulation (J. Hurrell): It is possible that anthropogenic climate change will also influence modes of natural variability. There is evidence that the NAO changes have been driven by a progressive warming of tropical sea temperatures. It is not unreasonable to claim that the NAO changes observed over the past 50 years constitute an anthropogenic signal that has just begun to emerge.
The climate affection of aerosols (U. Baltensperger): Airborne aerosols influence the atmospheric energy budget through direct and indirect effects. Despite of uncertainties, it is believed that in regions with high anthropogenic aerosol concentrations, aerosol forcing may be of the same magnitude, but opposite in sign to the combined effect of all greenhouse gases.
The role of microbes and minerals for climate stability (E. Verrecchia): The terrestrial biosphere is currently taking up about a third of the carbon emitted by human activities. A rough calculation suggests that 'managing' the land sink to increase its size and duration can at most make a 70 ppm difference to the atmospheric CO2 concentration in 2100. This is too big to ignore, but too small to be the sole solution to the problem of Global Change.
Consequences of biodiversity loss (B. Schmid): It is necessary to combine diversity science with other global change research to obtain a better instrument for understanding and predicting consequences of interactions between climate, biological, and human systems. In Switzerland there is an urgent need to maintain the excellent research potential developed during previous environmental programmes.
Vegetation dynamics in a changing climate (C. Prentice): Current models for the impacts of climate change on vegetation give drastically different results. Progress demands that we subject models to a thorough evaluation e.g. against observations of CO2 and water fluxes today, CO2 concentrations over the past half-century, and vegetation changes over longer periods.
In the poster session the best two posters in each of the three world research programmes WCRP, IGBP, and IHDP were selected by a jury and honoured with a travel award of SFr. 1000.- each.
The following posters were awarded:
WCRP [20 posters presented; awards are sponsored by the ACP (Commission for Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics )]:

  • Daniel Schaub, EMPA Dübendorf:«Frontal transport of NO2 as observed from GOME»
  • Frank Paul, Dept. of Geography, Univ. of Zürich: «Results from the new Swiss Glacier Inventory 2000»
    IGBP (24 posters; awards are sponsored by the Swiss IGBP Committee):
  • Eva Bantelmann, PSI Villigen: «Stable Isotopes in leaf water reflect environmental changes»
  • Olivier Braissant, Guillaume Cailleau, Institut de Géologie, Neuchâtel: «What is an effective carbon sink: is there better carbon pool in soils than organic matter?»
    IHDP (3 posters; award sponsored by the Swiss IHDP Committee):
  • Wernher Brucks, University of Zürich: «Situationale und motivationale Einflüsse auf umweltbezogenes Verhalten unter Unsicherheit».