20th Swiss Global Change Day
article written by MRI
27.02.19 | 10:02

The annual Swiss Global Change Day, organized by ProClim, brings together Swiss and international scientists and practitioners to present and discuss highlights of climate and global change research from different fields. This year’s programme was full of familiar faces from the MRI, with MRI Chair Rolf Weingartner chairing the first session and MRI Co-PI Adrienne Grêt-Regamey giving a keynote speech.  

The Swiss Global Change Day is known for its excellent set of keynote speakers, and this year’s 20th anniversary programme was no exception. The first on the stage was Dirk Messner from the United Nations University. Messner’s talk, ‘On the (im)possibility of the transformation to sustainability,’ was a remarkably positive and encouraging start to the day, highlighting the long way we’ve come from Rio 1992 to COP24 and the amount of knowledge and technical solutions available today. Messner pointed that this is the moment for joint action to face the challenges of our time and bring about a change in thinking in order push society through the “eye of the needle” towards a sustainable future.

1 Swiss Global Change Day Dirk Messner
Dirk Messner from United Nations University presented actions that are needed to lead the societies through the “eye of the needle” towards a sustainable future.

The second speaker, Margit Schwikowski from the Paul Scherrer Institute, brought mountains into the picture of global change research by highlighting the importance of alpine glaciers when studying the environmental changes of the past. Compared to ice cores from polar areas, ice cores from alpine glaciers can be cost-efficient data sources and can reveal detailed information about past environmental changes at regional and local scales.

Working across spatial scales to increase resilience for global change
Adrienne Grêt-Regamey of ETH Zurich and an MRI Co-PI gave an insightful talk on the importance of landscape level land use planning for climate mitigation and adaptation.

Planning tools at landscape level can greatly increase understanding of the different values, services, and impacts land and environment can provide for urban development. It is highly important to bring different stakeholders working at different spatial levels, such as ecologists, engineers, and architects, together to speak the same language when negotiating for space. Grêt-Regamey summarized that we will only succeed if we work across scales and with a variety of actors presenting a diversity of capacities and skills.

Portrait Swiss Global Change Day Adrienne Grêt Regamey LARGE

Adrienne Grêt-Regamey, MRI Co-PI, talked about the importance of diversity of actors for successful land management.

A new visual language for climate change
As regular visitors know, Swiss Global Change Day would be nothing without the surprise programme that follows lunch. This year, the slot was given to Adam Corner from Climate Outreach and Cardiff University, whose work aims to change the visual language that is used when communicating about climate change.

Corner took the audience on an entertaining and affecting journey through video material produced in recent years, inviting the audience to analyse the message and emotional impacts these clips had. The message we took home from Corner’s talk was to step beyond the traditional figures of polar bears, politicians and protesters, and to use human stories and examples of success and action from people working towards a sustainable future.

In the late afternoon, Peter Schürch from Bern University of Applied Sciences followed on from Adrienne Grêt-Regamey’s topic of planning with ‘A wake-up call for sustainability in architecture,’ in which he highlighted the responsibility of architects to offer more solutions for sustainable building and living.

The final keynote – ‘Do we have to be afraid of sea level rise?’ – was given by Anders Levermann from Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. With this provocative topic, Levermann challenged the audience to acknowledge the low pace of sea level rise and shift concerns from island states to mega cities and cultural heritage located close to sea level.

The MRI Coordination Office was also present in the poster exhibition, where we shared information about the MRI’s current work and on our expert database. We’d like to thank everyone who came to visit us! It was a pleasure to meet you all, and we look forward to future collaboration. If you missed us on the day, you can view the poster here.

More information on the 20th Swiss Global Change Day can be found on the event home page.