Global warming controversy

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Global temperature index land and sea surface temperatures 1880–2018

The controversy over global warming is a predominantly public political debate about the existence and causes of global warming , its extent, ways of combating it through climate protection and the consequences of global warming . Sometimes the existence of global warming is completely denied. Discussions on the existence, causes and extent of global warming are mainly taking place in public and in politics, while there has been a very broad consensus in science since the early 1990s at the latestthe rule is that global warming is taking place and humans are the decisive factor for this. The scientific state of knowledge on the causes of global warming is reproduced in the status reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) , which appear every five to seven years . This state of affairs is supported by almost all relevant scientific specialist organizations and rejected by only a few specialist scientists. In contrast, the possible avoidance and adaptation strategies are discussed more controversially. This takes place both as part of the scientific discourse within the recognized scientific disciplines, but above all as a media controversy between the majority of specialist scientists on the one hand and global warming organizations, blog authors and journalists on the other.

The so-called controversy about global warming is a prime example of a " controversy " artificially created and fueled by interest groups from business and politics without any real equivalent within science. The aim is to create confusion among the public about unity within the scientific community and thus to prevent or delay political climate protection efforts. The generation of artificial "controversies", in which scientifically undisputed topics are presented to the public as large and supposedly open scientific controversies, is a core strategy of science deniers , which is often used when denialists have not previously succeeded in convincing the public that only their point of view is correct. Research on the history of science shows that such alleged controversies were already being used by other branches of industry before climate change was denied , in order to disinform the population, among other things, about the dangers of tobacco consumption , the causes of acid rain and the role of chlorofluorocarbons in the destruction of the ozone layer , and thus these issues untruthfully to be presented as scientifically controversial. In fact, not even half of US adults are aware of the scientific consensus on man-made global warming. In 2016, 28% wrongly believed that there was still a great deal of uncertainty in this regard.

The organized climate denial movement plays a very important role in generating the so-called controversy about global warming , whose role in the public and political climate debate is now increasingly the focus of research. In the USA in particular, companies v. a. From the fossil fuel industry , an influential counter-movement has been created whose aim is to undermine the existence of scientific consensus by deliberately sowing doubt. Conservative think tanks play an important role in obscuring the state of the art ; in the USA z. B. more than 90% of the technical articles expressing climate-skeptical positions by these organizations. The most important think tanks of the organized climate denial movement, which deny the existence of man-made global warming through targeted attacks on climate research, include the Cato Institute , the Competitive Enterprise Institute , the George C. Marshall Institute and the Heartland Institute . Its aim was and is to use the fear- uncertainty-and-doubt strategy to create uncertainty and doubts about the existence of global warming in the population, and then to argue that there is not enough evidence to support concrete climate protection measures .


Climate research

There is a consensus in science that global warming is man-made: Studies have repeatedly shown broad agreement in specialist circles that man is the main cause. Most likely, the warming is entirely due to human activity.

Positions of scientific professional organizations, surveys of scientists and evaluations of specialist publications show that there is a broad scientific consensus on global warming . There is broad consensus among experts that the earth is currently warming and that greenhouse gas emissions from humans are the main cause.

Position of scientific specialist organizations

The reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) represent the main lines of the current state of research and point to political approaches to climate protection . The consensus developed in the IPCC and its methodology are expressly supported by at least thirty scientific societies and the most important national scientific academies , including all G8 countries.

In an essay in the journal Science, Naomi Oreskes cites statements from relevant scientific organizations and her examination of a collection of summaries ( abstracts ) from specialist journals as evidence . She found 928 abstracts that contained the keyword “global climate change”. None of the articles reportedly contradicted the "scientific consensus" presented in the IPCC reports.

There is also very broad support for the fundamental conclusions of the IPCC in scientific organizations. These include the National Science Academies of all G8 countries as well as numerous emerging and developing countries, which issued corresponding consensus papers in 2001, 2005, 2007 and 2008. At least another thirty national and international scientific societies also in principle share the IPCC positions, including the European Science Foundation and the European Geosciences Union , the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the American Meteorological Society and the British Royal Meteorological Society , the Australian and the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society , the American Physical Society, and the Network of African Science Academies .

Expert consensus

A series of surveys and evaluations showed a broad consensus among experts that the earth is warming and human activity is the main cause. In a survey from 2009 among climate researchers who also actively publish in their specialist field, 97% agreed with the statement: "Human activity is a significant contributing factor in the change in mean global temperature". Originally: "Human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures."

A survey conducted in 2007 of 998 randomly selected members of the American Meteorological Society and the American Geophysical Union also showed a broad consensus. About 97% of the surveyed scientists agreed with the statement that global average temperatures had risen in the last hundred years, 84% agreed that the current warming was caused by humans. 85% of those questioned saw warming as a major or moderate risk.

In response to a small inquiry in August 2019, the federal government replied that it can currently be assumed that “around 99 percent of the scientists who publish specialist articles on climate protection are convinced that climate change is caused by humans”.

On the occasion of a survey by Dennis Bray and Hans von Storch in September 2008, which they had not published in the form of a scientific article, Gavin Schmidt from the Goddard Institute for Space Studies criticized the approach and the usefulness of surveys in a blog article and called for To better design questionnaires and to discuss them publicly. Von Storch and Bray published an evaluation of their survey results from 1993, 2003, 2008, 2013 and 2015, finally in 2017. With regard to the question of whether there is climate change, the largely cautious approval in 1993 changed to an almost unanimous and clear approval in 2015. When asked whether human activity is the main cause, many of the respondents were still somewhat skeptical in 1993; since 2007, more than 90% have been convinced of this.

Evaluations of specialist articles

An alternative approach to the expert survey is the examination of published specialist articles, as was carried out by Oreskes in 2004 (see above). Another evaluation of scientific publications by 1372 climate researchers published by Stephen H. Schneider's working group in 2010 in the scientific journal PNAS also came to the conclusion that approx. 97–98% of climate researchers are convinced of anthropogenic climate change. The results also indicated that the 2-3% of climate researchers who were not convinced of this had significantly less expertise in this area than those who were convinced of anthropogenic climate change (based on the number of their scientific publications on the topic). An analysis of almost 12,000 specialist publications published between 1991 and 2011 came to similar results. Over 97% of the publications that gave statements about the causes of global warming named human activity as the cause. Investigations of publications with a dissenting opinion showed that they mostly had methodological errors. Often times, these papers lacked context or left out information that did not fit with the conclusions of these studies. In addition, incorrect models were often used, incorrect dichotomies were given , unsuitable statistical methods were used or conclusions were drawn from incorrect or incomplete physical assumptions.

Motivated climate change denial

Climate skeptics are people who deny human influence on climate change or do not consider it a threat. In addition to the concept of climate skeptic (climate skeptic) also the terms in the scientific literature are climate deniers (climate denialist) and Klimacontrarian used being intensively debated which of the terms people describes this regard opinion most accurately. According to a review published in 2017, there is still a debate in science about which term is most appropriate for people who dispute scientific findings. At the same time, however, the authors stress that a sharp line between reasonable (scientific) skepticism and clear denial must be drawn, which is why the word denial (denial) was the most appropriate term. The term skepticism , however, is an "obvious misnomer" and should therefore not be used for deniers of scientific findings. The denial of man-made climate change is a form of pseudoscience that has similarities with other forms of scientific denial, such as denying the theory of evolution or the health-damaging effects of smoking to believing in conspiracy theories . In part, there are personal, organizational and economic connections between these forms of denial of scientific knowledge. A central pattern of connection is, among other things, the constant fabrication of artificial controversies such as the alleged controversy over global warming.

Many sides are trying to influence the public debate about climate change and thus systematically sow doubts about the existence of global warming. Historical research has shown that highly financially expended and well-organized campaigns play an important role in spreading skepticism or rejection in areas where there is scientific consensus . This is also the case with climate research and is primarily done by establishing an alternative climate-skeptical discourse among individuals and organizations.

In the USA in particular, there is a well-financed and fairly coordinated “ organized denial machine ” consisting of companies in the fossil energy sector , dissenting scientists, bloggers , self-appointed experts, PR firms , conservative think tanks , media and politicians as well as astroturfing groups and has been very successful in fueling a global warming controversy since the late 1980s. What they have in common, above all, is their rejection of state regulation through climate protection measures. In addition, false information that contradicts the scientific consensus is deliberately disseminated, both for personal or ideological reasons and for the financial interests of companies. For example, US industry has invested approximately $ 500 million in successfully combating a motion to introduce an emissions cap on US emissions. In total, the US climate contrarian movement has around $ 900 million a year for campaign purposes. The overwhelming majority of funding comes from politically conservative organizations, with funding increasingly being disguised through donors trust organizations .

Economically motivated organized climate change denial

Companies in the fossil energy sector recognized the consequences that climate protection measures would have on their business activities at an early stage and therefore very quickly fought climate research and climate policy. Many companies and associations such as ExxonMobil , Peabody Energy , American Petroleum Institute , the Western Fuels Association and the Edison Electric Institute funded climate-skeptical scientists, conservative think tanks who denied the existence of global warming, and various front-line organizations to undermine climate research and mitigate action prevent. ExxonMobil and the Koch Family Foundations have been identified as particularly influential sponsors , with the latter still providing a lot of money for such purposes. For example, for the 2016 presidential election campaign in the United States , the Koch brothers promised to donate nearly $ 900 million to the Republican Party as campaign aid. This is considered to be the highest value ever used by private individuals in an election campaign.

The companies themselves were informed early on about the existence and threatening consequences of climate change. The American Petroleum Institute , the largest advocacy group in the US oil and gas industry, had been informed by the Stanford Research Institute in 1968, around two decades before the public, that carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels were very dangerous for the earth. Among other things, scientists warned the API before that the man-made climate change u. a. would lead to a melting of the Antarctic and a rise in sea levels. In public, however, the API denied for decades that the existence of climate change was scientifically sound.

ExxonMobil's management has received regular updates on human-made climate change from its scientific advisors since 1978. In the public, however, it spread doubts: While over 80% of internal news and scientific papers recognized the state of the art in 1977–2014, almost 80% of advertorials - editorially made advertisements - sowed doubts. The Union of Concerned Scientists came in an investigation to conclude that ExxonMobil with a long-term strategy that also deception and forgery , has ensured includes that "veiled scientific knowledge, politicians, media and the public manipulated and measures to reduce emissions were prevented ". Similar to the tobacco industry, ExxonMobil supported a network of 43 apparently independent organizations with approximately 16 million US dollars between 1998 and 2005 in order to create confusion about the state of climate research in the public interest. In 2015 it was announced that ExxonMobil, the coal company Southern Company, and Koch Industries were funding the climate change-critical work of astrophysicist Willie Soon with at least US $ 1.2 million. An important front organization for organized climate change denial was the Global Climate Coalition , which from 1989 to 2002 deliberately sowed doubts about the scientific findings on global warming and placed climate skeptics in public media discussions. It was initially headed by William O'Keefe of the American Petroleum Institute and was very involved in the fight against the US ratification of the Kyoto Protocol . However, it also played a decisive role in the attacks on the IPCC lead author Benjamin D. Santer , which aimed to discredit the Second Assessment Report of the IPCC and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as a whole; In retrospect, the attacks turned out to be unfounded. The Cato Institute , the Competitive Enterprise Institute , the George C. Marshall Institute and the Heartland Institute , all of them conservative think tanks, also play a very important role .

The news of a meeting at the headquarters of the American Petroleum Institute in April 1998 at which Fred Singer was involved in PR strategies aimed at spreading uncertainty about the state of climate research in order to influence the public also caused a stir to take on policy makers. Representatives from the Exxon oil company and conservative think tanks also attended the meeting .

Since 2008, climate-skeptical US think tanks, chambers of commerce and interest groups have been increasingly financed by foundations that keep the real origin of funds secret, while companies such as ExxonMobil and Koch Industries have taken a back seat. The Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund in particular have taken on an ever larger share of the financing. These are organizations that forward donations from anonymous donors according to their expressed ideas. Between 2003 and 2010 they contributed a total of US $ 78 million to the financing of at least 35 climate-skeptical organizations and since 2008 have played a leading role in their financing. Your total budget is around US $ 900 million per year.

In an editorial dated July 12, 2001, the editors of Nature presented their position. In this, the editors support the consensus expressed in the reports of the IPCC. The criticism of the findings of climate research is therefore primarily initiated by the US coal and oil industry . So-called “ climate-change dissidents ” meanwhile created a similar impression as “ AIDS dissidents ” or “ tobacco-industry dissidents ”. They are misleading and confusing the public about the facts about global warming .

Politically motivated organized climate change denial

The active dissemination of climate-skeptical theses and criticism of the IPCC are now explicitly associated with parts of the political right , especially in the USA, from where it has spread to other countries. Right-wing populist parties and right-wing populist tendencies within conservative parties are particularly hostile to climate policy. With the emergence of the right-wing populist tea party movement , the Republicans only offered candidates, with one exception, who contest the IPCC consensus in the US congressional elections in November 2010. According to a survey, the majority of tea party supporters believe that climate change will not have any serious impact in the future. Activists of the movement also took part in political campaigns directed against climate protection laws. In Europe, several right-wing populist parties have made the questioning of man-made climate change the official party line, including the Dutch PVV by Geert Wilders . Other right-wing and right-wing populist parties that have made the questioning of man-made climate change the official party line are the Norwegian Progressive Party , the Swiss SVP , the British UKIP and the German AfD .

An analysis of the party programs of nine conservative parties indicated that the climate-skeptical position of the Republicans in the USA is an exception. All of the other parties examined see climate change as a problem and - with the exception of the Liberal Party of Australia - are in favor of market intervention to solve it. Conservatives such as Richard Nixon and, in the late 1980s, Margaret Thatcher have done significant groundwork in addressing climate change internationally. Thatcher was also instrumental in founding the UK Hadley Center . Jacques Chirac , Nicolas Sarkozy , Angela Merkel or David Cameron are cited as examples of conservative drivers of proactive environmental and climate policy, which, however, has receded into the background after the UN climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009 and the euro crisis . Thatcher's former Energy Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nigel Lawson , later appeared publicly as a climate denier and critic of the IPCC, as did Thatcher's advisor Christopher Monckton .

In early 2013 Sir Paul Nurse (Nobel Laureate and President of the Royal Society ) accused the politician Nigel Lawson of arbitrarily quoting individual results in order to admit his “politically or ideologically motivated view” that the global average temperature had not risen further in the last 15 years occupy. Lawson, currently chairman of the Global Warming Policy Foundation , found himself discredited by this. Nurse then offered him a meeting with experts (climate scientists) to present Lawson with the current state of science. This private meeting between six members of the Royal Society, chaired by Sir Brian Hoskins and ten members of the Global Warming Policy Foundation (including one climate scientist, Richard Lindzen ), took place on November 19, 2013 in the House of Lords . On November 30, Lawson published his account of the meeting in the Spectator . He did not learn anything new at the meeting. The scientists also had shown no understanding or interest in the massive costs of the policies they supported.


The following topics are mainly discussed in public, although there are some " myths ":

  1. The impact of humans on climate change
  2. The meteorological forecasts
  3. The climate changes in the course of the earth's history
  4. The state of science
  5. Policy options

The “unbalanced balance” in US media

Maxwell T. Boykoff and Jules M. Boykoff coined the play on words “ Balance as bias ” and found a significantly higher presence of critics of the IPCC reports in the public and political discussion than in the specialist field. In the majority of a selection of examined newspaper articles in the US quality press from the years up to 2003, the journalists responsible tried to present both “sides” of climate research and therefore to give equal space to the arguments of climate research and climate skepticism. This supposed balance meant that the media gave the wrong impression of fundamental disputes in climate research, while the skeptics played only a minor role in the scientific community. A comparable imbalance was also found in US TV coverage for the years 1995 to 2004.

Political orientation and climate-skeptical contributions

An analysis of 3,000 newspaper articles from Brazil , China , France , India , the United Kingdom (UK) and the USA found articles, particularly in the USA and UK, that reproduced climate-skeptical positions; the voices reproduced came much more often from politicians than from scientists. In English-language newspapers, which tend to be right-wing in the political spectrum , climate-skeptical articles were far more common than in more left-wing newspapers . This difference was particularly pronounced in editorials and comments ; often the climate-skeptical voices were heard unchallenged. An analysis of another 1,900 articles from the UK confirmed this difference. Right-wing British tabloids , particularly the Daily Express , Daily Mail , Daily Star and The Sun , had climate-skeptical positions in 40% to 50% of their articles. The climate-skeptical think tank Global Warming Policy Foundation has been particularly successful in getting its view across UK newspapers. Of the 203 opinion pieces published by conservative American columnists between 2007 and 2010, all were critical of the results of climate research and climate research itself.

Population attitudes surveys

A Stanford University telephone survey of 1,000 randomly selected adult Americans in 2010 found that 74% believed the world temperature had risen over the past 100 years. In 2006 it was 85%. 30% believed that global warming was largely due to human influence, 45% believed that human and natural influences were equally causative, and 25% believed in natural influences alone (without human involvement). Another survey of 1,500 Americans found even more drastic changes. In 2008, 71% of those questioned were of the opinion that there were reliable findings on global warming, in 2009 only 57% were of the opinion. In 2009, only 36% of the proponents believed in human causation (47% in 2008).

A similar development is emerging in Germany. A survey in Hamburg showed that in 2008 63% of respondents were of the opinion that climate change poses a serious or very serious threat, in 2011 it was only 44%. Accordingly, the proportion of those who did not see global warming as a problem rose from 6% in 2006 to 12% in 2010.

In 2013, 7% of respondents in Germany denied that there is currently climate change. In 2015, 6% of Germans agreed that global climate change will not take place.

Various surveys in Great Britain, the European Union, Canada, Australia and New Zealand also reported growing doubts among the population about global warming and the dangers of it.

Surveys suggest that conservative men are more likely to doubt that human activity is the leading cause of global warming. In the United States, the difference between white Conservative men and the rest of the population is particularly pronounced. In Europe, slightly more conservative men than other parts of the population agreed with the climate- skeptical thesis that CO 2 emissions only have a marginal impact on the climate; The difference here is in the low single-digit percentage range.

Central arguments and discussion points of climate change deniers

The artificial stirring up of uncertainty in the form of the Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt strategy has been a tried and tested means of commercial enterprises and branches for decades to question scientific findings on environmental problems and to prevent environmental protection measures. This strategy has also been used since the early 1990s to block a climate protection strategy. Over time, fueling uncertainty has evolved into a man-made controversy. The aim of this strategy is to give the public the impression that there is a great debate and contradiction not (only) in public but within the scientific community about the existence of man-made warming.

For this purpose, companies and conservative think tanks recruited a small number of climate-skeptical scientists and other supposed experts (often without expertise in climate-related issues) who were supposed to not only criticize real scientific research, but also create an alternative to it, in order to make the public and politicians aware to confuse. The way real research works is specifically imitated: the Contrarians publish (mostly non- peer-reviewed ) reports and books, publish in marginal journals, hold conferences and also compile lists of scientists who allegedly doubt man-made warming. An example of this method is the creation of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change by the Heartland Institute as a counterpart to the IPCC . The motivation for this was to not only make the central findings of climate research, that the earth warms significantly through human activity and that this will have negative consequences, appear unsafe for the public, but also to give the impression that they are in science to a considerable extent controversial. The counter-claims to the findings of climate research are at the same time widely circulated and often supplemented with accusations of scientific misconduct in order to achieve a special impact on the public and politics and to undermine the need for climate protection measures.

In 2002, the Republican strategy advisor Frank Luntz pointed out the special political significance of uncertainty and the impression of a scientific controversy . In a now famous internal strategy statement for the Republican Party, later leaked to the public, he warned Republicans that they had all but lost the environmental debate. He then advised her to step up her efforts to deny the scientific consensus on global warming:

“The scientific debate is closing [against those who deny the reality of climate change] but not yet closed. There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science. [...] Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community. Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. "

“The scientific debate is closing [on those who deny the reality of climate change] but it is not yet closed. There is still a chance to question science. [...] Voters believe that there is no consensus within the scientific community on global warming. Should the public feel that the scientific questions have been resolved, their views on global warming will change accordingly. "

- Frank Luntz, 2002

Luntz therefore recommended pointing out uncertainties in scientific research and an alleged scientific controversy, making the alleged lack of scientific certainty the central aspect of the political debate and, above all, emphasizing the fact that action should only be taken when all the facts are available lay on the table. The core motive of this argumentation model is that only guaranteed scientific knowledge could be of relevance for politics. Such an assumption is diametrically opposed to the actual way scientific research works.

Existence of global warming

Interpretation of the measurements

Global annual mean temperatures of the last 125 years on the earth's surface relative to the mean in the period 1951–1980, based on measurements of the ground-air temperature by weather stations and measurements of the sea surface temperature by ships and satellites

Although Svante Arrhenius described in detail the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide as early as 1896 and Veerabhadran Ramanathan from the mid-1970s described the very strong greenhouse effect of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) on the warming of the earth's atmosphere , doubts about the global phenomenon remained until the 1990s Warming is still relatively widespread. Because between 1945 and 1975 the global temperatures did not increase, but decreased slightly. In addition, the uncertainties in the climatological theories were still considerable. In the course of the 1990s, scientific understanding of the climate system improved significantly, and at the same time a clearly identifiable warming trend could be measured. Since the publication of the Third IPCC Assessment Report in 2001 at the latest , the existence of global warming has therefore hardly been questioned on a scientific basis. In its fourth assessment report from 2007, the IPCC states an increase of 0.74 ° C for the measured temperature trend in the one hundred years from 1906 to 2005, with an error range of ± 0.18 ° C due to measurement inaccuracies. The fifth assessment report of the IPCC describes a global mean warming of 0.85 ° C ± 0.2 ° C and mentions that the last three decades were warmer than all previous decades since 1850. The northern hemisphere also had between 1983 and 2012 probably experienced the warmest 30-year period in the last 1400 years.

Some climate skeptics often point to a contradiction between ground measurements and satellite data. However, these different data are difficult to compare with each other, especially since there are considerable margins of uncertainty with satellite data. While measurements are taken on the surface of the earth from measuring stations, ships or buoys at a height of 2 m, satellites record a mean temperature value for the lowest 6 km of the troposphere , with temperature differences of 30 ° C between the individual layers. In addition, it is very difficult to combine the data from different satellites, which means that there are additional measurement uncertainties and long-term trend statements are hardly possible. In the past, satellites produced e.g. B. caused a negative warming trend due to incorrect calibrations, but after a correction of the calculation method yielded results similar to the soil measurements. In principle, however, direct measurements at ground level are classified as significantly more reliable than satellite data, not least because the effects of global warming take place largely on the earth's surface and not in the troposphere.

Some scientists around the meteorologist Roger A. Pielke Sr. also point to problems in connection with the ground-based measurement of air temperatures . On the one hand, the measured air temperatures are afflicted with significant errors, on the other hand, they should not be a very reliable instrument for measuring global warming. Another theory concerns the so-called heat island effect (Iceland urban heat effect) . Accordingly, the increasingly warm ambient air in the growing cities is held responsible for the warming trend measured there. The thesis was counteracted by the statistical consideration of this same effect in the selection of the mostly rural stations used and by individual satellite data. Other studies do not see any decisive influence of the heat island effect in the ascertained global increase in mean temperature. The most recent and most complex study on this was the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project, which, based on existing series of measurement data, but with a database that was several times larger than previous studies, confirmed a warming over the past 150 years.

Measurement method

Comparison of ground and satellite measurements of the earth's temperature since 1979
Network of meteorological ground stations, from which, among other things, the series of measurements of air temperatures used by climatologists originate

For a long time, data from satellite measurements in particular were at the heart of the claim that there was no global warming. The satellites indicated a constant or even a decreasing temperature on earth. According to this data, until the early 2000s there was only a warming trend above 0.04 ° C per decade versus 0.17 ° C from the soil measurements. Measurements with radiosondes attached to balloons seemed to confirm the satellite trend, which made the ground measurements appear implausible in the eyes of the skeptics. Extensive analyzes of the satellite data in August 2005 revealed that they had been misinterpreted. When analyzing the satellite data, it was assumed that the satellites were in a sun-synchronous orbit . In such an orbit, a satellite passes the equator every day at the same time and always over the same place. It can easily happen that this orbit is not perfectly maintained, which makes a correction of the measurement data necessary. This correction was not made in the older analyzes. After the falsified measured values ​​were corrected, they indicated a warming that was much more in line with the soil measurements. At the same time it turned out that the measurements of the balloon-supported radiosondes were also wrong for a completely different reason. Their thermometers are often exposed to direct solar radiation during the ascent. Therefore, the measured values ​​must be regularly corrected downwards. A study also published in 2005 showed that the values ​​had been overcorrected in the past. After this error was corrected, the weather balloons also confirmed the trend already known from the ground measurements.

In addition to these three independent measurements on the ground, in the air and from space, there is further independent evidence of rising earth temperatures. This includes measurements of the sea ​​surface temperature , which, like the temperature values ​​determined in greater water depths, recorded a significant increase in the past decades. Another important indicator of global warming are direct observations of nature , including an ever earlier appearance of the spring bloom, a later onset of wilting of the leaves in autumn, later freezing and earlier thawing rivers in winter, worldwide with a few exceptions glaciers receding everywhere and a drastic decline of the arctic sea ​​ice .

CO 2 and temperature

The development of the global mean temperature over the past 1,000 years, reconstructed from various sources and measured directly since the 19th century
Reconstruction of the temperature profile of eight different places on earth during the last 12,000 years. The thick black line represents their average, which, however, is not synonymous with the global average temperature.

There is agreement that the current CO 2 content of the earth's atmosphere is exceptionally high in a historical comparison. A study from 2009 shows that the CO 2 content today is almost a third higher than ever before in the past 2.1 million years. The geochemist Bärbel Hönisch from Columbia University and her team obtained this data from the chemical analysis of the calcareous shells of fossil foraminifera .

So far, none of the available reconstructions of the past millennium has shown that global temperatures would have been comparable to those of the present. In its abridged version of the Fourth Assessment Report published in February 2007, the IPCC estimates that it is “likely” that the global mean temperatures over the past 50 years have been higher than ever in a comparable period of the past 1300 years. In terms of climate history, this leaves the possibility of locally warmer regions open. Since the available proxy data does not cover the entire earth, evenly and in the same way, the historical global mean temperature can only be roughly estimated. The proxy data is much less accurate than the measurements from 1850 onwards.

Historically, there have been many smaller and natural warm and cold phases in the past. From a geological point of view, at least five major ice ages, each lasting around 15-20 million years, and intervening long warm periods can be distinguished. During the Ice Age so-called glacials (e.g. Saale-Glacial, Weichsel-Glacial) and interglacials (e.g. Eem-Interglacial, Holstein-Interglacial) and within these to stadials and interstadials , i.e. longer periods of time, occurred large-scale glaciations, interrupted by periods that had ice masses that were more comparable to today's times. During the last longer warm phase, the Eem interglacial , the average temperatures in Europe were above today's.

See also: hockey stick diagram

Human contribution to global warming

Extent and consequences of human influence

The physical drivers and their contribution to global warming
Representation of various possible drivers of the climate and comparison with the existing measurement data of the air temperature. Only the theoretical effect of the greenhouse gases fits the observed current changes without any problems.

The so-called climate sensitivity indicates how much the global average temperature is likely to increase if the carbon dioxide content of the earth's atmosphere should double from the pre-industrial level of 280 ppm to 560 ppm. The IPCC gives values ​​between 1.5 and 4.5 ° C, with a best estimate around 3 ° C. In the fifth assessment report by the IPCC , a probable value of 1.5 ° C to 4.5 ° C (medium confidence) is also given, and a value below 1.0 ° C is described as extremely unlikely.

Given the measured trend in global warming, the question arises as to which factors are responsible for this. So far, only one explanatory model has been seen as a satisfactory approach for current warming, considering greenhouse gases as the main factor.

Solar influence and cosmic radiation

Variations in the number of sunspots over time
Climate change in the Phanerozoic

Climate skeptics often claim that the influence of solar activity on global warming is of the same magnitude or greater than the anthropogenic influence. In fact, fluctuations in solar activity affect the climate. However, the sun can only be responsible for a small part of the global warming of the last 20 to 30 years. In addition, it is extremely unlikely that the sun contributed to global warming to any significant extent after 1980.

The current state of research is that the solar influence on global warming is minimal. In 2013, the IPCC estimated the proportion of global warming since 1750 that is due to the sun to be around 2% of the anthropogenic influence. Solar activity has even declined since the middle of the 20th century. In addition, warming effects have different characteristics, depending on whether they are caused by increasing solar activity or by a stronger greenhouse effect. If increased solar activity were responsible for the warming, this would have to show up especially in summer and during the day. In fact, however, the strongest warming effects take place in winter and at night, as is to be expected for greenhouse gas-induced warming.

In addition, the pattern of global warming shows a fingerprint typical of greenhouse gases, which the sun cannot create. When measuring the temperature of the different layers of air, it was found that at the same time, in addition to the lower air layer, the troposphere , which is becoming warmer , the stratosphere above it is cooling significantly. This pattern is specific to the rise in greenhouse gases in the troposphere; because more heat energy remains near the earth's surface and less energy reaches the stratosphere. If increased solar activity were the cause of global warming, all layers of the air would have to heat up equally.

Galactic Cosmic Rays (GCR)
Galactic cosmic rays and measured global temperature from 1951 to 2006. The temperature (red) shows a clearly positive trend, while this is not the case with the galactic cosmic rays. No trend can be seen here.

Charles Thomson Rees Wilson , the inventor of the cloud chamber , first speculated about the influence of cosmic rays on climate events in 1899 . The theory was taken up and further developed by EP Ney in 1959, but found little support in scientific circles.

Meanwhile, the argument that cosmic rays could cause global warming has become a common argument from climate skeptics. For example, the geologist Jan Veizer and the astrophysicist Nir Shaviv postulated a greater influence of cosmic rays on the climate in 2005 than the IPCC states in its status reports on climate research. Veizer and others, contrary to scientific doctrine, do not consider the contribution of climate-active greenhouse gases in geological time to be decisive and see this as a given for modern times. Henrik Svensmark, on the other hand, sees a significant correlation between galactic cosmic rays and cloud formation , which in turn would influence the earth's climate, as likely. According to J. Shaviv, a fundamentally strong trend in cosmic radiation can be observed over the entire history of climate, which is modulated by the influence of the sun. The lack of correlation between short-term climatic influences and cosmic radiation in today's measurements is associated with the heat storage capacity of the oceans.

However, the current state of research is that the effects of cosmic rays are too weak to have any significant impact on global warming over the past few decades. The main point of criticism of the research is that galactic cosmic rays have not shown any trend since at least 1951, i.e. they have neither become stronger nor weaker and therefore cannot be the cause of warming. A study by Lockwood and Fröhlich equated solar activity with cosmic rays; According to this, the recent rise in the air temperature close to the ground cannot be ascribed to solar effects. The connection assumed by Svensmark was attacked as a scientific artifact and not confirmed in several current measurements. In 2010, a team of researchers led by Frank Arnold from the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics found that there was no correlation between cloud cover and ion concentration when investigating six striking Forbush events . A central assumption of Svensmark's theory, the alleged effect of the ions formed by cosmic radiation as condensation nuclei , was thus refuted.

A study from 2009 found that the solar cycle was responsible for about 14% of global warming from 1956 to 2002 and not the ionization of cosmic rays in the earth's atmosphere, which is determined by the solar cycle.

Campaigns against climate research

Controversy over emails from the Climatic Research Unit

Main article: Hacker incident at the University of East Anglia Climate Research Center

After hackers stole emails from climate researchers and published them on the Internet in 2009, which was also referred to as Climategate in the media , some scientists, including Philip D. Jones and Michael E. Mann , were accused of individual critical aspects based on emails to have covered up their research work and deleted raw data and to have acted dishonestly overall. Individual interpretations by climate skeptics who speak of a “ conspiracy ” by climate researchers, on the other hand, were unanimously rejected by numerous scientists and referred to as “ paranoid ” by the journal Nature .

The allegations against the affected climate researchers, who mainly work at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU), have been the subject of several independent investigations. The science committee of the British House of Commons came to the conclusion in March 2010 that the scientists of the CRU could not be blamed. It cannot be assumed that when the scientists rejected inquiries about research results, they tried to keep the public ignorant of climate data. However, the university concerned was reprimanded for handling inquiries under the Freedom of Information Act . A joint investigative commission of the British Royal Society and the University of East Anglia , chaired by Ronald Oxburgh , also exonerated Jones and his colleagues. There is "no evidence of willful scientific misconduct", the scientists around Jones had done their work "properly and precisely" and were "objective and dispassionate" in the data analysis. The commission of inquiry also condemned the harsh tone of the climate skeptics. A third commission of inquiry, chaired by Sir Muir Russell, after six months of examination and hearing numerous witnesses, finally came to the conclusion that the allegations of data manipulation and the suppression of critics raised against Jones and his colleagues were unjustified. The key data for the reproducibility of their research results were available to any competent interested party, and there was no evidence of undermining the peer review process. The only criticism was the inadequate degree of openness on the part of the researchers and the unintentionally misleading labeling of a graphic from 1999. However, there was no doubt about the honesty and discipline of the researchers. Michael E. Mann was also exonerated from all allegations by a commission of inquiry at his university.

Due to the temporal proximity of the illegal exposure of e-mails and other research data to the UN climate conference in Copenhagen , an attempted sabotage with possible effects on the conference was also assumed to be the background to the hacker attack . With reference to the incident, politicians such as Jim Inhofe tried to finally torpedo current climate policy bills, for example on emissions trading in the USA.

Republican politicians like Inhofe and Ken Cuccinelli even made attempts to criminalize the behavior of climate researchers. Cuccinelli, who was trying to launch a legal investigation into climate researcher Michael E. Mann , failed in the Virginia Supreme Court in March 2012 in an attempt to force the University of Virginia to surrender Mann's previous records and research data. Scientific circles reacted with massive criticism of Inhofe's and Cuccinelli's actions, which were seen as an attack on the freedom of science . Protests came from several leading scientific organizations and even from climate skeptics. Several parallels have been drawn between Inhofe's and Cuccinelli's approach and the McCarthy era . In an open letter, 255 scientists from the National Academy of Sciences , including 11 Nobel Prize winners , called for an end to the harassment of scientists by politicians seeking distractions to prevent climate change.

Several of the scientists concerned have received a spate of hate mail since the controversy began. Climate researchers Michael Mann and Stephen Schneider reported threats of violence and death against themselves and family members.

Hearing in front of the United States House of Representatives

On November 17, 2010, the Committee on Science, Space and Technology ( House of Representatives of the United States ), chaired by Brian Baird, held a four-hour hearing in which the current scientific status was discussed against the background of the hacker incident. Scientists involved were Ralph J. Cicerone , Heidi Cullen , Gerald A. Meehl, Benjamin D. Santer , Richard B. Alley , Richard A. Feely, David W. Titley, James Lopez, William Geer and (invited by the Republicans) Richard Lindzen , Patrick Michaels and Judith Curry .

In the context of this hearing, Patrick Michaels, for example, argued that a few thousand years ago, without any human intervention, the northern hemisphere was already significantly warmer than it is today, whereupon Richard Alley pointed out that this was due to a greater inclination of the earth's axis then and today as Declaration cannot apply. Santer added that the observed warming can be attributed absolutely unequivocally to the greenhouse effect, which has been increased by humans, thanks to the recently available satellite measurement data. Patrick Michaels later pointed out the uncertainties in determining the warming trend and, in particular, uncertainties in determining the cooling effect of sulfate aerosols. Michaels referred to his own work, which showed far less warming. Michaels' statements were then sharply attacked by B. Santer, who pointed out several serious substantive errors. Santer criticized in particular that Michaels only mentioned the indirect cooling effect of sulfate aerosols, while omitting the direct cooling effect. Santer also criticized the fact that Michaels on the one hand refers to the great uncertainties in the assessment of the cooling effect of aerosols, but in his own presentation completely dispenses with error assessments. An error assessment is an elementary aspect of any climatological analysis and omitting it is a serious error.

Role of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology

The Committee on Science, Space and Technology has been chaired by the Republicans since 2011 . Both former chairman Ralph Hall (2011 to 2013) and current chairman Lamar Smith (since 2013) are known for their climate-skeptical attitudes.

As Chairman of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology , Lamar Smith chaired a hearing in the United States House of Representatives on May 7, 2013 on the question of expanding the Keystone Pipeline . The only scientist who was heard was Paul C. Knappenberger, who is a member of the Cato Institute , which denies human-made global warming . The committee came to the conclusion that the pipeline had little impact on the environment, created jobs and secured energy supplies.

On May 20, 2013, Lamar Smith published an Op-Ed article in the Washington Post , in which he spoke out against "overheated rhetoric" in the climate debate and against the Obama administration's postponement of the expansion of the Keystone Pipeline. There are “great uncertainties” in climate science. It is not known whether human carbon dioxide emissions affect the climate. Earlier scientific predictions would have greatly overestimated the warming. There has been no further warming in the past 15 years. The US would have contributed very little to global greenhouse gas concentrations, and even large reductions in greenhouse gas emissions would likely have no effect on temperature. Extreme weather events such as floods or hurricanes could also not be attributed to climate change. The "virtual ban" (as a result of the Obama administration's proposed emissions guidelines) new coal-fired power plants would cost jobs and harm the economy. These statements were clearly contradicted by various sides. Among other things, the Washington Post published an Op-Ed article by the renowned climate scientists Michael Oppenheimer and Kevin Trenberth (in cooperation with Julia Cole , Robert W. Corell , Jennifer Francis , Michael E. Mann , Jonathan Overpeck , Alan Robock , Richard CJ Somerville and Benjamin Santer ), who responded to Smith's arguments and presented them as incorrect.

In mid-December 2013, Smith chaired a hearing on the relationship between global warming and weather events. The climate-skeptical scientists John R. Christy and Roger A. Pielke junior were invited, and risk researcher David Titley on the part of the Democrats . The committee concluded that there was little evidence of the link between climate change and extreme weather events. The Guardian commented that this hearing (and some of the previous ones) was arguably less about informing Congress members of the state of the art and more about confirming preconceived notions.

Political controversy and media reception

Since the phenomenon of global warming and the different adaptation reactions to it affect economic and social interests in many ways, but can also influence research and education policy and have an impact on social norms as well as ethical and ideological orientation, the political debate about it is diverse and in in full swing. It is particularly popular in the media.

The main protagonists of the controversy are politicians , lobbyists and non-governmental organizations . Climate-skeptical scientists, economists and politicians have come together in their own organizations; at international level this is e.g. B. the International Climate Science Coalition . The positions of the climate skeptics are also supported and disseminated by a number of politically conservative think tanks . Climate-skeptical think tanks are a. the American Enterprise Institute , the Competitive Enterprise Institute , the Heritage Foundation , the Hoover Institution , the Ayn Rand Institute , the Heartland Institute , the Cato Institute , the Fraser Institute , the Global Warming Policy Foundation, and the George C. Marshall Institute .

Controversial studies by climate change deniers have led to fierce controversy on several occasions. In 2011, controversy arose over an article by Roy Spencer and William Braswell in the journal Remote Sensing . Spencer and Braswell doubt the temperature increases shown in current climate models. However, the study sparked sharp criticism among experts and led to the resignation of the journal's editor-in-chief, Wolfgang Wagner. In an editorial on the occasion of his resignation, Wagner stated that the peer review process should identify “fundamental methodological errors and false claims”. However, the study by Spencer and Braswell is most likely problematic in both respects and should therefore not actually be published. Previously, u. a. the business magazine Forbes and the conservative news channel Fox News took up the study and used it as an opportunity to question the current climate models.

A similar controversy arose in 2003 after Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas had published two almost identical articles in the journal Climate Research and in the journal Energy & Environment , in which they rated current warming as insignificant compared to other historical climate changes last millennium. After sharp professional criticism because of methodological deficiencies in the study, the editor of the journal, Otto Kinne , and the editor-in-chief, Hans von Storch, distanced themselves from the published article. Von Storch also resigned from his post as editor-in-chief. Nonetheless, the study was used by the then US administration under George W. Bush as alleged evidence for the claim that climate protection was unnecessary. One of the authors of the controversial study, Willie Soon, has also come under fire for receiving research funding from the coal and oil industries and playing down the health consequences of mercury poisoning in another article .

Results of climate research in the political exploitation process

Political influence for purposes of trivialization could be observed in the negotiations on the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC . The publication of the three so-called summaries for political decision-makers was preceded by a conference lasting several days, in which the draft of the climate researchers involved in the report had to be approved by representatives of governments. According to media reports, the governments of the USA, Russia, China and Saudi Arabia have successfully diluted the originally intended sharpness and clarity of the report in both the report by Working Group I on the physical principles and the report by Working Group II on the consequences of climate change. The Washington Post explicitly names a paragraph on the necessary reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, which was deleted under pressure from the USA and China, as an example of the direct mitigating processing in the summary of the latest IPCC report.

However, this procedure is only used for summaries for policy makers . The governments have no control over the IPCC scientific reports on which the summaries are based. The procedure for preparing the reports was, however, the subject of criticism even before the publication of the summary for decision-makers, because the summary for decision-makers was published before the actual scientific report in order to adapt the content of the report to the summary .

Special role of the USA and China in terms of climate policy

China and the US are by far the world's largest emitters of carbon dioxide. Therefore, their climate policy is of paramount importance on a global scale.

As an example of the orientation of the American government in terms of climate policy, the case of James E. Hansen attracted particular attention. Hansen is director of NASA 's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and has been involved in climate science issues for decades. In 2005 and 2006, Hansen said in interviews with the Washington Post and the New York Times that NASA public relations officials tried to influence his public statements about the causes of global warming. The conflict was particularly linked to Philip Cooney , who is now a manager at ExxonMobil , a former employee of the American Petroleum Institute and Hansen's superior during the George W. Bush administration . There he removed and watered down references to the human contribution to climate change from numerous studies .

From 2006 to 2007, among other things, the United States House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform , a kind of permanent committee of the House of Representatives , occupied the political influence of scientific studies by government officials in the USA . In its December 2007 final report, the committee describes the Bush administration's continued influence on US climate research. The conclusion is:

“The committee's 16-month investigation reveals systematic efforts by the White House to censor climate scientists by controlling their access to the press and processing their testimony to Congress. The White House went out of its way to stifle discussions about the link between increasing hurricane intensity and global warming. The White House also tried to minimize the importance and safety of climate change by processing extensively government reports on climate change. Other White House activities included editing EPA legal opinions and op-eds on climate change ”.

In addition to NASA, other US institutions were also affected by similar influence, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) or the US Geological Survey (USGS) ).

George W. Bush himself had denied the existence of a scientific consensus on global warming.

Economic aspects

Climate policy measures

Aspects of economic and industrial policy conflict arise, among other things, in the dispute about the further expansion of nuclear power , for example in Scandinavia and France, in dealing with the classic coal and steel industry or in the development of coal and oil deposits in Germany, Canada and Great Britain as well as with technological requirements for the differently structured auto industries in the countries of the European Union. Individual oil companies such as ExxonMobil even financed studies that questioned anthropogenic climate change (→ organized skepticism ).

In addition, among other things, emissions trading is a controversial issue as a potentially groundbreaking economic policy control instrument. Individual regulations and exceptions for different industrial sectors, market segments (e.g. manufacturers of small cars versus luxury vehicles and trucks) and countries are the subject of conflicts of interest and influence from various parties. Due to the failure of the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in 2009, regional policy approaches are increasingly being brought into play , even by originally skeptical protagonists like Andreas Carlgren, instead of an internationally binding solution. These include, for example, import duties on products from countries that impose only minor climate regulations on their industry and consumers.

The transition from carbon-based industries to new industries based on renewable energies will also be discussed . In Germany, Hermann Scheer became known as the president of the Eurosolar association , winner of the Alternative Nobel Prize and advocate of the Renewable Energy Sources Act . Scheer, who died in October 2010, considered the nation-state-oriented model he advocated to be much more promising than global solutions in the context of emissions trading .

In May 2010 the Hartwell Paper was published by 14 scientists and humanities scholars . It is argued that “successful decarbonisation can only be achieved as a side gain, which is lost when pursuing other, politically attractive and uncompromisingly pragmatic goals.” This includes 1. access to energy for all, 2. environmentally friendly energy, 3. Dealing with climate impacts. The primary goal is "the development of a CO 2 -free energy supply, at a cost that is below the cost of a fossil fuel-based energy supply even without subsidies."

Controversy over behavior adjustment

The IPCC also makes recommendations for measures. The relationship between adaptation and mitigation measures is discussed controversially. The IPCC's conclusions are contradicted by the views of market fundamentalist organizations such as the Hayek Society , according to which mitigation measures would be ineffective, impractical or disproportionately expensive and instead attempts should be made to absorb the consequences of global warming by adapting to the changed climatic conditions. This, in turn, is countered by the lack of reliable arguments for the feasibility of adaptation measures in a global context with unchecked climate change and that renouncing the precautionary principle is irresponsible. In addition, it is argued that preventive climate protection and the associated exit from fossil fuels is also advisable regardless of climate change. B. Innovations would be initiated, sustainable spatial planning concepts would be promoted and movement would be brought to the north-south divide .

At the same time, skeptics question the practical possibility of efficient climate protection measures based on the low impact of the Kyoto Protocol , or rather question their meaning. Based on an earlier recommendation by the IPCC , the production of agro-fuels was seen as an important way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, especially in the transport sector . Agro-fuels are currently the subject of political controversy, and alongside changes in eating habits in emerging countries and financial speculation, they are criticized as a cause of the current price increases in food.

Scientists who are close to the Copenhagen Consensus consider the fight against hunger and malnutrition, also through access to modern agricultural technology, and the elimination of export restrictions as well as the fight against infectious diseases to be more urgent than climate protection. Several Nobel Laureates in Economics took part in the deliberations on the Copenhagen Consensus . The Copenhagen Consensus was criticized, among other things, because it approaches highly complex processes with the comparatively simple means of cost-benefit calculation, it is only slightly above the approximate level of current development aid and thus wants to help manage the shortage above all and because it wants to help manage the shortage Competition between different aid measures builds up, but leaves out other cost carriers such as military expenditure or subsidies for fossil energy systems.

From an economic point of view, the assumed follow-up costs are compared with the current avoidance costs in a present value analysis of global warming using a cost-benefit analysis . The former chief economist of the World Bank , Nicholas Stern , comes to the conclusion in the Stern Report named after him that avoiding emissions is clearly the cheaper alternative. Ottmar Edenhofer , among others , agreed to the report and spoke approvingly of climate change as a moral and economic problem. Critics star methodology and its calculation of the follow-up costs has been questioned, with him, others some over- a sub accused expulsion of the consequences of climate change. The weighting of avoidance versus adaptation strategies was also discussed controversially.

Media reception


Global warming is now getting a lot of media attention. In addition, the topic is also brought into connection with political controversies and is therefore no longer a priority for scientific discussion. In journalistic presentations, in addition to serious efforts to prepare the problem complex in accordance with the state of research, inaccuracies are often found in that the assumptions on which the respective model calculations are based are only insufficiently taken into account. This leads to distortions of the research results in both directions: On the one hand, attention-grabbing exaggerations can be found, for example when there are repeated warnings of an imminent climate catastrophe ; and on the other hand, improper trivializations are spread for economic and political reasons.

Particularly after errors in the fourth IPCC report became known, scientists are increasingly complaining that exaggerated criticism of climate research is being spread in the media. In individual cases, the press was also accused of making clear false statements and defaming scientists.

Katherine Richardson , marine ecologist at the University of Copenhagen , believes that climate skeptics are disproportionately high in the media. At the same time, scientists like themselves are exposed to massive attacks in the media.

In early 2010, 277 leading Dutch scientists protested in an open letter against the discrediting of climate research in the public debate. The excitement about errors in the last IPCC report is disproportionate, the working methods of the IPCC are "transparent and careful".

In the media analysis , on the one hand, the thesis has been put forward on this topic that media-immanent laws lead to counter-positions to the current opinion being emphasized after the initial disaster alarm. On the other hand, the importance of the political orientation of the media on reporting has also been pointed out. As an example, the news magazine Der Spiegel was cited, which had already attracted attention in 2004 with an internal editorial dispute about reporting on wind energy and whose former editor-in-chief Stefan Aust, according to former colleagues, was very skeptical of the warnings about climate change.

The climate researcher Christian-Dietrich Schönwiese criticizes the climate skeptics, whose attempts to refute the anthropogenic causes of climate change were mainly based on non-scientific motivations such as fear of their own standard of living or concern for the interests of the economy.

In 2010, among others, Claus Leggewie , Director of the Institute for Cultural Studies in Essen , and Hans Joachim Schellnhuber , Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research , criticized the Spiegel's reporting on climate change , because climate research was accused of "false statements in substance".

According to the British biologist Baron May of Oxford , a return to religious beliefs, including a punishing God, would be useful in coping with climate change and in implementing the necessary measures in cooperation. May sees a problem in the religious right around George W. Bush , which is partly responsible for the denial of man-made climate change. On the other hand, the American cultural historian Camille Paglia sees the conjured dangers of global warming primarily as an expression of a hunger for piety and apocalypse, after the ordinary church has been transformed into a directionless feel-good therapy .

Conflicts between individual climate researchers and the media

The Canadian climate researcher Andrew Weaver sued the conservative newspaper National Post for publishing several "incorrect, misleading and distorted" newspaper articles about him and, despite his request, not removing them from their website. Such reporting "poisons" the climate debate. Readers of the National Post had suggested in postings, among other things, to throw Weaver under a bus. The British Columbia Supreme Court ruled Weaver on February 5, 2015. He awarded Weaver damages and ordered the National Post to withdraw the items.

The University of Leeds' tropical forest specialist Simon Lewis filed an official complaint with the Press Complaints Commission , the British equivalent of the German Press Council , after alleged statements by him were quoted in an article in the Sunday Times as evidence of errors in the IPCC report were. Lewis stated that he had previously made it clear that he considered the relevant passage in the IPCC report to be scientifically justifiable and correct according to its content. Not only was this presented differently in the Sunday Times article . The newspaper later denied him any opportunity to comment and a letter to the editor he had written was simply ignored. The Sunday Times report that was complained of had meanwhile been widely adopted or quoted worldwide.

In 2010/2011 there was a conflict between the climate researcher Stefan Rahmstorf from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the freelance journalist Irene Meichsner . The latter had published a critical article on the IPCC report (“New mistakes in the Climate Council: IPCC turns North Africa into whole Africa”), which appeared on February 8, 2010 in the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger and (in abbreviated form) in the Frankfurter Rundschau (meanwhile withdrawn). Stefan Rahmstorf had thereupon commented on this in his blog and in a letter to the editors of the Frankfurter Rundschau, accusing the journalist of a lack of care in her research (among other things, she had read from blogger Richard North and journalist Jonathan Leake of the Sunday Times “ written off without criticism ”). As a result of lengthy disputes, a court case came about in which Rahmstorf was sentenced by the Cologne Regional Court to refrain from making disparaging remarks. The PIK in turn criticized the one-sided reporting in the magazines WPK- Quarterly and Spiegel Online in a statement . Rahmstorf was unjustifiably defamed as a "political agitator". His objective criticism of the article, in which "the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had been falsely accused of scandalous errors", was "completely justified", but "exaggerated". The controversy has to be seen in connection with various allegations of international media against the IPCC report, which Rahmstorf investigated together with other colleagues and came to the conclusion that most allegations were due to Richard North and Jonathan Leake. With the exception of a citation error in Volume 2 of the 3,000-page report, where the wrong year was given for the melting of the Himalayan glaciers, all of the allegations turned out to be false. The PIK refers to the results of studies by the Dutch government and the InterAcademy Council .

Psychological theories and research results

In 2009, the American Psychological Association's Psychology and Climate Change working group published a comprehensive report on psychology and climate change. Using an overview of the research literature, the current state of research was summarized on six questions, including understanding the risks of climate change as well as psychological and contextual reasons why people do not react to the predicted climate change, deny it or are skeptical of the results. An updated executive summary of the report was published in 2011.

Terror management theory , for example, is cited as a possible cause for denying the danger . Accordingly, a problem is denied if it is reminiscent of one's own mortality. This would stabilize one's own views and self-worth. One study showed that existential uncertainties about death influence environmental awareness, depending on whether someone derives their self-worth from environmental activities or not. If the former is the case, environmental awareness increases. On the other hand, people who have not previously committed themselves to environmental protection decrease their environmental awareness when they are reminded of their own mortality.

Another reason why people react skeptically to the forecasts of the IPCC (2007) is seen in the fact that the forecasts - according to scientific standards - contain information on statistical uncertainty . One study showed that this leads many individuals to consider the likelihood of climate change to be lower than the IPCC intended.

A suspicious attitude towards statements by scientists or politicians, for example, can also play a role.

A large study by psychologists at Columbia University showed that people can be influenced in their attitudes towards climate change by irrelevant but easily accessible information, such as daytime temperature. They explain this based on the theory of attribute substitution by Daniel Kahneman. Accordingly, the phenomenon of attribute substitution occurs when the object to be assessed (e.g. climate change) is relatively inaccessible or complex, while an object that is semantically and associatively similar (e.g. current weather) is easily accessible. A recent US study also came to the conclusion that political attitudes to climate change are influenced by the local temperature in the previous week. According to a French study, the condition of houseplants influenced study participants' opinions about global warming.

The social psychologist Harald Welzer warns against underestimating the real dangers of climate change in the public consciousness. Welzer refers to the phenomenon of shifting baselines , which does not allow people to perceive even dramatic changes in their own living space, since changes are perceived from their own observer's point of view, which is limited by their own life and experience. According to Andreas Ernst , Professor of Environmental Psychology at the University of Kassel, "Over-optimism and illusion of control are probably among the most important psycho-hygienic features of the mentally healthy". He calls psychological self-protection (→ see defense mechanism ) responsible for automatically "wanting" to look at facts more simply to the extent that they appear to be more complicated.

An Australian research group investigated ways to induce “deniers” of global warming to engage in environmentally friendly activities. Two studies showed that the assumption of possible positive social consequences of certain environmental protection actions (e.g. that the reduction of CO 2 emissions promotes the economy) had a greater influence on the intentions of the "deniers" than the focus on facts and risks Climate change. The researchers therefore recommended that the public discussion should be directed more towards the beneficial societal consequences of climate protection: for example, how climate protection can promote scientific and economic progress as well as social values ​​(e.g. interpersonal warmth, competence, morality).


Web links

"Climate skeptics"

Critical statements on "climate skepticism"

Individual evidence

  1. James Lawrence Powell: The Inquisition of Climate Science . New York 2012, p. 178.
  2. a b c d Naomi Oreskes : The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change . In: Science . tape 306 , no. 5702 , 2004, p. 1686 , doi : 10.1126 / science.1103618 .
  3. a b Anderegg et al .: Expert credibility in climate change . In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences . tape 107 , no. 27 , 2010, p. 12107-12109 , doi : 10.1073 / pnas.1003187107 .
  4. ^ A b Cook et al .: Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature . In: Environmental Research Letters . tape 8 , 2013, doi : 10.1088 / 1748-9326 / 8/2/024024 .
  5. Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis IPCC Working Group I Contribution to AR5
  6. a b c Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report .  or IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Summary for Policymakers. (PDF; 3.9 MB) on (English)
  7. ^ Riley Dunlap, Aaron M. McCright: Challenging Climate Change. The Denial Countermovement . In: Riley Dunlap, Robert J. Brulle (Eds.): Climate Change and Society. Sociological Perspectives. Report of the American Sociological Association's Task Force on Sociology and Global Climate Change . Oxford University Press 2015, 300-332, pp. 308f.
  8. ^ Sven Ove Hansson: Science denial as a form of pseudoscience . In: Studies in History and Philosophy of Science . tape 63 , 2017, p. 39–47, here: p. 41 f ., doi : 10.1016 / j.shpsa.2017.05.002 .
  9. ^ Justin Farrell et al .: Evidence-based strategies to combat scientific misinformation . In: Nature Climate Change . tape 9 , 2019, pp. 191-195 , doi : 10.1038 / s41558-018-0368-6 .
  11. Editorial: Fake news threatens a climate literate world . In: Nature Communications . tape 8 , 2017, p. 15460 , doi : 10.1038 / ncomms15460 .
  12. a b Constantine Boussalis, Travis G. Coan: text-mining the signal of climate change doubt . In: Global Environmental Change . tape 36 , 2016, p. 89–100 , doi : 10.1016 / j.gloenvcha.2015.12.001 .
  13. See Riley E. Dunlap, Aaron M. McCright: Organized Climate Change Denial. In: John S. Dryzek, Richard B. Norgaard, David Schlosberg (Eds.): The Oxford Handbook of Climate Change and Society . Oxford University Press 2011, pp. 144-160.
  14. Jordi Xifra: Climate Change Deniers and Advocacy: A Situational Theory of Publics Approach . In: American Behavioral Scientist . tape 60 , no. 3 , 2016, p. 276–287, here p. 284 , doi : 10.1177 / 0002764215613403 .
  15. ^ A b Riley E. Dunlap, Peter J. Jacques: Climate Change Denial Books and Conservative Think Tanks: Exploring the Connection . In: American Behavioral Scientist . tape 57 , no. 6 , 2013, p. 699-731 , doi : 10.1177 / 0002764213477096 .
  16. Naomi Oreskes , Erik M. Conway : Die Machiavellis der Wissenschaft (Original: Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming ). Weinheim 2014.
  17. ^ A b John Cook et al: Consensus on consensus: a synthesis of consensus estimates on human-caused global warming . In: Environmental Research Letters . 2016, doi : 10.1088 / 1748-9326 / 11/4/048002 .
  18. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Ed.): Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report . 2014, Section 1.3.1 Attribution of climate changes to human and natural influences on the climate system, p. 48 .
  19. a b Royal Society (2001): The Science of Climate Change (html) ( Memento from March 11, 2008 in the Internet Archive )
  20. a b The Royal Society (Ed.) (2005): Joint science academies' statement: Global response to climate change , Ref 08/05 (PDF; 406 kB)
  21. a b The National Academies (2007): Joint science academies' statement on growth and responsibility: sustainability, energy efficiency and climate protection (PDF; 198 kB)
  22. a b The National Academies (2008): Joint Science Academies' Statement: Climate Change Adaptation and the Transition to a Low Carbon Society (PDF; 198 kB)
  23. See also the English Wikipedia article Scientific opinion on climate change
  24. European Science Foundation Position Paper Impacts of Climate Change on the European Marine and Coastal Environment - Ecosystems Approach, pp. 7-10
  25. Position Statement of the Division of Atmospheric and Climate Sciences of the European Geosciences Union on Climate Change ( Memento of the original dated May 16, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  26. WMO's Statement at the Twelfth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. ( Memento of the original from September 10, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  27. ^ Climate Change Research: Issues for the Atmospheric and Related Sciences from
  28. ^ Royal Meteorological Society's statement on the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report.
  29. AMOS Statement on Climate Change
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    “[...] Science can only advance through its strong tradition of debate and disagreement. But this particular debate discredits the notion of scientific disagreement. Some of the climate skeptics evoke memories of the AIDS dissidents who used terms in the 1990s to claim that HIV did not cause AIDS and that there was no AIDS pandemic in Africa. Others resemble the tobacco industry dissidents who resisted the regulation of this industry to the last - based on what was later exposed as the misrepresentation of the science promoted by the cigarette makers. "

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  59. ^ A b Neil Carter: Greening the mainstream: party politics and the environment . In: Environmental Politics . tape 22 , no. 1 , 2013, doi : 10.1080 / 09644016.2013.755391 .
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  63. Meg Bostrom: A climate plan for climate-change deniers. In: Washington Post , November 14, 2010. Bostrom writes that the former consensus-based environmental protection is increasingly controversial between the political camps. This is shown in the conviction of conservative Republicans that global warming is a "hoax" (ibid.)
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    "The Committee's 16-month investigation reveals a systematic White House effort to censor climate scientists by controlling their access to the press and editing testimony to Congress. The White House was particularly active in stifling discussions of the link between increased hurricane intensity and global warming. The White House also sought to minimize the significance and certainty of climate change by extensively editing government climate change reports. Other actions taken by the White House involved editing EPA legal opinions and op-eds on climate change. "

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    "We do not know how much effect natural fluctuations in climate may have had on warming. We do not know how much our climate could, or will change in the future. We do not know how fast change will occur, or even how some of our actions could impact it "

    - George W. Bush
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