Her expedition is supposed to start these days. On a Chilean research vessel, the 17 -year-old high-school student Janine Weather from Fehraltdorf in the canton of Zurich wants to go to Antarctica from Punto Arenas. At the bottom of the globe she wants to make a documentary about penguins. Not just out of sheer delight in the cute waddling creatures. She wants to stir up people. If global warming continues like this, the student knows, penguins will be largely extinct by the year 2100. They will die from overheating.
She wants to draw attention to the penguins’ dark future, and she has been preparing persistently. She has practiced filming under icy conditions in the Alps, made contacts and successfully sought sponsors for the 100,000 Swiss Francs budget. Many were delighted to meet the idealistic young fighter for endangered penguins and the melting Antarctic ice. The Tages-Anzeiger (a Swiss newspaper) published a half-page portrait of the model eco-teen; Swiss Television commissioned a reporter to make a film about Janine making her film, and WWF Switzerland operates a website while she is staying at the South Pole.
She had thought of everything except one thing: the reality in Antarctica. She had probably believed too much what Al Gore had prophesied in his documentary An Inconvenient Truth: the Arctic sea ice would be gone by 2013, the Antarctic ice soon after. But she was not the only one with this belief.
In early December 2013, the Russian ship Akademik Schokalskij embarked on an excursion towards Antarctica. On board a group of climate scientists led by the Australian climate scientist and adventurer Chris Turney, some eco-tourists and environmental journalists. One of the objectives was to gather evidence of the impact of global warming on the polar ice. But instead of melting glaciers, they met with outreaching pack ice, which on Christmas Eve completely enclosed the researchers’ ship and solidified it as a whimsical metal sculpture in a vast icy landscape. The Chinese icebreaker Snow Dragon, which they called for help over satellite, got stuck too. With helicopters, the passengers of the Akademik were evacuated to Aurora….
Turney’s failed expedition was ridiculed mainly in Anglo-Saxon blogs and newspapers. How could someone from a profession, which surmises to predict the climate of the next 100 years to tenths of a degree and the sea level rise to a millimetre, which prescribes government policies to adopt climate-saving measures costing billions under threat of apocalyptic scenarios – how could someone like Turney, who supposedly prides himself to run the “world’s most visited website on global warming and climate change”, not foresee the encounter with the ice masses?
‘At the wrong place at the wrong time’, he commented casually about this embarrassing debacle. But he made it too easy. In fact, the Antarctic sea ice has not declined, but reached a record expansion in 2013 since it was first measured in 1979 with satellite imagery, according to NASA. A look at Google would have sufficed. But even the Arctic has not become ice-free, contrary to the alarm calls. After a cold Arctic summer of 2013, satellite images of National Snow and Ice Data Center, which is sponsored by NASA, showed rather an ice cover, grown by 29 percent, from the Canadian islands to Russia’s north coast. The Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific was blocked throughout the year, a cruise ship had to turn back, and more than 20 yachts remained stuck in the pack ice. Both Chris Turney and film debutante Janine have apparently blind trust that the announced big melt has in fact occurred. But, in fact, global temperatures have not increased for 17 years, and instead of the predicted mild and snow-free winter, millions of people experience again and again unusually cold and harsh months. These days, Arctic snow storms roared across the USA, in December half a meter of white splendour brought the traffic in Jerusalem, the Holy City on the Mount of Olives, to a standstill. All climate projections based on computer models have been proven wrong.
The natural response of science and enlightened intelligence to such discrepancies would be to question their assumptions; in this case, that global warming is mainly due to man-made carbon dioxide emissions. That this self-reflection hardly takes place is due to the fact that planetary visions of doom have become the favourite religion of the rich, neo-pagan West. Climatologists, which were recently neglected as nerdy relatives of the academic community, have risen surprisingly to being shamans of postmodernism. Whether ice rain, typhoons or heat waves, they interpret every natural event to the addicted, shuddering audience as a harbinger of the final catastrophe that can only be averted if people repent for their sinful lifestyle. The climatic threat guarantees the weather priests status, reverence, and the lush manna of governmental research funds. The incentive to admit any miscalculations is low.
The polar bears at the North Pole and the penguins on the other side of the earth ball do not care about this. They both love the cold. If Janine Wetter’s Chilean research vessel should make its way through the pack ice, the student from Fehraltorf will encounter penguins happily trumpeting and snarling. Let’s hope she will be happy too.
Translation Philipp Mueller