The Multiple Dimensions of Climate Change

March 2021

Confronting climate change requires considering its environmental, economic and social dimensions. Read how Laurence Tubiana, Ottmar Edenhofer, Samantha Gross, and Leena Srivastava assess one of the most important challenges of our time.

Copyrigt: © Shutterstock / abriendomundo

Sandra Breka: The Robert Bosch Stiftung’s Climate Change portfolio

The advancing climate crisis and global decline in biodiversity threaten humanity’s very existence. The transition to a greenhouse gas-neutral society and the management of the impact of climate change are undertakings that pose enormous challenges, not only to low and middle income, but also to wealthier societies. Peaceful coexistence and respect for human dignity were of particular concern to Robert Bosch. Today, both depend to a large extent on managing the global environmental crisis. 

In order to achieve the goals of the Paris climate agreement, it is essential not only to decarbonize the energy system quickly, but also to preserve important CO sinks such as forests and peatlands, and to transition to emission-reduced agriculture that protects soil, water, and biodiversity. Fertile land is a scarce resource that is under ever-greater pressure from climate change and rising demand. This increasingly leads to climate-induced mobility and displacement in particular, which threatens to amplify inequality and conflict, above all in the Global South.

"The Robert Bosch Stiftung's activities
contribute to a just transition to a resilient,
climate-positive land use system

The Robert Bosch Stiftung's activities contribute to a just transition to a resilient, climate-positive land use system. We support approaches that combine climate and biodiversity protection with reducing inequality. We promote the implementation of the EU Green Deal in the sectors of agriculture and food, as well as climate-resilient and equitable land use design in sub-Saharan Africa. We provide local stakeholders with the resources they require to build upon and share good practices, and to design sustainable policies and economic systems.

In doing so, the foundation places particular emphasis on the social dimension of transformation processes. It works with partners at the interfaces of climate change and other global challenges, such as conflict transformation, the protection of migrants and refugees, and strengthening democracy.

Sandra Breka Autor 266_200

Sandra Breka is Member of the Board of Management of the Robert Bosch Stiftung.

You would like to receive our contributions on a regular base? You can register here for our Quarterly Perspectives.

Laurence Tubiana: Europe can lead the way

This November at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, the world will face the first true test of the Paris Agreement. Countries are expected to arrive with new targets for 2030 emissions reductions – and new plans to meet them. A lot has changed since 2015. Net Zero by 2050 is the new normal, the benchmark for climate ambition – and it is also a reality as dozens of countries have committed to net-zero targets. Now, countries need to scrutinize their short-term plans to ensure they are consistent with this long-term goal.

And Europe can lead the way. In the context of the European Green Deal, the EU has already set a 2050 net-zero target and raised its ambition for 2030 to a 55 percent emissions reduction target. The US’s return to the Paris Agreement gives Europe a strong partner for Green Deal diplomacy.

"Governments and businesses can take these steps
knowing that citizens are behind them

Finance is one of the top issues that countries must make progress on in Glasgow – to fulfill the climate commitments already made, advance on financing for adaptation and resilience, and develop mechanisms for debt relief in return for climate-friendly investments (in partnership with the IMF), particularly support for renewable energy in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa.

But the ecological transition is not just a question for governments alone. Businesses and investors also realize that net zero is the new reference point; thus, they need to start setting their plans accordingly. We are starting to see this, for example in the Race to Zero campaign. But the next step must be developing mechanisms that really hold these businesses accountable to their plans.

Governments and businesses can take these steps knowing that citizens are behind them. In the last few years, as public awareness has grown, we have seen unprecedented mobilization of citizens and young people demanding action. Even with the Covid crisis, polls consistently show that citizens want their governments to take more ambitious action on climate change. Glasgow is the time that governments can show they are listening.

Laurence Tubiana Autor 266_200

Laurence Tubiana is Chief Executive Officer of the European Climate Foundation.

Ottmar Edenhofer: We cannot afford to respond as we have thus far

“You have to be able to afford climate policy.” This statement – though commonly heard – is false. Climate policy is not a luxury that we address once all of the “really important” problems are solved. After all, this is about the very basis of our livelihoods.

Our global common goods must be rescued from destruction – which means serious, consistent climate policy. We cannot afford to respond as we have thus far. This would destabilize our climate and thus affect everyone and everything: extreme weather, rising seas, and loss of biodiversity and much more.

"These consequences do not only have
global and country-wide repercussions,
but impact every one of us."

These consequences do not only have global and country-wide repercussions, but impact every one of us. Clearly, successful climate policy must also result in economic development and social justice. Compensation payments for low-income households must be considered.

And we must achieve our ambitious goals as economically as possible. In view of the far-reaching structural change we will require, money cannot be wasted. Finally, climate policy must be effective so that emissions really do fall. If global warming continues unchecked, we risk not only jeopardizing our economic well-being, but also our future.

Ottmar Edenhofer Autor

Ottmar Edenhofer is Director and Chief Economist of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Director of the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change as well as Professor of the Economics of Climate Change at the Technische Universität Berlin.

Samantha Gross: The challenge of decarbonizing energy-intensive sectors

The oversimplified, but useful, formula for a decarbonized energy system is: decarbonize the electricity sector and electrify everything. This formula is great, so far as it goes. Light transportation, home heating, and low- to mid-temperature industrial processes are all amenable to electrification. Nonetheless, the exceptions to the rule represent significant emissions that must be eliminated to achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century.

From a technical point of view, hard-to-abate sectors are those where the properties of fossil fuels really shine. For example, fossil fuels are energy dense, meaning that they carry a lot of energy per unit of weight or volume. This is particularly important in transportation; today’s fossil fuels contain about 40 times the amount of energy per unit of weight as a state-of-the-art battery. If a vehicle carries a light load and can stop to refuel on its journey, this is a minor problem.

"For aviation, maritime shipping, or trucking,
the properties of fossil fuels are hard to replace."

But for aviation, maritime shipping, or long-distance trucking, the properties of fossil fuels are hard to replace. Industrial uses that require high heat, such as cement or petrochemicals, are also challenging to decarbonize since very high temperatures cannot be achieved without combustion.

Finally, some industrial processes release carbon dioxide not from energy use, but from the chemistry of the process itself. While we focus on the incredible promise of a renewables-based electricity system, we must also focus on research and investment in these sectors where hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, or e-fuels are more relevant solutions.

Samantha Gross Autor

Samantha Gross is Director of the Energy Security and Climate Initiative at Brookings Institutions and Brookings – Robert Bosch Foundation Transatlantic Initiative Fellow of the Robert Bosch Academy.

Leena Srivastava: Achieving climate change goals and SDGs requires systemic change

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development clearly advocates that all 17 SDGs be seen as integrated and indivisible, as well as serve to balance the three pillars of sustainable development: economic viability, environmental protection and social equity.

Six years and a pandemic later, the world is still trying to decipher the web of inter-linkages that exist within the SDGs, particularly with climate change. Which mechanisms are best to realize the multiple dividends, and avoid the trade-offs, between the goals?

"We need to widen our focus beyond
transforming our economies."

What the pandemic and lockdowns have brought forcefully home is the multitude of opportunities available to humankind to work and live their lives with significantly reduced footprints. To realize sustainability benefits, we need to widen our focus beyond transforming our economies.

We need to transform the bedrock on which humanity stands: governance, science, education, and other institutional systems. This would enable us to reset economies that have evolved through industrial and social revolutions. We need to exploit the advances in science and technologies, and better anticipate the future, to respond systemically to what are nothing less than planetary goals.

Leena Srivastava Autor

Leena Srivastava is Deputy Director General for Science of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and Richard von Weizsäcker Fellow of the Robert Bosch Academy.

You might also be interested in

Real culture evolves as a weapon of liberation in the core of the struggle

How important is culture in the struggle for freedom?  Author and activist Firoze Manji draws parallels between the anti-colonial leader Amilcar Cabral and the writer and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa. Their writings inspired Manji to find answers, and...

Read more

Stopping the Israel-Gaza War to Contain Wider Escalation

The longer the war endures, the more complex will a long-term peace be.

Read more

"Vote for the Earth." The most important election of your lifetime

If you have never participated in a get-out-the-vote drive, November 3 is the day you should prepare for. Covid-19 robbed us of Earth Day this year. So let’s make Election Day Earth Day.

Read from an external site