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Leading Climatologist on Fukushima: We Are Looting the Past and Future to Feed the Present

Leading German climate scientist Hans Joachim Schellnhuber talks to SPIEGEL about the lessons of the Fukushima disaster, the future of nuclear energy in Germany and why our society needs to be transformed. "We consume as much oil in one year as was created in 5.3 million years," he warns.

SPIEGEL: Who or what is to blame for the nuclear catastrophe in Fukushima?

Hans Joachim Schellnhuber: The earthquake was merely the trigger. The crazy logic we apply in dealing with technical risks is to blame. We only protect ourselves against hazards to the extent that it's economically feasible at a given time, and to the extent to which they can be controlled within the normal operations of a company. But the Richter scale has no upper limit. Why is a Japanese nuclear power plant only designed to withstand a magnitude 8.2 earthquake, not to mention tsunamis?

SPIEGEL: Presumably because otherwise electricity from nuclear power would have been too expensive.

Schellnhuber: The entire affluence-based economic model of the postwar era, be it in Japan or here in Germany, is based on the idea that cheap energy and rising material consumption are supposed to make us happier and happier. This is why nuclear power plants are now being built in areas that are highly active geologically, and why we consume as much oil in one year as was created in 5.3 million years. We are looting both the past and the future to feed the excess of the present. It's the dictatorship of the here and now.

SPIEGEL: What's your alternative?

Schellnhuber: We have to stop constantly ignoring the things that are truly harmful to our society. This includes nuclear accidents, but also the prospect of the Earth becoming between 6 and 8 degrees Celsius (11 to 14 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer by the year 2200. Only when we have taken the possibility of maximum losses fully into account can we decide whether we even want a specific technology.

SPIEGEL: Up until now, you haven't been one of the vocal opponents of nuclear power.

Schellnhuber: But neither was I a supporter of nuclear power. My position was: Let's take advantage of the cost benefits of the existing nuclear plants to quickly develop renewable energy systems. It was my hope that something good would emerge from something bad.

SPIEGEL: How do you feel about the government's plans to temporarily shut down seven nuclear power plants in Germany?

Schellnhuber: It's the right thing to do. Something resembling what happened in Japan could also happen in Germany if one of the countless possible chains of unfortunate events were to occur. It's the unavoidability of the improbable. But the way the government approached the issue was not very beneficial for Germany's political culture.


Schellnhuber: Last year they decided that German power plants are safe. This allows for only two possible conclusions: Either the full truth wasn't recognized at the time, in which case it was bad policy, or they are reacting in a purely opportunistic fashion now, against their better judgment. That's even worse policy.

SPIEGEL: Are you worried that the government's new anti-nuclear course will lead to higher CO2 emissions because more coal will be burned once again?

Schellnhuber: Actually, I'm convinced that this is precisely what Chancellor Angela Merkel will not allow. Now everyone is starting to realize that society's entire fossil-nuclear operating system has no future and that massive investments have to be made in renewable sources of energy.

SPIEGEL: Do you feel that the government's abrupt change of course in relation to its energy policy is adequate?

Schellnhuber: No. It can only be the beginning of a deep-seated shift. The German Advisory Council on Global Change, which I chair, will soon unveil a master plan for a transformation of society. Precisely because of Fukushima, we believe that a new basis of our coexistence is needed.

SPIEGEL: What does that mean?

Schellnhuber: We need a social contract for the 21st century that seals the common desire to create a sustainable industrial metabolism. We must resolve, once and for all, to leave our descendants more than a legacy of nuclear hazards and climate change. This requires empathy across space and time. To promote this, the rights of future generations should be enshrined in the German constitution.

SPIEGEL: And specifically?

Schellnhuber: For example, we have to stabilize energy consumption at a reasonable level. If we would finally start exploiting the full potential for energy efficiency in Germany, we could get by with at least 30 percent less energy input -- without being materially worse off.

SPIEGEL: How do you intend to convince society of the need for an upper limit to energy consumption?

Schellnhuber: It can only be achieved with cultural change. To that end, society needs to have an entirely different discussion than before. This sort of change is one of the most difficult things I can imagine.

SPIEGEL: Belt-tightening hasn't exactly been popular in the past.

Schellnhuber: All it costs is a few percentage points of economic output to turn away from the dangerous path that would otherwise lead to more nuclear accidents and unchecked climate change. Green investments would only delay the growth of affluence between now and the year 2100 by six to nine months. Is that really too high a price to pay?

SPIEGEL: Why is it that your messages haven't been all that well received until now?

Schellnhuber: I'm neither a psychologist nor a sociologist. But my life experiences have shown that the love of convenience and ignorance are man's biggest character flaws. It's a potentially deadly mixture.

Interview conducted by Katrin Elger and Christian Schwägerl.

the climate religion is a fraud 26.Mar.2011 10:40


Plenty of energy around as well that is clean and useful.

hmm ... 26.Mar.2011 11:35

uh, what?

@ asdf:

Care to even try and make a somewhat convincing argument for your case?

Man made global warming is a religion of faith. 27.Mar.2011 00:54


It can't be proven, it doesn't seem to be happening since 1998, the high priests of the religion like VP Gore won't answer simple questions about his faith, none of the major studies take the Sun into account when calculating their theories. (the sun has been in a 12 year lull of sunspot inactivity, just ask any ham radio operator.)

None of the religious zealots will give you the percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere (as a percentage of total atmospheric gases) today versus 30 years ago, versus 100 years ago. They only want to quote parts per million because that statistic makes it sound really scary, but the fact is the percentage of CO2 hasn't risen at all.

The planet experienced a mini-ice age from about 1250 to about 1850 so naturally things would be warming up in the last 150 years.

Religious fundamentalists are so sure they are right and so very sure everyone else is wrong.

Religious fundamentalists try to force others into following their own version of what is true.

Religious fundamentalists believe they are on a special mission to save the world from itself.

Any of this sounding familiar?

" fact is the percentage of CO2 hasn't risen at all " 27.Mar.2011 23:40


if the above is a "fact" (according to you) -

then why do most scientists, governments, and many corporations (some, not all) -- i.e. the real world -- have evidence overwhelmingly contradicting it?

(p.s. on the topic of climate change as related to / vis a vis nuclear power in particular... the nuclear biz, these days, likes to portray itself as completely in line with it... because they prefer to present their nuke plants as "not contributing to global warming"....)

Climate change is real, and under-reported 28.Mar.2011 09:56

Exile portlander_in_exile@yahoo.com

It just happens so slowly, over generations, that it's not obvious to those not paying attention.

When is the last time you've seen this?


You have to look at the longer scale of change. It's been happening, since the industrial revolution, and it is continuing.

3 ruthless climategate interests are only thing you should think about 28.Mar.2011 16:32


These three ruthless interests:

1. climategate fraudulent scientists
2. carbon measurement fraud in the carbon credits
3. oil and energy companies pressure this financially lucrative global carbon trading

The fourth 'interest' is likely the naive goodwill from people clueless about the real leadership in #1-#3 above they are following. Nothing in this expensive astroturfed campaign of 'climate change' or 'global warming' lies without clueless activists thinking that it's OK that the environmental movement has shrunk to carbon trading--instead of worrying about really protecting the environmental movement from charlatans of #1-#3 instead.


There is massive corruption in the scientists who lie in their data to the public. And the corrupt governments keep them in the media and swimming in grants and cash despite their databases being entirely fabricated.

Climate change: this is the worst scientific scandal of our generation
Our hopelessly compromised scientific establishment cannot be allowed to get away with the Climategate whitewash, says Christopher Booker.

By Christopher Booker 6:10PM GMT 28 Nov 2009


A week after my colleague James Delingpole, on his Telegraph blog, coined the term "Climategate" to describe the scandal revealed by the leaked emails from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit, Google was showing that the word now appears across the internet more than nine million times.

But in all these acres of electronic coverage, one hugely relevant point about these thousands of documents has largely been missed.

The reason why even the Guardian's George Monbiot has expressed total shock and dismay at the picture revealed by the documents is that their authors are not just any old bunch of academics.

Their importance cannot be overestimated, What we are looking at here is the small group of scientists who have for years been more influential in driving the worldwide alarm over global warming than any others, not least through the role they play at the heart of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Professor Philip Jones, the CRU's director, is in charge of the two key sets of data used by the IPCC to draw up its reports. Through its link to the Hadley Centre, part of the UK Met Office, which selects most of the IPCC's key scientific contributors, his global temperature record is the most important of the four sets of temperature data on which the IPCC and governments rely - not least for their predictions that the world will warm to catastrophic levels unless trillions of dollars are spent to avert it. [and the NZ dataset compilers had a court suit against them for fraud in their data--and lost. Michael Mann of the US, so close to Gore, heavily implicated in lying as well through mathematical 'adjustment' (fixing) of the data, just like the mafia 'fix' a horserace.]

Dr Jones is also a key part of the closely knit group of American and British scientists responsible for promoting that picture of world temperatures conveyed by Michael Mann's "hockey stick" graph which 10 years ago turned climate history on its head by showing that, after 1,000 years of decline, global temperatures have recently shot up to their highest level in recorded history.

Given star billing by the IPCC, not least for the way it appeared to eliminate the long-accepted Mediaeval Warm Period when temperatures were higher they are today, the graph became the central icon of the entire man-made global warming movement.

Related Articles

'Climategate' university performs data U-turn
28 Nov 2009
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29 Nov 2009
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Since 2003, however, when the statistical methods used to create the "hockey stick" were first exposed as fundamentally flawed by an expert Canadian statistician Steve McIntyre, an increasingly heated battle has been raging between Mann's supporters, calling themselves "the Hockey Team", and McIntyre and his own allies, as they have ever more devastatingly called into question the entire statistical basis on which the IPCC and CRU construct their case.

The senders and recipients of the leaked CRU emails constitute a cast list of the IPCC's scientific elite, including not just the "Hockey Team", such as Dr Mann himself, Dr Jones and his CRU colleague Keith Briffa, but Ben Santer, responsible for a highly controversial rewriting of key passages in the IPCC's 1995 report; Kevin Trenberth, who similarly controversially pushed the IPCC into scaremongering over hurricane activity; and Gavin Schmidt, right-hand man to Al Gore's ally Dr James Hansen, whose own GISS record of surface temperature data is second in importance only to that of the CRU itself.

There are three threads in particular in the leaked documents which have sent a shock wave through informed observers across the world. Perhaps the most obvious, as lucidly put together by Willis Eschenbach (see McIntyre's blog Climate Audit and Anthony Watt's blog Watts Up With That ), is the highly disturbing series of emails which show how Dr Jones and his colleagues have for years been discussing the devious tactics whereby they could avoid releasing their data to outsiders under freedom of information laws.

They have come up with every possible excuse for concealing the background data on which their findings and temperature records were based.

This in itself has become a major scandal, not least Dr Jones's refusal to release the basic data from which the CRU derives its hugely influential temperature record, which culminated last summer in his startling claim that much of the data from all over the world had simply got "lost". Most incriminating of all are the emails in which scientists are advised to delete large chunks of data, which, when this is done after receipt of a freedom of information request, is a criminal offence.

But the question which inevitably arises from this systematic refusal to release their data is - what is it that these scientists seem so anxious to hide?

The second and most shocking revelation of the leaked documents is how they show the scientists trying to manipulate data through their tortuous computer programmes, always to point in only the one desired direction - to lower past temperatures and to "adjust" recent temperatures upwards, in order to convey the impression of an accelerated warming. This comes up so often (not least in the documents relating to computer data in the Harry Read Me file) that it becomes the most disturbing single element of the entire story. This is what Mr McIntyre caught Dr Hansen doing with his GISS temperature record last year (after which Hansen was forced to revise his record), and two further shocking examples have now come to light from Australia and New Zealand.

In each of these countries it has been possible for local scientists to compare the official temperature record with the original data on which it was supposedly based. In each case it is clear that the same trick has been played - to turn an essentially flat temperature chart into a graph which shows temperatures steadily rising. And in each case this manipulation was carried out under the influence of the CRU.

What is tragically evident from the Harry Read Me file is the picture it gives of the CRU scientists hopelessly at sea with the complex computer programmes they had devised to contort their data in the approved direction, more than once expressing their own desperation at how difficult it was to get the desired results.

The third shocking revelation of these documents is the ruthless way in which these academics have been determined to silence any expert questioning of the findings they have arrived at by such dubious methods - not just by refusing to disclose their basic data but by discrediting and freezing out any scientific journal which dares to publish their critics' work. It seems they are prepared to stop at nothing to stifle scientific debate in this way, not least by ensuring that no dissenting research should find its way into the pages of IPCC reports.

Back in 2006, when the eminent US statistician Professor Edward Wegman produced an expert report for the US Congress vindicating Steve McIntyre's demolition of the "hockey stick", he excoriated the way in which this same "tightly knit group" of academics seemed only too keen to collaborate with each other and to "peer review" each other's papers in order to dominate the findings of those IPCC reports on which much of the future of the US and world economy may hang. In light of the latest revelations, it now seems even more evident that these men have been failing to uphold those principles which lie at the heart of genuine scientific enquiry and debate. Already one respected US climate scientist, Dr Eduardo Zorita, has called for Dr Mann and Dr Jones to be barred from any further participation in the IPCC. Even our own George Monbiot, horrified at finding how he has been betrayed by the supposed experts he has been revering and citing for so long, has called for Dr Jones to step down as head of the CRU.

The former Chancellor Lord (Nigel) Lawson, last week launching his new think tank, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, rightly called for a proper independent inquiry into the maze of skulduggery revealed by the CRU leaks. But the inquiry mooted on Friday, possibly to be chaired by Lord Rees, President of the Royal Society - itself long a shameless propagandist for the warmist cause - is far from being what Lord Lawson had in mind. Our hopelessly compromised scientific establishment cannot be allowed to get away with a whitewash of what has become the greatest scientific scandal of our age.

Christopher Booker's The Real Global Warming Disaster: Is the Obsession with 'Climate Change' Turning Out to be the Most Costly Scientific Blunder in History? (Continuum, £16.99) is available from Telegraph Books for £14.99 plus £1.25 p & p.

 link to www.telegraph.co.uk



AND think about billions of dollars banks are trying to make off the back of these climate lies through carbon trading (i.e., trading something that they cannot monitor out of any particular project, so the whole thing is the next financial bubble waiting to collapse in the hundreds of billions of fraudulent carbon credits/futures.) Same banks as the mortgage bubble crimes/scandal as before are involved in this mess.

newswire article reposts global 14.Oct.2010 08:04
corporate dominance | media criticism

Carbon Credit Trading, the next financial bubble to burst?
author: Jonathan DuHamel

What would happen if a $300 billion commodity market were to suddenly evaporate? Of all the vested interests promoting the carbon cult of global warming, carbon credit trading is probably the largest and has the most to lose if the world comes to its senses. An article in Harper's Magazine titled "Conning the Climate, Inside the carbon-trading shell game" by Mark Shapiro, a senior correspondent at the Center for Investigative Reporting in Berkeley, California, takes one through this game. --- "Many studies have found that projects ostensibly designed to qualify as carbon offset programs fail to produce the amount of emissions reduction promised." When did we shrink environmentalism down myopically to this unscientific wild goose chase to sell carbon credits and to ignore the many more real and actually documented connections between pollution and health/ecological damage?

Carbon Credit Trading, the next financial bubble to burst?
by Jonathan DuHamel on Feb. 22, 2010, under climate change


Read Shapiro's article here:




newswire article reposts global 04.Nov.2009 17:17
alternative media | government
Oil Companies Support Global Warming Alarmists, Not Skeptics
author: Paul Joseph Watson
A common charge leveled against global warming skeptics is that they are on the payroll of transnational oil companies, when in fact the opposite is true, oil companies are amongst the biggest promoters of climate change propaganda, emphasized recently by Exxon Mobil's call for a global carbon tax. [I.E., CARBON CREDIT TRADING BEING FORCED THROUGH TAXATION]


Said above:

"When did we shrink environmentalism down myopically to this unscientific wild goose chase to sell carbon credits and to ignore the many more real and actually documented connections between pollution and health/ecological damage?"

climate-change denial is as insane as nuclear power advocacy 29.Mar.2011 15:14

Wrench Monkey

from Paul Krugman, "American Thought Police",  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/28/opinion/28krugman.html:

[There has been an] "ongoing smear campaign against climate science and climate scientists, which has lately relied heavily on supposedly damaging quotations found in e-mail records.

"Back in 2009 climate skeptics got hold of more than a thousand e-mails between researchers at the Climate Research Unit at Britain's University of East Anglia. Nothing in the correspondence suggested any kind of scientific impropriety; at most, we learned — I know this will shock you — that scientists are human beings, who occasionally say snide things about people they dislike.

"But that didn't stop the usual suspects from proclaiming that they had uncovered "Climategate," a scientific scandal that somehow invalidates the vast array of evidence for man-made climate change. And this fake scandal gives an indication of what the Wisconsin G.O.P. presumably hopes to do to Mr. Cronon.

"After all, if you go through a large number of messages looking for lines that can be made to sound bad, you're bound to find a few. In fact, it's surprising how few such lines the critics managed to find in the "Climategate" trove: much of the smear has focused on just one e-mail, in which a researcher talks about using a "trick" to "hide the decline" in a particular series. In context, it's clear that he's talking about making an effective graphical presentation, not about suppressing evidence. But the right wants a scandal, and won't take no for an answer."

All climate-change deniers need to read this: "When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof. The process of applying the precautionary principle must be open, informed and democratic and must include potentially affected parties. It must also involve an examination of the full range of alternatives, including no action." (Wingspread Statement on the Precautionary Principle, Jan. 1998)

give us some of that 'vast array' of evidence, we'll pick it apart 29.Mar.2011 20:54


"the vast array of evidence for man-made climate change. "

There is no 'vast array'. It's all the same circle jerk scientists building on sand.

Plenty of books should you wish to look into it. It's all a well orchestrated scam to sell carbon credits, to stop actual regulation from stopping oil, distracting us that 'carbon' is the only thing that requires solving, and engendering world government through global energy vetos while keeping out many other sane energy options.

I've got quite a 600 page file built on this. Go ahead. Give us the evidence.