On the 9th of December, E4S and CLIMACT co-organized a Poster Conference called “Key aspects and current issues of climate change”. The event was held in the context of Prof. Julia Schmale’s course “Science of Climate Change”, which is part of both the new Master in Sustainable Management and Technology offered by UNIL-HEC, IMD and EPFL, and the new minor in Sustainable Engineering (EPFL).
On this cold Thursday afternoon, 47 EPFL Master students gathered to unveil the results of 4 intense weeks of interdisciplinary work and share their findings on various topical climate change issues. The session was designed to be interactive, with the audience strolling from one poster to another, asking questions, interacting, and challenging the 16 groups of students.
From negative emission technologies, green finance all the way to the impact of covid-19 on greenhouse gas emissions, a large variety of urgent topics were covered. At the end of the event, Prof. Julia Schmale, who led the initiative, and Jean-Pierre Danthine, the E4S Managing Director, praised all participants: “We were amazed by the quality of your posters, they initiated really inspiring conversations”.
“I am very proud of the students”, she confided afterward. “The course is challenging for them because it is designed around working in interdisciplinary teams, where every team member’s specific skills are needed to address the problems to solve. A special thanks needs to go to all teaching assistants who greatly facilitated the processes.”
On CLIMACT’s side, Executive Director Nicolas Tetreault expressed his confidence in the students’ capacity to become the leaders of tomorrow in a sustainable society: “The conference aimed at having you work together in an interdisciplinary and interinstitutional mode. It is really gratifying to see how you managed to present topics that are sometimes difficult, technical, emotional, or even scary, with so much confidence. You really put your heart into it!”
Despite the high-quality work, not everyone could win, and the jury had to make a difficult choice. Meet the 3 winners, Elodie Savioz, Olivier Lonneux, and Hugo Fenoli-Rebellato, who produced the poster “Net Zero by 2050: between myths and realities”!
What is your poster about?
“Net Zero by 2050” is one of the main goals that we should achieve to “save the world” in terms of CO2 emissions. With our poster we tried to be as objective as possible. We studied 3 questions: What do we have to do according to science to achieve the Net Zero? What are the governments doing? And most importantly, our critics: is it feasible or not?
What did you learn during this exercise?
A lot. Mainly that it is a good goal, but maybe not very realistic, because lots of policies and measures are not really implemented by governments to achieve Net Zero. In addition, we think that metrics are a key problem. Net Zero is obviously based on the reduction of CO2 emissions and currently there are many different paths to get there but they all have their challenges and different consequences on temperature increase, and these are the main issue.
Why did you choose this topic?
Because it is concrete. It was on the COP 26’s agenda and in all current debates. We wanted to know if it can be materialized or if we only speak about it. When you discuss these issues with people, they say: “Yes, I heard about that, but is it realistic? What is the science behind it?”. And this is what we tried to find out.
So, according to science, what do we need to do to achieve Net Zero?
There are two ways to move towards Net Zero: reduce our emissions or capture emissions from the atmosphere. Clearly, science points towards the first solution and encourages a reduction in our emissions. The other solution is good but not as effective and should rather be used to minimize what is left once, we have lowered our emissions!
What are governments doing?
There are a lot of meetings, congresses, assemblies that deal with the problem and many countries have signed Net Zero pledges by 2050, but unfortunately, some actors like China, India and the US have not. In our view, governments discuss a lot, but the promises made are not yet observable.
Finally, do you think it is feasible or not?
Science provides a lot of solutions and facts that are unfortunately not considered by governments. Even if their promises were kept, it would not be enough. Governments do not always follow the scientific recommendations to reduce emissions. The madness of technology leads many countries to believe that it will save us, but these technologies do not yet exist, or are not yet applicable. Without listening to science, Net Zero will not be achieved, we must look at the facts rather than speculate on a reality that does not exist.
In your master’s degree, you take courses from UNIL-HEC, IMD and EPFL. How did this interdisciplinarity help you for this project?
Elodie and I [Hugo] are in the E4S Master but not Olivier, who does the Master of Robotics at EPFL. This association allowed us to approach our subject from a technical perspective and to communicate our work in a comprehensive way. The multidisciplinarity of the E4S Master forces us to become good communicators, since we address all dimensions of a problem, from its technical challenge to the building of a competent team. It is difficult to understand all the concepts because we don’t have the same bachelor’s degree, but a certain balance has been created and we were able to help and complement each other.
“The course is challenging for them because it is designed around working in interdisciplinary teams, where every team member’s specific skills are needed to address the problems to solve. A special thanks needs to go to all teaching assistants who greatly facilitated the processes.”
Full list of topics covered by the class: “Essential Climate Variables”, ”Global Carbon Cycle”, “Negative Emission Technology”, “What are the most useful everyday actions for limiting climate change?”, “Recommended webpages to stay up to date on climate research and news”, “Debunking climate myths, CO2”, “Methane and N2O emissions by sector”, “How are our global forests doing?”, “Our carbon footprint”, “Net zero by 2050”, “Share and potential of renewable energy”, “Impact of covid-19 on greenhouse gas emissions”, “What do we learn from the climate action tracker?”, “Can we meet the Paris Agreement?”, “The broken promise of climate finance”.