Press release ¤ Information de presse
Climate change and climate protection: the remaining challenge for science, industry and society
Prof. Reinhard Zellner, University of Duisburg-Essen
Plenary lecture, Hall 4.C, Room Alliance
17 May 2006, 1.30 p.m.
Climate change is no longer just a theory. It is a proven fact. The climate over last 30 years was warmer than at any time during the last thousand years and probably during the last 10,000 years. Scientists expect that global warming will continue. By the end of the 21st century, the global temperature is expected to rise by several degrees compared to the pre-industrial period. We now have firm evidence which indicates that human activity plays a major role in the climate change which we are experiencing today. Now that we know this, the next question is how much change can the climate tolerate? How much can the temperature increase before we are faced with catastrophic climate change?
Professor Reinhard Zellner from the University of Duisburg-Essen will talk about the latest findings and challenges during his plenary address at ACHEMA 2006 on Wednesday, May 17th 2006.
There is a consensus in the climate research community that the average global temperature has increased by about 0.7°C since the time of the industrial revolution and that much of the change has been caused by human activity. Researchers also agree that a further temperature increase of +2° is the maximum that the climate can tolerate before irreversible, catastrophic changes occur, for example melting of the ice in Greenland.
“We can now be confident that we have a basic understanding of the climate system and that our models are fundamentally sound,” explained Professor Zellner. “However, keeping the climate under control will require an unprecedented effort to develop new technologies and power generation systems which reduce CO2 emissions or use regenerative sources of energy, and the transition to these technologies will have to take place on a global scale.”
Zellner believes that the industrialized countries including Germany have a special responsibility for climate protection. Zellner warns that “in the foreseeable future, we will have to stabilize the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere at 450 – 550ppm in order to ensure that the temperature does not rise by more than 2°”. To achieve that goal, global CO2 emissions will have to be cut by 40-50% and by 80% in the industrialized countries. This is much more than what the Kyoto protocol says.
The Federal Republic of Germany only accounts for about 3-4% of global CO2 emissions. The transportation sector remains a problem area, but there is also significant potential for emission reduction in the private sector (heating, hot water, etc.) which can only be exploited in the long run and at significant cost. At the moment, it is hard to image how a national goal of reducing CO2 emissions by 80% can be achieved by the year 2050. Because of the gap which exists between actual CO2 emissions and the level of reduction which we will need to achieve to protect the climate, it is Professor Zellner’s view that we will have to seriously consider extending the life of German nuclear power stations.