German Professors’ Peer-Reviewed Paper On Skeptics’ Belief Of “A Climate Conspiracy” Backfires

At their Die kalte Sonne site here, Fritz Vahrenholt and Sebastian Lüning write how a philosophy professor and a communication professor tried to portray climate science skeptics as ‘conspiracy theorists’ and how their attempt backfired.

It’s the latest example of German academia trying to smear those who express other views made in the true spirit of science.

Scientists at University of Augsburg with dubious study on “climate skeptical emotionalization strategy
By Fritz Vahrenholt and Sebastian Lüning
(Translated, edited by P Gosselin)

In March 2014 a study appeared in the journal GAiA which dealt with climate skeptical views. The authors are Jens Soentgen and Helena Bilandzic of the University of Augsburg in Germany:

The structure of climate skeptical arguments. Conspiracy theory as scientific criticism
Climate skeptics go against the mainstream and claim that not only the scientific consensus over the causes of global warming are false, but that they also have been falsified. They assume a conspiracy among climate scientists. The following analysis of climate-skeptical argumentation deals with an assessment of German and English language science books. It reveals the function and basis of the climate skeptic emotionalization strategies.”


Questioning and rejecting the scientific consensus on climate change causes, climate skeptics argue that climate science is involved in a global conspiracy, guided by self-interest and aspirations of societal change. On the basis of 97 climate skeptical non-fiction books, this article reconstructs the logical structure of climate skeptical (or denialist) arguments, with a special focus on the construction of the causes for climate change. The analysis shows that climate skeptical arguments are made on three levels: on the level of insight from climate science, on the level of an intuitive sociology of science and on a political/economic level, thus achieving the desired effect of moving the audience emotionally. The reconstruction of arguments may serve as a basis for more quantitative research, but it is also useful for entering the debate with climate skeptics as it allows anticipating climate skeptical objections.”

The pdf file of the German-language study is available free of charge as a download. Conveniently Soentgen happens to be a co-publisher of the journal. Of course many of us would like to know more about how the peer-review process really took place. In the study the authors also discuss our book “Die kalte Sonne”. Fritz Vahrenholt made the effort to write a letter to the lead author:

Dear Herr Soentgen,

I have read your study sub-titled ‘Conspiracy theory as scientific criticism’. You did not spend much time with the scientific assertions of our book. Thus it wasn’t necessary for you to point out that we hold CO2 does have an impact on climate, but one that is only half as large as what is claimed by the IPCC in its 2007 report. Since then, climate sensitivity has been significantly reduced in numerous peer-reviewed publications – down to one half and even less. Even the IPCC reduced the lower limit of climate sensitivity to 1.5°C in its latest report and found itself unable to assign any supportable probable figure. Shouldn’t that fact alone make us skeptical of the climate models, 95% of which falsely projected the development of the global mean temperature over the last 15 years? These models, which were unable to forecast 15 years ahead, provide the framework for a 100-year prognosis and lead to the adoption of political action of the sort we are already observing in Germany today.

At the end you write: ‘If the global mean temperature continues to remain flat or even drop over the next decade despite continuously rising CO2 emissions, then the position of the climate skeptics in the public will grow.’ Is that your only conclusion? Could one not also reach the conclusion that the climate models obviously do not reflect reality because they are not taking the natural effects (clouds, sun, ocean currents) numerically into account? Shouldn’t that have consequences for the speed and extent of a controversial required CO2 reduction…one that would have a less dramatic, economical and environmental consequences?

But then again this would be skepticism, and that we know is now verboten because it’s part of a conspiracy theory.

Yours truly

Fritz Vahrenholt


When asked if he ever heard back from Soentgen, Vahrenholt wrote back that the philosophy professor indeed sent a response, but one that didn’t answer the questions. Paraphrasing Vahrenholt: Soentgen’s response was an impressive acrobatic breakdance around the flagpole.


21 responses to “German Professors’ Peer-Reviewed Paper On Skeptics’ Belief Of “A Climate Conspiracy” Backfires”

  1. Windy

    What other response could have been expected? When there is no logical rebuttal, distraction is the only option. Except for abandoning his religion., which is not very likely.

  2. John F. Hultquist

    “On the basis of 97 climate skeptical non-fiction books, this article …”

    97! ? Are you sure it wasn’t 79? If it is “97” that is an amazing coincidence. I can see the headlines now: Climate skeptics are emotionally troubled – 97 books prove! And the sub-title: Can they be institutionalized and re-educated?

    1. Henning Nielsen

      97 – magic CAGW number.

  3. William Connolley

    > Backfires

    Sounds exciting. But I’m not sure quite what the backfire is. Is it that FV wrote the guys a letter? And that FV won’t tell you what they said?

  4. DirkH

    About the journal GAiA; from its website:
    “GAIA is published in colour print and provides an exceptional opportunity to illustrate scientific work in the form of pictures, charts, or maps. ”


  5. Connelley is a Troll

    Connelley Above has gained some notoriety for spending every waking moment trolling websites and adjusting wikipedia to suit his world views. His comments should always be deleted.

    1. AlecM

      On the contrary, to have a non-scientist spend so much of his time pushing the IPCC’s fake physics** is actually very good for ‘The Cause II’***.

      **At the Earth’s surface, IR Irradiances add as vectors; the real sum is [396 W/m^2 + (-333 W/m^2)] = 63 W/m^2 net real IR energy flux, surface to atmosphere. The IPCC claims it is [63 W/m^2 + (-333 W/m^2)] = 396 W/m^2.

      This is a Perpetual Motion machine of the 2nd Kind. No professional scientist or engineer accepts it. Non-scientists like Connolley were fooled and have now become committed propagandists because this false science fits their political aims.

      ***’The Cause II’ is to ensure the Scientific Enlightenment is not destroyed by a new totalitarian politics.

  6. Henning Nielsen

    It is incredible. The number 97 has achieved a religious significance among the alarmists.

    “On the basis of 97 climate skeptical non-fiction books”

    Now, would they have been comfortable with 95 or 99? or 32? I doubt it. A dogma is an untouchable entity. It cannot be changed; the story would suffer.

    As the God in “Quest of the holy Grail” said (when giving instructions on how to use God’s Handgrenade);

    “Thou shalt take out the Splint and thou shalt count to three. Three is the number. The number is three (3). It is not one, it is not two, it is on NO ACCOUNT four or five….” (“the morons, they always get it wrong”) Which they did.

    I would love to see the list of 97 sceptical books. My, how can they even admit there are so many of them? Maybe the time has come for a bonfire?

    “Where people burn books, they will end up burning humans.” There is a square in Berlin on the Unter den Linden which says more than a thousand words about this.

  7. William Connolley

    > His comments should always be deleted.

    That’s what BishopHill does. But it does so silently. I wonder if anyone here has an opinion as to whether that’s a good idea or not?

    1. Bernd Felsche

      Perhaps you shouldn’t have set the precedent, Winston.

      Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

      Look it up in Wonkypedia. It’s a famous quote from Daffy Duck.

    2. John F. Hultquist

      Actually, you do sometimes write something interesting and entertaining. As long as readers make the connection of William with Winston – what’s the harm?

    3. Streetcred

      Yeah, great idea … you add nothing of value to any discourse.

  8. William Connolley

    Some low-quality invective, but I don’t see anyone dare answer my question: “I wonder if anyone here has an opinion as to whether that’s a good idea or not?” Come on, don’t be shy. Anyone want to stand up for freedom of speech at BishopHill?

    1. DirkH

      I’ll stand up for Bishop Hill’s right to delete whatever he likes to on his site.
      I’ll even stand up for the wikipedia’s right to promote the regime version of everything.
      That’s why I go there; to get the current censored version.
      I’d never go there for true current information. I have other places for that.
      I’ll stand up for Connolley’s right to go at the throat of science at his inconsequential sinkhole.

    2. Paul Matthews

      I’d certainly support BH’s deletion of comments that falsely accuse him of lying.

  9. Pointman

    “The real moral blame lies elsewhere. It’s the people at the very head of the chain, the very ones who should have known better. The authoritative highly educated and very respected ones, who produced those learned papers and dissertations.”

    The new facilators, Lewandowsky et al …


  10. John F. Hultquist

    In the USA the phrase “freedom of speech” is associated with the 1st Amendment of the Constitution and is interpreted as a restriction of Federal Government actions. Here is the idea: I can call the Pres. a dork. The feds should ignore this. In some other countries I would be punished.
    The phrase “freedom of speech” does not give anyone the right to demand that another person provide the means or opportunity to make a statement. News papers routinely DO NOT print letters to the editor. Our local newspaper allows only 1 letter per month per person on a topic. So, if the paper prints my letter and someone responds, I cannot write again for a month.
    As Dirk writes (@11:22), anyone hosting an internet site – this Hill person, for example – is free to NOT post any comments. Hill’s site. Hill’s choice. This is not a freedom of speech issue.
    Mr. Connolley uses the phrase “good idea or not?” I can understand Hill’s position. If I dislike someone intensely I simply do not associate with her or him. If that person calls me and I hang up the phone, have I violated the right to speak? If I have a social gathering – beer and ribs in the backyard – am I expected to invite a person I dislike just so that person and speak? I don’t think so.

  11. William Connolley

    (could you drag my comment out of moderation / spam? Thanks)

  12. William Connolley

    > The phrase “freedom of speech” does not give anyone the right to demand that another person provide the means or opportunity to make a statement.

    I entirely agree. Which is why I’m not making such a demand. However, if you make a big thing about encouraging free debate, about “skepticism”, about how vigourous debate is better than imposed authority, you make yourself look rather hypocritical when you don’t allow that debate.

    I’ve documented the comments I attempted to make at BH ( and you can read them for yourself. They are all clearly on-topic. The problem with them, from BH’s point of view, is that they’re unanswerable.

    Its also pretty clear that BH’s reply isn’t honest. His “I am not sure if I have ever come across anyone quite so disagreeable” is mere ad-hom, and for bonus points I provide links to some recent comments at mine that are far worse.

    On occasion, I’ve seen “skeptics” lambast, e.g. RealClimate for not allowing comments from various people. I’ve never seen the likes of you stand up and defend them.

    But the fundamental problem is BH’s inability to read LB’s reviewer saying “The overall innovation of the manuscript is very low”. That’s a problem other “skeptics” have also had.

    > News papers routinely DO NOT print letters to the editor.

    But blogs do routinely print comments.

    (Sorry: this thread seems to have diverged somewhat from the original topic. I *did* attempt to discuss that in my first comment, “Sounds exciting. But I’m not sure quite what the backfire is. Is it that FV wrote the guys a letter? And that FV won’t tell you what they said?” but no one wanted to talk).


    Pointman’s essay contains numerous errors, including getting the causality wrong. P, too, is reluctant to engage in conversation; see

  13. Ed Caryl

    “But the fundamental problem is BH’s inability to read LB’s reviewer saying “The overall innovation of the manuscript is very low”. That’s a problem other “skeptics” have also had.”

    Perhaps this is a reaction to the paper pointing out the obvious.

    There are many things that climate models ignore. These things are important enough that ignoring them means that the models cannot project the future. these are:
    Volcanic activity – because that is totally random.
    Solar activity – because all the mechanisms are unknown.
    1. solar wind
    2. variations in UV
    3. TSI
    4. CMEs and Forbush Decreases
    5. Solar magnetic effects
    6. The effect of cosmic rays as modulated by 1, 4, and 5 above.
    Clouds and thunderstorms – because they are below the model spacial resolution, can occur at any height, and can either warm or cool depending on height, time of day, and optical thickness.
    Meteoric dust – because the flux is random and it has not been studied. (cloud nuclei)
    And last but not least, unknown unknowns.
    And last of all, and least, because the GH effect of CO2 and water vapor are not known to sufficient accuracy.

    Models may appear usefull, because they do mimic to some extent real atmospheric behavior. But that is all they do.

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