Monday, March 29, 2010

Der Spiegel poll

A new poll in Germany conducted by Der Spiegel in Germany shows that one third of the polled citizens does not really trust the results of climate science and one fourth thinks they could even benefit from climate change.

Both answers do not seem to be quite compatible - if climate is not going to change, there is no benefit. However, the poll does seem to indicate a clear change in the German public opinion. Perhaps readers more familiar with polls can comment on the representativeness of the poll and on whether or not Der Spiegel is drawing the right conclusions.
My humble opinion is that 'die Sache ist gelaufen'. How are governments to agree on any terms in Mexico later this year when it turned to be difficult in Copenhagen? Ironically, any chances of a climate treaty depend on... the weather. If temperatures resume rising again in the next few years or if we experience a violent hurricane season, opinion poll may change again - for the wrong reasons.

Proponents of a treaty for emission reductions should perhaps consider to forge new argumentative alliances, such as energy independence, geopolitical reasons or similar, and abandon the strategy followed in the last 20 years from Rio to Copenhagen. I guess that many staunch opponents of emission reductions would be happy to pay a carbon tax if this leads to reduced funding of dubious regimes in the Middle East and Asia, or by a similar token, if new sources of energy or distribution means lead to more friendly cities.

I am sure every reader has an opinion on this, in German or English


sien said...

What an incredible turn around in German public opinion. It is remarkable that so many fundamentalist environmentalists seem to be 'denalists' regarding the publics change of opinion on Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW).

Are there any skeptics in the CDU or FDP? It will be very interesting to see if the Tories also start to be more skeptical in the UK.

I'm a lukewarmer and find it curious that a 'Lomborg tax', i.e. a low, perhaps $10 a ton of C02, for funding research into alternative energy has not been explored or implemented given the statements by so many politicians about how serious AGW is.

Marco said...

As the poll essentially shows, public opinion is often rapidly swayed by short term issues. One cold winter in Germany, and loads of people get all upset. Give them another superhot summer, and they'll change their mind again. I wish people *would* be skeptical. They'd realise that one-off events a trend not makes.

Regarding the carbon tax (and Lomborg is far from the first to make that suggestion, although he keeps increasing the number), see this reasonable summary on Wikipedia:
Several countries have a carbon tax already.

Werner Krauss said...

Just some superficial considerations

1) Eduardo, why don't you consider this a positive result? Didn't many scientists on klimazwiebel actively contribute to this result? Didn't you blame the IPCC, Pachauri and hype climategate? What reaction did you expect - that people differentiate between those climate scientists they shall not believe (PIK, Pachauri, Jones, Mann, IPCC, etc etc), and those who are seemingly trustworthy (Storch, Eduardo, ???)? Was there a question in the survey: which climate scientists do you believe? I am sure there was not.

2) Spiegel and polls: Fortunately, we do not live in a poll democracy. Our political system and our politicians are not completely dependent on surveys like this one. While Angela Merkel or Sigmar Gabriel may have an eye on these polls, they are grown-up responsible persons who try to achieve the best for the country and its people. They listen to experts and make up their own mind. It is not necessary to be cynical. Polls are influential, but democracy is much more complex, and our politicians are still able to think and act independently (whatever the pundits from Spiegel and elsewhere might say).

3)I often wonder why climate scientists, who like to discuss endlessly the validity of statistics and models, are so impressed by these polls. I thought everybody knows that they are not worth a dime in terms of scientific standards. They are a means to influence politics, that's it. Just consider the polls before elections - discrepancies between poll and real result are even greater than those in climate science -:)

4) What exactly do you (or we) expect from Mexico? The grade of disappointment is relative to the expectations. In Copenhagen, everybody seemed to expect the impossible. Nobody liked Kyoto, but everybody cried because there was no new Kyoto (or now: Copenhagen) treaty. I never understood that.

Hans von Storch said...

Werner -#3, validity of the statistics. I believe that SPIEGEL, or whoever, is asking a professional company to do the survey for them - we at our lab do that sometimes as well - and I would assume that these big survey companies to it well and professionally. Do you think I should be more skeptical?

Anonymous said...

Dear Eduardo;

We must already think today about the future of the people living under dubious regimes.

We know a nation very well who lived under a very dubious regime some 70 years ago.

They are our neighbours and friends today.

People living TODAY under dubious regimes must have the right to live in dignity when they don't get any more money for their oil or when there is no more oil left.

Maybe they will have their own "Wirtschaftswunder" soon.

Best regards


Anonymous said...

Dear Werner Krauss,

Polls before elections are very professional, and have their own rules.

Some time before the elections, they show nearly the exact result.

At least for Western Europe this is true.

If you are german, here is a good explanation:

best regards


Werner Krauss said...

to Hans #4

Yes, you should be more skeptical! Even properly conducted polls based on scientific methods are only polls! They are highly sensitive and political instruments that partly produce the reality they pretend to reflect.

Paul Matthews said...

The results seem similar to those in other countries such as the UK and the US, for example

48% (up from 41%) in the US think GW is exaggerated, 32% (down from 38%) think it is a serious threat.

As Hans says, these surveys are done by reliable organisations who ask the same question each year, so there is no reason to doubt the results.

What would be more interesting would be a poll asking people who have become more skeptical what the main reason is:
(a) Climategate
(b) Cold winter
(c) IPCC errors

P Gosselin said...

"...Angela Merkel or Sigmar Gabriel...try to achieve the best for the country and its people."
Don't they all?

Anyway, one reader above I think hits it squarely on the head, a single cold winter is enough to cause serious doubt. We heard in the recent past time and again that hard winters were something for the history books, and that they would be rare and snow would be "exciting".
Now we are barely recovering from one of the worst winters in memory. What the media and the alarmists preached and what reality delivered could not have been more the opposite. Now people are wondering.
There are also many sceptic German websites popping up, and sceptic (or non-alarmist) scientists are finally speaking up. This will harden and spread doubts.
I also think that organisations that rely on midterm and longterm forecasting have been done a big disservice in that they were misled by tainted predictions, planned accordingly, and are now paying a price for it. Investments and planning were made based on the "consensus" science that milder winters and palm trees were in the future. Now these investments and plannings look like they were unwise and naive. For example, stocklpiles of roadsalt were quickly depleted this winter, like nobody expected long winters any more. Municipalities were caught with their pants down. The result: Germans had to endure dangerous street conditions all winter long.
Another story is the newly constructed stretch of autobahn near Bremen that was damaged by a single winter. Was it due to poor workmanship, or relaxed specifications? Good question!
People are now beginning to ask questions: Why is the reality completely different from the warm projections?
What's ahead? Joe Bastardi is predicting harsh winters for Europe for the next few years. If they come true, goodbye AGW belief.

When reality clashes with fantasy!

Werner Krauss said...

@eddy 6 and PaulM #8

sure, they are properly conducted, as I said before. The problem is that polls turn climate change into a yes / no question. It is not. It is a serious problem that has to be discussed, among scientists, with politicians and with citizens. Politics based on polls are bad politics. They only pretend to be based on science. Life is much more complex, and climate change, too. It is not a thing for yes / no opinions. It is a disgrace that even climate scientists base their arguments on those polls. They do not deserve any trust, indeed.

P Gosselin said...

Polls! People tend to believe polls that deliver the results they want to hear, and refuse to believe those that don't.

Anonymous said...

one third of the polled citizens does not really trust the results of climate science and one fourth thinks they could even benefit from climate change.

Both answers do not seem to be quite compatible - if climate is not going to change, there is no benefit.

I don't think so. The climate changing for the better is not a possibility for climate science, as seen from the public. In climate speek change = bad, but in human speek this is not necessarily so.

@ReinerGrundmann said...

Mind you, the Zwiebel does polls all the time ;-)

Zajko said...

Can't comment more without some English-language coverage of the methodology, but I would urge some skepticism when it comes to polls - the newspaper kind specifically. There is no uniform standard, and some are very unrepresentative. Sure there are established polling companies that are often hired - Gallup etc., and it's a good shortcut just to rely on their reputation, but many media polls are not carried out to this standard. Limited numbers of respondents and unrepresentative sampling techniques can make things very unreliable, but these are sometimes still used just because they make the process quick and cheap.
Then there is the whole issue of whether the survey question is actually measuring what it's intended or assumed to.
And attitudes can be ambivalent. People can hold seemingly contradictory views on things - the assumption that are views are coherent and consistent is just an assumption.

Unknown said...

The Spiegel article clearly says that this type of poll has been conducted a couple of years ago with substantially different result. Assuming that the polling method did not change (which is probably reasonable among professionals), we all have had sufficient statistics training to know that a shift from 60% to 40% is significant if only 50 people have been asked for their opinion. Usually, this type of poll is conducted via telephone among 500 - 1000 citicens, so this shift is statistically significant.

This is no short-term trend either. Since eight years I am following the debate (and try to convince people that we will not die from climate change), but only in the last year I have found extremely few people in Germany who are still in the alarmists' camp. This is a shift in public opinion for good!

Zajko said...

Bjorn: From what I see I would guess the trend is real as well, but I think you assume it is for good because it is the reasonable position.

I'm with Marco on this: A few heat waves and droughts (certainly possible regardless of AGW) and the public's mood will shift. These opinions can be fickle.

sien said...


Lomborg isn't the first to propose a C02 tax but he is an interesting one because he is loathed by environmentalists and respected by skeptics.

It may not just be weather that is making people doubt the certainty of climate science. Der Spiegel has had quite a bit on errors in the IPCC reports and there also seems to have been significant German press about climategate.

Are there any major German politicans who have 'come out' as skeptics?

Marco said...

Weather is one thing, the mass attention and often poor reporting with regard to the few IPCC errors (*) and climategate is another that reinforce each other.

(*) Did the Spiegel or any other German newspaper already note that scientists like Nepstad and Lewis and a range of other scientists have noted the IPCC report may have used a bad reference for the Amazon, but that the information was actually correct?

klee12 said...


The following article in the NYT states that

A study released on Monday by researchers at George Mason University and the University of Texas at Austin found that only about half of the 571 television weathercasters surveyed believed that global warming was occurring and fewer than a third believed that climate change was “caused mostly by human activities.”

More than a quarter of the weathercasters in the survey agreed with the statement “Global warming is a scam,” the researchers found.

This might be a factor in the increase in climate skepticism, at least in the U.S.


Anonymous said...

oops, I left off the referernce in the above. The article is at




Anonymous said...

Ooops I left off the reference. The article is




Anonymous said...

Vor allem ist dieser Meinungsumschwung das Ergebnis einer konsternierten PR Kampagne, die von Ölmultis und Verbündeten bezahlt wird. Dabei schrecken die beteiligten PR Kampagnen auch nicht vor Lügen und der Diffarmierung einzelner Klimaforscher zurück. James Hoggan, Mitarbeiter der David Suzuki Stiftung (Träger des alternativen Nobelpreises) hat in seinem Buch Climate Cover-up und in seinem Blog die Hintergründe aufgedeckt und liefert Beweise für diese schwerwiegenden Anschuldigungen.

Ein Beispiel ist das so genannte Climategate: "How did emails stolen from climate scientists snowball into a global news story in less than 48 hours? 'Climategate', or 'Swifthack' was a media story about a set of hacked emails that was pushed by a group of avid climate skeptics, including bloggers Steven Mosher, Steve McIntyre, Ross McKitrick, Patrick Condon, Lucia Liljegren, Charles Rotter and Anthony Watts. Collectively, they took a mountain of stolen material, condensed it into a well-packaged pitch, and sparked a scandalous story that reached virtually every major news outlet in the world. [...]" (Quelle:

@ReinerGrundmann said...

It would be good to get some data trends over time. Here is one for the US, from Gallup. There was a slight decline in public 'worrying', long before Climategate.

Similar data from Germany, anyone?

eduardo said...

@ 3


I do not think it is positive if the public opinion is formed or influenced by the wrong reasons, before climategate and after climategate. This is issue is a question of risks, priorities, etc

I hope you would believe me if I tell you that I had a conversation with colleagues almost exactly one year ago, in the EGU Assembly in Vienna, and at that time I more or less 'predicted' that this backlash would probably happen. They were already clear signs that the public opinion was saturated and that many claims are unsubstantiated. The track was not sustainable. Now I must confess I am also surprised by the virulence of the backlash.
My interpretation is, however, not that this backlash is somehow funded by Big Oil. They do not need Big Oil at all. They just need people like Pachauri or PIK. Perhaps it was a very intelligent move by Bush to promote Pachauri to the IPCC. I do not think that that PIK is funded by Big Oil, but I do think that if Big Oil s wants to shift public opinion towards skepticism. they should consider it. Another good investment would be to convince Pachauri to remain in his job as long a possible.

Anonymous said...


Wenn ich etwas miterlebt habe, dann diesen CRU-hack-hype. Ich kenne Lucia und einige andere als sehr offene und interessierte Wissenschaftler und Statistiker, die keinesfalls Lügen verbreiten.

Vielleicht irren sich einige? Das wird aber auch z.B. von den Herren Von Storch und Zorita behauptet.

Diese Wissenschaftler und Statistiker sind aber m.E. fast alle ehrliche Skeptiker.

Herr Pielke Jr. hat doch sehr deutlich gezeigt, wie die Klimawissenschaft manipuliert wurde. Und sein Vater ist z.B. sehr aufgeschlossen gegenüber alternativen Erklärungsmöglichkeiten.

Eine Wissenschaft die nicht offen ist und Daten zurück hält ist an ihrem Imageverlust selbst schuld.

Viele da draussen denken alles wäre eine Lüge. Ich habe vor diesem Imageverlust in Blogs und Foren gewarnt, BEVOR er passiert ist, und sage, nachdem ich sehr oft persönlich beleidigt wurde, ohne Schadenfreude aber mit ein klein wenig Genugtuung "Selber schuld"!


@ReinerGrundmann said...

I agree -- although the 'functionalism' re. PIK and Pachauri is a bit far fetched ;-)

Here is a good comment on the American public opinion by Ted Nordhaus and Mike Shellenberger:
The whole piece is excellent and can be found here

"Public opinion about global warming, it turns out, has been remarkably stable for the better part of two decades, despite the recent decline in expressed public confidence in climate science. ...

They may not know climate science very well, but they are not going to be muscled into accepting apocalyptic visions about our planetary future — or embracing calls to radically transform “our way of life” — just because environmentalists or climate scientists tell them they must. They typically give less credit to expert opinion than do educated elites, and those of us who tend to pay more attention to these questions would do well to remember that expert opinion and indeed, expert consensus, has tended to have a less sterling track record than most of us might like to admit."

"These same efforts to increase salience through offering increasingly dire prognosis about the fate of the planet (and humanity) have also probably undermined public confidence in climate science. Rather than galvanizing public demand for difficult and far-reaching action, apocalyptic visions of global warming disaster have led many Americans to question the science. Having been told that climate science demands that we fundamentally change our way of life, many Americans have, not surprisingly, concluded that the problem is not with their lifestyles but with what they’ve been told about the science. And in this they are not entirely wrong, insofar as some prominent climate advocates, in their zeal to promote action, have made representations about the state of climate science that go well beyond any established scientific consensus on the subject, hyping the most dire scenarios and most extreme recent studies, which are often at odds with the consensus of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change."

Ironically this was published on the day when climategate hit the blogs (16 Nov 2009)

isaacschumann said...

I know many who think that Pachauri's appointment was a secret plot by Bush to sabotage the climate change agenda that is finally bearing fruit. I don't give him this much credit though:) Dick Cheney on the other hand...

Apologies eduardo, I had been ignorant of your opinions when asking a previous question.

_Flin_ said...

So the former news magazine does a poll.

In the Winter after Climategate and the most extreme negative Arctic Oscillation for a long time, leading to a rather cold northeastern U.S. and European winter.

Was the winter in Germany cold? Yes. Does this change anything? Not at all.

The questions in the poll look o.k., none of the usual pitfalls.