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Adventures on the East Side

Filed under: — gavin @ 15 March 2007 - (Türkçe)

So that was …. interesting.

First off, I’d like to thank the commenters for all of the suggestions and ideas to the previous post. They were certainly useful. In particularly, the connection with the difficulties faced by evolutionists in debates vs. creationists proved to be very a propos. Our side played it it pretty straight – the basic IPCC line (Richard Somerville), commentary on the how ‘scientized’ political debates abuse science (me, though without using the word ‘scientized’!) and the projections and potential solutions (Brenda Ekwurzel). Crichton went with the crowd-pleasing condemnation of private jet-flying liberals – very popular, even among the private jet-flying Eastsiders present) and the apparent hypocrisy of people who think that global warming is a problem using any energy at all. Lindzen used his standard presentation – CO2 will be trivial effect, no one knows anything about aerosols, sensitivity from the 20th Century is tiny, and by the way global warming stopped in 1998. Stott is a bit of a force of nature and essentially accused anyone who thinks global warming is a problem of explicitly rooting for misery and poverty in the third world. He also brought up the whole cosmic ray issue as the next big thing in climate science.
Update: The transcript is now available – though be aware that it has not yet been verified for accuracy. Audio + Podcast.

The podcast should be available next Wednesday (I’ll link it here once it’s available), and so you can judge for yourselves, but I’m afraid the actual audience (who by temperament I’d say were split roughly half/half on the question) were apparently more convinced by the entertaining narratives from Crichton and Stott (not so sure about Lindzen) than they were by our drier fare. Entertainment-wise it’s hard to blame them. Crichton is extremely polished and Stott has a touch of the revivalist preacher about him. Comparatively, we were pretty dull.

I had started off with a thought that Lindzen and Stott, in particular, would avoid the more specious pseudo-scientific claims they’ve used in other fora since there were people who would seriously challenge them at this debate. In the event, they stuck very closely to their standard script. Lindzen used the ‘GW stopped in 1998′ argument which even Crichton acknowledged later was lame. He also used the ‘aerosols are completely uncertain’ but ‘sensitivity to CO2 from the 20th Century is precisely defined’ in adjoining paragraphs without any apparent cognitive dissonance. Stott didn’t use the medieval English vineyards meme (as he did in TGGWS) – but maybe he read the RC article ahead of time.

The Q&A was curious since most questions were very much of the ‘I read the Wall Street Journal editorial page’ style, and I thought we did okay, except possibly when I suggested to the audience that the cosmic ray argument was being used to fool them, which didn’t go over well – no-one likes being told they’re being had (especially when they are). My bad.

The organisers asked us afterwards whether we’d have done much different in hindsight. Looking back, the answer is mostly no. We are scientists, and we talk about science and we’re not going start getting into questions of personal morality and wider political agendas – and obviously that put us at a sharp disadvantage (shades of David Mamet?).

One minor detail that might be interesting is that the organisers put on luxury SUVs for the participants to get to the restaurant – 5 blocks away. None of our side used them (preferring to walk), but all of the other side did.

So are such debates worthwhile? On balance, I’d probably answer no (regardless of the outcome). The time constraints preclude serious examination of any points of controversy and the number of spurious talking points can seriously overwhelm the ability of others to rebut them. Taking a ‘meta’ approach (as I attempted) is certainly not a guaranteed solution. However, this live audience were a rather select bunch, and so maybe this will go over differently on the radio. There it might not matter that Crichton is so tall…


490 Responses to “Adventures on the East Side”

  1. 101

    Hmmm… So that’s how those questions are dealt with, eh? In that case, enlightenment will have to happen elsewhere for me. Interesting proof of the politicization of RealClimate, however.

  2. 102
    Richard Ordway says:

    re #97 Solem writes: “With respect to the fact that the warmest years since accurate records began have all been in the last decade, does this represent an anomalous spike in the natural climate variability, or are we looking at a generally increasing temperature trend that is due to the increased concentration of atmospheric CO2 brought on by buring fossil fuels”

    This is answered by Gavin and other moderators (Peer-reviewed scientists) in many other posts on this website…and the moderators expect people to usually look there first. They do have other real jobs after all and volunteer to do this. For example, look here for a start.

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/02/the-ipcc-fourth-assessment-summary-for-policy-makers/

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2005/02/dummies-guide-to-the-latest-hockey-stick-controversy/

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2004/12/how-do-we-know-that-recent-cosub2sub-increases-are-due-to-human-activities-updated/

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2004/12/ok-perhaps-recent-20th-century-warmth-is-anomalous-over-the-past-millennium-or-two-but-wasnt-it-warmer-during-the-holocene-optimum-some-6000-years-ago/

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2004/12/werent-temperatures-warmer-during-the-medieval-warm-period-than-they-are-today/

  3. 103
    garhane says:

    It is not about more taxes. [edited-please keep comments reasonably on topic and no random ad hom!]

  4. 104
    Nick Riley says:

    Gavin- thanks for telling us your experiences. I look forward to listening to the podcast.

    It’s not pleasant; but sometimes you just have to go for the jugular.

    I remember Dr. Gish (ICR) coming to Bristol University when I was Geology/Zoology graduate. There was a poster campaign weeks before announcing his lecture which read “Evolution- the fossils say no!”

    On the day, the auditorium was full to brim- mainly with people who new nothing about evolution or geology-they were fundamentalist evangelicals who wanted to hear a message that reinforced the view that they already held.

    Dr. Gish gave his credentials as having a PhD in biochemistry and therefore he claimed that, as a fully trained scientist, that he was qualified to expose evolution as having no scientific basis. Of course the evidence presented by him was in my opinion a fraudulent malignement of the science (pictures of human footprints alongside dinosaur ones etc). But most of the audience was not knowledgeable to spot it. To them he was slick and convincing, presenting “evidence”, that the scientists were deliberatley keeping quiet about- because it did not fit their evolutionary theories.

    So I thought the only way to trip this guy was to turn his own words on himself. An early statement in his talk was that “all energy in the biosphere came from the sun”. This was a very strange statement to come from a biochemist.

    I pointed this out- I said “but what about chemotrophs?”. To my amazement (then) he did not know what they were!. So I had to explain, that chemotrophs do not get their energy from the sun, but from the minerals and fluids in the earth etc, etc (note-this was before deep sea black smokers had been discovered- but I was involved in studying ancient fossil microbial mudmounds that were aphotic- and that we now know fed on deep sea methane seeps). I then went onto to point out that since he did not know basic facts about an area of science in which he claimed to be an expert- his credibility had to questioned, if we could not trust basic accuracy of his statements in his own field then how could he offer an expert critique on geology and palaeontology.

    At this he became very ruffled and lost his cool. It was clear to the audience that the “emporer had no clothes”- and he knew it.

    BTW- I sent Phil Stott the RC English Vineyard article just as he was going to catch the plane for the debate in which you took part- so it sounds like he might have read it!

    Also- there was radio debate here on BBC Radio 4 last night in series called the moral maze. You can listen to it at http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/religion/moralmaze.shtml . Very interesting and unsubtle emotional games are played by some of the panelists- not much science gets into the debate I am afraid- but that’s what is needed.

    We need more scientists to get involved in public debate, not less.

  5. 105
    James says:

    Re #29: [When nearly 2 billion inhabitants have little or no access to electricity in this Mars-landing century, we truly have our priorities in reverse.]

    This is an idea that really puzzles me: what is it about electricity that’s so important? Socrates, Buddha, Jesus, Jefferson, Lincoln, Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Bach, Beethoven, Shakespeare – all these and many more lived their without access to electricity. Were they less happy or their work of less value because of it?

    Sure, electricity and fossil fuels are useful tools, but it might be well to remember that they are only tools, not ends in themselves. What matters is having good food, clean air and water, freedom & room to live, access to education & information (oh, yeah, and good sex :-)) If we find ourselves in a situation, as we now do, where overuse of our tool set seems to be causing more harm than good, does it make any sort of sense to make even more use of those tools? Wouldn’t the rational course be to find other ways to achieve our goals?

  6. 106
    Reasic says:

    Re #92 – David,

    Thanks for your input. I’ve read over the response you pointed me to, and pretty much relied on it for my original answer to the question. However, this question was asked after having read that response. So, I tried to word it in a way that answered the second question.

  7. 107
    Reasic says:

    Re #92 – David,

    Thanks for your input. I’ve read over the response you pointed me to, and pretty much relied on it for my original answer to the question. However, this question was asked after having read that response. So, I tried to word it in a way that answered the second question.

  8. 108
    Ike Solem says:

    RE#102,
    Thanks Richard, but I was actually hoping to get an answer from Roger Pielke Jr. My own thoughts are that that evidence is that temperature records will indeed continue to increase, due to the continued addition of fossil fuel CO2 to the atmosphere; however there is a little history; I thought that this was a valid question to ask Roger; I’ve asked him it before and gotten very snarky “we don’t do temperature predictions here; try the IPCC” responses, and I just think that if he, as a media go-to ‘expert’ on climate and politics, should go on record about this. (you might want to read my entire post) – so my question wasn’t addressed to the moderators, but to Roger Pielke Jr. (who is reading this, I hope.)

    What we hear from the contrarian camp is that global warming is just part of a natural cycle, and that in a decade or so we will see a reduction in the number and intensity of hurricanes, and a gradual cooling will take place – which I think is nonsense. I’m just trying to figure out if this is the view that Roger has or not. Regards.

  9. 109
    greg meyerson says:

    hi everyone:

    I came across a “climate deniers” series, hyperlinked from an article by a 19 year old called “global warming: an convenient lie.”

    http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/story.html?id=2f4cc62e-5b0d-4b59-8705-fc28f14da388

    it mentions a scientist named claude allegre, who used to believe in man made warming but now thinks it ‘s the sun: the article gives no details. anyway, for data collection purposes, I thought those at this website might be interested.

    I must admit that when the ipcc report came out, I thought the climate skeptics were through. guess not.

  10. 110
    ebw says:

    Gavin,

    Policy debates are wicked hard, even when both teams agree on the meta and rules.

    However, the win/loss point in time is generally a Tuesday in November, and for that just being dry and factual is the better course. Its not any one Tuesday in any one November, its the one Tuesday in the one November when one of the two positions ceases to be competitive.

    We’ve had social security now for 7 decades, and as beat around the bush as its adversaries are, they stopped running straight against it 4 decades ago.

    Thanks for engaging in so thankless an activity. We’re all going to grow a bit older before the carbon loading beneficiaries throw in the towel.

  11. 111
    dhogaza says:

    it mentions a scientist named claude allegre, who used to believe in man made warming but now thinks it ‘s the sun…

    Interestingly, this is a tactic used by the intelligent design crowd. Trot out a scientists who says “I used to believe in evolution until I began examining the evidence …”

    The tactic is designed to predispose the listener to believe that scientists are knowingly lying to them about the data, in the case of evolutionary biology things like the fossil record, in the case of climate science things like the basic physics of the effect of CO2 in the atmosphere.

  12. 112
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Allegre
    Typing his name into the search box at the top of the page (the white rectangle) will find you the discussion:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/10/con-allegre-ma-non-troppo/

  13. 113
    greg meyerson says:

    on climate deniers: I must admit, I hadn’t heard of this bunch. and I haven’t read all of the articles in this climate deniers series I posted above. one is a dr. wegman, a statistician, who presumably debunks the method behind the hockeystick, suggesting that mann et al were not real statisticians. essex and mckitrick are mentioned (I know them) as having debunked the hockeystick in a “peer reviewed article.” I recall in this case it was their (e and m) statistics that were flawed.

    in another article, a dr. shariv claims that CO2 is not the main climate driver, that there is a limit on the degree to which CO2 can drive climate change, and that those “cosmic rays” are the culprit, explaining 2/3 of climate variation over the past 550 million years.

    is this so? and if true, is it even relevant to the last 650,000 years?

    these are all old arguments, thought to be themselves debunked. yet here they are again, and the scientists appear to have tons of credentials, making it very frustrating for layfolk

  14. 114
    John L. McCormick says:

    RE # 105 James, you said:

    [What matters is having good food, clean air and water, freedom & room to live, access to education & information (oh, yeah, and good sex )].

    I suggest you get out more often and see places in the world other than your neighborhood. Maybe your life is better for having some of the ingredients you mention. Tell me how many of them you could enjoy without access to electricity. Perhaps there is one.

    Its introspection time.

  15. 115
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Re:105. James. Yes, energy is a tool, but it is a tool that makes life less nasty, brutish and short. Women in Africa spend up to a quarter of their time just meeting their families’ needs for water and firewood. There is nothing romantic about poverty. There is nothing romantic about a past where women would like as not die in childbirth and 10% or more children died before their first birthday. If you look at the lives of exceptional people in any time, you will find inspiration. However, you must keep in mind that these lives are exceptional, and that in the main, humans suffered much more than they do now in the modern world. It is not cheap energy that is the problem, it is the way we get that cheap energy coupled with our seeming inability to regulate our own population and our own wants.

  16. 116
    Scott Vinson says:

    Will listen to debate. Meanwhile, Gavin, will you briefly comment/correct as you wish, point by point, the following. Do you agree that, and was there a voice at the debate for, the positions that:

    1. There exists no evidence of global-level climate forcers presently in play more significant than recent rapid increase in atmospheric C02, CH4, and other greenhouse gases.

    2. Recent rapid increase in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentration is known to be anthropogenic based on trending atmospheric C-14,-13,-12 ratios and other evidence.

    3. Given the underlying physics of greenhouse gas warming, atmospheric CO2/CH4 residence times, and all things considered, continued longterm average global warming is expected even if anthropogenic greenhouse emissions are eliminated today.

    4. Average global temperature is expected to futher increase as a function of existing carbon resource converson to additional greenhouse gas.

    5. There is no expected significant natural mitigator to present and expected future warming during our lifetimes.

    I appreciate your help educating me as I attempt to educate others around me. Thank you in advance.

  17. 117

    This from the event site.

    The proposition was “Global warming is not a crisis”

    Before the debate audience members disagreed by nearly 2 to 1:
    57.32% to 29.88%

    After the debate a plurality of audience members agreed with the skeptics:
    46.22% to 42.22%

  18. 118
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Re:105. James. Yes, energy is a tool, but it is a tool that makes life less nasty, brutish and short. Women in Africa spend up to a quarter of their time just meeting their families’ needs for water and firewood. There is nothing romantic about poverty. There is nothing romantic about a past where women would like as not die in childbirth and 10% or more children died before their first birthday. If you look at the lives of exceptional people in any time, you will find inspiration. However, you must keep in mind that these lives are exceptional, and that in the main, humans suffered much more than they do now in the modern world. It is not cheap energy that is the problem, it is the way we get that cheap energy coupled with our seeming inability to regulate our own population and our own wants.

  19. 119
    Philippe Chantreau says:

    Claude Allegre is a scientist who has turned into more of a politician in his later years, after being appointed to high level positions by the French governement. Scientists working in the institutions he was directing have generously complained about his management style. His track record of publications is impressive but I don’t think he has done or coordinated any original research in a while. He has become the only major skeptic voice in France.

  20. 120
    Aaron says:

    OK, I just read the summary on the Scientific American blog and one point that I think really should have been made in response to Crichton’s smarmy ban on private jets, is the comparatively small amount of CO2 emitted by air travel. I would have held up this beautiful WRI chart showing that only 3.3% of US CO2 emissions come from air travel.

  21. 121
    Mark A. York says:

    “The proposition, Michael Crichton, Prof. Richard Lindzen and Prof. Philip Stott, won by 46% to 42%.”

    And this is according to? The online poll aftermath? This is very telling that the simplistic, and incorrect version won. Boss! De plane! De Plane! Combined with Huh? All it shows is the audience is dimwitted, and it probably was stacked the paying sceptics anyway. There are those who say Gore lost his debates in 2000 too, but I didn’t think so.

  22. 122
    Mark Bahner says:

    “Whether GW is a crisis is independent of all other crises,…”

    No, it’s not. Nobody worried about GW when the Allies invaded Europe in 1944. Nobody in Iraq is worried about GW. Nobody in Darfur is worried about GW. Nobody in North Korea is worried about GW.

    Virtually no one in China is worried about GW.

    When I went to Santiago, Chile, about a decade ago during their winter, the dust was so heavy every night discharge from my nose was grey or black. And when I was there during their summer, the ozone concentrations were so high my nose bled.

    They weren’t worried about GW. In fact, they weren’t worried much about the extraordinary levels of particulate and ozone. They weren’t even worried about the fact that the entire 5 million people of Santiago discharged completely untreated sewage into the river that runs through the city.

    What they were worried about was getting to “first world” levels of wealth as quickly as possible.

    The judgment of whether GW is a “crisis” most certainly IS dependent on other crises.

  23. 123
    Ed Gerck says:

    What’s the problem with the AGW scientific message? Let me exemplify.

    Carl Wunsch in [http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk/page.asp?id=4688&tip=1], wrote:
    “It is probably true that most scientists would assign a very high probability that human-induced change is already strongly present in the climate system, while at the same time agreeing that clear-cut proof is not now available and may not be available for a long-time to come, if ever.”

    Well, “a very high probability that X is already strongly present
    in Y” is, scientifically, a “clear-cut proof” that X is present
    in Y. To be more precise, it is an acceptable scientific proof within
    the confidence limits of the observation!

    However, not only such proof is considered to be lacking today but,
    admittedly, “may not be available for a long-time to come, if ever.”

    So, logically, it is not true that there is “a very high probability
    that X (human-induced change) is already strongly present in Y
    (climate system)”. That’s what’s the problem with the AGW scientific message. It’s not there.

  24. 124
    John Desiderio says:

    This article appears in the March 9, 2007 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.
    Cosmoclimatology, Kepler,
    and Moon’s Model of the Nucleus
    by Laurence Hecht

    [text replace with link]
    EIR

  25. 125
    Steve Reynolds says:

    The debate transcript is available at:

    http://www.intelligencesquaredus.org/Event.aspx?Event=12

    After reading it, I can see why the skeptics won.

  26. 126
    BarbieDoll Moment says:

    Debate Skills? Advantage: Climate Contrarians
    March 15, 2007
    Scientific American Blog
    http://blog.sciam.com/index.php?title=debate_skills_advantage_climate_contrari&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1


    …”The question is whether the warming we are currently experiencing–and every panelist agreed that warming was happening–is worrisome and/or manmade. “…



    …”All fine and good except that they were faced with the folksy anecdotes of Crichton and the oratorical fire of Stott. As the novelist mused, the weather is changing, no one is arguing that, but “all anybody wants to do is talk about it, no one wants to do anything about it.” Adding “if they’re not willing to do it why should anyone else?” “…


    …”The proponents of climate change crisis had nothing to offer other than the science.”…


    …”the audience responded to Crichton’s satirical call for a ban on private jets more than Ekwurzel’s vague we need to throw “everything we can at the climate crisis.” “…

    I think that pretty much sums it up. Warming was agreed upon by all participants. Wanting to assign blame for the source or cause is an exercise in futility because just like when a child is scolded, reprimanded and blamed, the child negates the source or authority of the blame and rebels.

    Only until the child understands his actions and why the actions
    caused a problem in the first place, will any true responsibility for
    their actions ensue a real cognitive change because the matter became apparent to the child.

    People resent being blamed to such an extent it is a major reason why people lie, saying such things such as oh no that other guy did it, not me.

    As to the proponets of climate crisis only having science; personally, if it had been myself, I would have wanted Jared Diamond on my side of the panel.

    AUTHOR OF ‘GUNS, GERMS AND STEEL’ – ECO-SUICIDE IS THE NEW DANGER; WRITER
    FINDS A WARNING IN FAILURES OF PAST CIVILIZATIONS

    Echoes-Sentinel March 13, 2007

    http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=18075311&BRD=1918&PAG=461&dept_id=
    506420&rfi=6

  27. 127
    Chuck Booth says:

    Re # 81 Do you really think Einstein could have explained to a lay audience in a debate format his theories of special and general relativity, and convinced them that his theories better fit the experimental evidence (e.g., Maxwell’s electrodynamics; Michelson-Morely experiment; etc) than alternative explanations(e.g.,of Dutch physicist H.A. Lorentz)?

    Personally, I doubt it.

  28. 128
    BarbieDoll Moment says:

    …”Let us hope that congress and the senate etc and maybe the next US Government gets the message.”

    People have gotten the message, as well as our US government.

    This topic, or any topic, should not be about villifying
    the U.S., the U.S. government, the citizens of the U.S. or other countries.

    When people point fingers at others its a rather easy to ignore looking at themselves or other people and it serves some as an excuse to avoid discussion of the crux of the actual issue.

    Furthermore, at the same time, it seems to absolve one of a certain amount of responsibility to do concrete research on the topic/issue before one begins speaking with certainity, knowledge, or
    surety.

    Assigning blame is just not a productive use of anyone’s energy or time and it ignores
    the factors that even if one gets any message, those people still have the right and choice
    to make up their own minds, and or to act or not act upon the message.

    At least here in the democratic U.S.A.

    In a Test of Capturing Carbon Dioxide, Perhaps a Way to Temper Global Warming March 15, 2007
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/15/business/15carbon.html

    “American Electric Power, a major electric utility, is planning the largest demonstration yet of capturing carbon dioxide from a coal-fired power plant and pumping it deep underground.
    “…

    …”The Energy Department has concentrated on a different technology, converting coal to a gas and taking the carbon out before the gas is burned. American Electric is also pursuing that technology, but the chilled-ammonia method is applicable to traditional coal plants that use pulverized coal technology, and dozens of them are on the drawing boards.

    “You, me and everyone else needs to understand that the government talks big and moves slow,” Mr. Morris said.

  29. 129
    Andrew Worth says:

    I haven’t read all the comments here, so this may well have been said in one way or another.
    The denialists views are not based on science, they are based on politics, the science of AGW simply doesn’t interest them, no amount of scientific evidence will change an entrenched denialists beliefs, and I assume that the audience for this debate had already fixed their views on the matter.

  30. 130
    BarbieDoll Moment says:

    If it is any consolation

    Poll Finds Worldwide Agreement That Climate Change is a Threat
    Publics Divide Over Whether Costly Steps Are Needed
    March 13, 2007
    http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/articles/home_page/329.php?nid=&id=&pnt=329&lb=hmpg1

    “An international poll finds widespread agreement that climate change is a pressing problem. This majority, however, divides over whether the problem of global warming is urgent enough to require immediate, costly measures or whether more modest efforts are sufficient. “…

    …”It includes 17 countries – China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Russia, Thailand, Ukraine, Poland, Iran, Mexico, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Argentina, Peru, Israel, Armenia – and the Palestinian territories. These represent more than 55 percent of the world population.”…

    …”The largest majority in favor of measures to combat global warming is found in Australia (92%). China and Israel are the next most likely (83%) to favor such measures. Eighty percent of respondents in the United States – the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases – also support taking such measures. “…

    …”In no country (out of 12 asked) does more than one in four endorse the statement, “Until we are sure that global warming is really a problem, we should not take any steps that would have economic costs.”…

    …”While majorities in all countries agree that the threat posed by global warming is at least important, there is less agreement over whether it is critical. “….

    …” Overwhelming majorities in all seven countries rate improving the global environment as at least an “important” goal and majorities in all call it a “very important” one: Australia, 99 percent (very 88%); South Korea, 96 percent (very 60%); the United States 93 percent (very 54%), Armenia 86 percent (very 54%), China, 85 percent (very 54%); Thailand, 83 percent (very 61%); and India, 79 percent (very 51%).
    “…

  31. 131

    Seed magazine recently had this piece on Hansen’s views about the role of the scientist in such debates.

    The New Scientist
    James Hansen is the world’s leading–and most politically outspoken–climate researcher.
    by CHRIS MOONEY � Posted March 11, 2007 11:49 AM
    …Hansen believes, as did Albert Einstein, that speaking out politically at key moments is part of a scientist’s responsibility. He also rejects the idea that scientists should pose as completely objective fact machines that refrain from offering opinions that aren’t purely scientific in nature (even about subjects that they know better anyone else). What’s refreshing is that he makes no apologies for that. “There’s a big gap between what is understood by the scientists at the forefront of the research, and what is known by the people who need to know,” he says. “And that’s partly because of this technical language, and limitations on what scientists are willing to say.” In an essay for the New York Review of Books, Hansen put it bluntly: “Scientists present the facts about climate change clinically, failing to stress that business-as-usual will transform the planet.”
    ————–
    I think a lot of younger scientists need to renew their acquaintance with Jacob Bronowski’s classic, “Science and Human Values.” Scientists do indeed have a role to play politically, as all science ultimately has policy, social, and moral implications, as the atomic bombs dropped on Japan made abundantly clear to many scientists at the time. Ultimately, you must take responsibility for your science both as a scientist and a human being. It is, as both Hansen and Gore have said, a moral duty.
    The idea that science is neutral, presenting its findings as if facts occupy some far off alternative universe, is nonsense. Too often this claim has merely been a convenient refuge for those who hope to escape social and moral duties. Let it not be the case here.

  32. 132
    Ron R. says:

    Just read most of the debate (minus Chrichton and Stott’s opening statements) and I gotta tell you I can’t tell why the voting went like it did. Maybe (besides Gavin’s small PC gaffe) because the Contrarians had good, polished closing statements. Also I think that what is misleading people is the fact that a few degrees can have big effects on the world climate. Ekwurzel addressed this but it should be addressed more.

    Some tidbits not chronological order:

    http://www.intelligencesquaredus.org/TranscriptContainer/GlobalWarming-edited%20version%20031407.pdf

    Comments from Lindzen

    Exposure, I would suggest, to cold is generally found to be both more dangerous and less comfortable Wow! There’s a subjective statement. So because HE prefers hot to cold means that everyone should?

    It is worth adding that warming, instead of accelerating, has been essentially absent for about the last ten years.

    Somerville answered that with Of the twelve warmest years in the instrumental record, uh, eleven of them have occurred in the most recent twelve years globally. 2006 was the sixth warmest year in this record globally and the warmest year of all in the U.S.

    Another lulu from Lindzen later on, … methane has stopped growing. um, then where have all the cows (etc., etc.) gone?

    It was good to see that Lindzen agrees that global cooling was media hype.

  33. 133
    Ron R. says:

    Great comment from Somerville, You know, I’ cannot imagine why Philip Stott and Michael Crichton seem to think that doing something about these terrible crises is impossible if you do something about climate change, or even made more difficult, climate change need not be in competition with or be an alternative to doing something about the terrible toll that poverty and preventable disease take. We can do both of those and many other worthy things as well, in fact, it’s exactly the poorest and most vulnerable people on the planet who will suffer the most from the consequences of, of global warming which goes on unabated.

    and Sherwood Rowland, later a Nobel laureate, was a frustrated person in 1984, because humanity was so slow in dealing with the issue of ozone depletion. He said, quote, “After all, what’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions, if in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true.

  34. 134
    Ron R. says:

    I thought these comments from Brenda Ekwurzel were also good:

    If we start now we reduce each year. However, if we delay that means that the cuts that we have to make to meet our goals will become steeper and steeper and we may not even be able to meet those demands. They will become too hard for us to reach. It’s the equivalent to the person with a crdt crd who can no longer pay off the minimum payments, that cannot reach their goals. Right now we’re on a spending spree with our heat trapping emissions. We’re building up the future costs of global warming.

    note: I’m abbreviating a couple of words because something in this post is being called spam.

  35. 135
    Ron R. says:

    (Hmmm, looks like crdt crd was it. Anyway)

    Some funny comments from Gavin, It’s quite likely that you’ll be able to get a cab home from this event, unless it’s raining of course.

    and So far this evening we’re running at about two red herrings, two complete errors, three straw men and one cherry pick.

    After Stott repeats the same thing he was just corrected for about not understanding 80% of factors in the forcing Gavin says I think we might have a solution to the energy crisis, we just need to tap Philip Stott.

    It also seemed that Gavin had Crichton and Stott babbling:

    Crichton: what am I saying again, and Stott about solar rays.

    This comment from Somerville is a keeper people are a lot like, like Mark Twain, they’re all for progress but are opposed to change. I think he said that Twain said that. And another Listen, it’s fun to hear other people practicing meteorology without a license

    Miscellaneous points:

    Everyone agrees that more greenhouse gases will make the world warmer. (p.56)

    According to Crichton Bjorn Lomberg thinks the cost of mitigation would be $558 trillion??? (p.58)

    PHILIP STOTT thinks future generations will be richer so that is justification for passing the buck to them (p.60).

    Gavin needs to do a post about the National Academy of Science report that he had a disagreement with Lindzen about (400 vs 900 years). (pp.49-50)

    To be contrary myself I thought that MICHAEL CRICHTON’s last comment was pretty good. (p.77)

    After reading the debate I think that news of Gavin’s, Somerville’s and Ekwurzel’s demise was greatly exaggerated

  36. 136
    pete best says:

    IS quantum physics intuitive, NO!, but it does give us a fantastic array of technologies and scientifically it underpins physics and chemistry but the lay person would have a lot of trouble understanding it and the same goes for relativity to but all of the satellites up there rely on its accuracy to be able to work properly. However does this mean that it it not reality !!!??? of course not but quantum physics is not about to change everyones way of life is it?

    The same goes for climate science, the Sun emits energy (which has not changed that much over time) onto a receiving earth which either absorbs it and reradiates it as heat (IR) or reflects that energy back into space directly (albedo effect) via clouds,ice etc, now if more of that reflectd heat is trapped by something in the atmosphere as is happenning with climate change then I cannot see how this is wrong or not scientific as experiments have been conducted and evidence gathered that basically makes a compelling case. The case against it being CO2 driven is sloppy but newspapers print anything that sells and nothing sells like controversy does it.

    In fact the sciencies that underpin climate change, physics and chemistry are the most empirical of all the sciences and hence more likely to be right on the money. The trouble is that politics and peoples opinions get involed here: climate change has been taken up by the green lobby and the environmentalists and they have envangelised it to such a degree that now scientists are on the back foot trying to play down the looney lefts ideas on dramatic or abrupt climate change that has given the right wingers something to moan about, you want to stop progress and prosperity and undermine our way of life. Coal is a cheap and readily available energy source in the USA and presently there way of life depends on it as they see it, there is a lot of vested interest in coal presently so arguments abound on both sides. In the USA the right or well organised and well funded, in the UK it is the left who have this abaility mainly.

    I would state that the lead times to wean ourselves off of carbon emitting technologies is the issue here, although you read about possible alternatives to coal, oil and gas the US political system is in the grip of the companies who mine these substances. It will never be easy for the climate scientists to win this argument as climate change is slow for one and creeps up on people over many years so that they hardly notice. EL ninos supress Hurriances so last season was from a media perspective a non event meaning that climate change is not affecting hurriances from a publics perspective, however the public are not aware of el ninos in the main and the effect they can have on the climate and hence we get the media reporting a lack of hurricanes and as SST have been the same where are they and hence climate change is not real.

    I just hope that someone in the US administration listens soon and really puts some money in to alternative energy research and gets the fossil fuel companies onboard.

    Time is beginning to run short in relation to infrastructure lead times and initiatives to compabt the source of climate change.

  37. 137
    Phillip Shaw says:

    Gavin – I am confident that I speak for a large number of RC readers when I say that I’m pleased and proud to have you and your colleagues representing the side of reason in the AGW debates. It a difficult, and often thankless, task that consumes time you’d rather spend on your research, but it is also a vital task. Thank you.

    On the issue of AGW and developing nations (29,105,115), there is a strong likelihood that poorer nations will derive benefits from the ‘first world’ efforts to increase solar (PV) and wind energy generation capacity. Moore’s Law, as applied to PV and wind systems, will greatly reduce the cost per watt for PV and wind energy generation, enabling developing nations to build the electrical generation capacity they need at lower cost.

    A good example of this effect is cellular communications. Consumer market driven competition and development drove the costs down and enabled many poorer countries to skip the time and expense of having to install or upgrade a copper wire-based telephone infrastructure. Where it used to take years to get a phone installed, now only takes hours.

    A side benefit of this is that distributed PV and wind electrical generation is often more reliable and robust than first world style remote, massive power plants connected to population centers by electrical transmission lines. We’ve seen time and time again that transmission lines are expensive to build, difficult to protect, and are vulnerable to sabotage or storm damage.

  38. 138

    [[The sun is the culprit!]]

    Total Solar Irradiance hasn’t gone up significantly in 50 years. Global warming has turned up sharply in the last 30.

    More sunlight would heat the stratosphere. The stratosphere is cooling. Modelers predicted it would if greenhouse gases increased.

    More sunlight would heat the equator more than the poles (Lambert’s cosine law). Instead we see “polar amplification,” also predicted by the modelers. The poles are heating faster than the equator.

  39. 139
    CraigM says:

    I kinda agree with #25:

    “The climate science community really needs to create a site that lays out the the theories and the facts in a clear and concise manner, that provides links back to the primary literature and research organizations…”

    At first Realclimate flew right over my head. It is a hard read at first. I find I’m grasping things better now.Ive had to do an awful lot of zig-zagging across the net to flesh some things out though. Feel like I’ve gone down a lot of dead ends and wasted a lot of time. Maybe thats the way things are supposed to be…

    I’ve found these sites to be excellent however:

    http://illconsidered.blogspot.com/2006/02/how-to-talk-to-global-warming-sceptic.html

    ^^agree that the name might be a little condescending however.

    this is a good blog:

    http://tamino.wordpress.com/

    not bad here:

    http://stephenschneider.stanford.edu/

    Pretty good:

    http://www.brighton73.freeserve.co.uk/gw/globalwarmingfaq.htm

    These above sites are on the right track. There is room for improvement still, I feel. It’s very easy to feel like you are being bullshted in regards to the topic of Global Warming if you do enough surfing the web. Very easy to feel like you never know enough. But still, I think a site that provides a sort of nexus between your very basic FAQs and Realclimate could be done a little better (not that the above sites arnt very good)

  40. 140

    [[Personally I don't think there's any chance of Homo sapiens lasting a million years. The unassuming and unambitious mollusc Lingula has been around for 500 million. ]]

    Yeah, but try getting her out of bed in the morning.

  41. 141
    ken says:

    Yecchhhh! Crichton brought up the private jet thing at 3 different points in the debate!

  42. 142
  43. 143
    Ron R. says:

    Was it Crichton who wants to ban private jets because of their energy inefficiency (good)? But how about we start with SUVs, like the one that he drove but hid 5 blocks away before the debate. There’s lots more of them.

    A bit hypocritical Mr Crichton?

  44. 144
    Dave Rado says:

    #139
    http://gristmill.grist.org/skeptics is a more up to date version of the illconsidered.blogspot one.

  45. 145
    Darrel says:

    Regarding science and politics: I think it is necessary for a scientist to attempt to be as objective as possible in their work, but at the same time one must recognize that pure objectivity does not exist, since we’re all people after all. There are so many small decisions to make in science, eg what to do with outliers, how to quantify and use uncertainty estimates. These decisions should of course preferably not be guided by what the scientist would like the results to be (as may be happening in the cosmic ray camp and many others), but on the other hand, just as when two people cook the same meal from the same recipe, both meals will taste slightly different, no two scientists will end up writing the exact same paper when doing the “exact same” research.

    As a scientist, I may not agree with Pielke’s views on global warming, but a lot of things he sais about the interplay of science and politics/morality are valid, and not “anti-scientific”. Comment 131 was right on about the moral duty that scientists have. Climate science is very interesting, but the problem society faces regarding climate change is not scientific by nature. I would claim that it has very little to do with science: we know enough about it to know that we should be doing something about the problem. It’s the political will that is missing. Scientific input is however needed to counter the detrimental attempts of the oil lobby and a handful of contrarians to downplay the problem. But in terms of addressing the issue of climate change, the main role for the scientific community is in arguing against such pseudo-scientific claims that could endanger society. Trying to decrease the uncertainty regarding one small aspect of climate change is scientifically very interesting, but society is helped a lot more by engaging in debates such as these.

    So, thank you Gavin, for putting your knowledge to such good use. I think your opening statement was very strong, I especially liked the analogy of contrarians to lawyers (though lawyers in the audience may not have appreciated it). In the discussion that followed, the slickness of the other side probably swayed the audience’s vote. Plus the fact that Crichton corrected a statement made by Somerville, and turned it against him, was a deadly blow.

  46. 146
    J.C.H says:

    On banning private jets, what are the facts? How many exist? How much flying do they actually do? How much of that flying would be done anyway on commercial, and how many extra commercial miles would have to be flown to reach the same destinations? How many additional commercial flights would have to be added? What would be done with destinations that have no commercial service? People who have business there would still have to get there. Private jet CO2 production is going to net out to much less than it may appear to be.

    I bet ending lawn mowing, edging, and leave blowing trumps it by a wide margin.

    I doubt that private jets exceed military jets in CO2 production.

    So just get the facts on private jets. I know it’s a stupid waste of time, but somebody is going to have to chop Crichton off at the knees.

  47. 147
    Rafael Reyes says:

    Engaging with these characters (Crighton, Lindzen, Stott) is a terrible idea. By holding a debate it reinforces the notion that there is a debate. They don’t have to win the debate on the merits because their only goal is DOUBT. All they need to do is create the APPEARANCE of a debate.

    Anyone who engages in such an exercise should keep this fact in mind and prepare for a duel of rhetoric across the complete spectrum of possible debate (especially with Crighton – a non-scientist – involved).

    This result sadly was predictable. There’s going to be much more of this so please be ready and we should be declining flat-earth debates in most cases.

  48. 148
    Dennis Coyne says:

    This may have occurred to everyone already, but I haven’t seen it explicitly stated. If the audience knew in advance that there would be a poll on the question before and after the debate, those who agreed that Global warming is NOT a crisis could have purposely switched sides, voting against before and then switching afterwards. It would be interesting if a poll was conducted here after people had a chance to hear the debate online. I would be a little skeptical of the transcript due to the source.
    Thanks Gavin for this website and all your contributions. I think the debate is worthwhile, next time get Al Gore or someone willing to dabble a little more in the political side of things on your side. You could also invite the participants to engage you here, where they will be afraid to participate because they would lose badly.

  49. 149
    Hank Roberts says:

    Gavin, you mentioned the terms were set up and the “no crisis” people committed early on, and then it took a while to find anyone willing to take the other end of the stick.

    This is probably a clue (wry grin). Was this all kept confidential, or did the climatologists know that an attempt was being made to sign people up and know who had declined the honor?

    It could be wise to make this sort of invitation public early on, so the scientists can consider the assumptions and terms.

    As I and others said earlier, the ‘crisis’ is what’s happening decades from now; it does have the odor of the anti-evolution ‘debate’ process about it.

    If it’s a ‘political or moral’ issue then someone who claims to be either political or moral (or both, if available) should be recruited —- if it were in fact a debate on a political or moral issue, then all those appearing would have presumably agreed they were addressing how to respond to some known issue.

    Instead it appears an exercise in confusing the issue. I suspect more invitations are already in the mail to climate scientists, now that it’s worked (sigh).

  50. 150
    Ray Ladbury says:

    I pointed out in the pre-debate counsel that in some ways we are working against human nature here, in that humans are inherently poor at accurately perceiving risk. This is particularly true when the risk is perceived as “distant”. We tend to fundamentally misunderstand systems with exponential increases and nonlinear feedbacks. The analogy I like to use is turning an oil tanker. Once you pass a certain point, the inertia of the system takes over, and all you can do is put engines all astern (a drastic maneuver) to minimize the damage. Albert A Bartlett looked at these phenomena in the references cited in this article:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Bartlett
    Somehow we have to bring home the fact that there is a very real possibility that if we do not act now, our actions will be completely ineffective. And most difficult, we have to do so without seeming hopeless.
    Again, going back to our oil tanker analogy, the sooner we make a course correction, the more gentle the correction can be. If we wait to long, then even if we successfully avoid the worst effects, the course correction will be jarring to the economy and our way of life in any case. Just some thoughts as we conduct the “lessons learned”.


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