IASS Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies Potsdam
Recent publications
Ground-based observational characterization of atmosphere aerosols over Central Asia is very limited. This study investigated the columnar aerosol characteristics over Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan, a background site in Central Asia using the long-term (∼14 years: August 2007–November 2021) data acquired with the Cimel sunphotometer. The mean aerosol optical depth (AOD) and Ångström exponent (AE) during the observation period were 0.14 ± 0.10 and 1.19 ± 0.41, respectively. Both AOD and AE varied across seasons, with highest AOD in spring (0.17 ± 0.17). Regarding the aerosol types, clean continental aerosols were dominant type (65%), followed by mixed aerosols (∼19%), clean marine aerosols (∼14%), dust (0.8%), and urban/industrial and biomass burning aerosol (0.7%). The aerosol volume size distribution was bimodal indicating the influence of both anthropogenic and natural aerosols with clear dominance of coarse mode during the spring season. Mainly dust and mixed aerosols were present during high aerosol episodes while the coarse mode aerosol volume concentration was 7.5 and ∼19 times higher than the whole period average. Aerosol over this background sites were from local and regional sources with some contribution of long-range transport.
Companies across the globe have intensified the digital interconnectedness of their manufacturing processes. Much attention was devoted to how industrial employment will be affected in this new production paradigm. In this paper, we use survey data collected from German industrial workers in 2014 and 2020 to contribute to the literature on digitalisation and industrial employment. This is the first scientific study on Industry 4.0 that empirically deals with the development of key parameters of industrial employment over time. Our findings support the argument that whilst increased digital interconnectedness creates more opportunities for highly skilled workers, the extent to which manual workers will be substituted is often overestimated. Second, our data suggests that the operations of larger companies tend to be more highly digitally interconnected than those of smaller firms. We also provide evidence that German industrial workers are less likely to expect substantial job losses through digitalisation than in 2014.
For a long time, Germany was regarded as a pioneer in climate policy. Recently, conflicts have intensified over the phase-out of coal from the energy sector. In 2020, the German Bundestag created the legal basis for a coal phase-out by 2038, subsequently revised to 2030 by the new coalition government of September 2021. This article analyzes the recent controversies from a political-economy perspective and shows the interrelationships and tensions between capitalism, democracy, and sustainability within Germany. In particular, the rise of right-wing populist attitudes opposing a coal phase-out, highlights the conflictual character and the social embeddedness of sustainability politics. The analysis of the conflicts surrounding the coal phase-out makes it possible to situate the future of energy supply in the overall societal context.
Energy efficiency is promoted worldwide as an important measure to address growing energy demand and reduce energy intensity of the gross domestic product and emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants. We analyzed aggregate and sectoral energy intensities in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka during 2000–2017 and decomposed the aggregate energy intensity into its four key determinants. Past energy intensity analysis methods have often used changes in factors related to only energy and economic structure and ignored energy equity factors. We show that energy equity factors (access to electricity and per capita electricity consumption) strongly influence the energy intensity of a country/region. In countries with less than 100% access to electricity, changes in energy equity factors negatively affected energy intensity while changes in energy structure and income level improved it. Energy equity is an important consideration for assessment, development and implementation of sustainable energy efficiency policies of a country.
Public acceptance is central to the success of a transition agenda but with the increasing uptake of renewable energy technology, achieving and sustaining the public legitimacy for accelerating the energy transition is at risk. This study provides an updated account of the energy transition development in Germany and Australia with a focus on institutional legitimation. Drawing on the distinction between input and output legitimacy, we query how enabling community participation can enhance the legitimacy of policy instruments. We employ two case studies of energy transitions – those of Germany and Australia – to explain where and how community participation has supported the legitimacy of policy interventions. While input legitimacy remains high in both Germany and Australia, both examples illustrate how policy instruments can lack legitimacy if decision-makers lose sight of or never properly consider the output dimension of legitimacy.
Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) offers flexible and decarbonised power generation and is one of the few switchable renewable technologies that can generate renewable power on demand. Today (2018), CSP only contributes 5 TWh to European electricity generation but has the potential to become an important generation asset for decarbonising the electricity sector within Europe as well as globally. This chapter examines how factors and key political decisions lead to different futures and the associated CSP use in Europe in the years up to 2050. In a second step, we characterise the scenarios with the associated system costs and the costs of the support policy. We show that the role of CSP in Europe depends crucially on political decisions and the success or failure of policies outside of renewable energies. In particular, the introduction of CSP depends on the general ambitions for decarbonisation, the level of cross-border trade in electricity from renewable sources and is made possible by the existence of a strong grid connection between the southern and northern European Member States and by future growth in electricity demand. The presence of other baseload technologies, particularly nuclear energy in France, diminishes the role and need for CSP. Assuming a favourable technological development, we find a strong role for CSP in Europe in all modelled scenarios: Contribution of 100 TWh to 300 TWh of electricity to a future European electricity system. The current European CSP fleet would have to be increased by a factor of 20 to 60 over the next 30 years. To achieve this, stable financial support for CSP would be required. Depending on framework conditions and assumptions, the amount of support ranges at the EU level from € 0.4 to 2 billion per year, which represents only a small proportion of the total support requirement for the energy system transformation. Cooperation between the Member States could further help reduce these costs.
The grid power supply in many developing countries is insufficient and irregular resulting in many commercial users relying on inefficient and air pollution intensive off-grid captive diesel generators (DGs) as a backup power supply. This study investigates the fuel consumption and emission level of such DGs and explores the possibility of reducing them through the formation of a microgrid of DGs and solar PV in a commercial area in Kathmandu, Nepal. An optimized microgrid system has been designed using the HOMER framework for both DGs and solar PV based systems. The optimized DG based microgrid results reduction in specific fuel consumption by 19% and cost by 5%. It also mitigates emissions of key air pollutants (PM2.5, PM10, CO, and VOCs) by 21% to 92% as compared to the baseline. If the solar PV based microgrid is used, the emissions can be reduced by 100% but cost increases by 27%. However, the overall economic benefit to the country could be quite significant due to the reduction of external costs of imported fossil fuel and generators, air pollution, adverse health outcomes, investment locking in grey power generation, and energy security issues. The approach used here can be emulated in many other developing countries with similar conditions.
The circular bioeconomy is a highly scrutinized concept in Finland and internationally, with a high degree of polarization regarding forest utilization rates and distrust between certain actors. This offers an interesting case for an exploratory analysis of issues associated with knowledge co-production. Knowledge co-production entails the integration of different knowledge types and collaboration across multiple societal actors with potentially conflicting viewpoints and agendas. We interviewed key organizations operating at the nexus of science and policy in the processes of knowledge co-production regarding the circular bioeconomy in Finland, including representatives from ministries, universities, research institutes, innovation promoters, and interest organizations. Using qualitative content analysis, we assessed the actors' tacit knowledge and perceptions regarding 1) their role in knowledge co-production across knowledge types; 2) elements enabling knowledge co-production; and 3) tensions and needs/opportunities of knowledge co-production. To frame our data collection and analysis, we particularly draw from recent sustainability science literature on knowledge types in co-production. The findings reveal that the three main knowledge types – lay, expert, and scientific – are acknowledged by all actors, but are dealt with, to different extents, according to the roles played by different actors in the process of knowledge generation. Collaboration was reported to be largely project-oriented, enabled by funding, similar mindsets, and organizational/individual networks. Tensions included conflicting ideological positions held by various actors in the circular bioeconomy, mainly hampering the co-production of normative/target knowledge; funding-induced gaps and risks in inter-actor cooperation, mainly affecting process/system knowledge of the circular bioeconomy; and gaps and difficulties in cross-sectoral and cross-discipline engagement, mainly affecting predictive/transformative knowledge. Knowledge synthesis, policy-supporting knowledge, and transformative knowledge were perceived by several interviewees to be important avenues towards improving the sustainability potential of the Finnish forest sector.
This Perspective article presents a novel, participatory scenario development method for studying the energy transition. It shows how moving towards transdisciplinarity can inform formal scenario analysis and enhance modelling by engaging stakeholders and scientific communities to co-develop energy transition scenarios. The innovative approach combines participatory elements of morphological analysis with formal cross-impact balance analysis (CIB), and it was tested at a series of energy transition scenario workshops held in 2021 both virtually and in person. Focusing on the first workshop of the series, we present the resulting data collection strategy and critically reflect on the analytical potential of the approach. We highlight the advantage of CIB in grasping the complexity and the multi-scale nature of the energy transition, as it enables computing of how different driving forces interact. We also demonstrate that leveraging morphological analysis for data collection in participatory scenario workshops yields a more participatory approach to CIB. Some limitations notwithstanding, the insights from the scenario workshops following the novel approach suggest further avenues for improving the process of online participatory scenario methods. This holds significant potential for empirical research under the conditions of a global pandemic and for scenario analysis more generally.
There are considerable differences in the pace and underlying motivations of the energy transition in the different geographical contexts across Europe. The European Union's commitment to climate neutrality by 2050 requires a better understanding of the energy transition in different contexts and scales to improve cooperation of involved actors. In this article, we identify critical issues and challenges of the European energy transition as perceived by stakeholders and investigate how these perceptions vary across geographical contexts. To do so, we couple a policy document analysis with research based on stakeholder engagement activities in three different scales, national (Greece), regional (Nordic Region) and continental scale (European Union). Our findings show that stakeholder perspectives on the energy transition depend on contextual factors underlying the need for policies sensitive to the different transition issues and challenges in European regions. They also reveal cross-cutting issues and challenges among the three case studies, which could lead to further improvement of the cross-country collaboration to foster the European energy transition.
The global transition to a low-carbon economy will significantly impact existing energy value chains and transform the production to consumption lifecycle, dramatically altering interactions among stakeholders. Thanks to its versatility, green hydrogen could play a significant role in reaching a carbon-free future by 2050. Its adoption will be critical for decarbonizing industrial processes at scale, especially hard-to-abate ones such as steel and cement production. This paper maps the role countries could play in future green hydrogen industrial markets based on three criteria: resource endowment, existing industrial production, and economic relatedness. Our analysis shows how the potential for green hydrogen production and leadership in industrial applications is distributed unequally around the globe. Countries like the United States and China could emerge as frontrunners in future green hydrogen markets and lead in industrial applications, such as ammonia, methanol, and steel production. Other resource-rich countries could upgrade along value chains and compete with import-dependent industrial powers for jobs and market shares. A transition in existing value chains will also give rise to new market and geopolitical dynamics and dependencies. This paper contributes empirical evidence to the debate on the geopolitics of hydrogen and guides in defining strategic industrial policies.
Climate change is strongly impacting Arctic marine ecosystems, and the Arctic coastal communities whose identities, traditions and livelihoods are closely interconnected with the marine environment. The Ecosystem Approach (EA) is a promising approach for understanding and managing the occurring shifts in the Arctic marine ecosystems. Based on our analysis, we find that assessments conducted by international and regional instruments and institutions, most notably the Arctic Council, as well as the wealth of Indigenous knowledge present in the region, provide valuable starting points for the implementation of EA in the Arctic. Yet, mechanisms for translating knowledge into joint coordinated and integrated action in accordance with EA are currently lacking. Our analysis suggests that incremental steps can be taken now to promote the implementation of EA, while working to establish a more comprehensive governance framework. In our view, bottom-up initiatives may provide the most promising avenue for promoting the application of EA in the region under the current geopolitical circumstances. Support by civil society, Indigenous and conservation organizations, as well as global momentum will be necessary to coordinate, finance and elevate community-driven initiatives. Other opportunities we identify for advancing EA is to engage with sectoral management bodies and to advance EA through climate change adaptation measures.
Vast black carbon (BC) emissions from sub-Saharan Africa are perceived to warm the regional climate, impact rainfall patterns, and impair human respiratory health. However, the magnitudes of these perturbations are ill-constrained, largely due to limited ground-based observations and uncertainties in emissions from different sources. This paper reports multiyear concentrations of BC and other key PM2.5 aerosol constituents from the Rwanda Climate Observatory, serving as a regional receptor site. We find a strong seasonal cycle for all investigated chemical species, where the maxima coincide with large-scale upwind savanna fires. BC concentrations show notable interannual variability, with no clear long-term trend. The Δ14C and δ13C signatures of BC unambiguously show highly elevated biomass burning contributions, up to 93 ± 3%, with a clear and strong savanna burning imprint. We further observe a near-equal contribution from C3 and C4 plants, irrespective of air mass source region or season. In addition, the study provides improved relative emission factors of key aerosol components, organic carbon (OC), K+, and NO3-, in savanna-fires-influenced background atmosphere. Altogether, we report quantitative source constraints on Eastern Africa BC emissions, with implications for parameterization of satellite fire and bottom-up emission inventories as well as regional climate and chemical transport modeling.
Tropospheric ozone (O3) concentrations depend on a combination of hemispheric, regional, and local-scale processes. Estimates of how much O3 is produced locally vs. transported from further afield are essential in air quality management and regulatory policies. Here, a tagged-ozone mechanism within the Weather Research and Forecasting model coupled with chemistry (WRF-Chem) is used to quantify the contributions to surface O3 in the UK from anthropogenic nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from inside and outside the UK during May–August 2015. The contribution of the different source regions to three regulatory O3 metrics is also examined. It is shown that model simulations predict the concentration and spatial distribution of surface O3 with a domain-wide mean bias of −3.7 ppbv. Anthropogenic NOx emissions from the UK and Europe account for 13 % and 16 %, respectively, of the monthly mean surface O3 in the UK, as the majority (71 %) of O3 originates from the hemispheric background. Hemispheric O3 contributes the most to concentrations in the north and the west of the UK with peaks in May, whereas European and UK contributions are most significant in the east, south-east, and London, i.e. the UK's most populated areas, intensifying towards June and July. Moreover, O3 from European sources is generally transported to the UK rather than produced in situ. It is demonstrated that more stringent emission controls over continental Europe, particularly in western Europe, would be necessary to improve the health-related metric MDA8 O3 above 50 and 60 ppbv. Emission controls over larger areas, such as the Northern Hemisphere, are instead required to lessen the impacts on ecosystems as quantified by the AOT40 metric.
The focus of the paper is to use a single weibo from a user to predict whether the user account is verified, referred to as verified account prediction, on Sina Weibo. To the best of our knowledge, verified account prediction on Sina Weibo has not been studied. For better understanding of the prediction problem, a comprehensive data analysis of weibos related to verified accounts is conducted first. Then, verified account prediction is formulated as a sequence learning problem. Specifically, a weibo from a user is represented as a sequence of feature values by feature hashing and whether the user account is verified is the corresponding label to predict. A deep learning approach is proposed for solving verified account prediction in this formulation. The proposed approach significantly outperforms the shallow learning methods in the comparisons in terms of accuracy and F1 by large margins in the experiments.
Carbon capture and utilization (CCU) technologies aim to use carbon dioxide (CO 2 ), either captured from industrial point sources or from the atmosphere, instead of fossil carbon in the production of a variety of valuable goods. CCU has the potential to contribute to emission reductions and to lower raw material consumption as well to foster transitional processes toward a circular economy. To enable societies to take full advantage of this potential, policy support is needed in overcoming current barriers and fostering CCU implementation as a feasible option for the industry. Based on a literature and online investigation, this paper identifies and compares the current policy mixes for CCU in the US and the EU, focusing on policy strategies and existing and proposed policy instruments. The analysis shows that US strategy documents, with very few exceptions, do not mention CCU specifically in the context of the country's 2030 or 2050 climate targets. In the EU, in contrast, the future role of CCU is clearly linked to achieving climate-neutrality by 2050. The main policy instruments to incentivize the implementation of CCU in the US are tax credits (45Q). Moreover, funding exists for research and development efforts. In the EU, many reform proposals are currently underway that could benefit CCU technologies. At present, policy support, for instance through the Renewable Energy Directive, mainly aims at renewable fuels of non-biological origin while in other areas CCU support remains at odds with principles such as “energy efficiency first”. The EU does, however, have a broad range of funding opportunities available for research, development and demonstration projects. The paper uses the cross-regional comparison of policy mixes to formulate policy recommendations to improve policy mixes for CCU. A clearer strategic commitment to CCU, its incorporation into green public procurement guidelines, incorporating CCU across different funding schemes for sustainable energy transition, and ambitious new targets for renewable electricity and green hydrogen, for instance, could help develop the policy mixes further to provide a supportive framework for CCU.
Transformationsprozesse zu erforschen, zu verstehen und zu fördern ‐ dieses Ziel hat sich das Institut für transformative Nachhaltigkeitsforschung (IASS) in Potsdam gesetzt. Dazu zählt, Transformationsforschung und transformative Forschung zu integrieren, transdisziplinär und ko-kreativ vorzugehen und Fellows in die Forschungs- und Beratungstätigkeiten einzubinden. Die gewonnenen Erkenntnisse will das IASS in den Dienst der Politik- und Gesellschaftsberatung stellen.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, many people have changed established routines in everyday life, often involuntarily. Some of these changes implied a lowering of carbon emissions. Will this behavior change lead to sustainable habits that extend beyond the pandemic? Recapitulating conditions of behavior change, we suggest policy measures that could support a lasting adoption of low-carbon habits.In the course of the COVID-19 crisis, there were a number of behavioral adaptations to the extraordinary conditions that temporarily reduced individual carbon footprints. The question is whether these short-term changes will evolve into sustainable behavioral habits and how to support these changes through policy measures. During the three waves of the pandemic, there has been an increase in surveys as well as in social science studies and research in Germany and other countries on the topic of behavioral changes due to the pandemic. The paper recapitulates what is known about behavior change from psychology and sociology, and synoptically summarizes the preliminary findings from the empirical studies conducted so far. The emphasis will be on the behavioral changes, with a focus on mobility and work routines, as witnessed in Germany. However, the insights from Germany may also shed a light on similar processes in other countries.
Economic disruptions caused by the war in Ukraine provide insights into how climate change may threaten global supply chains in a not-so-distant future. The EU is addressing strategic vulnerabilities, particularly in the sphere of fossil fuel supply, while seeking to maintain its climate ambition. However, the EU has failed to make more far-reaching changes to its economic model and relations with international partners. These are urgently needed to address the root causes of the current crisis.
Connectivity is essential to consider in area-based marine conservation measures because it greatly impacts vital ecological processes (e.g., recycling nutrients, regulating temperature, sequestering carbon, and supporting the life cycle of species). However, it is generally not well studied or integrated into conservation measures, particularly in the Southeast Pacific. This region is home to the Salas y Gómez and Nazca ridges, two adjacent seamount chains that stretch between the Peruvian coast and Rapa Nui (i.e., Easter Island). The area has been recognized for its exceptional natural and cultural significance as well as one of the most important global areas to protect. However, over 73% of the ridges are in areas beyond national jurisdiction, where they are unprotected and under threat. This study provides a synthesis of what we know about connectivity in the Salas y Gómez and Nazca ridges and provides practical recommendations for integrating this knowledge into conservation and management measures for the region. While data on connectivity is still limited, it should not constrain the development of conservation measures, which should be co-designed and co-developed, leveraging the expertise of international working groups throughout the region. Due to their high rates of endemism, as well as importance as migratory corridors, enacting large-scale conservation measures would address important conservation considerations for both connectivity and endemism. Enacting such large-scale conservation measures would not only elevate the Salas y Gómez and Nazca ridges as an exemplary case study, providing lessons for other marine regions seeking to implement similar measures, but could also help raise awareness on the severity of externally originating threats like climate change and plastic pollution to global audiences.
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139 members
Barbara Neumann
  • Ocean Governance
Dominik Schaeuble
  • Transdisciplinary Panel on Energy Change
Diana Süsser
  • Energy Transitions & Public Policy
Potsdam, Germany