Making Connections at the 2019 International Mountain Conference

This article was republished with permission from the Mountain Research Initiative.

In early September, over 500 mountain researchers came together at the heart of the Tyrolean Alps in Innsbruck, Austria in order to engage in in-depth, cross-disciplinary discussions at the International Mountain Conference (IMC) 2019. Their aim? To further develop global understanding of mountain systems, their responses, and resiliencies. 

A member of the IMC 2019 scientific steering committee, the Mountain Research Initiative was well-represented throughout the conference by the MRI Coordination Office, its Principal Investigators, and members of the Science Leadership Council (SLC).

Interdisciplinary mountain research: Past, present, and future

Addressing a packed auditorium during the IMC 2019 Opening Ceremony, Professor Martin Price, Director of the Centre for Mountain Studies at the University of the Highlands and Islands in Scotland, set the tone for the week ahead with a journey through the history of interdisciplinary mountain research. The driving force behind the three highly successful Perth mountain conferences that took place previously — a strong legacy upon which the IMC 2019 aimed to build — Price handed the mountain conference baton onwards to Professor Stefan Mayr, Head of the Research Area Mountain Regions at the University of Innsbruck, to resounding applause.

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MRI’s Carolina Adler pictured with other members of the IMC 2019 Steering Committee.

Following this exploration of the past, the MRI’s Executive Director Dr. Carolina Adler looked to the future in a speech that introduced ways of enabling global change research on mountains based on the experiences garnered by the MRI since its inception in 2001. In doing so, Adler outlined three key conditions she believed needed to be met to allow global change research on mountains to develop and flourish. With the first — “recognizing that MRI is you and I” — she highlighted the strong research legacy and social and intellectual capacity built by the MRI over the years, and stressed that this had only been possible through the engagement, connection, and collaboration of an active and dedicated research community, united in a common interest in global change research in mountains. “A big thank you to you all for this!” said Adler, stressing the role of the MRI Coordination Office as an enabler for the research network through its flagship activities such as GEO-GNOMEinvolvement in global assessments, and support for community-led activities such as working groups and synthesis workshops

“Co-production of knowledge is a social process, where enablers provide the conditions and the means for the research community to connect and thrive. The MRI is you and I!” — Carolina Adler. 

The second condition needing to be met, said Adler, is the glocalization of knowledge; relating the local with the global for the sorts of phenomena researchers are looking at in mountains. “There is a need — and pressure — to aggregate and scale knowledge from and across diverse and multiple cases. However, insights gained in any given case can be more effectively transferred or scaled to other cases, or indeed aggregated, if we can account for and retain the unique, context-specific characteristics of the case, and the conditions and mechanisms in which outcomes are derived.”

Lastly, Adler stressed the need for meaningful connection, and pointed out that although the MRI has 11,000 members listed in its Expert Database, there is skewed distribution in terms of global north and global south participation. There is, said Adler, a need to address these discrepancies through targeted activities with partners and networks in those regions, citing the MRI co-led research network and capacity building collaboration Conéctate-A+ as an example of MRI efforts to make those needed and meaningful connections. Adler closed by expressing her hope of fostering greater connections with early-career researchers, as well as continuing to make connections for our changing mountains with the research community as a whole.


Video above: During the Opening Ceremony, a screening of the short film Parasol Peak allowed the audience to accompany an ensemble of musicians on an Alpine expedition as they performed pieces of music, written by Manu Delago, inspired by the unique mountain landmarks encountered.


Conference day one: ‘We must be curious and creative.’

Welcoming the audience to the first official day of the conference, Professor Georg Kaser, Dean of the Faculty of Geo- and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Innsbruck and Head of the IMC 2019 Steering Committee, stressed the important role of research in the face of climate and other environmental challenges.

“The scientific community is under enormous pressure, and has a duty to react responsibly [….] We must all listen to each other. We must be curious and creative.” — Professor Georg Kaser

This then set the stage for the first two keynote speeches of the week

1. Christoph Schär, ETH Zürich: Weather and Climate Modeling in the Alps: From the Early Beginnings to Climate Change

2. Christian Körner: Alpine Biota Under Environmental Change 

Workshop: Education for Sustainable Mountain Development

Among the many workshops taking place throughout the day on Monday was a session on Education for Sustainable Mountain Development, chaired by Kenichi Ueno, Associate Professor at the University of Tsukuba and MRI SLC member. The session proved to be a fruitful discussion of the crucial role education and training can play in addressing the challenges and opportunities faced by mountain regions in the face of global change. It also allowed for exchange of best practices, invited conceptual reflections on education with unique curricula for sustainable mountain development, and explored opportunities for future collaboration. A number of interesting questions were raised over the course of the workshop, including on the importance of multi-stakeholder perspectives and social learning, and ways of addressing environmental justice and equity within education for sustainable mountain development. 

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MRI SLC Member Kenichi Ueno leads the discussions during the workshop on Education for Sustainable Mountain Development. (Source: MRI)
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Participants in the workshop Education for Sustainable Mountain Development (Source: MRI)

MRI Session: IMC Synthesis Papers for IPCC AR6
It was standing room only at the MRI’s lunchtime session on IMC Synthesis Papers for the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (AR6). The session was led by two IPCC Lead Authors: MRI Executive Director Dr. Carolina Adler and MRI Principal Investigator Professor Christian Huggel. The purpose of this informal session was to shed light on the assessment needs identified by the author team of the IPCC AR6 Cross-Chapter Paper on Mountains in order to support the production of papers valuable to the IPCC assessment process. “We need to deliver a more differentiated picture of mountains,” said Huggel.

Publications that specifically address climate change impacts, vulnerability, and adaptation within relevant themes being covered in the Cross-Chapter Paper on Mountains — ideally as review papers with a global or regional overview, or comparing at least two mountain regions — are particularly encouraged, Adler said. It should also be noted that, in addition to ensuring that AR6 has the right information and evidence available, papers that are included in the IPCC assessment process are highly cited, adding a further incentive for researchers to contribute.

“If we don’t have a strong basis due to lack of papers, key findings will be downgraded to low confidence. How far we can go in confidence is down to the efforts of the research community.” — Christian Huggel

Find out more about the assessment needs of the IPCC AR6 Cross-Chapter Paper on Mountains and how you can contribute to this important process here.

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Carolina Adler and Christian Huggel shed light on assessment needs identified by the author team of the Cross-Chapter Paper on Mountains (Photos: MRI).

Conference day two: ‘Bring people together!

Three keynotes eased participants into day two of the IMC 2019:

1. Markku Kulmala, University of Helsinki: The Significance of Continuous Comprehensive Observations – From Atmospheric Clustering Via Feedback Loops to Global Climate and Air Quality

2. Daniel Viviroli, University of Zurich: Lowland Inhabitants Depend Increasingly on Mountain Water Resources: A Global View from Mid-20th to Mid-21st Century

3. Mark Aldenderfer, University of California: The Deep Prehistory of the Human Presence in the World’s Mountains and Plateaus

MRI Workshop: Mountain Biodiversity and Ecosystems Under Global Change
In the afternoon, the MRI convened a joint double session with GMBA on Mountain Biodiversity and Ecosystems Under Global Change, with MRI Scientific Officer Dr. Aino Kulonen serving as a moderator. The 17 flash talks and ten posters presented case studies from alpine ecology highlighting the different responses species can show to long-term environmental change or experimental manipulations. The follow-up exercise and plenary discussion then returned to the critical question of how we still lack understanding of which parts of biodiversity matter for ecosystem functioning and ecosystem services in mountain environments. The moderators plan to summarize the input collected from participants during the exercise in the form of a report or publication.

MRI Workshop: Monitoring, Observing, & Informing on Mountain Environments — Status & Future Prospects

The MRI brought its activities on day two of the IMC 2019 to a close with a workshop co-convened with the GEO Global Network for Observations and Information in Mountain Environments (GEO-GNOME).

MRI Executive Director Dr. Carolina Adler began the workshop with an update on GEO-GNOME — an initiative which seeks to connect and facilitate access to diverse sources of mountain observation data — its recent activities, and its Work Plan for the next phase 2020-22, reflecting that: “GEO-GNOME is the only GEO initiative dealing exclusively with mountains. We are keen to continue to connect global Earth observations in mountain environments.”

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MRI SLC Member Professor Maria Shahgedanova presents the work of the MRI Mountain Observatories Working Group (Source: MRI)

MRI SLC Member Professor Maria Shahgedanova then gave an overview of the work the MRI Mountain Observatories Working Group is undertaking in support of GEO-GNOME. The goal of this Working Group is to facilitate the development of a network of mountain super-sites, where observations will be conducted at multi-thematic scale. These super-sites will also serve as hubs for regional monitoring. “What we aim for is the development of regional networks, with the MRI as a facilitator,” Shahgedanova said. “The observations are available, and the stations are there. What we need to do is bring people together!”

This was then followed up with a presentation from Dr. Elisa Palazzi, researcher at ISAC-CNR and GEO-GNOME co-lead, who presented climate change in mountain regions as seen through global and regional models, and outlined some of the scientific community’s needs in terms of observations. “There are many regions that are still under-sampled,” said Palazzi.

The workshop concluded with an open Q&A session, inviting feedback on some of the key challenges and opportunities for the scientific community in the development and implementation of connected mountain observation efforts worldwide.

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It was a pleasure to welcome the cohort of trainees participating in our collaborative Mentoring and Training Program in IPCC Processes for Early Career Mountain Researchers to the IMC 2019. Find out more about their time in Innsbruck and their initial impressions of the program here.

Conference day three: ‘A need for transdisciplinarity

MRI SLC Member Irasema Alcántara-Ayala kicked off day three of the IMC 2019 with a dynamic keynote speech on “Integrated Research on Disaster Risk: Challenges and Opportunities for the Future of Mountains.” “Disasters are socially constructed,” stressed Alcántara-Ayala. “The hazard is the trigger of the disaster, but the level to which people are exposed to disaster risk depends on a variety of factors, including deforestation, land degradation, inequality and poverty, and so on.”

In terms of research into disaster risk reduction, the scientific challenges and needs of societies have led to transformations from mono-disciplinary perspectives into multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary approaches, said Alcántara-Ayala. Integrated disaster risk research has moved beyond scientific boundaries so as to not only understand the ingredients of risk and disaster causality and dynamics, but to manage disaster risk by working together with diverse stakeholders in the co-production of knowledge and practice.

Looking to the future then, she argued, integrated research on disaster risk should be carried out within an overarching framework that involves multiple responsibilities, commitments, and different spatial-temporal scales — and challenges and opportunities for the future of mountains should be directed towards enlightening decision- and policymaking and practice for societal benefit and territorial sustainability.

1. Irasema Alcántara-Ayala, National Autonomous University of Mexico: Integrated Research on Disaster Risk: Challenges and Opportunities for the Future of Mountains

2. Olivier Henry-Biabaud, TCI Research: Mapping the Growing Overtourism Sentiment in Europe: What Residents Tell Us

3. Hilde Björkhaug, Ruralis: Mountain Agriculture in the Bioeconomy


Conference Day Four: Synthesis

On the morning of day four — based on reports returned by workshop moderators and the observations of the IMC Synthesis team — a preliminary synthesis of the conference content was presented.

This synthesis team included Dr. Carolina Adler and Aino Kulonen from the MRI Coordination Office, respectively reflecting on the social and biological sciences aspects of the conference. A synthesis publication is planned. Further information will be shared on this in an upcoming communication.

The IMC 2019 officially closed with Professor Georg Kaser making the announcement that a subsequent IMC will follow in three years time, taking place 12-15 September 2022. Save the date!

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MRI’s Carolina Adler presents a synthesis from the social sciences perspective. (Source: MRI)
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The synthesis panel answers questions from the audience. (Source: MRI)

Workshop: Towards a Mountain Resilience Report: Regenerating Mountain Systems by Systemic Innovation
Following up on the same topic’s Open Think Tank at the International Mountain Conference (IMC) 2019 in Innsbruck, a post-IMC synthesis workshop deepened the discussions on the development of the first Mountain Resilience Report (MRR), that were had at a workshop that took place earlier in the week during IMC 2019. This MRI-funded workshop brought together leading scholars from academia and practice to design and develop a resilience report for mountain regions, with a geographical focus. The specific resilience angle in this synthesis workshop was on understanding and incubating innovative capacities to create and implement effective, real-world solutions for building regenerative mountain systems — and how this innovative capacity relates to and builds upon resilient landscapes and land use.

The main goal of this synthesis workshop was to recap and build upon the IMC Open Think Tank to form a core group in order to organize the development of the first MRR. During the workshop an initial outline of a joint review paper was developed, looking at the state of assessment and implementation of resilience in mountains — and their innovativeness — in line with the IPCC AR6 WGII deadlines for paper submission and paper acceptance. This paper will then form the basis for a joint research funding proposal to fully develop the first Mountain Resilience Report by 2021/2022.

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Dynamic discussions took place during the workshop Towards a Mountain Resilience Report: Regenerating Mountain Systems by Systemic Innovation. (Credit: MRI).

A full list of sessions at which representatives of the MRI were present can be found here.

Thank you to all who visited our stand and participated MRI activities at the IMC. Your comments, questions, and feedback are much appreciated.

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Kathmandu Event Highlights Deepening Interest in Hindu Kush Himalaya Region

On 17 July, the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) hosted an event at its headquarters in Kathmandu, Nepal for a group of about 70 officials, authors, and staff from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This event took place during a weeklong meeting which the IPCC had convened as part of preparations for its Sixth Assessment Report (AR6). The meeting—the Second Lead Author Meeting (LAM) of Working Group II, where hundreds of researchers gathered to advance on drafting chapters for AR6—was the first that the IPCC has held in Nepal since its founding in 1988. The ICIMOD event provided an opportunity for the organization to inform the IPCC about its activities, including several upcoming initiatives. 

The event highlighted the overlapping interests and efforts of the two organizations. ICIMOD conducts research, applications, outreach, and cross-national cooperation in sustainable mountain development in the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH). It emphasizes resilience and equitable livelihoods. The IPCC, sponsored by the United Nations Environmental Program and the World Meteorological Organization, conducts assessments of recent research on climate change science, impacts, and responses. Its reports are reviewed by a wide range of international experts and by over 190 national governments; these reviews, and the line-by-line approval process of its summaries for policy-makers, conducted by these national governments, give the reports legitimacy as the global consensus on knowledge about climate change.

IPCC lead authors and staff arrriving at ICIMOD headquarters
IPCC lead authors and staff arrriving at ICIMOD headquarters (source: Ben Orlove)

A number of people noted the connection between ICIMOD and IPCC. In an interview with GlacierHub, Philippus Wester, a chief scientist of water resources management at ICIMOD noted, “The invitation by IPCC to the Government of Nepal and ICIMOD to host the 2nd LAM of Working Group II in Kathmandu is a clear recognition of the importance of this region to the world and draws attention to the accelerated impacts of climate change in the HKH. This recognition is important and will hopefully bring increased attention to mountains and mountain people and real action on significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the years to come.”

He commented on the magnitude of these ties for the region, telling GlacierHub, “The increased political attention for climate change and the need for urgent climate action, including in the region, is an important output of the event. The attention given to the IPCC meeting by the Prime Minister of Nepal, who graced the opening ceremony as chief guest, is an important milestone, and signals a stronger engagement of Nepal with the climate agenda. 

ICIMOD Director General David Molden addressing IPCC authors and staff
ICIMOD Director General David Molden addressing IPCC authors and staff (source: Ben Orlove)

The speakers at the ICIMOD event

At the event, David Molden, the director general of ICIMOD, welcomed the visitors who had traveled from the conference site in downtown Kathmandu to the organization’s campus, which lies in the Kathmandu Valley south of the city amid experimental fields of the Nepali Ministry of Agricultural and Livestock Development. He led the group from the administrative building to a new meeting hall. In his remarks, he emphasized the cultural and biological diversity of the region—over 1,000 languages are spoken and the area includes four global biodiversity hotspots. He also underscored the challenges that the region faces, including environmental pressures, such as climate change and loss of habitat, and economic and political pressures which result from poverty, inequality, and fragile governance. Molden noted that ICIMOD has a strong capacity to convene meetings, since it is centrally located, facilitating the participation of representatives of its eight member countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan). It has selected a set of four core competencies to promote sustainable development: livelihood systems, ecosystem services, water and air resources, and geospatial technologies to address problems. It has undertaken projects in transboundary landscape management, including international river basin organizations, the Everest region, and the Kailash Sacred Landscape in Nepal, India, and China, which surrounds one of the most important peaks in the region. 

Wester spoke next. He highlighted a recent report, “The Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment: Mountains, Climate Change, Sustainability, and People,” prepared by a regional organization, the Hindu Kush Himalayan Monitoring and Assessment Program. Wester mentioned that recent IPCC assessment reports provided only limited coverage of the region. Taking inspiration from the Arctic Climate Impact and Assessment, conducted by the eight member countries of the Arctic Council, ICIMOD undertook a similar effort in its own region, addressing climate change and a set of other issues in sustainable development. It documented that poverty is more acute in the mountain regions than in adjacent lowland regions in the member countries and that conflict and ethnicity-based discrimination are major drivers of poverty, with particularly high vulnerability among women. The report documents high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition, particularly as the more-nutritional, locally produced traditional foods are being replaced by lower-quality, purchased foods from outside the mountain regions. It also discusses high levels of energy poverty in a region characterized by high amounts of hydropower potential. Migration plays a complex role, providing income in the form of remittances but also impacting the availability of labor in mountain regions. Wester reviewed issues of glacier loss and of air pollution and black carbon, which impact health, crop yields, and glacier retreat. 

IPCC lead authors Carolina Adler (left) and Christian Huggel (right) at ICIMOD neadquarters
IPCC lead authors Carolina Adler (left) and Christian Huggel (right) at ICIMOD neadquarters (Source: Ben Orlove)

Eklabya Sharma, the deputy director general of ICIMOD, spoke of three different scenarios through which the Hindu Kush Himalaya can confront issues of natural disasters, climate change and, poor governance: a “downhill” scenario of deterioration, a “muddling through” scenario of stagnation, and an “advance towards prosperity” or sustainable development. He noted six urgent actions to promote this final scenario: cooperation at all levels, limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, enhancing ecosystem resilience, recognizing and prioritizing the unique heritage of mountain peoples, supporting the Sustainable Development Goals in the region, and sharing information and knowledge. He noted the importance of large-scale investment in the region. 

Eklabya Sharma, the Deputy Director General of ICIMOD, speaking on priorities for the Hindu Kush-Himalaya
Eklabya Sharma, the deputy director general of ICIMOD, speaking on priorities for the Hindu Kush Himalaya (Source: Ben Orlove)

Sharma mentioned an upcoming event, hosted by ICIMOD: the Sagarmatha Dialogue, to be held in March 2020. This event, which bears the name of Mount Everest in Nepali, will bring together senior officials from the eight ICIMOD-member countries and from a number of other mountain countries around the world to develop a research and implementation program to promote sustainable development, not only in the Hindu Kush Himalaya but in other mountain regions as well. 

These three opening talks were followed by five shorter presentations on specific activities of ICIMOD in adaptation and resilience, transboundary landscapes, cryosphere and climate change, gender and development, and mitigating air pollution. Anna Sinisalo, a coordinator for ICIMOD’s Cryosphere Initiative, summarized the organization’s efforts to monitor 10 benchmark glaciers and to track snow cover as well. She discussed another upcoming event at ICIMOD, an International Forum on the Cryosphere and Society , to be held August 28-30. This will be an opportunity to develop what she termed “the voice of the Hindu Kush Himalaya,” linking research on environmental and social systems to produce policy-relevant findings. 

ICIMOD researcher Bidya Banmali Pradhan, presenting a project on brick kilns which reduces emissions and improves air quality
ICIMOD researcher Bidya Banmali Pradhan, presenting a project on brick kilns which reduce emissions and improve air quality (source: Ben Orlove)

In other presentations, Suman Bisht discussed the structural obstacles, such as the lack of education and the burden of obtaining firewood and water, which women face in the Hindu Kush Himalayas, particularly in rural areas, and presented several enterprise projects which provide women with new income sources. Bidya Banmali Pradhan, an environment officer at ICIMOD, discussed a promising example of a local organization which is responding to climate change: the Federation of Asian Brick Kiln Associations, which developed a program to organize owners of many small brick kilns to shift to less-polluting technologies. This organization took advantage of the availability of reconstruction funds after the 2015 Nepal earthquake to rebuild many old kilns in a more sustainable, climate-smart manner.

In the question and answer period which followed, the audience of IPCC officials, authors, and staff raised many issues, ranging from health, water, and natural disasters to policy, finance, and diplomacy. Thelma Krug, a vice-chair of the IPCC, directly addressed ICIMOD. She stated that she “would like to stress our gratitude for all you have been doing,” mentioning specifically that she “appreciated people [being so] passionate.” She asked as well when the next Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment would be produced; Molden told her that these reports are on a five-year cycle. 

Eklabya Sharma speaking on development pathways for the Hindu Kush-Himalaya
Eklabya Sharma, the Deputy Director General of ICIMOD, speaking on development pathways for the Hindu Kush-Himalaya (Source: Ben Orlove)

After these questions, the group moved to a dining pavilion a short distance uphill from the meeting hall for a reception, which gave ICIMOD and IPCC personnel an opportunity to speak more informally in small groups. They continued to talk for about an hour, enjoying snacks and drinks, observing the late afternoon light over the mountains across the Kathmandu Valley, and exchanging thoughts about climate change and sustainable development. 

Himalayan views of the event

In an interview after the event, Molden told GlacierHub, “Having the IPCC meeting [in Nepal] sends a good signal that the region is being taken into consideration. It has been a benefit for IPCC authors to experience a region that is clearly on the frontline of climate change. Many authors expressed to me that after the visit to Nepal, they had more of an appreciation of the mountain issues.” 

He noted the strong presence of ICIMOD researchers in the team of authors writing the report, and stated, “ICIMOD, through its authors, and recently released HKH Assessment does have a good opportunity to engage in the IPCC process and bring issues of the region in the [Sixth Assessment] report. I expect that authors from the region will provide important input on climate change scenarios, the potential impact of climate change, and important adaptation strategies.” 

It seems likely that these ties will continue to deepen. As Wester told GlacierHub, “With the inclusion of a cross-chapter paper focusing on mountains in the Working Group II contribution to AR6, we expect to see much more attention for the HKH and other mountain ranges throughout the AR6 chapters. I also expect to see many more expert reviewers from the HKH region contributing to the AR6 review process, as well as governments from the region.”

It seems likely that the IPCC will no longer treat the Hindu Kush Himalaya as an area lacking in research, but rather include it among the regions of the world most vulnerable to climate change impacts—and as a region that is addressing climate change through significant adaptation and mitigation programs. As a result, the region will participate more fully in global deliberations about climate change.

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Increased Focus on Mountains in the IPCC’s AR6 Report

On January 20th through the 25th, over 250 climate experts gathered in Durban, South Africa for Working Group II’s First Lead Author Meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6). Working Group II, which evaluates climate change-associated vulnerabilities, impacts, and adaptation, will feature a “Cross-Chapter Paper” on mountains. These papers are new features for both Working Group II and the AR6 Synthesis Report.

The paper on mountains will include authors from several chapters within Working Group II. The authors come from several different mountainous countries such as Switzerland, Nepal, India, Austria, Russia, Ecuador, and the UK.

“It’s really good to see mountains receiving serious attention in the 6th assessment cycle of the IPCC, with the 1st Lead Author Meeting in Durban laying a good foundation,” Philippus Wester told Mountain Research Initiative, a collaborative research network that focuses on mountain regions and sustainable development.

The IPCC’s most recent climate report, Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5°C (SR15), brought startling news about the imminent threats of climate change.

Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate,” state the authors of the special report.

A 1.5°C temperature increase will likely lead to an increased frequency in extreme temperatures and an increase in frequency, intensity, and amount of heavy rain in many regions. Temperature increases will likely lead to an increase in drought intensity as well. Additionally, glaciers and ice sheets will likely melt faster, and glacial extent is likely to decrease in most mountainous areas.

The IPCC, established in 1988, was founded by the United Nations and the World Meteorological Organization in order to summarize and report research on climate change, risk assessments, and policy recommendations. The IPCC is well known for its collaborative assessments on the science of climate change.

The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), which was published in 2014, cited human influence and greenhouse gas emissions as the main drivers of climate change. Climate conversations for the IPCC’s next Synthesis Report, AR6 have already begun. AR6 will feature written contributions from each of the three Working Groups as well as a complete, Synthesis Report.

Comments from Working Group II & Cross-Chapter Paper Authors

Co-lead authors of the cross-chapter paper are Carolina Adler, from the Mountain Research Initiative, and Philippus Wester, from the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). ICIMOD is known for its mountain research advocacy and focus in the Hindu Kush Himalayas.

Adler, who’s also lead author of Chapter 17, “Decision-making options for managing risk,” said that AR6 will have “greater emphasis and focus on the solutions space to the observed and projected impacts of climate change, particularly on adaptation” and increased “focus on mountains as a specific geographic context in which to assess climate change.”

Working Group II authors, Ben Orlove and Erin Coughlan (Source: Ben Orlove)

GlacierHub asked report authors Christian Huggel and Veruska Muccione, both from the University of Zurich, about their thoughts on the Working Group II report and AR6’s overall progress thus far.

Huggel, lead author of Chapter 12, “Central and South America,” and an author of the chapter on mountains, said: “Because [AR6] is more solution oriented, I think we will need to go deeper also in non-peer-reviewed literature. For example, in adaptation, there is now a rich experience in many regions of the world, but this is only documented in the peer-reviewed literature in a limited way.”

He adds: “ I also think that we will address more than in other reports problems of more complex nature such as cascading risks, i.e. not just risks from e.g. a hurricane, but how such hazards combine with human systems, and how it could bring human systems to failure.”

Some of the Working Group II authors brainstorming during the Working Group II’s First Lead Author Meeting (Source: Ben Orlove)

Muccione, lead author of Chapter 13 “Europe” and an author of the mountains chapter, reveals that AR6 will feature IPCC research yet to be published.

She said: “The three IPCC special assessments, e.g. the SR15 already published, and the other two assessments (SROCC and SRCCL) scheduled to be published later this year make up an important body of research for the AR6.” The SROCC, or the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, and the SRCCL, or the Special Report on Climate Change and Land, will both be finalized in September 2019.

Working Group II’s report, as well as the AR6 Synthesis Report, are still in the beginning stages, but significant progress is clearly underway. Working Group II’s Second Lead Author Meeting will take place in July in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Looking ahead, the IPCC’s three Working Group reports will begin to be published in 2021. The AR6 Synthesis Report will follow in 2022.

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