Headline: Blog

The IASS blog contains contributions from employees in all IASS departments and covers a huge range of themes. In addition to discussing the latest research findings and events, the blog authors comment on political developments.

 

The Information War. Misinformation as a Resource for Political Mobilization

“Stop the steal!”, “Plandemic!”, “Climate hoax” – these three examples are representative of an ominous shift in contemporary politics that has seen misinformation emerge as a key resource for political mobilization. Verifiably false information, held by a group to be valid, has become a linchpin of political debate. Whatever the issue at hand, the strategy is always the same: reliable knowledge is called into question and relativized by the deployment of competing and contrasting narratives. Challenges to the validity of these are subsequently branded as attacks on the freedom of opinion and proof of a “dictatorship of opinion”. Combining social media activism with street protests, this strategy has gained considerable momentum in the last years and an adequate response is yet to be developed.

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A bank for the ocean and a sustainable future

Thirty years ago today, world leaders came together to launch the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), a bold initiative to foster change in an economic system that was degrading both the environment and indeed entire societies. Today, with the ocean facing unprecedented threats, a similarly bold initiative is required.

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Is Mitsubishi’s withdrawal from the Vinh Tan coal power plant a signal for Vietnam’s energy transition?

In late February 2021, Japanese trading company Mitsubishi Corporation decided to pull out of the Vinh Tan 3 coal-fired power plant project in Vietnam after facing considerable pressure from investors and activists over the company’s fossil fuel investments. This decision follows in the footsteps of HSBC’s withdrawal one year previously. Scheduled to go on-grid in 2024, the 2-gigawatt plant was expected to feature ultra-supercritical technology. This is the first time that Mitsubishi has pulled out of a coal development project. Work on Vinh Tan 3 will now continue under the aegis of China Southern Power Grid, which is also a major investor in the Vinh Tan 1 power plant. However, this outcome will not serve the interests of Vietnam in terms of job creation, air quality, and achieving climate targets.

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The Amazon - From the periphery to the centre of discussions

The behavioural and production patterns of humankind have put the world on a collision course with our planetary boundaries. As global warming leads us towards large-scale disaster, ecosystems are becoming more fragile by the day and social inequality is growing fast. We must urgently move towards a more sustainable and equitable collective existence. This text is about the consequences of current unsustainability, rather than its causes.

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Remembering Paul Crutzen: A Grand Scientist who took on the Grand Challenges of the Anthropocene

Paul Crutzen, who left us last month, on 28 January 2021, aged 87, was certainly one of the most important Earth system scientists of the Anthropocene.
Paul’s work covered a wide range of topics. His earliest work focused on stratospheric ozone chemistry, through which he helped develop an understanding of the potential effects of human activities, including supersonic aircraft, on the Earth’s ozone shield. His work also provided a basis for understanding the Antarctic ozone hole, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1995, together with Mario Molina and Sherry Rowland.

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Academic statement

Proposals on the EU-Mercosur Association Agreement and the Environment

Together with an interdisciplinary group of academic experts, we were invited to develop a set of practical proposals to address serious environmental issues raised by the EU-Mercosur Association Agreement (EUMAA). While recognising the broader developmental and human rights context in which EUMAA is taking place, the statement concentrates on five priority issues.

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Amendment to Packaging Act

Putting the brakes on plastic packaging waste

"The Packaging Act of 2019 is already having an effect here [on recycling]. But there is still far too much packaging waste in Germany. More than half of all plastic waste is disposable packaging, and that really bothers many citizens, and it really bothers me personally", remarked Minister of the Environment Svenja Schulze on the latest amendment to Germany’s Packaging Act (the Verpackungsgesetz).

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Can a voluntary approach reduce packaging waste?

Germany's first Waste Prevention Programme was adopted by the federal government in 2013. According to Section 33 (9) of the Circular Economy Act, programmes must be reviewed every six years and revised, if necessary. In early January 2021, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety published an updated Waste Prevention Programme titled “Treasure Not Trash” (an information brochure in English is available here).

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What can justice look like on the bottom of the ocean?

With the rapid growth of the technology sector over the past decade, the demand for metals such as copper, manganese, cobalt and other rare earth minerals has increased many times over. The deep seabed as a potential source of these minerals seems particularly attractive against this backdrop, especially as industrial deep seabed mining is now close to operationalization.

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Less Panic, More Dynamic – Why Climate Protection Needs to be Framed Differently

Do you remember the 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos? “I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act” – that was Greta Thunberg’s impassioned plea to the participants, and the rest of the world. Now, almost two years after her remarkable speech, the international community is celebrating the fifth birthday of the Paris Climate Agreement. On this anniversary, the focus has been firmly on the updates by individual state parties to their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). But there’s little to celebrate: only 21 of 197 states have submitted new or updated plans, excluding most of the major emitters. And concrete climate protection measures are few and far between.

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