21 June 2010

The More Things Change

Hans von Storch files a report from an IPCC meeting on seal level rise in Malaysia, indicating that not much really has changed at the intersection of climate science and climate politics (emphasis added):
Among the interesting details were introductory talks by political officials – who welcomed the presence of the conference in the capital of Malaysia, and demonstrated the importance of the topic by pointing to the evidence of climate change, which would become obvious by all kind of extreme weather, mostly related to typhoons and flooding. It seems that also in this part of the world the view has firmly be established among politicians that all extreme weather is due to anthropogenic climate change – which would imply that "stopping" Global Warming would go along with the end of weather extremes.

This was said in public in front of, say 100 climate scientists and science administrators (incl. Dr. Pachauri) , and – of course, nobody said anything. They did not take this talking seriously – assuming that the horizon for forgetting such talk would be really short. But then, one of the co-chairs of Working Group 1, which is organizing the conference, pointed bravely and explicitly to the extra challenge that the provision of valid scientific knowledge to the public and stakeholders would have to talk place in a politically charged environment.

Seemingly, this politically charged environment had just been demonstrated minutes earlier – illustrating nicely the presence of two competing knowledge claims, the media-cultural one (according to which extreme weather is due to Global Warming) and the scientific body of knowledge.
How scientists, politicians and the media treat the issue of disasters and climate change provides an interesting bellwether, simply because the science of the issue is so straightforward and misrepresentations easy to identify. All indications are that the IPCC has not learned much and is returning to business as usual.