Stefan Rahmstorf: The View from Reykjavik and Earth 101

October 9, 2013


One distinct privilege and pleasure of attending the Earth 101 conference in Reykjavik was my opportunity to meet a number of scary smart and fiercely passionate people who are devoting their professional lives to better understanding and communicating the climate issue.
One of those is Stefan Rahmstorf, a globally known oceanographer and physicist with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

Stefan is a co-founder of the invaluable and indispensable Realclimate blog, and those of us who follow the issue have come to rely on his insight and analysis to keep up with fast moving developments.  In person what you get is not only a deep knowledge of the issues, but a wicked  and irrepressible sense of humor and the absurd – a prereq for survival in this terrain.  Stefan and I hit it off, so I’m hoping we’ll have further chances to meet and cooperate in the future. A video of my interviews with him is in the works. For now, there’s this.


Making a film about climate change is difficult, especially if you want it to reach a wide audience. One problem is the long time scale of climate change, which fits badly with the time scale of a typical film narrative. That was the reason why in the Hollywood blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow some laws of physics were treated with a certain artistic freedom, in order to present a dramatic climate change within a few weeks instead of decades.

Mike and I have spent the last few days at a very interesting workshop in Iceland, where climate scientists, social scientists and filmmakers were  brought together in conjunction with the Reykjavik International Film Festival. I will make no attempt to reproduce the many exciting discussions which we had, that often continued into the night. Instead, I’d like to present two short films by workshop participants. I chose a contrast of hot and cold.

First, the cold. The following film is a trailer by Phil Coates, a British filmmaker and expedition leader, who has filmed in extreme conditions on all seven continents. It is a “work in progress” under the working title “North Pole Living on Thin Ice”. Coates was dropped off with three scientists on the sea ice near the North Pole. On foot out on the Arctic Ocean they made oceanographic and ice thickness measurements. Soon you will be able to experience this research expedition on film. The scientific findings of the team will of course come out in the scientific literature.

Now, the heat. Peter Sinclair is a cartoonist from the US Midwest. Some years ago, out of anger over the aggressive disinformation campaign of climate deniers (he prefers this term), he started his now well-known video series “Climate Denial Crock of the Week”. Sinclair now also produces the film series, “This is Not Cool” for the renowned Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media, and has made more than a hundred short films on climate issues. The following short film “Welcome to the Rest of Our Lives” was created in summer 2012 after the record heat wave in the United States. By his own admission, when he had finished it his film brought himself to tears.

Flying last night and today, back at my desk tonight I hope.

5 Responses to “Stefan Rahmstorf: The View from Reykjavik and Earth 101”

  1. Martin Lack Says:

    Presumably, most readers have seen the movie ‘Chaisng Ice’? If not, you simply must do so. Start your exploration here:

    The new movie by Phil Coates looks to be excellent too; and I would agree, Peter, that ‘Welcome to the Rest of Our Lives’ was one of your best.

  2. Great video Peter. You need to start covering ocean acidification too at a higher level.

    I have a feeling that the way things are going there with the other stresses such as overfishing and pollution we are going to see a collapse on this side, a tipping event, which will probably prompt global civilization collapse before the other climate related phenomena.

    There are some scary things happening… like this…. which leave you with an ominous feeling.

  3. redskylite Says:

    Here is a link to an excellent Icelandic TV interview with Mr Stefan Rahmstorf regarding the IPCC AR5 report:

  4. […] The Earth 101 conference in Reykjavik was specifically devoted to the ongoing task of processing the awesome new understanding that scientists are giving us about how the planet works, and what our future here may be like.  Part of our work as communicators of this understanding is to change the story from one of helplessness and catastrophe, to empowerment and hope. […]

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