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Rio+20: „The smoke screen of holistic thinking“

06/21/2012 - During the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, scientists of the Potsdam-Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) were interviewed by several media.

“As the very concrete problems are difficult to solve, many actors now hide behind the smokescreen of holistic thinking,” Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of PIK, told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. This might be the greatest risk of this summit, he pointed out. “It all sounds great: holistic, systemic, integrated approaches. But in practice, this might result in losing focus – in the end, one might overlook everything, but everything blurred.” In Berlin’s Tagesspiegel Schellnhuber opposed the thesis that democracy with its short election terms is not able to deal with long-term environmental problems. Not less but more democracy is the solution, he said – democracy across continents and generations.

One important issue of the Rio summit is the Green Economy. However, it could easily “create an illusion”, PIK chief economist Ottmar Edenhofer said on Deutschlandradio. Efficiency gains through new technologies are likely to get neutralized by economical growth, so in the end, more instead of less greenhouse gases are emitted. “A Green Economy needs a policy framework, an international treaty if you like, stating that deposal space in the atmosphere is limited.” This way, CO2 emissions would get a price, thereby causing incentives for investments. “It is possible to reconcile economic growth with climate policy, you just have to do it the right way.”

At a media backgrounder by the German Climate Consortium (Deutsches Klima-Konsortium), Alexander Popp talked about bioenergy. He’s a leader of PIK’s research group on landuse. “Economic scenarios show that energy from biomass is of great relevance to achieve ambitious climate targets,” he said to Inforadio Berlin. “But a globally increased cultivation of energy crops could lead to large-scale deforestation, additional greenhouse-gas emissions, and rising food prices.” To avoid these effects, investments in agricultural technology advances would now be advisable.

Stefan Rahmstorf was interviewed by dpa Kindernachrichten, a children’s news service by the leading German news agency, on global warming and the Rio summit. He’s not only co-chair of PIK’s research domain Earth System Analysis, but also author of a children’s book entitled “Clouds, Wind and Weather”.

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