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SPECIAL: What saved the West Antarctic Ice Sheet 10,000 years ago will not save it today

 Stronger evidence for a weaker Atlantic overturning
The retreat of the West Antarctic ice masses after the last Ice Age was reversed surprisingly about 10,000 years ago, scientists found. This is in stark contrast to previous assumptions. In fact, it was the shrinking itself that stopped the shrinking: relieved from the weight of the ice, the Earth crust lifted and triggered the re-advance of the ice sheet. However, this mechanism is much too slow to prevent dangerous sea-level rise caused by West Antarctica’s ice-loss in the present and near future. Only rapid greenhouse-gas emission reductions can. Read more...

Flipping the switch: making use of carbon price dollars for health and education

Flipping the switch: making use of carbon price dollars for health and education

07/16/2018 - While health systems, clean water and education are a plain given in many parts of the world, millions of people still do not have sufficient access to these basic public goods. In fact, carbon prices could make substantial financial resources available for succeeding with the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations, a team of scientists now finds. At the same time, carbon pricing could be a central contribution to meet global climate targets and limit global warming to well below 2°C until the end of the century.

Flipping the switch: making use of carbon price dollars for health and education - Read More…

Clean power is not enough: More climate action in industry, transport and building sectors needed to meet Paris climate targets

Clean power is not enough: More climate action in industry, transport and building sectors needed to meet Paris climate targets

06/25/2018 - Coal power versus wind and solar energy – debates about the Paris climate targets often centre around electricity supply. Yet, even in a world of stringent climate policies and a clean power generation, the remaining use of fossil fuels in industry, transport and heating in buildings could still cause enough CO2 emissions to endanger the climate targets agreed on by the international community, an international team of researchers finds. Published in Nature Climate Change, their elaborate study is the first to focus specifically on the residual fossil fuel emissions from sectors that are not as easily decarbonized as power generation.

Clean power is not enough: More climate action in industry, transport and building sectors needed to meet Paris climate targets - Read More…

Spacefood for cows: Industrial microbes could feed cattle, pigs and chicken with less damage to the environment

Spacefood for cows: Industrial microbes could feed cattle, pigs and chicken with less damage to the environment

06/20/2018 - Deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity loss, nitrogen pollution – today’s agricultural feed cultivation for cattle, pigs and chicken comes with tremendous impacts for the environment and climate. Cultivating feed in industrial facilities instead of on croplands might help to alleviate the critical implications in the agricultural food supply chain. Protein-rich microbes, produced in large-scale industrial facilities, are likely to increasingly replace traditional crop-based feed. A new study now published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology for the first time estimates the economic and environmental potential of feeding microbial protein to pigs, cattle and chicken on a global scale. The researchers find that by replacing only 2 percent of livestock feed by protein-rich microbes, more than 5 percent of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, global cropland area and global nitrogen losses could each be decreased.

Spacefood for cows: Industrial microbes could feed cattle, pigs and chicken with less damage to the environment - Read More…

Mix it: Policy combination needed to achieve climate targets along with sustainable development goals

Mix it: Policy combination needed to achieve climate targets along with sustainable development goals

06/20/2018 - A broad combination of policies might be best suited to help achieve both climate stabilization targets as well as most of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. These policies reach from straightforward CO2 pricing to regulation of water and forest protection, to lifestyle changes such as eating less meat, a new study shows. The scientists highlight the complex interplay between the different targets. A policy focused only on CO2 pricing would cost the least, they show, but would likely trigger substantial land-use changes.

Mix it: Policy combination needed to achieve climate targets along with sustainable development goals - Read More…

Better be safe than sorry: economic optimization risks tipping of important Earth system elements

Better be safe than sorry: economic optimization risks tipping of important Earth system elements

06/15/2018 - Optimizing economic welfare without constraints might put human well-being at risk, a new climate study argues. While being successful in bringing down costs of greenhouse gas reductions for instance, the concept of profit maximization alone does not suffice to avoid the tipping of critical elements in the Earth system which could lead to dramatic changes of our livelihood. The scientists use mathematical experiments to compare economic optimization to the governance concepts of sustainability and the more recent approach of a safe operating space for humanity. All of these turn out to have their benefits and deficits, yet the profit-maximizing approach shows the greatest likelihood of producing outcomes that harm people or the environment.

Better be safe than sorry: economic optimization risks tipping of important Earth system elements - Read More…

China floods to hit US economy: climate effects through trade chains

China floods to hit US economy: climate effects through trade chains

05/28/2018 - Intensifying river floods could lead to regional production losses worldwide caused by global warming. This might not only hamper local economies around the globe – the effects might also propagate through the global network of trade and supply chains, a study now published in Nature Climate Change shows. It is the first to assess this effect for flooding on a global scale, using a newly developed dynamic economic model. It finds that economic flood damages in China, which could, without further adaption, increase by 80 percent within the next 20 years, might also affect EU and US industries. The US economy might be specifically vulnerable due to its unbalanced trade relation with China. Contrary to US president Trump’s current tariff sanctions, the study suggests that building stronger and thus more balanced trade relations might be a useful strategy to mitigate economic losses caused by intensifying weather extremes.

China floods to hit US economy: climate effects through trade chains - Read More…

"Consulted by the Pope": Catholic Academy of Bavaria honours climate economist Edenhofer

"Consulted by the Pope": Catholic Academy of Bavaria honours climate economist Edenhofer

05/16/2018 - The Catholic Academy of Bavaria honours the climate economist Ottmar Edenhofer with its Romano Guardini Prize. "As a renowned economist, committed political advisor, and public admonisher, Ottmar Edenhofer has restlessly pointed to climate change as one of the most pressing problems on Earth, and has proposed concrete solutions," the Academy explained. "Not least Pope Francis was seeking Ottmar Edenhofer’s advice repeatedly and intensively for his encyclical Laudato Si. Both are convinced that environmental degradation and poverty are closely intertwined problems that can only be resolved together in the 'concern about our common house'.” Edenhofer is Chief Economist and designated new Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), a member of Leibniz Association; as well he is Director of the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) and Professor at Technische Universität Berlin (TUB).

"Consulted by the Pope": Catholic Academy of Bavaria honours climate economist Edenhofer - Read More…

Stronger evidence for a weaker Atlantic overturning

Stronger evidence for a weaker Atlantic overturning

04/11/2018. The Atlantic overturning – one of Earth’s most important heat transport systems, pumping warm water northwards and cold water southwards – is weaker today than any time before in more than 1000 years. Sea surface temperature data analysis provides new evidence that this major ocean circulation has slowed down by roughly 15 percent since the middle of the 20th century, according to a study published in the highly renowned journal Nature by an international team of scientists. Human-made climate change is a prime suspect for these worrying observations.

Stronger evidence for a weaker Atlantic overturning - Read More…

Stock-take 2018: Rapid emissions reductions would keep CO2 removal and costs in check

Stock-take 2018: Rapid emissions reductions would keep CO2 removal and costs in check

03/29/2018 - Rapid greenhouse-gas emissions reductions are needed if governments want to keep in check both the costs of the transition towards climate stabilization and the amount of removing already emitted CO2 from the atmosphere. To this end, emissions in 2030 would need to be at least 20 percent below what countries have pledged under the Paris climate agreement, a new study finds – an insight that is directly relevant for the global stock-take scheduled for the UN climate summit in Poland later this year. Removing CO2 from the atmosphere through technical methods including carbon capture and underground storage (CCS) or increased use of plants to suck up CO2 comes with a number of risks and uncertainties, and hence the interest of limiting them.

Stock-take 2018: Rapid emissions reductions would keep CO2 removal and costs in check - Read More…

Wealth inequality: closing the gap by taxing land and bequests

Wealth inequality: closing the gap by taxing land and bequests

22/03/2018 - To reduce wealth inequality without diminishing the economic performance of a country, a policy package of bequest taxes and land value taxes could be the optimal solution. Such a policy package would, in fact, have a strong advantage over corporate taxation, a new study published in the journal International Tax and Public Finance finds. It is the first analysis to include the so far neglected factor of land for tackling wealth inequality. Land is of great interest for studying inequality as climate change might increase land prices and thereby affect housing costs. The cost increase could be countered by smart taxes that would at the same time reduce overall inequality in a country, and hence possibly help to reduce tensions in society that are amplified by populism.

Wealth inequality: closing the gap by taxing land and bequests - Read More…

Enhanced weathering of rocks can help to suck CO2 out of the air – a little

Enhanced weathering of rocks can help to suck CO2 out of the air – a little

03/06/2018 - Weathering of huge amounts of tiny rocks could be a means to reduce the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. While this is normally a slow natural process during which minerals chemically bind CO2, technological upscaling could make this relevant for so-called negative emissions to help limit climate risks. Yet, the CO2 reduction potential is limited and would require strong CO2 pricing to become economically feasible, according to the first comprehensive assessment of costs and possibilities now published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

Enhanced weathering of rocks can help to suck CO2 out of the air – a little - Read More…

Social and Natural science together: New Co-Directors to lead the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

Social and Natural science together: New Co-Directors to lead the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

23/02/2018 - The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) is reinventing itself – appointing a twin leadership bringing together natural sciences and social sciences stronger than ever. In late September, the German climate economist Ottmar Edenhofer and the Swedish Earth system scientist Johan Rockström will become directors of the internationally renowned institute which is a member of the Leibniz Association. This was decided on Friday by the institute's Board of Trustees, headed by the Brandenburg Ministry of Science, Research and Culture and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The retirement of the founding director Hans Joachim Schellnhuber this autumn after a quarter of a century as the head of the institute marks the beginning of a new era in Potsdam.

Social and Natural science together: New Co-Directors to lead the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research - Read More…

Sea-level legacy: 20cm more rise by 2300 for each 5-year delay in peaking emissions

Sea-level legacy: 20cm more rise by 2300 for each 5-year delay in peaking emissions

02/20/2018 - Peaking global CO2 emissions as soon as possible is crucial for limiting the risks of sea-level rise, even if global warming is limited to well below 2°C. A study now published in the journal Nature Communications analyzes for the first time the sea-level legacy until 2300 within the constraints of the Paris Agreement. Their central projections indicate global sea-level rise between 0.7m and 1.2m until 2300 with Paris put fully into practice. As emissions in the second half of this century are already outlined by the Paris goals, the variations in greenhouse-gas emissions before 2050 will be the major leverage for future sea levels. The researchers find that each five year delay in peaking global CO2 emissions will likely increase median sea-level rise estimates for 2300 by 20 centimeters.

Sea-level legacy: 20cm more rise by 2300 for each 5-year delay in peaking emissions - Read More…

Reports of coal’s terminal decline are premature

Reports of coal’s terminal decline are premature

02/07/2018 - While less new coal-fired power plants are now being built in China and India, the planned expansion in the use of coal in fast-growing emerging economies, such as Turkey, Indonesia and Vietnam, will in part cancel out the reduction. Only if the countries of the world actively counteract this trend, they can achieve the climate goals agreed in the Paris Agreement. These are the results of the study “Reports of coal’s terminal decline may be exaggerated,” authored by researchers from the Potsdam Institute on Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC), published in the journal Environmental Research Letters

Reports of coal’s terminal decline are premature - Read More…

Coal phase-out: Announcing CO2-pricing triggers divestment

Coal phase-out: Announcing CO2-pricing triggers divestment

01/29/2018 - Putting the Paris climate agreement into practice will trigger opposed reactions by investors on the one hand and fossil fuel owners on the other hand. It has been feared that the anticipation of strong CO2 reduction policies might – a ‘green paradox’ – drive up these emissions: before the regulations kick in, fossil fuel owners might accelerate their resource extraction to maximize profits. Yet at the same time, investors might stop putting their money into coal power plants as they can expect their assets to become stranded. Now for the first time a study investigates both effects that to date have been discussed only separately. On balance, divestment beats the green paradox if substantial carbon pricing is credibly announced, a team of energy economists finds. Consequently, overall CO2 emissions would be effectively reduced.

Coal phase-out: Announcing CO2-pricing triggers divestment - Read More…

Adaptation now: River flood risks increase around the globe under future warming

Adaptation now: River flood risks increase around the globe under future warming

11/01/2018 - Rainfall changes caused by global warming will increase river flood risks across the globe. Already today, fluvial floods are among the most common and devastating natural disasters. Scientists have now calculated the required increase in flood protection until the 2040s worldwide, breaking it down to single regions and cities. They find that the need for adaptation is greatest in the US, parts of India and Africa, Indonesia, and in Central Europe including Germany. Inaction would expose many millions of people to severe flooding.

Adaptation now: River flood risks increase around the globe under future warming - Read More…

Tiny ice losses at Antarctica’s fringes can accelerate ice loss far away

Tiny ice losses at Antarctica’s fringes can accelerate ice loss far away

12/12/2017 - A thinning of small areas of floating ice at Antarctica’s coast can accelerate the movement of ice grounded on rocks hundreds of kilometers away, a new study shows. It is known that the ice shelves surrounding the continent regulate the ice flow from the land into the ocean. So far it was assumed that the ice flow is most vulnerable to melting at the base near the grounding line where the ice flows from land into the sea and becomes afloat. Now scientists found that also melting near the fringes and in the midst of the ice shelves can have direct effects reaching very far inland. This could increase ice loss and hence sea-level rise.

Tiny ice losses at Antarctica’s fringes can accelerate ice loss far away - Read More…

Transformation to wind and solar could be achieved with low indirect greenhouse gas emissions

Transformation to wind and solar could be achieved with low indirect greenhouse gas emissions

12/08/2017 - Different low carbon technologies from wind or solar energy to fossil carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) differ greatly when it comes to indirect greenhouse gas emissions in their life cycle. This is the result of a comprehensive new study conducted by an international team of scientists that is now published in the journal Nature Energy. Unlike what some critics argue, the researchers not only found that wind and solar energy belong to the more favorable when it comes to life-cycle emissions. They also show that a full decarbonization of the global power sector by scaling up these technologies would induce only modest indirect greenhouse gas emissions – and hence not impede the transformation towards a climate-friendly power system.

Transformation to wind and solar could be achieved with low indirect greenhouse gas emissions - Read More…

Consumption is the bottleneck for sustainable development

Consumption is the bottleneck for sustainable development

12/01/2017 - From ending poverty to improving wellbeing, gender equality, cities' resilience or climate action - while synergies among most of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) foster progress in sustainable development, there are some key conflicts or bottlenecks that could hamper achieving the SDG objectives for 2030. This is the result of a new comprehensive analysis by a team of scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). According to the study, responsible consumption and production seems to be such a bottleneck, as data from the past shows.

Consumption is the bottleneck for sustainable development - Read More…

“Climate-Neutral Living in Berlin" kick-off: Reducing personal CO2 footprints in a living lab

“Climate-Neutral Living in Berlin" kick-off: Reducing personal CO2 footprints in a living lab

30/11/2017 - 100 households, 365 days: Starting this December, private households in the German capital will be testing what climate action means in everyday life in the project "Climate-Neutral Living in Berlin" (Klimaneutral Leben in Berlin - KliB). From families with children to partnerships, flat-sharing communities or singles - for one year, the voluntary housholds will document their personal carbon footprint and learn about ways to improve their own climate balance. They will be supported by experts from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). The KliB living lab intends to show how climate protection can be implemented in our everyday life, where potential problems lie and what politicians could do to overcome them.

“Climate-Neutral Living in Berlin" kick-off: Reducing personal CO2 footprints in a living lab - Read More…

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