Unfortunately, in politics we have grossly neglected the protection of nature worldwide, until the mid-1980s. Environmental protection is at its core a conservative policy, because it is about the preservation (in Latin conservare) of nature, to keep our Planet Earth intact, to save it from dangers, to preserve clean air and water and good living conditions for all plants and animals, and as well for us, 7.8 billion homo sapiens.
The good news is that today, basically everyone is in favour of environmental protection.
The bad news: In some countries protecting nature is secondary. The main task is a booming economy.
Yes, there is a serious conflict of goals between fossil energy production and the protection of the environment. Ultimately, the requirements of flora and fauna contrast with the needs of people for food, energy, raw materials, space, mobility, jobs or recreation.
How can this conflict of interest be solved best with a modern Green Policy 4.0 with heart and mind?
In a meeting at the Munich Security Conference 2016 His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa summed up the solution in one sentence:
“All we need is respect. For nature, all creatures and human beings. A holistic approach to life.”
We must not ignore the needs of animals and plants, but neither the needs of human beings. Protecting the life of plants, animals and human beings is a central task. We need to analyse and consider the consequences in each individual case including all implications for the needs of citizens. What is required is a new holistic harmony of nature and people.
Forward-looking environmental protection policy means recognizing the big picture: Develop everyone’s potential. Never forget nature nor the people. Combining harmonious thinking with political action is crucial for sound environmental protection.
Holistic environmental protection for nature and people is indispensable for a good future.
Respect: for all creatures, created by God and nature, on earth. We must act with heart and mind and we need a sense of proportion and realism.
Optimism instead of doomsday fears.
Technological progress instead of simple bans.
A concordance with other important goals and the soul of free societies: Work and prosperity for all and the individual freedom for self-realization of human beings in dignity. In other words, protecting the two supporting pillars of viable democracies in an era of two simultaneous dramatic challenges posed by the rising totalitarian superpower China and the Fourth Industrial Revolution .
International agreements instead of national solo efforts, which on a global scale must really go up in smoke. We must always consider the global effects, because the climate knows no boundaries. Never take a national frog’s-eye view but choose a global perspective.
The facts: China is by far the largest emitter of greenhouse gases (with 11.5 billion tons of CO2 equivalent or 23.5 percent share in 2015), followed by the USA (6.6 billion or 13.4 percent). The EU28 was responsible for 4.3 billion or 8.8 percent, with Germany accounting for 0.9 billion tons (1.9 percent). India accounted for 6 percent with 3 billion tons.
China’s share has grown to 30 percent over the last five years. Between 1990 and 2015, the EU was the only major industrial region to reduce its emissions by 22 percent. The United States increased its emissions by only 5 percent in these 15 years despite economic growth. In contrast, the Peo- ple’s Republic of China emitted 239 percent more greenhouse gases and India 145 percent more.
A bitter reality: Without China’s participation, climate protection cannot succeed at all. But this superpower wants to emit even more CO2 by at least 2030, according to its President Xi at the UN General Assembly in September 2020.
The decarbonization of Europe has contributed to the global price reduction of fossil fuels, i.e. coal and oil, thus favoring the construction of dirty coal-fired power plants and refineries in Asia, Africa and South America. Does this benefit the global climate? Any savings in North America and Europe will thus be neutralized and the global level of pollution further increased. We must therefore always ask: What is China doing and how do our environmental protection measures affect the global climate in figures?
There is climate change – that is a fact that nobody can deny. Of course, it is also man-made due to our CO2 emissions. But climate change also has other long-term causes, if we look at it over 200 years or longer. These include changes in the rotation and orbit of the Earth in relation to the sun (eccentricity, obliquity and precession), its intensity (number and size of sunspots), volcanoes, vegetation trends, ocean currents and cloud development. This is indicated by the often dramatic and long-term changes of cold and warm periods before industrialisation over many millennia. More research without taboos is needed into all long-term causal relationships.
A totalitarian radicalism aimed at fundamentally changing our sensitive industrial landscapes with a flood of bans does not fit to the needs of human beings. Environmental totalitarianism – as advocated by organisations like “Extinction Rebellion” – does not convince. A new green dictatorship? Not considering its consequences. This is not a desirable solution, but instead a dangerous aberration – why?
This ideology simply ignores human beings with their varied needs and desires for freedom instead of being forced to comply with rigid regulations. As a result, this ideology is often too misanthropic, anti-liberal and authoritarian.
It ignores both the fact that the world climate is borderless, and the global world order is dominated by the labor and economic competitors China and the U.S.
Moreover, it endangers the stability of our fragile democracies. Should, for example, millions of people in Europe lose their jobs, be driven into impoverishment, receive no pensions while spending on education and culture is curtailed because the economy has broken down? Without cheap travel, for example, tourism, which in turn benefits museums, theatres, artists and small restaurants, would come to a stand- still. Without meat consumption agriculture would be stifled. The villages would be deserted and those who are poor can- not afford an expensive steak for € 28. Is that socially just: Expensive meat for millionaires instead of millions? People living in rural areas need mobility. This is the only way for millions to get to work or to the doctor in the next town. In 2020/21, the Corona crisis proved the damage radical shutdowns can have for the economy and transport business as a whole. Do we want to immortalise this state of affairs as a new poor but green paradise?
We do not need ruthless, naive and unfinished environmental dictatorships, but exactly the opposite: a de-ideologisation and de-emotionalisation of environmental debates offering a clarity of vision and a sound course of action. There must be no taboos, no muzzling of thoughts and no dictates. Instead, we need broad and open-ended ecological debates on feasible green solutions. Why are so many people resisting this? Isn’t that the essence of democracy?
We must not destroy the economy delivering the basis of all prosperity and our democracies. The goal is a viable democracy through sound economic policy and effective environmental protection. We all need clean water and air as well as cheap energy and secure jobs for millions. We cannot feed hungry children with a green dictatorship.
Sound policy urgently requires an overarching conservation plan examining all negative effects of pollution on the environment, individuals and the economy. Precise calculations with all effects. However, many programmes are decided on political grounds without in-depth analysis. They sound convincing and meet broad approval, but they are relatively superficial and insufficiently planned with regard to all consequences and costs. Instead, every environmental protection measure must be thoroughly examined in advance with a 500-page plan and discussed publicly over a period of several months in parliaments and the public at large with many bro- ad and open hearings. These include: Pros and cons, cost estimates with best- and worst-case scenarios, effects on other areas, especially the tax burden, energy costs, jobs in global competition, effectiveness, financing. Role models from all over the world. Alternatives for action. We also need a review with interim reports and a readjustment every two years.
No new green dictatorship of prohibition. Environmental protection should not rely on bans, but on positive incentives and persuasion. Otherwise, green good will strangles our freedoms. Environmental protection must not place too great a burden on the working population, the poor, students or pensioners. That is the only way green democracy can work well.
Green Technologies needed
Priority must be given to comprehensive financing, development, market readiness and rapid application of new environmental technologies. This is the ventricle of thoughtful environmental protection. This is how we can save the world.
Environmental protection cannot be achieved against but should best be implemented in partnership with industry. One such positive example is the often-criticized Swiss food giant Nestlé: With an investment volume of 3.2 billion Swiss francs, greenhouse emissions are to be drastically reduced. From 92 million tons of emissions (2018) to half in 2030 and to zero by 2050. To achieve this, the group is changing the agricultural cultivation methods of its 50,000 farmers and 150,000 suppliers, its operational activities and its pro- duct portfolio, and is also planting 200 million trees in producer countries. From 2022, it will ensure that there is no deforestation to grow palm oil and soy. In just five years, electricity at the 800 sites will be generated exclusively by renewable energy. Nestlé proves it can be done.
U.S. gas producer Air Products and Saudi power plant operator ACWA will produce climate-neutral ammonia from solar power and wind starting in 2025. They are planning a new type of plant in the desert at a cost of five billion U.S. dollars. The green gas will initially be used in shipping to replace heavy oils, which are particularly harmful to the environment.
Measures to counter humanity’s influence on climate change are very important. We must also be committed to preserving biodiversity at home and in the primeval forests and protecting rivers and oceans from overfishing and waste. Always in partnership with local populations.
We need a sophisticated overall global eco-strategy encompassing a philanthropic and environmental-friendly new approach Green 4.0. We should always examine the opportunities of new green and safe environmental protection and energy technologies without prejudice and massively promote their research and development.
With a Green Realpolitik 4.0 with heart and mind. A sense of proportion and progress is required if we are to save the environment and preserve humanity and freedom.
- Lets promote a fresh Holistic Environmental Protection for Nature and People Policy Green 4.0: In climate and environmental protection we need maximum openness and flexibility, creativity and effectiveness. Ideologies, prejudices and silos of thought prevent both effective and economical environmental protection. Well-intentioned is too often the opposite of well done. Foaming overzealousness clouds the mind. But a clear mind is exactly what we need, because environmental protection is vital for the survival of all of us. On the basis of far-sighted planning and precautions we can actively fight climate change and the threat to plants, animals and people with a sense of proportion. Let us conduct environmental protection free of fear and hysteria. They paralyse rational thinking and adequate measures. We can save the world and keep our democracies strong and viable if we design a new Green 4.0 policy with heart and mind.
- The EU, the USA, Japan and Canada should purchase large areas in South America, Africa and Asia with a $ 20 billion fund “Save the Rainforests”. Following the best examples and together with the WWF, local populations and go- vernments, we should cultivate the rainforests as sound ecospheres. This would not only allow saving the rainforests from future destruction but also help to curb climate change.
- A major global re-forestation programme can both safeguard biodiversity and bind large quantities of CO2 pollutants. ETH Zurich published an analysis of this in the journal “Science” in August 2019: 900 million hectares are available on our globe for possible reforestation programmes, an area as large as the USA or Brazil. Huge areas are available in Russia (152 million hectares), the USA (103 million), Canada (78 million), Australia (58 million), Brazil (50 million) and China (40 million). This could increase the world’s forest cover by a third. The new trees, growing over 30 to 60 years, would filter an estimated 205 giga tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere. A total of 300 gigatonnes have been released into the atmosphere since the industrial revolution from the mid-19th century onwards. Rapid reforestation will also make it possible to meet the IPCC climate target and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. In January 2021, French President Emmanuel Macron promoted the “Green Wall” in Africa at the “One Planet Summit” on climate and species protection. Like a green ribbon, thousands of kilometers of trees are to be planted in the Sahel and stop further desertification.
- Thousands of green roofs in the cities. We should transform thousands of square kilometres of dead, barren roofs into beautiful green oases of recreation. The goal: green roofs and improved quality of life. This would cost next to nothing but benefit people and the environment.
Half of the usable roofs should be converted into green recreational oases. Singapore, Paris and Barcelona are setting good examples by promoting the greening of grey roofs. Accessible roof gardens with irrigated plants, recreational areas and small units such as greenhouses, tool sheds, barbecues and recreational facilities. People must enjoy and be at the centre of newly cultivated green roofs. Because in the end, it is all about them.
Why are green roofs so important?
There is a shortage of living space in our cities. Therefore, more and more gaps between buildings are being filled. This means that open spaces for flora and fauna in the city are becoming scarce. Fine dust pollution and temperatures are rising in the city centres. There is no room for new green spaces. Many square kilometres of dead space lie on the un- used grey roofs, which we should make green and win over as recreational space for stressed city dwellers.
Green roofs benefiting the environment and citizens have no less than 14 advantages:
They make important contributions to nature in general, to the conservation of flora and fauna and to species conservation. Sealed areas turn into flora and fauna habitats. Greenery and plantings offer perfect conditions for wild plants, birds, bees and butterflies. The newly created habitats have an important function as island biotopes in grey cities.
The result: Significant climate improvement with cooler and fresher air in the cities. Generally, cities are warmer and have less exchange of air than their surrounding areas. Due to reduced heating and correspondingly low reflection, planted roofs provide cooling and humidify the air with the result of lower air temperatures. Green roofs actively counteract the urban heat island effect (UHI). The plants absorb the light, which is otherwise converted into heat. This has a particular- ly positive effect on adjoining residential or office spaces and makes a valuable contribution to improving the microclimate in inner cities.
Less rainwater goes into the sewage system. Green roofs can absorb 70 to 90 percent of rainfall in summer and 25 to 40 percent in winter, depending on planting and thickness. A large part of the rainwater is returned to the natural water cycle through evaporation. It is not channeled into the sewa- ge system without function and at a cost. Overloading during thunderstorms is avoided. This saves the city money.
Reducing dust and pollutants and the greenhouse effect. A healthier life. Plants filter a lot of dust and other substances from the air which are retained and recycled.
Electromagnetic radiation decreases. According to a study by the American organisation www.greenroof.org these harmful rays are absorbed by more than 99 percent. Thermal insulation all year round against heat and cold saves energy.
Reduces carbon dioxide. Green roofs improve thermal in- sulation in summer and winter. This saves enormous amounts of energy for heating or cooling in summer, and thus reduces the city’s carbon dioxide footprint.
Sound insulation for homes and their inhabitants. Green roofs reduce sound reflection in noisy cities and improve roofs’ sound insulation by an estimated 46-50 decibels. An investment programme worth billions.
Green roofs create hundreds of thousands of new jobs and tax revenue in the hundreds of millions. Unused roof areas in cities are gigantic. Planning, maintenance and expansion would amount to a major economic stimulus package, benefiting above all small and medium-sized enterprises in the ecological sector.
Produce organic food through urban gardening, rooftop farming or guerilla gardening. According to an analysis by the renowned Fraunhofer Centre for Intelligent Construction Technology, 360 million square metres are suited for urban vegetable cultivation, especially in lightweight greenhouses in Germany alone. City dwellers could thus produce their fresh fruit and vegetables themselves. They would no longer have to be imported from faraway countries with harmful consequences for the environment. Moreover, green roofs would achieve greater longevity.
Professional green roofs would not only save expenses but would also be better sealed. The direct impact of sun rays would be diminished, and the risk of mechanical damage would be lower than with pure gravel.
More and more areas are being sealed. Derelict land and greenery are disappearing. Designing and creating green roof oases help compensate for this loss.
Active roof terraces increase the quality of life and promote health. Green roof oases offer people pure relaxation and quality of life. The same goes for roof designs incorporating small saunas or greenhouses. People can enjoy clean and fresh air increasing the sense of community and quality of life increase in concrete deserts. This could promote overall health of stressed city dwellers.
A green lively city is always more attractive than a grey “sea of concrete”. Cities could blossom again making them more attractive.
The advantages for tenants and owners are obvious. Greenery makes homes more attractive. Community gardens on large blocks of flats increase tenants’ sense of togetherness. As with the promotion of children’s playgrounds, roof gardens could be given priority under construction laws. Homes become more inviting and hospitable.
- We could plant thousands of kilometres of green strips along all motorways, roads and railway lines as organic meadows for butterflies, bees and birds and maintain them through citizen sponsorships.
- Clean-River & Ocean Initiative: 330 gigantic container ships navigate on the world’s oceans. As little as 15 of these vessels with their heavy oil engines produce as much carbon dioxide as 750 million cars. Who will finally do something about this form of environmental pollution? A sensible approach would be to switch to synthe- tic fuels or liquid natural gas (LNG).
The Rotterdam-based company “Ocean Cleanup” wants to clean the 1,000 most polluted rivers worldwide. 80 percent of the waste in seas enters the oceans through only 10 major rivers. For its conservation effort, the company uses its solar- powered Interceptor, which eliminates waste with the water flow. The Dutch company “The Great Bubble Barrier” uses air barriers to filter plastic waste from rivers.
- Research into new synthetic fuels, hydrogen and electric propulsion systems must be stepped up. Synthetic fuels emit 65 percent less pollutants than low-emission diesel engines. China and Japan announced their new programmes for hydrogen cars in 2019.
- New clean coal power stations and safer nuclear and fusion technologies: Despite all the progress in the use of wind and solar energy, many countries (such as France, Poland, China, India, USA or Australia) continue to rely on coal or nuclear power. While they cannot be prevented to invest in fossil fuels, clean and safe technologies are available today. These countries are not likely to revamp their reliance on fos- sil energy in the short-term.
But without China, India and the U.S., global warming cannot be curbed. A joint approach to global environmental protection will only succeed, if we employ new and effective green technologies. The above-mentioned countries have set their priorities on cheap energy and job creation as a prerequisite for stability, prevention of social unrest and broad public approval. Pure altruism will hardly convince them to fol- low us. Otherwise, their emissions would already be comparable to reductions in Europe (minus 22 percent). But quite the contrary, they are rising dramatically, especially in China in the next decade.
India possesses the first coal-fired power station that does not emit carbon dioxide. The company “Carbon Clean Solu- tions” collects the emissions and converts them into sodium carbonate. It is used to produce glass, detergents and baking powder.
In September 2020, the Dutch government announced the continued operation of its sole nuclear power plant and the possible construction of three to ten more, because “nuclear energy is indispensable in the fight against climate change”. Wind and solar energy would require too much space. Nuclear energy would also reduce the dependency on Russian gas imports and oil from the Middle East.
The “Traveling Wave Reactor” (TWR) generates its energy from nuclear waste and even disposes of it. It is a clean and safe nuclear reactor of the latest generation. Moreover, it is incapable of producing weapon-grade plutonium. It would be well-suited for high-risk countries like Iran.
The technology of the ITER nuclear fusion reactor in France, with its novel energy production based on the Tokamek principle (strong magnetic field in which deuterium-tritium gas is converted into hot plasma) from safe fusion energy, could make all coal-fired and nuclear power stations obsolete, thus saving the world’s climate. 35 countries have been involved in this worldwide largest energy project since 2007, including the EU, USA, Japan, South Korea, Russia, India and China. Hydrogen plasma is scheduled to be genera- ted there for the first time in December 2025 (details in iter.org).