The other day I was walking with someone (TM) in the Tiergarten. We talked about climate issues. One point was the new IPCC report and the remaining CO2 budget for achieving the 1.5° target. The IPCC report is compiled by leading scientists as a summary of scientific articles. This was done with professional articles from 2020 in 2021. The report was translated in 2022 and then made available to the public in March and April. Almost all political parties in Germany agreed before the election last year that they were aiming for the 1.5° target. The following table shows the remaining budget of CO2 emissions we had in 2020 depending on certain temperature increases coupled with a certain probability. The first line shows the 1.5° target with a probability of 17%, 33%, 50%, 67%, 83%. If we want to reach 1,5° with a probability of 17% we had 900 Gt left, for 33% we had 650 Gt and so on.
The development of the climate is complex. The climate is like weather. Depending on the type of weather situation, it is not possible to predict whether it will rain tomorrow or not. But you can predict it with a certain probability. This is also the case with climate developments. If we emit 650 Gt of CO2 from 2020, we will reach the 1.5° target with a 33% probability. This means that in one out of three cases, what we expect will happen. We all learned this in school with dice. So: works, crap, crap, works, crap, crap. At 50% it would be: work, crap, works, crap and at 67% it would be: works, works, crap, works, works, crap. Someone once compared this to crashing planes at an event. One in three crashes. This is not entirely correct, because there are a lot of options for the value above 1.5°. 1.52° is also a miss of the 1.5° target. What happens in the remaining third is again a question of probabilities. I don’t know the details because I’m not an expert, but with a certain probability we will end up in a 2° world, with a different probability in a 3° world and so on. All these probabilities together for the range above 1.5° give 33%. One thing is clear: we don’t want to go there. It’s bad enough now. So we have to push the probability of getting there as low as possible. The table shows us the case for reaching the 1.5° target with 83% probability. That would be: works, works, works, works, crap. Much better, isn’t it? At least better than 1 out of 3 (67%), because the probabilities in the range we want to avoid also shift in our favor if we emit less CO2. If we want 83% certainty, we have to assume 300Gt remaining CO2 emissions in 2020. In the meantime, however, humanity has unfortunately continued to emit CO2. This amounted to 34,807 million tonnes in 2022 (source: Statista). In 2021, we reached almost the level of 2019 again (source: Deutschlandfunk), i.e. 36,702 million tonnes. Together, this is about 70 Gt for 2020 and 2021. This means that we still have 300–70 = 230 Gt left to reach the 1.5° target with an 83% probability. For all of humanity. We can now consider how to allocate this remaining budget. One could simply look at who has emitted how much since the beginning of industrialization and divide the quantities fairly. If we do that, … Oh. Not possible for the western world, because then we have nothing left.
Then let’s try the second best: we take what’s left and divide that by the number of people living in this world. Since Germans are 1% of the world’s population, we have 1% of 230 Gt = 2.3 Gt. A former environment minister once said: “Nobody can understand what these tons mean.” That’s why we break it down even further. This country is home to 83 million people (source: Wikipedia). 2.3 t * 10^9 / 83 * 10^6 = 27.7 t per person.1
At this point, we should now be thoughtful. Extinction Rebellion has occupied the bridge in front of the ARD capital studio in Berlin and summarized it as follows:
The average annual output of a person in Germany is 10.78t. In other words, we will have used up everything in three years.2 All of it! Oh.
Note that the US and Australia are twice as bad as Germans, so if they continue as if there was no tomorrow, they would have used up their share in a year and a bit.
My interlocutor has now pointed out an interesting fact: If you buy a car with a combustion engine today, then it will emit so much CO2 during the time cars are registered in Germany (10.1 years in average; Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt, 2022: 7), that the remaining budget of the respective person is used up. According to Atmosfair, a mid-range car that drives 12,000km a year emits 2t. SUVs have a correspondingly higher output. It follows that actually not a single combustion car should be registered anymore. I hear you say, “Well, ok, convinced. I buy an electric car and drive only with green electricity.” But no. Fiddlesticks! A 100% electric small car only needs up to 11t CO2 of our remaining budget for production (Of course, the combustion engine also has a CO2 impact in production! I had ignored that for the sake of the punchline. For combustion engines, the CO2 impact of production is: small cars: up to 4 tons of CO2, mid-range cars: up to 8 tons of CO2, mid-range cars hybrid: up to 12 tons, CO2 luxury SUV: up to 25 tons of CO2. Source: Carbon connect, 2020)
The overall conclusion is that cars are not a solution for private transport. At the moment it may be difficult in the countryside without a car, but this problem must be solved politically as soon as possible. A continuation of this is simply impossible if we want to continue living. Car is over!
Broken down to one person, 27.7t of CO2 remain. According to atmosfair, this is less than 14 years of driving a car if 12.000 km are driven per year with a mid-range combustion engine car (without manufacturing the car). Or less than 6 flights from Berlin to LA and back (5,095t each) or less than three flights to Sydney Economy Class (10,683t). You can only do Business Class (20t) or First Class (26.7t) once. In many other types of consumption, the energy mix plays a role. This is not the case with combustion cars and airplanes, because it is clear that fossil fuels are burned. That’s why individual decisions are really decisive here. Maybe you should just avoid these things. At least from time to time. Please!
I would like to thank Cornelia Huth of Scientist Rebellion for food for thought and help with the numbers and sources and someone (TM) for the point concerning the personal remaining budget and the CO2 emissions of cars.
IPCC, 2021. Summary for policy-making. In the contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, A. Pirani, S.L. Connors, C. Péan, S. Berger, N. Caud, Y. Chen, L. Goldfarb, M.I. Gomis, M. Huang, K. Leitzell, E. Lonnoy, J.B.R. Matthews, T.K. Maycock, T. Waterfield, O. Yelekçi, R. Yu, and B. Zhou (eds.)] (ed.), Scientific basics. https://www.de-ipcc.de/media/content/AR6-WGI-SPM_deutsch_barrierefrei.pdf.
In connection with our commitment to give up short-haul flights, I have written to people and asked them to help crowdfund #12062020olympia. One person replied that they do not want to see their signatureon the short-haul flight action in public because they do not want to be associated with the Olympa. I was somewhat surprised by that. 1) because I am not the organizer of Olympia and 2) because Olympia is just great. In this post I want to explain what Olympia is and why I like the idea.
The basic idea
While we ordanary people are thinking about whether we should go to the FridaysForFuture demo or whether the next scientific essay is somehow more important and whether we should create an association in which we can get involved at some point, a few crazy people from Berlin Kreuzberg decided to start the biggest democracy project Germany has ever seen. They reserved the Olympiastadion in Berlin in order to pass petitions to the Bundestag on 12.06.2020. You can’t admire them enough, even if we scientists would have planned many things more carefully: we don’t have the time! The planned things must take place now. In very short periods of time. The motto “We just start and adjust on the way” is just right for the time we live in.
The Olympiastadion is the largest venue in Berlin. Up to 90,000 people fit in. If you want to make sure that all participants see and hear well, alternatives that might come to mind are eliminated. Individuals cannot rent the Olympiastadion. That is why the madmen and -women and their company have booked the Olympiastadion as contractors. In order for a petition to be discussed in the Petitions Committee of the Bundestag, you need at least 50,000 signatures. The petitions are to be prepared in the next six months (see below) and then submitted jointly on 12.06.2020. The event will be streamed so that people who cannot or do not want to come to Berlin can participate as well. As the meeting takes place on the day on which the European Soccer Championship begins, screens will be set up all over the country for live streaming. So there is the possibility to stream Olympia content before the soccer match.
The petitions will be presented in the stadium and outside the stadium there are stands where you can talk. NGOs will be present, special interest groups. A huge network event.
The whole thing also has a fun part: there will be contributions from musicians and other artists. A huge celebration of democracy!
Topics and cooperation partners
So far, the following topics have been earmarked for petitions:
climate protection and biodiversity
Fridays for Future Berlin and Scientists for Future (S4F) are cooperation partners. S4F supports the project with scientific advice. Other initiatives are currently being addressed as to whether and how they wish to support the petition process.
The effects of the climate crisis are becoming more and more visible and the scientific forecasts are becoming increasingly threatening. At the same time, the countermeasures are totally inadequate. The majority of Germans are not satisfied with the government’s climate package. The government somehow does not, but speaks of the “politics of the feasible” (see Tagesspiegel). The petitions are intended to show what could be done and that the suggestions have strong support in the German society.
In addition to the climate issues, questions of democracy theory are to be taken up, because we now need ways to extend what is ‘feasible’. We have to do things that politics cannot do because politicians are entangled in lobbyist networks and/or are afraid of the media/voters (e.g. establishing a speed limit). Opportunities include representative citizens’ assemblies (Wikipedia) and lobbying control, as demanded by the Bürgerrat Demokratie as an extension of parliamentary democracy (Tagesschau).
It will be impossible to implement the things demanded by the For-Future movement if social issues are not taken into account. That is why a third topic for petitions is social justice.
A fourth area is still open. This field can then be filled when active work on the petitions starts and it turns out that there is a topic relevant for many and not listed so far.
Participants: the first democratically drafted petitions and accompanying demonstrations
Many who have heard about the idea for the first time only see the huge event, but it is not only the huge event, but much more: the petitions are prepared in the six months before the meeting at the Olympiastadion by various working groups: by people who really burn for a certain topic and by experts invited by these people. This makes the Olympic petitions very much different from the petitions that we have all signed in the hundreds. Often petitions have simply been put together by individuals or small groups. Here, however, they are worked out by larger groups and it is also possible to ensure that people from different social backgrounds are involved. Some of the petitions drawn up in the next half year will be selected for presentatin in the stadium on 12.06.2020.
Such a joint drafting of petitions is unique so far and I see it as a great opportunity for our democracy and for the participation of citizens in what is happening in this country and at this time.
The importance of petitions
Members of the Bundestag say that petitions have become more important in recent years and are being taken more seriously. Regardless of this, however, we are in a special time. If in June 10 petitions are passed with great buzz, which may have 100,000 or 200,000 signatories (streaming and signatures in the aftermath of the campaign), then no one will get past these petitions. Parties must take a position on this. We determine the political agenda! And: There are elections. By 2021 at the latest. In other words, we can determine which topics will appear in the election manifestos. The Olympia idea thus allows many people to participate in democratic processes who would otherwise be desperately at home or sitting on a psychiatrist’s couch.
As an internet person, you know crowdfunding, but for Olympia we need everybody. So here’s a small comment on how crowdfunding works. In a crowdfunding campaign, one commits oneself to pay a certain amount of money. This money is debited and you acquire a right to a specific service. If the crowdfunding goal is not met, you get your money back. So the whole thing is completely risk-free for the crowdfunders.
Currently 555,000€ are raised (update 24.12. morning: €1.668.456). However, €1.8 million are needed. This amount is gigantic, but it is needed for renting the stadium, technology and security. When the Rolling Stones play at the Olympiastadion, tickets cost €96.
The 96€ do not go entirely into the accounts of the Stones. A huge machinery has to be paid for. The effort for Olympia is similar (perhaps minus the cost of the fireworks at the end, which was not environmentally friendly anyway), but much of this effort is done on a voluntary basis. The organizers have calculated a ticket with 30€, whereby a CO2 compensation is already included.
In order for the event to take place, a minimum of 60,000 tickets must be financed. If there is anything left of the crowdfunding money, it will be donated for appropriate purposes.
At startnext you can buy a ticket for yourself, but also a ticket for yourself and a ticket that someone else gets as a gift (https://www.startnext.com/12062020/). You can also donate 1001 or 1000 tickets. If the required sum fo €1.8 Mio does not come together, the supporters get their money back.
Edit 24.12. In social media and even in the classical ones, the same points are discussed mentioned again and again, although these have long since been dealt with in the FAQ of the organizers (unfortunately, this FAQ came too late in the whole process). I wrote another blog post about the unbelievable reporting of the taz (background: taz is a left-wing paper with ecological orientation. comparable to the Gardian). Here are two more points.
Representativeness, regional bias
There are repeated accusations that the assembly is not representative of the German population. This is a somewhat absurd accusation, because no rally, no assembly is representative. Unless it was put together in a special way so that it is indeed representative. The Citizens’ Council for Democracy is fighting for such representatively selected citizens’ assemblies to become part of our democratic process, and I personally would also like to support this in the context of Olympia.
Apart from this: Fridays For Future is also not representative. They’re great nevertheless.
Likewise, the accusation of regional bias is not a sensible argument:
What is the problem with this event taking place in Berlin? It was just organized by Berliners. The event could also take place in Munich. I would still support it. The disadvantage would be that there is no such large venue in Munich. The Olympiastadium is the second largest in Germany. In petitions can be worked out nationwide. There are ways to do this. Extinction Rebellion works nationwide (in fact gloabally), they use teleconferencing tools. No problem at all.
The following video by Metallica has over 45 Mio views. Since it is unlikely that one user watched it that often, it follows that many, many people saw it.
These are the lyrics:
In the name of desperation In the name of wretched pain In the name of all creation Gone insane
We’re so fucked Shit outta luck Hardwired to self-destruct
On the way to paranoia On the crooked borderline On the way to great destroyer Doom design
We’re so fucked Shit outta luck Hardwired to self-destruct
Once upon a planet burning Once upon a flame Once upon a fear returning All in vain Do you feel that hope is fading? Do you comprehend? Do you feel it terminating? In the end
We’re so fucked Shit outta luck Hardwired to self-destruct Hardwired to self-destruct Self-destruct Self-destruct Self-destruct
Metallica, Hardwired, 2016
I wonder what the viewers thought while watching the video. Well, one can read about this in the youtube comments. They are about wether this is real Trash Metal or not and whether they play it faster live.
The interesting thing about these lyrics is that they are true: First, we are fucked and second the fact that we ignored everything till it is almost too late is hardwired in our genome. The psychologists four future and the neuro scientists explain this to us. The neuro biologist Dr. Sébastien Bohler explains in his article Bewusster leben that our brains are structured in a way that helped us survive for a very long time. We get little rewards (dopamin kicks) for eating, reproducing, gaining power, using as little as possible energy and collect as much information about our environment as possible. (eating, sex, laziness, Rock’n’Roll. Well, he did not mention Rock’n’Roll)
Now, while this was a great hardware for staying alive for thousands and thousands of years, this hardware is now responsible for our failure. According to the article there are more people dying from overnutrition than from undernutrition. In the past it was not an advantage to save food for later. Maybe somebody else could take it. So we rather ate it immediately. Our brains are not constructed to worry about the future and to act accordingly.
Now, there are interesting results from neurologists: They did experiments in which they gave money to subjects and asked them to share it with another, unknown person in the next room or to keep it. The interesting thing is that women acted differently from men: The shared the money more often and those who did got dopamin rewards in their brains. Men got the rewards for keeping the money. The hypothesis is that women learned this behavior during their early childhood while men are trained to be aggressive and competitive.
The good news about this finding is: Maybe after all not everything is hardwired in our brains and part of it is due to training and education. How do we get our kicks? For keeping stuff or for sharing? Can we unlearn our habits? Yes, says Dr. Bohler. People who eat too much can change their eating habits by taking more time and eating more consciously. The same applies to other areas of live. Do we need this new car? What for? For showing off? We can unlearn our habits, be more conscious and face our future. Think about it and act accordingly.
Once we are ready to face the climate crisis, the question is what can we do? What is the way out? Currently the one most important thing we all can do is to talk to our politicians and let them know that the things they do are not enough and that they have to move their fucking asses, get out of coal, invest in renewables, stop subsidizing air travel and so on. We should support FridaysForFuture and join them in their global ClimateAction on Friday 20.09.2019! Check out the places where they are active and if nothing happens near you, start your own. See you on Friday.
PS: Some more song:
I don’t wanna be rejected I don’t wanna be denied And it’s not my misfortune That I’ve opened up your eyes
Freedom is given, speak how you feel I have no freedom, how do you feel? They can lie to my face but not to my heart If we stand together it will just be the start
If the kids are united! They will never be divided!
Well, kids of today probably do not know this song, but lets join them anyway. =:-)
A good friend of mine told me about a birthday. A women’s round in Prenzlauer Berg in August. Everyone reported about their holidays and everyone, all but my friend flew. I asked her if she had said anything. The answer was, “No, they would never invite me again.”
The comic artist Ralf Ruthe reports on Twitter about similar situations:
On Sunday I was in a park with the twins and our new AuPair Laura. When it started to rain, we “saved” ourselves on a beer bench under a large gastro umbrella, along with approx. 10 other people. It was raining for quite a while and somehow it was quite cozy with this small, randomly thrown group of people. A small cross-section of society, a friendly, protected mini-world. They smiled and mumbled their quickly bought fries.
He describes a scene in which he wanted to tell a Colombian woman whether it is raining often in Germany for such a long time. He talked about climate change and all the conversations around him came to a standstill. Silence, isolation, ignorance. A second scene he describes is a meal with many people, one of whom went into the climate discussion with racist arguments. Again: silence.
These two experiences were like a slap in the neck for me. I am shocked at how little the climate crisis seems to be being communicated outside the front pages of magazines and news pages. I am horrified when I imagine that there is no talk about it at kitchen tables, in company canteens and in office coffee kitchens, because people may be afraid that it will break the cosy atmosphere – although that is exactly what is absolutely necessary.
I have had similar experiences in a discussion about a class trip, where one option was an air trip to Naples and a train trip to the Baltic Sea. Declared goal of the students: Hang out on the beach. Most parents in the class did not understand the problem of air travel or did not take it serious (the plane will go anyway). Only one mother indirectly supported me in the discussion at the parents’ evening. The discussion then continued by email and took on epic proportions. It culminated in an email in which a father said that it wouldn’t be so bad if a few million people bit the dust, there would be too many anyway.
Yes, FridaysForFuture is destroying this nice world where no one is getting too close to the other. Young people question our everyday lives. Suddenly, as an adult, you have to ask yourself whether it’s ok to go on holiday by plane every year. Or for a weekend in Paris/London/Tallin. Or even more crazy: from Berlin to Frankfurt or Stuttgart. And yes, we need to talk about it. We have to get out of the filter bubble. If it happens more often, it also becomes more normal, the group of those who know increases and the risk of social ostracism decreases.
Extinction Rebellion gets increasing coverage in the German press (e.g. in the Spiegel/19.08.2019 and in the ZEIT/37/2019). I looked around for more information and foud this interview with Roger Hallam, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion in BBC’s HardTalk. I also read Hallam’s manifesto. Here are my thoughts.
First let’s have a look at the HardTalk video:
There were several things about this program that I found interesting:
Stephen Sackur’s repeated questions on how Hallam wants to motivate people to join his movment
Do you want to motivate people with negative messages? Where is the fun about all this?
Stephen Sackur repeatedly asks Roger Hallam how he wants to activate the masses if all the messages he has are negative (e.g. here, here and here). I found this quite strange. Stephen Sackur seems to still have this idea that all we do has to be related to and motivated by fun. This is the stereotype we older people have of the younger ones: they party all weekend, taking drugs and having fun. The youth is not interested and apolitical. But this changed in the past year. The effects of the climate crisis are visible and perceptible. Germany had 42,6° this year. The glaciers are melting (Okjökull in Iceland, the glaciers of the Himalaya). Kids are getting increasingly worried, frightened and frustrated by the incompetence and slowness of the adults. And as John Lydon (aka Jonny Rotten) put it: Anger is an energy. The kids and the adults do not need a fun part in the motivation of a movement although it helps if there is a fun part to the actions. As Hallam put it: it is the science that matters: if a doctor says that the patient has cancer and that it is terminal, it would be inappropriate to spread hope and optimism. But see further below for hope and optimism. And maybe even a bit of fun.
Climate neutral till 2025?
As for the goal of being climate neutral in 2025, I think this is unrealistic. Unfortunately. There is an engineer living in my house who plans power plants based on solar power. So he is probably the strongest advocate of renewable energies one can think of since it is his business that would profit a lot from a complete switch to renewables. He says that it would be possible to replace all fossil fuel needed for heating, traffic and general electricity replacing coal and atomic power in 10–12 years. Of course the question is how radical changes could be. Reduction in consumption both of goods and energy. But looking at the situation in Germany with a government basically acting against renewable energy and arriving at compromises to stop using coal in 2038 suggests that replacing fossil energy by renewables in 10–12 years would be a great goal to achieve. This would be 2029–2031.
6 billion dead in 50/60/70 years?
I am a Scientist 4 Future, that is, I am one of the 26.800 German speaking scientists who signed in support of the Fridays4Future movement. I asked my colleagues about the 6 billion people since I never heard this in the media before. The answer is: It could happen but there are so many unknown factors that it would be dubious to publish respective simulations. Hallam considers a scenario of 5° of global heating, which everybody agrees, we definitely have to avoid. With 5° of global heating it could be 0 or 2 Billion people left. Too much is unknown. However, it is clear that everything above 3° will be catastrophic and this is where we are currently heading at:
While we do not find any statements about possible 5° scenarios in the literature, we do find 2° scenarios and they are alarming enough: according to Shindell et. al. it is 110–196 Mio people dying early if we go on to 2°:
We therefore examine the human health benefits of increasing 21st-century CO2 reductions by 180 GtC, an amount that would shift a ‘standard’ 2 °C scenario to 1.5 °C or could achieve 2 °C without negative emissions. The decreased air pollution leads to 153 ± 43 million fewer premature deaths worldwide, with ~40% occurring during the next 40 years, and minimal climate disbenefits. More than a million premature deaths would be prevented in many metropolitan areas in Asia and Africa, and >200,000 in individual urban areas on every inhabited continent except Australia.
A more recent report by the World Resources Institute found that 2 billion people are affected be severe droughts (faz, 06.08.2019). The ICIMOD project did research on the Himalaya glaciers and the effect their melting has on water and food supply for people living at the rivers fed by the glaciers. 1,9 Billion people are affected.
So there is a big problem, no doubt about this.
Using drones to block Heathrow?
The next topic I want to comment about is the drones: the idea to block Heathrow by using drones frightened me. In general it is a bad idea to interfere with air traffic. The number of attacks on pilots with laser pointers is increasing and attacking a plane is a very dangerous thing to do. I live near the airport Tegel which is located in the middle of Berlin. Air planes out of control are not just dangerous for those who are in the airplane but also for those who are below it.
I checked the schedules of Heathrow and there seems to be a break during the night from 23:30–6:00. So there is a period in which no planes are starting and landing. In addition, flightradar can be used to check whether non-scheduled planes (government or transportation flights or delayed flights) are approaching. So the drones could be started in time when no plane is in the air. If the airport is informed about the drones, no planes will be permitted to start or land and hence there would be no danger for passengers, crew and people on the ground. Just a silent and peaceful airport. So, this would be a non-violent action. But to be absolutely clear: Sackur asks about flying drones into a busy airport. And Hallam does not take this up. Such actions would involve a high risk of killing many people. Anyway, even for non-risky drone scenarios, drone attacks are probably a bad idea since people who steer the drones are locatable within seconds, their are means to destroy the electronic parts of the drone to bring it down. This article about anti-drone measurements is from 2016 and I guess much progress was made on this issue since then. There is an industry working on drone protections for us (demonstrations, football events, open air concerts, whatever). By the way: there is a much less risky way to keep planes down. Just block the roads leading to the airports. Berlin taxi drivers blocked Tegel airport this year. Of course with Extinction Rebellion, it would not be cars but people instead.1 So, I guess the statement regarding drones was not serious, but it has an effect: it gets us talking.2
Deaths in relation to Extinction Rebellion and grannies being dragged away by police
There was the statement that people will die in relation to Extinction Rebellion and that we will see grannies being dragged off by the police. Well, no dead people and dragged away grannies so far but severely injured over 70 year olds in civil disobedience actions: people entered RWE’s open mine to save a forest. I cannot find the video of the old guy anymore (it was on twitter, maybe deleted), but there are other videos showing police violence and a man protesting against a project of building the Stuttgart train station lost one eye due to a water gun (the responsible policemen were found guilty by a German court). This is what Hallam talks about. There is a risk and it depends on the movement and on the contact to the police, how future events will develop.
I am not part of Extinction Rebellion, but I take part in pickets organized by climatewednesday.org. Two months ago, we were just finished with one of our events when a police car arrived. I thought: “Oh, no! We are in trouble. We did not register the event with the police!” But they came to tell us that there is another group of climate protesters in front of the Potsdam Landtag (were the government of the federal state Brandenburg works) and that it is small and needs support. So, the police helped us! Thanks for this!
(From that day on, all our actions were registered with the police or university administration.)
A colleague told me today that the policemen who is responsible for them likes what they do and already checked whether there is something in the net about #CopsForFuture.
So these are two instances of climate-friendly policemen (two men and one woman) and there are probably many more. Of course, we do not violate any laws, so Extinction Rebellion may be a different story as far as police experiences are concerned.
Extinction Rebellion and civil disobedience is only possible in democratic systems, or is it?
Stephen Sackur claims that Extinction Rebellion takes the easy way since it works in Britain, which is a democracy and that “in many parts of the world there is no possibility of Extinction Rebellion”. This claim is a little bit underwhelming for a political journalist dealing with mass movements. I give you some examples: 30 years ago there were big protests on the Tiananmen Square. It was protests against an authoritarian regime and they ended with a massacre. At this time I served in the East German army. Shortly after the massacre the East German TV broadcasted an official propaganda movie of the Chinese government. Everybody in the army had to watch it. We collectively went to the TV room, sat down for 45 minutes and watched this movie. It was clear to all of us what this meant. We were in the army. Outside the barracks people started to protest. At March 7th the government frauded the elections. People supported by the church organized the countings of the votes documenting the manipulations through the government. Since then there were demonstrations every 7th of the month. The army decided to show the movie to us to prepare us for our role to defend the system. I was lucky enough to reach the end of my army time exactly 30 years ago on August 25th. But many of my friends had to stay on. Equipped with riot helmets and truncheons they were sent to Dresden. They waited outside the city for orders to come. Fortunately, nothing happened. My friends could go back to the barracks without having to face their protesting family members. You also may read about this time in the novel Der Turm. I was in Berlin back then. Protesters did pickets, people did a hunger strike in the Gethsemane Church. On October 7th I saw riot police in Berlin. The first time I saw these helmets. The first time I saw Räumfahrzeuge. I was shocked. The next days escalated: we were in the church for a big political meeting and when we left it, there was police everywhere. The land of the church was special: the police had no right to enter and somehow they respected this rule. So one was safe on church ground, but how to get out? How to get home? We were standing there and we were shouting: “Keine Gewalt! Keine Gewalt!” (no violence) The pastor negotiated with the police and we could leave. On the streets (Schönhauser Allee) there were groups of people discussing political topics. If a circle got too big, Stasi members came and disturbed these discussions. They came in platoons. One could tell who belonged to these groups since they wore similar clothing (stone washed jeans). I was careful to avoid them but we know that they arrested many in this night. They kept them, stripped them down naked, and beat them. In the following days, the demonstrations got bigger and bigger and we knew that non-violence was our only chance. We knew that they would have killed us otherwise. They showed us the movie. In the end, we won. The result is not what many (most) of us dreamed of but Honecker/Mielke/Krenz are history.
Another example of a protest movement in a non-democratic system is taking place right now. It is related to Tiananmen. People in Hong Kong are protesting and demanding democracy. China is gathering troops at the border to Hong Kong. So they are in a similar situation. Do they protest? Yes, they do. And ironically, they also shut down the airport.
And now reconsider Extinction Rebellion. Democracy is nice to have and we fought for it and the Hong Kong people fight for it. But we are talking about food and water. For billions of people. As Roger Hallam said: there will be migration, wars, and masses of dead people. And there will be riots. Not because of Extinction Rebellion, which is and hopefully stays non-violent, but because of desperate people without any perspective.
Negative feelings and emotions within recent movements
I am not a part of Extinction Rebellion and I am too old to consider myself part of FridaysForFuture but I take part in FridaysForFuture events (see pictures) and I noticed that these movements are different from what I knew before: they have an awareness team, they care for each other in a different way. They talk about feelings and help each other. The Spiegel article was about this. People help each other dealing with the crisis since once you realized which situation we are in you get into emotional trouble (despair, fear, hopelessness, see above, and read the article about depressions in Greenland). So according to the Spiegel Extinction Rebellion Germany has something to offer. People get out of their paralysis and start to live again, they start to act. I am not into this talking and touching stuff described in the Spiegel. In fact it would be a reason for me not to go to these meetings, but I can confirm that it is important for everybody among the scientists being active in climatewednesday.org to talk to like-minded people. No fun, but good feelings.
Academia, Rebellion and Fridays for Future
Hallam describes his argument with King’s College in London. He managed to get them to disinvest into coal by civil disobedience:
Two years ago, myself and a group of students, painted messages on the walls of King’s College London where I do my PhD research. Our aim was to persuade the College to divest from all fossil fuels, something they had refused despite four years of conventional campaigning. Petitions, meetings and sitting on committees had gone nowhere. When we painted the walls of the great hall of the College, we won in five weeks. Direct action worked. I was immediately suspended and banned from entering the college. However, I openly challenged the ban to the point of getting carried out of the Students Union by security staff and after ten days they removed the ban. The embarrassment was too great. Instead I was invited into negotiations with the vice principal and I then told him I was going on hunger strike until they had a signed statement committing the university to total divestment by a set date.
The situation is quite different in Germany. First the universities do not invest into stock. They do not have any money at all (exaggerating a bit). Apart from this the universities in Berlin and Brandenburg were really open towards the scientist who did pickets in support for FridaysForFuture. In the case of the Humboldt University they allowed us to use a booth on the premises of the university.
The TU, Uni Potsdam, and HU announced our initiative to collect self-commitments for not flying short distances via their central mailing lists. The president of the TU gave various press releases regarding FridaysForFuture and took part in demonstrations. The HU published an interview with me in their university journal. So, big institutions are on the side of FFF. It must be said though that the original initiative for sustainability in University of Potsdam and Humboldt University came from students. It was a student who organized solar power for the university and it were students at the HU who founded the Nachhaltigkeitsbüro (office for sustainability). It is the success of FFF and movements like Extinction Rebellion that climate issues now arrived at the highest level of university administration.
Hallam describes the law suit following his actions in which he was found to be not guilty since there was a higher reason for his illegal actions.
A year and half later the crown prosecution service decided to prosecute me and another student for ‘criminal damage without lawful excuse’ – for painting the walls. We appeared in front of a jury and represented ourselves. We were told by the judge that the trial has nothing to do with climate change. I was interrupted 15 times and told to stop talking about it (something I kept ‘forgetting’ to do). For the judge it was a clear and simple case. We put paint on the wall, it is against the law and thus we are guilty. However, we argued what is obvious – our case was about climate change. It was about preventing the terrible suffering that will be created by the criminal fossil fuel industry unless there is wholesale divestment and it is closed down. We had a right of necessity to cause disruption in order to prevent massive disruption. This is a no brainer. The judge couldn’t get his head around it but the jury, ordinary Londoners, certainly did. They considered the case for the minimum time necessary. All of them then came to the unanimous verdict, we were not guilty on all charges of criminal damage. The judge told us ‘you are free to go’.
The same is true for German pupils on school strike. They are violating the rules but the opinion of law experts is that this is perfectly legal since it is the right and the duty of the kids to school strike (Dr. Reinald Eichholz, assesment by Prof. Dr. Dr. Felix Ekardt). ScientistsForFuture fully supports FridaysForFuture. Although the kids practice civil obedience. So what about Extinction Rebellion? Many German scientists are state employees. They swore an oath. What would happen if they blocked roads or airports? Would it be their right? Their moral obligation? Do we support others blocking roads? Airports? We support the kids, who are threatened with punishments in some federal states,3 aren’t we?
Is there hope? A vision?
Yes, there is. We should switch to 100% renewables as quickly as possible, we should scale down our consumption of everything and we – the Western world – have to adjust our goals for economic growth. It may be that this is not possible with the political parties we currently have although the protests seem to have some effect. Angela Merkel agreed to a 55% CO2 reduction target for 2030 for the EU, something she rejected for a long time now. Reducing the EU CO2 output by 55% entails a reduction of 68%–73% for Germany. If this goal is reached by increasing the price of CO2 certificates this would mean the end of coal in Germany in 2030 (The current plan is 2038). The question is, whether the current government is capable of reaching these goals. Germany is a car country. Political parties are lobbied and heavily influenced by car manufacturers. The same is true for coal. It is not just the CDU, there are also SPD members being payed by the coal industry. So what can we do? FridaysForFuture is getting stronger, adults are supporting the movement. There will be a huge strike on 20.09. followed by a week of climate actions and Extinction Rebellion will kick in in October. How do we make sure that the climate movement would be successful? Well, I first thought about round tables like in 1989. Representatives of the people’s movement were talking to the government and tried to find some consensus. The results of these talks and the reunion process afterwards were wanting in many respects as it turned out in retorspect. East Germans just did not have a clou about West German law and all the things to take care of. For example, Tegel airport has special noise protection zones in West Berlin. No such zone exists for East Berlin. It was simply forgotten in the reunion contract. But the situation now is different. We have the experts who know what has to be done and what should be done. Nevertheless there is a problem: who is supposed to make decisions? When will we – the climate movement – be satisfied? What is a consensus? I thought a lot about this and I guess Hallam is right in his manifesto. He suggests citizens’ assemblies: people selected by chance, a representative sample of the population. It is probably right that this is the only way in which explosive topics can be handled and in which we could find a consensus as a society. Hallam gives several examples, one was the discussion of abortion in Ireland. This is a topic no political party could deal with without getting into trouble. So, 99 people were selected, they discussed the issue, listened to experts and finally decided to support a referendum, which finally took place (article in the Guardian). You may also watch the following video:
The lecturer in public policy at Edinburgh University stated the following regarding such assemblies:
“It’s quite a milestone in the field of democratic innovations. This is the first time this has been part of everyday politics,” he says. Elements of representative, deliberative and direct democracy came together via parliament, the citizens’ assembly and referendum. “When these things are combined, you have a democratic system that’s more powerful.”
Would it work? I think it would work. Once the climate movement is so strong that a government agrees that a citizen assembly is a good way to solve the problem, people will be sufficiently aware of the catastrophe we are in. To give two example: the majority of the Germans (63 % (Welt) or 57 % (Bild/Targobank)) is for a speed limit, while the government is refusing to introduce it (#ApprovedByGermanAutobahn). The second example is taxes on kerosene. According to a survey of the Verkehrsclub Deutschland in 2014 (executed by TNS Emnid among 1004 people), 78% think it is wrong that aviation industry does not pay taxes on fuel and 69% agreed that the German government should reduce tax privileges of the aviation industry.
So may be the average person from the street can solve the problems a government cannot solve. But again it is not as easy as the abortion case in Ireland. What is needed is a huge transformation of our societies. It will not be done with some weeks of meetings in a hotel. How will the assembly be organized? Are people willing to serve on it? What if not? How long will it take? How is lobbying controlled? If this assembly works for a long time, how do we prevent lobbying? How do we do this on an international level? And quickly? It is not easy, but I do not see any other way.
Everybody has to act now to convince the general public that there is a problem that needs to be solved quickly and to convince governements to act. A citizens’ assembly seems to be the most resonable way to prepare decisions. All protest has to be non-violent. Let’s hope it works. Let’s work.
Appendix: Is there a fun part in climate Armageddon?
Well, may be there is a tiny little bit of fun. You may check out the following two videos by the German Comedy Metal band Knorkator. I guess one needs to understand German and maybe a very specific sense of humor is required as well. Have fun!
Wir werden alle sterben. Haltet euch bereit!
Die Zeichen sind eindeutig, bald ist es soweit.
Vielleicht schon heute Abend, vielleicht in einem Jahr
Doch alle werden sterben, traurig aber wahr!
Wir werden alle sterben. Haltet euch bereit!
Die Zeichen sind eindeutig, bald ist es soweit.
Da gibt es kein Entrinnen, da kommt nichts mehr ins Lot,
die Party ist zu Ende, bald sind alle tot.
Wir werden alle sterben. Haltet euch bereit!
Die Zeichen sind eindeutig, bald ist es soweit.
vielleicht beim Zähneputzen, vielleicht beim Abendbrot,
doch irgendwann passiert es, dann sind alle tot.
Wir werden alle sterben. Haltet euch bereit!
Die Zeichen sind eindeutig, bald ist es soweit.
Die Türen sind verschlossen, die Ampel steht auf Rot,
der Zug ist abgefahren, bald sind alle tot.
Die Welt ist am Ende
kurz vor dem Kollaps
Alle wissen Bescheid
nützt aber ncihts.
Wir machen immer weiter
Therapie is nicht.
Der Arzt isn Dealer.
Wir liegen da und fressen.
Werden immer fetter.
Der Fernseher läuft.
Alles ist gut.
Alle sitzen im Bus.
Da vorn isn Abgrund!
Aber is ja noch n Stück.
Wir könnten auch abbiegen.
Tut er aber nicht.
Da is ja nur ein Sandweg.
Schlecht für die Achsen.
Bloß nicht anhalten!
Leben heißt, Gas geben.
Kopf aus dem Fenster!
Hoch die Tassen!
This is one of many tips on how to reduce your carbon footprint.
Do you have this pile of paper that is in the mailbox every day? This free weekly newspaper with no content but ads, advertising from the post office (extra welded in plastic packaging), catalogues, magazines? A sticker on the letterbox helps against these free weekly newspapers, against advertising from the post office and similar stuff. You ordered somthing online and since then you get a catalogue once a year? Twice a year? More often? It is best to unsubscribe immediately when a catalogue is in the mail. the customer number is usually at the back. A mail to shipper and you’re out. Help other family members: Can I unsubscribe from this catalogue for you?
This magazine: Do you still read it? I unsubscribed the computer magazine last week because I only read the FAQ and tips and tricks regularly and otherwise individual articles. I have an online subscription for that, that’s enough.
Professional stuff: Do you need that? Yes, this university lecturer’s newspaper. There’s something interesting in there from time to time, but somehow you can’t get to read it and it’s just lying around. Cancelled. Annual reports and invitations from institutions with which you have had something to do at some point? The DFG’s research magazine (by Wiley =:-(). Cancelled.
Schwuppdiewupp a whole bunch of paper and the shipping saved. Actually simple, but you have to stick to it. You can do this. =:-)
And one more tip at the end: If you don’t want unsolicited advertising, you can sign up for the Robinson list. These are available for Germany and some other countries. You can also block your phone number there. Then there is scilence. Like on an island.
This is one of many tips on how to reduce your carbon footprint.
Today I discovered an interesting way to reduce your CO2 emissions. Unfortunately, the target group of this post is relatively small. But I don’t want to leave anything untouched. Compared to the decommissioning of your tumble dryer, this tip would have much more impact. So, when you fly, just fly with a scheduled plane, not your private plane. This would save a lot of CO2.
Seriously, according to an estimate in an essay in Nature Climate Change, which is also available on Researchgate, the 0.54% of the richest people have a CO2 emissions of 3.9 billion tons of CO2/year. This corresponds to 13.6% of all lifestyle-dependent CO2 emissions. By contrast, the 50% poorest people have 10% of emissions. The authors of the study interviewed three super-rich families, each with more than a million dollars in share ownership. In addition, real estate and valuables. Two families from the US and one from South Korea. On top of this, a pilot from Central Europe who flies customers on private planes was interviewed.
The total emissions amounted to 129.3 tons of CO2 per year (for a two person household). This is 65 tons of CO2 per year per capita. For comparison: US average 22 tons, German average 11.61 tons.
The article proposes solutions. Among others:
Frequent air travel is a primary contributor to hugely above-average emissions of the super-rich that could be substantially reduced by avoiding using private jets and just flying less.
Otto et.al. 2019. Shift the focus from the super-poor to the super-rich. Nature Climate Change 9. p. 83.
So, in case somebody belonging to the 0.54% should read my blog: Here is my request: Fly with a normal scheduled plane. You can get to know nice people in business clas as well and on an economy flight you certainly get completely new perspectives on life in general and humanity in particular. Train travel is, of course, even more exciting!
If you really belong to the 0.54%, you will not like another suggestion of the authors. They propose levying inheritance tax and diverting revenue to climate funds. But perhaps this proposal will be forgotten again if you do it like Bill and Melinda Gates, like the Otto Group or Bosch and support ecological projects yourself. And the article also mentions that the posh and rich act as a role model for us ordinary folks. Just put cool solar cells on the roof of your house (it is big enough).
See you! On the train.
Addendum after sleeping about it: The authors of the study say that CO2 taxes would not stop the super-rich from flying. “Heavy environmental taxation, as commonly discussed, is unlikely to effect the consumption behaviour of the super-rich, who can afford to continue polluting.” (p. 83) One could, however, link taxes to aircraft utilisation. If an aircraft flies with three people instead of 500, other taxes are due. Similar models exist for the taxation of cars, where size also plays a role. Of course, the regulations have to be developed with a sense of proportion, because even scheduled flights sometimes fly back empty.