What prevents the popularization of sustainable energies

Environment and climate policy

Ottmar Edenhofer

To person

Dr. rer. pol., Dipl.-Vw., born in 1961; Deputy Head of the Global Change and Social Systems Department at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).
Address: Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Telegrafenberg A 31, 14473 Potsdam.
Email: [email protected]

Publication among others: Social Conflict and Technological Change. Evolutionary Models of Energy Use (i.E.); numerous publications on climate protection policy.

By increasing the share of renewable energy sources, increasing energy efficiency and capturing and storing carbon dioxide, it is possible to ensure economic growth and climate protection at the same time.

I. The starting position

The dispute with the climate skeptics has been decided for the time being: So far, no valid counter-arguments have been put forward against the hypothesis that the increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations in the atmosphere is mainly caused by humans. [1] The debate of the future will no longer be determined by climate skeptics, but will be dominated by the question of how great the damage caused by climate change will be and what should be done.

Björn Lomborg recently repeatedly and effectively popularized the thesis that climate protection policy harms the economy. [2] The intellectual and political artillery with which this thesis is defended have a different impact than that of the climate skeptics - mainly because the thesis has the influential part of international business journalism on its side. The British weekly "Economist" has defended Lomborg against attacks by well-known scientists [3] who accused him of playing down the damage caused by global warming and denying other global environmental problems such as water scarcity and the loss of biodiversity in a scientifically incomprehensible way. When weighing up the damage and costs of global warming, it is not primarily a scientific question, but an economic one: [4] Is a climate protection policy based on the restructuring of the energy system not too expensive, and should it be? Wouldn't it be better to invest money in combating global poverty?

Anyone who answers these questions in the negative will have to steel their arguments, especially in the economic debate. The editor of The Economist, Bill Emmott, has warned against investing too much in climate protection. Funds could be committed that are urgently needed in the fight against poverty and terrorism. [5] The debate about the right way forward in global climate and energy policy is also in full swing in the USA - almost unnoticed by the European public. American researchers in particular are discussing new climate protection options, e.g. reforestation of forests, fertilizing the oceans with iron or dumping CO2 in the deep ocean. The Bush administration in particular has high hopes for these options and shows that it takes the climate problem seriously in its own way. The European discussion will have to take these strategic shifts into account if it does not want to be rolled over.