VÉGE A JÓLÉTÜNKNEK 2040-TŐL? Gelencsér András, légkörkutató - Antal Miklós, fizikus // FP. 54.
We're back together, and I want to say hello to everyone who's coming with us this time. In the series of regular service announcements in this place, I ask you, or I urge you, to be more precise, that those who have missed it but are watching us regularly, please subscribe by pressing the red NOTE button below the screen on YouTube. It doesn't cost you anything at all, but our channeI is greatly strengthened with it, and if you're looking at us on Facebook, you have to press the blue 'Follow' button almost at the top of the screen to sign up. And if our regular viewers, listeners at least self-admit the varied topics and - let's say, according to your judgement - high-quality conversations offered on this channel from week to week, who has the opportunity, please kindly support the persistent production by clicking on the word "THANKS" below the screen, or if it is more simple on our patrion.com page,
whose address you can read here. With this, we're over the service announcements, and then we can get to today's Podcast, which is experimental in some respects, because in the first part of the show, there will be a debate first in our history, and then again we will give way to our section 'Green and Green', in which we will lead you not only to a wonderful but very consciously built garden. But before that, we're gonna have a big debate tonight. - You read that you can't
do anything here when it comes to stopping climate change. From the situation that was, say, 15 years ago, "Ah, this problem doesn't exist, it doesn't even have to be dealt with because it's so insignificant!" we're going to the other extreme now that the train has already left, and there's nothing to do with it. So as it wasn't true 15 years ago that there was no problem, today it is not true that nothing can be done with this problem. - I felt that I had a responsibility to draw attention to sustainability as a complex problem, and I would call for a more complex reflection on the scientific community and society as well. So I'm willing to be provocative,
let's talk about it, at least we've done it, and let's not use blinkers to feed one-bit illusions. - As if in the past decade and a half there had not been enough problems for mankind, the global economic crisis, and in the wake of democracy crises, authoritarian, authoritarian regimes all over the world, or the coronal virus epidemic that has claimed the lives of millions of people on Planet Earth, and the serious economic consequences of this crisis to date can be continued by the fact that, after 77 years of peace in Europe, war broke out in our immediate neighbourhood, and as an economic complication, the sanction and retaliation tsunami has already spread all over the world, not to mention that the whole world is in an inflationary and recessional freak, including our own private domestic costs and tax adjustments, as we have discussed with Professor László Békesi two weeks ago. By the way, for someone who hasn't seen this, I highly recommend this interview to you.
But to our sensitive compatriots, András Gelencsér, a chemist and atmospheric researcher has recently given us another hit in the stomach, a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, rector of the Pannonia University of Veszprém. The internationally recognized researcher, who has been on the subject for many years, declared to György Balavány, the journalist of the 24.hu News Portal, without any of the usual scientific prejudices, said nothing less, like it or not it must be noted that the world is now characterised by unbridled growth and prosperity, ending by 2040 at the latest, and that modern civilization is facing a serious crisis. In any case, by 2040, there are less than 20 years left. Of course, professional dreaders, world-end predictions have come up daily, or at least the prognosis that promises the end of our present way of life. This time, however, not a semi-educated scientist,
but an internationally listed scientist with numbers, data, trends, classified it with long and very convincing reasons why all the escape routes we had hoped for as the development or at least as the sustainability of our way of life were a dead end. Given the professional credibility and scientific persuasiveness of András Gelencsér, the professor's findings quickly covered the press and prompted a number of other experts and groups of scientists on the subject to speak. One of the dissenting opinions was a young expert named Miklós Antal, a researcher of ecological economics, who also presented a very convincing message at the same forum, on the 24.hu, in another interview. In fact, he completely refuted Professor
Gelencsér's devastating conclusions. What's more obvious, I thought, than trying out the debate on this scientific subject, which concerns all of us, by bringing the parties together? In today's three-act Podcast, of course, I will ask each of the two guests separately about their main statements and then, as a third act, I will sit them against each other and side by side so that they can confront their views in an exchange of views. And you have the opportunity to decide which scientific mind's arguments are more convincing. First in the red corner - or in the red chair is Professor András Gelencsér. - Did you think, Professor, that the article and the interview would be this big? - I said what I said before, now it's been a long time, and it just exploded.
- By the way, do you like to provoke? - Yeah, I think I like to say the truth, and I'm not really aware of what I'm supposed to say. I have always represented the scientific truth so strongly. - Good. Before we get into this conversation, I'd also like to present your résumé, just to bring in our viewers, our listeners. András Gelencsér was born in
Kisvárda in 1966, 55 years old. His parents were both doctors, his father was an internist, his mother was a pediatrician, he graduated from Széchenyi István High School in Sopron, and in 1990 he graduated from Veszprém Chemical University as a chemical engineer. Five years later, he graduated from the Department of Environmental Sciences.
Between 1996 and 2005, he was a senior researcher in the Air Chemistry Research Group of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences at the University of Veszprém. In 2002, he became a doctor of the Academy of Sciences, habilitated in 2006, a science degree, and from 2006 he became a professor at the Faculty of Engineering, of which he became the dean, than in 2015 he was elected the rector at the University of Pannonia in Veszprém. In 2019 he became a correspondent member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. He is an air chemist who deals with tiny particles floating in the atmosphere and their effects on the global climate. András Gelencsér was the first to recognize the process of humus formation in the atmosphere. So far, more than 6,500 independent references have been made to his scientific writings. In 2014 he was awarded the Officer's
Cross of the Hungarian Order of Merit. He won the Prima Primissima Prize in Veszprém County in 2016 and received the Academy Award in 2017. His 20-year-old son is in engineering school, and his 15-year-old daughter is starting high school this year. His passion is reading, his hobby is cycling.
So much of your life in title sentences, and then let us first learn about your views and thinking that triggered many debates. In the interview with you, which I referred to in the introduction, you gave the public an abundance of anxiety, at least that's how I appreciate it. Perhaps in two sentences, it is possible to summarize why you see the future of mankind as completely hopeless, let us say, in broad terms.
I quote: "Climate change is unstoppable, there is not enough energy and raw materials for the transition to sustainable systems, there are only decades left for over-eating urban civilization." My first question is since when and how have you become so repulsive that you do not see any way out of continuing the known forms of civilization today? - The truth is, I didn't draw the first idea from scientific publications, but from a weekend I spent with my children in Vienna, and we visited the Natural History Museum, and there at the mineral exhibition, the raw materials, the elements needed for the tools of modern civilization are systematically presented, and over each of them there is a counter. And this counter showed from 15 to 30 years for all the elements, which indicates that that's what's back from the known stocks if these materials continue to be used in the same way. And I was shocked. - And you're sure that, by the way, what the counter showed us is consistent with the scientific facts? - Well, I've checked these since then, because I started to deal with this topic, and I went after the scientific literature myself, and I systematically started to look at how much of these supplies are used and what supplies there are. - Were these elements essential and important to the existence of mankind? - Basically, they're necessary for the toolbox of modern civilization, so for the comfort equipment, we're used to. Like a smartphone, like a computer,
an electric car, anything. - When did this visit take place at the Vienna Museum? - In the mid-2010s, I think. - And until this visit to the museum took place, did you not even notice these data, or, let's just say, crisis factors, from your readings or scientific literature? - Well, we've been saying this for a very long time that infinite growth in a finite system is unimaginable, so I was obviously aware of it in that sense. With the fact that the situation is this serious in particular and almost all critical elements are actually on the verge of exhaustion, I did not think so. So I was confronted with this, and it was a shock to me.
These can be read in scientific publications. I collected them, that's where the information came from. Of course, I don't know everything, and I don't want to be skilled at all of it, I trust science, and I build what I say on scientific results. So it's not my statement, it's a collection of the results of science. - How many types of science have you had to gain data or get knowledge to put this picture together like this? - It's basically technical sciences and earth sciences, because raw materials, they're basically in the field of earth science. I am also a member of the Department
of Earth Sciences at the Academy, where I am a member of correspondence, and I have heard a lot of lectures about these from colleagues, in the field of sciences. - The inadequacy of your dramatic wording, because I was thinking about it, didn't you have some pedagogical purpose? You may have just painted the future hopelessly because you felt that everyday people, especially politicians, the leaders of the country, were simply, as we see it, rather uneasinessed by the mass of negative predictions about the future of civilization. - I say what many people know, and very few dare. Because we tend to be polite, and we usually like to entertain illusions, especially for the future. - And why is that, anyway?
If the situation is really so hopeless and ominous, then what is there a place for politeness? - Perhaps because the economy and politics are always based on short-term interests, which means that it is not in your interest to take steps that really affect the future, the medium-term future, or the long-term future of humanity. There's no way to win a choice that it's gonna get a lot worse. - Why is it the loss of raw materials that fundamentally affects the prospects of the future? - Because sustainability is based on replacing fossil fuels, so this is what the economy and the political will are based on, but at the same time the raw materials that we need are as finite as oil, gas, or coal, and we somehow forget about them with goodwill. I could mention lithium, which is one of the key elements of electric motoring, so it is essential in batteries, but cobalt is also classified here, which is mostly mined in the Congolese Republic on Earth, and is also used for these batteries. And the supplies of these, especially
in the event of planned use, will be exhausted very soon. The use of fossil fuels has a much larger history, so it has now been centuries, with like coal, but at least one century, so fossil fuels have already started that process, which means that they are already largely used, extracted, and now we are using stocks that are much more difficult to access. - Isn't it like with carbon, that there's a lot more? So there's a lot of space to find it? Those that haven't been exploited yet, by the way. - That's true,
but I was thinking primarily about oil because oil is really the foundation of modern civilization and the most indispensable fossil fuel. After all, mobility would be unimaginable without it. - And the oil fields are running out? - In this sense, yes, so it is becoming more and more difficult with increasing energy to obtain oil, this shale oil, which they want to bring into Europe, for example, can be produced extremely uneconomically. - Why? - Because the wells work for a very short period, and it requires very complex technology, layer cracking, and chemical penetration, and it is extremely material-intensive and energy-intensive. - And as for water, for example, how limited is that available? - Now there are problems with water supply in many European countries, including Hungary, so water is also a resource, which is now critical in certain countries at certain times. Well, there is plenty of water on Earth, but there are supply problems in many places. - The arguments on
wind and solar energy, electric motoring, solar panels, biomass, carbon neutrality, appear to be almost devastating. Do you not see an escape route, a promising alternative, or perhaps even an imminent discovery that would make it possible to continue the operation of civilization? - There's a lot of research, and there's a lot of technological development. The problem is the scale. So the scale of implementation is enormously swollen. There are nearly 8 billion people on Earth, and there are now 3-4 billion people in a consumer society, and what we want to achieve must be achieved on this scale. Let's just think about driving. There are quite good types of engines that are very low-emission, and yet they bring in those 20-year-old diesel cars that will continue to drive the roads for decades. So there's technology, there's high-tech and there's reality. I was talking about
global problems and reality, not theoretical possibilities, but what surrounds us. - But if marketable demand is just that, how can this contradiction be resolved? - Well, it can't be dissolved, but when we're talking about a technology that might be able to give us a solution, that technology should spread. And that's why I said there was a Euro 7 engine, but the reality is that every 15 minutes, used cars with rewinded kilometers come in. - But for example, what I mentioned was wind and solar energy. What's wrong with these? - As fashionable as it is to use this term as a renewable energy source, the solar element is not an energy source. So we take a solar battery
under our armpit and take it down to the basement in winter, squeeze it, and I don't think we're gonna be able to get warm, it's an energy conversion device, so we need the sun. - But it's usually sunny. - Well, when the Sun's there, yeah, it can be turned into electrical energy. This solar cell doesn't produce itself, it has to be produced. It requires the use of materials the production of which consumes a lot of energy. - What about wind power? - Same thing. A wind power plant has
a mass of about 2 thousand tonnes, the material of which must be produced. I'm not talking about logistics anymore. It takes, say, thousand tons of crane to set up such a wind farm, which doesn't grow in every bush. - As for the electric car ride, speaking of driving before, isn't that a way out? - This form of transport, i.e.
passenger car ownership, is unsustainable in the long run, perhaps even in the short run. So, for everyone to have a separate car, which is 99 percent of the time in the garage or on the street, with a lot of critical elements, it's not sustainable. Of course, the mode of transport itself can be seen in a different model, so as a shared service, for example, because it does not directly contaminate the environment. - As far as driving is concerned,
would that be the solution? - Yeah. - So it's a community car ride? - Yeah. - There are more people using one car, that's what that means. - Yeah, more like it. But having everyone's own car and replacing 1.3 billion cars with electric cars
on Earth doesn't have coverage. - You said and wrote devastating criticisms about biomass, even though a lot of people are doing that, like material of the future on which there is much to build. - Well, the problem with biomass is that biomass production is a very economical process, photosynthesis efficiency is less than one percent, and agricultural production requires significant fossil energy investment. Thus, by investing a unit of fossil fuels, only one unit of energy can be extracted from this system, provided that there is no climate change, no drought, and those agricultural systems can produce that yield. - What's wrong with carbon neutrality? - Carbon neutrality means that we should not emit carbon dioxide, so let's try to use methods of energy production that do not emit carbon dioxide. On the one hand,
such things do not exist, and on the other hand, focusing on this is a dead end because we do not take into account the limitations of the raw materials that I have just mentioned. - Now it would just be nice to know if you have any concrete ideas about the new world that you're starting off with about 2040. - We're gonna have a lot less comfort equipment than we have today, so we're gonna have a more modest life. So we have to give up a lot of things that we take for granted right now. This does not mean that
society will be inoperative. They will not disappear completely, because they are existing technologies, but I think that we will have to choose what to use them for. So, for example, in hospitals, education, and protection, we will certainly need these, and we will be able to use them there. But everyone owning them or changing our smartphones in every two years, those probably won't be possible. - So we're gonna have to give up all this, we're not gonna have a computer, we're not gonna have a personal computer, we're not gonna have a phone, these are very built-in devices in our lives, so it's gonna be really hard to give it up. - Yeah, that's the problem.
Society has reached a technological level that is very difficult to withdraw from. By the way, there is life without it, because I think we've lived in a time when they weren't there, and our childhood and our youth have somehow passed. - What kind of society will that be in your head? The one that, in the absence of matter, renounces all this civilizational achievement? - I feel like this isn't gonna be easy. It's gonna be a lot
harder than never knowing them. I can't tell you what it's gonna mean to give them up and what it's gonna do to anyone. It will not be an easy task to maintain the functioning of society in such a weakened world. - But it's all based on
what you're saying if I understand what you correctly, that the materials are running out. - Running out, that's probably not the best phrase, because that's kind of like, say, there's no sugar or food oil on the shelves of the shops. That's not what this is about. The issue here is that it is possible
to obtain and produce them only with increasing energy and material effort. It's just that the world is interested in growth, the functioning of the entire global economy, it can't imagine anything else but growth. But this one has a limit, it's called Earth. And this Earth can't grow, matter hasn't arrived or arrived on Earth in 4.5 billion years, so our possibilities are limited in this sense. - One of the traditional driving forces of human society has always been the pursuit of the possession and reproduction of wealth. Modern industrial society
wants to meet this demand, and obviously also to speed it up. Now, is it possible to give up this addiction, and even if the exhaustion of resources is going to get mankind to stop doing it, do you have any idea what might be replacing them? - I prefer to wish, I think that those human values, those traditional, say, culture, reading, anything that can trigger them, and what makes sense to human activity, community activity, toys, sports, whatever makes sense to human existence. I think that these are an attractive alternative to, say, the virtual world. - Does that mean we're going back to traditional life, a lifestyle? - Well, if we can, yes, if we can, it's an opportunity. The question is, whether the generation who hasn't experienced it and is used to something else is willing or not. So the fact that there's gonna be a compulsion is okay, but how we're bearing it, whether we're crashing, or breaking, or we're acknowledging, or even seeing the good in it, and enjoying it, it's a personal decision. - Nothing about that,
let's just say, have you come up with a social inquiry? - Everyone here is thinking so much about the growth that this kind of vision, how to retire like this, is so far from being studied even by social scientists. So far, it's okay that the limitations of growth, its harmful effects, its consequences, are in the focus. But what would be good as a replacement and how a functioning society and economy could be run without growth, I didn't read much about it. - Are you just that gloomy about the future of civilization, or is it basically a negativity about life in general? - I'm basically looking forward to the future, and I don't feel pessimist at all. So the fact that one is aware of the truth or is aware of the facts is, in itself, still emotionally neutral. - I understand you've been advertising
and publishing these views of the press for over a decade now. What kind of agreement did you find among your fellow experts, perhaps the creators of other prognoses researching the prospects of the future? - The academy did not finally manifest itself in this debate if you can say so, but I personally received a lot of positive feedback, and scientific people gave me no negative feedback at all. - But there were a few letters signed by scientists, just like on the pages of 24th. - They were nuanced, they wanted to emphasize certain things more, but I couldn't see a fundamental difference of opinion. - And, say, have you ever met a colleague arguing with you or your views, whose arguments have in any way shaped your vision or your own prediction? - No. There was an article that calculated here in Hungary that there was still enough sand in Hungary.
Hungary lies in a basin, the Carpathian Basin, and the rivers are converging here, so this is not such a big surprise, but still, as a global problem, the limited stocks of sand continue to exist. So we talked a little bit at cross-purposes here. A global problem cannot be set, say, a local example, and disproved because those two are not in the same class. - Nothing moved you here during the debate. - No. - I would be interested in a little - narrowing down the spectrum - in your own or family's everyday practice, have you ever managed to make a change that has moderated the excess consumption? - I really didn't have to, because we've had enough. We have an
apartment temperature of 18 degrees. That's when I'm having a good time, and I don't like this 28-degree room temperature, and it really affects me in the winter. - Do you have your own car? - Yeah. Unfortunately, I can't follow the model that's probably waiting for us and what's going to happen in the future. - That's about all I thought about in the first round: a little rest for you, no more than five seconds message for the viewers, from our old-new supporter, and then we will continue with the presentation of András Gelencsér's debate partner, and then the debate between the two of them will follow.
A quick exchange has taken place, physicist Miklós Antal is here, the researcher of ecological economics, who disputes or may strongly dispute the views and thoughts of András Gelencsér. - Well, his article suggested that it was a run-down case, that science today believes that civilization collapse is inevitable. And I'd definitely argue with that here. Basically, science says that it is very, very important what we do in the coming years and decades, and I think that this is a qualitative, a qualitatively different message. - Before we get to know each other more thoroughly in private, I'd like to give a brief account of your biography. Miklós Antal was born in 1983 in Pécs,
39 years old, his father was a doctor and his mother was a teacher. In 2007 as an engineer-physicist at the Budapest University of Technology, he graduated with excellent results, then he obtained a doctoral degree in economics management, but has been engaged in ecological economics for years. After his doctorate degree, he was a researcher at CEU, the Central European University of Budapest, the Autonomous University of Barcelona, and the University of Leeds. His research area has previously
been energetics and economics, and he is currently examining the feasibility of the four-day working week and its social and environmental impact with his research group. He considers Károly Koncz his most inspiring teacher, who taught physics and science in high school. I think this is very nice because we got this from your website, and that someone remembers the person who actually brought you your intellectual development, it's rare, and I really liked it, so I want to express my sympathy.
So Károly Koncz taught him a naturalistic approach, but he was impressed by Father Feri Pál, Lester Brown, György Soros, János Pilinszky and Gerald Durell. Am I right? - Yeah. - His wife is a language teacher, he's the father of an eight-month-old boy. His hobby is running, running, cycling, balancing, and Frisbee, as well as folk dancing. I don't understand the latter, the Frisbee and the folk dance. - Well, Frisbee is a sport for the team, so it's a very, very enjoyable thing. - Is it when I throw it away like that? - When we throw the Frisbee and get it into a zone.
In such a team version, this is an extremely intense and very enjoyable sport. - And then the community brought him to the folk dance, the attractive power of the community? - Folk dancing is an older story, it comes from a very small age, but folk dancing is a party. - Okay, let's get to know your mindset. I assume you didn't encounter Professor Gelencsér's views on the Internet for the first time. First of all, I want to know what you thought about the enormous interest that the prophecy with a lack of prospects caused, not only among readers but also, in fact, among academics.
- There's more to it than that. One is that someone speaks for science and says something that is relevant to everyone. Far from it, it seems like an unquestioned opinion. Anyone who does not deal with these issues will not argue with the technical details, but if the conclusions are true, it is extremely relevant to everyone. - You've classified Professor Gelencsér with this, haven't you? So you said that he was the one who described facts and that readers could come to very simple conclusions from them.
- He's jumping to conclusions. So these conclusions, that 'civilization will collapse', what exactly does that mean, is, of course, an extremely important question that we have not answered, or that we have not been able to read in this article, but that he is saying something that is extremely important for everyone's lives, and that is more or less believable for many in the current media environment, and that he appears as a representative of science, and that he says that this is the truth, this is how it works, that is said by many, and this is the case, this is the scientific position. And if someone reads this as a layman, they say hat-and-coat (it's over). So that this thing will be over soon. And you're about to come to the conclusion that 'carpe diem', we should try to enjoy the rest of the years, or that I'm going to have to be depressed because there's no way out of this situation.
None of them really solve it, all of them specifically mean making solutions difficult. - A well-known climate researcher, who did not wish to name himself, said that Professor Gelencsér, your debate partner was right in many respects about the main trend lines, but I quote: "It is simply not possible to stand in front of the whole world by the fact that the future is hopeless, there is nothing to do, and we must inevitably give up the more important achievements of civilization that have been applied to this time." I ask although I think I know the answer, do you share this view, and wish, in fact, to publicly contradict views predicting the unsustainableness of civilization because you would find it worse than anything else if humanity went down into a dive without trying to avoid collapse. - I agree with András on a lot of things, and that's gonna come out. - You two know each
other for saying András? - I said that because we're both on the Committee of the Sustainable Development of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and that's why we know each other from there. But we didn't talk about these issues in person. So when I read the article on 24.hu, it was new to me that he saw these things this way. Back to the question, if I'm trying to tell you something, otherwise people are gonna get into lethargy and they're not gonna do anything that's gonna make things better. I would say that when we talk
about a civilization collapse, let us say specifically what threatens us. It has a very significant devastating effect on our consumption, such as on ecosystems, and on the destruction of these ecosystems, which are extremely important for the future of mankind. It's just a question of how different scenarios are possible.
And if there are better and worse outcomes, it is extremely important to point out the difference between them and to think about how to go to better outcomes. - Because, by the way, there are better and worse scenarios? Do you think so? I found out from Professor Gelencsér's article that there is only one kind of scenario. - That's exactly it. That's exactly why I wanted to say something. It seems that there are animal species that, unfortunately, are expected to die out during our lifetime, but let us try to do something about it and see what can be achieved, and you can see that there are areas where there are significant differences between that which occurs when we do nothing and between that which can occur in the event of major interventions. - If it's even possible, to sum up, what do you think which Professor Gelencsér's fundamental misstep? - I'd argue with specific scientific statements. So he says, for example,
that in the case of climate change, we can no longer stop anything. That's how the phrase in the interview actually sounds, that we can't stop anything anymore. This claim is, from a scientific point of view, wrong at the moment.
According to today's science, if we were to reduce emissions of the greenhouse gases to zero at this moment, the warming up would stop. This is very important because it means that we have our own destiny. So that humanity can do something to stop warming up and the negative consequences of climate change. This is a concrete debate. As I read this interview, I am not an expert in many areas you're talking about, but there were such suspicious allegations, and I started looking up these claims and various articles... - Such as? - ...such as the energy
recovery of solar panels, how long it would take for the energy cost of the solar element to return to the energy produced. And so I Googled it, and the review article on it, a review of many, many studies, didn't say the number that was in the interview. - Do you think your dispute partner is working with bad, wrong, false data? Did he make any misconceptions from incorrect, inaccurate calculations? - He's making very large statements. So there are areas where, if you start reading literature, you see that it is branched in an infinite direction, and so to sum it up in a sentence that this is practically a dead end, because there is, say, an energy cost of a particular type of investment, I think that this is a too large statement, and in this sense, it is scientifically questionable. For example, he says that it is a
dead end about the use of renewable energy sources. In parenthesis, without telling us what to do from an energy point of view. We're gonna do something, so it's a pretty important question of what we're gonna choose. Isn't it true that if we ask the question, of whether we should move towards the energy savings.
Should this be promoted on a much larger scale? Or should we think about developing other types of energy instead of renewables? Nuclear energy? Fusion energy? I don't know. Let's ask the question, what do we do? Because that's really the relevant question for humanity, what to do. And to do that, to say that "what we're doing right now is a dead end", and I think a significant part of the scientific community thinks it's a false claim.
- In your opinion, can the pursuit of steady growth and the forced course referred to as the engine of development be interrupted at all? - I think it's a key question. So this is an extremely important issue, and it is extremely difficult. So from this point of view, we fully agree that there are two enormous forces at stake here. On the one hand, we see that if there is economic growth, if countries continue to push for it, then the prospects for sustainability are indeed very gloomy. On the other hand, we see that if economic growth is not in one country, or if we break away from it without really wanting to break apart, but there is no economic growth, then there are a lot of social problems. There are many social groups and groups with significant powers for which economic growth is extremely important. And that's why these two forces
are colliding with each other. If there's growth, there are environmental problems, if not, there are social problems. And, in many cases, shorter distances, social problems dominate, and therefore long-term thoughts cannot prevail, and as a result, we choose long-term problems, which, if any, may be much more serious than those of the short-term. But for example, my research group specifically deals with an issue that is trying to answer a partial question of this dilemma, namely that if there is no economic growth, one of the main problems is that unemployment starts to rise in most capitalist countries. This is a very serious social
problem with very serious psychological effects, something we would very much like to avoid. The solution we're dealing with is not to fire people, everyone should work less. It is therefore interesting for us to reduce working time because this is an alternative, an alternative to this growth-based system. For example, the question of how economic systems could be operated without growth, without the pressure of growth, is a question that should be addressed by half the economists and half the sociologists, and half the politicians. - And they don't care internationally? - Of course, some people do this, but not enough. - Today, as a response to warnings similar to that of Professor Gelencsér, in Hungary, there are even more and more kinds of works trivializing, or even denying the problem.
Last time Mathias Corvinus Collegium, close to the government, announced the famous American Troll, Bjorn Lomborg, who denies climate change - Am I correct in his name? - the book of virtually non-existent problems. Are you not afraid, I ask, that when you dispute the views of András Gelencsér, you can easily put him on the same page with such figures? - This guy from Denmark, by the way, is actually light-years away from the scientific mainstream, a notorious liar whose lies are told by separate articles in science. I take the problems of sustainability very seriously in my own life, not in social activism, so I think that if there's someone of the opposite, then it's me. When I came in here and told your colleague to thank you, I don't drink bottled water or I'm trying to avoid it...
- What do your drink then? Tap water? - There's perfectly normal water flowing from the tap, just like here. These are things that show that I have a kind of personal commitment, and I'm not saying that I never make an exception because if there's a given situation, but in most cases, when one can choose, I also have such a personal commitment, and the problems that we are pushing are all in some way part of the dilemma set that Professor is talking about. - By the way, how do you see it, should the current process of economy and consumption be interrupted, and if so, how? So what should be abandoned? - We can take the sectors from a traffic point of view. A very significant part of air transport can be abandoned, the Covid period has shown that there is also life when air transport is much less active than today. It is necessary to achieve this with much higher taxes, in my opinion. Another area of consumption, such as food, is a very important, environmentally important thing. Eating meat every day
is complete nonsense. The fact that 8 billion people eat meat every day is complete nonsense. So many large predators can't normally sustain the Earth as we know it. - Should we be herbivores? - Let's be much more herbivores. I'm not saying that everyone should be a vegan tomorrow, not at all, but I'm saying that from this direction, which is historically complete curiosity, so my grandparents didn't eat meat every day, but it was the festive food for them. From this current situation, which is a complete extreme, let us go backward in the otherwise healthier direction, and let us make a change from this point of view in any case.
Let's say clothing is another area of consumption. It doesn't seem realistic that, say, in the United States, people throw out 30 kilos of clothes a year, per person. It's total nonsense. This kind of thing, we 'pull them up a few times and throw them away' culture, must not be maintained, so this fast fashion is a direction that must be repressed, either by direct regulation or by economic incentives. Another important area, though, is the kind of consumption that is not really good for anyone, and we don't want to, but it is happening, for example, that we are heating the street, that our buildings are not properly insulated, so the heating energy is leaving through the wall, isn't it, is a kind of consumption that can't be continued in any way? - I understand what shouldn't be done, and it was actually a very small set of a set, but what should be done instead of it and how it should be done, that's the big question. - Absolutely. Say, if today's message is that you will be happy if you go to Bali, and you have to go on holiday to the other half of the world to have an experience, then you really have to show an alternative.
And one alternative to that, for example, is that we can have stronger communities. Because capitalism has been very good at breaking up communities, our relationships are very weak, and that's why we don't feel so comfortable in the free time that we spend, say, in the home environment. At least some people don't feel so good. - And what does the community solve? - For example, the community allows us to have a good time. So if you belong to a group, whether you belong to a folk dance group or a sports group, you'll feel that this is a good time to be here, and I like to spend my time with these people. And the strengthening of groups of this type is a very important thing, and it is also, somewhere, the rebuilding of such an atomized society, and this could be an alternative to high levels of consumption. - What do you think of the social,
epidemiological, and political crises of the last decade and a half have brought humanity closer to the better use of wealth, or even moved it away from it? - I'm sure there have been people who have been affected by the past decade and a half by rethinking things and living in a more sustainable way, but there have also been people who have said, "Oh, but the Covid closure was terrible, and now that you can go, I'm going to travel three times as much." I don't want to draw such a large balance and say that the overall effect is one thing or another, but I'm sure it has taught us one thing. There's a different way to live. So there are times when we say overnight that that's how it was, and from tomorrow it will be something else.
- In your personal life, what is your relationship with the world's civilizational achievements? You have mentioned, for example, that you drink tap water instead of bottled water, but you enjoy the whole supply or much of it, or you look at them with only environmental aspects in mind? - Well, I'm trying to keep an eye on things, so let's say I haven't flown in 13 years, and I've been working in Barcelona for two years and two in Leeds. - So what did you do? Did you go by train? - By train, by bus, depending on how it turned out. So I'm trying to keep an eye on things from a traffic point of view.
I'm trying to focus on things from a building-energetic point of view. I don't buy many clothes. I just remembered that this T-shirt that I'm wearing, I got this at a 2011 cross-country race, and it's good that it's still wearable. Let's just say,
eating is an important area, I've been a vege for 10 years now, so I'm a vegetarian, and I like meat, so it's not that I don't like the taste, but I don't eat that. - But do you have a computer? Do you have a cell phone? - I do, and I rarely exchange these for others, people who are already... So there's also someone in the family who, as a result of his work, sometimes gets a new phone, for example, I get mine from him, and now, for example, a lot of functions don't work, but as long as I can still use it normally, it'll be mine. I rarely change laptops,
only when I have to, it's a work tool, sometimes I have to. - Then it follows that in your heart, you would actually leave everything behind and return to nature. - The current world has a lot of services that I enjoy, so now I don't want to say that it's not interesting, like following a cross-country race with GPS running by runners, and I'm watching them live on the map, and then it shows me where the runners are in the woods. It's obviously something that I
can enjoy, but where you position yourself overall, I think I'm definitely not a top consumer. - Thank you very much, that was the introduction, and for 10 seconds, our sponsor will have the floor, and then András Gelencsér will be here, and then there will be the debate between our two guests. - We continue this Podcast with debate, one of the participants is András Gelencsér, an environmental scientist, atmospheric researcher, and another participant is Miklós Antal, a physicist of ecological economics. In order to ensure that this debate is not shoreless, I am asking you, more precisely, fundamental questions, the outline of which I have sent you roughly in advance, and the opportunity... or I am asking you to answer those. Obviously, do not exercise completeness in every aspect, I ask because, in such a debate, not all segments can be paraded, but let's say we can talk about a significant part of things, at least I hope. The basic
question is how finite it really is to maintain our civilisation, the number of raw materials required because this was a basic principle in the Professor's article and interview, whether it was possible to replace consumable materials with other raw materials, better technologies, technological innovation, and even space mining, where appropriate. What do you say? - What I'm saying is that these resources, especially with the intended use of which the world has set out for alternative power generation, are very limited. By the middle of the century, there will already be resources, critical raw materials, the stocks of which we know today, will be exhausted. - I think it depends very much on what kind of resources we're talking about and what kind of services we expect from these resources. There are examples that historically we can get the same service with much smaller resources, so for example, lighting is such that we had to fire a lot of things at the time in order to be clear, and now with LED lamps we hardly consume energy and yet there is light, but there are also a lot of areas where this kind of technological solution is not visible. - What I'm saying is that there
is a problem with the scale, so there must be a scale of new technologies that also raise serious resource issues. As the population of mankind grows and consumption wants to grow, these materials will be needed in increasing quantities. The LED has been mentioned, the LED is actually much more economical in terms of energy, but it uses elements that are not needed in conventional filament lamps, for example, and whose resources, raw materials, are critical elements. So in that sense, everything has a price. - In particular, we can see
how scarce these materials can be, and if we go into the store, the price should show this at some level, because if it is extremely scarce, the LED will probably be very expensive. I do not want to say that the market is working perfectly and that there can be no price shocks in this and that the price will not suddenly rise, but you can also see that technological progress can, in some cases, keep these prices down. - For example, in the case of phosphate, I have highlighted phosphorus as a critical element, for example, there has been an eight-fold increase in the price of phosphate a few years ago, from one moment to the next, so it is not the quantity available that determines the price, but rather speculation. So I don't see the relationship between the price and the availability of resources as entirely comforting. - What is more typical of the still available stock of raw materials? Is there a quantitative or distribution crisis? - We're still dealing with the distribution issues. The fact that these resources are
concentrated in very few places and available in countries whose stability is at least controversial. So it's hard to get access to them. Of course, if we implement these plans, these large-scale ones, I said star war plans, then there will be quantitative problems. These are obviously going to happen later, but before that, the problems of distribution and logistics will appear. By the way, they also appeared under Covid, the logistical problems with resources.
The deliveries didn't come the way they were supposed to. - There were shipping problems, container problems. - So these problems have actually shown themselves. - If we're thinking about what the future's gonna be like, there could be changes on both sides. Some sources may be exhausted, new sources may be found, and some of the different types of use may be eliminated, others may not. So, for example, that you can use metals to make private airplanes and trams, and it doesn't matter at all if you eliminate one of these sets, one will be. And unfortunately, it is not obvious here that it
is always the socially most important thing in the set, and there can be great social tension from it, but this is the nature of human societies that the balance of power is at least as important as what is physically available. - I agree perfectly, so if the world moves in this direction, that it is willing to give up certain current status quo, that the usual things continue in the same way, then there is hope that this world can continue with proper technological development and proper use. The only thing that matters is that we go in this direction. - But if I understand you correctly, you don't really believe that. So that in the world this kind
of united will would be involved. - I don't think so. Now, what I see, whether in European politics, is that the mandatory transition to an electric car, for example, is not exactly what Miklós said, that we should now really give up individual transport and devote resources to public transport, but rather create the basis for a new industry, so I do not see the intention to do so. - I don't think that requires a united will. So society is typically not on the path of united will but on the path of the victory of some will. So, for example, in the case of fossil fuels, we are talking about pushing down certain interests there. Let's say Exxon mobile, as one of the
most powerful companies in the world, or BP, as the other very powerful company in the world, was interested in maintaining fossil fuels and putting huge sums into it to serve this purpose by lobbying. These lobby groups, these forces, must simply be suppressed because it cannot be expected from them that they will change since they have been on this course for 40 years, 50 years. During the combustion of oil, the combustion of gas causes climate change. And they knew in the '70s
that they were going to cause climate change and, for example, strengthened their marine infrastructure, prepared for stronger storms, so on one hand they said that there was going to be climate change, and we had to prepare for that, and on the other hand, they started lying about whether there would be such an impact. And to this day, we still drink the juice, because that's why the share of these energy sources in the energy mix is still the same. - 'Cause you'd have something to replace it with? - Well, there may be a debate between us here that, in my opinion, a relatively radical reduction in energy use may be possible, and much greater use of renewable energy sources may be possible. - Well, speaking of which, how, on what basis, has calculated the efficiency of the various forms of energy acquisition and their emissions, their need. Are sun and wind energies
really a dead end, for example, making agricultural production impossible by occupying solar parks, is it not the same for bioethanol? I took these examples from his article. - Yeah. Well, I think it's the... What's the difference between us? I know exactly the reason for the difference. I did collect system-wide energy efficiency indicators from literature, so I didn't calculate them, they're from scientific publications. Systemically means that it not only calculates the costs of the active panel of the solar element but also includes all the structural materials, wires, and support structures necessary for the actual operation. In fact, it also includes the power
plant that needs to be maintained because the sun is not always shining and the wind is not always blowing, and that is why we need so-called balancing power plant capacities that can bridge these periods. And all of these combined, they come up with some pretty bad efficiency indicators. - The sun and wind farms? - Yeah, because it takes a lot of energy to make these resources. So, for example, by 2050, 50 percent of the world's aluminum production will be the production of solar panels' support structure, so that we are talking about a huge amount of energy. - If I understand correctly, what we win on one side, we lose on the other side, don't we? That's what you say. - Yeah, but it's not the individual who, say, installs solar panels on the roof, he's been producing solar energy from day one and cutting costs, but that solar battery didn't grow out of the ground on its own, but the production of that solar battery has consumed a lot of material and energy. Of course, I, who installed the
solar panel on the roof don't know, it's none of my business to know, but globally, if you're looking at the world, you have to be aware that it does not stand by its own. - It doesn't in itself mean that it's an unsustainable technology, or that this technology is worse than its alternatives. This is where science uses what is called a life cycle analysis, so it tells us to look at the fact that from the moment they start manufacturing the elements that will be installed here on the rooftop until they have to do something about the waste, what the energy balance is like. And if you look at this part only, if you look at the solar element alone, but everything including the wires, everything, then from an energy point of view, these are not technologies that are at all doomed to death. In this context,
the literature shows relatively clear and relatively high figures using the indicator that shows how many times the total amount of energy produced by solar cells over the life cycle is compared to the investment. - Only these indicators are not very rosy, especially in comparison with other forms of energy production. Here, the reference is often the nuclear power plant or these traditional forms of energy production, and they are worse in comparison with them, by an order of magnitude. - Then what do you vote for? How should mankind produce energy? - Consume less energy. - That's your answer? - Yeah. - Because none of this is a good solution that the world can offer as an alternative. - Obviously, energy saving is
an extremely important strategy, so all the others will not be enough to create a sustainable system without it. But energy saving alone is not a miracle weapon. For two reasons. There may be a version of energy saving that we use, say, technology that is more efficient than the other. I've already set the LED example for this, haven't I? Many times, however, there will be the consequence of using more of it. So if the LED lighting is so effective, then we say, hop, we can put a light bulb there because it's cheap, because it requires little energy. The other is that if we consume less, let's suppose we use strategies to persuade people that the culture in Hungary is that we do not waste so much of resources that have an international market.
This can cause the price to decrease through the international market so that if you use less, so less demand, the reduce of demand can reduce the price, which may mean that others in the system elsewhere say 'hoo, so cheap, then I will use more of it'. So these so-called rebound effects, are very important and need to be done with them. - Unfortunately, that's the logic of society, and it's very difficult to deal with.
It's the same with fuel consumption if we save on gas, if we save on gas, or if our car consumes better, then we travel more because then we can afford it. So what we save is also spent on consumption, and it also consumes energy, so we are finally in the same place behind the eight ball. - According to Miklós Antal, what sector of energy production would be the most effective? - We need a mix. So we don't need monoculture. So solar energy is very important, for example, in my opinion, but it is not enough in itself. Wind energy should also play a role in the system, which, based on Western European examples, appears to be a pretty good complement to solar energy, for example, cause they're not producing at the same time.
For example, wind energy is one of the best strategies in terms of climate. Lifecycle analyses show that this alone is a very good strategy, obviously setting the system for some of the things we talked about earlier, slightly reduces, let's say, if we look at this from a carbon point of view, it will also bring out slightly worse indicators for this energy source. - In terms of CO2 emissions, they have significantly lower footprints or CO2 emissions, but there is a very significant multiplier in material use between, say, traditional forms of energy production and these alternative forms of energy production. - For what?
- Well, the conventional is much more concentrated, it uses much less material, by magnitude less or by two orders of magnitude. These alternative energy sources the Germans have a word for, this is called the material eater 'materialfresser', because simply the production of a given power unit requires a huge amount of material, indeed several times, even a hundred times, as if we wanted to stop this in a different way, in a traditional way. - The wind power plant itself, the solar power plant itself, of course, requires more material than a fossil power plant, but it doesn't burn anything, so there's no fuel. So this is a huge difference, so if you look at it simply from a material point of view, then the total material balance is different from this point of view because there you have to carry the lignite continuously, you have to transport the gas, you have to deliver the oil. I'm not arguing that there will be environmental effects that are very serious, but that's what finger to bite. And therefore, if you have to choose, today's mainstream energy thinking says that we prefer to choose the negatives that belong to solar energy, wind energy, in some cases, to some extent biomass energy, and, of course, they belong to hydropower and other potential renewables with a longer history, because this is still better than, say, the negatives of fossil energy. And one more addition,
I wouldn't call alternative energy, let's say, the sun and wind energy. Renewables represent the largest share of the EU's electricity mix. It's an existing mainstream technology. - One jump to the next question, which I would like to clarify in your presence, is it really fatal, or will the temperature rise be fatal in the near future, or does nature still have a reserve of endurance? - Climate change is unstoppable in the sense that the processes we