Der Spiegel's 7-Part Story: Science Scandal – The Heated Climate War

If the notion “the science is settled” isn’t dead by now, then it just got a few more 30D spikes pounded into its coffin. Make no mistake about it: THERE IS NO CONSENSUS.

Der Spiegel’s Axel Bojanowski has just published online a 7-part piece on the climate war between scientists.,1518,688175-7,00.html

I don’t have much time today, got some appointents and I have to take the bread home too. Here’s the general gist of it.

Part 1:  Bojanowski lays out the battlefield and describes how climate scientists got tangled up in conflict.

Part 2: Most scientists are somewhere in between the extreme views. There’s a lot of uncertainty concerning the consequences of AGW. Big Industry launched a sceptic campaign in the 1980s and 1990s.

Part 3: Climate scientists countered, and fiddled with activist environmental groups. Both pressured industry and politicians. Many German scientists fell in line with environmental groups. The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research PIK and the Max Planck Institute drew up position papers together with the WWF.

Part 4: The battle in the media. US media was balanced and alllowed Big Oil funded sceptic views to proliferate. Klaus Hasselmann blames the media for over-dramatizing climate scenarios. Sceptic scientists in Germany became marginalised. Media outlets reporting sceptic views came under fire from scientists and activists.

Part 5: Fighting in the trenches. Alarmist scientists were reluctant to reveal their work, fearing it would only be attacked. Their studies had great ranges of uncertainty, and this made it easy for sceptics to take them apart. Then Mann  put out the hockey stick curve, which turned out to be flawed. Briffa put out his curve in 1999, but warned of uncertainty, and wrote that the MWP was probably as warm as today. Mann’s stick was featured in TAR 2001, Btriffa’s curve not. Concerning hiding data sociologists believe that the damage is done. Without transparency, science is not credible.

Part 6: E-mails show Mann and Jones had too much influence on the journals, and acted as gatekeepers. Mann denies it, saying the journal editors decide the peer-reviewers. Conflicts in science are not unusual, but in climate science it has reached an extreme.

Part 7: Climate science is so politicised that it is now difficult to conduct. Mistakes were made in placing too much emphasis on consensus. Silvio Funtowicz sums it up: “Scientists who promise simple answers are best ignored”.


I wish I had more time to go into it more deeply – but I don’t right now. Hope to write more about this later.

Update: I made a small boo boo I think; the last sentence should read:

Sociologist Peter Weingart (and not Silvio Funtowicz!)  sums it up: “Scientists who promise simple answers are best ignored”.

10 responses to “Der Spiegel's 7-Part Story: Science Scandal – The Heated Climate War”

  1. Peter Czerna

    Dear Mr Gosselin

    To be frank, if you are so busy why waste your time paraphrasing anything from Spiegel?

    The contributors were paranoid lefty lunatics in the 70s, the 80s and the 90s. Nothing has changed.

    This ‘series’ is just a gesture. The tone of their Klimawandel section is set in the banner:

    “Alles zur Erderwärmung: Tödliche Hitzewellen, versinkende Küstenstädte, Dürren, Hungersnöte – die Folgen der globalen Erwärmung drohen katastrophal zu werden. Trotz aller Warnungen bläst die Menschheit immer mehr Treibhausgase in die Luft. Kann die Kehrtwende noch gelingen?”

    [Everything about global warming: Deadly heatwaves, drowning coastal towns, droughts, famines – the conseguences of global warming threaten to become catastrophic. In spite of all the warnings humans continue to emit ever more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Can a U-turn still be successful?]

    Bonkers. The vast majority of what follows in the section is from the same mould. This is not reporting, it’s hysterical advocacy.

    Your paraphrasing that little bit of the content that might just be interpreted as rational comment is misleading. Please don’t try and give the world outside Germany the impression that Spiegel should in any way be taken seriously.

    1. pgosselin

      For sure I don’t agree with Der Spiegel, and God knows they’ve gotten under my skin more than once. But please note a few years ago they would have never acknowledged the science is hotly disputed, and have claimed that any dissent was just from fringe denialists. Now they are at least acknowledging that thé science is far from settled.

      1. Peter Czerna

        They are not acknowledging anything of the sort.

        I’ve just plugged through these articles, and a greasy Saumagen it is, too. They are for the most part just a rambling discussion (with many quotes from sociologists) about the human interactions that led to Climategate and after.

        If you are looking for some acceptance that there may be something ever so slightly wrong with global warming research you won’t find it here.

        Here’s a characteristic bit:

        Der “Trick”: Eine harmlose Formulierung, die Republikaner nun ausschlachten

        Um eindeutige Kurven zu erhalten, mussten die Forscher freilich ein wenig nachhelfen. In der wohl bekanntesten E-Mail der “Climategate”-Affäre schrieb Phil Jones, er habe Manns “Trick” angewandt, um die “Temperaturabnahme zu verstecken”. Die Originalformulierung “to hide the decline” wurde inzwischen sogar zum Refrain eines Liedes über den Skandal – und sie wurde von republikanischen Politikern in den USA weidlich zitiert, um die Klimaforschung zu diskreditieren.

        Doch was nach Betrug klingt, erweist sich als Notlösung: Baumringdaten zeigen seit Mitte des 20. Jahrhunderts keine Erwärmung mehr – und stehen damit im Widerspruch zu den Temperaturmessungen. Diese offensichtlich falschen Baumdaten wurden mit dem umgangssprachlichen “Trick” aus Temperaturkurven getilgt.

        [The executive summary for those who don’t read German is: The nice clever researchers were just trying to avoid confusing the dummies with data so they just tweaked it a bit. Since then the Republican thugs have been trying to use this to descridit climate research]

        In my initial comment I used the word ‘paranoid’ quite consciously. Try this other bit:

        Die Fronten in der Klimadebatte sind seit langem verhärtet: Auf der einen Seite steht eine überschaubare Anzahl tonangebender Klimaforscher, auf der anderen eine mächtige Lobby aus Industrieverbänden, deren Ziel es ist, die Gefahren der Erderwärmung zu bagatellisieren. Sie wird insbesondere vom rechten politischen Spektrum der USA, von Verschwörungstheoretikern, aber auch von kritischen Wissenschaftlern unterstützt.

        [Exec. Summary: On the one side in the climate debate is a modest group of leading climate researchers, on the other a powerful lobby of industrial groupings whose goal is to trivialise the dangers of global warming, the latter supported in particular by the right wing political spectrum in the USA…]

        I could quote the whole of part 2, from which this bit comes. Go read.

        Crazy German lefties, the lot of them.

  2. Manfred

    Hi Pierre,

    I can share only part of your credits towards Der Spiegel. The 2 sources of their scientific competence appear to be solely Wikipdia + climategate emails. Among other issues, they still haven’t understood the divergence problem and hide-the-decline. However, from a relative perspective, a noteworthy article in such an alarmist country like Germany with such awful institutions like the PIK and incredibly incompentent politicians.

    Werde hier oft reinschauen,

    1. pgosselin

      vielen Dank! True the politicians, many scientists and media in Germany are still in a state of denial, and that belivers are becoming increasingly hostile and disturbed. At one particluar new German blog, some readers refused to answer me and liked to stick their fingers in their visible-to-each-other ears and chant la la la la when confronted with inconvenient facts and reality. It got really bad after they found out I had participated in Donna Laframboise’s Citizen’s Audit, which fully exposed the IPCC AR4 for what it really was.
      But that aside, I notice that German readers are not being fooled by the AGW hoax. You only need to read their comments after every climate report the online magazines and newspapers publish. 90% of the readers are big sceptics.

  3. Loco

    Found my way here via Bishop Hill Blog. Great work, really interesting. I will put your site on my blog roll to visit. Cheers from Australia.
    Please visit Australian Climate Madness for our “local” perspective.

    1. pgosselin

      Thanks Loco, I really appreciate the kind words. I’ll certainly drop by at ACM.

  4. jorgekafkazar

    “…Then Mann put out the hockey stick curve, which turned out to be flawed….”

    Calling Mann’s hockey stick “flawed” is like calling Stalin “eccentric.”

  5. ThomasJ

    I agree w Peter C:s commtents on ‘Der Spiegels’ nerv, or more accurate, blood system. DS has been [is?] phenomenally good at scouting/finding ‘stories’and they’re still are. However, which PC also points out, their footage is biased [definitely ‘left’]. But so what? The more DS pushes ‘leftist’ thoughts, the more people will start/embrase/increase their own thinking.


  6. Mescalero

    It would be nice if this article appeared in English!

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