Environment

When the water level falls in the Rhine River

Budenheim and climate change

A situation we have been familiar with for some years and which we obviously have to get used to. Summer was very hot and much too dry. In the drought year 2018 with its long dry period in summer, this also affected production in this company as the low water level in the Rhine river placed heavy restrictions on the transport of goods by cargo boats. In consequence, a lot more than 60 lorries had to be used to carry an amount on the road which would otherwise have been transported by a single boat. This resulted in an enormous additional expenditure but Budenheim was quick to react and able to minimise the problem.

The research project

What are the risks climate change involves for Budenheim? How can the company respond to these changes? Does this also provide opportunities? Are there any internal obstacles when adapting to the consequences of climate change? And what kind of support does ISO 14001, the international standard for environmental management systems, offer for overcoming these obstacles? Budenheim's immission control officer Tobias Wagner looked into these questions while working on his Master’s thesis which he wrote at Leuphana University in Lüneburg last year. The title of his thesis was "Overcoming in-company entrepreneurial barriers when adjusting to climate change in the context of ISO 14001". It quickly became evident that the topic of climate change has very complex consequences for Budenheim, and poses a large number of challenges which can only be solved by making a joint effort.

Instead of a single ship, far more than 60 lorries had to be sent on the road to carry the same quantity of raw material.

Climate change and business

Basically, climate change is marked by a rise in temperature which brings about more extreme weather events like storms, flash floods and snowfall. And these are already showing effects on many branches of economic activity. Apart from agriculture which probably is the first area that springs to mind, damages caused by storms or heat also affect industries like telecommunications or railways. Power stations also had to reduce their output during the last few summers in order to avoid heating up rivers any further for ecological reasons as they were running at a low water level anyhow. Road and air traffic and the logistics industry face restrictions too when roads and runways crack under the effect of heat. This also leads to consequences for other branches of industry.

Risks and opportunities for Budenheim

The risks for this company mainly affect our site located on the bank of the Rhine River. Periods with high or low water can severely limit navigation, and thus obstruct raw material supplies while also creating problems with cooling water supply. But extreme weather events like heavy rainfalls and storms are expected to become more frequent and intensive according to forecasts as well, and may put the security of supplies at risk.

However, there are also opportunities as the demand for new and innovative products may increase. New markets may be opened up when suitable solutions are quickly developed. Apart from new products, our customers may also have a stronger demand for existing products that are designed for applications intended to mitigate climate change effects or have other positive climatic properties. This may generate higher sales.

Dr Thomas Jagella (left-hand) and Jens Voigt (right-hand) congratulate Tobias Wagner on his successful Master’s thesis.