Edgar Hertwich, Global Leader in
Industrial Ecology, Joins F&ES Faculty

edgar hertwich
Edgar Hertwich
Edgar Hertwich, who helped transform the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) into a leading global institution in the study and teaching of industrial ecology, joins the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) this semester as professor of industrial sustainability.
 
Since 2003, Hertwich was professor at NTNU’s Department of Energy and Process Engineering, where his work focused on industrial ecology, energy, and climate change mitigation. For more than a decade he also served as director of the school’s Industrial Ecology Programme (IndEcol).
 
Hertwich is also a member of the UN Environment Programme’s International Resource Panel, where he leads the Working Group on the Environmental Impacts of Products and Materials. Last year he was lead author of the energy systems chapter in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 5th assessment report.
 
“It’s a great honor to come to Yale,” Hertwich said, “and a great opportunity to step onto a larger stage and project my work even farther.”
 
Hertwich replaces Prof. Thomas Graedel, who made Yale a global center in industrial ecology, a growing field that explores the flow of energy and materials through industrial systems, its effects on the environment, and how economic, political, regulatory and social impacts might transform these systems. Graedel retired earlier this year after 18 years at F&ES.
 
“Edgar is an international leader in the field of industrial ecology, and we are extremely pleased to have him join the F&ES community,” said Peter Crane, dean of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.
 
“It is not easy to fill the shoes of Tom Graedel, a real pioneer in this field, but Edgar’s arrival will ensure that our School will continue to support the growth and evolution of this key area of sustainable environmental management.” 
 
Hertwich, a native of Salzburg, Austria, was a physics undergraduate at Princeton in the early 1990s when he was introduced to the concept of industrial ecology during a graduate seminar taught by Robert Socolow, another luminary in the field.
 
After conducting research work on life cycle impact assessment while he earned his Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley, he joined the faculty at NTNU. (He was the first NTNU professor for whom the phrase “industrial ecology” was included in their job title.)
 
At NTNU, his research focused on climate mitigation, life cycle assessment, sustainable consumption and production, trade and the environment, and risk analysis. Specifically, he has explored how societal activities produce environmental pressures, the dynamics of global development that affect these forces, and alternative courses that can reduce these pressures.
 
He believes industrial ecology can play a much bigger part in addressing these global pressures, particularly when it comes to climate change mitigation. Addressing some mitigation challenges, he says, will require industrial ecology solutions.
 
But the field, he said, will have to become better organized.
This is a very significant change in the energy system that we're looking at that will have repercussions on the rest of the economy.
— Edgar Hertwich
In one of his more recent papers, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Hertwich reported that the increased use of low-carbon energy sources for electricity generation will achieve major environmental benefits, but that this major shift will also require careful consideration of the bulk materials needed to achieve the production capacity.
 
“You will also need to line up a lot more infrastructure and materials, especially for renewable technologies but also CO2 capture and storage,” he said. “I think this is a very significant change in the energy system that we're looking at that will have repercussions on the rest of the economy.”
 
Likewise, he said, countries will have to evaluate new strategies as they design the cities of the future — and the infrastructure systems that support them — if we are to prevent catastrophic climate change.
 
This, he says, will require more emphasis on the material dimensions of sustainability. “All of this is really at in the early stage,” Hertwich says. “That’s why I think there’s a significant opportunity to make a real impact here.”
– Kevin Dennehy    kevin.dennehy@yale.edu    203 436-4842
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PUBLISHED: September 1, 2015
 

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