7th Swiss Global Change Day - Meeting Report

Wetter und Klima (Symbolbild)
Immagine: NASA

(et) On 20 April 2006 the seventh Swiss Global Change Day took place in Bern. The established yearly meeting, organised by ProClim, provides a platform where the Swiss global change research community can meet. About 200 participants used the opportunity to discuss questions related to global change in a transdisciplinary manner with the invited provocators Heidi Blattmann, NZZ, Zurich, and André Stapfer, Environmental Agency, Canton Aargau. Over 50 posters illustrated the range of the research activities in Switzerland.
Seven key note speakers presented new findings, highlights and challenges in the broad field of global environmental change research:
Peter Schlosser from Columbia University in New York summarised observations, causes and global connections related to the rapid environmental change in the Arctic.The arctic is likely to respond rapidly and more severely than any other area on Earth. Schlosser showed the trends in sea ice extent and volume, and the effects of global warming on permafrost. The issue of a possible conveyer shutdown was also looked at.
Ulrike Lohmann from the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, examined aerosol effects on water and ice clouds. The burning of fossil fuels and biofuels due to human activities has greatly increased the amount of particulate matter in the atmosphere. Anthropogenic sources include emissions from industries, automobiles and airplanes. Aerosol-cloud interactions change cloud properties and therefore have an impact on radiative forcing.
Stefan Schleicher from the University of Graz pointed at the widening gap between the sciences and economics. Mainstream economics does hardly respond to the increasing pressure exerted by scientists who ask for a decisive response to the potential threat of climate change. This motivates the provocative question, whether there are inherent flaws in the reasoning of economists that have a damaging effect on climate policy.
Reinhard Madlener from the Centre for Energy Policy and Economics, ETH Zurich, focused on the issue of adapting to climate change. Standard environmental economics proposes that the optimal amount spent on climate change adaptation is determined by equating the marginal benefit, in terms of avoided damage and/or avoided mitigation cost, to the marginal cost of adaptation. However, adaptation benefits cannot be assumed to increase at a decreasing rate. Rather, the function of the benefits of adaptation will be non-linear and impossible to predict at the present state of knowledge.
Christian Körner from the Institute of Botany, University of Basel, challenged the proposition that forests could mitigate atmospheric CO2 enrichment. The rationale for this presumption is the fact that the rate of photosynthesis of trees is not carbon saturated at current CO2 concentrations. However, current evidence suggests that forests operate close to C-saturation, and it is highly unlikely that CO2-fertilization effects on forests will exert a significant negative carbon feedback to the atmosphere.
Gian-Reto Walther from the University of Hannover showed what plants tell us about global warming. Climate is a major determinant for the phenology, physiology, distribution and interactions of plants. Three case studies were presented which exemplified the patterns and processes involved in climate driven latitudinal and altitudinal species' range shifts.
Wolfram Mauser from the University of Munich explored the issue of global change and Alpine watersheds. Alpine watersheds are particularly sensitive to global change because of the large gradients of all natural and anthropogenic drivers. The project DANUBIA explores the Upper Danube Catchment and shows the effects of global change. Eventually, the project will provide a tool to investigate future scenarios for suitable decision-alternatives for adaptation to and mitigation of Global Change effects.
In the poster session the best posters in each of the fields of WCRP, IGBP, IHDP and DIVERSITAS were selected by a jury and honored with a travel award of SFr. 1000.- each.
The following posters were awarded:
WCRP (awards were sponsored by the ACP, the Commission for Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics) :

  • Markus Gerber, Physics Institute, University of Bern: «Uptake of anthropogenic CO2 in the Bern3D ocean Model»
  • Eddie Graham, Institute of Applied Physics, University of Bern: «Water vapour dynamics over Switzerland during severe precipitation in August 2005»
    IGBP (awards were sponsored by the Swiss IGBP Committee):
  • Renato Spahni, University of Bern: «The Atmospheric N2O Concentration during Interglacials of the last ~800 kyr»
  • Sönke Szidat, University of Bern: «Biomass burning: an underestimated source of carbonaceous aerosols in Switzerland
    IHDP (award was sponsored by the Swiss IHDP Committee):
  • Josef Känzig, Institute for Economy and the Environment, University of St. Gallen: «Micropower in residential buildings»
    DIVERSITAS (award was sponsored by the Swiss Biodiversity Forum, scnat):
  • Daniele Colombaroli, University of Bern: «Long-term fire and vegetation dynamics of Mediterranean ecosystems: a case study from Lago di Massaciuccoli (Tuscany, Italy)»
    List of the posters with PDFs to download (as soon as several posters are made available by the authors).
    Further details about the 7th Swiss Global Change Day: