von Storch: How Global Warming Research is Creating a Climate of Fear

One of our correspondants has brought my attention to another article by Hans von Storch on the current state of climate science and the political climate of "Global Warming".

How Global Warming Research is Creating a Climate of Fear

By Hans von Storch and Nico Stehr

The polar ice caps are disappearing! The Gulf Stream is soon to reverse! Right? Well, maybe. But calling such apocalyptic theories into question is becoming more and more difficult for skeptical scientists. Meanwhile, the public is getting tired of being fed a diet of fear.

Theories of global warming have left laboratories far behind. Now, they are the stuff of Hollywood.
Gone are the days when climate researchers would be content to sit in their ivory towers, packed to the gills with supercomputers, crunching numbers. Nowadays, their field is more likely to deliver the material of thrillers, and they themselves have acquired the leading roles. The issue has become so hotly contested and the forecasts so spectacular that they are no longer merely the stuff of media reports. And professionals who make their daily bread staging the apocalypse have taken the bait.

Here’s the rest of the article


  1. David H
    Posted Mar 15, 2005 at 1:26 PM | Permalink

    When you read what von Storch, who is a climate scientist, says you wonder how our (UK) Government Chief Scientist (a chemist?) can say “Climate change is real, and the causal link to increased greenhouse emissions is now well established.

    In the ever popular words of Edmund Burke “It is necessary only for the good man to do nothing for evil to triumph”. What we need is a few more from the 25% of good sceptical climate scientists to speak up.

    I asked one climate scientist in an email: “the science is not really settled is it?”
    His reply was “Well, of course it isn’t. I don’t know any climate scientist who pretends it is.” You would not have guessed that from his postings on this site.

  2. Michael Mayson
    Posted Mar 16, 2005 at 4:03 AM | Permalink

    Cancel my last post – I should have checked for the full quotation from Stephen Schneider which is:

    “On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but”¢’‚¬?which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that, we need, to get some broad base support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention about any doubts we might have. This “double ethical bind” we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.”

  3. Peter Hearnden
    Posted Mar 17, 2005 at 7:31 AM | Permalink

    Has anyone actually read what Hans von Storch and Nico Stehr wrote? I have and I have to say that while it’s to my mind OTT there is *some* truth to it.

    However, where do they say that anthropogenic warming isn’t happening and going to accelerate in the future? Where do they say past reconstructions have got it all wrong? They don’t. They say (my highlights btw) “But *most* researchers do believe that a shift in global climate caused by human activity is already occurring, and that *it will accelerate in the future* and become even more apparent.” and they also say “In an article we published in the professional journal “Science” in October 2004, we were able to demonstrate that the underlying methodology that led to this hockey stick curve is flawed. Our intention was to turn back the spiral of exaggerations somewhat, but without calling the core statement into question, which is that *human-induced climate change does exist*.”

    Michael M, it might surprise you to know but the Schneider quote has been quoted by people of your ilk about one or two thousand times before……….It’s so ruddy hackneyed it’s better quote in estury English now. How come, despite the story of scaremongering the Schnieder quote proports to back up, there is just this ONE quote people so repeatedly use???

  4. Michael Mayson
    Posted Mar 17, 2005 at 8:28 PM | Permalink

    Re 3: “it might surprise you to know but the Schneider quote has been quoted by people of your ilk about one or two thousand times before”
    Its certainly no surprise – it’s quite a striking quote – does repetition make it untrue?
    Maybe I should just say – the Hockey Stick has been quoted by people of your ilk about one or two thousand times before.

  5. Posted Mar 17, 2005 at 9:55 PM | Permalink

    Let me say that von Storch (and Stehr) seem to be aware more or less of all the wrong trends and mechanisms that influence current climate science. I am impressed, it’s almost better stuff than von Storch’s defense of Donald Duck 30 years ago, and I kind of trust him that he does things properly even if others don’t call him a skeptic. 😉

  6. Peter Hearnden
    Posted Mar 18, 2005 at 3:28 AM | Permalink

    Michael M., If MBH99 turns about to be less right than Moberg05 (not impossible imo, perhaps even likely) will that mean the future effects of humanity on climate will change? Of course not (the caveats below excepted). You’re getting lost in your propaganda.

    It has not made a jot of difference to the future climate whether MBH99 is right or wrong (though the graph itself might have inspired some pollution reduction measures I suppose – which is bad?). So, if mankind warms this planet by 2-3C, what difference will a differing paleoclimate curve make to the effects of that?? None, except (the caveat) that if the effects *look* less on paper & graph people might think they are less so – perhaps thats the idea behind CA?? Make something look less stark and it become less stark – err, no it doesn’t. The truth is even 2C global warming over 100 years WILL have profound effects – there is no getting away from it. The other truth is the less we do to curb our effect on the climate the greater will be our effect. Thus, if those who want nothing done ‘win’ (which they/you broadly have I think tbh) then, perversely, the effect people like me can point at will be, sadly for this precious planet, greater.

    So, was MBH99 a conspiracy by dangerious leftie greenies to gain sinister influnce, or a honest piece of scientic work? They’ll be no convincing the closed minds of anyone here it’s not the former I’m afraid.

  7. Peter Hearnden
    Posted Mar 18, 2005 at 3:31 AM | Permalink

    Re #4. Do you think the HS is the only evidence for AGW? You really do?

  8. Michael Mayson
    Posted Mar 18, 2005 at 5:29 AM | Permalink

    Peter, I don’t “think the HS is the only evidence for AGW”. In fact I don’t think it is evidence for anything. It is simply a result of bad science that has contributed to a climate of fear. And as von Storch says in his article “The price for provoking fear is high, because it’s a practice that sacrifices the otherwise prized principle of caution. A scarce resource — public attention and confidence in the reliability of science — is being consumed without being renewed by a practice of offering positive examples.”

    Why do you assume that because I think the HS is “quatsch”, I am one of “those who want nothing done”.

    I clearly do not share your belief system and therefore may seriously question the conclusions you draw from your beliefs.

    However what I do want done is more good science on the many unknowns of climate behaviour.

    Like this for example http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=119#comments #2

    BTW maybe the answer to your question (#3) “How come, despite the story of scaremongering the Schnieder quote proports to back up, there is just this ONE quote people so repeatedly use?” is simply that Schneider is the only climate scientist to be publicly candid about the problems that von Storch exposes!

%d bloggers like this: