The Max Planck Society makes a significant contribution to research studies which investigate the effects of our energy systems on the global climate. The WDC Research Cluster “Earth System Research”, to which the Max Planck groups working in this field belong, is a global leader in climate modelling, and the roots of its expertise extend far back into the past. Paul Crutzen, for example, from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry studied the effect of trace gases in the atmosphere on the depletion of the ozone layer back in the 1970s and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1995 for this work. This and other basic research findings have been incorporated into the development of the global climate models used today. The climate models produced by the Max Planck institutes constitute an important basis for the reports of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). Global models for the development of the world’s climate are calculated on the basis of different scenarios using the supercomputer at the German Climate Computing Center (DRKZ). Enormous computing capacity is required to carry out these model calculations. For example, approximately 5,000 years were simulated in real time for the last IPPC report - an operation that required a total of 400,000 CPU hours. Even more important than the pure computing time, however, are the experience and expertise in the development of the actual models that have been gained over many years and are contributed by the Max Planck scientists. Many of the primary data used in the climate models are collected by the Max Planck institutes involved in the WDC Research Cluster “Earth System Research”.
According to all of the models, anthropogenic (manmade) carbon dioxide emissions represent a crucial factor that will have a significant influence on the global climate in the decades and centuries to come. Most of these anthropogenic emissions originate from energy generation processes based on the burning of fossil fuels, for example coal and oil in power plants for electricity production, and the combustion of petrol or diesel in engines. While energy-saving measures currently offer the greatest potential in terms of reducing CO2 emissions, work needs to be done on the fundamental transformation of our energy systems over the long term. This requires comprehensive application-oriented development projects; however, knowledge-oriented research that is not tied to a particular application and as is typical of the work carried out by the Max Planck Society is of similarly crucial importance for the development of a future energy system on a temporal scale of decades.