By Hans von Storch and Nico Stehr
The days are gone when climate researchers sat in their ivory towers packed to the rafters with supercomputers. Nowadays their field has become the stuff of thrillers, and they themselves have risen to take on the leading roles. The topic is so hotly contested, the prognoses so spectacular, that they are no longer merely the subject of media reports; now the specialists in staged apocalypse have moved in. Last year Roland Emmerich depicted a climatic collapse provoked by humankind in his film “The Day After Tomorrow.” Since last week the belletristic counterpart has been available in German bookstores: the novel “State of Fear,” by the best-selling author Michael Crichton. The thriller is about the violent conflict between sober environmental realists and radical environmental idealists. For the idealists, the organized fear of abrupt climate change serves as a handy weapon. They interpret every somehow unusual weather event as proof of anthropogenic global warming. “You have to structure your information so that it’s always confirmed, no matter what kind of weather we have,” the P.R. consultant for the environmentalist organization advises. The realists, who protest that the evidence that human activity has increased meteorological extremes is thin, are fighting a losing battle. Their dry scientific arguments are unable to gain any ground against the colorful, horrific visions of the climate idealists.