Despite encouraging progress in several areas, the natural world is suffering badly and getting worse. Eight transformative changes are urgently needed to ensure human well-being and save the planet, the UN warns in a major report. 

The report comes as the COVID-19 pandemic challenges people to rethink their relationship with nature, and to consider the profound consequences to their own wellbeing and survival that can result from continued biodiversity loss and the degradation of ecosystems.

Concentrations of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere are at record levels, and emissions that saw a temporary decline due to the pandemic are heading towards pre-COVID levels, while global temperatures continue to hit new highs. This is according to a major new report highlighting the increasing and irreversible impacts of climate change, and their significant implications for life on Earth. The report also features key messages on the cryosphere, taken from the IPCC SROCC, to which the MRI community contributed.

Climate change has not stopped for COVID19. Greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere are at record levels and continue to increase. Emissions are heading in the direction of pre-pandemic levels following a temporary decline caused by the lockdown and economic slowdown. The world is set to see its warmest five years on record – in a trend which is likely to continue - and is not on track to meet agreed targets to keep global temperature increase well below 2 °C or at 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.

The Adaptation at Altitude (AaA) programme has created a new online space on climate change adaptation in mountains that actors working on this topic can use to share their findings, learn from others, discuss challenges and shared issues, and announce events. 

This space is hosted on the climate change adaptation knowledge platform, and is free and open for all to use. It ultimately aims to support a community of practice and open space for researchers, practitioners, and policymakers working at all levels to connect with each other and share and discuss insights from their work. 

Distinct psychological mix associated with mountain populations is consistent with the theory that harsh frontiers attracted certain personalities. 

When historian Frederick Jackson Turner presented his famous thesis on the US frontier in 1893, he described the “coarseness and strength combined with acuteness and acquisitiveness” it had forged in the American character. Now, well into the 21st century, researchers led by the University of Cambridge have detected remnants of the pioneer personality in US populations of once inhospitable mountainous territory, particularly in the West.

Ice cores preserve evidence of rare but impactful changes in Earth’s history, often called 'black swan' events, as well as smaller environmental changes.

Lonnie Thompson and Ellen Mosley-Thompson at The Ohio State University have been studying ice cores from around the world for over 30 years. They collect, store and study ice cores to understand the history of the Earth’s climate and preserve them for future scientists. In this interview, they explain how ice cores preserve evidence of rare but impactful changes in Earth’s history, often called 'black swan' events, as well as smaller environmental changes and why it is necessary to preserve the ice cores and the glaciers they come from.

In the largest-ever study of glacial lakes, researchers using 30 years of NASA satellite data have found that the volume of these lakes worldwide has increased by about 50% since 1990 as glaciers melt and retreat due to climate change.

The findings, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, will aid researchers assessing the potential hazards to communities downstream of these often unstable lakes and help improve the accuracy of sea level rise estimates by advancing our understanding of how glacial meltwater is transported to the oceans.

Welcome to our September 2020 round-up of new publications! This list, updated each week, contains articles relevant to mountain research that you won't want to miss this month.

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Last month, over 1,200 participants registered and connected from 37 different countries to participate in the inaugural virtual conference on 'Climate Change, Health and Mountain Ecosystems and their Governance in Support of Sustainable Development in the Tropical Andes Region - Central America (Andes +)', hosted by the Cluster of Cooperation Conéctate A+ network. The conference was a key opportunity to connect and foster a virtual dialogue and exchange, despite these challenging times for research and collaboration due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Within the framework of the Conéctate A+ network – and facilitated by CONDESAN, the Mountain Research Initiative (MRI) and the University of Zurich – the online conference took place over two days from 7 to 8 July 2020. The objective of this conference was to facilitate an exchange between relevant disciplinary and interdisciplinary researchers, and showcase evidence of practices that help overcome barriers that impede the successful implementation of policies in favour of sustainable development, human health, ecosystem protection, and adaptation to climate change in the Andes+ region. Through this event, the Conéctate A+ network sought to promote prospects and ideas for collaboration, advance current knowledge debates, and stocktake and showcase the accumulated experience on the conference topics among the different communities of practice in the Andes+ region.

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