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The View from Germany: Tackling the real questions

Posted on 31 October 2012 by gws

Spending a lot of time on the internet, you do not come across it often. It lurks on some webpage, but most URL content lures you away from it. Your friends try to remind you of it at times. You turn on the TV, but while nine out of ten channels claim they have it, they don't. You get a good dose of it on PBS, but that can be depressing.

Still it is all around you, and you need to face it fairly regularly ... Reality.

If Frontline's recent Climate of Doubt has shown anything, it is that an effective PR strategy funded by the usual suspects is all it needs to create a lala land completely obscuring what actually matters, reality.

To make some progress, we need to accept it first, and then may even embrace it. In a recent blog post by John Nielsen-Gammon, Texas State Climatologist, states that

"... battle lines have been drawn far from the places where society needs to be having intense discussion, ..."

Meaning, far from what the reality of global warming requires us to discuss, such as

“What’s the best way to prepare for the day when fossil fuels are no longer our primary energy source?”

Thanks to much denial of reality in political America, these questions do not get asked, and thus arguably much ground is lost to countries that have started facing reality, such as Germany:

Aside from a few simplifications, such as about nuclear energy (which Germany decided to phase out earlier than previously planned, and with large parliamentary majority last year), the clip contains some simple realities worth repeating here:

1. There is a problem with the current (fossil fuel dominated) energy supply: It runs out sooner or later and it pollutes our atmosphere

2. Ignorance of the issue is not an option (in Germany ...)

3. Renewable energy sources are an obvious solution already at hand; a smart combination of technologies acknowledging the challenges and opportunities allows tackling the problem (and is being pursued in Germany ...)

Want to know more? Sure, one example ...

Combine that with the economic benefits from tackling the problem, the fact that it is the German middle class that drives and profits from the development, and you realize ...

Hey! Reality is cool.


The first clip is part of the WissensWerte Project of the german non-profit organization / e.V.
By Jörn Barkemeyer and Jan Künzl
Editor Laura Hörath

For more information about the WissensWerte project:

"Wissenswertes" is German for "Things worth knowing", from Wissen=Knowledge and Werte=Values

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Comments 51 to 56 out of 56:

  1. @DB, Mangano & Sherman have been repeatedly debunked. For example in this very telling piece: A curious case of cherry-picking data for the greater good. Quite similar in style to Tamino's debunking of some of the denialist nonsense including stuff that has got past peer review. I'm sure you approve of Tamino's work? It's very far from clear that there is a "real" as in statistically significant increase in mortality. If the data analysis was robust (which it is not), there is still a multitude of bridges to be crossed before any connection to the Fukushima accident could be established. Not the least being biological plausibility. Where is the evidence that people just drop dead from very low radiation dose? The WHO estimates that average dose to residents of Japan in prefectures other than Fukushima and adjoining to be in the range 0.1-1mSv (5-50% of annual natural dose in Japan) and for adjoining countries and the rest of the world to be < 0.01mSv ie < 0.5% of annual natural dose. Perhaps equivalent to one day's natural dose or less. These are almost trivially small and if there is any evidence of instant mortality from them, I'm sure many people would like to hear about - not the least being radiologists. So, not only is there no established "correlation", there is an enormous wall to climb to establish "causation". I am disappointed that this paper has been raised here.
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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] The only points worthy of discussion about the Mangano & Sherman paper are:

    1. Does the paper add to the understanding of the science in that area?

    2. What does the peer-review have to say about the paper?

    Your linked blog post at least attempts to deal statistically with Mangano & Sherman. It is a pity that the actual analysis is brief and lost among the spin and rhetoric. Which makes your blog post different from other blog contributions to the literature: Tamino has published rebuttals into the literature (Foster and Rahmstorf 2011, Foster et al 2008), as has Skeptical Science (Nuccitelli et al 2012). Even the estimable Anthony Watts has made a credible contribution to the published literature (Fall et al 2011). Others, such as Climate Audit (still no published replication of the hockey stick in the several years since they began their audit, a task in which others completed in as little as 2 days [Muir Russell Report]), have fallen short of any substantive contribution.

    Since you obviously wish to make positive contributions to the literature, I'm sure that you and your linked blog post will be submitting a robust writeup to serve as a proper rebuttal of Mangano & Sherman. If you need suggestions for papers to publish in, just ask and someone will oblige you. Until then, let us discontinue what amounts to an off-topic soliloquy from the OP of this thread.

  2. Thank you Pete, I share your sentiment. I see from the responses to my last post that at least some of my points were understood. At little background: I grew up in Germany, and like Jonas, lived through the Chernobyl accident, which was somewhat of a formative event back then in Germany. Many turned skeptical (hint to Speedy: your derogative "anti-nukes" and other name calling does not help) about nuclear energy, so did I. In the 90s I learned about Global Warming, which I began to consider the larger issue early on. I had no preconceived notion about emissions numbers back then, but as an aspiring scientist I learned about the Oekoinstitut and appreciated its work in providing neutral scientific assessments in many areas where industry numbers went previously unchallenged, for instance regarding safety in nuclear facilities (Oekoinstitut studies in this field are nowadays regarded as a benchmark in German political discussions). When the nuclear industry began to promote its technology as "zero emission" (I think around 2000 in Germany; they do so to this day), I knew this was wrong as I had seen the Oekoinstitut report on this years before. The fact that nuclear is widely believed to be "zero CO2 emissions" is thanks to an effective industry PR campaign, not the science behind the numbers. They ignore the live cycle and they ignore that nuclear almost exclusively generates electricity (for the very few exceptions see above). Of course the numbers will change a bit when altering some input assumptions, but that does not change the simple fact that nuclear is not a zero CO2 emissions technology as the industry wants you to believe. The reactions above to the calculations done by the Oekoinstitute I think actually illustrate nicely a pschycological effect new information that does not fit into our preconceived notions has: We attack it, we do not want to accept it, it does not fit. If it does not go away, we throw all sorts of arguments at it (e.g. see Gish Gallop @46), some useful, most not. Or we ignore the evidence. It may become so bad that we go in denial, completely shutting out the evidence hurled at us. SkS has a post on that. I used to be "anti-nuke", but I have since realized that nuclear energy could make a small contribution to GHG reduction. Small, because the realities I listed above prevent current technology from a possibly larger role (bty, this is also what the Oekoinstitut says). Decarbonization is likely to be much faster if renewables are given priority, and Germany is on a track demonstrating that. Am I certain about that? Come on, only folks like speedy are "absolutely certain" about the future.
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  3. @gws nuclear is not a zero CO2 emissions technology as the industry wants you to believe. Why do these discussions always have to degenerate into refutations of claims such as this? It gets nobody anywhere. It is a straw man. Nobody claims nuclear is zero emissions, nobody claims any renewables are zero emissions. While any technology is built and operated in high carbon economies there must be full life cycle emissions. The best statement from the nuclear industry is the meta study done by the World Nuclear Association on full life cycle emissions Comparison of Lifecycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Various Electricity Generation Sources The numbers are quite similar to those in APCC AR4: I really wish we could move on from this type of discussion.
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  4. Thanks for the links. I do not want to have the discussion either. Where I disagree with you is the statement "Nobody claims nuclear is zero emissions ...". I venture to say that this is but one example to the contrary from the industry. Not lying, just misleading ... The highlighting of that meme rather than the actual issues of large-scale switching to nuclear (@27) is what bugs me. To have a few points here about that may help onlookers to make up their mind about what efforts they might want to support to decarbonize energy production. Germans decided that renewables are the way to go, the Brits may decide to include a major nuclear component, and the US may decide ... oops
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    Moderator Response: [DB] Fixed link.
  5. quokka I really wish we could move on from this type of discussion. Seconded. Shall we starve because we don't wish to break eggs while making breakfast? Perfection can always be employed as the enemy of the good enough. The same vapid arguments about peripheral, transient fabrication emissions are employed against every technology threatening fossil fuel combustion. I'm sure we can do better than the defenders of neolithic habituation during our discussions of how we're going to claw our way out of this mess.
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  6. Related post by Peter Sinclair, 15. Nov: Germany’s Energiewende: Watching the Future Unfold
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