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Living with a tonne of CO2

Die Erde

Is life with one tonne of CO2 utopian? Many of the technologies needed have already been invented and new lifestyles are becoming widespread. Who still remembers a world without the Internet and mobile phones? That was hardly 20 years ago. In exactly the same way, in the not too distant future a life with one tonne of CO2 will be as normal as an SMS is today.

How should we imagine a society that uses no more than one tonne of CO2 per person? We would like to present the Bauers, a typical family of 2050. Andreas is a self-employed programmer, his wife Anna, a teacher, both their children are still at school.

Short travel distances, intelligent mobility

They live in a compactly organised city of a kind that will be widespread in the future. Homes and workplaces are close to each other, and shopping facilities are nearby too. The Bauers do not need a car for everyday use. Andreas works largely from home, Anna can get to school comfortably by bicycle or takes a bus, the children walk to school. They occasionally use an electric car on a car-sharing basis for excursions. 

Intelligent houses with solar heating

When the Bauers are at home, they use no external energy. Thanks to optimal insulation, the house needs no heating. As hardly any heat escapes, the body heat of the residents is usually sufficient to maintain a pleasant temperature. In addition, the façade contains a special substance that melts when exposed to solar radiation, thus storing a lot of energy. The reverse happens, i.e. energy is released, when this substance solidifies again. A sophisticated system transfers the energy into the house where it is emitted as heat.

Solar power and smart grids

Solar cells on the roof cover almost the entire year’s requirements for electricity for the Bauers. However, the output produced at any time rarely corresponds to the need. The answer is a smart grid – a central network that intelligently controls the current drawn by the electric equipment, recharges the electric vehicles depending on the time of day and network utilisation, or draws energy and controls the water-storage power stations. This ensures a reliable energy supply despite constantly changing solar and wind conditions.

Shared use of resources

What began with car-sharing has now become an everyday phenomenon: vacuum cleaners, automatic electric lawn mowers, party equipment for the garden, video projectors, children’s toys and so on are all shared by the residents of the Bauer’s estate in order to save costs, resources and grey energy. 

Eating: predominantly vegetarian and seasonal

As Andreas works from home, he does the family’s shopping in his breaks. The Bauers have a predominantly vegetarian diet. Andreas Bauer takes special care to buy healthy, fresh regional produce involving a minimum of CO2 emissions. Not only are all producers obliged to notify the CO2 data of their products on labels – the environmental balance has in many cases become the main factor via which they distinguish themselves from their competitors. 

New consumer styles become widespread

The Bauers have many friends on their estate with whom they like to cook, play sport or music or go to the theatre. Material consumption no longer counts as a status symbol, in fact it is looked upon somewhat askance. Andreas likes to show his friends the electronic appliances with which he works, his special ambition being to keep the core of an old appliance going for as long as possible and to cleverly upgrade it to the latest requirements with new elements. He is particularly proud of his children, who surpass him ever more frequently in this respect. 

Utopias become reality

A hundred years ago, children died of infections that are no longer a problem. Sixty years ago, lakes and rivers stank, were red from slaughtering on Mondays and foamed white on washdays. Twenty years ago, we were more familiar with Chinese than with www, dot com and @.

Today each of us is responsible for generating 11 tonnes of CO2. In tomorrow’s society, we will have to cut this to one tonne per person and year – because that’s all the earth can tolerate. Wouldn’t it be wise to make a start now? It’s up to everyone and to each of us as individuals. 

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