Climate crisis: Klaus Hasselmann – “The 1.5 degree target can no longer be met”

IIn a greeting for the future conference of the Hamburger Universitäts-Gesellschaft, which took place on Tuesday in the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce, climate researcher Klaus Hasselmann, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics last year, presented his analysis of the recent climate debate. WELT publishes his speech, the was read out at the event in the absence of the author.

It’s been 60 years since my Co-Nobel Laureate Syukuro Manabe showed that a increase in CO₂ in the atmosphere leads to an increase in the earth’s temperature. It has been 50 years since the Club of Rome published its famous book, The Limits to Growth. And right now, a follow-up work has emerged in which the earlier model has been significantly expanded and two scenarios are presented: TLTL, too little too late, and GL, giant leap. The latter would be our only chance to get man-made climate change under control and to keep the consequences tolerable.

It’s been 40 years since I was able to scientifically separate natural climate variability from man-made influences, leading to the finding that man-made CO₂ emissions are 95 percent responsible for measured global temperature increases. Since the first IPCC report (1990) at the latest, politicians have known what to expect. Ms. Merkel visited my institute in 1998 and as a physicist she was able to give us a razor-sharp presentation on the climate problem.

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Again and again we, especially my colleagues Mojib Latif and Hartmuth Grassl, tirelessly pointed out that the longer we wait, the more expensive it becomes to solve the problem. It should also be borne in mind that the problem will not be solved once CO₂ emissions end. No, the gas stays in the atmosphere for over 100 years before it disappears.

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Why Germany is not achieving its climate goals

How much time has passed since then! And what has really been done? The federal government’s climate experts have just repeatedly stated that Germany is far from achieving the climate goals it has set itself. Why is this:

1. Humans have an innate ability to react to danger only when it directly affects them.

2. Churchill formulated: Democracy is still the best of all bad forms of government. Yes, politicians want to be re-elected every four or five years. People don’t like to make unpopular decisions that only bear fruit in the distant future.

3. Yes, and then, of course, there is the economy, which does not make changes if they suffer economic disadvantages as a result. However, there were also praiseworthy ones Exceptions like Michael Otto, who sold sustainably produced clothing early on. His endowed professorship for sustainable environmental development for social and humanities research into economic and climate issues was very far-sighted. It is one of the university’s clusters of excellence Hamburg contributed to climate research.

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The climate researcher Mojib Latif, President of the Academy of Sciences in Hamburg, was one of the participants of the

And now the dangers of climate change are drawing closer. That Potsdam The Institute for Climate Impact Research just published a study that says hurricane damage increases as global temperatures rise from greenhouse gases from fossil fuels. Computer simulations of regional economic sectors and supply chains in the USA now show that the resulting economic losses can no longer be compensated for nationally at some point if warming continues to increase.

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According to the authors of the study, if too many production sites are hit by a hurricane and no longer produce, other countries step in to supply goods. The effects of climate change hurricanes will thus put the US at an economic disadvantage – the warmer, the stronger. I don’t think I need to mention the costs of the direct damage caused by more and more extreme events.

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The screenshot shows the short protest action of the last generation in Hamburg's Elbphilharmonie.  A woman and a man addressed the audience

Nevertheless, climate change has now penetrated the consciousness of the majority of people. Heat waves, heavy rain, storms are an integral part of our lives. I also think that the economy, independently of politics, is looking for ways out, such as Maersk, the new fuels for their ships try, or Airbus, which have interesting plans to produce hydrogen from sunlight during flight. To name just two examples.

I also found it interesting in the new Club of Rome report that the goals can only be achieved if humanity manages to find cooperative forms of society. This includes countries taking advantage of their natural resources themselves. Likewise, a general debt relief must give the poorer countries the conditions to even have a chance of sustainable development.

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Forest fire on the Brocken last week in the Harz National Park

Heat, drought, lack of water

I am always asked if I believe that humanity will master the climate problem. I’m an optimist by nature and I think we’ll make it. Nevertheless, the earth will no longer look like it did when I was young. The 1.5 degree target is no longer achievable. Nevertheless: let’s tackle it!

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The author, now 91 years old, was Director at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg from 1975 to 1999.

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