Of course, we in Germany are enlightened people and can make a difference between mythical / religious thinking on the one hand and scientific / rationality on the other. The German press agency interviewed Stefan Rahmstorf from the Potsdam PIK, and he indeed is also concerned about the Australian flood, but for different reasons: he compares the statistics on warming temperatures and recent extreme weather events and comes to this conclusion:
Last summer's heatwave in Russia brought July temperatures that were well above any previous readings. The Pakistan floods followed rain of an intensity never recorded before there. The same applies in Australia currently.For other scientists, La Niña is the culprit, but for Rahmstorf this does not really weaken the global warming hypothesis (and it is a hypothesis for him, too):
Yes, of course its La Niña that's the direct cause. But the alternation between El Niño and La Niña is cyclical, happening every three to seven years, so it doesn't explain why the recent precipitation has set a 100-year record.Other experts such as the political scientist Roger Pielke jr have a look at the historical records and find that there have been worse floods long before global warming became an issue. Instead, the issue here is not global warming, but regional dam management as a key factor in the magnitude of the Brisbane flood:
While the Queensland flood inquiry will focus on hydrology and the dam's management, there will be deeper issues here of decision making under uncertainty and ignorance, and how such decisions should be made in the future.Thus, my morning prayer started with the photo of a poisonous snake seeking shelter on a fence in flooded Rockhampton, and after crossing different worlds of mythical, religious and scientific thinking, it ended with local or regional dam management in this area.
The journey does not end here. Have a look at the commentary on the very same front page on another issue, entitled "Gasoline in animal feed', which could easily replaced with "Dioxin in our food" - it is about the recent German Dioxin scandal. I don't want to go into detail here; the commentary also weaves a fine web and easily connects seemingly unrelated worlds. The French sociologist Bruno Latour summed it up perfectly after reading a similar article in his newspaer some years ago:
The same article mixes together chemical reactions and political reactions. A single thread links the most esoteric sciences and the most sordid politics, the most distant sky and some factory in (Lyon) suburbs, dangers on a global scale and the impending local elections or the next board meeting. The horizons, the stakes, the time frames, the actors - none of these is commensurable, yet there they are, caught up in the same story (Latour 1993,1)Dioxin in our food, flooding in Brisbane or Rockhampton, and greenhouses gases in the atmosphere - each one of these issues mixes up
"knowledge, interest, justice and power (...), heaven and earth, the global stage and the local scene, the human and the nonhuman" (ibid, 3).According to Latour, in general our sciences (such as climate science) try to untie the Gordian knot, they
"cut it with a well-honed sword (...): on the left, they have put knowledge of things; on the right, power and human politics" (ibid).But this authoritarian approach (science rules over democracy) does not really do justice to the complexity of the Brisbane flood, or the dioxin scandal, not to mention global warming. There is no privileged discipline with an exclusive approach to reality; instead, there are only valuable contributions from a variety of disciplines. We also urgently have to re-think the role and place of science in the arena of decision making. Science is not the arbiter; the task of science is to improve the storylines, to add complexity, to represent those without voice etc. How to do that? Meditation necessary...
(today no egg for breakfast, please).