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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Photo Friday: Inside the Final Negotiations of the IPCC’s Special Report on the Oceans and Cryosphere

IPCC authors and national delegates put the final touches on the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate during negotiations in Monaco ahead of the release of the report on Sept. 25.

GlacierHub’s Ben Orlove is a lead author on the report and provided images from the final hours of negotiations and from climate events ahead of the UN’s 2019 General Assembly.

IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee (left) and Prince Albert II of Monaco entering the opening reception for SROCC (source: IISD/ENB)
Lead authors on SROCC during a break (Source: B. Orlove)
(Source: IISD/ENB)
CLA Jean-Pierre Gattuso and LA Ben Orlove (Source: Facebook/Ben Orlove)
Lead author Ben Orlove, napping on a couch during a late-night meeting (Source: Facebook/Ben Orlove)
Lunches and dinners at the SROCC approval session often consisted of snacks. (Source: B. Orlove)
IPCC bureau staff and SROCC lead authors just after the Summary for Policy-Makers of SROCC was approved. (Source: IISD/ENB)
An outreach event for SROCC, held in New York on 25 September, hosted by the Permanent Mission of Belgium to the United Nations. (Source: B. Orlove)
Greta Thunberg, addressing an outreach event for SROCC in New York on 25 Sept. (Source: B. Orlove)
At an outreach event for SROCC in New York on Sept. 25. Left to right: Ben Orlove; Patricia Edwin, First Lady of the Federated States of Micronesia; Thelma Krug, IPCC Vice-Chair; David Panuelo, President of the Federated States of Micronesia (Source: B. Orlove)

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Video of the Week: The IPCC’s Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released on Sept. 25 its Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, or SROCC.

The study examines the already apparent effects that human-generated greenhouse gas emissions have had on the oceans and frozen areas of the world and offers projections on what is likely to occur in the coming decades.

“The open sea, the Arctic, the Antarctic and the high mountains may seem far away to many people,” Hoesung Lee, chair of the IPCC, said in a press release. “But we depend on them and are influenced by them directly and indirectly in many ways — for weather and climate, for food and water, for energy, trade, transport, recreation and tourism, for health and wellbeing, for culture and identity.”

The melting of glaciers, the report says, is causing people in high mountain regions to become increasingly exposed to hazards like avalanches, landslides, and flooding and more susceptible to changes in water availability.

Small glaciers in Europe, eastern Africa, the Andes, and Indonesia could diminish by 80 percent by the end of the century if nations fail to dramatically reduce their emissions, the report says. Tourism, recreational activities, and cultural life will continue to be impacted by glacier mass loss, and hydroelectric and agricultural production are being altered.

“Changes in water availability will not just affect people in these high mountain regions, but also communities much further downstream,” Panmao Zhai, an IPCC co-chair and general secretary of the Chinese Meteorological Society, said in a press release.

“Limiting warming would help them adapt to changes in water supplies in mountain regions and beyond, and limit risks related to mountain hazards,” he said. “Integrated water management and transboundary cooperation provides opportunities to address impacts of these changes in water resources.”

SROCC is the latest special report authored by the IPCC, which conducts a comprehensive assessment of the Earth’s climate about every five to seven years. It released in Oct. 2018 a special report on the impacts of 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming compared to pre-Industrial Age levels. Its sixth assessment report is expected to be published in June 2022.

Read more about the report in this post, republished with permission from the Mountain Research Initiative.

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Photo Friday: Countdown to the Release of the IPCC’s Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will release next week its Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate. Over 100 scientists from more than 30 nations have contributed to the report, which will outline the current and projected impacts of climate change on the world’s oceans, ice sheets, and mountain snowpack.

Ahead of its release on Sept. 25, IPCC staff and authors are meeting with government delegates in Monaco to discuss and approve the final text.

GlacierHub’s Ben Orlove is an author on the report and sent some images from the Monaco deliberations.

Preparatory sessions were held Tuesday and Wednesday ahead of approval meetings taking place Friday through Monday. A welcome reception occurred Thursday night and was attended by Monaco’s Prince Albert II.

Check out the images below and keep an eye out next week for GlacierHub’s coverage of the report.

IPCC authors take a break during the preparatory meeting.
Delegates and IPCC authors attend a reception on Thursday, September 19 at the Oceanographic Museum in Monaco.
Prince Albert II of Monaco and IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee at the September 19 welcome reception.
Monaco’s Minister of Public Works, the Environment, and Urban Development Marie-Pierre Gramaglia addresses delegates and IPCC authors at a welcoming ceremony on Thursday, Sept. 19.
The Principality of Monaco took steps to make the meeting sustainable, providing, for example, reusable water bottles—with carbonation.
The Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation presented fellowships to IPCC members, including Hoesung Lee, chair of the IPCC. Prince Albert II is seen with his back to the camera.
IPCC authors, including GlacierHub’s Ben Orlove (right), wearing ribbons in support of climate strikers around the world who took to the streets on Friday, September 20. (Credit: Judith Dresher)
IPCC authors wore ribbons in solidarity with climate strikers who took to the streets of cities around the world on Friday, September 20. 
IPCC delegates arrive at the Grimaldi Forum, located in Monaco’s seafront ward of Larvotto.
The reception area of the Grimaldi Forum, where IPCC delegates will discuss and approve the Special Report on the Oceans and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate
Delegates and IPCC staff and authors line up to obtain their credentials inside the Grimaldi Forum.
Attendees queue for coffee inside the Grimaldi Forum.
Delegates and IPCC authors begin to arrive for Friday’s plenary session.
Monaco’s Prince Albert II addresses the IPCC plenary on Friday, Sept. 20.

(All photos were taken by Ben Orlove, unless credited otherwise.)

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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.

Read More on GlacierHub:

New IPCC Report Offers New Data, Stern Warnings, Hope

Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment Outlines Potentially Dire Impacts of Climate Change

What Glacier State Congressmembers Think of a Green New Deal

Glaciers Feature Prominently at COP24 in Poland

From 2-14 December 2018, 197 countries gather in Katowice, Poland, for the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or better known as COP24. During these two weeks of negotiations, countries will attempt to finish what they started in Paris three years ago. In Paris, parties set 2018 as the deadline to come up with robust plans for their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which will include significant reductions in carbon emissions as well as an increased commitment to sustainable development.

Mountain countries are taking an active role in this year’s conference, and the impact of future warming scenarios on glacier melting, sea level rise, and mountain communities has been a prominent point of discussion throughout.

16 November 2018

Postcards created by over 125,000 children from around the world are compiled into a mosaic at the base of Switzerland’s Aletsch Glacier, spelling a message across the snow. “STOP GLOBAL WARMING #1.5 DEGREES C,” it reads, serving as a gesture to countries preparing for COP24. According to Swiss glaciologists at the University of Zurich, the Aletsch glacier, though currently the largest expanse of continuous ice in Western Europe, is receding at a rate of 12 meters per year, and it could completely disappear by 2100.

The quote references the findings of the IPCC Special Report, Global Warming of 1.5ºC, published in October 2018. In order to minimize the adverse impacts of climate change, the report urged limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius instead of the 2 degrees Celsius agreed upon in Paris three years ago.

3 December 2018

“We can’t afford to fail in Katowice,” says UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during his opening remarks at COP24. He thinks that public will to fight climate change has faded since Paris in 2015, and now climate change is “running away from us.” Notable climate change impacts detailed in the IPCC special report, such as increasing temperatures, sea level rise, and receding glaciers, are happening faster than we expected.

Speaking up for small states in attendance, Nepal’s President Bidhya Devi said that Nepal has “been bearing the brunt of disproportionate impact of climate change despite being a low carbon-emitting country… We feel as if we have been penalised for the mistakes we never made. It is incumbent on the international community to ensure that justice is done.”

4 December 2018

UNESCO, in partnership with the Norwegian GRID-Arendal Foundation, presents a new report, titled “Andean Glacier and Water Atlas: the impact of glacier retreat on water resources,” which details the consequences of glacier retreat on water availability and security for communities who depend on glaciers for drinking water, hydropower, agriculture, and other industries. Since the 1980s, when Andean glaciers were in a period of peak discharge, there has been less and less meltwater each year. This has huge negative impacts on communities who depend on glacial meltwater, and even more so during times of drought.

Precipitation trends suggest that snow cover will continue to decrease, along with temperatures rising 2-5 degrees Celsius in the tropical Andes and 1-7 degrees Celsius in the southern Andes. The report further estimates that even under moderate warming scenarios, low-altitude glaciers in the tropical Andes could lose 78 to 97 percent of their volume in the 21st century.

  • Peru, home to the largest number of tropical glaciers on the continent, has seen extremely rapid glacier retreat, with very few, brief intermittent periods of advancement.
  • Venezuela’s only remaining glacier will likely cease to exist by 2021.
  • Bolivia’s glaciers have lost more than two-thirds of their volume since the 1980s.
  • Colombia is also experiencing rapid glacier retreat; by 2050 the sole survivors will be the largest glaciers at the highest altitudes.
  • Ecuador’s glaciers have been subject to dramatic losses in the last 50 years.
  • Chile and Argentina are seeing accelerating melting among low-lying freshwater and tidewater glaciers in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego.

5 December 2018

The World Health Organization (WHO) releases the COP24 special report: health and climate change. The report implicates anthropogenic climate change as the source of huge challenges for human health. The same industries who emit greenhouse gases, which warm the planet, are also responsible for emitting PM2.5, which harms human health. Within the public health and climate change conversation, glaciers receive a small but important cameo on black carbon. Black carbon, a by-product of inefficient combustion (from cookstoves, diesel engines, biomass, etc.) is second only to CO2 emissions in its global warming contribution. 

Not only is black carbon important on a global scale, but it also has impacts on regional climate systems. Black carbon works to accelerate glacier retreat in mountainous regions as well as the Arctic. As it settles, black carbon darkens a glacier’s surface, absorbing instead of reflecting heat, and inducing glacial melting.

Read more about black carbon on GlacierHub.

The Global Carbon Project reports that global CO2 emissions are projected to increase by 2.7 percent by the end of 2018. Following a brief stagnation in global CO2 emissions from 2014-2016, emissions rose by 1.6 percent. To limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (or briefly overshoot it and come back down), global emissions need to be drastically decreasing, not increasing, and at current levels the world will certainly exceed this threshold by 2030.  

7 December 2018

COP24 Side Event – Mountain regions moving towards carbon neutrality

This side event’s keynote speaker, Eric Nanchen, is the director of the Foundation for Sustainable Development in Mountain Regions (FDDM). His talk covered climate change impacts and vulnerability of mountain regions, in the context of laying foundations for sustainable development. He also discussed the Mountain Research Initiative’s #VanishingGlaciers campaign, which is also being promoted at COP24. Deputy Secretary General of the Alpine Convention, Marianna Elmi, discussed steps that Alpine countries are taking toward climate neutrality, for example, coming up with a climate target system for 2050. 

10 December 2018

Newly released maps from NASA indicate that a group of four glaciers on the eastern coastline of Antarctica have been losing ice over the last decade. Since 2008, these four glaciers, which are located just to the west of the massive Totten glacier, have lost about 9 feet of their surface height. Prior to these findings, East Antarctica was thought to be much more stable than its western counterpart.

11 December 2018

COP24 Side Event – International Mountain Day – Mountain adaptation: Vulnerable peaks and people

On International Mountain Day, UN Environment releases two reports: Mountain Adaptation Outlook Series – Synthesis Report, and its more regionally focused counterpart, Outlook on climate change adaptation in the Hindu Kush Himalaya. The same day, in an UNEP press release, Joyce Msuya, Acting Executive Director at UN Environment says, “Mountain ranges are extremely complex ecosystems home to some of the most marginalized and vulnerable communities. It is critical that we focus on helping these communities adapt to changing climate in mountain regions.”

The synthesis report begins by framing the importance of mountain ecosystems, which cover 25 percent of the Earth’s landmass, house 15 percent of the world’s population, and provide essential ecosystem services to over half the world’s population. The report then goes on to call mountainous regions the “frontline of climate change.” Mountainous regions are subject to altitude amplification, whereby warming at high altitudes actually occurs at a faster rate than the global average, much like it does at the poles. Almost every mountain in the world is seeing substantial glacier retreat, which impacts ecosystems all the way downstream. In addition, the steep, sometimes unstable terrain leaves mountain communities more susceptible to floods and landslides. The synthesis report strives to capture regional differences in primary risk factors, climate change impacts, and current policy gaps in order to identify potential adaptation measures for each region.

The second report specifically targets the Hindu Kush Himalaya, and is actually part of a progressive series which has previously covered other mountainous regions around the world. The Hindu Kush Himalaya are of particular importance because it is already one of the most disaster-prone regions on Earth. Further, the report states this region could warm upwards of 4-5 degrees Celsius by 2100. The disproportionate warming effects of climate change at altitude, coupled with increased severity of precipitation events and the high probability of natural disasters in Hindu Kush Himalaya all work in tandem to make the region even more vulnerable to global warming.

12 December 2018

Side Event – IPCC Special Report on 1.5 Degrees, NDCs and Cryosphere: Pathways for Both High Urgency and Ambition

This event was focused on the IPCC Special Report, Global Warming of 1.5ºC, and working within the emissions constraints set by the report to minimize any further damage incurred by positive global warming feedbacks such as sea level rise and other impacts on mountainous and polar areas. Discussion was focused primarily on how to incorporate cryosphere considerations into the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCS) for 2020 in order to minimize future risk and impact. 

During closing remarks for the COP24 High-Level Segment of the Talanoa Dialogue, the Secretary General makes note of three reports published in the past few days that “added to the long list of warnings signals.” Among them is the special WHO report on human health and climate change and NASA’s research showing signs of glacier melting in East Antarctica, which are both discussed above. He used these current events to show that we cannot ignore the rapidly accumulating effects of climate change, and to encourage countries to participate in successful policy-creation during COP24’s final days.  


Video of the Week: Comments from IPCC Chair on SR1.5

This week’s Video of the Week follows the recent release of the IPCC’s special report, SR1.5, on warming impacts of 1.5 degrees Celsius. This short but meaningful video features comments from head of IPCC Hoesung Lee, regarding the observable effects of climate change on societies and ecosystems. SR1.5 urges immediate global response to drastically reduce emissions that contribute to global warming, highlighting the importance of reaching global “net zero” emissions by 2050. The report also suggests strategies for mitigating pathways and transitioning into more sustainable human and environmental systems through adjustments in sectors such as energy, agriculture and infrastructure, to name a few.

Visit the IPCC website for the full report, which includes the Summary for Policymakers and the official press release from Incheon, Republic of Korea. Also, be sure to check out last week’s post on SR1.5 by GlacierHub editor Ben Orlove.

Read more glacier news here:

A Classic Whodunit: Industrial Soot, Volcanoes, and Europe’s Shrinking Glaciers

What An Antarctic Island Tells Us about Mars

Brady Glacier, Alaska Nunatak Expansion and High Snowline 2018

New IPCC Report Offers New Data, Stern Warnings, Hope

On 8 October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) announced the final approval of the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5˚C (SR1.5). This report presents the results of a thorough assessment of the differences between two levels of global warming, the 2˚C limit which was established as a firm commitment target by the 2015 Paris Agreement, and the 1.5˚C limit, which the same agreement indicated as a more ambitious level to be approached or achieved. This report gives glaciers extensive coverage, referring to them 19 times.

Georg Kaser, a glaciologist at the University of Innsbruck in Austria, offered a succinct overview of the report in an interview with GlacierHub:

The fact that this SR1.5 was produced in only 1.5 years is an incredible success, made possible by dozens of colleagues who have not only set up new socio-economical, emission, climate change, and climate change impact scenarios from scratch, but have also been able to reduce uncertainties in a way that made the distinction between 1.0, 1.5 and 2.0C possible. By doing so they have been able to show both that the 0.5C steps make serious differences and that there is still a time window–though a small one–that is open for keeping the earth at 1.5C above preindustrial levels.

Urgent Messages in the IPCC Report

The report underscores the urgency of the Paris Agreement and its ambitious target. As Patricia Pinho, an environmental policy scientist at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil who was an author on the report, told GlacierHub in an interview, “The report shows that every degree of warming matters for livelihoods in most communities. Actions need to be taken now if suffering, disruption, and conflict are to be avoided.” She described the collaboration among the authors from a variety of natural and social science field as an innovative aspect of the report, saying “different groups of scientists worked together as an interdisciplinary community to deliver society a message grounded in scientific evidence.”

Statement from IPCC Working Group I Co-Chair Valérie Masson-Delmotte
Statement from IPCC Working Group I Co-Chair Valérie Masson-Delmotte (source: IPCC).

The report presents many benefits of limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5˚C rather than allowing it to rise to 2˚C. There would be fewer heat waves, lower levels of sea level rise, less extreme loss of sea ice, of coral reefs and of endangered species, fewer droughts and lower levels of crop loss. It indicates that this target can still be achieved, though it will require a rapid reduction in the reliance on oil, gas and coal, and a firm deployment of renewable energy resources, such as wind and solar power and hydropower. Moreover, the window for this transformation is a narrow one, since global emissions would have to be reduced by half as soon as 2030, and brought down close to zero by 2050.

The New Report Discusses Glaciers Extensively

SR1.5 mentions glaciers once in each of two early key sections, presenting distinct, important features which they possess. In the Summary for Policy-Makers, the most widely read section in all IPCC reports, the report lists a set of “reasons for concern.” The reason which is listed first, because it is the most vulnerable to warming, are the “Unique and threatened systems.” These systems consist of ecosystems and societies which have narrow spatial ranges which face firm climate constraints, and which have endemic species or other distinctive features which cannot be replicated. To provide specific examples of such systems, the report lists “coral reefs, the Arctic and its indigenous people, mountain glaciers, and biodiversity hotspots.”

In Chapter 1, Framing and Context, the report underscores a second crucial role of glaciers. They serve as an example of the interconnectedness of climate change impacts, a characteristic that creates interacting, compounding negative effects. In section 1.3.2. of this chapter, Drivers of Impacts, the report states “Impacts may also be triggered by combinations of factors, including ‘impact cascades’ through secondary consequences of changed systems. Changes in agricultural water availability caused by upstream changes in glacier volume are a typical example.”

Chapter 3, Impacts of 1.5˚C Global Warming on Natural and Human Systems, offers a somber note on the future of glaciers, reflecting the slowness with which glaciers respond to climate drivers. It states, “28–44% of present-day glacier volume is unsustainable in the present-day climate, so that it would eventually (over the course of a few centuries) melt, even if there were no further climate change.”

Pasterze Glacier in Austria, showing significant retreat
Pasterze Glacier in Austria, showing significant retreat (source: Bernd Thaller).

Chapter 3 contains more than half of all the references to glaciers in the report. It discusses the contribution of glacier retreat to sea level rise. It notes that the contributions of glaciers to sea level rise in the present century cannot be distinguished statistically. Current research indicates that they would be between 54-97 mm (in relation to present sea levels) for 1.5˚C, and 63-112 mm for 2˚C, using a 90% confidence interval). To explain this finding, the report states “This arises because melt during the remainder of the century is dominated by the response to warming from preindustrial to present-day levels (in turn a reflection of the slow response times of glaciers).” This chapter also notes that glacier melt will contribute to the decrease in salinity in seawater, particularly at high latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere (section 3.3.10, Ocean Chemistry).

Chapter 3 is the only one which mentions glaciers in its section on Frequently Asked Questions. In response to the first FAQ, “What are the impacts of 1.5°C and 2°C of warming?” it states “The impacts of climate change are being felt in every inhabited continent and in the oceans. But they are not spread uniformly across the globe, and different parts of the world experience impacts differently. … The impacts of any additional warming would also include stronger melting of ice sheets and glaciers.”

This chapter also describes the effects of glacier retreat on social and economic sectors. Since glaciers are a “critical resource” for tourism, they might affect this sector, though the report notes “limited analyses of projected risks associated with 1.5° versus 2°C are available.” It indicates that glacier melt will affect water security in alpine regions (section

Chapter 4, Strengthening and Implementing the Global Response, describes how glaciers can be incorporated into actions to address climate change. Section 4.3.8, Solar Radiation Modification, mentions a small-scale form of geoengineering: “covering glaciers … with reflective sheeting.” The Supplementary Material for this chapter includes a table titled “Overarching adaptation options.” This table mentions glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) as a risk that will increase with 1.5°C warming. It also notes disaster risk management as an adaptation option which could be implemented.

The New Report Contributes to Upcoming Climate Negotiations

The ability of glaciers to stir the human imagination may well support the contributions of the report as a key scientific input to the Katowice Climate Change Conference this December. This conference, also known as COP24 under the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) is designated as the context for the completion and adoption of the “rulebook” of guidelines for the implementation of the Paris Agreement. Delegates at that conference have the opportunity to provide momentum which could carry the world from the deep engagement seen in Paris to significant achievements before the crucial Global Stocktake of the Paris Agreement in 2023. That Global Stocktake will provide a full assessment of the progress towards the achievement of the purpose and goals of the agreement.

The powerful stories of glaciers, in conjunction with the other elements of SR1.5, may provide some of the motivation that is required for the world to undertake the challenging steps to reach these goals. As Pinho noted, “Even in a 1.5°C warming world, adaptation will be challenging for some regions and people around the world, especially in Small Island States in the Pacific, Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, but it still gives a better chance when compared to a 2°C world. But we also show with high confidence that climate-resilient trajectories at 1.5°C are possible and feasible, requiring transformative visions from a range of people to lead to a sustainable future for all.”

GlacierHub News Report 08:23:18

GlacierHub News Report 08:23:18

The GlacierHub News Report is a bi-monthly video news report that features some of our website’s top stories. This week’s newscast is special because managing editor Ben Orlove is joining our newscast. We will be presenting stories ranging from the IPCC to glaciers in Russia to a tradition of citizen climate science and even controversial lands in India.


This week’s news report features:


Glacier Researchers Gather at IPCC Meeting in China

By: Ben Orlove


The authors of a major IPCC report on oceans and the cryosphere gathered in Lanzhou, China, in July 2018. They discussed the reviews which the first draft of the report had received. They also planned the next steps to advance the report.

Read more here.


Debris-Covered Glaciers Advance in Remote Kamchatka

By: Andrew Angle

Summary: On the remote Kamchatka Penisula in Eastern Russia, most glaciers are retreating due to climate change. However, in one area, some glaciers have advanced due to volcanic debris on top of the ice that has limited melting.

Read more here.


Amid High-Tech Alternatives, a Reckoning for Iceland’s Glacier Keepers

By: Gloria Dickie

Summary: It may be one of the longest-running examples of citizen climate science in the world. With Iceland’s glaciers at their melting point, these men and women— farmers, schoolchildren, a plastic surgeon, even a Supreme Court judge— serve not only as the glaciers’ guardians, but also their messengers.

Read more here.

War Against Natural Disasters: A Fight the Indian Military Can’t Win

By: Sabrina Ho

Summary: Ladakh is frequently exposed to floods and landslides when snow and glaciers melt. A recent paper warns of the current nature of a military-led disaster governance, including heavy military presence, in disaster risk reduction.

Read more here.


Video Credits:

Presenters: Ben Orlove and Brian Poe Llamanzares

Video Editor: Brian Poe Llamanzares

Writer: Brian Poe Llamanzares

News Intro: YouTube

Music: iMovie

Glacier Researchers Gather at IPCC Meeting in China

Lead Author Meeting of IPCC Report Held in China

Qilian Mountains Tibetan Plateau on GlacierHub
Qilian Mountains, with the Tibetan Plateau in the distance (source: Susie Crate/Facebook).

Researchers from several countries gathered in July to advance their work on a report that will assess the state of research on glaciers and related topics. The IPCC meeting took place in Lanzhou, China, the capital of the province of Gansu in the central part of the country, close to a number of glaciated peaks in the Qilian Mountains. This location reflects the focus of the document, the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This report traces cryosphere-ocean links, particularly the contribution of meltwater from the Antarctic and Greenland Ice Sheets to sea-level rise, and also considers other topics related to oceans and the cryosphere. This event was the third Lead Author Meeting (LAM3) for SROCC.

The report’s Chapter 2, High Mountain Areas, examines a variety of topics which include observed and projected changes in glaciers, permafrost and snow, as well as links to climate, hazards and water resources. It also discusses risks for societies and the strategies to respond to these risks. The full chapter structure can be found in the outline of the report, which was approved last year.

This chapter is being led by two Coordinating Lead Authors, Regine Hock, a glaciologist and hydrologist from the University of Alaska, and Golam Rasul, an economist and rural development specialist from the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Nepal. The 13 Lead Authors come from four continents and represent 10 countries—the U.K., France, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, Russia, China, Japan, Ecuador, the U.S. and Canada.

Activities at the Meeting

The IPCC meeting, hosted by the State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric Science of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, was held on 23-27 July at the Lanzhou Hotel in Lanzhou. Shichang Kang, the director of the laboratory, coordinated the event and served as host.

IPCC Speakers in China Ko Barrett Yun Gao Weihua He Shichang Kang Panmao Zhai on GlacierHub
Speakers at the opening session of the meeting. Left to right, Ko Barrett, Yun Gao, Weihua He, Shichang Kang, Panmao Zhai. (source: IPCC/Twitter).

The meeting was opened by Panmao Zhai, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group I and Secretary General of the Chinese Meteorological Society. The first speech was given by Yun Gao, the Dputy Director of the Science and Technology and Climate Change Division of the China Meteorological Administration, who emphasized the country’s commitment to the IPCC and to international cooperation more broadly.

The next address was given by Weihua He, the vice-inspector of the Gansu Science and Technology Department. She emphasized the importance of developing a low-carbon economy in the province which could contribute to poverty reduction while improving economic and environmental quality. She said that she could envision “a new happy and beautiful Gansu,” and closed her speech with wishes for the meeting’s “great success.” In the evening of the meeting’s inauguration, the provincial government also sponsored a performance by a troupe of folk dancers, who presented the diverse cultural styles of the ethnic groups in central and western China, and showcased as well developments in Chinese media.

The meeting drew over 100 participants from 30 countries. In addition to attending plenary meetings, the chapter teams discussed the comments which they had received from experts on the First Order Drafts of their chapters. They coordinated with each other to promote the integration of the chapters, and also began the planning of communication products. They advanced as well on five cross-chapter boxes which address topics that span the report’s topics. The discussions continued at meals and in the evenings.

This meeting was distinguished by the relatively large proportion of women among the lead authors and by the international diversity, with representatives from more than 30 countries across six continents and the Pacific. It received wide coverage in a number of Chinese media outlets  

Yaks in the Qilian Mountains on GlacierHub
Yaks in the Qilian Mountains (source: Susie Crate/Facebook).

After the conference, a number of participants set off on a four-day tour of the province. Their travels included a visit to the Qilian Mountains, a glaciated range which forms the border between Gansu and the neighboring province of Qinghai. Although severe flooding had damaged roads, preventing the group from reaching Laohuguo Glacier, they did explore regions up to 3780 meters, where they saw large herds of yaks.

After the tour, a conference was held on 31 July and 1 August on Cryospheric Changes and the Regional and Global Impacts. A number of authors from Chapter 2, including Shichang Kang, Regine Hock, Miriam Jackson and Stephan Gruber, gave talks at this conference.

Comments on the Meeting

IPCC authors on GlacierHub
IPCC authors at dinner in a hotpot restaurant (source: Ben Orlove)

Hans-Otto Poertner, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II, described the meeting. “We are grateful for the comprehensive feedback we received in the first Expert Review of this report,” he said. “By ensuring that the latest scientific knowledge is included in our assessments, the reviews help us to provide the best available basis for global climate policy. The outcomes of our Lead Author Meeting in Lanzhou will take us a huge step closer to this goal.”

“We are looking forward to the meeting in Lanzhou as we continue developing and refining the IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate. We believe this report will help policymakers better understand the changes we are seeing and the risks to lives and livelihoods that may occur with future climate change,” said IPCC Vice-Chair Ko Barrett. “The gracious hospitality of our hosts is much appreciated,” she added.

Outreach Events and Upcoming Activities

In conjunction with the meeting, outreach events were held at Lanzhou University on 24 July and at the State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric Science on 26 July. IPCC Bureau leaders, Shichang Kang, and several lead authors spoke. They presented the outline of the report to local audiences, discussed major findings of earlier IPCC reports about changes in climate and in mountain and coastal environments, and reviewed issues specific to China and other Asian countries. At both events, speakers emphasized the importance of international cooperation and the great advances of Chinese researchers. One participant described the comments of Debra Roberts, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II at the first event as “deeply inspiring.” The participant continued, “She really renewed my optimism.”

The participants left the meeting ready to begin the process of preparing the Second Order Draft of the report. This draft will be circulated for review by experts and governments in November 2018, and will be reviewed and revised at a fourth meeting in March 2019 in Kazan, Russia. The following draft will be reviewed by governments, and the report will be completed in September 2019. The recent meeting provided highly motivating support to this long process, immersing the authors for several days in a vulnerable context of a country, impacted by glacier retreat as well as sea level rise, which is a central player in international climate affairs.

IPCC Report is Now Open for Comment

An Opportunity to Offer Comments on an IPCC Report Currently in Development

Readers of GlacierHub, and other individuals and organizations as well, have the opportunity to provide comments on the current draft of a major international report on climate change. This report contains a chapter on glaciers, permafrost and snow in high mountain areas.

The report is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC). The First Order Draft of this report, which has been produced by a team of over 100 experts from more than 30 countries, is now open for comment, in what is called the Expert Review process. This review opened on 4 May, and will continue through 29 June 2018.

This report presents the latest scientific knowledge about the physical science basis and impacts of climate change on ocean, coastal, polar and mountain ecosystems, and the human communities that depend on them. It evaluates the vulnerabilities of these communities, as well as their capacities for adaptation. The report presents options for achieving climate-resilient development pathways in the face of the challenges which climate change imposes.

How to Register to Provide Comments on the Report

Expert Reviewers can register at this site. Registration will remain open through 22 June 2018. Interested individuals are encouraged to sign up earlier, in order to have sufficient time to read the material closely and formulate their responses. There is no fee for registration.

Lead authors of High Mountain Areas chapter at a meeting in Nadi, Fiji in October 2017 (source: Ben Orlove).

This Expert Review of the First Order Draft is a key element of the IPCC assessment process. Experts from around the world will offer comments and suggestions to the author teams. The report’s authors will address every comment received, and draw on them when they prepare the next draft. The review process aims to include the broadest possible scientific perspective. The next meeting of the authors will take place in Lanzhou, China, in late July, and will serve as an occasion for a thorough discussion and consideration of the comments.

The IPCC solicits comments from three categories of experts: scientific, technical, and socioeconomic. The third category includes stakeholders whose knowledge and experience aligns with the topics of the report. Individuals and organizations in any of these categories may register and submit their reviews.

“The review process is essential for the quality of IPCC assessment reports. We expect a broad range of feedback from the natural and social science research communities and also encourage stakeholders with relevant expertise to participate,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II.

Working Group II Co-Chair Debra Roberts added: “The author teams assess the current state of knowledge to inform policymakers at all levels and in all regions. Experts from all parts of the world are invited to review the draft based on their respective knowledge.”

All IPCC reports go through multiple stages of formal review. This first review will be followed by a second review when governments will also be invited to provide feedback. Expert Reviewers can register with a self-declaration of expertise. All Expert Reviewers will be acknowledged in the final report, due to be finalized in September 2019. Further information on the IPCC review process can be found on the IPCC website.

Mountains and Glaciers are a Major Focus of the Report

Lead authors of High Mountain Areas chapter on an excursion to Antisana Glacier before meeting in Quito, Ecuador, in February 2018 (source: Ben Orlove)

Readers of GlacierHub are likely to be particularly interested in Chapter 2 of the Special Report. Titled “High Mountain Areas,” it covers a variety of topics:

  • Observed and projected changes in mountain cryosphere (glaciers, permafrost, and snow), common drivers of change, and feedbacks (e.g., CH4 emissions, albedo) to regional and global climate
  • Effects of a changing mountain cryosphere on natural hazards and management options for protecting lives, livelihoods, infrastructure, and ecosystems
  • Impacts from changes in the mountain environment, including low latitudes (e.g., Himalayas, Andes, Africa) on habitability, community livelihoods and culture
  • Risks for societies that depend on mountain cryosphere for water resources (e.g., human consumption, ecosystems and agriculture), including cascading risks, and potential response strategies (e.g., national and international water resource management and technologies)
  • Impacts of variability and trends in water supply on hydropower production and implications for energy policy and water governance
  • Influence of mountain cryosphere run-off on river and coastal systems and sea level

Please consider this opportunity. And please pass word on to your associates and colleagues. The IPCC seeks a broad set of comments, from many nations, many fields and many perspectives.