Saturday, December 31, 2011

Innovation in renewable energy - a lesson from Big Pharma?

McKinsey and KPMG have published reports highlighting the shrinking return on investment from R&D in the pharmaceutical sector. Between 1999 and 2010  R&D in US pharma companies doubled (from 25 bn $ to 50 bn) but the number of market applications did not rise. Since 2007 it is in decline. The NZZ has the following graph to illustrate:

Leaving carbon underground and paying for it: the way forward?

Yasuni National Park in Ecuador is one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth. On 600 ha. there live more species of amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals than anywhere in the western hemisphere. See here for a short overview. However, huge oil reserves are known to lie underneath the park which would inevitably lead to oil extraction with many undesirable side effects. The government of  Ecuador came up with a proposal that would leave the oil buried underground - in exchange for cash.

Klimazwiebel runs since more than 2 years now

The blogger-statistics of Klimazwiebel begins in June 2009 with about 20,000 clicks. (This is surprising since our first thread was published on 6 December 2009 :-), but it may be related to the fact that January 2011 follows directly December 2009 without any traces of 2010 in the stats-diagram.) Since then, the counter has registered 305,506 clicks, with the most often read contributions geing

Sunday, December 25, 2011

What do you think about the effort of assessing Arnell's assumptions?

Further down, I ran a little experiment, under the headline Extended peer review: Assumptions in Arnell's article. This was a special thread, with comments exclusively dealing with -as the title explained- assumptions employed by Arnell (not conclusions drawn by Arnell, conclusions drawn by other writers including journalists).  Unrelated comments were considered off-topic, and were deleted. The purpose was to find out if "we" are able to do some constructive discussions beyond the always-present question, of which group is right or evil. This effort draw quite a bit of flak, and therefore this thread is offered to allow for comments on all facets of this article, AfricaGate, the journalist Meichsner and my possible bias.

Mike Hulme: Reducing the Future to Climate: A Story of Climate Determinism and Reductionism

Mike Hulme has published a remarkable analysis in  Osiris, Vol. 26, No. 1, (2011), pp. 245-266: Reducing the Future to Climate: A Story of Climate Determinism and Reductionism

Monday, December 19, 2011

Hochwasserrisiko: Persönliche Anmerkungen von Manfred Mudelsee

Reposted from ZAMG web page (mit freundlicher Genehmigung).

Im Anschluss an die fachlichen Artikel zu Erstellung und Interpretation langer Hochwasserreihen wendet sich dieser Kommentar von Dr. Manfred Mudelsee vom Alfred-Wegener-Institut für Polar- und Meeresforschung in Bremerhaven bzw. Climate Risk Analysis in Hannover an selbstkritische Klimawissenschaftler, Philosophen und alle Autoren, deren Nature- oder Science-Arbeiten von den Medien ignoriert werden.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Durban: COP season 17, new episode

The editor of the Irish Times, Frank McDonald, writes "a personal take" in Nature on the Conferences of Parties (COP) in the past two decades, from Rio in 1992 to Durban in 2011. There is nothing spectacular about his view; instead, what I learned from this comment is the role that narratives play when we talk about climate. After reading this story, I asked myself: are we writing the story, or do we only follow a prefabricated script? I'll give it a try and turn reality into a TV series, based on Frank McDonald's script "Watching the players at the climate poker table".

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Extended peer review: Assumptions in Arnell's article

Addition, 25.12.2011

Now, the three known participants of the effort spelling out the assumptions in Arnell's study have published their results as comments further down. For some reason, a number of readers could not resist the temptation to please the rest of the crowd with their opinions on other issues related to Arnell - either that any assertions that the paper would not be fine (which have not been made), are baseless, or that one should discuss more if Meichsner article about AfricaGate was right, or that I would have a biased attitude favouring skeptics - , but somehow we have now have ended the "listing" phases of merely listing the assumptions made, without judging their plausibility or legitimacy.

The three commentators, Reiner Grundmann, Günter Heß and myself, have not come to the same list - and I invite now everybody to comment whether our three listings are in order, and what you think about these assumptions. To make this easier, all comments apart of the three listing comments as well a few procedural explanations are deleted now. Please keep in mind that the purpose of this effort is to find out if we can agree on certain issues, independently of what we think about the severity of anthropogenic climate warming. Parallel to this, I am opening a new thread, where all kind of comments on this process, on Arnell, Meichsner, on my biases, on the unfairness of deleting comments, are welcome. But please stay disciplined with the present thread - it is only on talking about the assumptions employed by Arnell, not on other publications and also not on the conclusions drawn by Arnell.

 ---------------- original posting -------------------------------------

During a previous discussion on "Africagate" many comments were dealing with Arnell's analysis of possible future drought conditions or water stress in Africa. The participants of the discussion could not really agree how robust the analysis would be, and whether it was wise by the IPCC to base its perspectives mainly or even exclusively on this paper. (Correct presentation so far?)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Stefan Rahmstorf Interview über Durban

Die TAZ hat ein interessantes Interview mit Stefan Rahmstorf  zum Ausgang der Klimaverhandlungen in Durban. Darin finden sich einige Aussagen, die voller Zustimmung bedürfen. So  bechschönt er den Misserfolg keineswegs:

Ist denn der Klimaschutz im Rahmen der UN gescheitert?

Mathis Hampel: Think Locally, Act Globally

A guest thread by Mathis Hampel, who notes that recent discussions here on the Zwiebel have prompted him to write a short argument against (global) climate control. Also he wants to encourage readers to imagine what climate would be had we never measured the atmosphere.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ca. 1955: Atombomben und Klima

Von einem Freund bekam ich diesen Hinweis auf eine Darstellung, die in der Zeitschrift (?) Unser Dasein Nr. 22, S. 4-10, ca 1955, die Themen Kernwaffen und Klimawandel zusammenbrachte. In diesem Text von schreibt ein Ferdinand Vergin "ÜBER DIE WIRKUNG DER ATOMBOMBENEXPLOSIONEN AUF WETTER UND LEBEWESEN" ausgehend von dem Buch "Hat die Stunde H geschlagen?" des französischen Autors Charles Noel Martin, angeblich mit einem Vorwort von Albert Einstein.

Ich veröffentliche dies hier, weil ich wissen möchte, inwieweit diese Argumente tatsächlich verbreitet waren, und von wem Sie geglaubt wurden.

After Durban: Hans von Storch und Nico Stehr im Spiegel

Jetzt, da der Klimagipfel in Durban erfolgreich gescheitert ist, ist es Zeit zur Nachlese. Was hat der viel beschworene Kompromiss gebracht und wie wird es weitergehen? Hans von Storch und Nico Stehr widmen sich der Frage nach der Rolle der Wissenschaft in diesem Prozess. Sie beginnen ihre Analyse mit dem Befund, dass der Versuch von Naturwissenschaftlern, eine Erfolg versprechende Klimapolitik anzuleiten, gescheitert sei:

Friday, December 9, 2011

Welcome in the Anthropocene

The Hamburger KlimaCampus recently dedicated a workshop to the anthropocene. While nobody doubted that the Holocene has transformed into the anthropocene, this new age was almost unanimously interpreted as a state of emergency.
The American scientists and conservationists  Emma Marris, Peter Kareiva, Joseph Mascaro and Erle C. Ellis see this differently in today's New York Times; they indeed see "Hope in the age of man":
Some environmentalists see the Anthropocene as a disaster by definition, since they see all human changes as degradation of a pristine Eden. (...) But in fact, humans have been changing ecosystems for millenniums.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A discussion between Gerbrand Komen and Fred Singer

Gerbrand Komen 7 December 2011:

(with two clickable links added on 12. December 2011)

On 31 August 2011 Fred Singer gave a lecture at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI). This lecture was followed by a discussion on two propositions, which had been proposed to Dr Singer beforehand (on 25 July 2011; see schedule):
  • A Climate scientists must communicate uncertainties and their consequences.
  • B None of current climate models overcome chaotic uncertainty
The discussion was moderated by myself. On behalf of KNMI proposition A was defended by Prof. Bart van den Hurk (KNMI, Universiteit Utrecht) and proposition B was discussed by Dr. Sybren Drijfhout (see his presentation).

Proposition B was one of the conclusions of Dr. Singer in his lecture. In essence, Sybren Drijfhout argued that this proposition was incorrect, because:
  1. It was based on a case study which did not allow generalization.
  2. KNMI had made runs with a ‘current climate model’ which actually did overcome ‘chaotic uncertainty’ (i.e. noise due to variability).
In his reaction on 31 August Dr. Singer ignored proposition A, and he did not comment on proposition B, saying that he first wanted to study the arguments of Dr. Drijfhout.

On 17 October 2011 I initiated an e-mail exchange, hoping to arrive at a joint statement. Initially there was some encouraging convergence. However, the final mails in this exchange, in December 2011, made further convergence unlikely.

I believe it is important that I present my conclusions:
  • Both Singer and van den Hurk endorse proposition A.
  • Drijfhout refuted Singer’s conclusion (proposition B). Singer’s reaction is inadequate.
The relevant e-mails are copied here. For the record.

(Adapted with permission from

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Im Namen des Volkes ... (II)

Eine Kollegin schreibt mir „ganz egal wie es um die Details der Diskussion um Rahmstorf steht: ich finde es erschreckend, auf welchem Niveau die Diskussion angekommen ist. Und dazu gehört auch, dass das Urteil gegen R auf der Klimazwiebel steht. Mich würde sehr interessieren, was Du dazu meinst.

Vielleicht sollte ich dazu hier auf der Klimazwiebel antworten.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Actionable climate science

The journal Science has put up a commentary by Richard Kerr about 'actionable (climate) science', based on a conference recently held in Denver about how to frame the results of climate science so that they can be used by, for instance, 'a farmer in Uganda considering irrigating his fields can use to make better decisions in a warming world'.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Climate science as nervous system: the case Rahmstorf versus Meichsner

Today, spiegel-online and Die Welt have articles about the case Rahmstorf versus Meichsner (we had  discussed this already here). Roger Pielke jr. sums it up perfectly in proper English and the correct dose of empathy for the journalist. Still exhausted from yesterday's climategate 2 experience, reading these articles makes me feel almost sick (even the triumph of Maxeiner & Miersch in Die Welt is full of bad vibes).
When thinking about what this all might possibly mean, the anthropologist Michael Taussig comes to my mind. Taussig coined the term "nervous system", which helps maybe to  put these climate science scandals into a greater context.