Monday, January 25, 2010

Climate Soap Opera, new episode

 For those who speak German, here today's article in spiegel-online (a really influential online publication in Germany) 'Schmelzendes Vertrauen'':,1518,673779,00.html

You can bet that the author reads Klimazwiebel and Pielke jr.'s blog. It is interesting that all the different elements such as the hockey stick debate, climategate, the Pachauri business and  Himalaya glaciers add up to a consistent (skeptical) narrative. At least for the Spiegel journalist, with Pielke jr. and Hans von Storch as his principal witnesses.

Maybe there is indeed a pattern, maybe there is not. The Spiegel story suggests there is. Great day for the skeptics, I guess. Once these diverse elements are formed into a consistent narrative, the story becomes part of the public debate and produces new realities. At least media realities, with lots of consequences in politics and public opinion. Some of these consequences might be intended by the combatants, others not. (And in the end everybody in the science community will agree that the media didn't get it right).

Maybe it is time to step back for a moment and to reflect - what is this all about? Is it just another episode in the endless soap opera between skeptics and alarmists (this round goes to the skeptics)? Is it about purifying climate science (and peer review) from outside influences? Is it about career patterns and political influence? Is it about 'truth'? And, by the way, is it still about climate and its effects on people and their environment etc? I do not suggest that these debates are unnecessary, quite the contrary. But blogs tend to drown in mutual accusations, mutual debunking, personal accusations etc, with sometimes unintended consequences. The spiegel online story is a good test: is this indeed what you wanted? If so, it's fine. If not, don't blame the media.


Hans von Storch said...

Werner, to deal with these questions we need ethnologists. So, go to work!

fred said...

I like the header: "Melting Trust"

Marco said...

The English version in Der Spiegel (yeah, yeah, I know, not a translation, different author and such) is quite different:,1518,672975,00.html

The sad thing of this whole affair is that many Himalayan glaciers ARE melting rapidly.

Richard Tol said...

There are two pieces. One by Pielke, Storch and myself; and one by Traufetter.

Traufetter had read our draft and talked to us, but he tells his own version of the story.

Marco said...

Richard: I guess that makes it THREE pieces: there's also Werner Krauss' piece.

Leigh Jackson said...

Is there an English translation? For me what all this is about is the relationship between science of climate change and politics.

Politics in the most general. So, the aggregate of all human interactions connected with the science of climate change and in particular human caused climate change.

"The Media" is a world of politics unto itself. Determining and expressing scientific consensus is a world of politics unto itself.

And so on, and all those worlds clash, resolve, disolve over time.

I am interested in how society adapts or fails to adapt to new science. How society deals with the challenges to existing human institutions and belief structures thrown up by new scientific knowledge.

Some examples. The war between religious conservatives and secularists fighting over Darwin. The battle between anti-vivisectionists and animal researchers. The "naturalist" medicine challenge to "reductionist" medicine.

Kooiti MASUDA said...

The English article mentioned by Marco (#3) is Christopher Seideler (20 Jan. 2010)
"UN climate experts under fire for glacier melt error", which is the English version of the article mentioned in the previous article here by Reiner Grundman (19 Jan. 2010) "Schellnhuber calls for reform of IPCC".

The English version of the article mentioned this time is Gerhald Trauffetter (27 Jan. 2010) "Can climate forecasts still be trusted?",1518,674087,00.html .

There is also another article by Richard Tol, Roger Pielke and Hans von Storch (25 Jan. 2010) "Save the panel on climate change!", which is mentioned by the article by Werner Krauss (25 Jan. 2010) "Save the IPCC". The URL of the English version is shown in the comment #1 (anonymous).

Leigh Jackson said...

Thanks Kooiti. Trauffetter repeats the error that New Scientist first published the 2035 claim. In fact, it was Down to Earth, which was also appears to be the source of the table in the IPCC section on Himalayan glaciers. It is not absolutely clear yet how Down to Earth came to publish this figure, but it could be that they, like New Scientist, were given this impression by Hasnain. They certainly mistakenly used Kotlyakov's figures of 500.000 to 100,000 square metres reduction of all extrapolar glaciation to apply to the Himalyas alone. Trauffeter seems to think that 2035 derives as a typo from Kotlyakov's 2350 figure, but this is an assumption not a confirmed fact.

I am amazed that we have not yet heard anything from Down to Earth.

Marcel Severijnen said...

Yes Werner, let's step back for a while and leave the floor, exit climatologists, enter not only ethnologists (why not ethologists), but also theologists - for AGW-believers and -nonbelievers - , poets and scenario writers. In this soap opera we have seen and will continue to see splendid performances on both sides, with real-world typecasting and deepening of the characters. High emotions, hardly moderated. More than enough ingredients to feed a whole bunch of dramawriters. Enough stuff for a long series of kings drama's, just wait for the re-incarnation of Shakespeare.
Some basic material has already been laid down in pictures like Al Gore's "truth" on one side, and the "swindle" for the contrarian side. But there is more to come, even from a higher - as some like to think - cultural level: not a soap opera but an opera seria or perhaps an opera buffa titled: "La scomoda verità", for non-Italians also known as "An inconvenient truth". See: and
Both in Dutch, but that should not be a problem with the multilingual readers of this blog. Be sure to book your chair early in the Scala of Milan.

Kooiti MASUDA said...

I come up with a new role model. That is "an honest alarmist" (no joking). I think that the society needs such persons that points to the dangerous end of the likely outcome. They must have estimates of the probability of the affairs (even though it is usually just subjective) ready to be communicated, and the value should not be negligibly small. For example, a journalist may communicate the summary of IPCC AR4 as "the warming may be 6.4 deg. C in 2100" (if the space is very short), but he/she should add an "honest alarmist" flag.

The counterpart may be called "an honest easygoer" (rather than "... skeptic"). He/she may commuicate IPCC AR4 as "the warming may be as small as 1 deg. C in 2100" with an appropriate flag.