Monday, December 6, 2010

Silke Beck: Are “climate skeptics” gaining ground in Germany?

A comment by Silke Beck:

In the aftermath of COP 15 and “Climategate,” lobby groups and members of the German Parliament - like the business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP) - try to take advantage of the situation. Paul Friedhoff, the economic policy spokesman of the FDP's parliamentary group, had invited Fred Singer, one of the most influential deniers of climate change worldwide, to Berlin. Marie-Luise Dött, the environmental policy spokeswoman for the parliamentary group of Angela Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), also attended Singer's presentation (http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,721846,00.html).




What does the invitation of one of the most visible “salesman of doubt” indicate? Are these conservative and (market) “libertinist” politicians trying to lift the German “taboo” on climate scepticism? This trend would indeed indicate a major change since the backlash against the global warming was much stronger in the US than in Germany. Open critique of climate science and resistance to climate protection have immediately led to a loss of credibility in Germany. German politicians and interest groups opposing far-reaching CO2-regulations were reluctant to join international or US-Americans groups like the Global Climate Coalition. Influential scientific organizations, the parliament, the government, the administration, and even industry all tried to speak with “one voice.” This political convergence can be read as a symptom of Germany’s strongly consensus-oriented political culture.

Are conservative and market liberal politicians jumping on sceptical train in order to undermine “national” consensus on pioneering climate policies? Are they building a visible and powerful network as German magazines try to tell us? (http://www.zeit.de/2010/48/U-Klimaskeptiker; http://www.focus.de/wissen/diverses/klimawandel-klimaskeptiker-auf-der-weltklimakonferenz-im-mexikanischen-cancun_aid_577518.html)

Or do the media and scientists pay too much attention to the old boy network EIKE because their actions are much more newsworthy and entertaining than the tough negotiations at Cancun?

30 comments:

Werner Krauss said...

No, I don't think that skeptics are gaining more ground in Germany. Quite the contrary, see for example wikileaks about the aggressive climate politics by Merkel or the spectacular rise of the Green party with currently about 20%).

But I don't like opening up klimazwiebel and see Fred Singer staring at me!

Roddy said...

I didn't see the Wikileaks stuff, and have no especial knowledge of German 'politics' - I wrote this guest post last week at Bishop Hill which touches heavily on German solar 'politics' and costs.

I wonder how risky a strategy it is to load quite such high costs on an initially willing and responsive green electorate - at what point do they begin to prefer BAU, especially given the reluctance of the really growing emitters to join in, and start listening to siren voices?

http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2010/11/30/bottom-falls-out-of-solar.html

Peter Heller said...

"Are they building a visible and powerful network as German magazines try to tell us?"

Yes, we are.

But the problem is again, that all these authors in the main stream media do not really understand, what the targets of the growing skepticism in Germany are.

For me it sounds like trying to reanimate a discussion of the 1980s or 1990s about the question: "Should measures to reduce emissions be undertaken?" But this discussion is over. Such measures have been implemented.

The current discussion is about their success.

Climate skepticism is based on a clear view of the realities: None of the measures has been successful and there is no sign of them being successful in the future.

If there is a problem leading to risks, there are always two ways to deal with. First one could try to reduce the problem in order to minimize the risks. This is the alarmist attempt in climate policies.

Second on could try to make the whole problem irrelevant by eliminating the potential outcome of the risks. This is the skeptic attempt.

The alarmist strategy has failed because it always conflicts with the target of economic growth.

The skeptics strategy will success, because it uses economic growth to deal with the question.

First you have to understand, what the discussion is about. And my personal observation is: As soon as people in the media, the economy, in politics and science really understood the skeptic agenda, they join the skeptic camp.

And this is the explanation of the formation of a powerful skeptics network. And the hysterical articles in the media, mainly connected to the "3rd international conference about climate and energy issues", which took place in Berlin the last weekend, are very supportive.

_Flin_ said...

Isn't this rather old news? The SPIEGEL article dates back 4 months.
The result of this were parliamentary consequences, with the CDU/CSU faction distancing itself from Mrs. Dött, stating that her opinions were not the position of the faction.

Furthermore the government answered a "Kleine Anfrage" from the Grüne faction, whether the government is aware of any peer reviewed articles questioning AGW.

The government answered that it is not aware of anything comprehensibly questioning AGW.

Currently there are only few hardcore sceptics in Germany, a few outsiders from libertarian groups or publishing networks, as well as a few journalists in the right wing press.

Probably because anyone can see that the "end-of-the-world" rhetorics used by the US denialist movement seem rather ridiculous in Germany, where CO2 emissions are down, electricity prices are rather high, investments and revenues in green energy are outstanding and economic growth is higher than ever for almost twenty years. But that's just my own interpretation.

Georg Hoffmann said...

In Germany everyone (in particular the industrial elite) agrees that there should be done absolutely nothing about the entire "climate thing" besides of the things that have to be done anyway. In this sense everyone is as much a sceptic as he/she might be an alarmist. They agree on the science since that is the "no go" area but then treat the entire issue as a sort of "Kunst am Bau".

The new thing to deal with the cliamte problem seems to be "small steps" and "adaptation" which is just a sophisticated and nice way of saying "let's forget about it". Let's see if that will work. My prediction: "The Kyoto-Save-the-Planet-Protocoll" ended in a call for "small-steps-might be ok-as-well". In ten years we can summarize that the "big steps" ended in "small steps" which finally ended in "no-steps". Remains the embarrasing fact that there are in the order of 10.000GTC in our soils.
So in this sense I became a sceptic and to answer the question of the post, yes, it seems they gain ground then.

Neven said...

Pseudo-skepticism and denial will probably continue to grow everywhere in the western world, as AGW becomes more and more apparent in the form of rising temperatures, melting glaciers, Arctic amplification and all the freak weather it will entail.

That's just normal psychology, until the levee breaks and denial simply isn't an option anymore. Just a matter of time, nothing else.

Reiner Grundmann said...

The FDP seems to be in urgent need for some profile as their poll results are in freefall.

Werner Krauss said...

Herr Hoffmann, those are really dismal prospects. Makes me feel bad.
And Mr. Neven sees our way to global climate hell in the realm of "normal psychology". So much disillusion! Humanity will go down the drain, or what?
Folks, you follow klimazwiebel discussions for a long time; obviously without ever been attracted by the Heartwell paper strategy or the likes. You think this is all phony baloney?
So what is your alternative to small-step-and-adaptation policies? Another Kyoto? Or retirement? just asking...

Neven said...

So what is your alternative to small-step-and-adaptation policies? Another Kyoto? Or retirement? just asking...

A different economic system. Without that everything is bound to fail. Unending economic growth is not possible in a finite system.

Georg Hoffmann said...

Mr Krauss
didnt want you feel bad. Have a look into this http://www.scienceblogs.de/primaklima/2010/11/in-memoriam-leslie-nielsen.php.

"So what is your alternative to small-step-and-adaptation policies? "
No alternative, but this doesnt mean it will work. Actually it will not.
Retirement is ok. Any negative effects of climate change are after the death of everyone commenting here.

Georg Hoffmann said...

Oooups. The filter ate my answer. Nasty filter. Again.

Hans von Storch said...

Georg, still something missing?
Hans

Georg Hoffmann said...

@Hans
"Georg, still something missing?"
Hope, money, a red corvette.
The rest is fine.

P Gosselin said...

The growth of scepticism on this issue, in Germany, is directly proportional to the extent of discussion and openness.
This is clear to see in the USA, where the debate has been opened up. People really do begin to think again when they hear both sides of the issue. This is precisely why some are expending huge amounts of effort to keep the sceptic views out of the public.
For those of you who are interested, I've just posted 129 reasons why climate science has a poor image today. Much of that has to do with the attempts to silence the sceptics.

Werner Krauss said...

Herr Hoffmann, I like your new style as the incorruptible climate scientist who is driving his Red Corvette with a melancholic "Death in Venice" attitude...remember the wonderful German term "Salonkommunist"? There should be an expression for melancholic alarmists, too -:)
(thanks for the Leslie Nielsen link).

Peter Heller said...

(I do have many technical problems in sending comments - I tried again several times for my comment #3...)

Germans do not fear climate change any longer, 74% of the people do not believe projected temperature changes of up to 6 degree in the coming century. Skepticism about environmental questions especially grows in the group between the age of 14-34:

http://www.stiftungfuerzukunftsfragen.de/en/research/current-research/forschung-aktuell-227-31-jg-16112010.html#c1586 (text in German)

@ Neven:

I have a different understanding of economic growth. There are boundaries - of course, the earth and the ressources of it are not infinite. But growth is not about going nearer and nearer to this boundaries. Growth is about identifying the boundaries and pushing them farer away. Therefore no "limits of growth" can really occur. Economic growth means creating more output by using less input, changing the boundaries (and their meaning) all the time in a dynamic process.

Georg Hoffmann said...

@Gosselin
10 commandments
50 ways to leave your lover
129 good reasons to become a sceptic

Each time one adds more points the thing becomes less important.

@Krauss
"the wonderful German term "Salonkommunist"? "

As Georg Lukacs puts it, inhabitant of the very confortable "Grand Hotel Abgrund".

isaacschumann said...

Wow, that is quite a photo, I don't think I had seen a picture of Singer before. While I personally have always considered climate change to be an important issue, I think that the tactic of marginalizing those who disagreed was always unsustainable. I guess I am more sanguine, I find that acceptance of climate change as a reality is stronger the younger you go, maybe thats just my impression.

Werner's friday post was right on, we are indeed undertaking a grand experiment, but unfortunately we are in the test tube. (tip of the hat to Greg Craven) Whatever happens, we will learn a lot about the climate in the next 30 years.

isaacschumann said...

Also, tip of the hat to Georg, Leslie Nielsen is wonderful, the canadians have a rich comedic tradition far in excess of their size. In seriousness, the climate change movement could use some humor, it has been too dire and pessimistic. Laughter is how we deal with pain. My grandfather had a saying: Life's a bitch... and then you die (its meant to be funny, he lived on a farm during the dust bowl)

sil_beck said...

Werner (1), why don’t you want to see Fred Singer at this page again? What about this “nice” old boy in green clothes in the face of our “fragile” planet earth (Greening the „Wolf im Schafpelz“/ wolf in sheep's clothing?). Why don’t we trust him?

Some background information in German:
Die Bundesregierung aufgrund einer kleinen Anfrage der Grünen wie folgt zu den "Klimaskeptiker"-Thesen geäußert (Drucksache 17/3917):
Der letzte IPCC-Sachstandsbericht von 2007 hat eine eindeutige Erwärmung des Klimasystems festgestellt und den Anstieg der durch den Menschen erzeugten Treibhausgaskonzentrationen als sehr wahrscheinliche Ursache der globalen Temperaturzunahme seit Mitte des 20. Jahrhunderts benannt. Der Bundesregierung sind keine wissenschaftlichen und einem Verfahren der Peer Reviews unterzogenen Arbeiten bekannt, die diese Einschätzungen nachvollziehbar in Frage stellen.
Speziell zu EIKE:
Der Bundesregierung ist die Arbeit der genannten Institution nicht näher bekannt. In begutachteten, wissenschaftlichen Publikationen oder auf Fachtagungen ist die Institution nach Kenntnis der Bundesregierung bisher nicht in Erscheinung getreten.
http://www.wissenslogs.de/wblogs/blog/klimalounge/medien-check/2010-12-01/climategate-ein-jahr-danach
Und wenn sie nicht gestorben sind, dann tagen die üblichen Verdächtigen wieder:
http://www.taz.de/1/zukunft/umwelt/artikel/1/klimaskeptiker-unter-sich/
http://www.heise.de/tp/r4/artikel/33/33783/1.html

There is an interesting article in die „Sueddeutsche Zeitung“/ Wochenende, 4./5. Dez. 2010, S. V2/3 about Björn Lomborg
„Der Umfaller. Kaum jemand hat die Relevanz des Klimawandels so überzeugend heruntergespielt wie der Politikwissenschaftler Björn Lomborg. Das machte ihn berühmt. Heute sagt er das Gegenteil – und ist wieder obenauf. Begegnung mit einem Charismatiker“

The Singer and Lomborg examples raise a question: when it comes to the political outcomes (as Georg Hoffmann puts it), what are the main differences between Singer, Döll, Lomborg and the Hartwell position? Does it make sense to cover them all under the broad label “sceptics”? Or, can we still tell between “pragmatists” as the Hartwell position is standing for, opportunists as Lomborg and traditional “sceptics”?

Anonymous said...

Two specific points with respect to two of the questions from the blog post:

      • "[...] gaining ground in Germany?"

The tragic play Faust (parts I and II) by Goethe (also cf. here or here) (Goethe was a "disciple" and friend of Herder (both belonged to the Illuminaten which secret society started as students' fraternity) and influenced the Shelleys) describes how (paper) money was created ex nihilo once (like an alchemical process) at the beginning of the industrial revolution by gaining ground/building dykes and promising the wealth/gold of the reclaimed land to shareholders (Cf. also f.ex. Geld und Magie. Eine ökonomische Deutung von Goethes Faust by the economist Christoph Binswanger or alternatively the essay by the same author on "modern man" and on the Rio conference on “Sustainable Development” (1992): "The Challenge of Faust".). Other times, other manners. Just a short while ago we were able to see that some could earn a lot of money and get much attention by the "scientific community" or the "main stream media" (MSM) -- even Nobel Prizes -- by spreading catastrophic anthropogenic global warming messages/missions. And today? I think in Germany nearly nothing has changed. One seems to be -- slightly exaggerated -- only media-suitable if one still jump on the bandwagon of doomsday; I didn't find one piece of thorough investigative journalism on climate throughout this year in Germany. The prerogative of interpretation seems to be mainly up to the "old guys" -- which get back to business as usual: We are "asked to leap".

      • "Are these conservative and (market) 'libertinist' politicians trying to lift the German 'taboo' on climate scepticism?"

Roughly speaking, I spotted that one can argue: 'taboo' is the opposite of 'rite'. And -- in regard to climategate -- the visible "ritual" from powerful networks in Germany is carried out in general by "tabooing" or by the absurd proclamation:

      "Nothing to see here! Please disperse!"

namenlos

Günter Heß said...

Dear Peter Heller,
you write:
“If there is a problem leading to risks, there are always two ways to deal with. First one could try to reduce the problem in order to minimize the risks. This is the alarmist attempt in climate policies.”
Moreover, even that attempt has not been carried out diligently. In Germany we attempt to reduce our emissions prescribing and proscribing certain solutions using the law. This “state-directed” economy implements solutions premature at high costs without reaching the target and it fails.
There would be the option to pursue that avenue using the semiconductor industry as an example.
The semiconductor industry uses the ITRS (International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors) in an evolutionary way to reach its goals. We have a clearly outlined roadmap with milestones and technology and cost targets. The different technology solutions are explored jointly in a precompetitive phase. The individual states support this process. Solutions are later on implemented only if they are successfully validated against the targets. Solutions that do not reach the targets are postponed or kicked off the roadmap.This method is proven and highly successful since decades.
I do not see such a consequent and clear cut roadmap for the energy technologies that should lead us in a CO2-free future. I do think that in the climate debate the wrong people are in the driver seat.
We try to pull the horse in front of the wagon using climate scientists, politicians, economists and green lobbyists from NGOs. It is that inefficient and incompetent process that makes me skeptical. I do think more and more people in Germany realize just that.
For my opinion in order to pursue the attempt to minimize CO2 emission per kWh at target costs we need an global industry consortium to lead the horses and work together rather than lobbyists that pull the horse at head and tail for local gains. We will not succeed with politicians in the lead. We need industry in the lead and politics in support.
Best regards
Günter Heß

sil_beck said...

Werner (1), why don’t you want to see Fred Singer at this page again? What about this “nice” old boy in green clothes in the face of our “fragile” planet earth (Greening the „Wolf im Schafpelz“/ wolf in sheep's clothing?). Why don’t we trust him?

Some background information in German:
Die Bundesregierung aufgrund einer kleinen Anfrage der Grünen wie folgt zu den "Klimaskeptiker"-Thesen geäußert (Drucksache 17/3917):
Der letzte IPCC-Sachstandsbericht von 2007 hat eine eindeutige Erwärmung des Klimasystems festgestellt und den Anstieg der durch den Menschen erzeugten Treibhausgaskonzentrationen als sehr wahrscheinliche Ursache der globalen Temperaturzunahme seit Mitte des 20. Jahrhunderts benannt. Der Bundesregierung sind keine wissenschaftlichen und einem Verfahren der Peer Reviews unterzogenen Arbeiten bekannt, die diese Einschätzungen nachvollziehbar in Frage stellen.
Speziell zu EIKE:
Der Bundesregierung ist die Arbeit der genannten Institution nicht näher bekannt. In begutachteten, wissenschaftlichen Publikationen oder auf Fachtagungen ist die Institution nach Kenntnis der Bundesregierung bisher nicht in Erscheinung getreten.
http://www.wissenslogs.de/wblogs/blog/klimalounge/medien-check/2010-12-01/climategate-ein-jahr-danach
Und wenn sie nicht gestorben sind, dann tagen die üblichen Verdächtigen wieder:
http://www.taz.de/1/zukunft/umwelt/artikel/1/klimaskeptiker-unter-sich/
http://www.heise.de/tp/r4/artikel/33/33783/1.html

There is an interesting article in die „Sueddeutsche Zeitung“/ Wochenende, 4./5. Dez. 2010, S. V2/3 about Björn Lomborg
„Der Umfaller. Kaum jemand hat die Relevanz des Klimawandels so überzeugend heruntergespielt wie der Politikwissenschaftler Björn Lomborg. Das machte ihn berühmt. Heute sagt er das Gegenteil – und ist wieder obenauf. Begegnung mit einem Charismatiker“

The Singer and Lomborg examples raise a question: when it comes to the political outcomes (as Georg Hoffmann puts it), what are the main differences between Singer, Döll, Lomborg and the Hartwell position? Does it make sense to cover them all under the broad label “sceptics”? Or, can we still tell between “pragmatists” as the Hartwell position is standing for, “opportunists” as Lomborg and traditional “sceptics”?

Werner Krauss said...

Dear Mr. Hess,
the International Roadmap for Semiconductors sounds like a pretty useful idea. I am far from being an expert in this, but for sure engineers will be crucial for the installment of a responsible "air condition" for the planet.
I do not agree with your statement on who is and who should lead the process. "Politics" and "industry" as such do not really exist independently in a country like Germany. It's all open to debate, and keeping it open for innovation is crucial. Who should lead, politics or industry, is not an either-or question. Putting it like this normally means using climate change for other, ideological reasons.

And dear Mr. Heller,
"Germans don't fear climate change anymore" - polls come and go, but I have no doubt that there is a stable majority of people being willing to support measures for decarbonizing society. Using "fear" and other categories as criteria doesn't make much sense. There are so many reasons to decarbonize our societies that we should focus on the how-to-do it instead of making arguments in the name of something abstract like "fear", "the people", "society", "politics" or "industry".

greg said...

@peter heller #16
speaking hypothetically about economic growth (on a global scale): even if the principal you are talking about (which is about more efficient and resource-independent forms of growth) would work perfectly within the upcoming centuries, you must admit that as soon as the global population begins to diminish (as a consequence of things such as alphabetization, electrification and other aspects that are intrinsically tied to economic growth) we will have to deal with the end of the growth dogma?!?

Günter Heß said...

Dear Mr. Krauss,
the society or customer sets the goal, but the industry executes. In the sense of total quality management (TQM), which is the current industry standard, it is clear that production or industry is in the lead to reach the targeted result. Management or politics has the task to support. It is a common fallacy of people who have only experience in the ivory tower of the universities that management is in the lead. Management sets the goal, but once the goal is set the people who have to execute are in the lead. TQM means in short, everybody else supports the production of results, products or solutions. This is the best practice we currently have and automotive or semiconductor industry use this approach to improve technology and products since decades. My recommendation is to use this best practice. A smart manager in industry knows that he might be called the leader, but in reality his job is to support the people who have to execute. The road to success in industry is to support the workers.
Best regards
Günter Heß

Anonymous said...

Two specific thoughts with respect to two of the questions from the blog post:

      • "[...] gaining ground in Germany?"

The tragic play Faust (part I and especially part II) by Goethe (also cf. here or here) (Goethe was a "disciple" and friend of Herder (as a curious beside: both belonged to the infamous Illuminaten which secret society started as a little university fraternity for "modernistic" professors and students) and influenced the Shelleys) describes among others how (paper) money was created ex nihilo once (like an alchemical process) at the beginning of the industrial revolution by "gaining_ground"/building_dykes and promising the wealth/gold of the reclaimed land to the investing, speculating shareholders (Cf. also f.ex. Geld und Magie. Eine ökonomische Deutung von Goethes Faust by the economist Christoph Binswanger; alternatively see the essay by the same author on "modern man" and on the Rio conference on “Sustainable Development” (1992): "The Challenge of Faust".). -- Other times, other manners. Just a short while ago we were able to see that some could earn money in this "speculative area", again, and that they get much attention by the "scientific community" or the "main stream media" (MSM) -- even a Nobel Prize -- by spreading catastrophic anthropogenic global warming models/messages/missions (e.g. sea level rise). And today? I think in Germany nearly nothing has changed so far. One seems to be more -- or exaggerated, only -- media-suitable if one still jump on the bandwagon of doomsday; I didn't find one piece of thorough investigative journalism on climate throughout this year in Germany (Were there any in recent years?). The prerogative of interpretation seems to be mainly up to the "old guys" -- which get back to business as usual: "We" are "asked to leap".

      • "Are these conservative and (market) 'libertinist' politicians trying to lift the German 'taboo' on climate scepticism?"

Roughly speaking, I spotted that one can argue: 'taboo' is the opposite of 'rite'. And -- in regard to climategate -- the visible "ritual" from powerful networks in Germany is carried out in general by "tabooing" (in the fashion of: Don't touch our holy script), respectively by proclaming absurdities à la:

      "Nothing to see here! Please disperse!"

Goethe: Faust: The First Part of the Tragedy, "Walpurgisnacht" (spring festival on 30 April or 1 May):

DOGMATIST
      I'll not be led by any lure
      Of doubts or critic-cavils:
      The Devil must be something, sure,—
      Or how should there be devils?

[...]

SCEPTIC
      The flame they follow, on and on,
      And think they're near the treasure:
      But Devil rhymes with Doubt alone,
      So I am here with pleasure.


Do we have more than two sides?

namenlos

Anonymous said...

Dear Klimazwiebel-Team!

That beats me. Do you want me perhaps to post elsewhere (Also cf. here. Please!)? (Sometimes my comment appears after all -- but only after days. And more technical: often there is even no CAPTCHA to see, and so I cannot publish my comment here. Thank you for your attention and in advance, insofar my comment will appear.)

namenlos

Marco said...

namenlos: when the CAPTCHA does not show (you probably get a small red cross, right?), just press the F5 button. This refreshes the comment pop-up screen, and now the CAPTCHA should show up.

Works for me, at least.

Werner Krauss said...

@sil beck 20 / 23
do we need labels for the Lomborgs, Singers, Heartwells? They are not really comparable as they work in different areas. Singer is "old school" and still fighting against Al Gore: he is used to set a political statement, for example, when he is invited to universities or by political parties. I think he is not really relevant anymore outside of radical Tea Party like networks.

Lomborg is pure pop. With a certain sense of irony, he plays with the assumed authority of the sometimes obscure sciences of economy etc. Furthermore, he is a trend-setter and a nervous system which easily reacts to new trends. At the highpoint of Kimakatastrophe, he asked to cool things down; nowadays, when the skeptics gained ground with climategate etc, he reminds the audience that climate change is a real problem. That's not really a contradiction, by the way. Mostly, he is a media person.

The Heartwell paper is more difficult to judge. It's an insider thing, I guess. It has a lot to do with social networking in science and at the science-policy interface. Is it possible to measure its influence in the IPCC, in national climate policies, in the Cancún negotiations? No idea, but I guess there is an influence. If science is in itself a political business, too, then this is indeed active science politics.

By the way, the Singer picture reminds me of something Pielke jr. wrote in his new book: there is no real difference or disagreement between Al Gore alarmists and Fred Singer like skeptics: they agree upon the most things at stake. I want to add: they are both sentimental machos caring about Mother Earth. Here Fred Singer looks as stoned as an old hippie!