Contribution of Science

Wednesday, 11. October 2006 | 11:00 Uhr


Ernst von Weizsäcker


Donald Bren School for Environmental Science and Management, Santa Barbara, CA


Ernst von Weizsäcker believes the role of research, development and science is changing. Science, which is anchored in the business world and in society, is stronger. It is important to let the dinosaur technologies disappear. He sees opportunities for Switzerland, because it is less focused on energy-hungry industries. Using some photographic projections and examples (Hawaii, Gulf Stream, Greenland) he demonstrated the effects of global warming. He stressed the non-linearity of climate changes and concluded that “the flood can come at any time”. In the USA, half the population is (still) convinced that climate change is not an issue. Ninety-nine percent of scientists have acknowledged the problem. There is an information problem. Science, politics, NGOs and the media need to create a new awareness. Science also has to focus on the development of practical, useful products. Science has to get together with the business world to find solutions to challenges. Industry often only addresses a problem when it already has a product it can use to do business. The CFC problem (refrigerators) was not seriously addressed until DuPont had developed an alternative. The same was seen in the case of penicillin resistance. Some problems that need to be addressed include lamps, transport systems in the manufacture and distribution of food, intensive farming, scattered settlements/dense settlements. He expressed some dismay that there has not yet been a Nobel Prize for ecology. However, the Finnish government does award a “Millennium Ecology Prize”.

Ernst von Weizsäcker

Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker, born 1939 in Zurich, gained his university entrance examination in 1958 from the Max-Planck grammar school in Göttingen and gained his degree in Physics in Hamburg in 1965. In 1969 obtained a doctorate in Biology in Freiburg. From 1969 to 1972 he was Scientific Adviser to the Evangelische Studiengemeinschaft in Heidelberg. from 1972 to 1975 he was ordinary Professor of Biology at the University of Essen and from 1975 to 1980 President of the University/GHS Kassel.

From 1980 to 1984, he worked as Director at the UN Centre for Science and Technology in New York and from 1984 to 1991 as Director at the Institute for European Environmental Policy, Bonn, London, and Paris. From 1985 to 1991 he was a member of the board (1988-1991, chairman) of the Association of German Scientists. From 1991 to 2000 he was President of the Wuppertal Institute of Climate, Environment and Energy. From 2002 to 2004, he was a member of the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization, Geneva. Since 1985, Ernst von Weizsäcker has been a member of the board of trustees of the Theodor Heuss Foundation, Stuttgart and since 1992 has been a member of the Club of Rome. He has been on the board of the Association of German Scientists (Vereinigung Deutscher Wissenschaftler e.V.) since 2003 and a member of the World Academy of Art and Science since 2005.

Ernst von Weizsäcker became actively engaged in politics as long ago as the 70s. From 1998 to 2005 he was a member of the German Bundestag, constituency 259, Stuttgart I. In addition, he was Chairman of the Enquete Commission “Globalization of the Global Economy“ from 1999 to 2002 and Chairman of the Committee for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Reactor Safety of the German Bundestag from 2002 to 2005. From December 2004 to October 2005, he was spokesman of the SPD study group on Sustainable Development in the German Bundestag.

Since January 2006, Ernst von Weizsäcker has been Dean of the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California, Santa Barbara.

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