Chalmers has conducted research into a sustainable future for decades. Our ambition is to use knowledge and technological solutions to renew and improve conditions in all areas from carbon capture and sustainable energy systems to human behaviour and what is required from political systems to achieve real change.
Here we have collected examples of areas where our climate research is particularly strong as well as some of our experts in each area.
- Climate policy
- Biomass and carbon sinks
- Fossil-free transport
- The impact of clothing
- Emissions from industry
- Lifestyle and human behaviour
Professor Christian Azar
undertakes research on the challenges and opportunities of the future in combating climate change.
In a study published in summer 2020, he showed, together with research colleagues including Associate Professor Daniel Johansson, that an optimal climate policy from an economic perspective is in line with the Paris Agreement’s two degrees limit – and that an ambitious climate policy is profitable for society.
He was also one of the three Swedish delegates at the final negotiation of the summary of the latest IPCC report
Azar observes that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing at a faster rate than has ever been measured, but the positive elements are that usage of renewable energy is increasing rapidly, and a new climate movement is gaining ground.
Opinion piece: Sweden can show the way with climate burdens that are reasonably distributed
Professor Björn Sandén
conducts research on climate and innovation policy and on technological solutions to the climate issue, such as whether renewable energy can replace fossil fuels entirely and whether electric cars solve the emissions problem in the transport sector. He is an expert who is in demand by industry, public authorities, politicians and the media on matters such as what policy instruments are needed to bring about social change on a large scale.
A dozen primary industries’ facilities are responsible for about one fifth of Sweden’s emissions of greenhouse gases. The technology for reducing these emissions to nearly zero already exists, according to Filip Johnsson
and his colleagues at Mistra Carbon Exit
, but it requires huge investment. It has now become urgent for policy and financial instruments to be introduced that are powerful enough for that investment to come in at the rate required.
, Professor of Urban Design and Planning, and Holger Wallbaum
, Professor of Sustainable Building, suggest that today’s taxation model, based primarily on income tax, ties us into an unsustainable relationship with our environment. That is the reason why we ought to switch from taxing work to taxing the use of land and natural resources.
Opinion piece: “Shifting the tax burden from work to land is a more effective measure than a tax on plastic bags”
, doctoral student in Physical Resource Theory, was secretary to the Biojet government inquiry on aviation that was presented in the spring of 2020. The main proposal is for a duty of reduction relating to aviation, with a view to increasing the blending of biofuel into aviation fuel.
Chalmers has established the world’s first global research network on climate change denial, which studies how the advance of right-wing nationalism in Europe has contributed to an increase in climate change denial. Martin Hultman
has made a name for himself internationally by demonstrating the link between conservatism, xenophobia and climate change denial
. He distinguishes between organised and party-political climate change denial, but also response denial among politicians and the everyday denial that people’s day-to-day behaviour illustrates.
is professor of sustainable energy systems and comments on the report The Production Gap from 2020
where several research institutions together with the UN Environment Program have examined how much fossil fuels the world's countries plan to use by 2030 and compared it with the reduction required to limit global warming according to climate goals.
Professor Tomas Kåberger
is a member of the Swedish Climate Policy Council and an Affiliated Professor at Chalmers. His research includes the electricity market and the Emissions Trading System. The rapid development of new energy technology has had an impact on the market and solar and wind power now often outcompete other types of energy investments.
In September 2020, Jessica Jewell was awarded a 1.5€ million grant by the European Research Council for a project
which will advance our understanding of whether and under what conditions it is feasible to avoid dangerous climate change.
and his research group have designed a molecule that can store solar energy in a special liquid for up to 18 years
. When the solar heat is to be used, the liquid is pumped through a catalyst, which produces a reaction such that the heat rises by no less than 63°C. The energy system is completely emission-free, and researchers have named it MOST (molecular solar thermal energy storage).
In the autumn of 2020, an EU project
led by Chalmers started on MOST. The researches will develop prototypes of the new technology for larger scale applications, such as heating systems in residential houses. The project has been granted 4.3 million Euros from the EU.
The Internet has emerged as something of a climate change villain in social debate, causing carbon emissions on a scale comparable to aviation. If the increase continues at the same rate, without any energy efficiency measures, within ten years the Internet is going to consume more than the entire world’s current production of electricity. Peter Andrekson
and his colleagues are studying how fibre-optic communications systems can be made more energy-efficient
. The measures proposed by the researchers include smart, error-correcting data chips that have been designed so that they consume ten times less energy.
Biomass and carbon sinks
Göran Berndes and colleagues have presented an action plan
that contrasts with the extractive and linear fossil-based economy. Instead, it describes a circular bioeconomy that relies on healthy, biodiverse and resilient ecosystems and aims to provide sustainable wellbeing for society at large.
The EU is considering to accept a controversial trade agreement with Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay (Mercosur bloc), despite that the Brazilian government is going in the opposite direction to its commitment to reduce deforestation as part of the Paris Agreement. The trade agreement would ensure cheaper meat and soy and increase the production of ethanol – three products that all drive deforestation.
Chalmers researcher Martin Persson
, one of the authors behind the study, believes that the agreement misses all important sustainability criteria and, among other things, is risking to leading to a further increase in deforestation in South America.
“We can no longer meet our climate goals by limiting carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon storage must also be factored in”, according to Anders Lyngfelt
, Professor of Energy Technology. He has developed a new method of carbon capture (known as Carbon Capture and Storage, CSS), which has made him one of the most cited researchers in the world in this field.
Read also: Anders Lyngfelt wants to clean the atmosphere of carbon
Separating and storing carbon emissions from 27 Swedish facilities with CCS technology would enable the removal of the equivalent of half of Sweden’s total carbon emissions at a cost comparable to the Swedish carbon tax. Filip Johnsson
is a Professor of Sustainable Energy Systems and has written reports about what is required for CCS technology to become a reality.
On average, emissions from a Swedish resident’s air travel are equivalent to 1.1 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person per year, approximately five times as high as the global average, which is around 0.2 tonnes per person. This was what the study “The climate impact of air travel by the Swedish population 1990–2017” showed, which the researcher Jörgen Larsson
undertook together with Anneli Kamb
, commissioned by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency. This impact has increased by 47 per cent since 1990. According to the study, which includes high altitude effects and the climate footprint caused by foreign travel all the way to final destinations, this means that aviation has approximately the same impact in Sweden as the use of private cars.
Aviation is the sector that is having the most difficulty managing its climate footprint. “Maybe aviation should have priority in terms of the limited quantity of biomass that can be used for biofuel,” argues Maria Grahn
, Director of the Energy Area of Advance at Chalmers. She is an expert in what is known as electrofuel, a groundbreaking method of manufacturing fuel from only water and electricity, and then carbon dioxide. It requires enormous quantities of fossil-free electricity.
“It is one way of reducing the pressure on biomass, so as to meet future scarcity of land and water in the long term. Electrofuel can stretch the potential of biofuels, if the world makes such a choice in terms of technology.”
“Bearing in mind how battery technology has advanced in the last ten years, there is no reason to think that development is not going to continue,” says Anders Forslund.
“Biofuel is crucial for heavier forms of transport such as aviation and lorries,” says the researcher Eduard Kerkhoven
According to the Swedish Transport Administration’s 2018 annual report, emissions from road traffic fell in the years up to 2015 but have since increased again. Increased goods traffic and thirstier petrol and diesel cars cancel out the impact of ever greater numbers of electric cars being sold. Frances Sprei
and Anders Nordelöf
describe the importance of encouraging a growing market for electric cars. Even today electric cars are the right climate choice for the individual, regardless of how the batteries and electricity are produced.
is a Professor of Transport and Energy Systems and an expert in alternative fuels, technological change, consumer behaviour and urban mobility. She has acted as an adviser regarding change in the transport sector in the state of California among others and can respond to many types of questions on creating a more sustainable transport sector.
“If we are to achieve our big climate goals, we must switch fuels,” she says.
Two studies clarify the climate impact of food consumption
by combining satellite data from rainforests, global agricultural statistics and data relating to trade flows between countries. The results show that one sixth of emissions from an average diet in the EU can be directly linked to deforestation of rainforest.
“If the EU wants to achieve its climate goals, we must set tougher environmental requirements for those who export food to the EU,” says Martin Persson
, who conducted the studies together with Florence Pendrill
“Our study shows that organic peas cultivated in Sweden have a climate impact that is approximately 50 per cent greater than the conventionally grown variety,” says Stefan Wirsenius
, Associate Professor of Environmental and Resource Analysis.
“The report gives the same advice to everybody, and that is where the problem lies,” says Christel Cederberg, Professor of Physical Resource Theory.
, Doctor of Food & Nutrition Science, also collaborated in the above graphic.
“In order to propel such climate-friendly technology forward, a much more ambitious climate policy for farming is required than what we have today,” says the researcher David Bryngelsson (no longer at Chalmers), co-author with Stefan Wirsenius
, Associate Professor of Environmental and Resource Analysis.
It is Christel Cederberg
’s view that one of our most important sustainability tasks is to farm our land so that it remains fertile in the long term for future generations. She believes that people will look back at the period from the second half of the 20th century onwards and wonder “how such enormous volumes of so many poisonous substances could have been allowed to be spread in the world’s agriculture”.
In the last 20 years, Swedes have increased their beef consumption by over 50 per cent. The really big win would be to stop eating beef products
“Even the person who eats a low-carb-high-fat diet that is extremely rich in protein based on chicken makes a greater environmental contribution than the person who is vegetarian and consumes a lot of dairy products,” says David Bryngelsson (no longer at Chalmers), who was co-author of the study with Stefan Wirsenius
, Associate Professor of Environmental and Resource Analysis.
“When it comes to waste, several steps in the food chain are involved, which is why it is difficult for individual players alone to reduce waste,” says researcher Kristina Liljestrand
, now at Chalmers Industrial Technology.
The impact of clothing
“If we can make our garments last longer in our wardrobes, we can minimise the enormous environmental impact that occurs when the garments are created,” says researcher Greg Peters
, Professor of Environmental Systems Analysis.
Emissions from industry
, Professor of Sustainable Energy Systems, says that emissions from steel and cement production must be drastically reduced. This would result in significant cost increases for the producers, but the price of the final product would only rise by about half a per cent. We must therefore find new innovative instruments and funding types for the necessary investments.
In just 25 years, Sweden is to become one of the first fossil-free welfare states in the world. Is that possible? Enormous technological advances are required but the cost need not be insurmountable. This is the view of Johan Rootzén
(now at the University of Gothenburg) and Anna Elofsson
, doctoral student in Physical Resource Theory, who are both advisers to industry on the journey towards a future without climate emissions.
Lifestyle and human behaviour
How would Swedes’ quality of life be impacted upon by the climate adaptation works that are required for the two-degree goal to be achieved? This was something the Chalmers researcher Jörgen Larsson studied as early as 2013.
“Research indicates that people’s quality of life after the transition to a green economy would be more or less comparable to what it is today,” says Jörgen Larsson
“This provides support to politicians that the introduction of instruments that have an impact on our lifestyles may be acceptable to the general public. If this trend continues, politicians can make progress over time as regards introducing such instruments,” says Filip Johnsson