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The Climate Change Dilemma: Big Science, the Globalizing of Climate and the
Loss of the Human Scale
Matthias Heymann
Aarhu...
Shaping cultures of prediction:
Knowledge, Authority, and the Construction of Climate Change (ca. 1960-
1985)
Funded by th...
“This Changes Everything review - Naomi Klein's
documentary on climate change doesn't”
Guardian review (17 Sept. 2015)
Nao...
(IPCC, AR5, 2013, p. 6)
Loss of the human scale
• Climate research has provided global and large-
scale information on climate change and its driv...
Hypothesis:
Climate knowledge changed significantly during the 20th
century. It experienced globalization, dehumanization
...
Content:
2. The „conquest of the third dimension“
3. Investigation of climatic changes
1. The ‚classical‘ climatological r...
Content:
2. The „conquest of the third dimension“
3. Investigation of climatic changes
1. The ‚classical‘ climatological r...
Painting of Joseph Stieler, 1843
Alexander von Humboldt
„The term climate denotes in its
most general sense all changes of...
Julius von Hann, Office of Meteorology
and Geomagnetism, Vienna
„Under climate we understand
the totality of meteorologica...
Wladimir Peter Köppen,
German Marine Observatory
in Hamburg
• Systematization of
climates
• Definition of climate
classes
...
Climate map after Köppen (Kottek et al. 2006)
The emergence of „classical climatology“
• Urban climatology
• Bioclimatology and
agrometeorology
• Microclimatology
• Historical climatology
Differentiation of cl...
Characteristics of ‚classical climatology‘
Priority of geographical space (2-dim.)
• Atmospheric phenomena on the surface ...
Content:
2. The „conquest of the third dimension“
1. The ‚classical‘ climatological research tradition
7. Conclusions
4. T...
2. The „conquest of the third dimension“
Airplane of the Wright brothers
in 1904
Zeppelin L 10 in 1912
Airtraffic required...
• 1920s: strong winds above 10 km height (Wasaburo
Ooishi, Johannes Georgi)
The rise of aerology
• 1900s: Soundings with k...
High altitude weather maps since 1935
500 mb level, 31 January 1953
Richard Scherhag
(1907-1970)
Theory of coherent planetary circulation
Hermann Flohn
(1912-1997)
Globalization of climatological knowledge
• Discovery of large-scale and global physical interactions
• Global knowledge f...
Content:
2. The „conquest of the third dimension“
3. Investigation of climatic changes
1. The ‚classical‘ climatological r...
Glaciological field research
Hans Wilhelmsson Ahlmann (1889-1974)
Investigation of ice budgets of glaciers in the 1930s by...
Callendar‘s theory of global warming
by accumulation of CO2
Temperature records from 1820 to 1935
Guy Callendar
Climatologists response
• Scepticism with regard to Callendar‘s global
explanatory approach
• Callendar could not explain ...
• Collection of historical weather
data (since mid-1950s)
• Investigation and understanding of
past climate and its variat...
Hans von Rudloff: The variations and oscillations of climate in
Europe since the beginning of regular instrumental
observa...
Hermann Flohn
(1912-1997)
Development of a „modern climatology“
• Development of a
”modern” or ”general”
climatology
• Int...
Content:
2. The „conquest of the third dimension“
3. Investigation og climatic changes
1. The ‚classical‘ climatological r...
4. The physical understanding of the atmo-
sphere and the rise of climate modeling
Vilhelm BjerknesComplete description of...
• Definition of a grid
Lewis Fry Richardson
• „numerical“ solutions
The promise of weather forecasting
Carl-Gustav Rossby
WWII and Cold War: militarization of meteorology
John von Neumann
• Ample military funding
• Strong ins...
John von Neumann‘s vision: the computer as scientific tool
ENIAC
Computer-based numerical weather prediction
Von Neumann‘s...
Conflict at the UK Meteorological Office
Lamb 1969: “The computer models of atmospheric behavior
and other climatic areas ...
The rise of climate modelling,
1955-1970
• Drastically simplified model
• Simulation over a period
of about 30 days
Norman...
The rise of climate modelling, 1955-1970
Heuristic computer modeling
• Computer models
served to understand
atmospheric processes
• Simulations were
performed on l...
Content:
2. The „conquest of the third dimension“
1. The ‚classical‘ climatological research tradition
7. Conclusions
4. T...
5. The CO2-problem
Report of the US
Presidential Scientific
Advisory Committee,
Washington 1965
Global CO2- and radiation budgets of the earth
Keeling curve (1971)
Charles KeelingGilbert Plass
Roger Revelle
John Murray Mitchell 1961, p. 237
Observations of decadal climatic change
Priority of time
William Welch Kellogg (1971, p. 123):
“there is the haunting realization that man may be able
to change the climate of the...
(Kellogg 1977, p. 24)
Kellogg’s prediction of future climate
(p. 965)
Climate projection by
Hansen et al. (1981)
with a 1-dimensional
climate model
Global climate projection by James ...
Global climate projections by IPCC AR5 (2013)
(p. 1037)
Global climate projections
1981
2013
Knowledge on large scales
• Predominant political interest in long-term prediction
• Focus on global coverage with limited...
Content:
2. The „conquest of the third dimension“
1. The ‚classical‘ climatological research tradition
7. Conclusions
4. T...
(p. 965)
Climate projection by
Hansen et al. (1981)
with a 1-dimensional
climate model
Could Hansen’s projections be trust...
Hansen et al. 1981: Climate Impact of
Increasing Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide
(Science, p. 957-966)
Discussed uncertainties
...
Fitting
experiments
Hansen et al. 1981: Climate Impact of
Increasing Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide
(p. 963)
“The general agreement between modeled and observed
temperature trends strongly suggests that CO2
and
volcanic aerosols ar...
Kellogg’s response to Lorenz
„It can be seen, then, that there is an entire hierarchy
of models of the climate system … It...
Kellogg’s response to Lorenz
„Of course, it is possible that all our models could be
utterly wrong in the same way, giving...
• All scientists emphasized the great uncertainties in
climate modeling and simulation
• But uncertainties could not be qu...
7. Conclusions
2. The „conquest of the third dimension“
3. Investigation of climatic changes
1. The ‚classical‘ climatolog...
• Climatic processes are large-scale and systemic
and demand global coverage
• Dehumanization and a loss of the human scal...
Thank you for your attention!
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Matthias Heymann - The climate change dilemma - big science, the globalizing of climate and the loss of the human scale

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Workshop on climate change and uncertainty from below and above, Delhi. http://steps-centre.org/2016/blog/climate-change-and-uncertainty-from-above-and-below/

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Matthias Heymann - The climate change dilemma - big science, the globalizing of climate and the loss of the human scale

  1. 1. The Climate Change Dilemma: Big Science, the Globalizing of Climate and the Loss of the Human Scale Matthias Heymann Aarhus University Centre for Science Studies Centre for Science Studies
  2. 2. Shaping cultures of prediction: Knowledge, Authority, and the Construction of Climate Change (ca. 1960- 1985) Funded by the Danish Research Council, 2013-2016 Janet Martin- Nielsen Gabriel Henderson Dania Achermann Matthias Heymann
  3. 3. “This Changes Everything review - Naomi Klein's documentary on climate change doesn't” Guardian review (17 Sept. 2015) Naomi Klein: „I’ve always kind of hated films about climate change ... they’re boring, they’re presumptive, they always, always include shots of polar bears.” Guardian review: “Klein’s absolutely right. Climate change documentaries struggle to make the story personal. (…). The breadth of the problem is too large to filter through relatable characters easily. Unfortunately Avi Lewis’s film - despite its good looks and fine intentions - fails in exactly the same ways.”
  4. 4. (IPCC, AR5, 2013, p. 6)
  5. 5. Loss of the human scale • Climate research has provided global and large- scale information on climate change and its drivers. • It was less able to provide locally relevant information, which links to local experiences, political institutions and policy demands. • Climate knowledge became detached from humans. It detached knowledge-making from meaning-making and global fact from local value (Jasanoff) Climate change dilemma
  6. 6. Hypothesis: Climate knowledge changed significantly during the 20th century. It experienced globalization, dehumanization and a loss of human scales. Question: How and why did climate knowledge experience globalization, dehumanization and a loss of human scales?
  7. 7. Content: 2. The „conquest of the third dimension“ 3. Investigation of climatic changes 1. The ‚classical‘ climatological research tradition 7. Conclusions 4. The physical understanding of the atmosphere and the rise of climate modeling 5. The CO2-problem 6. Uncertainties and trust in global models
  8. 8. Content: 2. The „conquest of the third dimension“ 3. Investigation of climatic changes 1. The ‚classical‘ climatological research tradition 7. Conclusions 4. The physical understanding of the atmosphere and the rise of climate modeling 5. The CO2-problem 6. Uncertainties and trust in global models
  9. 9. Painting of Joseph Stieler, 1843 Alexander von Humboldt „The term climate denotes in its most general sense all changes of the atmosphere, which directly impact our organs ...“ (Humboldt 1845). • associated with a concrete geographical location. • direct relation to human beings The emergence of „classical climatology“ • on the surface of the earth • holistic
  10. 10. Julius von Hann, Office of Meteorology and Geomagnetism, Vienna „Under climate we understand the totality of meteorological phenomena, which describe the average state of the atmosphere over a specific location on earth.“ (Hann 1883) • „Climatology of averages“ • Stability of climate The emergence of „classical climatology“
  11. 11. Wladimir Peter Köppen, German Marine Observatory in Hamburg • Systematization of climates • Definition of climate classes • Development of a climate map The emergence of „classical climatology“
  12. 12. Climate map after Köppen (Kottek et al. 2006) The emergence of „classical climatology“
  13. 13. • Urban climatology • Bioclimatology and agrometeorology • Microclimatology • Historical climatology Differentiation of classical climatology
  14. 14. Characteristics of ‚classical climatology‘ Priority of geographical space (2-dim.) • Atmospheric phenomena on the surface of the earth Dominant tradition until the mid-20th century • Geographical science with interest in local detail • Based on local observations; strong empirical tradition • Holistic approach (human-climate interaction) • Focus on human scales and dimensions
  15. 15. Content: 2. The „conquest of the third dimension“ 1. The ‚classical‘ climatological research tradition 7. Conclusions 4. The physical understanding of the atmosphere and the rise of climate modeling 5. The CO2-problem 3. Investigation of climatic changes 6. Uncertainties and trust in global models
  16. 16. 2. The „conquest of the third dimension“ Airplane of the Wright brothers in 1904 Zeppelin L 10 in 1912 Airtraffic required good knowledge of the meteorology of higher layers of the atmosphere.
  17. 17. • 1920s: strong winds above 10 km height (Wasaburo Ooishi, Johannes Georgi) The rise of aerology • 1900s: Soundings with kites and balloons • 1930s: systematic, internationally coordinated vertical sounding with radiosondes • 1939: term „jet stream“ („Strahlstrom“) introduced by Heinrich Seilkopf
  18. 18. High altitude weather maps since 1935 500 mb level, 31 January 1953 Richard Scherhag (1907-1970)
  19. 19. Theory of coherent planetary circulation Hermann Flohn (1912-1997)
  20. 20. Globalization of climatological knowledge • Discovery of large-scale and global physical interactions • Global knowledge for explaining regional phenomena (weather forecasting, monsoon) • Expansion beyond human dimensions • Still focus on empirical tradition and local detail • Strong personal relation to and identification with local weather and climate Priority of space including the vertical dimension
  21. 21. Content: 2. The „conquest of the third dimension“ 3. Investigation of climatic changes 1. The ‚classical‘ climatological research tradition 7. Conclusions 4. The physical understanding of the atmosphere and the rise of climate modeling 5. The CO2-problem 6. Uncertainties and trust in global models
  22. 22. Glaciological field research Hans Wilhelmsson Ahlmann (1889-1974) Investigation of ice budgets of glaciers in the 1930s by Swedish glaciologist Hans W. Ahlmann
  23. 23. Callendar‘s theory of global warming by accumulation of CO2 Temperature records from 1820 to 1935 Guy Callendar
  24. 24. Climatologists response • Scepticism with regard to Callendar‘s global explanatory approach • Callendar could not explain the majority of regional and local details of climatic shifts • Alternative explanation by Richard Scherhag: warming due to temporary geographical shifts of the atmospheric circulation • Stronger focus on the investigation of climatic changes within human times scales
  25. 25. • Collection of historical weather data (since mid-1950s) • Investigation and understanding of past climate and its variations Historical climatology Hubert H. Lamb (1913-1997) “Without a record of climate’s past behavior extending back (…), the subject would be in the situation of a branch of physics in which the basic laboratory observations of the phenomena to be explained had not been made. There can be no sound theory without such an observation record”. (Lamb 1986, p. 17).
  26. 26. Hans von Rudloff: The variations and oscillations of climate in Europe since the beginning of regular instrumental observation (1967) Climatic variation „These small climatic changes, fluctuations and oscillations will only with the help of exact, tested and homogenuous long term observational series be determined. Only this way we receive incorrupt representations about the limits, within which climate fluctuates“ (p. 2).
  27. 27. Hermann Flohn (1912-1997) Development of a „modern climatology“ • Development of a ”modern” or ”general” climatology • Integration of geographical and physical approaches • Expansion of climatology to all dimensions • Consideration of global interactions and local detail Consideration of space and time (4-dim.)
  28. 28. Content: 2. The „conquest of the third dimension“ 3. Investigation og climatic changes 1. The ‚classical‘ climatological research tradition 7. Conclusions 4. The physical understanding of the atmosphere and the rise of climate modeling 5. The CO2-problem 6. Uncertainties and trust in global models
  29. 29. 4. The physical understanding of the atmo- sphere and the rise of climate modeling Vilhelm BjerknesComplete description of the atmosphere (Bjerknes 1904)
  30. 30. • Definition of a grid Lewis Fry Richardson • „numerical“ solutions The promise of weather forecasting
  31. 31. Carl-Gustav Rossby WWII and Cold War: militarization of meteorology John von Neumann • Ample military funding • Strong institutional expansion
  32. 32. John von Neumann‘s vision: the computer as scientific tool ENIAC Computer-based numerical weather prediction Von Neumann‘s team for numerical weather prediction
  33. 33. Conflict at the UK Meteorological Office Lamb 1969: “The computer models of atmospheric behavior and other climatic areas may be unrealistic, and may therefore proceed too far and too fast on faulty basic assumptions. Such developments should be preceded by acquiring fuller and firmer factual knowledge” (p. 1215). John B. Mason: focus on numerical weather prediction Hubert Lamb lost support at the UK MetOffice
  34. 34. The rise of climate modelling, 1955-1970 • Drastically simplified model • Simulation over a period of about 30 days Norman Phillips Successful experiment by Norman Phillips 1955 Yale Mintz (1958): “… the overall remarkable success achieved by Phillips in using the hydrodynamical equations to predict the mean zonal wind and (…) circulations of the atmosphere must be considered one of the landmarks of meteorology.”
  35. 35. The rise of climate modelling, 1955-1970
  36. 36. Heuristic computer modeling • Computer models served to understand atmospheric processes • Simulations were performed on large grids elements • Simulations included significant simplifications Priority of time
  37. 37. Content: 2. The „conquest of the third dimension“ 1. The ‚classical‘ climatological research tradition 7. Conclusions 4. The physical understanding of the atmosphere and the rise of climate modeling 5. The CO2-problem 6. Uncertainties and trust in global models 3. Investigation of climatic changes
  38. 38. 5. The CO2-problem Report of the US Presidential Scientific Advisory Committee, Washington 1965
  39. 39. Global CO2- and radiation budgets of the earth Keeling curve (1971) Charles KeelingGilbert Plass Roger Revelle
  40. 40. John Murray Mitchell 1961, p. 237 Observations of decadal climatic change Priority of time
  41. 41. William Welch Kellogg (1971, p. 123): “there is the haunting realization that man may be able to change the climate of the planet Earth. This, I believe, is one of the most important questions of our time, and it must certainly rank near the top of the priority list in atmospheric science.” Climate modeling and the CO2 problem Kellogg’s demand: “Predicting the Climate”
  42. 42. (Kellogg 1977, p. 24) Kellogg’s prediction of future climate
  43. 43. (p. 965) Climate projection by Hansen et al. (1981) with a 1-dimensional climate model Global climate projection by James Hansen (1981) • Focus on global mean temperature • Focus on long-term prediction
  44. 44. Global climate projections by IPCC AR5 (2013) (p. 1037)
  45. 45. Global climate projections 1981 2013
  46. 46. Knowledge on large scales • Predominant political interest in long-term prediction • Focus on global coverage with limited spatial detail • Limited reliability of regional scale predictions Priority of time on large scales • Lead parameter global mean temperature • Limited reliability of precipitation data • Neglection of human temporal and spatial scales
  47. 47. Content: 2. The „conquest of the third dimension“ 1. The ‚classical‘ climatological research tradition 7. Conclusions 4. The physical understanding of the atmosphere and the rise of climate modeling 5. The CO2-problem 6. Uncertainties and trust in global models 3. Investigation of climatic changes
  48. 48. (p. 965) Climate projection by Hansen et al. (1981) with a 1-dimensional climate model Could Hansen’s projections be trusted?
  49. 49. Hansen et al. 1981: Climate Impact of Increasing Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide (Science, p. 957-966) Discussed uncertainties • vegetation albedo feedback: no reliable assessment (p. 958f). • “lack of knowledge of ocean processes partly introduces uncertainties about the time dependence of global warming” (p. 959f). • “the impact of tropospheric aerosols on climate is uncertain in sense and magnitude due to their range of composition” (p. 960). • “the nature and causes of variability of cloud cover, optical thickness, and altitude distribution are not well known” (p. 960). • “Solar luminosity variations, which constitute another likely mechanism, are unknown” (p. 962f).
  50. 50. Fitting experiments Hansen et al. 1981: Climate Impact of Increasing Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide (p. 963)
  51. 51. “The general agreement between modeled and observed temperature trends strongly suggests that CO2 and volcanic aerosols are responsible for much of the global temperature variation in the past century. Key consequences are: (i) empirical evidence that much of the global climate variability on time scales of decades to centuries is deterministic and (ii) improved confidence in the ability of models to predict future CO2 climate effects.” (p. 964; emphasis by Hansen et al.). Hansen et al. 1981: Climate Impact of Increasing Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide
  52. 52. Kellogg’s response to Lorenz „It can be seen, then, that there is an entire hierarchy of models of the climate system … It is reassuring to see that, when we compare the results of experiments with the same perturbations … but using different models, the response is generally found to be either about the same or differs by an amount that can be rationalized in terms of recognized model differences or assumptions“ (p. 9). WMO Report 1977:
  53. 53. Kellogg’s response to Lorenz „Of course, it is possible that all our models could be utterly wrong in the same way, giving a false sense of confidence, but it seems highly unlikely that we would still be so completely ignorant about any dominant set of processes … (Kellogg 1977, p. 9; my emphasis). WMO Report 1977:
  54. 54. • All scientists emphasized the great uncertainties in climate modeling and simulation • But uncertainties could not be quantified and did not have a visible impact on model output. • “Good” simulation results (good fits) had a stronger confirmatory power (“statement”) than knowledge about uncertainties (“qualification”) • Model validation was not a major controversial issue in the scientific discussion The missed dimension The missed dimension: in practice uncertainties did not matter
  55. 55. 7. Conclusions 2. The „conquest of the third dimension“ 3. Investigation of climatic changes 1. The ‚classical‘ climatological research tradition 4. The physical understanding of the atmosphere and the rise of climate modeling 5. The CO2-problem Expansion of climatology Globalizing reductionism: •Loss of the human •Loss of the local Priority of global knowledge
  56. 56. • Climatic processes are large-scale and systemic and demand global coverage • Dehumanization and a loss of the human scale is related to the marginalization of the regional and local • Priority of physical research vs. marginalization of geographical research (e. g. climatology, glaciology) How and why did climate knowledge experienced globalization, dehumanization and a loss of human scales?
  57. 57. Thank you for your attention!

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