Top 10Publicationsof 2014

This selection of the ten most important scientific publications of the Wuppertal Institute in 2014 provides an insight into the current international recognised research activities in the context of sustainability transformations.

Transdisciplinary Methods

Wechsler, Dietmar
Crowdsourcing as a method of transdisciplinary research: Tapping the full potential of participants

In: Futures 60 (2014), pp. 14-22

Within the scope of citizen science projects, crowdsourcing has already expanded into scientific application areas, its scientific potential being only partly exhausted, however. Dietmar Wechsler shows in his article that transdisciplinary research is made up in content and structural aspects in such a way that crowdsourcing can fully unfold as a research method through varied participation possibilities, reflective processes and use of contemporary technical possibilities. Furthermore, mutual learning, understanding and the dissemination of knowledge strongly profits from effects that even result automatically in this context.

Energy- and Climate Transition

Terrapon-Pfaff, Julia; Dienst, Carmen; König, Julian; Ortiz, Willington
A cross-sectional review: Impacts and sustainability of small-scale renewable energy projects in developing countries

In: Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 40 (2014), pp. 1-10

Access to sustainable and affordable energy services is a crucial factor in reducing poverty in developing countries. In particular, small-scale and community-based renewable energy projects are recogised as important forms of development assistance. However, to date only a few empirical evaluations exist which analyse the impact of these projects on local living conditions and their sustainability ex-post implementation. To better understand the impacts and conditions, that influence sustainability of these projects, Julia Terrapon-Pfaff, Carmen Dienst, Julian König and Willington Ortiz evaluated 23 local development projects post implementation in their article "A Cross-Sectional Review: Impacts and Sustainability of Small-Scale Renewable Energy Projects in Developing Countries". The empirical evidence suggests, that the sustainability of small-scale energy implementation is independent of the socio-cultural, political and ecological context, but rather depends on community management models, finance mechanisms and geographical location. These findings allow to better predict the long-term success of small sustainable energy projects in developing countries and help to improve project designs and increase investment security.

Yetano Roche, Maria; Lechtenböhmer, Stefan; Fischedick, Manfred; Gröne, Marie-Christine; Xia, Chun, Dienst, Carmen
Concepts and methodologies for measuring the sustainability of cities

In: Annual Review of Environment and Resources 39 (2014), pp. 519-547

In recent decades, better data and methods have become available for understanding the complex functioning of cities and their impact on sustainability. In their article "Concepts and Methodologies for Measuring the Sustainability of Cities" the authors Maria Yetano Roche, Stefan Lechtenböhmer, Manfred Fischedick, Marie-Christine Gröne, Chun Xia and Carmen Dienst summarise the recent developments. In doing so, they differentiate between a dominant trend that concentrates on the accounting and allocation of greenhouse gas emissions and energy use to cities and a re-emergence of studies that focus on the direct and indirect material and resource flow. Furthermore, they give an overview of the methodological debates and examine the implications of the different approaches for policy.

Fischedick, Manfred; Marzinkowski, Joachim; Winzer, Petra; Weigel, Max
Techno-economic evaluation of innovative steel production technologies

In: Journal of Cleaner Production 84 (2014), pp. 563-580

The steel industry, one of the most energy intensive industries in Germany, is expected to contribute to the national climate protection efforts. Since the established coal-based steel production routes are close to reaching maximum efficiency, additional carbon (CO2) emission reduction in long term can only be achieved via innovative technologies. The article "Techno-Economic Evaluation of Innovative Steel Production Technologies" assesses three innovative primary steel production technologies in comparison to the established blast furnace route. Apart from technical and economical criteria, the comparative assessment includes social, safety-related and ecological criteria. The technologies in scope are the blast furnace route in combination with carbon capture and storage (CCS), the direct reduction with hydrogen and the electrolysis of iron ore, also called electrowinning.

Figueroa, Maria; Lah, Oliver; Fulton, Lewis M.; McKinnon, Alan; Tiwari, Geetam
Energy for transport

In: Annual Review of Environment and Resources 39 (2014), pp. 295-325

Besides all advantages which the transport of goods and people brings about, petroleum based fuels cause damage to our climate, air quality and health. Nevertheless fossil fuels remain the dominant energy source, reflecting advantages such as high energy density, low cost, and market availability. Following a review published 20 years ago by Lee Schipper, the paper "Energy for Transport" examines current trends and potential futures and depicts the opportunities of slowing travel growth and improving efficiency. Strategies are illustrated, which can help to slowly perform a transition.

Kaselofsky, Jan; März, Steve; Schüle, Ralf
Bottom-up monitoring of municipal energy and climate policy: More than an alternative to top-down approaches?

In: Progress in Industrial Ecology 8 (2014) 4, pp. 279-294

Policy evaluation is widely considered important for assessing policies for effectiveness and impact. Municipalities are among the political actors implementing energy and climate policy. Yet, few municipalities have introduced adequate instruments to monitor the effectiveness of their actions. Often, municipal actors consider local greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories to be sufficient to monitor the impact of their actions. This paper points out why the expectations placed on local GHG inventories as a monitoring instrument can rarely be met in practice. On the basis of German examples, it shall be shown that a thorough calculation of actual local energy and GHG reductions attributable to local efforts is often only partially possible, and is complicated by external factors. A supplementary approach to the top-down method is to evaluate local programmes from the bottom-up. This paper discusses efforts to develop an instrument for a bottom-up monitoring of the city of Hamburg's Climate Action Plan.

Resources Transition

Bringezu, Stefan
Carbon recycling for renewable materials and energy supply: Recent trends, long-term options, and challenges for research and development

In: Journal of Industrial Ecology 18 (2014) 3, pp. 327-340

In his article "Carbon Recycling for Renewable Materials and Energy Supply" Stefan Bringezu aims to outline a carbon recycling system that makes use of CO2 as a raw material. The focus is on carbon dioxide capture and use for synthesis of platform chemicals to produce polymers. Bringezu outlines how the system may further develop over the medium to long term, from a piggy-back add-on flow system toward a self-carrying recycling system. A critical bottleneck seems to be the capacity and costs of renewable energy supply, rather than the costs of carbon capture.

O'Brien, Meghan; Hartwig, Franziska; Schanes, Karin; Kammerlander, Moritz; Omann, Ines; Wilts, Henning; Bleischwitz, Raimund; Jäger, Jill
Living within the safe operating space: A vision for a resource efficient Europe

In: European Journal of Futures Research 2 (2014) 48

A desirable future critically depends on our ability to ensure the supply of key resources while simultaneously respecting planetary boundaries. The authors of the paper "Living within the Safe Operating Space: a Vision for a Resource Efficient Europe" develop a reflection on what life could look like in 2050 based on a safe and fair global resource use, a sustainable society and a transformed economy. The authors focus in particular on a necessary shift of values, innovation and management regimes.

Liedtke, Christa; Baedeker, Carolin; Hasselkuß, Marco; Rohn, Holger; Grinewitschus, Viktor
User-integrated innovation in sustainable LivingLabs: An experimental infrastructure for researching and developing sustainable product service systems

In: Journal of Cleaner Production, 2014, DOI: 10.1016/ j.jclepro.2014.04.070

The design and large-scale implementation of sustainable product service systems (PSS) is regarded a promising approach for sustainability transitions. Real-life socio-technical experiments are an important infrastructure for designing PSS in collaboration with stakeholders and users. This paper argues that transdisciplinary and action research methods are required for institutionalising an experimental set-up and developing PSS within such infrastructures. A Sustainable LivingLab (SLL) research infrastructure and its methodology is presented as an example of such experimental settings. It was collaboratively developed with key stakeholders in three consecutive research projects and applied to e.g. heating and space heating. In relation to existing LivingLabs and approaches for PSS design, new qualities of SLL are shown, presenting its methodological three-phase model (insight research, prototyping, field testing) of research. Intermediate findings confirm the high influence of user practices on heating energy consumption and show starting points for PSS development: e.g. transformational products, home-automation combined with consulting along value chains. The paper hypothesises that developing PSS in user- and stakeholder-integrated settings supports acceptance and diffusion and, by taking into account users' social practices of utilising novelties, reduces rebound effects caused by incorrect application.

 Lettenmeier, Michael; Liedtke, Christa; Rohn, Holger
Eight tons of material footprint: Suggestion for a resource cap for household consumption in Finland

In: Resources (2014), 3, pp. 488-515

An increasing number of consumers in Western societies can be characterised by a medium or high resource consumption profile. Since these lifestyles are becoming more popular in growing cities worldwide, resource efficiency is an issue of increasing importance on different levels. In their open-access article "Eight Tons of Material Footprint: Suggestion for a Resource Cap for Household Consumption in Finland" the authors Michael Lettenmeier, Christa Liedtke and Holger Rohn recommend a cap target for resource household consumption. For Finland they suggest a sustainable material footprint of eight tons, per person, in a year. This means an 80 percent (factor 5) reduction from the present Finnish average. They analyse requirements, opportunities, and challenges for future developments in technology and lifestyle, also taking into account that future lifestyles are supposed to show a high degree of diversity. The targets and approaches are discussed for the consumption components of nutrition, housing, household goods, mobility, leisure activities, and other purposes. The paper states that a sustainable level of natural resource use by households is achievable and it can be roughly allocated to different consumption components in order to illustrate the need for a change in lifestyles. The authors also note, that these are only suggestions, because user behavior and social practices of households greatly vary and can change because of technical development in the next few years.

Further Top Ten

The annual selection of important scientific publications is available here for the following years:

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