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Climate Dialogue

Climate Dialogue is a new project run by the Dutch Met Office, the KNMI. It aims to be:

a platform for discussions between (climate) scientists on important climate topics that are of interest to both fellow scientists and the general public. The goal of the platform is to explore the full range of views that scientists have on these issues.

Interestingly, the project has prominent sceptic science writer Marcel Crok on board. Having a critic of the mainstream on board suggests strongly that this is a genuine attempt to communicate. If it works out then it's going to be a bit embarrassing for all those climate "communication" projects we have been having in the UK.

I'm sure we all wish the project well.


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Reader Comments (13)

As someone with a Dutch (well Frisian) Dad, who had strong views on just about everything, I can well testify that "direct and forthright" is the only way the Dutch can conduct their business. Building consensus is not really their strong point.

So it will either fall apart in acrimony in the first period, or grow to be a lively and positive discussion.

Let us hope the latter..

Nov 14, 2012 at 8:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

Some more information on the dialogue from the Dutch Environmental Assessment Agency.

Goal of offers a platform for discussions between invited climate scientists on important climate topics that have been subject to scientific and public debate. The goal of the platform is to explore the full range of views currently held by scientists by inviting experts with different views on the topic of discussion. We encourage the invited scientists to formulate their own personal scientific views; they are not asked to act as representatives for any particular group in the climate debate.

Obviously, there are many excellent blogs that facilitate discussions between climate experts, but as the climate debate is highly polarized and politicized, blog discussions between experts with opposing views are rare.

The discovery, early 2010, of a number of errors in the Fourth IPCC Assessment Report on climate impacts (Working Group II), led to a review of the processes and procedures of the IPCC by the InterAcademy Council (IAC). The IAC-report triggered a debate in the Dutch Parliament about the reliability of climate science in general. Based on the IAC-recommendation that ‘the full range of views’ should be covered in the IPCC-reports, Parliament asked the Dutch government ‘to also involve climate skeptics in future studies on climate change’.

In response, the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment announced a number of projects that are aimed to increase this involvement. Climate Dialogue is one of these projects.

We are starting Climate Dialogue with a discussion on the causes of the decline of the Arctic Sea Ice, and the question to what extent this decline can be explained by global warming. Also, the projected timing of the first year that the Arctic will be ice free will be discussed. With respect to the latter, in its Fourth Assessment Report in 2007, IPCC anticipated that (near) ice free conditions might occur by the end of this century. Since then, several studies have indicated this could be between 2030-2050, or even earlier.

We invited three experts to take part in the discussion: Judith Curry, chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology; Walt Meier, research scientist at the National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado; and Ron Lindsay, Senior Principal Physicist at the Polar Science Center of the University of Washington in Seattle.

Future topics that will be discussed include: climate sensitivity, sea level rise, urban heat island-effects, the value of comprehensive climate models, ocean heat storage, and the warming trend over the past few decades.

Our format
Each discussion will be kicked off by a short introduction written by the editorial staff, followed by a guest blog by two or more invited scientists. The scientists will start the discussion by responding to each other’s arguments. It is not the goal of Climate Dialogue to reach a consensus, but to stimulate the discussion and to make clear what the discussants agree or disagree on and why.

To round off the discussion on a particular topic, the Climate Dialogue editor will write a summary, describing the areas of agreement and disagreement between the discussants. The participants will be asked to approve this final article, the discussion between the experts on that topic will then be closed and the editorial board will open a new discussion on a different topic.

The public (including other climate scientists) is also free to comment, but for practical reasons these comments will be shown separately.

The project organization consists of an editorial staff of three people and an advisory board of seven people, all of whom are based in the Netherlands. The editorial staff is concerned with the day-to-day operation of researching topics, finding participants for the discussion and moderating the discussions between the experts. The main task of the advisory board is to guard the neutrality of the platform and to advise the editorial staff about its activities.

Editorial Staff
Project leader is Rob van Dorland of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI). Van Dorland is a senior scientist and climate advisor in the Climate Services section and is often operating at the interface between science and society.

The second member is Bart Strengers. He is a climate policy analyst and modeler in the IMAGE-project at the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) and has been involved in the discussion with climate skeptics for many years.

The third member is Marcel Crok, an investigative science writer, who published a critical book (in Dutch) about the climate debate.

We welcome comments on this blog and are happy to answer any questions regarding this project. You can send an email to info [at] climatedialogue [dot] org.

Nov 14, 2012 at 8:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterHans Labohm

The Dutch have a good record of innovative thinking about climate change, including researchers such as Jan Rotmans and Richard Tol.

Nov 14, 2012 at 8:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterChris Hope

It's like building a car ... you need more than a good engine. In fact, the bigger and faster the engine, the bigger and better the brakes need to be.

So, if you want to be bold in your assertions, you also need to have the best sceptics on board.

Nov 14, 2012 at 8:46 AM | Registered CommenterMikeHaseler

Recall that Henk Tennekes was once the research director of KNMI. The organization has managed to maintain a certain independence of political correctness. Nowadays, in the Netherlands, a degree of doubt about climate alarmism is acceptable in polite company.

Marcel's courteous and well-researched style has certainly helped.

Nov 14, 2012 at 8:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

It is a major event. The crux of CAGW tactics in the UK is certainty. They brand sceptics as deniers to maintain the illusion of certainty, because that allows them to get on with their political agenda. The science is settled. If the Dutch even go so far as to imply that the science is uncertain, they will be cast out of the circle. Wait a while and see the consensus view on this initiative. My guess is that it will be against it.

Nov 14, 2012 at 9:02 AM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

A comment from the BBC would be entertaining.

The only thing I question about this format (otherwise I think it is wonderful) is the fact that scientists are selected. A change of government or pressure on the organisers could lead to problems. Would it be possible for lists to be created of both warmist and sceptical scientists and then to allow any of them to comment on the current topic?

Nov 14, 2012 at 9:21 AM | Registered CommenterDung


Don't forget that a majority (including Labour) of the standing parliamentary committee on environment has formally requested the government to promote a dialogue between AGW proponents and climate sceptics. This initiative is one of the outcomes. But there is much more. Stay tuned.

Nov 14, 2012 at 9:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterHans Labohm


You wrote: 'Would it be possible for lists to be created of both warmist and sceptical scientists and then to allow any of them to comment on the current topic?'

That is precisely the format.

Sceptics are actively partcipating in the management of the project, both in the editorial staff and the advisory board (in the latter on a fifty/fifty basis).

For more information on the history of the project, see Theo Wolters:

Unfortunately only in Duch (so far).

Nov 14, 2012 at 9:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterHans Labohm

I recall reading a report by a Dutch Emeritus Professor of physics on the Climate modelling. He didn't believe a word of it. There's still hope for science.

Nov 14, 2012 at 11:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

Richard Tol: "Recall that Henk Tennekes was once the research director of KNMI". Yes, but recall that he was forced to leave because of his AGW skepticism. "The organization has managed to maintain a certain independence of political correctness." How do you know that? "Nowadays, in the Netherlands, a degree of doubt about climate alarmism is acceptable in polite company". Perhaps closer to the truth is that almost nobody in the Netherlands is interested in climate alarmism at all.

Nov 14, 2012 at 8:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterMindert Eiting

It sounds like a positive development and quite a change from the alarmist past of the KNMI. The Minister for Infrastructure and the Environment, Melanie Schultz van Haegen is from the right-wing VVD party and is one of the more attractive politicians out there. Her ministry has arranged this initiative.

She has been a big fan of road-building which has dramatically reduced traffic jams and and has also presided over an increase in the national speedlimit form 120 --> 130kmh. (75 --> 81 mph)

Melanie Schultz van Haegen

Nov 15, 2012 at 12:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterFarleyR

It may be a government initiative, but it could be ok nevertheless. Let us hope they can operate free from special pleading and pressurising from such as a CMEPs or an IBT, and from vested interests such as the Hadley Centre and thriving-from-fear mendicants such as the WWF. We shall see. Good luck to all involved - may you help build lighthouses and sound a few fog-horns in the intellectual fog that is so widespread in political and media and academic circles.

Nov 17, 2012 at 5:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

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