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Climate Endgame – How to Research and Communicate Extreme Climate Risks?

Firefighters in front of a wall of flames, wading through shallow water

by Felix Schaumann

“Are we screwed?”, “How bad is it gonna get?” – these are the questions that I most frequently get when I mention that I am in climate science. Newspaper coverage of a recent perspective article in PNAS seemed to suggest that we are actually headed towards a global catastrophe with potential extinction and that we know dangerously little about it: “Climate endgame: risk of human extinction ‘dangerously underexplored’ – Scientists say there are ample reasons to suspect global heating could lead to catastrophe”, or “We Are Not Freaking Out Enough About Climate Change”.

This media coverage has led other researchers to criticize the underlying article for being too gloomy – they argue it scares the public and overemphasizes the likelihood of catastrophic climate change. Continue reading Climate Endgame – How to Research and Communicate Extreme Climate Risks?

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RCP-8.5: Business-As-Usual or Unrealistic Worst-Case? The contested interpretation of climate change scenarios

By Felix Schaumann

RCP-8.5 is not only the arguably most popular climate change scenario, it is also often framed in a very specific manner: as the business-as-usual trajectory that humanity is on if no climate change policies are adopted.

For an academic discipline that actively tries to be policy-relevant, climate science in the context of the IPCC is often weirdly inaccessible. An example of this is the rather cryptic naming of climate scenarios that form the backbone of IPCC reports and many climate modelling studies: names range from SSP1-1.9 to SSP5-8.5. A specific element of these mysterious scenarios – the so-called RCP-8.5 – has been the focus of a rather fierce academic debate.

Yet, more than being a somewhat nerdy scientific debate, the controversy around RCP-8.5 actually points to some fundamental disagreements about the communication of climate futures. Continue reading RCP-8.5: Business-As-Usual or Unrealistic Worst-Case? The contested interpretation of climate change scenarios

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Where Realism Tips Into Optimism: Review of “The Ministry for the Future” (2020)

by Felix Schaumann

Just as the current climate talks begin , allow us to imagine another future. An optimist one.

Credit: Pixabay 8385

This spring, I gave my mother a book as a present, promising an optimistic take on climate change and on how our next 30 years might play out. Half a year later, she still has not read past page 32 – “it’s too depressing”, she says. I cannot blame her. The Ministry for the Future, a science fiction novel by Kim Stanley Robinson, starts with a heat wave killing around 20 million people in India and subsequent international conflict about unilateral solar geoengineering. On the other hand, the novel ends in 2050 with people flying around the globe in electric air ships, marveling at all the rewilded and restored ecosystems. In between, it forms a subtle narrative arc in which the initial pessimism (or realism) slowly and almost unnoticeably tips into optimism and hope. Continue reading Where Realism Tips Into Optimism: Review of “The Ministry for the Future” (2020)

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Why climate and environment belong together

by Felix Schaumann

In a recent blogpost, I argued that climate policy should be seen and treated as something fundamentally different from environmental policy. However, I am not sure I entirely convinced even myself. Therefore, I’d like to use this piece to take the opposite stance, by arguing that climate and environmental problems should be confronted together.

It is true that the main cause of climate change consists of burning fossil fuels, suggesting a focus on economic solutions relating to energy use. However, it is also true that the effects of climate change present themselves as environmental problems – ranging from storms and droughts to the extinction of species and the loss of entire ecosystems.

Rain forest in Bolivia - photo by Felix Schaumann

 

Continue reading Why climate and environment belong together

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Why Climate Policy is not the same as Environmental Policy

by Felix Schaumann

Climate change is receiving more and more attention. While the topic has traditionally been seen as an environmental issue, it is now increasingly reaching beyond and detaching from the sphere of classical environmental policy. In this piece, I will argue that this is a good thing.

The environmental movement has been around for half a century now, at least in many parts of the world. While it has had many successes, it is still a minority in society. At the same time, ambitious climate action is required to happen within this decade, if we want to fulfil the Paris Agreement. In order to instigate political action now, it is necessary to build coalitions that amount to societal majorities, thereby reaching far beyond environmentalist circles.

demonstration image, penguin with a lifebuoy asking where is my home? Continue reading Why Climate Policy is not the same as Environmental Policy

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What is a Climate Model?

by Felix Schaumann

Last August, our blogger Shorouk Elkobros explained what a climate model is in this video. One year later, climate models are still an essential tool for understanding global warming. In order to remind us how climate models work, Felix Schaumann has put together his own explanatory video.

Continue reading What is a Climate Model?

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Climate and COVID: The structure of two crises

by Felix Schaumann

Author’s own photo

A common explanation for delayed mitigation action concerning the climate crisis cites the fact that the response of climate policies is only visible on a decadal timespan – thereby affecting neither quarterly profits nor parliamentary terms. COVID19 on the other hand only has a knowledge delay of up to 2 weeks, before infection events reveal their effects.

I would like to explore how these different dynamics of action and response play out and what they mean for the politicisation of science.

Continue reading Climate and COVID: The structure of two crises

Our Bloggers: Who is who of contributors



Michael Brüggemann is Professor of Communication Research, Climate and Science Communication at the University of Hamburg.  He is also the Principal Investigator at the interdisciplinary Cluster of Excellence „Climate, Climatic Change, and Society“ (CliCCS) 2019-2025. His research explores the transformations of journalism, political and science communication from a comparative perspective. posts by Michael I website and contact 

 



Shorouk Elkobros is an aspiring science communicator and storyteller. She is pursuing a Masters in “Integrated Climate System Sciences” at the University of Hamburg’s climate cluster CliSAP. Previously, she had a Bachelor in Physics and professional experience in communications. all posts by Shorouk

 

 


Ella Karnik Hinks is currently studying her Masters in Integrated Climate System Sciences at the University of Hamburg. Having achieved her Bachelors in Astrophysics, she is interested in Science Communication, and the interface between scientific knowledge and the public. all posts by Ella

 

 


Susan JörgesSusan Jörges is a student of the Master Journalism and Communication Studies at the University of Hamburg with a Bachelor in Social Sciences. As a student assistant, she is a member of Professor Brüggemann’s team and publishes articles for different media. She is interested in issues about sustainability, health and climate change. all posts by Susan

 

 


Hadas Emma Kedar is a PhD student and research assistant at the CLICCS project with Prof. Dr. Brüggemann. She is interested in news reporting in times of crisis, and in her research she compares TV news reporting of Covid-19 in different countries. She has been transitioning to social sciences after bacheloring and mastering in the humanities, namely in media art. Professionally, she taught media art in different institutions and volunteered as a news presenter for the ‘Israeli Social TV’. all posts by Hadas

 

 


Joana Kollert is an aspiring journalist currently pursuing a Masters in “Integrated Climate System Sciences” at the University of Hamburg’s climate cluster CliSAP and working as a student assistant in Prof. Brüggemann’s team. Before that, she studied Oceanography at the University of Southampton, UK. all posts by Joana

 

 


Clara NackClara Nack is a student of the Erasmus Mundus Master of Journalism and Media within Globalisation at the University of Hamburg. Previously she has studied Journalism in Denmark and Ireland and graduated with a bachelor in Comparative Literature from the FU Berlin. As a junior researcher she is now a member of Professor Brüggemann’s team, freelancing for different media and the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Clara is interested in sustainability, gender equality, digitisation and cultural institutions. all posts by Clara

 


Christopher Pavenstädt is a PhD student and research assistant at the DFG-cluster CLICCS at the University of Hamburg. His interests include political discourse, climate change/sustainability and social movements. In his research, he focusses on the transformative role of future-related narratives at the interface between climate movements, science and political actors for German and US-climate politics. all posts by Christopher

 


Louisa Pröschel is currently doing her Master’s degree in Journalism and Communication Studies at the University of Hamburg. Prior to that, she obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science. She is also working as a research assistant at the Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institute and her prime field of interest is Science Communication. all posts by Louisa

 

 


Felix Schaumann is a PhD candidate at the Max Planck Institue for Meteorology and the University of Hamburg. He works on climate-economic issues, and is thereby interested in most issues that are at the intersection of climate change science and society at large. A special focus of his work is on models that aim to connect natural science and economics in the context of climate change, such as integrated assessment models. all posts by Felix I website and contact

 


Fenja De Silva-Schmidt is coordinating the science communication project at the Hamburg Research Academy. Previously, she worked as a research assistant and received her PhD from the chair of Prof. Brüggemann in Hamburg. During Paris’ climate conference, she coordinated the “Down to Earth” study about the audience’s perceptions of news from the conference. Aside from her scientific activities, Fenja has been working as a freelance journalist. She tweets as @Fen_Ja. all posts by Fenja

 


Robin Tschötschel

Robin Tschötschel is a postdoctoral researcher in the team of Michael Brüggemann. His research interests lie predominantly in the area of public communication about political and societal aspects of climate change. His focus lies on the nexus of social justice, identity, and climate change, aiming to explore how societies can shape sustainable and just transitions. all posts by Robin I website

 

 

Former contributing authors
Max Boykoff, Associate Professor in the Center for Science and Technology Policy, University of Colorado-Boulder
Anabela Carvalho, Associate Professor at the Dep. of Communication Sciences, University of Minho, Portugal
Elisabeth Eide, professor of journalism at HiOA (Høgskolen i Oslo og Akershus), Oslo, writer and journalist
Rebecca Froese, Masters Student of “Integrated Climate System Sciences” at the University of Hamburg’s climate cluster CliSAP
Reiner Grundmann, Professor of Science and Technology Studies at the University of Nottingham (UK)
Jonas Kaiser, Research Associate at Zeppelin University Friedrichshafen, Fellow at Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society
Bastian Kießling, research assistant at the chair of Prof. Neverla in Hamburg, DFG-project “Public Discourses on Climate Change
Manuel Kreutle, Masters student in “Integrated Climate System Sciences” at the University of Hamburg’s climate cluster CliSAP, student assistant in Prof. Brüggemann’s team
Bienvenido León, associate professor of science journalism and director of the Research Group on Science Communication at the University of Navarra (Spain)
Ines Lörcher, research assistant at the chair of Prof. Brüggemann in Hamburg
Gesa Luedecke, postdoc at the CIRES Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado in Boulder
Julia Mandil, Brazilian journalist and Erasmus Mundus MA student in Journalism and Media Across Cultures in Hamburg
Joost de Moor, PhD in political science at the University of Antwerp
Brigitte Nerlich, Professor of Science, Language and Society at the University of Nottingham
Sara Nofri, researcher, an entrepreneurial linguist, a consultant, media analyst, family person and foodie
Feilidh O’Dwyer, journalist working towards his MA in Journalism and Globalisation at the University of Hamburg
Alan Ouakrat, associate researcher at CARISM, the Center of Analysis and Interdisciplinary Research on Media (University Panthéon-Assas, Paris), postdoc at the CREM, Research Centre on Mediations (University of Lorraine)
James Painter, Director of the Journalism Fellowship Programme for the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University
Warren Pearce, Research Fellow on the University of Nottingham’s Making Science Public programme
Adrian Rauchfleisch, Research Associate at the Department of Science, Crisis & Risk Communication at the Institute of Mass Communication and Media Research (IPMZ), University of Zurich
Markus Rhomberg, professor and chair of political communication at Zeppelin University Friedrichshafen, Germany
Alexander Sängerlaub, researcher and journalist in Berlin, founder and chief editor of the utopian political magazine Kater Demos
Anne Schmitz, master student in Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Hamburg
Felix Schreyer, master student in Integrated Climate Sciences at the University of Hamburg
Hans von Storch, director emeritus of the Institute of Coastal Research of the Helmholtz Zentrum Geesthacht (HZG), professor at the University of Hamburg and professor at the Ocean University of China (Qingdao)
Felicitas Vach, master student in Journalism and Communication at the University of Hamburg
Stefanie Walter, Post-Doc at the Chair of Communication Research, Climate and Science Communication of Prof. Brüggemann at the University of Hamburg