Friday, March 31, 2017

DER SPIEGEL spoke with Hans von Storch, one of Germany's leading researchers on climate change, about why fears of global warming are exaggerated

We Have to Take Away People's Fear of Climate Change."
"SPIEGEL: Is it even possible to prevent global warming at this point?

Storch: No. Because of the inherent time lag in the climate system, the greenhouse gases that have already been pumped into the atmosphere will undoubtedly lead to a certain increase in temperature in the coming decades. We can no longer completely avoid anthropogenic climate change. At best, limiting the temperature rise to two degrees is just about possible, according to optimistic estimates. That's why we should spend more time talking about adjusting to the inevitable and not about reducing CO2 emissions. We have to take away people's fear of climate change.

SPIEGEL: But many believe that the end of the world is upon us. Is the climate debate gradually becoming too hysterical?

Storch: Indeed. The fear of climatic catastrophes is an ancient one and not unlike our fear of strangers. In the past, people believed that the climate almost always changes for the worse, and only rarely for the better -- God's punishment for sinful behavior. And nowadays it's those hedonistic wastrels who pollute the air so that they can look at some pretty fish in the South Seas. It would be better if we only ever rode bikes. Oh, there's always someone wagging a finger in disapproval.
SPIEGEL: Are there only negative consequences when the temperature increases by two or three degrees on the planet?

Storch: Detailed forecasts are not possible, because we don't know how emissions will in fact develop. We climate researchers can only offer possible scenarios. In other words, things could end up being completely different. But there are undoubtedly parts of the world that will benefit on balance from climate change. Those areas tend to be in the north, where it has been cold and uncomfortable in the past. But it's considered practically heretical to even raise such issues.
SPIEGEL: What would be the consequences for Germany, for example?

Storch: Very mixed. We will probably see higher storm tides. As a result, we won't be able to avoid building higher dikes. But our hydraulic engineers have already done a good job controlling the higher storm tides in Hamburg, for example, which we brought on ourselves by narrowing the Elbe River. At the same time, increased precipitation in the winter will force us to improve drainage on fields and meadows. On the other hand, milder temperatures will certainly boost tourism, especially along the North Sea and the Baltic Sea.

SPIEGEL: And what about the monster storms that will supposedly be rushing in our direction in a greenhouse climate?

Storch: A false alarm, so far, even though it's become warmer by almost one degree since the beginning of industrialization. According to the computer models, we do expect high winds in northern Germany to increase by one percent per decade. But this is such a weak phenomenon that we won't even notice it at first.

SPIEGEL: And the thousands of heat-related deaths the Kiel Institute for World Economics predicted in a recent study?

Storch: Such claims are completely idiotic and dubious. What they did was to simply perform an extrapolation based on the mortality rate during the exceptionally hot 2003 summer, which took everyone by surprise and for which we were therefore completely unprepared. But if higher summer temperatures become the norm in the future, people will adjust. Perhaps they'll take naps more frequently in the afternoon and convert their houses accordingly. The good thing is that all of these changes will not happen overnight, but in the space of decades. We still have enough time to react."

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