Former president of Chile Lagos and Caritas-President Rodríguez lecture at the IASS Potsdam

December 4 and 9, 2011. The IASS lectures series “A Different Kind of Development? Perspectives from Latin America“ in Potsdam closed at the beginning of December with lectures by two outstanding Latin American personalities. Former president of Chile Ricardo Lagos Escobar and Óscar Andrés Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga of Honduras, president of the international organization Caritas, spoke about development and environmental protection in Latin America.
Ricardo Lagos Escobar’s lecture on the correlations between social inequality, export-oriented economics and institutional reform in Latin America took place on Sunday, December 4th. The role of education and participation of social mobility and sustainable development received special focus. From 2000 to 2006, the economist and Social Democrat Escobar governed Chile, where students have been currently protesting against injustice in the education system. Lagos was UN special envoy for the environment from 2007 until 2010.
The connections between ecology and the struggle against poverty, with regard to the "rights of creation," was the theme of the fifth and final Fall lecture, on Friday, December 9th. Óscar Andrés Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga is the archbishop of the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa, and president of Caritas since 2007. Renowned worldwide, he is also known as Latin America’s first potential pope.

IASS brainstorming workshop on “Sustainable methanol: An alternative green fuel for the future”

November 18, 2011. International experts will convene at the IASS, Potsdam, to discuss renewable energy storage alternatives on November 24-25, 2011. The brainstorming workshop Sustainable methanol: An alternative green fuel for the future will be hosted by the cluster “Earth, Energy, and the Environment” directed by Nobel Laureate, Prof. Carlo Rubbia

A scientific and economic revolution is required in order to address the problems of energy, security and climate change. Hydrocarbon fuels are perfect energy carriers, but they can no longer be considered primary energy sources. Petroleum, coal, natural gas and other fossil fuels are the end result of a long process that begins with a biological organism capturing sunlight, and storing this energy by using it to drive chemical conversions of CO₂ and H₂O to hydrocarbons and oxygen. Both methanol, which is the simplest oxygenated liquid hydrocarbon as well as being a convenient, safe liquid for storing energy, and its derivative dimethyl ether (DME), are excellent fuels for transportation and other energy applications. George A. Olah, Alain Goeppert, and G.K. Surya Prakash have argued for an energy economy based on the capture of CO₂ and its conversion to methanol (CH3OH) in their book Beyond Oil and Gas: The Methanol Economy. Although chemists have known since the early twentieth century how to convert CO₂ and H2 into methanol, great efforts are still necessary to make the chemical recycling of carbon dioxide into methanol a reality. 

The IASS workshop offers an opportunity to the world’s leading researchers and industrial representatives from the field of renewable fuel resources, CO₂ capture and storage, and energy storage systems, to present and discuss their most recent results related to the green methanol production chain, CO₂ capture and conversion, water hydrolysis and different methanol synthesis processes.


IASS Hearing on “Energy from clathrate hydrates – advances in gas production and CCS”

November 13, 2011. The IASS cluster “Earth, Energy, and the Environment” (E3) welcomed 30 international experts from the field of gas hydrate research to a hearing on “Energy from clathrate hydrates – advances in gas production and CCS,” from November 8-9, 2011. The interest in natural gas hydrates has steadily shifted over the last years from the scientific community into public awareness. Two tendencies can be observed in the process: gas hydrates are acclaimed as potential future energy source, and, concerns about a catastrophic release of methane due to hydrate dissociation as a result of global warming still prevail.

Past field test experiences and prospects for gas production from hydrates, the question of CO₂ sequestration in hydrate accumulations, and socio-economic aspects of gas production from hydrates were discussed during the hearing. Additionally, national gas hydrate projects, for example from Germany, Canada, India or South Korea were presented. The meeting aimed at initiating a vivid discussion on future developments in this rapidly growing field. The efforts regarding economic gas production from hydrates for commercial use have recently intensified. At the beginning of October, Japan and the United States announced a collaboration of the U.S. Department of Energy, the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation, and ConocoPhillips, to conduct a series of experiments at the Iġnik Sikumi gas hydrate test well in Alaska. As one of the workshop presentations showed, the tests will also include a field trial involving CO₂ injection into sandstone reservoirs containing methane hydrate in order to release methane and to store CO₂.


Carbon Sequestration and Ecosystem Services

October 26-28, 2011

About 20 participants from Australia, Austria, Brazil, China, Egypt, Germany, Kenya, South Africa, Thailand, United Kingdom and USA along with policy makers met at the workshop “Carbon Sequestration and Ecosystem Services” to elaborate on the consequences of recarbonization of the biosphere for ecosystem services. Workshop recommendations called for interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches to implement land and soil management practices for maximizing benefits from carbon sequestration and restoration of ecosystem services. The science/policy interface was regarded as critical, and transfer of scientific knowledge into policies must be enhanced. Clear scenarios for costs/benefits/impacts with regard to stakeholders and ecosystems in the short/medium/long term must be developed. Papers presented at the workshop are published in Lal, Rattan; Lorenz, Klaus; Hüttl, Reinhard F.; Schneider, Bernd Uwe; & von Braun, Joachim (Eds.). (2013). Ecosystem Services and Carbon Sequestration in the Biosphere. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.


IASS lecture series examines Latin American perspectives on sustainable development

Renowned Latin American scholars and political thinkers address equitable economics and sustainability/ IASS opens its doors to the public for its first lecture series
September 22, 2011. Latin American countries appear to exist in a dichotomy between economic and social progress, and the initiative to protect their natural resources. To open a discussion on these issues, the IASS invites the public to the lecture series “A Different Kind of Development? Perspectives from Latin America.” Four renowned South American scholars and political thinkers will take up issues of identity, sustainability and economic development on four evenings beginning October 9th.
Can technology and the desired economic vitality play a positive role and remain compatible with democratic identity and a healthy natural environment, particularly in face of the world economic crisis? What perspective can be taken to achieve a balance between the unequal states of development? Guest speakers are the economist Alberto Acosta, Ecuador, former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos Escobar, the Brazilian philosopher Cândido Mendes de Almeida and the scholar Francisco Sagasti of Peru.

The lectures will be held on four Sundays at 18:00 hours from October 9th til December 4th in the Kleistvilla, Berliner Str. 130, 14467, Potsdam. All lectures will be held in English or Spanish with simultaneous German translation.

Oct 9, 2011, 18:00: Alberto Acosta (Ecuador): „La Naturaleza con Derechos – Una propuesta de cambio civilizatorio“ („Nature with Rights – Towards a Change of Civilization”)

Oct 16, 2011, 18:00: Cândido Mendes de Almeida (Brazil): „Development and Social Identity: Sustainability and Ecology”

Oct 23, 2011, 18:00: Francisco Sagasti (Peru): „Development, knowledge and environment in the post-Baconian age: a Latin American Perspective”

Dec 4, 2011, 18:00: Ricardo Lagos Escobar (Chile): „A New Latin America: After the Crisis. Challenges and Opportunities”

Additional lecture, Dec 9, 2011 (friday), 15:00: Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga (Honduras): „Sustainable development in the face of today’s social challenges“

Location: Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) Potsdam, Berliner Straße 130, 14467 Potsdam

“A Different Kind of Development? Perspectives from Latin America” is a project by the IASS Cluster “Global Contract for Sustainability,” which addresses sustainability challenges through a trans-disciplinary approach, focusing on the social sciences and humanities and providing a platform for dialogue with practitioners.


Towards a Global Instrument on Soil Protection and Management

May 29-31, 2011

The workshop “Towards a global instrument on soil protection and management” was attended by about 15 participants including members of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Rural Development and Global Food Security (BMZ), the Brazilian Government, the German Federal Environmental Agency (UBA), United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), European Commission-Joint Research Centre, and Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

The workshop called for the implementation of a global instrument for soil protection to

  • enhance investment on soil resources’ assessment and management for advancing food security, and adapting and mitigating climate change
  • identify key technological options to enhance and sustain soil-based ecosystem services
  • strengthen institutional and human resource capacity, and provide training opportunities
  • establish target, identify indicators, formulate networks and implement policies at local, regional, and global levels
  • formulate a globally coordinated central data bank about state-of-the-soils, and their properties for specific ecosystem services

The major outcome of the workshop was the establishment of the Global Soil Forum.


Recarbonization of the Biosphere

March 20-22, 2011

The workshop “Recarbonization of the Biosphere” was attended by about 30 participants from Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and USA, representing soil science, forestry, climatology, sociology, and political sciences along with policy makers and media representatives. Workshop recommendations included:

  • Priority soils/ecosystems with large carbon stocks must be protected and sustainably managed
  • Land-based carbon sinks require long-term management and protection
  • Numerous ecosystem services are generated by protecting and enhancing land-based carbon sinks
  • An organization with primary focus on sustainable management and protection of world soils is needed

Papers presented at the workshop are published in Lal, Rattan; Lorenz, Klaus; Hüttl, Reinhard F.; Schneider, Bernd Uwe; & von Braun, Joachim (Eds.). (2012). Recarbonization of the Biosphere - Ecosystems and the Global Carbon Cycle. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.