Edgar Hertwich

About Edgar Hertwich

I am a professor at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and currently serve as president of the International Society for Industrial Ecology. I grew up in Braunau, Austria, studied physics at Princeton and Energy & Resources at the University of California, Berkeley. From 2003-2015, I directed the Industrial Ecology Programme of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. My research interests cover life cycle assessment, sustainable consumption and production, trade and environment, risk analysis, and climate mitigation. I am interested in understanding how activities in our society require resources and produce environmental pressures. I would like to better understand the dynamics in our development that affect these driving forces and their resulting environmental pressures, and alternative courses of action that can reduce these pressures. What is the connection between human activities on the one hand and emissions and resource use on the other hand? What are the implications of our current development path? What do we need to change, both in terms of individual actions and policy frameworks, to achieve a more sustainable development.


Publications: See full list here (in Google Scholar)

Energy efficiency offers win-win for climate, health, and ecosystems

A potential increase in metal consumption emerges as only concern in a broad-based investigation of the clean-energy transition The history of environmental protection is full of unforeseen consequences: taller chimneys only led to pollutants spreading wide and far, and safe refrigerants replacing hydrocarbons turned out to damage the ozone hole. How can we ensure that technologies we employ to reduce greenhouse gas emissions do not give rise to the next generation of problems? Protecting the [...]

By | 2017-11-08T21:16:06+00:00 June 11th, 2017|New Research|0 Comments

How to force down the US climate impact

While Donald Trump withdraws the US from the Paris climate agreement, the world has tools to reduce the US carbon footprint As the world is in shock about Donald Trump’s erratic but not unexpected decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord, reactions range from the denial of the momentous consequences of this decision through dismay to desperate calls for retaliation. It is clear, this decision unmistakably indicates that the United States [...]

By | 2017-11-08T21:16:07+00:00 June 2nd, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Does ‘green energy’ have hidden health and environmental costs?

Edgar Hertwich, Yale University; Anders Arvesen, Norwegian University of Science and Technology; Sangwon Suh, University of California, Santa Barbara, and Thomas Gibon, Norwegian University of Science and Technology There are a number of available low-carbon technologies to generate electricity. But are they really better than fossil fuels and nuclear power? To answer that question, one needs to compare not just the emissions of different power sources but also the health benefits and the threats to [...]

By | 2017-11-08T21:16:07+00:00 March 21st, 2017|New Research|0 Comments

The Carbon Footprint of Capital

We think of capital, the assets we use in production, as heavy: machines, buildings, infrastructure, trucks and railroads. Being composed mostly of cement and steel, we would expect their production to cause a lot of greenhouse gas emissions. In a new paper, we offer a first detailed analysis of the carbon footprint of gross fixed capital formation across countries and sectors. The picture that emerges is interesting because of some small surprises. Share of [...]

By | 2017-11-08T21:16:07+00:00 January 11th, 2017|New Research|0 Comments

Alternative climate theory in shatters

An alternative theory for climate change based on the influence of cosmic radiation lead to prominent predictions of an imminent cooling of global temperatures. Three years after the book by Fritz Vahrenholt and Sebastian Lüning was a bestseller in Germany and translated into English, its predictions - popular with climate sceptics also in the US -  have been shown to be false. Instead of a rapid cooling since the publication of the book, the world has experienced new temperature records. [...]

By | 2017-11-08T21:16:07+00:00 January 27th, 2016|Scientific Issues|2 Comments

Industrial Ecology – Reflexions

The entire team of PhD students, PostDocs and professors on the steps of the main building, 17 October 2014 In 2003, I moved to Trondheim to become Director of the Industrial Ecology Programme (IndEcol) of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). In 2015, I have moved on to head the Center for Industrial Ecology at Yale University, following Tom Graedel, the founding president of our society. This transition provides an occasion [...]

By | 2017-11-08T21:16:07+00:00 September 4th, 2015|Reflexions|0 Comments

Carbon pricing improves economics of energy

The Economics of Energy – What is the cost-effectiveness of energy and climate policies?  In a panel debate with key European policy makers hosted by GE and organized by ScienceBusiness; I emphasized the need to more systematically internalize environmental costs, which we have enumerated in recent scientific work. The social and economic benefits of modern energy are tremendous. While two billion people still lack access to clean cooking fuels and one billion lacks access to [...]

By | 2017-11-08T21:16:07+00:00 January 21st, 2015|Reflexions|0 Comments

We can reach 2°C if we *replace* polluting technology

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows that hope is not forsaken: rigorous climate politics locally and nationally has spurred development of new technology sooner than expected. Increased pressure in the pursuit of climate protection is still required to reach the 2°C Target. Carbon Budget: Trillion tons of CO2 The report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on the climate climate system launched last year has a clear message: emitting more than one trillion [...]

By | 2017-11-08T21:16:07+00:00 November 15th, 2014|Reflexions|0 Comments

What’s new in the IPCC report

After 4 years of intensive work, the fifth assessment report of climate change by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has finally been published. It says that it is urgent to begin reducing emissions, otherwise we will not be able to stay below the articulated limit of two degree temperature rise. Sure, but that was already the main message of the fourth asssessment report in 2007. Having contributed to this report as a lead [...]

By | 2017-11-08T21:16:07+00:00 April 13th, 2014|Scientific Issues|1 Comment

Carbon footprint of hydro power

I took a deep breath after a brisk climb up the soft hill near the border to Sweden. The sun peaked out under the clouds and the light was beautifully reflected by the water of Nesjøen, while reindeer was munching away on delicious blueberries a little further down the ridge. The reservoir below contrasted to the barren land on the other side, making it more tranquil and interesting at the same time. No wonder that [...]

By | 2017-11-08T21:16:07+00:00 September 17th, 2013|New Research|2 Comments