Werden Daten zu Grafiken, wird Energie verstehbar
Drüben auf dem Nobel Week Dialogue Blog haben Alice Bell und ich gleich zum Start das Thema Klimawandel aufgegriffen. Alice Bell fragt eher gesellschaftspolitisch. In meinem Beitrag habe ich mich auf Werkzeuge und insbesondere eines, das David MacKay entwickelt hat, fokussiert, den 2050 Pathways Calculator. Mit diesem Werkzeug des britischen Physikers der Cambridge University und UK-Regierungsberaters in Energiefragen kann man herumspielen und testen, wie sich Verhaltensveränderungen und Änderungen im Energiemix eines Landes auswirken.
The impact of energy usage in figures
Alice raised the question of climate change and what we should do about it. We can have long debates without clear answers. As the recent Warsaw Climate Change Conference has shown, it won’t be enough to leave these questions to politicians and decision-makers (Warsaw resulted more in a sale of indulgences than in clear agreements).
First and foremost every one of us remains responsible for the impact we leave behind in the course of our life on earth. But why should individuals act? What would be the consequences if all people did the same and, for example, used the public transport system 20 per cent more often than today. We need an awareness raising.
Today, numerate tools exist for public engagement with energy policy helping people getting a better idea of their impact and the impact of political decisions. One of those is the 2050 Pathways Calculator for the UK. The detailed guidance starts with these sentences:
“The UK is committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by at least 80% by 2050, relative to 1990 levels. For this to happen, we need to transform the UK economy while ensuring secure, low carbon energy supplies to 2050. The 2050 Calculator is a user-friendly model that lets you create your own UK emissions reduction pathway, and see the impact using real UK data. The Calculator helps everyone engage in the debate and lets Government make sure our planning is consistent with the long-term aim.“
Playing with the different options the calculator offers, we may choose between different ways of domestic transport behaviour, home insulation and heating, the usage of marine algae as primary energy source or bioenergy imports – the complete list comprises 42 topics. And for each of them four different answers are possible. A future with only very small changes in behavior inevitably leads to continuously growing final energy demand and more greenhouse gas emissions. (This is the very close relation between energy and climate change, as Alice emphasized).
Different mixtures of energy usage are possible and set into relation to greenhouse gas emission. Biomass power stations in this animation lead to more greenhouse gas emissions. And – no surprise – more nuclear power stations might help to reduce those gases very effectively.
David MacKay, a physics professor at Cambridge University, UK, created the calculator together with hundreds of experts. MacKay is chief scientific adviser to the Department of Energy and Climate Change in the UK, and is a key panellist at this year’s Nobel Week Dialogue. “The calculator takes the poison out of the debate” MacKay told the Guardian (in 2011) and added: “The key thing is that any scenario you choose has to add up.”
By having a realistic idea of the numbers involved, the public can ‘play’ as secretary of state, and get a quantitative understanding of energy. The calculator has been replicated for other countries including China, Korea and Taiwan David MacKay mentioned to me as I contacted him for the lunch session “New formats for communicating science” at NWD13. I will moderate this session and am very happy that he will tell us more about the quantitative public understanding of energy and the value of numbers and figures.
If you have any questions you would like me to ask him, please comment on this blog post!
A little extra
The Department of Energy & Climate Change of the UK also sets out the challenge in the following short animation.