Court Case: Science Journalism Vs The Federal Environment Agency

  • Date: 04/11/15
  • Michael Miersch

available as a PDF download.

In the 120-page booklet, the arguments and motives of scientists and authors who do not share the views of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) are discredited. It is also directed against journalists who reported on doubts about the predictions by the IPCC and PIK.

Between the lines, it is suggested that critics of the IPCC and PIK are probably corrupt and controlled by interest groups (such as the coal and oil industry).

Another frequently repeated allegation against sceptical journalists is that they are not climate experts. Which is quite true in the case of journalists, but it is not a legitimate accusation. Just like politicians, journalists cannot have an academic training for all the subjects they cover.

Rather embarrassingly, however, the authors of the government brochure themselves are not climate scientists either. The authors are Dr Harry Lehmann, Dr Klaus Müschen, Dr Steffi Richter and Dr Claudia Mäder. Initially, the agency withheld their names in the original brochure. Only in response to the criticism did the agency add the names of its authors.

According to the magazine FOCUS, the UBA has awarded a dozen research contracts totalling around two million euros to the PIK since 2007 but has not – as it is legally required – advertised them throughout Europe.


Co-author Dr. Klaus Müschen is Head of Climate Protection and Energy of the UBA. He studied electrical engineering and social science at the University of Hannover and worked as a vocational teacher in Lower Saxony and Hamburg and was then Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Hamburg. Later Müschen was in charge of the Department of Climate Change, Air Pollution Control and Local Agenda 21 in the Senate Department for Urban Development in Berlin for more than 15 years.

Dr. Steffi Richter has worked in the UBA department led by Klaus Müschen. The internet knows hardly anything about Dr Richter. This very likely indicates that she has no significant, if any, research experience in climate science, because otherwise one would find her publications and conference contributions somewhere.

Dr. Claudia Mäder is the author of the children book , which can be ordered for free from the UBA. Here again, there is no evidence of scientific climate research or publications.

For a start, the accusation of incorrect reporting on climate issues is inappropriate because the two journalists Dirk Maxeiner (a former columnist of the newspaper Die Welt and freelance writer) and Michael Miersch (former columnist of Die Welt and science editor at the magazine FOCUS) did not take any scientific standpoint and did not make any climate forecasts in their publications. None of the maligned authors called into question that the climate is changing, as alleged in the brochure.

For the purposes of journalistic reporting, Maxeiner and Miersch allowed scientists to express doubts about some of the IPCC and PIK predictions in their articles and books. The questions they raised were: How good are computer models that predict massive global warming for the future? How strongly does carbon dioxide influence the climate, in relation to other factors? And: Would a warmer climate be just disastrous for humans and nature, or would it also have benefits?

On all of these questions there is ongoing scientific research and debate which are important to be reported.

The publication of the Environment Agency brochure caused outrage among journalists and lawyers.

ZDF-OnlineDie Welt

The German Federation of Journalists complained to the then Environment Minister Altmaier.

Josef Joffe, editor of the liberal weekly Die Zeit1984

Dirk Maxeiner and Michael Miersch have appointed the Berlin lawyer Dr Katy Ritzmann to enforce a withdrawal of the government brochure in court. Two and a half years after filing the lawsuit, the oral hearing before the Administrative Court in Halle will take place on 18 November 2015.

When: Wednesday, 18th November 2015 at 13:15
Where: Verwaltungsgericht Halle – Room 1063 – Thüringer Straße 16 – 06112 Halle – Germany

Michael Miersch is Managing Director of Nature Education at the German Wildlife Foundation. Prior to that, he worked as a journalist for major German magazines for three decades, most recently as Head of Science with FOCUS.  He was a columnist with the WELT Group for 11 years. He is also a documentary filmmaker for ARD

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