Monday, December 22, 2014

Climate change: How does it feel?

Climate science is not just another science; instead, its results are read as oracles about our future. This affects climate scientists, too. Disinterested and objective as they have to be when calculating climate, matters of fact inevitably turn into matters of concern.
Joe Duggan, a science communicator, asked climate scientists  to express their feelings about climate change. He asked them to write letters, which is a great idea; it is a way of communication that bridges the gap between their professional work as scientists and their emotions: "(...) they're not robots. These scientists are mothers, fathers, grandparents, daughters. They are real people. And they're concerned." 

I am both fascinated by and frustrated by climate change. A lot of my working life is about studying climate change, and the way the climate system works is really fascinating to me. Understanding a little bit more over time is thrilling. Then I look at my children and think about what I know is coming their way and I worry how it will affect them. Gabi Hegerl

Scrolling through these letters makes a good and interesting read. Climate change is as much a novel as it is a calculation. Take your time, and figure out for yourself how it feels.


Richard S J Tol said...

Intriguingly, not one writes "I'm just curious about how the climate works."

Anonymous said...

Please prove you're not a robot ;-)


Anonymous said...

Richard Tool would be very welcome.

Those letter writers tell us about climate change being a disastrous risk for fragile earth. A rather big elephant stands (and stamps now and then) behind those nerds in their IT basements. Being preoccupied with human activities, they completely ignore oh so fragile mother earth going χθόνιος (chthonic, see C. Paglia) now and then.

There was a time, 10 years ago exactly, when one strike of her gentle hand killed more than 200.000 people. A century ago, on December 28, 1908, the Messina tsunami took more than 100.000 lifes in the mediterranean. Ever heard of? Does someone care and write letters? The 1755 Allsaints Lisbon earthquake had been a major topic for "men of letters" in philosophy, science and religion. Those where the days ;)

Seasonal greetings, fröhliche Weihnachten von Serten

Camille Paglia

, see e.g. Camille Paglia)

1755 Lisbon earthquake

2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami

Werner Krauss said...

Richard Tol,

this is exactly what Gabi Hegerl is writing. She is just adding her feelings, because this is what she was asked for. Didn't you read her letter?

do you know who Gabi Hegerl is and what her achievements in climate science are? Do you really want to make her believe that climate change is just another natural event like a tsunami or earthquake? And do you really want to call her one of "those nerds in their IT basements"? Or do you just want to be rude?

Anonymous said...

I used the examples to state that the human interaction with climate is much more complex than "either carbon dioxide or nature" and we might need more letters, not less. Jan Veizer and Nir Shaviv care about the future as well. RG might evoke Karl Marx idea of a multifaceted nature-society relationship. I refrain from any zealot asking to skip democracy on "a science (or god) has spoken, basta" base.

Take Lord May of Oxford evoking "a supernatural punisher" to allow for rude climate change policies being imposed.

I go for Luthers "De libertate christiana" as being preferable compared to making or forcing others believe a certain creed.


Werner Krauss said...


sure, I get it: this is your personal expression of feelings. Thanks!

@ReinerGrundmann said...

I am curious what 'feelings' means here. Some kind of spontaneous emotional reaction? Can there be such a reaction to a long term issue which will manifest itself in the future? Or is 'feeling' referring to some reflected statement about the situation we are in with regard to debates about climate change? Is it a reaction to social expectations about the role of scientists and their human side? If so, are they not urged to show their 'concern'? Are the answers therefore not predictable (I am not saying robotic ;-)

Anonymous said...

Schöner Beitrag, perfekt für die Weihnachtszeit.

Ein wenig Schmunzeln muss ich über gewisse Probleme, über Gefühle zu sprechen, ein speziell männliches Problem. Trenberths Brief enthält gar keine Gefühle, hier in den Kommentaren wirken Tol und Grundmann etwas verwirrt.

Ich finde die Idee mit den Briefen großartig. Üblicherweise sollen Wissenschafler in der Kommunikation auf ihre Rolle als Wissenschaftler beschränkt sein. Ihre Aussagen sollen den wissenschaftlichen Erkenntnisstand reflektieren, nüchtern sein, sachlich, emotionsfrei. Wer dagegen verstößt, wird schnell als "alarmistisch" gebrandmarkt.

Das hier präsentierte Format bietet die Chance, einmal aus diesem Rollenverhalten ausbrechen zu können. Wissenschaftler sind auch besorgte Bürger, sie sind Väter, Mütter oder Großeltern.

Heraus kommen eine Besorgnis, die größer wirkt als die in den IPCC-Berichten formulierte. Aber auch jede Menge Hoffnung. Und jede Menge Frust, nicht gehört zu werden), teilweise (insbesondere von australischen Teilnehmern) auch Ärger und Zorn.

Es sind Briefe darunter (meist von Frauen), die mich berührt haben, z.B. die Wissenschaflerin, die im vergangenen Jahr Mutter geworden ist.

Schöne Feiertage,

Frank said...

Richard, a nice read: . In the end there was a smile on my face: "Desmond Tutu recently compared climate change to apartheid. Climate experts Michael Mann and Daniel Kammen compared it to the “gathering storm” of Nazism in Europe before World War II. That sort of nonsense just gets in the way of a rational discussion about what climate policy we should pursue, and how vigorously we should pursue it."

Werner Krauss said...


Mr. Tol disses Mr. Tutu, that makes an interesting end-of-the-year read, indeed. I like how he imagines the actual working of climate. Very poetic. And very confusing, too, when it comes to climate policy. Why replace climatic with economic determinism and suggest cost calculations on this basis? Is this any more rational than Desmond Tutu's statement (I don't know the context, but who maybe addresses the issue of environmental justice)?

Climate change is both fascinating and frustrating, as Gabi Hegerl writes. One should keep her letter in mind when conducting science and struggling for the best climate policy in the new year.

Anonymous said...

Its not just "personal expression of feelings". I see the letters as a marketing tool to evoke certain feelings and to use them to strengthen a statement of authority of certain
scientists. Mann went to court to silence Mark Steyn, he wrote about dispatches from the Climate frontlines. Take "Kriegsbriefe deutscher Studenten" for a similar (and failed) 1915 Propaganda effort. Other letters sound like 1980ies Poesiealbum entries, boring ones btw.

Richard Tols rather interesting text is not about dissing Bishop Tutu, or dissing Michael Rosenbergers concept of a rational climate religion. Tol deals with a rather Dutch (may I say "Calvinist") perspective and heritage on Climate Change and aaptive strategies. I doubt however Tol's stament that a climate change discussion may or should be "rational". Its deeply about values and world views, which are not being detemined by the technocracy movement. Serten PS.: for more