Ohne die­se vier Stoffe funk­tioniert die mo­derne Welt nicht

Wir wollen uns ja bekanntlich unabhängig machen von fossilen Energieträgern. Erinnern wir uns also zur Abwechslung einmal daran, wie schwer das ist:

  • „Modern societies would be impossible without mass-scale production of many man-made materials. (…) Four materials rank highest on the scale of necessity, forming what I have called the four pillars of modern civilization: cement, steel, plastics, and ammonia are needed in larger quantities than are other essential inputs.” – bto: Das sind ziemlich grundlegende Stoffe, die zudem in großen Mengen erzeugt werden müssen.
  • „The world now produces annually about 4.5 billion tons of cement, 1.8 billion tons of steel, nearly 400 million tons of plastics, and 180 million tons of ammonia.” – bto: Was alles übrigens verantwortlich für einen sehr großen Teil unseres CO2-Ausstoßes ist.
  • „But it is ammonia that deserves the top position as our most important material: its synthesis is the basis of all nitrogen fertilizers, and without their applications it would be impossible to feed, at current levels, nearly half of today’s nearly 8 billion people. (…) This dependence easily justifies calling ammonia synthesis the most momentous technical advance in history.” – bto: Es ist letztlich der Stoff, der Malthus (vorübergehend) widerlegt hat und die Bevölkerungsexplosion und damit die Klimaproblematik ermöglicht hat.
  • Plastics are a large group of synthetic organic materials whose common quality is that they can be molded into desired shapes—and they are now everywhere. (…) plastics are now most indispensable in health care in general and in hospitals in particular. Life now begins (in maternity wards) and ends (in intensive care units) surrounded by plastic items made above all from different kinds of PVC: flexible tubes (for feeding patients, delivering oxygen, and monitoring blood pressure), catheters, intravenous containers, blood bags, sterile packaging, trays and basins, bedpans and bed rails, thermal blankets.” – bto: Hmm. Kein so guter Gedanke, aber natürlich zutreffend.
  • Steel’s strength, durability, and versatility determines the look of modern civilization and enables its most fundamental functions. This is the most widely used metal and it forms countless visible and invisible critical components of modern civilization, from skyscrapers to scalpels. Moreover, nearly all other metallic and non-metallic products we use have been extracted, processed, shaped, finished, and distributed with tools and machines made of steel, and no mode of today’s mass transportation could function without steel.” – bto: Es ist wirklich ein sehr grundlegendes Material. Ich denke, es gibt einen guten Grund, davon auch eine Produktion in der eigenen Region zu haben.
  • Cement is, of course, the key component of concrete: combined with sand, gravel and water it makes the most massively deployed material. Modern cities are embodiments of concrete, as are bridges, tunnels, roads, dams, runways and ports. China now produces more than half of the world’s cement and in recent years it makes in just two years as much of it as did the United States during the entire 20th century. Yet another astounding statistic is that the world now consumes in one year more cement than it did during the entire first half of the 20th century.” – bto: Und das bedeutet sehr, sehr viel CO2.
  • „And these four materials, so unlike in their properties and qualities, share three common traits: they are not readily replaceable by other materials (certainly not in the near future or on a global scale); we will need much more of them in the future; and their mass-scale production depends heavily on the combustion of fossil fuels, making them major sources of greenhouse gas emissions.” – bto: Was bedeutet das? Nun, dass wir Wege finden müssen, den CO2-Ausstoß zu kompensieren, zum Beispiel durch die Carbon-Capture-Technologie.
  • Und wir haben nur wenige Hebel, daran etwas zu ändern: „As for the future needs, high-income countries could reduce their fertilizer use (eating less meat, wasting less), and China and India, the two heavy users, could also reduce their excessive fertilizer applications, but Africa, the continent with the fastest-growing population, remains deprived of fertilizers even as it is already a substantial food importer. (…) More plastics will be needed for expanding medical (aging populations) and infrastructural (pipes) uses and in transportation (see the interior of airplanes and high-speed trains). As is the case with ammonia, steel consumption has to rise in all low-income countries with underdeveloped infrastructures and transportation. And much more cement will be needed to make concrete: affluent countries to fix decaying infrastructures (in the US all sectors where concrete dominates, including dams, roads, and aviation get a D grade in nationwide engineering assessments), in low-income countries to expand cities, sewers and transportation.” – bto: Die Antwort lautet hier also nicht Verzicht, sondern intelligente Kompensation und neue Verfahren.
  • „Moreover, the unfolding transition to renewable energies will demand huge amounts of steel, concrete and plastics. (…) Fossil fuels remain indispensable for producing all of these materials.“ – bto: Darüber hinaus kommen die Rohstoffe dafür noch überwiegend aus China und Russland.
  • „ (…) global production of these four indispensable materials claims about 17 percent of the world’s annual total energy supply, and it generates about 25 percent of all CO2 emissions originating in the combustion of fossil fuels. The pervasiveness of this dependence and its magnitude make the decarbonization of the four material pillars of modern civilization uncommonly challenging: replacing fossil fuels in their production will be far more difficult and costly than generating more electricity from renewable (mainly wind and solar) conversions.” – bto: Das wiederum bedeutet auch, dass es sehr, sehr teuer ist.
  • „And beyond these four material pillars new and highly energy-intensive material dependencies are emerging and electric cars are their best example: A typical lithium car battery weighing about 450 kilograms contains about 11 kilograms of lithium, nearly 14 kilograms of cobalt, 27 kilograms of nickel, more than 40 kilograms of copper, and 50 kilograms of graphite—as well as about 181 kilograms of steel, aluminum, and plastics. Supplying these materials for a single vehicle requires processing about 40 tons of ores, and given the low concentration of many elements in their ores it necessitates extracting and processing about 225 tons of raw materials. And aggressive electrification of road transport would soon require multiplying these needs by tens of millions of units per year!” – bto: Das zeigt, dass wir uns mit unseren Rechnungen zur Klimawirkung immer etwas vormachen.
  • „ (…) until all energies used to extract and process these materials come from renewable conversions, modern civilization will remain fundamentally dependent on the fossil fuels used in the production of these indispensable materials.” – bto: Die Antwort lautet Innovation, nicht Verzicht. Weil letzterer die Menscheit nicht überzeugt.

time.com: „The Modern World Can’t Exist Without These Four Ingredients. They All Require Fossil Fuels“, 16. Mai 2022