Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Precipitation - according to instruments, models and proxies

The paper
Bunde, A., U. Büntgen, J. Ludescher, J. Luterbacher, and H. von Storch:  Is there memory in precipitation?
has been published by  Nature Climate Change 3: 174-175. A fine cooperation of theoretical physicists and climate scientists.

The paper asks if  proxies, which supposedly represent rainfall, really present rainfall or something else, such as integrated rainfall, which is something like soil moisture? In any case, shorter rainfall series derived from instrumental data as well as from millennial simulation show a white noise behavior for yearly data, whereas proxies from tree rings have memory. Of course, both instrumental data may be too short and model data flawed, but it is more plausible that the tree ring data reflect not only precipitation but other factors, and, indeed it is the amount of water available to trees in the solid which matters, not how much is precipitating. -

Friday, February 22, 2013

"Die Klimafalle" in den Medien

Rezensionen zur Klimafalle:

Pünktlich zum heutigen Erscheinen unseres Buches eine schöne Reportage im Magazin des Schweizer Tagesanzeigers von Mathias Plüss, der uns in Hamburg besucht und (erfolgreich) versucht hat nachzuvollziehen, wie ein Klimaforscher und ein Ethnologe gemeinsam Position beziehen. Wie alle guten Gespräche fängt auch dieses in der Küche an:
"Wir sind zu dritt in von Storchs Hamburger Wohnung: Mit von der Partie ist der Ethnologe Werner Krauss - die beiden betreiben einen Blog ("Die Klimazwiebel") und haben zusammen ein Buch geschrieben (....). In der Küche diskutieren wir die ersten Reaktionen auf das Buch: Klimaskeptiker haben es begeistert aufgenommen, sogar der umstrittene dänische Öko-Optimist BjørnLomborg hat ein zustimmendes E-Mail geschickt was jedem anständigen Klimaforscher einen kalten Schauer über den Rücken jagen würde. Aber von Storch sagt nur: "Die haben ja nur die ersten fünfzehn Seiten des Auszugs gelesen. Sie werden noch auf die Welt kommen, wenn sie das ganze Buch sehen."

"Die Klimafalle" auf Sendung

 Hans von Storch im Interview im SWR 2 Morgen Journal: Klare Worte über die Thesen, die wir in der Klimafalle vertreten -  zur Klimapolitik, zur gefährlichen Nähe von Klimaforschung und Politik und was es bedeutet, den Klimawandel in die Welt zu bringen: "Der Realist unter den Klimaforschern garantiert nicht für gutes Wetter, aber für klare Sicht" (FAZ).

Monday, February 18, 2013

Part II: BACC - Cooperation and division of labor with HELCOM

As outlined in part I, BACC is dealing with an assessment of the knowledge about climate, climate change and climate impact in the Baltic Sea Basin. It determines which knowledge claims are made in the legitimate scientific literature, to what extent the scientific community agrees and to what extent it disagrees. BACC does not draw conclusions about possible societal responses to the findings - it has no democratically legitimate mandate for doing so, and lacks competence, because responding to risks, possibilities and changes needs much more insight than understanding changing geophysical conditions. Responding has much to do with economy, with perceptions and societal values and preferences, cultural conditioning, and competition of utilities.

It was therefore fortunate that in the early phase of BACC, the international HELCOM or "Baltic Marine Environment Commission" showed up and requested an assessment of the type, BACC was about to construct. HELCOM, as a clearly political body established by the states in the Baltic Sea Basin,  "is the governing body of the "Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area" - more usually known as the Helsinki Convention."

ENGOs, Civil Society and Post Normal Science

This post comes about as a result of attending a number of meetings consiting mostly of ENGO representatives, ranging from COP (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) to commuinity meeting. 

There has been considerable discussion on this blog concerning the communication of climate science to regional politics and stake holders, about climate science as post normal science, and about civil society.  However, one crucial actor in all of this is all but absent in the discussion, namely the role of Environmental Non-Governmental Organizations (ENGOs). Of course, we hear about the IPCC (an ENGO) on this blog but this is comprised of climate scientists and of a scale much larger than I have in mind. Among ENGO’s (sometimes aka environmental think tanks) there are those that are involved in environmental management, lobbying, advocacy, and/or conservation efforts, and other claiming to be conducting applied environmental research, policy analysis, and consultancy, all acting in the best of public interests. These activities occur at regional, national and/or international levels. If this is so, then it is a definite advancement in civil society. (NGOs are claimed to be fastest growing segment of civil society: NGO Accountability: Politics, Principles and Innovations edited by Lisa Jordan and Peter van Tuijl. Kees Biekart. 2007). Most such organizations produce advisory or information reports that are published as non-peer reviewed grey literature, have media campaigns, hold town hall meetings, publish pamphlets for public consumption, etc. Their interests are often based on moral claims. Here we need to make a distinction which I have not yet come across. There are those NGOs that set the goal of reducing (poverty, child labour, human trafficking, etc. )  or increasing (nutrition, education, healthcare, etc.) something that can be measured. But with ENGOs how do we assess the effectiveness of their logbbying, of their advice to policy makers, of their proposed climate change adaptive strategies? With no outcome how can we assess their credibility and utility?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Interviews by Hans von Storch

Between 1996 and 2010 I prepared with a number of colleagues (Klaus Fraedrich, Jürgen Sündermann und Lorenz Magaard, George Kiladis and Rol Madden, Klaus Hasselmann und Dirk Olbers) extended interviews with senior scientists, all but one being in climate and related fields active. Thee interviews provide a vivid account of this community prior to the emergence of climate change research as the dominant and heavily politicized field, which it is today. Obviously, the groundwork was done beginning in the 1960s, when for instance NCAR was set up, when the atmospheric and oceanic components of contemporary dynamical climate models were constructed, when climate statistics were developed beyond traditional data statistics, satellites were launched and dynamically consistent data analysis. The interviews demonstrate the plausibility of  the hypothesis of our "Die Klimafalle"-book that the climate science community stumbled unprepared into the role of political significance.

In der Klimafalle

Heute erscheint in der österreichischen Zeitung "Die Presse" ein längerer Vorabdruck aus unserem Buch "Die Klimafalle", die am 25. Februar erscheinen wird. Den ersten Teil hatten wir schon geposted, im zweiten weitere Passagen aus Einleitung und Schluss - bei treuen Klimazwiebel-Lesern werden vielleicht Erinnerungen wach werden an vergangene Debatten:

"So mäandert die Debatte, ausgehend von einem Messwert in der Arktis, wie ein langer Fluss vor sich hin und setzt das Globale und das Lokale, das Private und das Öffentliche, den Süden und den Norden und letztlich Gott und die Welt zueinander in Beziehung. Am virtuellen Lagerfeuer der „Klimazwiebel“ finden sich Natur- und Geisteswissenschaftler, Skeptiker und Warner, Experten und interessierte Öffentlichkeit ein. Gemeinsam diskutieren sie anhand einer Messung in der Arktis die Welt und was sie zusammenhält, und schreiben so, ungeachtet der unterschiedlichen Meinungen, die Klimaerzählung fort."

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Part I: BACC - The BALTEX Assessment of Climate Change in the Baltic Sea Basin

The BALTEX Assessment of Climate Change in the Baltic Sea Basin is an effort to determine the state of knowledge about climate, climate change and climate impact in  the Baltic Sea catchment. Its process follows the IPCC to some extent, with an international sterring committee, a list auf lead authors, and an independent review process. The first report came out in 2008 - named BACC-1; now, a second report BACC-2 is in its finishing phase. All lead authors of BACC-2 are new, while some of the lead authors of BACC-1 have become members of the steering committee.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Statistical significance of climate change ensembles?

The issue of statistical significance of an ensemble of climate change simulations has been examined in a paper by Hans von Storch and Francis Zwiers: Testing ensembles of climate change scenarios for"statistical significance" now published by Climatic Change 117 (2013): 1-9 DOI: 10.1007/s10584-012-0551-0. The article was published as open access, and a copy can be downlaoded from Earlier on-line versions were available.

The applicability of the concept of "statistical significance" is discussed for the case of expected future climate change. The concept is sometimes sloppily used, associating the impression that scenarios would be representative of the future (and not mere possible futures), while this is hardly the case. Indeed, almost always, apart of a very limited case, the concept is not applicable. One reason is that the population of valid scenarios can not be described, so that a random variable can not be defined.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Brauchen wir eine Kritik der Ökodiktatur?

In der Zeit haben jüngst Nico Stehr, der Soziologe vom Bodensee, und Manfred Moldaschl von der Universität Chemnitz eine Warnung ausgesprochen, die nicht ganz neu und doch immer wieder bedenkenswert ist: "Wir brauchen keine Ökodiktatur". Weiter unten, unter dem Post "In eigener Sache", haben Andreas #17, Günter Heß #18 und hvw #19 einige kritische Anmerkungen zu diesem Artikel verfasst. Es lohnt sich, diese Kritik näher zu betrachten, denn sie verteidigt keinesfalls die Notwendigkeit einer Ökodiktatur, sondern sie unterstützt vielmehr die Forderung nach mehr Demokratie. Worum geht es also? Meiner Meinung nach stehen dahinter zwei zentrale Fragen:
1) Hat die Kritik am Mainstream-Klimadiskurs, die sich die Klimazwiebel ja auch auf ihre Fahnen geschrieben hat, ihren Zenit erreicht und ist nicht mehr zeitgemäß? Verkehrt sich die Kritik undemokratischer Tendenzen bei Grünen und Klimaforschern irgendwann in ihr Gegenteil und liefert nur noch denen, die den Klimawandel als zu vernachlässigende Größe behandeln, wohlfeile Argumente?
2) Wie sieht eigentlich eine "Klimademokratie" aus? Demokratie ist ja nicht einfach da, sondern ein permanenter Prozess, der immer "von etwas handelt" und daher immer wieder neu ausgehandelt werden muss - wozu Stehr und Moldaschl ja durchaus einige konstruktive Vorschläge machen.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Welcome to the Antropocene? Rio+20 revisited

My friend David Rojas, a graduate student at Cornell University, conducts multi-sited fieldwork on global management initiatives; he works with environmental scientists, with peasants in the Amazon deforestation frontier and visits United Nations conferences. As an anthropologist, he attended Rio +20 and wrote a short and disturbing piece "On Rio+20 and the Environmental Imagination in Climate Change Diplomacy" (Anthropology News). He frames the distance between Rio 1992 and Rio+20 in comparing the changing imagery. In 1992, images from outer space of the "Blue Marble" became what Sheila Jasanoff called a global icon for secular societies. In 2012, this image was replaced by a video which was played at the beginning of the conference, "Welcome to the Antropocene". Having set this frame, David gives an intense and frustrating account of the dilemma of Brazilian environmentalism.

Monday, February 4, 2013

OCCUPY CLIMATE: The Exxon Mobil Hurricane

Activists from the Occupy Sandy movement suggest to rename hurricane Sandy into "Exxon Mobil Hurricane". Why that is and the multiple ways how activists "on the ground" connect Sandy to Exxon Mobil and the oil industry, you can see in this 24 min video about "Occupy Climate Change - The Exxon Mobil Hurricane". Occupy Sandy activists lead through the devastations; they explain how that movement works and how they provide food, clothes, and love to those in need; in the second part, activist Bill McKibben and others link Sandy to global warming. This snap documentary came to my mind when a few days ago, I read in the newspapers that Exxon at least for a moment became the most successful company worldwide.