They do exist – sustainable solutions to the massive problems of our times but they rarely make it into the mainstream media. goodGURU invites wise pioneers and inconvenient lateral thinkers to regular evening lectures in order to popularize their theses.  » German

The quarterly series of lectures serves as a focal point for establishing a community of people who are no longer content with the status quo, who advocate deep humanistic values, who fight for visions and are ready to accept responsibility for the crisis-ridden planet.  » German

For this worldwide growing interest group we are planning a medial companion, a publication which promises orientation and clarification – as the first integral social magazine in the world. Later on goodGURU will be expanded into a brand that stands for a sustainable lifestyle.  » German

goodGURU shall become the nucleus for a new way of thinking. Ideally its circulation will lead to other debates and thus to a change of consciousness and conduct of more and more people – away from an ego-driven economy to a constructive and considerate togetherness.  » German

A declaration by Gerhard Knies

How can we make planet Earth to a Viable World for 10 billion People?


For many years I have been looking at the question: How could 10 billion people live lastingly on earth? One thing is for certain: not like the 7 billion now. But how then? Here are myi thoughts:


1. From expansion to balance. Natural and social living conditions for humanity on earth are strongly coined by climate. Humans have adjusted their habits, civilization and infrastructure for daily life to the current natural situation. While natural capacities are overused already and living spaces and resources visibly declining, world population is expanding from 7 to 10 billion and overshooting planetary carrying capacities. Climate change is introducing a new quality into international politics: CO2emissions from one nation impact all other nations, without a chance for them to preserve ‘their’ climate. National sovereignty is undermined and depleted by climate change and by globalization. While peoples have been expanding autonomously in the past they only had to ‘arrange’ with neighbors. Most enmities were between neighbors.

Now they are facing the collective challenge of global limits that they can cope with only collectively. Current social and natural human life supporting systems have primarily been geared to exploit the ecosystems to serve human needs. Now they need also maintenance. This requires to foresee limits and measures of precaution. The 2°C limit aims to at least sustain present habitability of the planet. Decisive factors to stay within the 2°C limit are:

1. Energy supply without harmful emissions

2. Timely termination of global population growth

3. Earth-wide political co-operation for ecological security (Common Ecological Security)

2.1 Energy without emissions. The most imminent risk for stability of natural living conditions for humanity, and especially of the global climate, are CO2 emissions from fossil energy use. For a stable climate, with a maximum of 2°C increase in temperature, two conditions must be met: (1) CO2-emissions must to be reduced to a lastingly compatible level, of about 3 Gigatons (Gt) per year, and (2) at most 500 Gt of CO2 might be emitted to the atmosphere in excess before this limit. To this end approximately 32 years are left for a linear reduction of current emissions, from 35 Gt/y to 3 Gt/y. The high developed countries must reduce their CO2 emissions to less than 10% of now. Otherwise, climate change could get out of control and reduce the ecological carrying capacity of earth for humans from currently 4-5 to about 3 billion or less. Hence we need energy generation without emissions, like from solar irradiation or wind.

2.2 Termination of global population growth via prosperity for all? Humanity already exceeds the carrying capacity of the planet by 50%. A continuously increasing world population will make stable living conditions unachievable. There are several factors influencing global population growth. In high developed countries we observe that population growth has turned negative. An ethically and socially acceptable way to end population growth also in low developed, and in particular in the least developed countries (LDC), may become feasible through enhancing prosperity there as well. By transition to clean energies CO2 emissions can be kept low. Since LDCs are predominantly located in or near the desert belt of earth, they could receive energy from deserts. Alliances of high and low developed countries can make this possible. Creation of prosperity for all byusing renewable energies could end global population growth and stop climate change.

2.3 Political model for ecological security. Humanity as a co-operative for a viable worldii. To cease the ecological depletion of earth, nations as well as civil society need to team up and work together. Nations however continue to defend their waning autonomy and sovereignty, and to fight for national privileges and prestige, mostly at expense of others. An ecologically and socially stable world with 10 billion humans could be technically feasible though, if humanity would team up as co-operative for a viable world, and the world would be organized as living place for humanity, as a condominium for peoples instead as battleground for nations. As long as we view the world as battleground, we will get battlefields. Military handling of domestic or international conflicts, with unforeseeable and uncontrollable collateral damages for people, nature, society and civilization, has become incompatible with the fragility and vulnerability of biosphere, societies and civilization. Present level of military spending must be reduced like the level of CO2 emissions. Now humanity needs global, ecological and political concepts and actors instead of stronger national armed forces. The present unsustainable and the new viable-world views are depicted in the following figure. The necessary transition can occur rapidly if the nations holding big power agree. However, already a single powerful nation can spoil the global effort and exceed the globally tolerable 3Gt/y CO2 emission limit unilaterally and thus upset the global 2°C limit.

3. Sealing fossil energy deposits.World-wide transition to clean energy within 32 years is a prerequisite of a safe world for 10 billion people. It is achievable if pursued in a concerted, timely and global manner, without restrictions from struggles for hegemony or from fossil fuel business protection. Due to its existential necessity for humanity, failure is not acceptable. Continued CO2 emissions would act like a chemical weapons against future generations and need to be ended. But there is a severe problem: We know more than 6 times as many conventional fossil fuel deposits than we may use before we upset the 2°C limit. Even though many governments continue the search for more deposits. This is preparation of a climate disaster for the coming generations – also in their countries. To leave 85% of the known fossil reserves in the ground will never be achieved through market mechanisms alone, like cost competition between renewable and fossil energies, as long as the latter need not pay for their follow-up collateral damages. Safety of the natural human living base is an undisputable ethical duty towards future generations in all countries. We need a very effective political "global governance". Will it be possible to convey this insight to the ‘grand fossil powers’? It will require global cooperation of all actors.

4. Emission-free energy for all. For a climatically, socially and demographically stable world with 10 billion people, emission free power of about 80.000 TWh/year would be sufficient. This requires a yearly addition of clean supply capacity of 2500 TWh/y, corresponding to a clean generating capacity of about 1200 GW/y, in suitable combination of decentralized and centralized structures. About 300 are needed to replace existing fossil capacities and 900 for the growing demand,. The current installation rates for wind (40 GW/y), photovoltaic (40GW/y) and CSP (1GW/y) are far too low, but an increase to about 1000 GW/y over the next 32 years is ambitious but technically feasible. For generating solar power, deserts have the best insolation and the necessary sites. For a pure solar production of the afore-mentioned 80,000 TWh/y about 800,000 kmÇ desert area would be sufficient, which equates to 2% of global desert area. For comparison: this is equal to 1/3 of Algerian deserts. With electricity from solar and wind energy, and with significantly higher energy efficiency, fossil fuels - apart from fuel for aviationiii- could be replaced sufficiently and timely with existing green energy technologies.

5. Security in the Anthropocene. earth as condominium for humanity, and humanity as co-operative for a viable world. An ecologically safe world for 10 billion people will not be achieved as long as super powers compete for hegemony. Each of present superpower can overrun the 2°C limit by ‘internal’ resources and emissions, and none will be considerate of the environment when striving for supremacy. Therefore termination of climate change requires this new perception of earth: as a condominium for humanity instead as a battleground for nation states. All peoples would then benefit, as opposed to when each nation state organizes its own safety measures, often even at expense of others. The threats from an altered ecosphere, like higher temperature and higher sea levels, can only be ceased to a very limited extent by independent national counter-measures. Nations can protect their people against ecological disturbances from others only by cooperative prevention. Here we can learn a lot from established house rules for residential condominiums or from traffic rules for the behavior of humanity and nation states on earth. The results of battlefield mode are genocide, as demonstrated in Syria and elsewhere; on the flipside the effect of condominium-mode can be seen in Europe where former enemies cooperate and flourish since 1945. Can this be a governance model for global climate security?

6. Desertec as an enabler of the 2°C limit. Humanity is challenged to build a safe world. Instead of 200 independent national securities we need a planetary ecological security, like the 2ÆC limit, and a developmental security, like sufficient prosperity for all. Desertec was designed in 2003 along these linesiv: to create a ‘community for energy, water and climate security and for good neighborhood in a region of crisis’. Deserts can deliver sufficient clean energy – over 3,000,000 TWh/y from technically useful deserts, more than 100 times the present global electricity consumption – and connect nations and foster worldwide co-operation. Thereby a substantial step for an appreciation of the planet to a friendly habitat for humanity can be achieved. Within a condominium world Desertec can contribute to keeping the 2°C limit in many ways, by enabling production of

(1) clean electricity for about 10 billion people in almost every region of earth

(2) sufficient energy for a developed civilization for all, as needed for ending world population growth

(3) dispatchibel emission-free energy day and night, in summer and winter, as required to almost completely phase out fossil energy carriers, and by

(4) interconnecting nations for green power and obsoleting all the military structures set up to ensure access to foreign fossil fuel deposits.

7. From national privilege to a humane globalization. Especially industrial nations and LDCs could activate substantial synergies from a deliberate cooperation for use of energy from deserts. With best know-how and best solar potential combined, a large step in the transition to a viable world could be made. Such strategic cooperation for a just development could start out as "Desertec Tandems" of a few willing north and south countries and expand further subsequently, like the European Union which started out with six countries only. The example of the EU shows that and how a multi-purpose co-operative for many nations can be formed. For its ecological safety, humanity does not need an ecological dictatorship or a world state or a better human species. But it definitely needs the buildup of a global ecocooperative with the goal to end the ecological overshoot situation on this finite planet. Along the lines of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), now an ‘Organization to Create a Viable World for 10 billion People’ should follow. May be the EU can initiate the formation of a viableworld co-operative by climate partnerships with low developed countries.

8. 1 day per week for think tanks. Since humanity went beyond the self-healing capacity of nature, global development paths have to take into account a highly coupled system and long-range effects into the future. Current global ecological fragility requires new security thinking and a future-oriented security policy. The necessary global transition to clean and inexhaustible energy could be financed with much less than the global military expenditures: from 1 day per week. But the battleground mindset of nation state leaders blocks the willingness for global cooperation and ties up the financial means. In the condominium mode however, political cooperation for feasible solutions of climate and other global problems could begin immediately, and the necessary financial means be unleashed as well. Within a co-operative for a viable world, some units of present national military forces could become supporting forces for prosperity and peace of a global society. One really must not ponder how magnificently humanity could get along on planet Earth if people would consider well-being for all as top priority. To create a viable world, we need to think the world anew, we need now think tanks instead of fighter tanks. Bye bye battleground!

9. Rivals to partners. Exactly this was the starting point for Desertec 10 years ago, and is still our aspiration: through co-operation between diverse and especially conflict bearing regions, powers and actors, the world can be turned step by step from a battleground for rivals into a condominium of partners. This will be politically more complex than achieving nationally defined targets by individual nations, but it is on track to a truly viable world. New technologies may solve or enhance current problems. But only a new political mindset, in which nation states are allies for humanity, can bring us to a viable world. And only within a viable world nations can flourish in future. Therefore I raise the question: What if we operate Earth as living place for humansv instead as battleground for nations? What is holding us and our political leaders back from delivering this service to us and future generations?


i  I should point out that I have been influenced by a slogan from Albert Einstein saying: „You cannot solve a problem with that same mindset that brought you into it. You have to think the world anew”.

ii  Here is a very preliminary list of criteria for a viable world:

1. Safe basic living conditions: physical shelter, clean air, fresh water, sufficient food for all (10 bn)

2. Developed life style for all and without discrimination: education, health services, no (extreme) poverty, etc.

3. Societal safety (like existence of human rights): No inner-national discrimination of individuals or groups,

4. Safe civilization (eco-compatible and stable) for 10 bn, i.e. economy without externalized costs, production without collateral damages (pollution) and without essential dependence on or depletion of critical resources,

5. Ecological safety: world population, human behaviour and demands within global ecological capacity, planetary boundaries, and bio-genetic stability, no (rapid?) climate change,

6. Global cohabitation of peoples: no international (developmental) discrimination, world organized as living space (condominium) and not as military, economic or ethnical battlefield

7. Fair play with future generations

iii  When carbon is replaced by hydrogen, then GHG CO2  is replaced by H2O. In altitudes with precipitation (rain, snow) the H2O content is regularly removed by gravity, whenever saturation is reached. There the average content of H2O cannot be enlarged by just more emissions. However, in large and cold heights the H2O content comes as microscopic ice crystals which will not cluster to rain drops, and not fall down like rain. Thus the amount of H2O and so the Green House effect can be enhanced by H2O from hydrogen fuel from aircrafts in large altitudes.

iv  The Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation TREC adopted a proposal made by His Royal Highness Prince Hassan bin Talal from Jordan in 2001.

v  The world in which I spent the most recent 55 years of my life was quite predominantly such a world: the world of science, in the field of elementary particle research. This was so also because of the shock to most physicists, when they saw how their research work was ‘used’ for nuclear warfare, with the option of extinguishing humankind. By now, there are many organizations viewing and treating the world as living place for humans. The most stubborn supporters of the global battleground mindset are, however, nation states, democratic and authoritarian ones. Internally, they have replaced battleground by law and order, internationally, however, many still prepare for brute force.


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