Originally published on The Beam
By Hannah Helmke, Co-founder of right. based on science “right.”
If there is anything that can stimulate human’s astonishing neurobiology to align thinking and acting with planetary boundaries, it is most arguably culture. Culture understood as shared patterns of behavior and cognitive constructs learned by socialization.
Culturally speaking — at least from western culture’s perspective — things have come to a point in which dissatisfaction with what we have learned in the past and where that has brought us to in regards to quality of life is so high that people are looking for alternative narratives as well as ways of interaction. Climate change serves as the perfect example triggering such dissatisfaction, since it embodies the massive failure of the systems that we trusted and followed. Scientists say that we are approaching or maybe have even reached a social tipping point, in which climate has entered the cultural space of societal structures. Understanding and engaging with climate change is en vogue. Embracing the message that the planet is communicating by means of its devastating reactions to contemporary human behavior is to become the number one topic of the 21st century.
Younger people especially are waking up to the fact that global warming will significantly shape their future, which is leading them to connect with the debate — intellectually, emotionally and physically. This generation is characterized by a strong affinity to digital technologies and an unprecedented access to education. But above all, this generation is looking for a purpose in the form of an identity, an identity which has been taken away by numbing them into the comfort of consumption. Are these circumstances the ingredients for a major transformation?
As climate-related risks and opportunities increasingly occupy economics and business, decision makers are forced to show leadership. Where there is no leadership, doors open for new concepts and styles that speak the language of a generation eager to find a new identity. Old leaders connect with new leaders — giving space for such potential transformation.
In other words, for those who feel inspired by the intersections between climate science, economics, and business, times could not be more exciting and rewarding, provided they don’t suffer from a lack of self-efficacy, which might make it impossible to translate perceived risks into a source of strength and thus security for themselves in a climate-shaped future. Tragically, the lack of self-efficacy and trust in themselves is one of the greatest barriers for talents to make that decisive step.
A different story occurs at right. based on science (“right.”), a German climate change startup which attempts to make the most of the chances embedded in the ongoing transition by actively participating and even shaping such a transformation. In order to do this, a very multidisciplinary and multicultural team has created the economic climate impact model called X-Degree Compatibility (“XDC”) Model. This XDC Model determines the impact of an economic entity on global warming until 2050 under a range of scenarios. Results are expressed in a °C-number, which boils down complex back-end calculations into an easy to communicate and relatable piece of information. Results can be benchmarked against relevant reference values, such as targets or comparison to peers. An economic entity can take the form of a company, a financial portfolio, a country, or a single person.
Among the users of the XDC Model, we find multinational companies such as Continental and creative small players such as Germany’s largest sustainability bank, GLS. The reasons why a company benefits from the analysis resulting from using the XDC Model start with having transparency on the company’s contribution to a specific temperature degree and end with the possibility of designing <2°C-compatible climate strategies that acknowledge climate-related risks and serve as the base for being compliant with current and upcoming reporting duties.
Building and using an economic climate impact model for a new set of use cases is not a trivial exercise. It is exactly the kind of activity that makes us sweat blood and tears, and which throws us into an uncomfortable uncertainty. Nonetheless, this place of uncertainty serves as an opportunity for us to come to radically new insights and design the Zeitgeist by means of advanced business cultures, models and interactions. Sharing experiences in which facts mingle with emotions is a crucial part of the transformation which we all work so excitedly for. In order to enable more people to take part of this exciting moment, right.’s team has created the project right.open by which we provide access to students and scientists to the base code of the XDC Model and support them in using it for their academic activity in the form of Master, PHD theses or scientific articles.
Research questions up to now have revolved around how to use the XDC Model for attaching a °C-number to a single building. Questions about whether companies with a low climate impact perform better financially are also being resolved. Other sort of queries that have come up revolve around the question of how the quality of forward-looking information can be determined by Natural Language Processing and thus be better integrated into the XDC analysis.
right.open kicked off in May 2019, and since then the XDC Model has been presented in several German universities, such as Universität Hamburg, TU Darmstadt, and Hochschule Reutlingen. After these presentations, many students asked to participate in right.open and elaborated feasible research questions with us.
Three representative examples:
- Jonas Becker, Master Student at Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences, encountered the problem that retrieving robust information about a company’s strategy to deal with climate-related risks from its public communications is an intricate thing to do. However, in order to understand whether a company is in a transition, it’s critical to understand the viability of climate strategies and business development plans. In order to better reflect these circumstances in the XDC analysis, Jonas developed an algorithm that extracts relevant climate-related information from a company’s public communication. He used advanced approaches of Natural Language Processing and his results shall be integrated into scenario-based XDC Calculations.
- Prof. Heikki Haario and Prof. Lassi Roininen from Lappeenranta-Lahti University of Technology in Finland are professors of applied mathematics and renowned experts in uncertainty quantification. Uncertainty analysis plays a huge role in creating forward-looking analyses such as those enabled by the XDC. This need not be problematic as long as the uncertainty and the error entailed are well understood. Once it is understood, it can be managed and accounted for when interpreting analyses’ results. In right.open, team members of right. and scientists from LUT use contemporary uncertainty quantification methodologies to research the cascading effect of uncertainty starting from the climate model and ending with the emission data on the statistical error of the XDC Model’s output. Results will be used to enhance the scientific quality of the XDC Model and apply confidence intervals to the results.
- Mareike Schäffner, Master Student at TU Darmstadt, has an interest in exploring how climate change will influence the real estate economy. She uses the XDC Model and the support of right.’s team to find approaches for measuring the temperature alignment of a single property. So far, the XDC Model can only be applied to companies, financial portfolios, countries, and single human beings, but not yet to real estate. Using the dynamics of the XDC Model, which mainly come from a climate model that is integrated into the XDC Model, the code will be adjusted to a new logic for embedding the real estate economy within the global economy.
Further questions that the work of right.’s team and right.open participants will revolve around include the behavioral aspects to be built into the economic part of the XDC Model or finding solutions for the unique challenges posed by communicating climate impact metrics in a compelling manner.
right.open is still in its infancy, but has a powerful vision. Within the next 1-2 years, a community that fosters a collaborative mindset and mobilizes all our potential to serve the search for the multi-faceted solutions that are needed for us to acknowledge, appreciate, and eventually deal with climate change and its message to us will be built. The members of that community are highly talented individuals who build up knowledge around economic climate impact analysis and effectively embed those results into the transition of a world shaped by global warming.
right.open is intended as the test stage for the base code of the XDC Model which will be made available to everyone through an Open Source project.
For all these reasons, right.open will offer visibility for those who decide to take responsibility for themselves when climate change will significantly define those profiles, which will be highly in demand within the real- and financial economy as well as in public affairs and NGOs. Once right.open alumni have entered such positions, it will become evident for themselves and others how making a difference started with the research questions they came up with by participating in right.open.