It was a great pleasure to give a lecture on the climate crises at the ETH last Wednesday. The timing could not have been better (or worse), as the European parliament declared a “climate and environmental emergency” the same day. Thanks to Thomas Schmid and the IEEE for organizing the event. Thanks also to everyone who attended the lecture and especially to those who gave me feedback. I promise to respond to the e-mails as soon as possible. The presentation, a video recording, and a lot of information and sources can be found here: https://nordborg.ch/you-cant-have-your-planet-and-eat-it.
Ich durfte heute die neuen Studierenden des Studienganges EEU an der HSR begrüssen. Im letzten Jahr haben wir viele spannende Projekte und Anlässe durchführen können. Einige davon sind in in diesem Newsletter dokumentiert.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?