Einladung zum EEU-Seminar

 

Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren

 

Im Rahmen des EEU-Seminars hält Dr. Christoph Lüthi, Leiter Abteilung «Sandec» Wasser und Siedlungshygiene für Entwicklung bei der Eawag, einen Vortrag zum Thema «Umwelttechnik in Entwicklungsländern: Chancen und Herausforderungen».

 

Er zeigt Beispiele angewandter Forschung in den Themenfeldern Wasseraufbereitung, Abwasserbehandlung und Siedlungshygiene auf, welche in den vergangenen fünf Jahren in den Ländern Indien, Uganda und Kenia durchgeführt wurden.

 

Wann:     Montag, 26. März 2018, 17:10 – 18:10 Uhr mit anschliessendem Apéro

Ort:         Gebäude 4, Aula

 

Der Vortrag ist öffentlich.

Wir freuen uns auf Euer zahlreiches Erscheinen.

Poster EEU-Seminar_Umwelttechnik in Entwicklungslaendern

SpaceX oddity: how Elon Musk sent a car towards Mars

Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I’d strike the sun if it insulted me.
Herman Melville, Moby Dick

I used to wonder whether humanity had gone mad, but I guess there is no point in doing so anymore. Elon Musk launches his Tesla Roadster into space. This is utterly insane and completely brilliant! It is  a great testament to human ingenuity and the ultimate example of hubris and complete recklessness. It will not save humanity — but at least we will go down with style!

Read all about it here: SpaceX oddity: how Elon Musk sent a car towards Mars

 

Your (in-)actions have consequences

If it is not right, do not do it: if it is not true, do not say it. – Marcus Aurelius

After the military coup of Pinochet in 1973, a group of workers at the Rolls-Royce factory in East Kilbride, Scotland, refused to service aircraft engines belonging to the Chilean air force and left them out in the rain instead. In other words, they did the right thing and their actions were recognized and honored by the Chilean government in 2015.

This heartwarming story is a powerful reminder that our actions or inactions have consequences. We are all responsible for what we do. If something is wrong, don’t do it.

More information about the film can be found here: https://www.scottishdocinstitute.com/films/nae-pasaran-feature

The trailer is available here: https://vimeo.com/71027635

Earth to WEF: You own the world – now fix it!

How a small number of large corporations could save humanity

According to the latest Oxfam report on income distribution, which was presented at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, the rich continue to get richer. This is nothing new, but it does have some important implications. If 82% of the wealth created last year went to the richest 1%, it means that we are destroying the Earth in order to satisfy the cravings of a small number of very rich people.

The WEF is a fairly unique gathering of the rich and powerful. Assuming a meritocratic society, where wealth and power are somehow correlated to talent, it must be an assembly of enormous ability, with real power to change the world. Unfortunately, it has failed so far. Since its founding in 1971, carbon emissions have continued to increase, the natural environment has continued to deteriorate, and the wealthy have gotten wealthier.

Maybe the time has come to admit that the capitalists have won. Through a combination of deregulation and globalization, the top 1% of the world’s population has accumulated so much wealth, that they literally own the world. They also have the means to fix it.

This is not meant as a joke: A small number of CEOs and investors have the power to decide over the future of humanity. If they want to, they can limit global warming and ensure a more peaceful and equal world. If not, their greed will finish off humanity.

Here is a plan:

  • The fossil fuel companies agree to pay a fee proportional to the carbon content of the fuel they sell to a global charity.
  • The money from this charity is distributed equally among all people of the world.

Such a system could easily be organized by the worlds business leaders, especially from the fossil fuel and financial sectors. Some IT and telecom companies might be necessary to ensure that the money reaches even the poorest in the world. It would immediately lead to higher fossil fuel prices – thereby reducing demand – and less income inequality.

The World Economic Forum is committed to improving the state of the world. One way of doing so would be to stop talking and start acting. There is nothing preventing large corporations from doing good if they want to.

Addendum: Bottom Line for Davos Elite: Trump Is Good for Business, New York Times, January 24, 2018.

 

Is CO2 Still Accelerating?

Unfortunately, if humanity made any progress in fighting climate change in recent years, we obviously forgot to inform the atmosphere.

Open Mind

Not only is the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere on the rise, the rise itself has been getting faster — so CO2 concentration has been accelerating. A reader recently asked whether or not there’s any sign of its increase flattening out, or even stopping its acceleration.

Here’s the CO2 data from Mauna Loa:

View original post 321 more words

What is the key factor driving Digitalization?

 

I am sorry to rain on your parade, but the key driver behind Digitalization is coal. All studies agree that digitalization will significantly increase global demand for electrical power. Unfortunately, most of this power will come from thermal power plants, powered by coal and gas.

World Power GenerationWorld Electrical Power Generation by Fuel (Key world energy statistics, IEA 2017)

The industrial revolution gave us fossil fuel and capitalism some 250 years ago and there has been essentially no progress since. Today, the correlation between CO2 emissions and GDP is as strong as ever. Using publicly available data from the World Bank on global GDP and CO2-emissions during the last 50 years, one can easily create the following plot:

Graph2
Global GDP (in current USD) and CO2 emissions (World Bank Open Data)

A linear fit shows that emitting a ton of CO2 into the atmosphere increases global GDP by roughly 3700 USD. Interestingly, this number has been remarkably constant and economic growth is therefore just a different name for burning as much fossil fuel as possible. Any improvements in energy efficiency, which will increase the slope of this curve, will only make fossil fuel even more valuable, thereby increasing its use. This is known as Jevons Paradox, first published in 1865.

Now, let’s consider the future. During the last couple of years, our governments have agreed on the mutually exclusive goals of growing the economy by 2% annually (G20 summit in Hamburg July 2017) and limiting climate change to less than +2°C, which requires cutting CO2-emissions by half every 10 years (Paris climate agreement, December 2015, Rockstrom et al., Roadmap for rapid decarbonization, Science 355 2017). The consequences are shown in the diagram below:

CO2-GDP FutureGlobal GDP and CO2-emissions: Historic data up to 2016 compared
with the consequences of accepted policies.

Obviously, they might as well have agreed to abolish the laws of thermodynamics. You cannot take two quantities, which have been almost perfectly correlated (with a correlation coefficient of +0.995) for the last 50 years, and decide that they are suddenly going to be anti-correlated. Reality does not work that way.

Einstein famously said that you cannot solve problems with the same kind of thinking that created them in the first place. For all its benefits, our carbon-fueled growth-based economy has created a lot of problems. Solving these problems will require radically different thinking. Above all, it will force us to question the concepts of economic growth, GDP, and capital income.

Interestingly, the famous invisible hand of the free market was an early attempt to solve a problem using an algorithm. The markets, rather than the governments, decide what to produce and how to distribute it. Unfortunately, the people developing the algorithm still assumed the planet to be infinite and ignored external costs, such as pollution. After some 250 years, the time has come to upgrade the software.

How about some real innovation for a change? Humanity is rapidly destroying the biosphere of the only habitable planet in the known universe while our most creative minds are busy finding ways to connect our smartphones to the electric toothbrush. This makes no sense! Shouldn’t we use our intelligence and creativity to save humanity, rather than speeding up its demise. Rewriting the operating system of the world economy seems like a good place to start.

In the meantime, I will continue to advocate a Consumer Strike as the only reasonable way to change the system. Stop buying and stop flying – the survival of your children depends on it.

A wish you all a happy and fulfilling 2018!