Coming from a German paper, and Der Spiegel, no less, “Climate Catastrophe: A Superstorm for Global Warming Research” is a surprising, impressive and important piece of journalism. At eight Web pages long, you won’t get through it quickly. But I heartily recommend it for anyone who wants to read a critical but fair examination of the state of climate science.
Spoiler alert: The days of “consensus” are over for all but the most basic elements of climate science.
Here’s a sampling from the report, offered with the intent of enticing you read the entire piece.
On the politicization of science:
Reinhard Hüttl, head of the German Research Center for Geosciences in Potsdam near Berlin and the president of the German Academy of Science and Engineering, believes that basic values are now under threat. “Scientists should never be as wedded to their theories that they are no longer capable of refuting them in the light of new findings,” he says. Scientific research, Hüttl adds, is all about results, not beliefs. Unfortunately, he says, there are more and more scientists who want to be politicians.
On the reliability of temperature data:
Most climatologists still believe [East Anglia professor Phil] Jones’ contention that he did not intentionally manipulate the data. However, that belief will have to remain rooted in good faith. Under the pressure of [Steve] McIntyre’s attacks, Jones had to admit something incredible: He had deleted his notes on how he performed the homogenization. This means that it is not possible to reconstruct how the raw data turned into his temperature curve.
For Peter Webster, a meteorologist at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, this course of events is “one of the biggest sins” a scientist can commit. “It’s as if a chef was no longer able to cook his dishes because he lost the recipes.”
On the importance of verifying the data to regain public trust:
German climatologist Hans von Storch now wants to see an independent institution recalculate the temperature curve, and he even suggests that the skeptics be involved in the project. He points out, however, that processing the data will take several years.
“There is no other way to regain the trust that has been lost,” he says, “even if I’m certain that the new curve will not look significantly different from the old one.”
And if it does? “That would definitely be the worst-case scenario for climatology. We would have to start all over again.”
On who would suffer most from climate change:
The common myth that developing countries, the poorest of the poor, will suffer the most as a result of climate change is wrong — at least according to current climate models.
In central Africa, for example, the models predict that hardly anything will change, and precipitation will likely remain constant. And according to most simulations, precipitation could even increase in the drought- and famine-plagued Sahel. “If this turns out to be true,” says [veteran climatologist Erich] Roeckner, “it will of course be a surprisingly positive side effect.”
On the importance of the much-discussed need to avoid at all costs more than a two-degree (Celsius) increase:
Rarely has a scientific idea had such a strong impact on world politics. Most countries have now recognized the two-degree target. If the two-degree limit were exceeded, German Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen announced ahead of the failed Copenhagen summit, “life on our planet, as we know it today, would no longer be possible.”
But this is scientific nonsense. “Two degrees is not a magical limit — it’s clearly a political goal,” says Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). “The world will not come to an end right away in the event of stronger warming, nor are we definitely saved if warming is not as significant. The reality, of course, is much more complicated.”
Schellnhuber ought to know. He is the father of the two-degree target.
As I said earlier, the article really needs to be read in its entirety. But the fact that German media are now taking a skeptical look at climatologists’ claims is significant because, as British journalist James Delingpole explains so succinctly, “No people on earth are more righteously Green than the Germans.”
For all the aid some journalists have given to efforts to brand climate skepticism as akin to Holocaust denial, perhaps the media can now make it safe again to question the conclusions of scientists who are, like the rest of us, only human.