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Achieving human well-being and eradicating poverty for all: reaching this goal by 2030 is still possible, but only through a fundamental change in the relationship between people and nature and concerted global efforts to reduce social inequalities. This is according to the 2019 UN Global Sustainable Development Report, released earlier this month.

The UN Global Sustainable Development Report – The Future is Now: Science for Achieving Sustainable Development – evaluates progress on the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, and is the first report of its kind since the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted four years ago. It was drafted by an independent group of scientists, co-chaired by Peter Messerli, Director of the Centre for Development and Environment, and Endah Murniningtyas, former Deputy Minister for Natural Resources in Indonesia. 

The largest glacier in the Alps is visibly suffering the effects of global warming. ETH researchers have now calculated how much of the Aletsch Glacier will still be visible by the end of the century. In the worst-case scenario, a couple patches of ice will be all that’s left.

Every year, it attracts thousands of visitors from around the world: as the largest ice flow in the Alps, the Great Aletsch Glacier is a major tourism draw in the Swiss region of Upper Valais, second only to the Matterhorn. In the summer, its meltwater plays a key role in providing sufficient water to the dry Rhone valley.

Yet as the climate becomes ever warmer, the massive glacier is suffering just as much as the Matterhorn, which is beginning to crumble. The Aletsch Glacier’s tongue has receded by about one kilometre since the year 2000, and scientists predict this trend will continue over the coming years. But how will things look for the Great Aletsch Glacier by the end of the century? How much of it will still be visible from, say, the nearby Eggishorn or the Jungfraujoch?

As one of the highest and most prominent mountains in Europe, Mont Blanc is a very popular mountain to climb among mountaineers all over the world. However, this venture has become increasingly challenging, as many of the routes have undergone significant changes, and in some cases disappeared completely.

As climate change causes an increasing level of physical alterations to routes on Mont Blanc, it is taking its toll on mountaineering in the region. However, the new conditions climbers encounter on the mountain are still widely unknown and barely researched, particularly in the western Alps. A new study published in the journal Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research attempts to go some way towards addressing this, working closely with mountaineers to investigate their perception of and adaptation methods to the changing conditions.

The IPBES Plenary, at its seventh session held in Paris from 29 April to 4 May 2019, adopted 'the rolling work programme of IPBES up to 2030' (set out in annex I to decision IPBES-7/1), which includes, under its first objective, a thematic assessment of the underlying causes of biodiversity loss and the determinants of transformative change and options for achieving the 2050 Vision for Biodiversity. 

This assessment is aimed at understanding and identifying factors in human society at both the individual and collective levels, including behavioural, social, cultural, economic, institutional, technical, and technological dimensions, that can be leveraged to bring about transformative change for the conservation, restoration, and wise use of biodiversity, while taking into account broader social and economic goals in the context of sustainable development. It explores the drivers of and motives behind broad societal changes and transitions to inform the design of relevant policies, communication and engagement campaigns and other actions.

The IPBES Plenary, at its seventh session held in Paris from 29 April to 4 May 2019, adopted 'the rolling work programme of IPBES up to 2030' (set out in annex I to decision IPBES-7/1), which includes, under its first objective, a thematic assessment of the interlinkages among biodiversity, water, food, and health. 

This assessment will use a nexus approach to examine the strong interlinkages among the Sustainable Development Goals related to food and water security, health for all, protecting biodiversity on land and in the oceans, and combating climate change, among others. Interlinkages take various forms, including synergies, co-benefits and trade-offs.

A unique project is linking in-situ measurements with natural hazard research. For the past ten years, a network of wireless sensors on the Matterhorn’s Hörnli ridge has been constantly streaming measurement data on the condition of steep rock faces, permafrost, and prevailing climate. The project leader, Jan Beutel, reviews progress to date.

The summer heatwave of 2003 triggered a rockfall that shocked both researchers and the general public: 1,500 cubic metres of rock broke away from the Hörnli ridge – a volume roughly equivalent to two houses. The fracture event exposed bare ice on the surface of the steep scarp. Experts soon realised that the record temperatures had warmed the rock down to such a depth that the ice contained in its pores and fissures had melted. This effectively caused a sudden reduction of the bonding holding the rock mass together.

A rock overhang at almost 3500 meters in today's Ethiopia was permanently settled by Stone Age hunters over 40,000 years ago – making it the oldest known prehistoric dwelling in a high mountain range. This is according to a new study published in the journal Science.

The Bale Mountains are a mountain range in southern Ethiopia whose peaks reach heights of up to 4300 meters. This large Afro-alpine ecosystem is considered relatively pristine; the mountains were believed to have only recently been colonized. However, according to a new study conducted by an international and interdisciplinary research group, hunters settled permanently in this area during the last glacial period some 40,000 years ago. By analyzing the environmental and climatic conditions in the region, experts in archeology, soil science, geography, geology, and biology were able to prove that glaciers were located near the former settlement area in the Bale Mountains. The research team was also able to show, based on archaeological discoveries, that these Stone Age settlers made obsidian tools and fed on giant mole-rats.

New research has found that in contrast to pre-industrial climate fluctuations, current anthropogenic climate change is occurring across the whole world at the same time. In addition, the speed of global warming is higher than it has been in at least 2,000 years.

Many people have a clear picture of the 'Little Ice Age' (from approx. 1300 to 1850). It is characterized by paintings showing people skating on Dutch canals and glaciers advancing far into the alpine valleys. That it was extraordinarily cool in Europe for several centuries is proven by a large number of temperature reconstructions using tree rings, for example, not just by historical paintings. As there are also similar reconstructions for North America, it was assumed that the 'Little Ice Age' and the similarly famous 'Medieval Warm Period' (approx. 700–1400) were global phenomena. But now an international group led by Raphael Neukom of the Oeschger Center for Climate Change Research at the University of Bern is painting a very different picture of these alleged global climate fluctuations. In a study which has just appeared in the well-known scientific journal Nature, and in a supplementary publication in Nature Geoscience, the team shows that there is no evidence that there were uniform warm and cold periods across the globe over the last 2,000 years.

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