Benoit Rittaud

Het internationale klimaatsceptische debat wordt gedomineerd door de Angelsaksen. Op dit blog wordt veel aandacht geschonken aan hun opvattingen. De Duitsers zijn echter ook al vele jaren actief. Belangrijke Duitse websites zijn die van EIKE (‘Europäisches Institut für Klima und Energie’) en ‘Die Kalte Sonne’. Daarnaast blogt Pierre Gosselin vanuit Duitsland, maar zijn website is Engelstalig. Daarmee vervult hij een belangrijke brugfunctie, in die zin dat Engelstaligen op de hoogte kunnen blijven van de ontwikkeling van het klimaatdebat in Duitsland.

Door de taalbarrière zijn we minder op de hoogte van de ontwikkelingen in Frankrijk. Maar mede door de oprichting van het ‘Collectif des climato-réalistes’ (zie hier en hier) lijkt daar toch ook geleidelijk verbetering in te komen. De wiskundige Benoît Rittaud is voorzitter van deze vereniging.

Onder de titel, ‘They Thought They Were Saving the World: Book Review’, schreef Geoff Chambers een Engelstalige recensie van het recent verschenen franstalige boek van Benoît Rittaud: ‘Ils s’imaginaient sauver le monde: Chroniques Sceptiques de la COP21.’ (‘Zij verbeeldden zich de wereld te redden. Sceptische kronieken van COP21.’). Zie hier. Voor de francofonen onder de lezers: de Franse samenvatting is hier te lezen.

Ik pik een aantal krenten uit de Engelstalige recensie.

Our colleague Benoît Rittaud, president of the Association des Climato-réalistes and senior lecturer in mathematics at the University of Paris 13, has a book out: “Ils s’imaginaient sauver le monde: Chroniques Sceptiques de la COP21.” (Books Editions 2016). I recommend it strongly to anyone who reads French, not just for the clarity of its exposition of the sceptical viewpoint and its ironic comments on the imbecilities of the COP21 conference, but for its frequent illuminating asides, the originality of which stems perhaps from the fact that Benoît is thinking outside the Anglo-Saxon box, drawing on a quite different cultural tradition. I intend to translate a chapter or two, but in the meantime I’ll try and give you an idea of what I mean.

Benoît starts with a reflection on the natural reaction of the normal scientist, (citing Kuhn) which is to trust experts in fields outside his own, and on his first response to his own doubts. He says:

From the point of view of the normal scientist, it’s easy to understand that when you see the epistemological warning light flashing, indicating a problem within institutional science, this is going to provoke a certain mental disturbance. The two main blogs confronting each other at the moment of my conversion were RealClimate, manned by a team of climate scientists, representing the voice of official science as it were, and Climate Audit, run on a shoestring by the Canadian Steve McIntyre, who had no particular scientific status. And yet his site was far more precise, detailed, and factual. Climate Audit displayed scientific rigour; RealClimate offered personal attacks. In this case, it was the amateur who was following the path of true science.

He gives a long account of his inner conflict which would be most unusual in an English-speaking author, I think, but which harks back to Socrates’ dictum “know thyself”, and to Descartes’ use of introspection to free philosophy from its scholastic bounds.

The main bulk of the book consists of a beginner’s guide to scepticism, with references to Steve McIntyre and Anthony Watts (and Josh!), as well as to two distinguished French scientists who have dared to express their scepticism – Vincent Courtillot and Claude Allègre – interspersed with a caustic day-by-day running commentary on the unfolding COP21 circus. There are quotes which English-speaking readers won’t be aware of, like President Hollande in Manila attributing earthquakes to global warming, or ex-Minister of the Environment Corinne Lepage calling for a register of climate sceptics to be made for some later unspecified use.

He has an interesting theory about the 1.5°C/2°C “controversy” (if that’s the right word for a discussion which had all the intellectual interest of a discussion of the relative merits of “hocus pocus” and “abracadabra”). …

Everywhere there are parallels with the British, American, Canadian or Australian experience, and interesting details which can only help to complete the picture. There’s an account of the sacking of the TV weatherman Philippe Verdier which we covered here, and of the “Wanted” posters placed outside the hotels of sceptical scientists attending an alternative event by the rent-a-mob activist group AVAAZ.


The extracts from the COP21 agreement with their multiple square brackets are treated with suitable derision, and the ecstatic acclaim with which the final document was greeted is comapared to the Tex Avery cartoon character running over a cliff and continuing to advance, unaware that he’s walking on thin air.

But it’s not all science. There’s a chapter on Pope Francis’s encyclical ‘Laudato Si’. The Pope cites his sources, as any scientist would, and Benoît checks them, just as you or I would when reading an article in Nature or at the Conversation. ….

Benoît frequently steps back from the essentially farcical tale he’s telling and tries to make sense of it all from a long-term socio-historical or political point of view, much as we try to do here. Some of his ideas are interesting variations on what we read and write on English-speaking blogs; the suggestion that climate catastrophism might be a kind of psychological aftershock of the fear of nuclear holocaust which was largely dissipated (quite unjustifiably, in my opinion) by the fall of the Soviet Union; or the religious analogy, harking back, not to a vengeful Judeo-Christian god, but to Zeus and his thunderbolt. …

Aldus Geoff Chambers.

Lees verder hier.

Voor mijn eerdere bijdragen over klimaat en aanverwante zaken zie hierhier, hier, hier en hier.