Mother Pelican
A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability

Vol. 9, No. 10, October 2013
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
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Climate Change and the Dialogue with Values

José Ignacio García, SJ, and Pedro Walpole, SJ

Originally published in EcoJesuit, 15 September 2013

EcoJesuit Mission: "Jesuits and friends are promoting greater awareness of our ecology and engagements through responsibility for how we live, deeper and more sensitive formation and engagement with an even broader global basis for action. These endeavours to heal the world need opportunities for reflection and communication of good information sources, to build up confidence and experiences and exchange best practices. Ecojesuit seeks to offer such a service."

A quieter life in Gällnö Island where culture and
water are changing, a place of reflection.
Photo credit: Pedro Walpole
The Earth’s sustainability is at the heart of Ignatian advocacy as its core group for the ecology network  met during the World Water Week in Stockholm during the first week of September.

One simple piece of wisdom that was clear is that when we start from a context or discussion that generates fear, it is more difficult to draw out hope. On the other hand, we ourselves humbly learn to live within our reality of one world shared with others and with all life, and from this simple and deep reflection the relations and hope combine to give us realisable options. In this way, by helping people envisage and prepare for a simple life, we mobilize capacity. Belonging and commitment are critical values in this story for the present generation.

Participating in World Water Week was a valuable exercise in networking. In studying the program, specific topics were focused upon and though speakers were often random in the connections, it was the “coffee breaks” where some interesting contacts could be gained. We were very fortunate to have Andreas Carlgren  with us who connected us with key people from the Stockholm Environment Institute: Johan Kuylenstierna who focuses on global food supply, Madeleine Fogde on sanitation and agriculture, and Louise Karlberg in water management. Their scientific and technical research gave the analyses that confirms the global situation of the world living beyond its means and faces us with the need for action now by a far broader populace than government or economic regulation can bring about.

Our conversations with numerous people turned to the need for greater hope and action, and for this, the importance of clear values in life and an attitude of living a simple life were seen as critical. Our institutions of government and much of secular society do not embody a value system and along with this, the youth and young professionals face both work insecurity and a consumerist “ethic” but with little reflection to bring them forward in making the decisions and forming the hope that this generation needs. Even our Jesuit institutions of higher education are challenged to accompany students in learning how to make decisions for life.

In our own discussions, hope, care, simplicity, and the deepening of values formed a core with lines of healing, participation, sharing, networking, and urgency stretching outward. The basis for this is seen in the belief system that holds a community together and an understanding of life. Suffering is part of the human experience and that the basis of engagement is not simply on a win-win approach, but of humbly recognizing the needs of all have to be met in and through this one world, this Earth.

The Earth is reacting today to a “quadruple squeeze” of four pressures, as presented by Johan Rockström, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre: human growth and inequality, ecosystem loss, climate dilemma, and the problem of surprise – the rapid tipping points. He later described human growth not as a population problem but as a wealth problem and of millions of people desiring a consumerist lifestyle. Change is not linear in change or simply the increasing curve of a “hockey stick” over the last 50 years since the acceleration of the fossil fuel economy. There are now erratic shifts. The damage to the Caribbean reefs, savannah flipping into desert, escaping methane of the Siberian tundra, the Artic melt and the unusual path of cyclone Sandy (thought now to be due to the collapse of the Artic vortex), are all examples of the unexpected.

During some of the water trans-boundary management discussions and methodological systems, people like Aaron Wolf, professor of geography at Oregon State University, in their public presentations spoke of the importance at this stage of spirituality in mediation and understanding  how deeply rooted people’s values are.

Our discussions turned to how the scientific and economic findings are communicated. Publishing in Nature may sustain a debate in letters to the editor for a few weeks even, involving directly a few hundred people at most. On the other hand, change in economic theory has resulted in the tweaking of the neo-liberalist model. The Millennium Development Goals have been far too slow in having the desired impact and are only part of addressing the development “problem.” A discussion of the new Sustainable Development Goals shows more experience and promise but we have to get a new economic design and civil participation with capacity.

Our discussions focused on the need for clear values in society by which we can live a simple lifestyle closer to the land. The stories are multiple and local but as yet are not communicated as desirable in a consumerist society. The challenge that is recognized is how to communicate and network with the values of sharing and caring; of the relational component in achieving basic needs on the one hand, and on the other, living simply in a consumerist economy as it stands. We need to focus on a language and a pedagogy that is easily understandable and engages people.

Amartya Sen, considered the “conscience of economics” today, has for over 30 years spoken of the opportunities that people have to do and to be what they value. This has become the “capability approach” being the equality sought to transform social realities not resources, income or other such indicators. But even this needs a relational dimension to get us moving, as developed by Dr Séverine Deneulin and Augusto Zampini Davies in Life lived to the full, a feature article published in the 31 August 2013 issue of The Tablet.

The Newman Institute  in Uppsala has come in to the picture as an international point of dialogue in Sweden and is interested in participating in the questions of cultural and social values, which contribute to sustaining the Earth. In approaching the process of a dialogue on values and the interplay of these values sustaining the Earth, we realize we need to share thoughts and draft a few papers and draw in peoples’ responses and reactions. It would be important to have a dialogue on the importance of relating values to the present economic and scientific need for urgent social change in 2015.

Learning to share water, share the world, and share with all life is the challenge that we draw from this meeting. This is the challenge we face in engaging the present generations seeking deeper values and meaning in life through sustaining the Earth.


José Ignacio García, SJ, is Director of the Jesuit European Social Centre (JESC), Brussels, Belgium. Pedro Walpole, SJ, is the Director of Research at the Institute of Environmental Science for Social Change in the Philippines and the Coordinator of Reconciliation with Creation for the Jesuit Conference Asia Pacific. He holds a doctorate in land use change from King’s College in London. He is a practitioner in sustainable environment and community land -management in Southeast Asia.

The Coming Crisis of Climate Science?

Reiner Grundmann

Originally published in Die Klimazwirbel, 19 September 2013


Editor's Note: The above graphic is from a Preliminary Draft of the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) to be released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in several increments late 2013/early 2014. The acronyms are as follows: FAR, SAR, and TAR denote the First, Second, and Third Assessment Reports in 1990, 1995, and 2000, respectively. AR4 is the Fourth Report, issued in 2007. The black dots/lines are empirical observations/error range. The vertical bars on the right indicate the range of computer simulations reported in successive reports. The combination of surface temperature measurement errors, computer simulation envelopes, and conflicting pressures from both denialists and alarmists, is currently a source of confusion. To keep informed on the unfolding debate, visit the IPCC WG1 AR5 website and the Climate Etc. blog by Professor Judith Curry of the Georgia Institute of Technology.

With the fifth assessment report soon to be released by the IPCC the pre-publication buzz is well underway. A while ago unauthorised drafts circulated in the blogosphere and now the official leaks have found their way into news editing rooms. A central question picked up by most commentators is the ‘pause in global warming’, the ‘stagnation’, or the ‘hiatus’. An anomaly presents itself for climate science in that model projections about future temperature increases do not concur with actual temperature observations. As expected, comments align with the agendas of the commentators, depending if one wants to defend the official modelling output or criticise it. These agendas are closely linked to policy options and the question if a lower observed temperature trend provides justification for political action on greenhouse gas emissions.

On this blog Hans von Storch expressed optimism as regards the ability of climate science to deal with this anomaly: ‘Eventually, we need to evaluate the different suggestions, but that will need time. No doubt that the scientific community will achieve this.’ Others are quick to pronounce climate science bunk.  David Rose wrote in the Daily Mail ‘A leaked copy of the world’s most authoritative climate study reveals scientific forecasts of imminent doom were drastically wrong.’ Hayley Dixon in The Telegraph put it less blatant but still succinct in her opening sentence: ‘A leaked draft of a report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is understood to concede that the computer predictions for global warming and the effects of carbon emissions have been proved to be inaccurate.’

Of course, both papers are on the political right and often skeptical about efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions. It seems as if this topic is inconvenient for the left leaning papers who support action on climate mitigation. The Guardian so far is silent on the issue and prefers to write about new record lows of Artic Ice coverage. When it looked last at this issue, Fiona Harvey bolstered the heat uptake by the oceans as explanation for the pause in global warming, thus doing away with a potential anomaly. At the same time she claims that climate scientists point out 'that the trend is still upwards, and that the current temperature rises are well within the expected range.' A quick glance at the graph above shows this is an illusion (the grey upper and lower bands are not part of the model prediction range).

Both the Mail and Telegraph quote Myles Allen (Oxford University) who tries to put the IPCC and its work into perspective. Says Allen:  ‘we need to look very carefully about what the IPCC does in future… It is a complete fantasy to think that you can compile an infallible or approximately infallible report, that is just not how science works. It is not a bible, it is a scientific review, an assessment of the literature. Frankly both sides are seriously confused on how science works - the critics of the IPCC and the environmentalists who credit the IPCC as if it is the gospel.’

The Mail quotes Judy Curry (Georgia Institute of Technology)saying it makes ‘no sense that the IPCC was claiming that its confidence in its forecasts and conclusions has increased. For example, in the new report, the IPCC says it is ‘extremely likely’ – 95 per cent certain – that human  influence caused more than half  the temperature rises from 1951 to 2010, up from ‘very confident’ –  90 per cent certain – in 2007. Prof Curry said: ‘This is incomprehensible to me’ – adding that the IPCC projections are ‘overconfident’, especially given the report’s admitted areas of doubt.’

Both Allen and Curry call for a radical reform of the IPCC with Curry being more specific: ‘The consensus-seeking process used by the IPCC creates and amplifies biases in the science. It should be abandoned in favour of a more traditional review that presents arguments for and against – which would  better support scientific progress, and be more useful for policy makers.’ 

Meanwhile in the Financial PostRoss McKitrick wrote: ‘As the gap between models and reality has grown wider, so has the number of mainstream scientists gingerly raising the possibility that climate models may soon need a bit of a re-think. A recent study by some well-known German climate modellers put the probability that models can currently be reconciled with observations at less than 2%, and they said that if we see another five years without a large warming, the probability will drop to zero.’ (this seems to be a reference to the paper by Hans von Storch and Eduardo Zorita recently presented here on Klimazwiebel).

McKitrick goes on: ‘Judging by the drafts circulated this year, [the IPCC] is in full denial mode. Its own figure reveals a discrepancy between models and observations, yet its discussion says something entirely different. On page 9 of Chapter 1 it explains where the numbers come from, it talks about the various challenges faced by models, and then it sums up the graph as follows: “In summary, the globally-averaged surface temperatures are well within the uncertainty range of all previous IPCC projections, and generally are in the middle of the scenario ranges.” Later, in Chapter 9, it states with “very high confidence” that models can correctly simulate global surface temperature trends.’

McKitrick then makes a link between a ‘failed science’ and a ‘costly policy’: ‘since we are on the verge of seeing the emergence of data that could rock the foundations of mainstream climatology, this is obviously no time for entering into costly and permanent climate policy commitments based on failed model forecasts. The real message of the science is: Hold on a bit longer, information is coming soon that could radically change our understanding of this issue.’

This is where the crux of the matter lies. While it is indeed highly problematic to tie costly policies to flawed model forecasts the prospects of climatology are perhaps worth considering.

I chose as title for this blog post ‘The coming Crisis of Climate Science?’ The question mark is intentional and important. It could well be that in the coming year global surface temperatures pick up as expected. Existing models would be vindicated, end of story. The question is: how many more years should climatologists wait for this ‘renormalization’? It appears that mood is shifting towards alternative models and explanations. The timing of the fifth assessment report falls into this critical juncture where a lot of momentum has built up in favour of the current modelling practices which now prove so elusive. While the IPCC tries to make last minute rhetorical adjustments in order to accommodate anomalies, some of its participants, looking beyond, already indicate that this institution may have run its course.

But even if the IPCC was reformed or dissolved, we still would have these questions in front of us:

How convincing is the climate science? How important should it be for climate policies? Do we need to implement climate policies, and if so, what should they be?

I can envisage an irony of history where climatology enters a period of crisis and looses its central place in public discourse about climate change, thus opening up discursive spaces for pragmatic options to deal with the problem.


Reiner Grundmann is Professor of Science & Technology Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Nottingham, UK. He received his first degree in Sociology from the Free University in Berlin and his PhD in Political and Social Sciences from the European University Institute, Florence. He also obtained a German Habilitation from Bielefeld University. Before moving to the UK he was researcher at the Wissenschaftszentrum in Berlin (Germany) and at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies (Cologne, Germany).

His main research interest is the relation between knowledge and decision making. In recent years he has been studying the public discourse on climate change where the role of scientific experts, lay audiences, decision makers, and the mass media are crucially important. As various actors frame the issue in different ways, their use of language needs to be understood.

Professor Grundmann has started to conduct cross national analyses of newspaper reporting on climate change in several countries. He also researches the social, political, and cultural dimensions of climate change. This includes the ethics of climate research (as exemplified in 'climategate'), the dilemmas of scientists between advocacy and honest brokering, and the role of the social sciences in the climate change debate,

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