On 11 January, Prof. Dr. Stefan Rahmstorf, Head of the Earth System Analysis Department at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Professor of Physics of the Oceans at the University of Potsdam, will be a guest at the University's Audimax at the invitation of the local Scientists for Future. There he will talk about "The climate crisis between doomers and sceptics: what does science say?". 

"The climate crisis between doomers and sceptics: what does science say?" is the title of your lecture in Bayreuth. What does science say - in one sentence?

"The climate crisis is an existential threat, but we can still avert the worst if we act quickly and decisively now."

Sustainability is a top priority at the University of Bayreuth. What role do public institutions have in the climate crisis?

"First of all, scientific institutions have the role of researching and informing about dangers. But they also have a certain role model function when it comes to sustainable practices, for example when it comes to staff air travel."

Can you name sustainable measures that are most efficient to meet the 1.5 degree target?

"One of the most important measures is to quickly get to 100 per cent renewable electricity supply. But of course you can't just take the most efficient measures, you always have to keep in mind that we have to get to zero CO2 emissions. This means that all sectors must decarbonise, transport, buildings, industry, agriculture. This requires a comprehensive package of measures."

As a scientist, how do you counter sceptics who question scientific findings? Ignore or proselytise?

"Neither. The "climate sceptics" active in the social media are mostly not sceptical but ideologically determined and fact-resistant. But one should always take the time to objectively refute their arguments, which sound plausible to many laypeople. Not because one ever convinces any of these climate sceptics, but for the vast majority of viewers who are still open to arguments."

With the war in Ukraine and the Germans' fear of an energy crisis, how do scientists still get away with climate issues in the public perception?

"After all, the Russian war of aggression is just another reason to overcome our dependence on fossil fuels as quickly as possible. In this respect, the solution to both crises is the same. The important thing now is not to create new path dependencies, for example by committing ourselves to LNG use in the long term. That makes sense at best for a shorter transitional phase."

About Stefan Rahmstorf:

The scientist heads the Earth System Analysis Department at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and is Professor of Physics of the Oceans at the University of Potsdam. He is considered one of the most renowned climate scientists in Germany, was IPCC lead author and a member of the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) from 2004 to 2013. After studying physics in Ulm and Konstanz and physical oceanography at the University of Wales (Bangor), Stefan Rahmstorf completed his diploma with a thesis on general relativity. He went on to complete a doctorate in oceanography at Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand) in 1990. He subsequently worked as a scientist at the New Zealand Oceanographic Institute, the Institute of Oceanography in Kiel and, since 1996, at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. There he primarily researches the role of the oceans in climate change. Rahmstorf has published over 130 scientific papers, more than 40 of them in the leading journals of Nature, Science and PNAS. He has been actively engaged in climate communication for many years and is considered the climate researcher in Europe with the most Twitter followers. In 2022 he received the Stephen H. Schneider Award for Outstanding Climate Science Communication. 

It seems that climate issues are mainly relevant to young people. How do you reach them to the rest of the population?

"I don't know if that's true, there are also Scientists for Future, Grandmas for Future, etc. Especially many older people are already thinking about the future of their grandchildren. And I'm over 60, but I want to live another 30 years, then I'll be as old as my mother is now and we'll be beyond the year 2050. Without decisive climate protection, we'll already break the 1.5-degree barrier in the 2030s. If you are under 70 and want to live a peaceful old age, you should get involved now."

Is enlightenment everything? Is pure knowledge enough?

Education is the first step, but not everything. That's why we need many more authors, filmmakers, artists, psychologists and many others who work for climate protection and also appeal to our emotions on this existential topic. That is not my metier as a physicist.

Is a scientist allowed to take a political stand? Does he even have to?

"A lung doctor has to warn his patients about the consequences of smoking, we climate physicists about the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions. As a physicist, however, I am not competent when it comes to political instruments - that's what we do at the Potsdam Institute, where energy experts and economists work out concepts for a full supply of renewable energies or for a socially just CO2 price."

About Scientists for Future Bayreuth:

Scientists for Future Bayreuth is one of the many S4F regional groups in German-speaking countries. S4F is a non-institutional, non-partisan and interdisciplinary association of scientists who are committed to a sustainable future. The initiative sees itself as the voice of science, contributing to factual political discussions and acting as a bridge builder to promote dialogue and facilitate insights. To this end, it brings together the skills, knowledge and experience of scientists from a wide range of disciplines. 

On 11 January, Prof. Rahmstorf will be at the University's Audimax at the invitation of the local Scientists for Future. He will talk about "The climate crisis between doomers and sceptics: What does science say?

18:45 Admission
19:15 Welcome and lecture

Please register: www.bayceer.uni-bayreuth.de/s4f 

Anja-Maria Meister

Anja-Maria MeisterPR spokesperson of the University of Bayreuth

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