How do climate change documentaries imagine the future? A video commentary

Documentaries are one way of presenting the problems climate change poses, but also possibilities for a better future, to a broad audience. In this video, our team member Shorouk Elkobros, now Science Communication Consultant at the European Science Foundation, compares the approach and framing of different climate documentaries. Have fun watching it – but be warned, you might want to watch some or all of the documentaries mentioned afterwards!

The video summarizes the results from Shorouk’s Master’s thesis in Integrated Climate System Sciences at the University of Hamburg, titled “Multimodal framing of climate change-related future scenarios in documentaries”.

Why Climate Policy is not the same as Environmental Policy

by Felix Schaumann

Climate change is receiving more and more attention. While the topic has traditionally been seen as an environmental issue, it is now increasingly reaching beyond and detaching from the sphere of classical environmental policy. In this piece, I will argue that this is a good thing.

The environmental movement has been around for half a century now, at least in many parts of the world. While it has had many successes, it is still a minority in society. At the same time, ambitious climate action is required to happen within this decade, if we want to fulfil the Paris Agreement. In order to instigate political action now, it is necessary to build coalitions that amount to societal majorities, thereby reaching far beyond environmentalist circles.

demonstration image, penguin with a lifebuoy asking where is my home? Continue reading Why Climate Policy is not the same as Environmental Policy

To grow or not to grow? About a crucial debate for the future of the climate

by Christopher Pavenstädt

The climate question is all about the limits. Carbon budgets, tipping points, ticking clocks and planetary boundaries are just some buzzwords flying around in talks about a menacingly waltzing climate change. This has always been a problem, as the main goal of most countries is economic growth: unlimitedness of a social system meets planetary limits.

From limits to growth to the birth of Green Growth

This dilemma was noticed as early as 1972. The Club of Rome report “Limits to Growth” marked the beginning of thinking that there could be inherent limits to the ways carbon-dependent societies are functioning. But already with the political neo-liberal climate of the 1980s and 1990s, the notion of “limits to growth” vanished from public discourse. The idea of a Green Growth was born, arguing there could be both: economic growth AND environmental protection.

Graffiti of Margaret Thatcher "There is no alternative"
Margaret Thatcher – image by trensistor.fr

Continue reading To grow or not to grow? About a crucial debate for the future of the climate

Greenwashing’s new distant cousin

by Clara Nack

“Act Responsibly Even when You Don’t.” Next to this ambiguous slogan, two young models in jeans are lolling about, promoting Diesel’s Green Label, the brands’ sustainable line. And this is what follows: “Go crazy and at the same time treat the planet with our responsible pieces from the Fall Winter 2020 collection”. Sustainability and shopping the new arrivals of each and every season – how “consciously” and “responsibly” sourced they may be – does that match? On another rather urgent note: I still needed Christmas presents when I read this.

Screenshot Diesel Jeans

Googling “sustainable gifts” will return all sorts of attractive results that labels have not only given the Christmas coat of paint, but also a supposedly green one. And in 2020, sustainability as an incentive to buy has had other suits made to measure. There is the #supportyourlocals hashtag, with which online retailers such as Amazon and Zalando are luring me to buy, buy, buy and feel good about it. It’s Christmas after all and everyone should share a piece of the cake. Continue reading Greenwashing’s new distant cousin

Negative emissions – a key assumption in limiting temperature rise

by Ella Karnik Hinks

The application of “negative emissions” technology has been widely used by the IPCC and incorporated into models which predict the most modest estimates of limiting the global temperature rise to 2 degrees [2]. Bioenergy and Carbon Capture and Storage, commonly known under the acronym BECCS, is one such technology. In principle, it works by using biomass as an energy source, and then capturing and storing the carbon dioxide release associated with this process.

Bioenergy and Carbon Capture and Storage infographic
Bioenergy and Carbon Capture and Storage – infographic by Ella Karnik Hinks

Using bioenergy as a fuel is not a new concept – for example burning wood or waste agricultural products, such as sugar cane. So far so good.

However, “negative” emissions are only achieved if the amount of carbon dioxide subsequently stored is greater than is emitted during the biomass production, transportation and utilisation [1]. Theoretically, CO2 can be stored by pumping it underground into geological formations. Yet there remains, in practice, a big “if”, when looking at the current existing facilities of carbon capture and storage – the two processes (of BE and CCS) currently only operate in one commercial plant in the United States [3].

Fundamentally, the issue with the inclusion of such technologies into IPCC models is two-fold: Continue reading Negative emissions – a key assumption in limiting temperature rise

Kein Fortschritt ohne Risiko

von Joana Kollert 

Neulich bin ich zum ersten Mal in einem autonomen Fahrzeug gefahren. Das HOCHBAHN-Forschungsprojekt HEAT testet die Eignung des ersten automatisiert fahrenden Kleinbusses im Hamburger Straßenverkehr. Jede*r kann sich die HEAT-App herunterladen und kostenlos mitfahren. Die Vorstellung, im unbemannten Kleinbus durch die Hamburger HafenCity zu cruisen fand ich aufregend und ein wenig beängstigend. Die Realität war aber harmlos und reichlich unspektakulärer: gemeinsam mit zwei HOCHBAHN Angestellten und einem weiteren Fahrgast tuckelten wir gemächlich über eine Strecke von 800m, von denen wir nur die ersten 100m autonom fuhren, bevor ein Falschparker die manuelle Übernahme erzwang.

Der HEAT Kleinbus in der Hamburger Hafenctiy.

Continue reading Kein Fortschritt ohne Risiko

Planting trees to save the climate?

by Susan Jörges

„We plant one tree per product”, an organic chocolate bite company claims that cooperates with Eden Reforestation Projects. “With your help we have already planted 15.000 trees in Columbia”, is written on the website of a company that sells organic cosmetic products in recyclable glass bottles. Planting trees for every product sold seems to be fashionable. Product variety is expanding on all markets, and consumers are becoming more critical.  But is planting trees an effective solution for preventing climate change? Is climate change mitigation that easy?

sapling on the palm of a hand, picture by pexels

Continue reading Planting trees to save the climate?

2019 on Twitter: Climate activism awakening

by Hadas Emma Kedar and Fenja De Silva-Schmidt

Shortly before 2020 is over, we will have a look back at 2019 to map the climate change debate as reflected transnationally on Twitter. Compared with the two years prior, 2019 showed a particular abundance of climate-related tweets: While the total tweets count of 2018 grew by 8% from 2017, the total count of 2019 grew by 70%. Then what triggered the climate discourse so much on Twitter that year? Continue reading 2019 on Twitter: Climate activism awakening

Overstimulated by the news: How to navigate through times of crisis

by Susan Jörges

“Robert-Koch-Institute reports highest daily number of infections”, appears on the screen of my phone. The local newspaper lying on the kitchen table is titled with a similar headline, corona is issue number one in the evening TV-news, and my Instagram feed recommends a livestream of the government´s press conference.

Photo from pexels.com

Continue reading Overstimulated by the news: How to navigate through times of crisis

How to talk about climate change – a collection of thoughts and helpful input for non-experts

by Fenja De Silva-Schmidt

When did you talk about climate change the last time? And when did you do so with family and friends? Results from our surveys show that on the one hand, the amount of people talking about climate change in their daily lives is rising steadily (see Guenther et al. 2020, in German), but on the other hand, a significant share of people never touch the topic in their conversations. For many, it is a somewhat awkward topic, leading to conversations about guilt and depressing visions for our future.

Rising share of conversations about climate change in daily life, source: Down to Earth data 2015/2019.

rising share of climate change conversations 2015-2019

In this post, I’ll summarize why it is a good idea to talk about climate change, even if you are not a climate expert, and which strategies mostly lead to a constructive conversation. Continue reading How to talk about climate change – a collection of thoughts and helpful input for non-experts