Global Environmental Change

Global Environmental Change is a transdisciplinary approach to study various processes of environmental change across scales, and their interactions with social, political, cultural and economic systems. Global Environmental Change draws on a rich theoretical and methodological portfolio from environmental sciences and environmental studies, physical and human geography.  

Thematically, we study climate change processes and impacts in mountainous and permafrost regions; climate change mitigation and adaptation initiatives; international development, environmental policies, environmental ethics and global environmental justice. Geographically we work in mountainous and permafrost regions, such as Switzerland, Greenland, Nepal, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

For BSc and MSc students we offer courses and excursions in quantitative and qualitative methods, environmental geography, cartography and GIS, climate change, geophysical modelling, global development and change, and environmental ethics.

We collaborate with the Environmental Sciences and Humanities Institute (UniFR_ESH) on ethical decision-making in environmental management.

Our research projects in Global Environmental Change

  • IHCAP (Indian Himalayas Climate Adaptation Programme)

    Current scientific evidence suggests instability in the Himalayan ecosystem as result of climate change impacts and increased uncertainty. Vulnerability is also increased as a result of cascading effects of changes in composition and distribution of natural resources – water, forest and agro-biodiversity. In response, the Indian Himalayas Climate Adaptation Programme (IHCAP) is a project under Global Programme Climate Change (GPCC) of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). In India it is anchored under the Framework of Science and Technology Agreement of November 2003 between the Swiss Federal Council and the Government of India and is being implemented as a bilateral cooperation programme with Department of Science & Technology (DST).

    The IHCAP builds on capacity and knowledge enhancement related to three pillars:
    • Scientific and technical knowledge cooperation between Indian and Swiss scientific institutions
    • Strengthening Institutions for adaptation measures among vulnerable communities
    • Mainstreaming adaptation policies for improved action in the Indian Himalayan Region

    Capacity Building
    The Capacity Building Programme on Himalayan Glaciology aims at enhancing the human and institutional capacities of Indian students and researchers, comprises three levels, and is conducted every year. Level I provides a basic course in the field of glaciology and related topics. Level II includes field work training followed by an advanced course building on the base of the Level I topics. Finally 2-5 participants will be selected for proposed research under the DST Climate Change programme jointly supervised by Indian and Swiss faculty.

    Integrated Vulnerability and Hazard and Risk Assessment for Kullu
    Starting from baseline data studies on climate and changes in the cryosphere, the involved institutions conduct wide-ranging studies within the overall framework of integrated vulnerability and hazard and risk assessment in the Kullu district, Himachal Pradesh. Applied scales range from district to village level, and can be expanded to other mountain communities in the Indian Himalaya Region.

    Project members Uni Fribourg:

    Dr. Nadine Salzmann



    Project partners:

    University of Geneva, University of Zurich, University of Bern, Meteodat GmbH

    Project Funding

    Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC, Global Programme Climate Change (GPCC)

    2012-2015 (Phase 1)

    2016- (Phase 2)

    Project outputs:

    Synthesis report

    Project website:

    Project area

    Indian Himalaya Region

  • SMD4GC (Sustainable Mountain Development for Global Change)

    Mountain regions are key contexts for sustainable global development because (1) mountains provide critical and indispensable goods and services to a significant proportion of humankind; and (2) mountains are among the most disadvantaged regions in a global perspective: they are among the regions with the highest poverty rates, and among those most vulnerable to global (climate) change and related risks.

    Global changes including climate change are heavily affecting mountain regions, which exacerbates already existing challenges and increases the pressure on mountain people and resources. This enforces unsustainable land management practices and land abandonment, which in turn might i.a. imperil the provision of key mountain services. With the SMD4GC programme, support to sustainable mountain development (SMD) is provided to increase the resilience of the mountain population, which is increasingly vulnerable due to the ongoing global changes.

    Overall goal and outcomes of the programme
    The overall goal of SMD4GC is to essentially contribute to SMD under uncertain changes in climatic, environmental and socio-economic conditions, focusing on poverty and risk reduction. The objectives are to launch (policy) instruments for SMD at different levels by local, national and international stakeholders and decision makers, and to implement knowledge-based SMD activities.

    These objectives will be pursued by generating the following key outputs:
    - Raise awareness on SMD issues
    - Increase promotion of and support to SMD activities
    - Enhance capacities for SMD knowledge generation
    - Improve access to SMD knowledge and know-how
    - Increase stakeholder capacity
    - Application of knowledge and know-how in pilot studies

    Swiss Partner Institutions:
    University of Zurich, incl. WGMS (World Glacier Monitoring Service)
    CDE (Centre for Development and Environment, University of Berne)
    FDDM (Fondation pour le développement durable des régions de montagne)

    International Partner Institutions:
    ARCOS (Albertine Rift Conservation Society), Uganda
    CONDESAN (Consortium for the Sustainable Development of the Andean Ecoregion), Peru
    ICIMOD (International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development), Nepal
    UCA (University of Central Asia), Kirgistan

    Project members Uni Fribourg:

    Dr. Nadine Salzmann



    Project Funding

    Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC, Global Programme Climate Change (GPCC), Mountain Desk

    2013-2017 (Phase 1)


    Project website:

    Project areas

    Uganda, Peru, Nepal, Kyrgystan

  • Expedition 2 Degrees

    According to climate scientists, the Swiss glaciers will have almost completely disappeared by the end of this century. Global warming cannot be stopped, although by global efforts the temperature increase can still be limited to not exceed +2°C until the year 2100. But what exactly do these +2°C mean? What are the consequences of this temperature increase for nature and landscape and what will change for us humans?

    By means of Virtual Reality (VR) participants undertake the Expedition 2 Degrees: In a virtual world around the Great Aletsch glacier the target audience interactively experiences the effects of increasing temperatures on the alpine environment. By this journey through space and time, emotions are triggered and the users experience the region of Aletsch through the eyes of their grandparents and of future generations.

    The virtual-reality allows the public to experience a global warming of 2°C in a high mountain environment. The politically determined and abstract 2 degree target can be clearly communicated in an impressive way. The result is meant to motivate reflection – on individual decisions but also efforts of the society, which in the end lead back to personal behavior. Questions on what climate change exactly means and how we can cope with the challenges of climate change as society shall be discussed and answered in a common discussion.

    Expedition 2 Degrees is primarily intended for school classes of Secondary and Gymnasium level (12-17 years). The main module is the interactive VR-experience but it also includes an adapted supporting program with a moderated class discussion. In a simplified mode the Expedition 2 Degrees can also be experienced by all other interested visitors during the normal opening hours.

    Partner Institutions

    University of Fribourg
    Zürcher Hochschule der Künste ZHdK, Knowledge Visualization
    Pädagogische Hochschule Graubünden
    Stiftung Schweizerischer Nationalpark
    World Nature Forum, UNESCO World Heritage Swiss Alps Jungfrau

    Project members Uni Fribourg:

    Prof. Martin Hoelzle

    Dr. Andreas Linsbauer

    Dr. Martin Scherler

    Dr. Bruno Meeus






    Project Funding

    Swiss National Science Foundation SNF


    Project website:

    Project area

    Great Aletsch Gletscher

Our team members in Global Environmental Change

Andreas Linsbauer

Senior Researcher

PER 14 - 3.334

See profile