RealClimate logo

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. 201

    Re 162
    With both sides responding ex tempore to Q&A from a lay audience, could Richard’s ‘three quarters’ be a casual reference to where we are on the way to 450 ppm?

    [Response: I’m pretty sure he’s referring to the total forcing from well-mixed GHGs, but as I explained above that’s fundamentally misleading. -gavin]

  2. 202
    alex says:

    RE:182, Richard, thanks for your reply/lesson. I completely agree with your point and am all in favor of both the peer review process and open debate. In defense of my probably ill worded post � I was not talking about a quest for scientific truth, but a group of politicians using a debating technique to get their point across in a very short period of time.

  3. 203
    Ben.H says:

    Re #182: this post, however accurate or erudite, is over 1000 words long and would automatically be rejected if submitted as a brief communication to Nature, without even getting to the peer-review stage, because of its length. I think one skill that needs more work in this debate is developing the art of brevity without loss of accuracy.

  4. 204
    pete best says:

    Herein lies the problem of climate change and climate science and its discourse with the media and the wider public. Even scientists are hyping up the issues and misunderstanding the science it would seem.

    This seems to be politically to be playing into the hands of the skeptics who surely will tell us that science has not got its act together on climate change due to their being to many unknowns.

  5. 205

    Gavin and others, I have learned so much from Realclimate that
    I can use in debates. Great thanks and hope you will continue to
    do this work to assist us laymen who try to learn and take part
    in the discussion forums where we try to convince other laypeople.

    A number of books have been suggested here. I will add another,
    which actually explains many of the difficulties you may face.
    Georg Lakoff recently published a book “Whose Freedom?”, where
    he shows from a scientific understanding of cognitive processes
    how with the selection of cognitive framework and metaphor you
    are able to direct the discussion to the issues that you wish.

    I have practiced with my own audiences and debates, using the
    selection of metaphors and questions to lead the audience to the
    proper mindset. We all are limited. We only consider few issues
    at a time. We are incapable of holding more that few issues at
    our mind. We emotionally base our deductions on those issues
    and forget the other related items as they do not belong to our
    current metaphors or framework. Many of the spesifics have come
    up in this discussion intuitively but Lakoff as a master of his
    own field of cognitive research and mataphors, eloquently and with
    very good examples of just thist type of debate, how you lose and
    how you win and what is the structure of the discussion in the meta-
    level of the audiences mind. It is fast and easy to read and very
    insightful and morally sound analysis to political debate. How not
    to lose your debate to cheaters and simplistic deduction even when
    your message is more complex that your opponents claims.

  6. 206
    pete best says:

    It looks like the Scientific American article on your recent debate has come to the attention of James inhofe:

    However as the editor of scientific american states, even the contrarians seem to be accepting CO2 warming as fact and has swung their vitriol towards what to do about it ?

  7. 207

    [[ Just want to understand why models still diverge by a factor 2/3 about CS (2 for AR4 runs, 3 or more for most stat. analysis at 90% confidence) and why 30 yrs of intense research did not really succeed in reducing this range, from the 0 or 1-dimension energy-balance and radiative-convective models to the most recent and impressive AOGCMs coupled to carbon cycle models. ]]

    You are fixated on the range. Try dealing with the mean and the standard distribution. Estimates cluster around 3 K. The IPCC is citing a range when they say 1.5-4.5 K. They’re not saying that any possible value in that range is of equal likelihood.

  8. 208
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    Re: 197

    I think our moderators are too young to recognize the reference.

  9. 209
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    Re: 196 IPCC reports are massaged for maximum political effect

    It galls me to read that since the political effect the IPCC reports are massaged to is one of minimizing the threat. That’s not only having one’s cake and eating it, too — it’s complaining about the icing as well.

  10. 210
    Alex Nichols says:

    Hilarious: Marcus Brigstock on the “Now Show” demolishes Martin
    Durkin’s “Global Warming Swindle”

    Real Audio BBC Radio 4
    (from 18 mins 20 seconds -25mins 15 secs)

    (C) British Broadcasting Corporation 2007

  11. 211
    John L. McCormick says:

    RE # 204 Pete, I linked to the BBC article you posted and wish I had not. It is yet more credentialed voices urging prudence and caution; as if AGW impacts are the evidence science must have to tell us the impacts are upon us.

    Professors Paul Hardaker and Chris Collier, of the UK Royal Meteorological Society are likely respected and heeded by informed British (and their words bring comfort to those invested in BAU).

    Quoting from the article:

    Both men are highly respected across the world and hold the mainstream view on climate change – that human activity is the cause.

    But they think catastrophism and the “Hollywoodisation” of weather and climate only work to create confusion in the public mind.

    They argue for a more sober and reasoned explanation of the uncertainties about possible future changes in the Earth’s climate.

    As an example, they point to a recent statement from one of the foremost US science bodies – the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

    The association released a strongly worded statement at its last annual meeting in San Francisco in February which said: “As expected, intensification of droughts, heatwaves, floods, wildfires, and severe storms is occurring, with a mounting toll on vulnerable ecosystems and societies.

    “These events are early warning signs of even more devastating damage to come, some of which will be irreversible.”

    According to Professors Hardaker and Collier, this may well turn out to be true, but convincing evidence to back the claims has not yet emerged. END QUOTE

    So, here we have the local fire marshall asking the local meteorologist if the storm clouds west of town might brew into a tornado and should the marshall tell school principals to take the students to safe areas in the building. The meteorologist replies that may will turn out to be true but convincing evidence to back that claim has not yet emerged. The marshall slams the phone down in disgust and calls a city-wide alert because he has witnessed, in his profession, enough evidence of the failure to act in time.

    Respected though they might be, Professors Paul Hardaker and Chris Collier should climb down from their perch and travel the back roads to see the evidence of AGW impacts and report it.

  12. 212
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Re: 194. Yes you do the math, but you do the math with lots of wrong assumptions. First, one of the reasons why per capita income is so low in Africa is because half of the population (female) is stuck doing chores that should be easily supplied by infrastructure (e.g. gathering firewood and water). Productivity and therefore wages would be considerably increased if thes people were freed to produce and be educated. What is more, the hunt for firewood is a serious cause of deforestation. Second, I paid considerably less than $20/month for electricity and water when I lived in Africa.
    And I will say it again. It is flat wrong to glorify poverty. All I can do is suggest you spend some time in rural villages in Africa and India and see if you find it reasonable that they be denied the possibility of increasing their energy consumptions. And in any case, they will consume more in the future. All we can do is help guide their consumption along lines that make more sense for them as well as for the world.

  13. 213
    Hank Roberts says:

    >not old enough to recognize …

    Same point, different words:

    “The center doesn’t have to hold if everything’s connected.” — Anne Herbert

  14. 214
    Ben.H says:

    Re #211 [So, here we have the local fire marshall asking the local meteorologist if the storm clouds west of town might brew into a tornado and should the marshall tell school principals to take the students to safe areas in the building.]

    So, you are saying that only US-based science is valid in this debate? The media here in UK are going crazy over the repeated claims and counter-claims in the AGW debate. All these guys are saying is exercise some restraint and don’t be tempted to over-speculate beyond what can be supported by evidence.

  15. 215
    Jake says:

    The idea of Global Warming is NOT science, it’s a guess about the future. No matter how many people agree on that guess, it is still a guess.

    The EARTH’s temperature has always fluctuated UP and DOWN. For the fluctuation to stop for no reason and say it’s going to freeze or burn up is ridiculous. We know the EARTH has been hotter than now in the past and Co2 has been at higher levels as well and the planet did not burn up then.

    What made the EARTH’s temp stop fluctuating? Global Warming is a multi-million dollar business now.

    It’s so funny, we are always looking to the weather man wondering why he was wrong again and again and they are only guessing at tomorrow temperatures. However when they try to guess about 50 to 100 years in the future…what…we just believe them???


  16. 216
    Rob says:

    I’m astounded that we continually treat global warming in isolation when it is one of a number of issues that will determine the fate of millions in the course of this century. Consider global warming in conjunction with depletion of non-renewable resources. Then consider those in conjunction with spreading desertification. Add those up and then consider them in conjunction with exhaustion of groundwater resources due to excessive exploitation of the world’s aquifers and the effect this is already beginning to have on large areas of the most productive arable land. Then take in air, land and water pollution generally. Add water and stir.

    Take that witches’ brew and then consider all those factors in conjunction with population migration, terrorism and global security including the proliferation of nuclear weaponry. Debating global warming in isolation of all these other factors (and there are more) is a waste of breath.

    When you add these things up it strikes me that we need to look for several solutions; some scientific, some geopolitical, some social and others, perhaps, even philosophical. Piecemeal approaches probably aren’t going to work very well.

  17. 217
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Re 215: So Jake, ever hear of a scientific predition. What do you think scientists do when they model a new aircraft or missile design, when they extrapolate whether an asteroid may strike Earth, when they calculate a trajectory for a space probe to slingshot to Pluto via Jupiter?
    You are right about one thing–we cannot predict with 100% certainty what the result of our experiment on Earth’s climate will be. That is not because of any deficiency in the models, but rather because Earth’s climate is chaotic. And lack of predictability is not a comforting thought, since a risk you cannot quantify is even more of a concern than a high risk.
    The proper thing to do is look at past behavior of climate when the energy of the system was comparable–and that’s a very big range of behaviors, some of which would not be consistent with continuation of civilization as we know it. What we do know is this–the more CO2 and other ghg we pump into the atmosphere, the more variable the climate will become, the more difficulty we will have in adapting to it and the more draconian will be the response of governments as they try to maintain order.
    Would it not be sensible to take reasonable actions–like increased conservation and diversifying our energy sources–now, rather than waiting until more severe action will be needed?

  18. 218
    Eli Rabett says:

    A few short comments: First to Gavin. IMHO you and your colleagues made an ENORMOUS mistake in accepting the basis of the debate. On the basis of the science alone “Global warming IS a crisis” was the place to start. If the organizers didn’t like it you should have told them to take a walk.

    Second you will have to accept that you MUST call out the Lindzens of the world as dissemblers. He has made a living calling everyone else a liar but depends on your sense of honor and collegiality to survive. You would have done well to simply say yes, here is an example.

    To Charles Muller: Regarding the range of estimates for carbon sensitivity, one should compare the range to the “natural” greenhouse effect for ~280 ppm, about 30 K, which makes the variation in the estimate about 10%. That the range has not moved much over 100 years and with increasing sophistication is a measure of the robustness of the result. As Gavin points out, the fact that 0 to negative response is ruled out (indeed that < 2K now is seen to be exceedingly improbable) provides both sufficient certainty and reason for concern. The sky is lifting. (if the response were negative it would be falling pv=nRT)

  19. 219
    Hank Roberts says:

    I recommend caution re the link behind the “Jake” name, it’s some aggressive commercial site, not a person.

  20. 220
    Richard Ordway says:

    re. 215. Jake,

    Your comments don’t make sense. They sound either emotional or political. Your questions are addressed if you click on headings on the brown box on the right.

    For example, click on the words “FAQ” or “climate science” and it will give you sub-topics.

    Then you can come back and quote specific questions.

    But just to come on this blog and start ranting does not do anyone any good and makes your motives suspect.

    “The idea of Global Warming is NOT science, it’s a guess about the future.” This sounds like a political statement. If you are interested:

    You can start here,

    Just keep clicking on the headings on the right.

  21. 221
    Phil says:

    Re #216: Rob, you forgot population growth.

  22. 222
    James says:

    Re #212: [It is flat wrong to glorify poverty.]

    I have to ask you again, how am I in any way glorifying poverty? That’s not my intent. I am simply trying to say that access to electricity, in and of itself, is not some sort of magic bullet that eliminates poverty. Those who use it as a proxy for poverty (as in the remark quoted from the debate) are using an inappropriate metric, and that choice could have adverse impacts on both efforts to reduce poverty and future CO2 emissions.

  23. 223
    Dave Rado says:

    re. #212 and 222, it’s a red herring anyway. See here and here.

  24. 224
    Hank Roberts says:

    I would wonder if we’re seeing the new form of blogspamming with the “jake” post — might be worth searching for other seemingly-relevant posts that only link back to commercial sites pushing javascript stuff. As with email spam, there’s more effort being made to include superficially relevant text to get past filters.

    If there’s a real Jake, there will be more than one post and evidence he’s reading the suggested references.

  25. 225
    Dave Rado says:

    And further to my post 223, also see here: here.

  26. 226
    John L. McCormick says:

    RE # 214

    Ben H., I will use your words:

    [don’t be tempted to over-speculate beyond what can be supported by evidence.]

    and ask how you came to that conclusion based upon the evidence in #211.

    I did not say [only US-based science is valid in this debate].

    Where did you get that idea?

    My comment was directed at Paul Hardaker and Chris Collier being satisfied to wait out the experiment; then gather evidence to determine the accuracy of the AAAS statement.

    AAAS statement: [As expected, intensification of droughts, heat waves, floods, wildfires, and severe storms is occurring, with a mounting toll on vulnerable ecosystems and societies.]

    The article summarized their reaction to that statement:

    [According to Professors Hardaker and Collier, this may well turn out to be true, but convincing evidence to back the claims has not yet emerged.]

    I trust the professors will render their verdict in time to avert the calamity.

  27. 227
    greg meyerson says:

    I read the transcript quickly. Frankly, I wouldn’t engage in THIS kind of debate again: it degenerates very easily into he said/she said due to the lack of time.

    if the media were even remotely serious, they’d give the debate more time, a lot more time, and over several days, which would allow panelists to sum up the previous day’s transcripts and rebut points where there was insufficient time to rebut. Panelists could also gather relevant references and present them to the auditors or viewers.

    Perhaps fewer people would tune in. But it’s a risk we (as if we have much control over the media) have to run. As it is now, people often tune in to hear a good fight, not to learn anything. This has to do with a soundbyte culture and widespread antiintellectualism–especially in the u.s. You can’t combat this culture without demanding a reasonable amount of time to discuss issues of paramount import like global warming.

    it seems to me that lots of bankrupt positions in the world from climate skeptics and creationism to pro iraq war arguments (to change fields a bit) depend upon sound byte he said/she said environments. All these issues are complex enough such that inadequate time for discussion facilitates mystification much more than deepened understanding.

    If the media simply won’t give this kind of time to the question, then I guess it doesn’t really matter if the debate takes place or not. the point is though that these debates don’t facilitate understanding.

  28. 228
    MikeB says:

    Re 204 – I entirely agree with John McCormick, the statement of Professors Paul Hardaker and Chris Collier anything but helpful. But far worse is what happened when Hardaker appeared on the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme this morning (17th). The news of this statement was the lead story, and when John Humphries interviewed him, Humphries actually started by asking his if such a statement was wise. Rather than stepping back, Hardacker went right on. When asked about his problem with the AAAS statement, he replied that he actually didn’t disagree with the statement, but that he wasn’t totally sure things were happening now, which frankly made the whole thing a bit of a non-story. But he really compounded his general stupidity by, when asked for a yes or no answer as whether the Channel 4 ‘Swindle’ programme was correct, he ignored the question, and then said it was all part of the ‘the debate’ At this point I started to bang my head against the kitchen wall.
    Whatever his credentials, the man proved to be a complete fool. Given a chance to stop the ‘Warming Swindle’ bandwagon in its tracks (a quick look at the comments on the BBC, Times and Guardian websites shows the worrying number of people convinced by the programme), he blew it, and instead gave the impression that there was still some kind of debate..
    For the love of God… if this it the level of naivity involved in people who are supposed to be defending science, then we are in deep shit. This is the headline setting programme for the british media, so his comments must have been music to the ears of every denier. Dumb, Dumb, Dumb. Listen to the interview at the BBC website and marvel at it.
    BTW – the confernece he co-wrote the statement for was hosted by ‘Sense About Science’, which is closely linked to Spiked and what used to be the RCP – guess which TV producer is also associated with the the RCP – the name is spelt DURKIN..
    No wonder we are losing.

  29. 229
    Ben.H says:

    RE #226

    [[Ben H., I will use your words:

    [don’t be tempted to over-speculate beyond what can be supported by evidence.]

    and ask how you came to that conclusion based upon the evidence in #211. ]]

    I didn’t, I’m paraphrasing what Collier and Hardaker expressed – which, incidentally, has been covered as a main news item by all TV and radio channels in UK since this morning.

    [[ I did not say [only US-based science is valid in this debate].

    Where did you get that idea?]]

    What, then, was the point of the “local fire marshall” phraseology?

    BTW we have a hurricane in Northern Scotland this evening. Guess that won’t make Fox News.

  30. 230
    gringo says:


    “It’s so funny, we are always looking to the weather man wondering why he was wrong again and again and they are only guessing at tomorrow temperatures. ”

    You must have found the dumbest weather man on the planet.
    The weather men I listen to are not wrong again and again.

    Anyway, climate is not weather. Climate modellers do not and do not even try to predict how warm or cold it will be in New York on March 17, 2068 or whether it’s gonna rain in Austin on Apr 14, 2025.

    You would have a point if climate models which in the past predicted global warming had been wrong again and again. But they were not. And that’s not a guess. That’s something we already know based on actual

    Of course if you don’t think we can measure temperature (there are folks out there running around with that idea) or you don’t think one can believe his own eyes when he sees 15 celsius instead of 10 then obviously you will think global warming is just a guess.

    But then I wonder why you believe anything which is now widely accepted scientific fact. Such as plate tectonics or apoptosis.

  31. 231
    Ray Ladbury says:

    re 222 and 223. Access to modern sources of energy, including electricity and cooking fuel (other than wood and charcoal) are a very important metrics for development. I agree that there need be no all-encompassing electrical grid. Brazil has done some very impressive rural electrification off the grid. My experience has been that such developments have been a near universal good to the community–especially to women in the community. And perhaps the most important thing the electrification brings with it is the ability to access information. Even where there is no electricity, one of the hottest selling items in the markets is the portable radio. However, the batteries to run these radios are cheap and they wear out in the tropical heat and humidity rapidly.
    In my experience, the best metric for development and for prioritizing development efforts is the opinion of the villagers–and universally, they all cite electrification, right after clean water and availability of health care. This has been true in Africa, India, China, Brazil and every other developing country I’ve traveled in.
    And Dave, I do agree that in these debates, the false dichotomy between development is a red herring. These regions will develop, and they will use more energy. The question is whether it will be coal or an energy source that doesn’t contribute to ghg.

  32. 232
    Robert Punzalan says:

    To: people who compared the debate to creationist debates and feel that the odds have been stacked against global warming advocates.


    In number of votes alone, the global warming advocates have won. In fact, during the pre-debate voting, MORE THAN HALF OF THE AUDIENCE BELIEVE THAT GLOBAL WARMING IS REAL AND IS A CRISIS! If anything, this is a debate that is stacked against Lindzen, Crichton et al because half of the audience have already made up their minds that global warming is a crisis.

    As an atheist, I am willing to enter into a debate about the existence of God inside a christian church filled with believers. The fact that Crichton et al, have proved to be better debaters than Schmidt et al does not mean that the odds have been stacked against them. It also does not mean that the debate was useless and a waste of time.

    Grow up and stop acting like a bunch of sour-graping whiny kids.

  33. 233
    belag says:

    May I say, I had a very similar experience.

    I was doing an experiment. I went to newsbusters. That’s a conservative, anti-GW blog. I presented my case for global warming. I mentioned this explicitly: only on whether there is a scientific consensus on GW. No Kyoto discussion. No Al Gore discussion.
    Here‘s the whole discussion (warning it’s very very long).

    I was stunned on reading the transcript how similar the arguments I was hearing was to my firsthand experience. To recount:
    1) “Consensus is not science”
    2) The “global cooling consensus”
    3) CO2 has no effect on climate / it’s not the primary greenhouse gas/variants.
    4) People had a problem identifying what scientific consensus is. They seemed to think statements in Newsweek and NY Times were consensus (compare global cooling) but refused to believe my SciAm, IPCC and AGU sources.

    A few observations:
    a) The primary problem was: people don’t like to be told by somebody that there’s a huge problem. They don’t believe something they can’t see clearly. This is a hard idea GW crowd has to sell – GW is much more dangerous in the future than you can see today.
    b) Some people who did believe global warming was taking place (but not man-made) believed it because of events they saw. They said my area is hotter/colder than normal.
    c) Al Gore appeared heavily in the discussions, even though I didn’t respond to any comments on him. People seemed to think I was copping out on Al Gore.
    d) They seemed to believe all kinds of crazy “dissenters” like Oregon petition and Benny Peiser’s critique. Wonder why they don’t believe SciAm and AGU?
    e) They seemed to think the media is giving a “liberal” twist on things. That the “dissent” is not covered.

    I believe these basic points have to be addressed, not just the science.

  34. 234
    Walt Bennett says:

    You know what this all boils down to, don’t you?

    We need Al Gore.

    Who else has the combination of gravitas and star power to meet the public head on?

    Take note of the before and after for-against-undecided: before: 30-57-13; after: 46-42-12.

    To me this means, the audience went in liking Al Gore and came out liking Michael Crichton. Why? Because Gore was not there.

    By the way, Gavin, would you like an opportunity to rebut Lindzen’s closing comments?

    RICHARD S. LINDZEN Yes. I think it’s a little bit difficult to know how to respond,
    to be told that, uh, one shouldn’t attack scientists while you’re attacking scientists,
    to go and say you have to control methane without explaining that methane has
    stopped growing. You don’t explain why there’s global warming on Mars, Jupiter,
    Triton and Pluto. You don’t look at the ocean data and see, that whereas your boss
    Jim Hansen was saying that the heating of the ocean proved the flux that he needed
    for high sensitivity, that in the last year there’ve been two papers in the same
    journal, that point out that the original Levitus data’s wrong, that the ocean is cool,
    and that the new numbers would call for one-tenth the sensitivity that Hansen
    mentioned. If all this is so certain, why is the data changing, or is it a case when the
    data changes you ignore it, and
    RICHARD S. LINDZEN stick to the point. [APPLAUSE]

  35. 235
    belag says:

    Do I think the debate is good, relevant?

    The outcome of the debate came up against the GW crowd. It’s bad in that way because the science is fully on the side of them.

    In such debates, by their very format, you don’t encourage people to go check back sources, reflect, compare arguments. They basically go by what they hear and how plausible it seems.

    However bad the conditions are, these debates and other such events go a long way in shaping public opinion.

    The need of the audience and the presentation of the consensus side didn’t jive imho. Since science has to explain itself to a lay audience it has to make changes in its presentation and address the concerns of the audience. Simple facts won’t convince them, however persuasive.

  36. 236
    Craig Allen says:

    Here is a strange twist. Could Gavin Schmidt (see photo here) actually be the long lost twin of Tim Flannery who is the current Australian of the Year, and writer of The Future Eaters and The Weather Makers?

    Since receiving his award from the Australian Prime minister Tim Flannery has using his new status to good effect giving the politicians plenty of curry over their slow response to climate change.

    But I particularly liked the 4 part TV documentary Two Men in a Tinnie in which he and comedian John Doyle traveled thousands of kilometer down the Murry River (a waterway in crisis due to poor management and Southern Australia’s unprecedented and seemingly never-ending drought) talking to scientists, farmers and historians as they went about the history and ecology of this once great waterway.

    The combination of a well spoken scientist, clueless but fascinated comic, and a drama that is gripping the nation worked a treat for holding the viewers attention long enough to get complex ideas across.

    Take home message: There are lots of approaches other than debates that can be used to get complex information across. Gavin, perhaps you can find John Doyle’s doppelganger to do a series with. The four episodes format with epic landscapes and crusty locals works well, perhaps a trip to the Arctic, then to the Colarado River, down to Central America and Brazil and then nip down and check out the poor old Murray River with Tim Flannery. (Of course it goes without saying that you would have to carbon off-set all those flights – for the Australian leg I recommend Greenfleet. They pay for the trees for farmers revegetating degraded farmland. The first thing you would have to do in the show is discuss the pros and cons of offsetting).

  37. 237
    Daniel Morris says:

    RE: 215
    Jake, I believe it is known with near certainty that the Earth would freeze if the CO2 and methane in the atmosphere were removed.

  38. 238
    BarbieDoll Moment says:

    RE: 206 “It looks like the Scientific American article on your recent debate has come to the attention of James inhofe”

    Well, the actual press release regarding Inhofe
    is at the Inhofe EPW Press Blog
    which is hosted on the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Press Room’s site.

    It wasn’t as though Inhofe, or a representative, posted upon the original blog thread on SciAm’s blog, but rather something entirely different. (Incidentally, ScienceWeek has a recent piece on Inhofe;
    Enemies of Science: Senator James Inhofe)

    Note to Inhofe and Morano: Climate Change is No Hoax
    …”However, the core point of my post–not surprisingly–seems to have
    eluded them: the contrarians won through charm, picking on amusing soft
    targets like private jets, and not any perceivable scientific
    grounding. “…

    Even more bizarre, the Inhofe EPW Press Blog
    release references RealClimate and Gavin twice (CONCEDE); and ironically,
    in the second Inhofe EPW Press Blog
    reference, the writer (Marc Morano) fails or chooses to correctly spell
    the name of the blog site of RealClimate…

    Wonders never seem to cease…

    Smackdown: Skeptics Voted The Clear Winners Against Global Warming
    Believers in Heated NYC Debate

    …”After the stunning victory, one of the scientists on the side promoting the belief in a climate “crisis” appeared to concede defeat by noting his debate team was â??pretty dull” and at “a sharp disadvantage” against the skeptics. ScientificAmerican.comâ??s
    agreed, saying the believers in a man-made climate catastrophe
    â??seemed underarmed for the debate and, not surprising, it swung against
    them. “…

    …”Scientist Concedes Debate To Skeptics

    NASAâ??s Gavin Schmidt, one of the scientists debating for the notion
    of a man-made global warming “crisis” conceded after the debate that
    his side was â??pretty dullâ?? and was at “a sharp disadvantage.” Schmidt
    made the comments in a March 15 blog posting at

    …”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 [Novelist Michael] Crichton and
    [UKâ??s Philip] 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,” Schmidt wrote.

  39. 239
    Steven Horn says:

    I thought you guys handled yourselves very well, though I’m a bit concerned about the audience reaction, and the implications for public debate on the topic.

    One point the opposition panel and questioners seemed to raise repeatedly was the potential fallibility of scientific consensus, which is always a possibility, however unlikely. I thought your side handled the “global cooling consensus” charge very well, and drawing the difference between the typical rogue scientist and Galileo was devastating.

    However, I wonder if more time and energy might be usefully spent countering this line of criticism at these types of debates. With that in mind, can anyone here recommend any books or articles that deal with the history of scientific consensus? I’m aware of Kuhn’s work, but I’m wondering if there is much work that demonstrates how rare it is that consensus proves to be wrong, or, when it is, what kinds of arguments are typically at issue (and I’m guessing that consensus is rarely challenged by anyone in the first place unless politics/economics is at stakeâ�¦ when was the last panel discussion on the theory of gravity anyway?).

    I thought that the woman who mentioned that it used to be the consensus that “women are all hysterics and ought to be bled” should have been strongly challenged. To my knowledge, this type of “remedy” was the consensus before science was actually applied to the human body in any rigorous way. In fact, it seems to me that “scientific consensus” is the whipping boy for a whole host of historical nasty practices/beliefs that actually demonstrate the value of the scientific method versus faith, tradition, etc, when the topic is fully understood!

    In any case, it seems like there is a great lack of appreciation or respect for scientific consensus given the little weight it seems to carry with even apparently thoughtful listeners across a wide array of critical debates.

  40. 240

    I have just read the transcript, astounded as usual with Lindzen’s MSU allegation that there was no warming since 1998. How could this be? Was not 2005 warmer than 1998? Is not the Radiosonde data on the rise? Since 1998? Just recently exceeding or equaling 1998. How disingenuous, not informed or biased. . Crichton named Wegener as an example of a scientist introducing a correct theory, refuted by community consensus, till it was finally accepted, may be wishful thinking on Crichton’s part that he may be correct. Unbeknown to Crichton, Wegener did some very good work with atmospheric refraction, which I am following up on, turns out that there has been less refraction on a gradual year by year basis while using the sun as a fixed sphere of reference. Refuting in turn MSU’s inability to pick up a mid tropospheric warming signal when there were many! I suggest the contrarians to use another flawed measurement champion so we can refute it again.

  41. 241
    Stormy says:

    Scientific sphagetti-language

    I read about half of the responses, many of them excellent. But when I came to Gavin’s comment:

    “The forecast signal is clearly distinguishable from noise – it not yet useful as a test of the precise values of the sensitivity. I may post on this soon”.

    I had to stop. The word choice is abysmal. The concept is not difficult, but the wording makes it seem so. I realize that it is perhaps unfair to attack Gavin’s phrasing here, but it forcibly reminded me of all that is wrong with much of scientific discourse.

    Unfortunately, too many scientists are accustomed to writing for other scientists. In contrast, I am reminded of Feinman’s marvelous explanation for 0-ring failure: simple, clear – anyone could understand it, even a child. And yet prior to Feinman’s clear explanation, we had the contorted, pretentious jargon of the engineers.

    I read a number of scientific journals and studies. And I just despair. Programmers write spaghetti code; scientists write spaghetti prose. Pronouns rarely have clear antecedents; concepts are buried in jargon; sentence structure is contorted and misleading. Clear, expository prose is a delightful rarity. If I were an editor of any of these journals, I would have the majority of articles rewritten … and rewritten again.

    Anyone who says that the public does not understand because the concepts are too complicated is just kidding himself. Stop talking to other scientists for a change; they just reinforce bad habits. Try explaining the concept to a normal ninth grader. If you cannot do it, then you do not have real control over the language or the concept.

    Why are Huxley and Sagan so often mention in this thread? The reason is simple: Both had control over the language.

    Here is a good way to test a piece of writing: Give it to your wife/husband/friend. They cannot be scientists. If they cannot explain it back to you, you failed.


    When you write a thread on ‘the forecast signal,’ try the suggested test. You may find that the phrases ‘forecast signal’ and ‘test of the precise values of sensitivity’ will have to be dumped into the wastebasket. You may find also, for example, that you will have to recast the sentence into a clearer ‘even though’ structure. You may also find that pronouns should have clear and precise antecedents, ones that do not create confusion.

    Sorry for being hard.

  42. 242
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Re 240: Stormy, while I agree with much of what you say, and I also regret the difficulty scientists often have putting their science into plain English, I would offer the following analysis. First, we live in a very different time than did Huxley or even Sagan. Now, a volley by one side demands an instant response by the other–in part because such a response is possible. Even Sagan had at least a 24 hour news cycle to craft a response, whereas Gavin, Raypierre, et al. are responding in real time.
    In political circles, the response is to come up with talking points–responses that can be reliably trotted out without thinking. In science, a greater premium is placed on “thinking on one’s feet”, so we often wind up with a sort of stream of consciousness response. Having said this, I do not think it would be inappropriate for the scientific community to begin having mock debates to see what works and what doesn’t. An elegant turn of phrase doesn’t have to be a soundbite. And we are much more likely to respond intelligently to a line of attack if we have repulsed the same attack repeatedly in the past.
    Strongly recommend your tactic of bouncing ideas/lines of reasoning off of family members. My wife reads everything I write that I care about–unfortunately, being a scientist, herself and damned smart besides, she is often more advanced than some of my target audience.
    Language is important. I might also recommend the book, “Eats Shoots and Leaves” for a somewhat lighter approach than “The Elements of Style”.

  43. 243
    Brian says:


    thanks for the offer…

    if you have any questions, I have a web site, you can go and check that out and I�ll be happy to answer any questions you might have.

    Depending on how you define the scope of the argument, it seems you either won or lost. the other side actually gave you most of the scientific points being that warming has occured and greenhouse gases contribute. what they did not give was that

    – man was the prime cause
    – warming is significantly bad to be a crisis
    – responses and costs related to changeing are justified.
    – warming is entirely a bad thing.

    These should not be difficult to refute.

    I would really like to hear your side’s rebuttal to the main claims that Lindzen, Crichton and Stott put forward.

    the consistent thread that all of them picked up on was that the models are questionable. the number of factors and complexity of climate modelling is beyond our ability for accurate prediction into a longer term future. this objection was not dealt with other than to say that the worlds best scientists all agree… perhaps you could point to other posts that deal with this issue?

    Also, Crichton’s point about private jets while not a scientific one, is appropriate to the debate as the issue of what real changes can we implement and what is the pain involved with change is relevant and it is not without reason that people doubt the real and present danger of the crisis when its proponents do not reinforce this by their actions.

    You have an excellent site here and an opportunity to set the record straight with giving the “last word” and addressing the big and small points of the debate (aerosols, the reliability of T records beyond 400 years, etc.) please point out the fallacies, cherry picking and red herrings. i am certain that i am not the only one who wants to see more clarity brought to the limited but very interesting debate.

  44. 244
    Chuck Booth says:

    Re # 239 Of course scientific consensus can be wrong. But, why are the arguments made by Stott, Crichton, and Lindzen accepted by other AGW skeptics as the infallible truth? Aren’t they just as likely to be wrong as the mainstream climatologists (perhaps even more likely as they are often making claims outside their area of scientific expertise)?

  45. 245
    Hank Roberts says:

    Look, the offers and challenges to “debate” are coming from people who can’t get anything published in the science journals, for the most part.

    If anything is debated — it should be the Conclusions section of a specific research paper, and footnotes required to be provided for assertions made.

    A far more edited weblog would be the only way I can imagine that happening — one set up specifically to handle questions about science.

    Kind of like, oh, maybe the Public Library of Science, eh?

  46. 246
    Dana says:

    Re: 241 / 242


    I noticed your post about Gavins’s statement that:

    “The forecast signal is clearly distinguishable from noise – it not yet useful as a test of the precise values of the sensitivity. I may post on this soon”.

    Since it was actually a reply to something I had written.

    In fact in Post 192, I responed to Gavin’s statement that you quote by saying:

    “We probably need a proper definition of “signal-to-noise”, or more precisely forecast validation, to be able to make progress in this part of the discussion.”

    Stormy, I think that most scientific journal articles could be written better, however, there is some irreducible component of scientific jargon that is an artifact of trying to be precise enough to make statements that are truly falsifiable. Of course, one effect of jargon is to shut out listeners who have not made the investment of time required to understand it. It also invites two forms of abuse: (1) pseudo-science apes these forms to seem more impressive without any of the real content, and (2) legitimate scientits can use it to shield themselves from careful audit and review.

    My experience is that most valid scienfitifc concepts can be made understandable to an intelligent lay audience at a sufficent level of depth to inform policy decisions. Enabling a lay audience to adequately referee a scientific debate is another matter. This is why, in my view, it is essential for AGW advocates (amng many others) to be able to cite critical preditions that have been made using the theories under consideration. This strikes as something that non-scientists who being asked to make decisions based on the sceince can understand and are perfectly entitles to demand before accepting the science as “true”, i.e., sufficiently reliable as a predictive tool to guide behavior.


  47. 247
    Ike Solem says:

    Dana (#195), you say that
    “Normally the two key questions that are asked to evaluate these models are: (1) do the the equations that undergird the model constitute a reasonably complete representaion of known physical laws that drive the outcome of interest?, and (2) has the model been shown to reliably predict the outcome of interest when presented with correct input data?. For climate models, my review of the relevant scientifc literature indicates that the answers to these questions are ‘partially’ and ‘no’.”

    This doesn’t mean anything. What are the known physical laws that are being neglected? What published scientific literature are you referring to? Keep in mind that climate models have been making predictions for some time now, and there is a record that they can be compared to, so the claim that ‘models may be ‘tuned’ to past behavior and yet have no utility for predicting the future’ just doesn’t hold.

    Climate models predicted water vapor feedback effects; such effects are real. Climate models predicted warming of the polar regions; such effects are also real. The feedback processes included in climate models are fairly well understood, with the greatest uncertainty still coming from clouds, aerosols, and cloud-aerosol interactions: see for the gory details (a very readable review of the topic).

    What aren’t included in the current climate models are: ice sheet dynamics that will lead to faster rates of sea level rise than the models predict, and carbon cycle feedback effects that will lead to an amplification of anthropogenic CO2/CH4 emission rates due to perturbation of natural systems. The magnitude of such responses will certainly be a positive feedback, of uncertain strength.

    While there may be limitations to climate models, the probability is that they are underestimating future climate change due to the above variables.

    Increase In Carbon Dioxide Emissions Accelerating, Nov 2006:
    “A danger is that the land and oceans might take up less carbon dioxide in the future than they have in the past, which would increase the rate of climate change caused by emissions.”

    Thus, if you are going to make such statements, and expect to be taken seriously, provide some references, if you can.

  48. 248

    Against Gavin’s apt closing comments about scientific success in predicting current Climate conditions,
    Lindzen failed to rebut any of his claims, rather he went extraterrestrial to escape the facts, literally:

    “You don’t explain why there’s global warming on Mars, Jupiter, Triton
    and Pluto. You don’t look at the ocean data and see, that
    whereas your boss Jim Hansen was saying that the heating of the
    ocean proved the flux that he needed for high sensitivity, that in
    the last year there’ve been two papers in the same journal, that
    point out that the original Levitus data’s wrong, that the ocean is
    cool, and that the new numbers would call for one-tenth the
    sensitivity that Hansen mentioned. If all this is so certain, why
    is the data changing, or is it a case when the data changes you
    ignore it, and…”

    It is awfully strange when a scientist refuses to recognize his colleagues achievements, it would be something like positive reinforcement, a conviction building process which steers the entire field in the right direction. Failing to recognize achievements essentially means that Lindzen’s science, is essentially dead, or going nowhere.

  49. 249
    Steve Reynolds says:

    Comment by Brian> “what they did not give was that

    – man was the prime cause
    – warming is significantly bad to be a crisis
    – responses and costs related to changeing are justified.
    – warming is entirely a bad thing.

    These should not be difficult to refute.”

    On the contrary, the last 3 of those are very difficult to refute. The last – warming is entirely a bad thing – is clearly not true.

    It is not fair to ask Gavin to refute the third – responses and costs related to changing are justified – because economics is not his specialty. In fact, the peer reviewed consensus of economists is essential the opposite, that the cost for drastic CO2 emission reductions is not justified.

    Whether this is a crisis seems more a matter of opinion than science.

  50. 250
    Nando says:

    I read the transcript very carefully. It’s taken me months of studying to come to any firm conclusion about global warming for myself. And all i can say is that it looks a LOT more dangerous to me now than i ever imagined.

    In this forum (the television or radio show, whatever it was), i can’t imagine people have the time to learn anything. They are going to tend to vote for who was the most entertaining, or who was the most assured in their demeanor. Sincerity and accuracy didn’t count in this contest. Nevertheless, Gavin, i’m glad i wasn’t in your shoes. I would have been crushed.

    I just wanted to say that hundreds of thousands of people are supporting you guys in your efforts out here, in one way or another. I certainly am.