Headline: Blog

The blog of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) contains contributions from employees in all IASS areas 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 authors express their personal views.

 

Less Diesel, More Cargo Bike Sharing

With one “diesel summit” following swiftly on the heels of another these days, we should not lose sight of the overarching mobility transition project. Cargo bike sharing should be promoted to give city dwellers more alternatives to cars.

Let’s face it; a diesel car will never be clean. At best, it might become less dirty. While technical upgrades to diesel vehicles are essential, on their own they will solve neither the traffic problems in our cities nor the issue of dangerous emissions in the transport sector as a whole.

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Environmental Sustainability: A Bhutanese Expression

As a child, I lived near the forests and walked everywhere on foot because we did not have motorable roads, nor could my parents afford to buy a family car. If I were to narrate this story to sociologists or media reporters, then I would feel that I was exposing my limited wealth compared with people in developed countries. But when I shared my story with scientists at the IASS, I narrated it confidently, because they think that we are on the right path towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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Poking holes in our mindsets: impressions from the Potsdam Summer School 2017

As an unprecedented weather event unfolded last week across the Atlantic Ocean, affecting Gulf Coast states and major cities in the United States as well as island communities throughout the Caribbean, over 40 young professionals and graduate students from over 30 countries gathered at the IASS to discuss “Human Environments in a Changing World” – the topic of the fourth Potsdam Summer School.

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Stop the blame game: Russia is waking up to climate change

During my last visit to Russia I was watching Russian TV – an awful source of propaganda and misinformation, according to many. To my surprise, one of the federal (i.e. government-controlled) channels was reporting about climate change in a primetime slot. To my further surprise, the program didn’t rehash the usual conspiracy theories about what a fraud global warming is, invented by western politicians with the goal of harming Russia. No, it was a rather good report, which explained the correlation between climate change and the increasing frequency of extreme weather events.

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No More Perks for Diesel

To improve air quality in the long term diesel vehicles must be subject to the same emissions standards as other vehicles and the tax advantages that diesel enjoys must be abolished.

At the recent ‘Diesel Summit’ in Berlin, politicians, car manufacturers and others met to discuss possible ways out of the current diesel mess. The measures on the table include banning diesel vehicles from cities, introducing a ‘blaue Plakette’, and retrofitting older models. But none of these will suffice.

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Renewable Energy in Africa: China is Indispensable

Without China, little can change in Africa. This is why Germany should work closely with Beijing on the issue of investments in climate-friendly infrastructure in Africa.

Following the USA’s announcement of its withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, the international community is facing the first serious crisis of global climate policy since the breakthrough in 2015. Initially, this may not have much impact on reducing emissions in the USA itself.

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Climate engineering: Recasting expertise?

Narrating the future makes it manageable. The stories we tell about emerging sciences and new technologies lay the groundwork for how we govern them. However, these stories—the casts involved, the roles assigned—change over time, and through them, our understanding of what matters for governance. The debate around climate engineering—the idea that it may be possible to intentionally intervene in the global climate—is a contemporary case of such storytelling.

‘Climate engineering’ is a discursive figure more than a technical term.

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Can Russia imagine a post-fossil fuel future?

No post-fossil future is imagined for Russia, least of all by the Russians. The kleptocrats flee the country and stash their bounty in safe havens, countries with confidential banking, enough rule of law to avoid the confiscation of their spoils, and pliable politicians to provide protection. The export of capital and the purchase of expensive houses and other assets outside Russia reveal that large parts of its ‘economic elite’ do not think they will stay in power for long.

The economic era of fossil energy will end, and petro-states will decline with it.

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Stop shaming geo-engineering researchers!

Environmentalists are often critical of technological fixes to problems caused by technology. But when it comes to geo-engineering, a clear distinction needs to be made between the message and the messenger.

Let’s say you don’t exercise enough, eat too much snack food, and get drunk too often. Then your doctor tells you he’s putting you on medication for high blood pressure. Would you accuse your doctor of being part of an evil conspiracy?

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Climate Policy under Donald Trump: What is to Become of America’s Energy Transition?

Clean energy was a key climate policy instrument during the Obama presidency. Obama also understood the promotion of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and comparatively low-emission natural gas as a driver of economic growth (Obama, 2017). Donald Trump has set out his energy policy in the America First Energy Plan – a strategy paper that stretches to about half an A4 page. It focuses on the promotion of fossil fuels with the aim of promoting economic growth and making the country energy independent (The White House, 2017a) .

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A Marshall Plan with Africa: Placing Digitalisation in the Service of Sustainable Development

“We need a new pact on the future between Europe and Africa” – this is the central message of the Cornerstones for a Marshall Plan with Africa, a discussion paper published by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development on 18 January 2017. The subject of digitalisation looms large in the paper, most prominently across the fields of education, health and energy, but also in connection with the wider economic development of the African continent.

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Talk, Trust, and Time: Bridging the Gap between Science and Policy

Just two months ago I strolled up to the bank building of the IASS itching to start gaining practical research experience, but with no idea of what to expect. Coming from a background of environmental science and being enrolled in a Master’s program aimed at bridging the gap between science and policy, I was prepared to fit right in to the IASS community. Only, I didn’t realize just how motivating this experience would become.

Under the supervision of Dr Erika von Schneidemesser, I was tasked with documenting case studies of science-policy engagement.

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Joining up in the Wider Atlantic

Integration, the magic word of the EU, has lost its power. Yet integration continues to be a noble endeavour of all progressive forces. But how is it to be achieved? And with whom? Time is of the essence given the overheating of the planet, displacement and migration, and the threat to Western values posed by kleptocracy, illiberalism and autocracy.
New Zealand: geographically distant, culturally close

There are two dimensions to integration. Firstly, there is the creation of a common legal sphere and market in an effectively decentralised, federal EU.

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How Long Is Now? Reflections on Berlin, Deep Time and Planetary Futures

Walking westwards along Oranienburger Strasse in Berlin-Mitte, the building-high mural How Long Is Now dominates the horizon, eclipsing nearby landmarks. It is, as I learned, a now legendary artwork adorning the derelict art centre Kunsthaus Tacheles (‘straight talking’ in Yiddish). The building embodies what is true for the city as a whole, at least as it is initially experienced by an outsider: wearing on its sleeve a succession of external and internal revolutionary changes.

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