United in Science

The report United in Science from the Science Advisory Group to UN Climate Action Summit 2019 is mandatory (albeit very depressing) reading.

Some key messages:

  • Global warming is already very noticeable and happening faster than expected.
  • Emissions from fossil fuel continue to increase.
  • Increases in the concentrations of greenhouse gases continue to accelerate.

I would be grateful to anyone who finds some positive news in this report, because I failed.

Please wake up! It is not about science and it has not been for the last 40 years. Problems are not solved by finding out more about them an writing reports. The simple truth is that we cannot burn fossil fuel anymore. So stop flying and stop buying!

Can we get serious now?

Since everybody has gotten used to bad news about the climate and the state of the environment, it is nice to be able to bring some really terrifying news for a change. Sorry, but sarcasm and dark humor is the only way to cope with the situation.

The latest BP Statistical Review of World Energy is titled “Energy in 2018: an unsustainable path”. You know you should be worried when the chief economist of a major oil company is concerned about the rise in energy consumption.

The report concludes that energy demand rose by 2.9% last year, resulting in a 2.0% increase in CO2 emissions. Obviously, this is not in line with any emission paths compatible with the survival of humanity.

The truly horrifying part of the story is that the increase was largely driven by climate change. In order to cope with extreme heat and extreme cold, people used more energy. If anyone wanted to know what a tipping point looks like, you can look now. This is a perfect example of a positive feedback loop.

We need to reduce global CO2-emissions by at least 6% per year, starting right now. No conceivable international political process will make this happen. Just think about it: international treaties take years to negotiate and formulate and need to be ratified by national governments.

As I have stated for some years now, we have passed the political point of no return. So, stop buying and stop flying. It is the only chance we have.

Das Gespenst der Fakten

Galileo Galilei vor der Inquisition (Quelle)

Keep your facts. I’m going with the truth

Stephen Colbert

Als Physiker ist es sehr ärgerlich festzustellen, dass die naturwissenschaftliche und technische Forschung nicht in der Lage sein wird, das Nachhaltigkeitsproblem der Menschheit zu lösen. Vielmehr sind Verhaltensänderungen der Bevölkerung und eine komplette Transformation des Wirtschaftssystems erforderlich.

Zu diesem Zweck habe ich einige wichtige Fakten in einem Manifest zusammengefasst:

Das Gespenst der Fakten (PDF)

Hoffentlich regt der Text zum Nachdenken an. Ich freue mich auf Rückmeldungen.

European Energy Independence

A phenomenon noticeable throughout history regardless of place or period is the pursuit by governments of policies contrary to their own interests. Mankind, it seems, makes a poorer performance of government than of almost any other human activity. In this sphere, wisdom, which may be defined as the exercise of judgment acting on experience, common sense and available information, is less operative and more frustrated than it should be. Why do holders of high office so often act contrary to the way reason points and enlightened self-interest suggests? Why does intelligent mental process seem so often not to function?

Tuchman, Barbara W., The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam.
Global Energy System based on 100% Renewable Energy – Power, Heat, Transport and Desalination
Sectors. (Full study here)

The questions posed by the American Historian Barbara W. Tuchman are indeed puzzling and very relevant. Humanity has been almost unimaginably successful in eradicating disease, improving food security, and raising quality of life through agricultural, technical and medical advances. Almost all this progress was based on science. With the internet, everybody on the planet has access to this science and knowledge. Nonetheless, our species now seems intent on committing ecological suicide through climate change in the near future. Why?

Consider the situation from the European perspective:

  1. Climate change represents a clear and present danger, which will have disastrous consequences for anyone younger than 30 years of age. If you want a good update on the seriousness of the situation, I recommend the video Climate Change – The Facts with David Attenborough. It takes an hour to watch, but it is an hour well spent. The video is also available on Youtube.
  2. Simultaneously, a recent study from the Energy Watch Group and the LUT University in Finland points out that decarbonizing the economy would not only save humanity but also lower energy costs. After an initial investment, which requires a lot of capital, operational expenses of wind and solar power plants are very low. I am not saying that I believe all the conclusions of this report, but it is possible to argue that renewable energy is a lot cheaper than fossil fuel.
  3. At the moment, capital is available. However, many economists warn that the next financial crisis is just around the corner and that it will be worse than 2008. If we invest in renewable energy today, the money will be safe. A stock market crash changes many things, but it does not stop wind turbines from turning.
  4. We also know that Europe is currently extremely dependent on imported fossil fuel, spending roughly EUR 266 billion annually to import pollution and support various undemocratic regimes. Clearly, this dependence on imported energy represents a huge geopolitical risk. A renewable energy system would be decentralized and therefore less vulnerable.
  5. A significant part of the money not spent on buying fossil fuel, would be spent on creating local jobs in European countries. This money would reduce social tensions.

In other words, it would be possible for the European Union to launch a massive Energy Independence Initiative, which would cut CO2 emissions, cut energy costs, create a lot of jobs, and make Europe less dependent on foreign powers. For some reason, this does not happen.

I am willing to team up with anyone – researchers, companies, inventors – to start such an initiative. Any takers?