Author: Andreas

Extreme weather events: 3 basic facts about climate change

“The recent flood in Ahrtal (Germany) is a sign of the man-made climate change.”  Or more general: “The extreme weather event X in country/ region/ city Y has been caused by man-made carbon dioxide emissions.”

These statements or similar versions have recently been all over the media. And as with many things that are being repeated frequently, they are simply not true. The distorted truths communicated on many news outlets have been outlined by German climate scientist Hans von Storch in his latest book on the historical evolvement of climate sciences.

His major insights sound basic but are oftentimes forgotten in the public discussion.

👉 Climate change has two components

The first one is a natural, stochastic one. It’s like noise. Temperature averages are fluctuating over time and they will continue to do so. This has nothing to do with external forces. The second one is an external, man-made component. This one is due to increased levels of carbon dioxide emitted by man. This is the climate change that is often referred to on the media.

These components are hard or nearly impossible to distinguish. In case of extreme events (e.g. floods, fires etc.) both components come into play. Claiming a single weather event is due to one of those components only is just not based on the scientific facts.

👉 Climate change is currently being discussed from two angles

One is the change of geo-physical climate system. Here we are talking about climate in the sense of weather statistics. This is very well covered by climate sciences.

The second one is the discussion of expected consequences such as tipping pints and extreme weather events. This discussion is very much a political one.

👉 Climate change needs to be tackled in two complementary ways

When it comes to actions on responding to the climate change described above, two approaches need to be balanced.

In the mitigation approach, we need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to lower carbon dioxide levels and limit man-made climate change. This usually occurs on a national/supra-national level. At the same time we need the adaptation approach. Our societies need to adapt to climate change that will occur despite mitigation since reduction of carbon dioxide emissions will not prevent future extreme events such as floods etc. This is a task on regional and local level.

If we are aware of these basic climate change facts, it is possible to separate climate sciences from politics. And the task for politics is then to balance mitigation and adaptation strategies in a reasonable ratio.

How mobility & transportation can decarbonize without just taking symbolic action

Climate change mobility transportation

It’s an old discussion with a lot of biased arguments being repeated continuously. What is clear: Climate change keeps progressing with global carbon dioxide emissions constantly increasing. To slow global warming down, carbon dioxide emissions need to be reduced fast and significantly.

The discussion evolves around symbolic actions

However, a huge part of the discussion on how to achieve this goal does mainly evolve around more or less symbolic actions without any major impact. This is especially true for the transportation and mobility sector. Limiting long-distance air travel, prohibiting domestic flights, introducing speed limits, just to name a few of these actions supposedly saving our planet. Everybody even only having a rough idea about the facts and numbers can see the flaw. Having a look at the global carbon footprint, we realize that the aforementioned measures will only have a very minor, sometimes not even measurable impact. Just to make it clear: These actions won’t save the climate!

Why not? And how can our measures achieve a maximum impact? What are the major levers for carbon dioxide reduction?

Country and sector views reveal the major levers

To identify the major levers, we should have a look at the situation from two angles. On a country level, around 50% of global emissions are caused by the United States, China and India only. On a sector level, the energy sector causes about 1/3 of emissions. Transportation and mobility accounts for about 24%. Further detailing these emission, road vehicles emit 18%, air travel and ships both emit about 2.5%, 1% are caused by other means of transportation (e.g. rail).

Climate change mobility transportation

Carbon dioxide emissions on country and sector level

Countries with the largest emissions in transportation are the United States, China, Russia and India. And the emissions are expected to increase in the future, especially with emerging countries in Asia whose transportation sectors are growing rapidly. These numbers make clear how insignificant measures like prohibiting domestic flights in France or introducing a speed limit in Germany are in the global context. The impact won’t even be measurable.

There are two different approaches to address CO2 reduction taking into consideration the sector and country level view.

 Leveraging mobility technology and innovation

On sector level, we need to leverage technology and innovation. This means that we need to develop green, carbon-neutral technologies and innovations. In the transportation and mobility field, climate-neutral technologies can be battery technology for electric cars, hydrogen-based fuel cells for trucks and aircrafts, alternative fuels for conventional cars with internal combustion engine. Moreover, we need to fully electrify our public transport (e.g. electric buses) and at the same time enhance digitalization and multi-modal mobility to push shared modes such as car and ride sharing connected with and to our public transport.

If we manage to make these technologies not only carbon-neutral but also economically beneficial, then other countries will also adopt them. Even if they only doi it to save cost. The economic argument is an important one since otherwise we cannot make sure that major emitting industry nations and emerging countries are following our decarbonization approach.

By focusing our R&D efforts on these technologies, their positive climate impact can be leveraged across countries and is not restricted to only limited geographies (e.g. Europe). An even further step could include an open source approach. Being driven by a higher cause and being open-minded, our companies owning property rights such as patents could make their technologies and innovations available to the public on a global scale. This would further increase the speed of change.

Investing with maximum impact per Euro spent

It is clear that stopping climate change can only work pursuing an international approach. Therefore on a country level, we need to invest money where the impact on carbon dioxide reduction for each Euro invested is the highest. Usually, money invested in developing countries results in much higher carbon dioxide reductions than the one invested in developed regions such as Central Europe. In an extreme case, not switching off an efficient coal-fired power station could be a rational choice. Instead of investing in expensive green energy options to replace the efficient coal-fired plant in Europe, replacing an old coal-fired power station in Africa by a modern one can have a higher CO2 effect per Euro invested. It is key to leave a primarily country-based view and allocate resources globally to generate the highest carbon dioxide reductions.

The benefits of this approach are twofold. By moving away from symbolic actions just for our peace of conscience, we focus on measures with real impact. And thinking of our (European) economy, we develop the technologies of the future to export globally and to guarantee our wealth, strengthen our social welfare and create meaningful jobs.

My Favorite Mobility Blogs

Best Transit & Mobility Blogs

If you are interested in the future of mobility, you are constantly in search of well-researched and up-to-date information. A good way to find this type of content are blogs. You have probably realized that there are plenty of mobility and tranportation blogs out there. Here are my top picks that I highly recommend.

Best Transit & Mobility BlogsHuman Transit

This is the blog of public transit consultant Jarrett Walker. It focuses on urban mobility and public transport in North America. Jarrett tries to put into perspective the design of public transit and its underlying goals. It’s a great resource for everything related to public transport and commuting.


Best Transit & Mobility Blogs


Streetsblog is a daily new site discussing how to reduce dependence on cars and push alternative modes such as walking, biking, and public transit. It focuses on urban planning and mobility in the US. The blog’s goals are to prevent pedestrian injuries, build out bicycle networks, and make transit more useful. It also offers numerous videos and a podcast.


Best Transit & Mobility Blogs

Zukunft Mobilität

This mobility blog in German language covers pretty much all topics on future mobility. Public transport, air travel, CASE technologies, urban mobility and infrastructure. Author Martin Randelhoff has been blogging about urban transport and mobility for many years and has been featured on German media. If you speak German, that’s the blog to go to!


Best Transit & Mobility BlogsEcomobility

EcoMobility is an ICLEI initiative which is a global network of local and regional governments committed to sustainable urban development. Their goal is to achieve sustainable mobility through policies, planning and implementation. Their resources include articles on public transport, urban freight and emerging mobility trends from electric to shared mobility.


Best Transit & Mobility BlogsThe Urban Mobility Daily

The Urban Mobility Daily is a Paris-based initiative connected to the yearly Autonomy & Urban Mobility Summit. Their content focuses on new mobility topics such as electrification, sharing or Mobility-as-a-service in France and the European Union. It is also open for content contributions.


The Best Podcasts from Mobility, Transportation & Automotive

Best Mobility Podcasts

If you are interested in new mobility topics, you might know that there are plenty of mobility and transportation podcasts out there. With mobility being such a vast space that is interconnected to public transportation, urban planning, the sharing economy and automotive, podcasts are a great way to stay up-to-date.  So here is a brief overview on my personal favorite podcasts in the mobility field.

Shift mobility podcastShift Mobility Podcast

Shift is the mobility-focused podcast from Automotive News. It broadly covers the future of transportation with topics such as sharing services, autonomous driving,  new automotive business models or smart city. Hosts Pete Bigelow and Leslie Allen usually welcome leading mobility experts from North America. Shift is also a leading magazine in the automotive and mobility industry.


Best Mobility Podcasts Digital Kompakt: Automotive Mobility Podcast

The Automotive Mobility Podcast focuses on the CASE topics, namely connected, autonomous, shared and electrified mobility in Germany. The guests are industry experts from German mobility companies. Patrick Setzer with his major industry experience (e.g. BMW, Lufthansa) does a great job of moderating the talks in an informative and competent way. The podcast is integrated in the Digital Kompakt label that is promoted in the advertising sections.


Best Mobility Podcasts

Fully Charged   

Fully Charged is a UK-based clean energy & electric vehicle site featuring blogs, vlogs, shows and podcasts on electric cars. It provides plenty of information on electric mobility and the podcast episodes feature numerous industry experts. It is hosted by writer and broadcaster Robert Llewellyn who discusses a broad range of topics in the field of sustainability.


Best Mobility Podcasts

The Mobility Podcast

The Mobility Podcast features a broad scope of transportation and technology discussions. Typical topics in the mobility space are micromobility, autonomous vehicles and Mobility-as-a-service (MaaS). The guest list is quite international with thought leaders from mobility companies. The podcast is run by Greg Rogers, Gregory Rodriguez and Pete Gould who have strong backgrounds in politics, law and consulting.


Best Mobility Podcasts

Reinventing Transport

Reinventing Transport is a podcast by Paul Barter, an Australian transport-policy researcher. Its common theme is Urban Mobility with talks on parking or transportation case studies of showcase cities such as Singapore. Paul likes to talk to various transport experts and sometimes does episodes only featuring himself. With “Reinventing Parking” he offers a second podcast.


Best Mobility PodcastsThe War on Cars           

The War on Cars podcast contrasts the automobile on one and the city on the other side. Activity-based modes like cycling or walking are major topics. The guest list includes writers, media officials and TV hosts to discuss the latest developments in urban transportation. The podcast is hosted by Doug Gordon, Sarah Goodyear and Aaron Naparstek who are located in New York City.

I admit that this is a very subjective selection and I know that there many other great podcasts in the mobility, transportation and automotive space. Let me know which ones are your favorites and why in the comment section below!

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