UNESCO launches global climate monitoring programme

……. 2002 UNESCO’s unique network of biosphere reserves is to take on a new role – that of monitoring global climate change. UNESCO’s Director-General, Koïchiro Matsuura, announced the news at the Global Mountain Summit in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan), which opened on 29 October as the high point of the International Year of the Mountain (More).

UNESCO is selecting biosphere reserve sites from each of the major mountainous regions of the world as the focus for the new global climate change monitoring programme which is being launched in partnership with the Mountain Research Initiative (MRI) based in Berne (Switzerland), the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP) and the International Geosphere–Biosphere Programme (IGBP).

Of the 408 UNESCO biosphere reserves in 94 countries, 138 are in mountain areas – and mountains are proving to be extremely sensitive to global warming. Melting glaciers have recently unleashed deadly mudslides, rare ecosystems are threatened and a lack of snow is crippling economies that depend on winter tourism. While the data from these sites will enable scientists to draw a more accurate picture of global climate change, they may also help to offset catastrophes when hazardous conditions develop.

Section 2.2 of the Science Agenda recommends that all components of the earth system be monitored systematically on a long-term basis and advocates support for cooperation between countries sharing similar ecological conditions. Climate change and natural hazards are two of the areas the World Conference on Science pinpoints as warranting ‘special attention’.

In line with the Conference’s recommendations, the new climate monitoring programme includes interdisciplinary research to address the human dimension of global environmental change. In addition to assessing environmental impacts, the programme will be studying the impact of global change on the socio-economic conditions of mountain people.


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