Global Warming debate

Along with Richard Somerville (UC San Diego) and Brenda Ekwurzel (Union of Concerned Scientists), I’ll be appearing at a debate on Wednesday (March 14th) about whether Global Warming is a crisis (or not). That might have gone without notice (like most of my public talks), except that our opponents are Michael Crichton, Richard Lindzen and Philip Stott. The preliminary position statements (from me and from Philip Stott) are available on the ABCnews site. It’s sold out, but the proceedings will be broadcast on NPR (for instance, WNYC 820 AM on Friday, March 23, 2007 at 2PM) and there will be a podcast (though I don’t know if it will stream live). There’s an online poll as well for what that’s worth.

I’m quite looking forward to this, but I have to admit to conflicting thoughts. Does participating help perpetuate the idea that global warming per se is still up for debate? Is this kind of rhetorical jousting useful for clarifying issues of science that most people there will only superficially grasp? Can this be entertaining and educational? Or does it just validate the least serious opposition? Is it simply a waste of time that would be better spent blogging? ;)

I’d be interested in any thoughts people might have.

225 comments on this post.
  1. Roger Smith:

    If the format allows enough time to really delve into a handful of topics and allows you to combat misrepresentation it could be worthwhile.

    If not it could quickly descend into the denialists resorting to confusing the public with complexity and leaving them with the idea that the science is still unsettled. Time to hone the rhetorical skills!

  2. Wacki:

    One of the postdocs I work next to recently told me “Michael Moore has it right. If you can’t make it entertaining you will never reach the general population”. When it comes to disseminating the truth you need to set up a solid backbone for credibility and then grab their attention with entertainment. RC is a critical part of the backbone but it can not get everything done by itself. Al Gore has made this abundantly clear with his ‘documentary’. Just be careful and don’t let yourself become a target. RC is too important for you to be taking unnecessary risks.

    The house is sold out. Have fun with this Gavin. I have no doubt you will slaughter them. BTW, since you are going to meet Crichton in person would you mind asking him if he still believes in spoon bending, auras, etc? His book Travels is quite a trip.

  3. Todd Albert:

    I think the value will depend greatly on the moderator. If the format and questions are fair, then truth will prevail. At least in theory.

    Best of luck! We’ll be watching.

  4. Gary McClellan:

    It is worthwhile, because it accomplishes nothing positive to let them say their spiel unchallenged. The people who deny the reality of what is happening are still going to be out there, running their mouths. An appearance by someone who has undeniable credentials to discuss the issue will only help challenge the logjam that the denialists have in some people’s heads.

  5. Wacki:

    “If the format allows enough time to really delve into a handful of topics and allows you to combat misrepresentation it could be worthwhile.”

    If the debate is going to be broadcasted I would make sure they tell the listeners that you (and your friends) will be doing a post-game analysis at RC. Time is your Achilles heel and if time is short Crichton will have the advantage. Making quick catchy soundbites is where Crichton excels and the vast majority of scientists fail miserably. Make sure you leave yourself an out.

  6. Steven Leibo Ph.D.:

    I have often been in that situation.. really two ways to approach the challenge aside from knowing the science of global warming down cold, one needs to know incredibly well the anti-global warming challenges and lots of quick soundbites to refute them. Second some really solid texts from major university presses that can be held up.. they make great props. Aside from that just keep reminding those on the other side of the debate that you would absolutely love for them to be right. That nothing would make you happier than to be proven wrong but unfortunately there is simply too much scientific consensus to do anything other that to face the challenge. Good luck!

  7. Gareth:

    For what it’s worth, Gavin, I wouldn’t touch this sort of event with a bargepole. By setting up a formal debate between two “sides”, it presupposes an equivalence of merit – that one side or the other can “win” on the night. It also leaves the result at the mercy of the rhetorical skills of the debaters.

    My own strategy is not to ignore the sceptics – their misinterpretations of the science need to be pointed out whenever they manage to get them into the public arena (which RealClimate is of course very good at) – but to deny them importance. They are simply not relevant any more. The world is moving on, both politically and economically. The sceptics have no useful role to play, because they have no useful advice to offer. The low-carbon ship has set sail, and they’re left in port shouting at the wake.

    I’ll still listen to the podcast, though…

  8. pat neuman:

    I think you and others could do more to change attitudes in the U.S. on global warming by joining forces in putting pressure on NOAA administrators and NWS supervisors to educate the 5,500 meteorologists in 120 National Weather Service offices so the NWS scientists can help other government people and other meteorologists who enter people’s private living rooms better understand climate change.

  9. Grant McSorley:

    While I worry about this type of thing lending too much credence to those who deny the problem of global warming, it seems like the media insists on giving even the least credible voices airtime. As a result, I think we still have to take them seriously and do our best to show the public that AGW is a serious threat. I doubt you’ll get to go into too much depth, but I’m sure you can score some good points.

  10. David Graves:

    I am ready for “Climate Change–the Movie”. This will *not* be a documentary, but a rather a work of imaginative fiction. In its depiction of this debate, lots of computing power will be used by the special effects wizards to animate the sci-fi hybrids of red herrings and straw men Dr. Stott has marshalled to support his arguments. Think of Troy meets Lord of the Rings.
    I am reminded of the admonition about not getting in an argument with a fool because onlookers may not be able to tell the difference. It may be a backward step to legitimize “the sceptics” by engaging with them. However, if you don’t, their argument would be “what are they afraid of?” Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I hope this goes better than the Larry King mess. And collect that bottle of whisky from the good Dr. L, or ask him why he is reneging on his bet about ice cores…

  11. Michael Svoboda:

    I agree with the previous comment; you have to have a strategy to prevent this from becoming a publicity stunt for the skeptics.

    Part of this strategy might be to stress two things over and over again: 1) Every one of the skeptics’ points has been addressed–repeatedly–in forums like and Grist’s “How to Talk with a Climate Skeptic” website (, and (2) One cannot construct a coherent explanation out of the many different counter-arguments skeptics offer.

    These two points are related to two other points about method. First, climate skeptics enter this debate as trial lawyers, trying to hold climate scientists to a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard of proof, the standard we use when someone has been charged with a crime. That isn’t how we argue about policy choices. (Noting this also allows one to pose the question about the skeptics’ client(s).) Second, there are real questions of value here, one of which has to do with the precautionary principle. Do we really want to hold private property as the supreme value, which is what one does when one holds that absolute certainty is required before one acts to protect the commons?

    Go get ’em!

    P.S. I’d bring up Crichton’s “prescient” worries, in DISCLOSURE, about women sexually harassing men in the workplace (i.e. he’s always been a contrarian; it’s one of his core writing strategies).

    P.P.S. If Lindzen’s iris theory were correct, wouldn’t it have compensated for past climate changes he acknowledges?

  12. Dave Rado:

    Hi Gavin

    Make sure you have some large printoute of (especially the page on Yorkshire) and to show to Philip Stott. You could ask him why he didn’t mention them during the C4 programme!


  13. hibiscus:

    1. renewable energy sources and sustainable practices and technologies will STABILIZE societies and ALLEVIATE chronic poverty by giving people more control over their economies and their lives.

    2. i agree: large-scale risks such as nuclear proliferation, water supply, fuel supply, diseases, and poverty should be taken seriously, not dismissed as paranoia. climate change is such a risk and it is accelerating at a pace we don’t fully understand. why is it being treated less seriously than the other worldwide problems, when it is arguably the easiest to solve? there are simple, minor changes that can be applied quickly to lower the risk.

    3. the risk to life could be extreme if no action is taken. our finances, if we do curb emissions aggressively, would suffer no similar risk. in fact efficiency improvements could easily yield long-term benefits as great as those of the transistor. there’s really no reason not to do this! except politics.

    4. in regard to historical comparisons, every situation can be said to resemble other situations in the past. that doesn’t make them the same, anymore than apples and oranges are the same because they’re both fruit. but having found a large growth on your skin, new and unusual, the wise person does not assume the growth is safe. the wise person has the growth scanned for cancer.

    5. similarly a wise person who is dizzy and is covered with spots does not assume the spots are freckles. it’s common sense to be cautious, and it is common sense to listen to the doctor when the doctor has diagnosed a serious illness. climate change has thousands of second opinions available for reading on the internet.

    6. as one part of our risk abatement effort, reducing fossil fuel consumption would get us many other health and safety improvements. dangers from particulates, dangers from poisons in food and water, dangers from fuel shortages, dangers from war, all of these would ease as we shifted away from this hydrocarbon economy. oil supply is not infinite; this is a change we will make one way or the other, for the good; and research and common sense both say we need to make it quickly.

  14. Pat:

    Will there be a transcript available too?

    Either way, I’m looking forward to it.

  15. George Ortega:

    If I were you, I’d highlight the point that the evidence we have now warrants immediate mitigation and adaptation actions. For them to drag you into a drawn out debate on the science would simply confuse the listeners and validate your opponents’ mistaken conclusions.

    Keep stressing that your opponents are vastly outnumbered by the rest of the field, and science generally goes with the consensus, especially on matter as important as global warming. Also, stress the Stern reports findings that we can either pay 1% of global GDP now as an insurance policy or risk a 20% shrinking of the global economy as a result of our inaction.

  16. Jim Redden:

    My take and rant. It is not a debate. It is a discussion of fact, prudence, reason, and a chance for clarity to action rather than fear. An option for world leadership and economic flowering of new industries.

    A risk analysis sums up that unless one can prove added CO2 poses no risk, which is of course impossible, that we should move at God speed to move to the alternatives of proven renewable energy technology.

    Since the facts and prudent reason favor action now, hope you can impress the person on the street with the same. Phillip Stott and his thinking seems weak, so I don’t really know what he will have to say… The thinking of the past has no place in the analysis of this current evidence.

    As I have seen and read, Somerville has a nice way of making analogies of commonplace events, such as the ocean as a flywheel of heat energy, and the planet has a fever suggesting the necessity of taking a fever seriously diagnosed by a doctor… This will be of great help, I am sure. Facility with the science is also a great asset in dealing with Lindzen, and one could even agree with Lindzen on the aspects of uncertainty – of opposing cloud processes– and still fully justify immediate actions.

    Perhaps the argument goes like this: aspects of prudent and reasonable action should be founded on simple facts of total agreement that even a Pat Michaels is forced to admit.

    – CO2 concentration is rising (due to human activities)
    – CO2 retains solar energy
    – the temperature is rising
    – these points are admitted as scientific fact

    Simple irrefutable points…

    There are highly likely (almost virtually certain) manifested thermodynamic processes seen in a scientific consensus that leads one to see a sequence of events, of eventual grave consequence, that will result in adverse conditions for humanity.

    Then the opposing argument is that there are uncertain cloud processes… Admittedly. And of course, this is exactly true. Emergent properties of cloud formation could very well work in opposition to rising surface temps, and could even mask the true degree of influence CO2 is having.

    Thus, when Lindzen suggests that this is uncertain, yes, yes, yes, it is… Moreover, yes, even if the realized temperature forcings are just a few degrees, what are the eventual risks to the food chain and ecologies of that support human – Lindzen is not qualified, nor are any of the folks present qualified to render an opinion.

    Encapsulated in this uncertainty is an even greater call to action of reason and prudence – reasoned action based on fact which meets a moral responsibility for decency.

    Playing with a loaded gun, and for what benefit. If twenty aircraft mechanics tell you a plane is likely to crash, and just one, says the plane is fine, it;s time to pause before committing to that flight. That is what we need to do/alter course/think this through to a better end.

    Moreover, at this juncture, proof is needed that added CO2 will have no adverse effects since it is the more than likely outcome. The burden is on business as usual to make a case, and it cannot prove safety of CO2 release.

    The discussion can be nailed and framed on the notion that we are faced with such before unknown HUGE risks to human life, and there alternative technical solutions we can implement right now that work on many levels. Non action–seems – simply- foolish–unwise-irresponsible-foolish-crazy as seen by an unbiased fresh look at the facts.

    Good luck.

  17. Pat:

    I think one thing that would help is – if it is at all possible to do so in ‘plain English’ – give a qualitative description of how and why circulation patterns and other dynamics might be expected to change – the Hadley cells, the monsoons, and Walker Circulation, the transient eddies (size, frequency, distribution and motion, seasonality, etc.), the mesoscale and it’s offspring (hail, gust fronts, etc.), the planetary waves, Brewer-Dobson, – and also, how the behaviors of ENSO, PDO, NAO, etc., may change, and then, what these effects would mean (temperature and precipitation of course, but humidity, cloud cover, and wind would also be interesting).

  18. Lynn Vincentnathan:

    Go for it. At least they got someone on the “GW is real side” who knows the science very well AND has much experience in refuting all the contrarian talking points. You could probably do it blind-folded with one arm behind your back.

    We all have to confront these sowers of doubt and scientific “creative accounting” and out&out dishonesty every possible chance we get.

    I have my arguments, that don’t depend on a high level of climate sci knowledge, but it’s even better when one has that knowledge and a good scientific reputation.

  19. Mark A. York:

    Fantastic Gavin! And as a bonus, although I’d love to see this as well, Charlie Rose is considering you to debate Crichton one on one, but with this already out there it may be a two-fer. Crichton agreed to it though with an unamed scientist of Rose’s chosing.

  20. Susan Kaplan:

    i think it is hugely important to continue this discussion because the doubter population is very large and among our friends and neighbors. i agree that it not be framed as debate because that fuels an unnecessary fire.

    there is a change cycle in behavioral science where at one end of the scale are those convinced and actively involved in advocating for change and at the other end, those who have made up their minds and will not budge. then there are those who haven’t made up their minds, and a group of doubters – these folks can often be convinced if the science, plan or other data are explained to them, in plain english as pat suggests. this is the group that can, with education, be moved along the change, or in this case belief, spectrum and can in time become change agents/advocates themselves. this is well-doumented in behavioal science literature and i have actually not only seen it occur but have facilitated it.

    i say our friends and neighbors are at various parts of this spectrum based on two personal experiences. in the first case, my handyperson was installing a new ceiling fan for me and when i gave him cfl’s for the light fixture he somewhat unflatteringly referred to them as ‘al gore bulbs.’ we had a brief conversation on global change and he said he didn’t believe it was all human-induced. i said, the data show that climate variations in the last decade, if not longer, are much greater than one could have expected…and he conceded the point. i like to think i educated him, because he was actually very thoughtful when we talked about it and i don’t think he was just agreeing because i was paying him. in the other case, another friend made disparaging remarks about my cfl’s and when i later said, very casually, something to the effect that he doubted the science, he referred to something dixie lee ray said at least fifty years ago about ice ages and climate variations. this is dark ages stuff. but, i knew he was at the unconvincible end of the spectrum and it was not worth the energy to further engage.

    so, the dialogue must continue to effect the changes we want.

    i apologize for only using lower case letters but i currently only have the use of one hand.

  21. Peter Backes:


    Just so you know what you’re up against with Crichton, you may end up in one of this books:

    Columnist Accuses Crichton of ‘Literary Hit-and-Run’
    Published: December 14, 2006 New York Times

    ”Next,” Michael Crichton’s new novel about the perils of biotechnology, has not proved as polarizing as his previous thriller, ”State of Fear,” which dismisses global warming. But one of the new book’s minor characters — Mick Crowley, a Washington political columnist who rapes a baby — may be a literary dagger aimed at Michael Crowley, a Washington political reporter who wrote an unflattering article about Mr. Crichton this year.

    Here’s the whole text if you have a subscription:

    Bet you no one on your side of the panel has been accused of such a thing. Maybe you should ask him about it and the general level of public discourse on GW?

  22. Stephen Spencer:

    I am an Australian and regularly visit this site.
    In this country in the last year there has been a sea change on the issue of Global Warming / Climate change. Our Prime Minister, John Howard, has been a vocal denialist until very recently. But opinion polls have shown in the last year that most people in this country accept the reality of Global Warming. The polls have forced our Prime Minister to become a believer. This has only occurred through the tireless efforts of scientific experts like you publicizing the issue.
    I therefore think that you should “go for it” as we need to keep up the pressure on the crazy denialists.

  23. John L. McCormick:


    Crichton, Lindzen and Pat Michaels are irrelevant. You are not there to debate the science with a pulp fiction writer possessed with immoral fantasies. And, Lindzen is way past his sell date.

    You are before a camera that is the means to your audience. You know the consequences that will fall on our children as the developed world follows the BAU scenario. That, of itself, will give you the passion to look into the camera and talk to the parents who may not grasp all the facts but dare not risk their childrens future.

    Talk past those shills and use this valuable moment to tell us your fears as well as the facts.

  24. Joel Shore:

    I don’t know if this would be the right forum, but the two questions I would most like to ask Lindzen are:

    (1) How does he reconcile his belief about the climate being so stable…i.e., having strong negative feedbacks…with the ice age — interglacial oscillations? What sort of gargantuan forcing does he believe caused those changes in such a stable climate system?

    (2) Why does he make the claim that the global temperature has been basically steady since 1998? Does he really think this cherry-picking of a start year that was a few standard deviations above the mean at the time is a good way to analyze the data?

  25. Carlos Rymer:

    I think you should confront Michael and Lindzen and really debunk every incorrect thing they say. Be confrontational; they will try to put out a message that’s not correct and defends the people who fund them. Don’t let this happen; just like they’ll be representing their people, make sure you defend us in saying the truth.

    Also, point people to for accurate information about the climate debate. Good luck! You’ll do great!

  26. Marcus:

    I think you need to state clearly that a consensus exists around the idea that increased CO2 will lead to significant warming. However, you need to acknowledge that there is uncertainty in how much warming will actually occur, and that the consensus also acknowledges this uncertainty. Then point out that this uncertainty extends far enough that it is possible that the skeptics will be right, and warming will not be disastrous. The final, key point is that the uncertainty extends just as far in the other direction, and it is possible that the warming will be much worse than the consensus!

    It is up to scientists to attempt to determine a “most likely” scenario and a range of uncertainty over and below that scenario, ideally with some kind of probability estimates. Then it is up to policymakers to determine how much it is worth to bring down the upper, horrible end of the uncertainty tail by controlling emissions, and what the best way to do it is.

    I don’t envy you, though. If there is one thing that being on debate team in high school taught me it is that the debate format is designed to favor the better speaker, not the speaker with the best facts.

  27. Mark A. York:

    Since I’ve been in a number of these debates, although not formal on stage, you have to watch language like “consensus.” To this crowd that means the ones onboard the gravy train of government climate funding, so it’s a conspiracy on its face in that regard. Define it upfront. On Charlie Rose Crichton ended with, “Are we moving away from science to ‘consensus.’ Why don’t facts matter anymore?” He’s a highly skilled propagandist. This has to be science defending its honor from political manipulation, much the same as when Darwin’s brother, I think, performed before the Royal Society, and slaughtered his creationist critics in public. This is huge. You’ll do well. If a line of sceptic reasoning is a fallacy, say so: This is fallacious because_____.

  28. P. Lewis:

    I think you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Both Crichton and Stott are adept with the media, it seems.

    I dare say you know your opponents well enough anyway (and I wouldn’t presume to teach this grandma to suck eggs), but Prof. Stott’s position is here and here and he will likely want to raise the work of Vezier and of Svensmark at some point, and possibly grapes!

    I saw the RC piece on British wine and Roman grapes some time back. I didn’t get around to commenting there (and I suppose this is not really the place to do it now), but on the off chance that Prof. Stott (or Crichton) bring Roman grapes up, perhaps this contemporaneous account of Roman Britain’s weather by the Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus in AD94 may be instructive:

    The sky is overcast with continual rain and cloud, but the cold is not severe.
    (Tacitus, Agricola, 12.3.)

    And also from sections 10-13 of Tacitus’s biography of Agricola:

    The climate is pretty foul, with frequent rain and fog, but no extremes of cold. The days are longer than in our part of the world. The nights are light, and at the further end of Britian so short that you can hardly tell when one day ends and the next begins.

    The land supports plenty of cattle, and the soil bears fruits, though not the olive and grape and others which grow in warmer climates. Fruit ripens rather slowly, despite growing quickly; both facts are caused by the same thing, the sheer wetness of the weather and the ground.

    Then there’s this (from, which is well worth a read, I think) about wine and vineyards in Britain during the height (or should that be the depths) of the LIA:

    There are records of some vineyards in the 17th century . The great botanist John Tradescant [1608-1662] planted 20,000 vines on his employer Lord Salisbury’s estate in Hertfordshire and the vineyards became well-renowned. In 1666, John Rose, Gardener to Charles II at His Royal Garden in St. James’s, wrote a treatise on the cultivation of vines in this country called “The English Vineyard Vindicated”, in which he discussed the question of site selection, vine varieties, pruning and training and care of the vines up to the harvest…

    And do what the politicians do: answer the questions you want asked (stick to your script), not what the other side or the questioner are asking (within reason, of course).

  29. Hank Roberts:

    Gavin, I sure hope you all can agree on a final numbered list for Global Warming Bingo, er, I mean, Coby’s list of stock arguments, to save time and enhance footnoting.

    “Briefly — you can look this up, it’s skeptic point 7 on the list at the website — it’s been wrong since ….”

  30. Charles Muller:

    a debate (…) about whether Global Warming is a crisis (or not)

    In order to help you in understanding skeptical lay psychology :D, my first reaction to your quoted sentence is: of course, global warming is NOT a crisis. I mean, nobody can seriously assert that the 0,75 K warming 1850-2005 (or, 1,7 mm/yr sea-level rise) lead to disasters, when compared to real disasters affecting humanity (wars, dictatorships, diseases, malnutrition, poverty, etc.).

    Most models tell us GW would be a crisis in BAU scenario. Your basic problem is to give credibility to such a putative threat, whereas most people reason with present evidences. These remarks are just a reflexion on the word “crisis” and its implication for popular psychology.

    Good luck.

    Post scriptum : In France, for example, the mean climatic difference between two departements (administrative areas) like Bouches-du-Rhone (South, mediterranean) and Aisne (North, semi-continental) is 3,5 K. Hard to believe for laymen that the Southern French already live in hell (while most people prefer warm South departements – Riviera – for holidays as well as retirement).

  31. Eli Rabett:

    Practice. Research your opponents past performances. Get people to play your opponents roles. You probably can use the C4 thing for text as a start. Look at video of the moderator to gauge his or her style. Find video and transcripts of Crichton, Lindzen and Stott. Be prepared for their pat answers.

    Go to the School of Journalism and have them video you during practice runs. Take advice on how to pitch and modulate your voice, hand motions, etc. Learn how to know where the camera is and talk to the camera. Plant someone in the audience with a small portable TV to point out to you where the camera is pointing if they hide it. Talk to Drew Shindell, he did very well at the House hearings.

  32. BarbieDoll Moment:

    …”The preliminary position statements (from me and from Philip Stott)
    are available on the ABCnews site.”…

    The gist of Stott’s argument is going to be a hard row to hoe and
    defend against, because Stott’s points are sadly, very real
    and very true.

    Global Warming Is Not a Crisis
    PHILIP STOTT March 9, 2007

    …”Herein lies the moral danger behind global warming hysteria. Each
    day, 20,000 people in the world die of waterborne diseases. Half a
    billion people go hungry. A child is orphaned by AIDS every seven
    seconds. This does not have to happen. We allow it while fretting about
    “saving the planet.” What is wrong with us that we downplay this human
    misery before our eyes and focus on events that will probably not
    happen even a hundred years hence? We know that the greatest cause of
    environmental degradation is poverty; on this, we can and must act.”…

    The best line of defense is to agree with his point that those are
    issues that need to be addressed, especially as adaptation methods for
    climate change will be both technologically and economically
    challenging to those very same countries; proving to be an additional
    and extra burden to their fledging attempts to become second and first
    world countries.

    What benefit, and to whom, at what cost, does it serve to ignore
    factors of climate change if one,instead, focused on those issues that
    Stott’s make?

    Additionally, until those parts of the world are under stable
    governments, the world wide financial aid that has been provided
    to them for the last thirty plus years, is not effecting much of a
    benefit to the direct residents of those countries.

    So I would bring up that additional point up as well. That those issues
    have been addressed for the last thirty years and xyz has resulted, or
    not, from such and such.

    The world bank essentially controls the loans provided to the third and
    second world countries have, which is why Bono lauds loan forgiveness
    DATA, Debt AIDS Trade Africa

    Furthermore, many of those countries who have received financial aid
    and or loans, have had their resources exploited by various outlets
    the people reaping any benefit.

    Not addressing climate changes will not change the reality of those
    things that Stott mentions, but will just prove an additional hole for
    those countries and residents to dig themselves out of.

    One would need to be almost an economist, or do a lot of research on
    the matter, to be able to defend against Stott’s arguments.

    Bono’s DATA website has a lot of information on the numbers.

    Personally, this appears to be a debate arranged to be against apples
    and oranges.

    Why one would subject themselves to a card game that has one with the
    hand of the veracity of the science of climate change versus world
    poverty and health versus the victim/no â??consensusâ?? and a pop culture
    author is beyond me.

    Now if you were debating the climate change scientific views against
    OTHER climate change scientific views, negative and positive
    perspectives of the science that underlies such, it would be a
    different story. However it seems someone put you into an
    orchestrated card game where it will be very difficult to just stay in
    the game.

    Yes, Lindzen’s name is listed, however he has made some of the very same
    points as Stott in relation to climate changes plus his big gun, the
    money spent on climate science, and of course he plays the victim card.

    All that said, the only way, I think one would be able to come out of
    this debate looking decent, is to be able to anticipate the points the
    will use in their arguments and to have prepared a counter to each
    point one would think the other players would make in the debate.

    And of course, to have at least unanticipated ace on your part to use
    against them that they won’t be expecting.

    This is a strategic debate, and one has to think and anticipate many steps ahead, as
    one does when they play cards or chess. One also has to decide whether
    to take the offensive road, and play an offensive strategy and to someone be in the position to get ones points out first; or to play
    a defensive strategy where one allows them to make their points and then
    one is always on the defensive against their points.

    I wish you the best of luck and strategy. And, personally, I would definitely
    ask each of them what makes them so imminently qualified to have the power endowed
    upon each of them to advise others on the mantra of doing nothing
    when the ante they are putting up,
    the earth and its six billion plus people and animals, isn’t theirs to speculate with or roll the dice on.

    Its everyones.

    Climate of Fear
    Global-warming alarmists intimidate dissenting scientists into silence

    April 12, 2006 OpinionJournal – Extra

    …”Yet how can a barely discernible, one-degree increase in the
    recorded global mean temperature since the late 19th century possibly
    gain public acceptance as the source of recent weather catastrophes?

    …” After all, who puts money into science–whether for AIDS, or
    space, or climate–where there is nothing really alarming? Indeed, the
    success of climate alarmism can be counted in the increased federal
    spending on climate research from a few hundred million dollars
    pre-1990 to $1.7 billion today. It can also be seen in heightened
    spending on solar, wind, hydrogen, ethanol and clean coal technologies,
    as well as on other energy-investment decisions.

    But there is a more sinister side to this feeding frenzy. Scientists
    who dissent from the alarmism have seen their grant funds disappear,
    their work derided, and themselves libeled as industry stooges,
    scientific hacks or worse. “…

    MIT’s inconvenient scientist
    Alex Beam, Globe Columnist August 30, 2006

    …”He’s smart. He’s an effective debater. No wonder the Steve
    Schneiders and Al Gores of the world don’t want you to hear from him.
    It’s easier to call someone a shill and accuse him of corruption than
    to debate him on the merits.”…

    …”“This is the criminalization of opposition to global warming,”
    says Lindzen, who adds he has never communicated with the auto
    companies involved in the lawsuit. Of course Lindzen isn’t a fake
    scientist, he’s an inconvenient scientist. No wonder you’re not
    supposed to listen to him.”

    The Stern Review: A Dual Critique

    Authorsâ?? Introduction
    Part I: The Science
    Robert M. Carter, C. R. de Freitas, Indur M. Goklany,
    David Holland & Richard S. Lindzen

    Part II: Economic Aspects
    Ian Byatt, Ian Castles, Indur M. Goklany, David Henderson,
    Nigel Lawson, Ross McKitrick, Julian Morris, Alan Peacock,
    Colin Robinson & Robert Skidelsky

    …”Each paper has its own list of authors. In relation to both
    scientific and economic issues, the authors question the accuracy and
    completeness of the Stern Reviewâ??s analysis and the objectivity of its
    treatment. They conclude that the Review fails to present an accurate
    picture of scientific understanding of climate change issues, and will
    reinforce ill-informed alarm about climate change. Two interrelated
    features of the Stern Review are that it greatly understates the extent
    of uncertainty as to possible developments, in highly complex systems
    that are not well understood, over a period of two centuries or more;
    and its treatment of sources and evidence is persistently selective and
    biased. These twin features have combined to make the Review a vehicle
    for speculative alarmism. In the judgement of the authors of the Dual
    Critique, the Stern Review mishandles data; gives too little attention
    to actual observation and evidence, as distinct from the results of
    model-based exercises; and takes no account of the failures of due
    disclosure, and the chronic limitations of peer reviewing, that have
    been characteristic of work relating to climate change which
    governments have commissioned and drawn on. As to specifically economic
    aspects, the authors note among other weaknesses that the Review
    systematically overstates projected costs of climate change, partly
    though by no means wholly as a result of its failure to acknowledge the
    scope for long-term adaptation to possible global warming;
    underestimates the likely costâ??including to the worldâ??s poorâ??of the
    drastic global mitigation programme that it calls for; and proposes
    worldwide adoption of a specially low rate of interest for discounting
    the costs and benefits of mitigation, on the basis of inadequate
    analysis and without regard for the problems and risks that would

  33. Rob Davis:

    I am a marketing and PR professional and yes, you are correct — participating in the debate validates the premise that the human of climate change is debatable. Your opponents need this kind of visibility and validation much more than you do! (e.g. Crichton’s writing isn’t exactly peer-reviewed.)

    And so, yes, your time would be better spent on other activities. NPR’s willing to host this — great, they’re interested in the topic, find a way to give it to them without your opponents getting equal or more air time. Blogging here at RC is great, but how about expanding the base — some guest blogging posts perhaps on other extremely popular blogs? Or starting a betting pool for RC readers — which Antarctic shelf will fall into the ocean next? (and when? this could generate some media coverage..)

    That said, don’t back out of the debate. However, push Crichton to identify the areas of his expertise and qualifications in those areas. Identify your opponents as the “Charton Hestons of oil” (you’ll get my SUV when you pry it from my cold, dead hand!” Ask them if they what they love about thousands of drowning polar bears–what do they have against polar bears? Bring some sample quotes from tobacco industry lobbyists of the 60s, 70s and 80s. The general public has a schema for the lying tobacco lobbyist–transfer that schema onto your opponents.

    Also, tell the audience a story. Why do you do what you do? Gore does a good job of this in AIT.

    By the way, you’ll get this advice and a whole lot more from reading “Made to Stick” by Chip and Dan Heath.

    I strongly recommend this book for all RC readers — it’s a well-researched & diligently end-noted general interest book along the lines of “The Tipping Point” but with more useful/actionable advice on how to communicate your ideas.

    Good luck.

  34. s.ball:

    The point is if they going to use parts and words/phrases out of the context to deliver their message. As in “swindle”. Or if you have the opportunity to clarify things and educate the public.

  35. Zeke Hausfather:

    Slightly off topic, whats up with the story slamming Gore’s movie in today’s Times? (link at

    Is Revkin on vacation this week? I’d really expect better from them than gems like:

    “The [IPCC] went further than ever before in saying that humans were the main cause of the globeâ��s warming since 1950, part of Mr. Gore’s message that few scientists dispute. But it also portrayed climate change as a slow-motion process.

    It estimated that the world’s seas in this century would rise a maximum of 23 inches – down from earlier estimates. Mr. Gore, citing no particular time frame, envisions rises of up to 20 feet and depicts parts of New York, Florida and other heavily populated areas as sinking beneath the waves, implying, at least visually, that inundation is imminent…

    So too, a report last June by the National Academies seemed to contradict Mr. Gore’s portrayal of recent temperatures as the highest in the past millennium. Instead, the report said, current highs appeared unrivaled since only 1600, the tail end of a temperature rise known as the medieval warm period.”

    They clearly ignore the fact that IPCC sea level projections explicitly excludes ice melt, and their interpretation of the NAS report is rather off the mark. How one could read the AR4 and get the impressions that “climate change as a slow-motion process” boggles the mind, unless one happens to only care about impacts that occur in a single generation…

  36. Ike Solem:

    I’ll second Rob Davis’s comments. It’s worth looking over that recent Larry King interview with Lindzen – Lindzen’s style is to attempt to go on the attack. Crichton’s style is that of the carnie operator. Philip Stott is smooth and suave, and will say things like climate is too complex to be understood, and that it was warm in the past. What they all have in common is that they’ll shy away from any real discussion of the science in favor of polemic-style debating.

    I’d say ignore them and just get the basic science out to the audience. If they try and bring up the medieval warm period, I’d suggest pointing out that it’s limited in extent and that it’s an example of how the climate is sensitive to various influences like volcanic inputs. It’s also sensitive to the atmospheric composition of gases, and humans have influenced that by burning fossil fuels for over a century. In other words, don’t talk to Lindzen, Stott and Crichton, but rather talk to the audience. I don’t expect that they’ll go for the honest debate approach.

    Topics they are likely to try and avoid: the warming at the poles and the retreat of glaciers all over the world. They’ll try and focus on small-scale examples that support their position while ignoring the big picture. They’ll also try and avoid a discussion of the basic physics of how CO2 and water vapor act as a blanket. Again, I’d say just roll right over them – dismiss their statements in one sentance and spend the next five sentance explaining the actual science to the audience.

    Anyhow, best of luck – I’m sure you’ll do a great job.

  37. Curt Schroeder:

    Science-based issues do need public exposure, but the proposed format and individuals for this debate lead me to believe that the real issues will not get the review they require. The moderator ought to be knowledgeable about the subject, if not a respected scientist. Involving the “average citizen” and young people will add value to the debate. This is not entertainment, but neither is this the end of the story.

  38. Wang Dang:

    Re #31

    Good idea Rob Davis, marketing and PR profesional. Thousands of drowning polar bears??? Crichton will point out the fact that polar bear populations have increased dramatically during the current warming period. That is why Gore’s movie shows a computer generated drowning polar bear and not a real drowning polar bear.

  39. BarbieDoll Moment:

    The online poll link at the site
    where the FOR (Global warming is not a crisis)
    outlead the Against ((Global warming is not a crisis) by a great margin.

    Global warming is not a crisis

    Speaking for the motion: Michael Crichton, Richard S. Lindzen, Philip Stott
    Speaking against the motion: Brenda Ekwurzel, Gavin Schmidt, Richard C.J. Somerville
    Moderator: Brian Lehrer

    Global warming is not a crisis
    This poll is not closed yet

    Votes Online Poll

    For 72.86 %

    Against 26.00 %

    Donâ??t Know 1.14 %

  40. cce:

    Make sure you have physical copies of all the most commonly distorted/cited articles and blog statements so you can quote them verbatim if they try to cite them out of context. i.e. take everything mentioned in “State of Fear” or in their op-ed pieces, all the Hockey Stick stuff and similar followup studies, Peiser’s differing methods and subsequent admissions, examples of his 34 abstracts, glacier retreat statistics (“some are advancing”), Greenland ice melt, Kilimanjaro, etc etc.

    Not to drag up old controversies, but I was at the library this weekend to pull Hansen’s oft cited June 1988 testimony (“300% wrong”). It was missing, so I pulled the November 1987 testimony instead, and lo and behold, it ALSO includes the chart and Hansen’s specific statements as to which he believed was most plausible (“B”). From what I can tell, the ’88 testimony didn’t make this clear (which is what I was trying to find out), but the ’87 testimony certainly did. I will have this prepared by tomorrow if you want me to email you a copy.

  41. Matthew Z. Davis:

    Listen to #6, #25, and #27. I’d be ready to fire back quickly and strongly at any bald assertions made by the opposition. You’ve done it a thousand times before here, but be ready to do it again, and be succinct too. Knock them down while the argument they’ve just made is fresh in the listeners head. If they use any rhetorical ‘tricks’ call them out on it.

    Also, cite papers briefly, if at all. The fact that evidence or work exists to back you up is infinitely more important than the actual authors name and date to the audience. ‘Verifiable’ is just as useful as a bibliographic citation, and much faster. You can always apologize to a colleague later.

    Last. While not always 100% accurate. A good, simple, well placed analogy or simile can be invaluable to describing complex arguments to a layperson. I’d make up a useful list ahead of time.

  42. Tosh:

    Gavin, bon chance!

    The risk in the debate is that they throw enough mud at sensitivities in forcings to say that given doubt/uncertainty about the level of warming, we should focus on issues such as debt relief/poverty/health etc (seems to be their position in the debate brief).

    I think the best way of rebutting this is a three fold strategy.

    First – get people thinking about what is acceptable risk? If someone has a 20% chance of losing their job, should they look at other options? If there is a 30% chance of a plane crashing, would someone fly? – make sure the scenarios hit home with everyday people.

    Second – link acceptable risk levels to climate risk and a reasonable % chance that under BAU we get crop failures, flooding, droughts etc. – link these outcomes to the same ones Stott and co are saying we need to combat (health/poverty etc)

    Third – point out that mitigating this risk can be done by reducing emissions with flow on benefits including improved air-quality, increased energy security, decreased geo-political risks and long run cost savings. Make it clear that current technologies can not only address climate issues, they can solve health issues, political issues, employment issues etc. I think it is important people understand that cleaner energy is great for the environment, but more directly, it will be great for them as individuals!

    I think it is really important to sell the benefits of clean energy beyond climate change. Climate change can be too abstract for people to grasp. A big point to hit on in the US would be enegry security and independance – even energy freedom.

    Lastly, they may try out the whole conspriacy theory debate. This is best done by highlighting, in detail the backgrounds and processes (that ensure due diligience) undertaken by researchers in this area. Reinforce the seriousness of the allegation of consipriacy and talk about what drives you, as a scientist to discover truth… as opposed to a fiction writer who is driven to create dramatic stories.

    Good luck,

  43. Vern Johnson:

    Medical metaphors may be much more effective as the general public is very sensitive to those. Such as: “First, do no harm”, the prime directive of the Hippocratic oath. Thus doctors, and in this case climate-doctors, must be able to anticipate possible factors that might harm their patient, which in this case, is the planet and all it’s inhabitants, human and otherwise. To conserve ie to protect against coastal erosion, is more than a little like advising a patient to wear sun-screen, or to reduce their intake of fat. That is you are looking ahead and you are in the business of prevention of harm, to the coral reefs, to the arctic ecosystem, etc. and to be a medical conservative is a good thing as a trusted MD should not be advocating untried or unproven remedies but give the patient good advice about what you have been trained to detect ie dangerous trends in eating behaviour or inhaling noxious vapors into one’s lungs. The planet, too has lungs, the atmosphere. The body needs clean potable water. Sealife also does not thrive and is unlikely to be able to adapt to increasingly acidic sea-water. There are close analogies with the human body and it’s health all the way down the line Gavin. Play on these easily understood truisms. Appeal to the medical common-sense of the audience. If one knows that a course of action, or of inaction, would be dangerous to one’s health, one does not blunder ahead, he plays it safe.If there is a choice, any sane person plays it safe and does not advocate taking a silly chance with the lives of himself or of his loved ones. Yes, an emergent course of emission-reduction strategies might indeed be ill-advised but we cannot afford to take that chance. If we err, we must err on the side of caution.This is where Crichton, et al wll not have an answer.Some treatments are very expensive but still vitally necessary.

  44. Edward Greisch:

    You need to start by explaining what Science is: “Nature isn’t just the final authority on truth, Nature is the Only authority. There are zero human authorities. Scientists do not vote on what is the truth. Nor do scientists conspire. There is only one vote and Nature owns it. We find out what Nature’s vote is by doing Scientific [public and replicable] experiments. Scientific [public and replicable] experiments are the only source of truth. [To be public, it has to be visible to other people in the room. What goes on inside one person’s head isn’t public unless it can be seen on an X-ray or another instrument.]
    Science is a simple faith in Scientific experiments and a simple absolute lack of faith in everything else.”
    You need to explain that “Adapt” means “Die”. In the drudge report, people keep saying really stupid things like “No problem, we will adapt”, not realizing that adaptation is 99.999+% death and extinction, and .001- % mutation.

  45. E.R. Beardsley:

    Does participating help perpetuate the idea that global warming per se is still up for debate? Yes.

    Is this kind of rhetorical jousting useful for clarifying issues of science that most people there will only superficially grasp? No.

    Can this be entertaining and educational? On FOX, perhaps… given their audience.

    Or does it just validate the least serious opposition? Yes.

    Is it simply a waste of time that would be better spent blogging? Yes.

  46. Patrick McKnight, J.D.:

    That you would be concerned about legitimizing an argument counter to your own shows that this debate is moving from science to crusade. A sound scientific theory will take on critics for 10,000 years, without fear, and without regard to who profers the criticism, for the true scientist is interested only in the truth, and that can only be derived by vigorous testing and debate. Ignore those passioned pleas about “our children.” A trial lawyer makes his story emotional in order to sell it because he cares only about winning. Show me that you care about the truth. Argue the facts and insist the other side do the same. And let the chips fall where they may.

    [Response: Arguing the facts is what I generally do. Insisting on the same from the other side is extremely unlikely to work. – gavin]

  47. PeteB:

    Hi gavin – go for it

    Eli says it all in #30

    Those three are all skilled communicators and rhetoricians who have honed their message in public, in front of audiences , cameras, etc.

    I would expect their side would ‘win’ the debate on the night, but it doesn’t matter. The audience will consist of people that have heard Crichton, Lindzen, and maybe Stott and either know its all rubbish, in which case hearing it again won’t make any difference, or people that have never heard the answers to their objections – if you get a few of these thinking, you will have done a good job.

    You could also look at this as a ‘practice run’ for a bigger event!

    I’m not sure what persona you project in front of an audience, but you come across on these forums as a honest scientist trying to inform people of the truth – if you can project that to an audience it will be a very powerful message (so probably not too sarky, etc)

  48. Fergus Brown:

    It’s hard to imagine this debate being a lot different to previous examples, so my suggestion would be to take the moral high ground right from the start. If we know of an ill and a prevention of that ill, yet refuse to act, we are culpable. Put them on the back foot; make clear statements and force them to respond to your assertions rather than the other way around; put them in the position of defending their (indefensible) position, rather than attacking yours. Confront the falsehood, not the person; ignore ad homs.

    My feeling is that you should aim for the most basic points and insist on agreement or denial: CO2 is a GHG; we produce CO2; ergo…
    I have long said that the general public (ijn my experience) struggles to understand science and struggles to accept the word of scientists, often doesn’t have enough basic knowledge to distinguish good science from bad, but does want to know what the facts are. We are often swayed more by clever rhetoric than good argument, because few of us can tell a logical fallacy from a fish.

    Set your stall out; let them try to knock it down; they can’t; they ‘lose’. If it goes the other way, you ‘lose’.

    I’m not sure why I’m teeling you how to suck an egg, but there you go, for what its worth.


  49. pete best:


    Having read the two outlying articles he seems to be suggesting that climate change is but one of many challenges facing humanity, however we failed to feed the world when climate change was not known about so his argument there is spurious at best.

    He is using sounds bites, non linear chaotic system to explain the climate, you could have him here as the non linear bit only comes into effect (tragically) once you push a system way beyond its equilibrium as we are starting to do.

    Just be careful and best of luck.

  50. Hank Roberts:

    Check whatever William Broad’s up to in today’s NYT; nothing there but a teaser:
    From a Rapt Audience, a Call to Cool the Hype
    Published: March 13, 2007
    Some scientists argue that a number of central points in Al Gore’s film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” are exaggerated and erroneous.

  51. Hank Roberts:

    P.S. — check if Broad’s talking about the movie, which is definitely outdated by now, or about the current slideshow, which one of the people here recently said is being kept up to date and has good cites. It’d be tempting to attack the old version instead of the current version, for those favoring the smoke and mirrors approach. (I mean the PR version, not the sulfates and orbiting reflector variety thereof.)

  52. Georg Hoffmann:

    Stott wrote in his statement:”Doubling CO2 is a convenient benchmark. It is claimed, on the basis of computer models, that this should lead to 1.1 – 6.4 C warming.” The IPCC gives 1.5-4.5 as the range for CO2 doubling (in equilibrium). Might be he is referring to transient response of all scenarios until 2100? If so you might ask him if he read the report.

  53. Adam:

    I notice that Stott’s positioning text ( does not deny man made global warming per se, it just says that it won’t be so bad (to paraphrase) and is small compared to the natural processes that do the same thing (SLR for example). You could start off by pointing out that he isn’t denying man made global warming and get the debate moved on straight away?

  54. Valuethinker:

    Much like the Saints of early Christianity, who ‘got the word out’ amongst the pagans, and risked life, torture and death to do so, so too will the message on global warming only get out if we engage in one to one combat with the sceptics.

    It’s a hard thing to understand, but this is about belief, in the minds of most of the human race. What is believed is determined by who triumphs, in a social and political sense.

    It’s not about what is ‘true’. Truth is socially constructed (primarily). Most people are not scientists, and large minorities (majorities) of people believe, for example, that heavier objects fall faster, or that Darwin was wrong.

    It’s about who gets the message out. Who alters the social consensus. If the social consensus is altered, then the political consensus will force change.

  55. teacher ocean:

    I think the title of the debate sets the tone:Global warming is not a crisis. Why not “Is global warming a crisis?” It seems like the undertone is already set; so I think the scientists need to be very vocal and confrontational at this debate. Good luck Gavin. I’m looking forward to the podcast.

  56. Dan:

    re: 44. Actually, it is the contrarians/denialists who have moved from science to a crusade/charade. The science behind global warming is strong and unquivocable. The research is published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. As opposed to the opinions of science-fiction writers, journalists and economists who somehow and arrogantly beleive they know more than literally thousands of climate science researchers across the world.

    And that is the “truth.” ;-)

  57. Dave Rado:

    And I think it’s important to push them on why they keep making statements to the public that they know to be wrong? Ask them why they want to mislead the public? Stott knows that vineyards are not a proxy for temperature and yet he spent nearly 10 minutes saying that they are in the C4 programme. That’s why I suggested earlier taking along proof that there are many more vineyards in Britain now than there were in the MWP and that there are even vineyards in Alaska today – the public must be made aware that these people are not potential Gallileos who are bucking the consensus, they are simply extremely dishonest people who have an axe to grind and will go to any lengths in order to grind it.

    Similarly the graphs of the MWP and LIA in northern Europe that they showed on C4, but pretended that they were global graphs; the Fritz Christianson graph which mysteriously stopped at 1980; their implied claim that global warming theory was devised in 1974 rather than in the early 19th century; and so on.


  58. pat neuman:


    You are welcome to use any figures and text from the links below.

    Snowmelt runoff, and flooding, is getting underway this week at river gages in Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota, including those gages used in the figures shown at the links below for beginning day in the year (1900-2006) of snowmelt runoff river flow (cfs-day).

    Spring floods on the Upper Mississippi River
    Sun Mar 11, 2007 10:13 AM CDT

    Earlier snowmelt runoff trend on the Red River
    Wed Mar 7, 2007 10:25 AM CST

    NOAA NWS disregards climate change in their Spring Hydrologic Outlooks
    Mar 9, 2007 7:37 AM CST

    Earlier in the Year Snowmelt Runoff and Increasing Dewpoints for Rivers in Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota Table 1 and Figure 1
    September 11, 2003

    Please let me know if you would like additional information or have any questions, at:

  59. Dave Rado:

    Lastly, they may try out the whole conspriacy theory debate. This is best done by highlighting, in detail the backgrounds and processes (that ensure due diligience) undertaken by researchers in this area. Reinforce the seriousness of the allegation of consipriacy and talk about what drives you, as a scientist to discover truth… as opposed to a fiction writer who is driven to create dramatic stories.

    I agree. And how research grant applications actually work, and the fact that scientists award most of them, rather than politicians, and the fact that they award them based on the quality of the science, and that if an applicant hyped up their hoped-for conclusions in a grant application that would count strongly against their chances of getting the grant. And challenge Stott to deny it’s true and if he does, to give some hard evidence.

  60. Neal J. King:


    – It’s important to “show the flag”: Even if you don’t blow them away rhethorically, it’s important to make sure that the audience doesn’t get the impression that their incorrect statements are uncontested. Ultimately, the real target of your talk is the audience: You will NEVER convince your opponents.

    – Most important: Don’t lose your cool. In a debate, whoever loses his cool has lost – no matter what the facts are, no matter which side has logic on its side.

  61. Mike:


    Patronising them would make you sound arrogant and could turn the audience against you.

    Nothing like using their own tables & figures against them. Ask them “Do you stand by your chart?” Then superimpose the accurate results. Explain how they distort, twist and never retract their assertions or apologise.

    Expect them to emphasise
    Uncertainties in the science.
    “Better” uses the money could be put to (sceptical economist).

    After all you have a wider view of things whereas all they’ll be pushing for all it’s worth is doubt here and uncertainty there. The phrase ‘more research is required’ can easily be twisted.


    Excellent that George Monbiot of the Guardian mentioned you and RealClimate today. Be good if a banner with the RealClimate logo was somewhere on screen and the programme finds its way onto Youtube.

    Pps – Wine in Northern England

    Spotted on website

    “it is York that was the surprise with the number of Vineyards in York increasing from 1 to 4.”

  62. Fredrik:

    What about trying to have a formal written internett debate with the sceptics? I think that would be better compared to a oral debate due to time constraints etc.

    The main problem is probably to get the sceptics to participate though.

  63. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Gavin, I wish you the best of luck, and I will be praying that you kick denialist butt when the debate actually takes place. My only bit of advice is — stay on the attack. Don’t let them force you to take valuable time explaining basic science unless it’s something that can be explained quickly and vividly. Stay on their mistakes, their misquotes, their ignoring important factors. And as they say in the Army — admit nothing, deny everything, make counter-accusations. :)

  64. Alan:

    The topic shows you have already made progress, “whether Global Warming is a crisis or not” implies an acceptance of serious problems from global warming, the debate question is really “how serious?”. :)

    “Crisis” is subjective and thus neither side can can obtain a definitive victory on the official question.

    Use as much time as you can explaining to the audience the “republic of science”, “the scientific method” (and how it is implemented) and “skepticisim” (ala: Sagan’s Demon haunted world). Let the audience decide if a collapsing food web is a crisis for mankind or a boon to soylent stockholders.

    If you can get the audience to understand the difference between a skeptic and a psuedo-skeptic you will win the day. Your opponents promote themselves as skeptics yet many people miss the fact that they do not practice what the preach. I’m guessing a skeptical look at their writings would provide enough rope to hang them from the nearest contradiction tree.

  65. Bob Arning:

    I have no significant connection with formal debates, but the question strikes me as quite vague. Are the participants to argue:
    – whether the climate is getting warmer
    – whether humans are a major reason
    – how much it will warm in the next 100 years
    – whether this constitutes a crisis

    It seems to me that the participants could easily end up arguing rather different points given the initial question. Any bets on who concentrates on which variant?

  66. hopp:

    “Does participating help perpetuate the idea that global warming per se is still up for debate?”

    Thought you were a scientist? Of course it’s still up for debate. On the other hand, whether we should seriously curbe our emissions following the crystal clear logic of the pre-cautionary principle, shouldn’t be up for much debate any longer. I think you should concentrate on that principle when talking to laypeople. It’s a principle anyone can understand. Like watching both ways before crossing the road. Your science doesn’t prove 100% that a truck is coming (so it’s upto debate) but the indications are strong, that one might actually be approaching… and fast.

    Remember that you have a stronger moral stance than your opponents. THis is why these discussions are important. You don’t need the 100% conviction, you don’t have to deny the debate still exists. You can talk of strong indications and strong moral principles in a language most people can relate. That way you will come across less elitist, less arrogant and more down to earth too. Just my opinion.

  67. ghost:

    I suppose we have a pretty good idea of how the opposition will roll, but a couple of thoughts come to mind. First, it seems to me that the title presupposes the existence of GW in the here and now. Second, it appears to me that the question isn’t about whether/how much of GW is AGW, but rather whether the existing state portends an intermediate-term irreversible escalation. I guess then comes the question of what such an escalation would mean. This is where things get murky for me–how exactly are the other sides’ people qualified to debate that? If they were to settle on a predicted path of disruption, how are they qualified to discourse on threats to biodiversity, increased warfare, refugee populations, desertification, economic disruption, marine food chain degradation, et al, or our technological ability to adapt to a low-C system? I can see MC’s putative ability to discuss the infectious disease impact, but even there I don’t see expertise in avian and insect vectoring. I am not intimately familiar with their overall attitudes, but my impression is that their worries are limited to direct impact on people in the West without regard to food production, disease, or the importance of preserving biodiversity.

    To me, that sort of synthetic view is the stuff of science fiction–‘we won’t worry about the systems needed to allow people to live in space; we’ll just cut to the chase for the bad guys.’ On the other hand, it’s a pathetic state of affairs if those three are the best the no risk/no crisis crowd can supply. I’d probably rather hear insurance executives talk about current planning to evaluate/manage the risk than listen to the scifi brigade’s inability to connect the slo-mo pulling of a grenade pin with the urgent need to exit the scene. It doesn’t give me much comfort that the bulk of the needed audience is more concerned with the NCAA tournament than with climate change, despite the fact that GW likely would impact such sport activities in the future. The scenario reminds me of a fictional story about a lab accident. Upon smelling the aroma of almonds in the chemistry lab, visiting laymen think “great, someone brought party snacks–where’s the beer?,” while the chemists are moving for the exits faster than they ever moved before. Good luck, Obi Wan, er Gavin.

  68. Lawrence McLean:

    The debate is more than a science discussion, it is more like a battle.

    To win a battle you need to understand your enemy, how they think. I suggest three works that may help: “Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us” by Robert D. Hare, “The Mask of Sanity” by Hervey M. Cleckley, and, “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu

    I do not believe we have the luxury of winning the war without the battle.

    Good luck!

  69. Lou Grinzo:

    One of the nastiest things your opponents are likely to do can also be one of the easiest to turn against them. I’m talking about the, “Gee, all this climate stuff is hard to understand” hand-waving. If they do that you have a perfect response that makes them look like they’re talking down to the listeners: “Yes, it is hard, which is why I’m glad people are smart enough to understand it with just a little work. And it helps that we have a lot of highly trained professionals plus the Internet, including, to help people with that educational process.”

    I’m delighted that you’re doing this debate/discussion. Yes, you’re giving the other side legitimacy just by showing up, but you’re also taking a huge step toward injecting real science into the mainstream discussion of this critically important topic.

  70. Diogenes:

    Global warming deniers are much more likely to have a background in the mathematical sciences than those warning about the dangers of global warming.

    Is that because it is much harder for those who understand the mathematics behind the data to misinterpret the facts in their favor?

  71. Terry Miesle:

    I’ve heard the Galileo analogy before, and it’s a false one. Remember, Galileo was correct, he was fighting a power structure bent on preserving their power. The church knew Galileo was correct, they just hadn’t figured out how to preserve their position in light of the new view of the universe. In short, they were fighting a battle of self-preservation.

    In the denialist model, they’re Galileo trying to buck the system.

    The real analogy holds when you consider the oil and political industries as the power-holders who need to preserve their economic and political dominance. The neo-Galileos are those trying to point out the problem with the current system, not those who agree with it.

  72. Fergus Brown:

    Looking again at the brief, if I was Stott/Crighton, I’d probably be tempted to go for the definitional approach: rather than argue the science: let’s argue the concept of ‘crisis’; how can something that might not have a substantial impact over most of the world in 50 years be described as a ‘crisis’?

    My guess is that they’ll also attack ‘sensationalism’, so get your cricism of that in first. They may also try to confuse climate science with environmental extremism. They have several ready strategies.

  73. macles:

    Gavin. I saw you somewhere on the news, so I assume it must have been CNN, being interviewed. You were appalling. Sorry, but you rambled, and failed to make any intelligible responses to the questions. The reason I think was that you were terribly nervous, and had no idea at what level to pitch your responses. You are at NASA. Do you teach classes? I don’t mean 3 student graduate seminars either, I mean intro-science, 300 non-science majors in the auditorium waiting to be ‘entertained’? That’s where you sharpen scientific communication skills for interfacing with the public. You don’t appear to have them (in debate, your written contributions are generally fine). Sharpen up fast or you will end up eaten alive, especially by a very well-informed gadfly like Lindzen.

  74. Herb:

    If your opponent says the climate record shows X and you say it doesn’t, the audience probably won’t go and look up the point later. But it only takes a second for your opponents to make some crappy scientific claim, while it could take you several minutes to refute it. I would consider being as non-techincal and brief as possible on science points – appeal to authority.

    my $0.02

  75. Eli Rabett:

    Expand the debate by using Real Climate, as in we will be placing more information on this on our web site, Real Climate, etc and we hope others read and link to it.

    Then, of course, you could always close with something like, as Bill O’Reilly says: “The world is getting warmer…So that’s true, so everyone agrees on that unless you are a crank or a nut.”

  76. Eli Rabett:

    Diogenes needs a match for his lantern. Please light the poor fellow up.

  77. Max:

    If a different question, do we really have global warming, or do we have an unprecedent climate change-rate? I wonder, if we have global warming than cooling does contradict the theory, but if we have climate change-rate-increase, than cooling and warming in different places fits into this? It would be nice to finally have some clear and sharp definitions, otherwise perfectionist engineers like myself abandon the whole theory, because it has nothing to do with a scientific debate, but more with an orwellian political discussion…

  78. Naz:

    there is evidence that shows that CO2 emmisions are not the only cause of climate change. But simply the world has ignore that the animals are causing most of the climate change. the cows with their menoure the nitrogen oxiode. i am not an expert in this but the government are totally going the wrong way about it. It seems more like its a money making scheme for them and not helping the earth. There has also been research found that in medieval times the weather was like this and hey they did not have cars.I would like a more in depth research done into the climate change because i do not like it. The hot weather gives me rashes and heat wave. and have you seen the trees in the UK its spring and they have no leaves.the whole world is not willing to give up there luxuries. Money is more important but for me life is more important. The world seems more likely to end with another world war or maybe a meterorite.

  79. NU:


    I’d advise you to take some lessons from the evolution-creationist debates. They are very hard to “win”, basically because skeptics can generate plausible-sounding pseudoarguments at a much greater rate than such arguments can be convincingly rebutted, and in general such debates are not a good method for trying to communicate complex but necessary points.

    You may want to read these two essays for some advice that may translate into general public debate.

  80. Ray Ladbury:

    Gavin, the challenge you have is that you have is that you are addressing three very different types of denier. Lindzen is a pure contrarian who actually likes being in the minority since it gives him more limelight. He does at least understand the science, though. I’m not as familiar with Stott, although it would appear from his opening statement that his grasp is tenuous. He seems to rely on proof by blatant assertion. Crichton is a pure anti-science agoraphobe. He does not seem to understand or trust inductive reasoning. In my opinion, the most dangerous thing about him is that he has renewed Paul Feyerabend’s attacks on the concept of scientific consensus–in my opinion, one of the most powerful and necessary aspects of modern science. It may be worth your while if you get a chance to outline exactly what is meant by scientific consensus. And if he insinuates that scientists are only in it for the grant money, you should let him have it both barrels. Scientists are still held in high esteem by the public, and you could probably discredit him significantly if you catch him impugning the integrity of scientists and of science in general. Nobody deserves it more.
    Two, things I would emphasize: 1)We cannot predict with certainty what the effects of climate change would be, since climate is chaotic. However, far from being a comfort, this should give us a cold chill. An unquantifiable risk is the scariest thing you can have to deal with.
    2)The past 10000 years of so have been a time of exceptional climatic stability in Earth’s history. This period coincides with the development of all of the infrastructure of human civilization. It is reasonable to assume that significant unpredictability in climate would adversely affect that infrastructure.

    Finally, two points specific to Stott’s “everything will be fine” statement. First, malaria was not endemic to Michigan (or to DC, for that matter). It was seasonal–dying back in the winter and advancing in the spring. If we lose the winter entirely, it may well become endemic. Second, re: his argument that addressing climate change will keep us from addressing issues of poverty and disease in the developing world. It’s not as if we’ve concerned ourselves with such humanitarian pursuits to date. Moreover, since this is a global crisis and since literally billions of people will be using more and more energy in the future, solving the problems of development and climate change are inseparable issues.

  81. Craig Allen:

    I think you need to explicitly make the point that the format of the debate gives a very false impression of the weight of opinion, and back this up with an estimate of numbers on the scientists who represent the consensus (and the number of papers published) versus the number of denialists with any kind of climatology research credibility.

    When they bring up yet another tired old discredited argument, point out that it is yet another tired old discredited argument – and then patiently explain when and why it was rejected in the first place. By repeatedly pointing this out and expressing your astonishment that they continue to present ideas that have been clearly discredited in the climatology community for years you’ll bring the audience to an awareness of the painful pattern of deceptive argument that these guys use.

    It would be worth stating the current consensus about the likelihood there is a real and urgent problem, and then asking them how certain they believe we need actually need to to be before we act.

    Good luck!

  82. tom:

    Craig, frankly, your arguments do not sit well with me.
    I am quite aware that this “consensus” largely represents an echo chamber where scientists of the same POLITICAL bent tell each other how right each other are.
    Failure to own up to that is the fatal flaw in the larmist camp.

    If you guys each tore into other’s research with the same vigor you tore into the ‘” global warming swindle’ piece, we’d certainly be seeing a whole lot less ‘ consensus, wouldn’t we?

    [Response:Like the ‘Global Dimming’ documentary maybe? or the hype surrounding the Bryden paper? I know it is difficult for some to believe but we really are trying to be objective. -gavin]

  83. Ray Ladbury:

    Re 70. Diogenes. I can only hope that you have the ability to appreciate the delicious irony in your choice of screen names. Since when are physics, climate modeling, atmospheric science, oceanography… not “mathematical sciences”. The mathematics the deniers seem to be most familiar with seems to be confined to the imaginary axis.

  84. Thom:

    If you look back in the tobacco documents, you’ll find that setting up public debates between respected scientists and industry shills was part of their strategy.

    These debates would normally be moderated by a respected journalist or someone to that effect. And they would attempt to ensure that it was very high profile and got great media coverage. One of the things that tobacco wanted to ensure was that people did not point out that their bought scientists were not seen as bought scientists.

    Thus the need for an objective public forum for them to air their views.

    So this is nothing new.

  85. Mitch Golden:

    I for one think this is a mistake – for the same reasons Thom above. This is the usual sort of “false balance” one gets in the media. Three of you vs three of them – sounds like the issue is still contentious among scientists.

  86. tom:


    Maybe you are, personally. I will take you word on face value as I don’t know you.

    But this has been my observation.

    I first found this out in the exercise science field, and I see the exact same similarities here.

    Climate scientists eventually put themsleves in one camp or another. Once in that camp, your reputation is at stake.
    It then becomes a case where you seek out and become more easily accepting of information that supports your views and highly skeptical of contrarian data. This is human nature, we all do it to a degree, but I find it more pronounced when on this particular subject.

    After all, reputations are at stake. If you spent a good part of your career supporting a certain, and then changed it, how would that look?

    [That’s rhetorical question, as I would see that as a person making a logical decision]

  87. Ray Ladbury:

    Re:82. Tom, I think your aspersions of the consensus being the product of a political echo chamber are unfair and actually reflect poorly on your own understanding of how science is done. Just last week, some of us tore into each other pretty hard on the issue of nuclear power–an indication that we are hardly all cut from the same political cloth. You have pro-market, pro-nuclear, libertarian-left types like myself, and I find that there are folks both to the right and to the left. What we have in common is that we have decided to take seriously our duty as scientists to look at the evidence, and our duty as citizens to alert decision makers when the evidence reveals a threat.

  88. Rob Davis:

    Wang, thanks for debunking (#38) the extensive polar bear research credentials I had claimed. Gavin – what’s going on with the polar bear population?

    Back in 2003, Dr. Andrew Derocher said “as the sea ice disappears, so will the polar bears.” But then there’s the recent survey I hadn’t been aware of, showing an increase in bears at the Davis Strait.

    Is it possible for the overall bear population to be in decline, while a regional population (the Davis Strait) grows?

  89. Pedrolito:

    Hi Gavin,

    For years I have been trying to identify the causes of weather changes.

    Two mainstream theories kept opposing : the man induced weather change VS the “universe” induced weather change.

    Both theories seems to propose some very valid points.

    Recently I stumbled on this article, where for the first time I read that those two kinds of factors (human induced and “universe” induced factors) might co-exist and explain the current weather changes.

    For more information you can have a look a this above mentioned article, that is entitled ” Fire and Ice, the Day after Tomorrow”.

  90. Ron Taylor:

    I sense that this may be part of a search for a “middle ground” on climate change, which seems to be a developing trend. (See, e.g., William Broad’s piece in the NYT Science Times today.) That has the danger of lulling the public right back asleep.

    The most important thing to communicate is the high degree of confidence that this is indeed a crisis, but one that will develop slowly. Only the severity of the crisis remains in question, to be determined by how we respond. Also, the basis for this confidence is the high level of understanding of the radiation physics involved. (Force them to challenge the AGW analysis itself, not just the result.)

    By the way, the criticisms of “An Incovenient Truth” in Broad’s article can easily be answered. I hope someone from RC will do that, since the Times has such wide-ranging influence.

  91. Lloyd Flack:

    The evidence that audience will understand most easily is the fingerprint of the recent temperature changes. The cooling of the Stratosphere and the fact that nights, winters and the polar regions are warming more rapidly than days, summers and the tropics. Solar variation can’t explain this. Greenhouse gases can.

    The other main argument that I think you should use is the fact that Global warming is what we would expect to happen if large amounts of greenhouse gases are introduced and nothing happens that would reduce their effect. Use crude first approximations to what is happening. You can show that doubling CO2 by itself should lead to a temperature increase of about 1°C. Have a slide giving a very brief mathematical justification for this. It will come over well if you can show that a first approximation to the direct effect of greenhouse gases does not require an elaborate model but can be derived by a argument only a few lines long. Just have it there on a piece of paper or on a slide. Let people know that you have it, you won’t have the time to go into details but if they challenge it they could get themselves into knots. And while water vapor increasing with temperature to keep relative humidity roughly constant is an outcome of the models it is also an intuitively plausible result. The direct effect of greenhouse gases is enough to get the lower end of the sensitivity estimates even without cloud or circulation change feedbacks. It is these feedbacks that are hard to model. Even without them to have a temperature rise that we can neglect we need large negative feedbacks. Your opponents have to demonstrate the existence of such feedbacks. They can’t.

    I think you have to aim your arguments at those opponents that are willing to listen and change their minds and those people who have not made up their minds. To do this you have to identify these groups and argue in a way that gets their attention. You have to ignore people who are already on your side. If you seek their approval you could alienate the rational doubters.

    You have some opponents that you will not be able to convince because they will let political ideology trump science. They find the political consequences of attempts to mitigate climate change unacceptable. They will simply look for reasons to believe that we are not affecting the climate and hence don’t have to do anything about it.

    You have to reach people who may share your opponents politics but won’t let politics trump science. People who can be convinced that steps to mitigate Global warming are necessary even though they don’t like it and don’t like the more zealous environmentalists. Forget the precautionary principle. That will go over like a lead balloon. You are trying to convince those people who are prepared to make rational risk calculations and they will see the precautionary principle too cautious. Rather, point out that business as usual is gambling. If Global warming is a serious problem than the cost of doing nothing will be fare greater than the cost of precautions. And the chance of Global warming not being a serious problem is small.

    There are quite a few people who are skeptical because they ave heard a lot of things which aren’t true. Global warming on Mars, volcanoes put out more CO2 than industry etc. Win over the people who have only heard these myths but not their refutations.

  92. Ed:


    Looking forward to the broadcast and podcast (please post the link when/if it’s available). Good luck – I’m just an “ordinary” person who simply wants to learn as much as I can on this issue.

    You and all those contributing to this site provide an excellent source of information on this issue. There is a lot of “noise” out there, largely polticial, so the discussions and information provided here helps clear the “clutter”.

    To fellow San Francisco denizens:
    Airs on KQED FM 88.5 in San Francisco on Wednesday, March 28th at 8:00 PM

    Thank you.

  93. Jason Parker:

    I would be prepared for the “heart-strings” rhetoric that states that environmentalists are alarmists who distract the world from real problems of poverty and hunger. This disingenuous rhetoric is meant to stymie efforts to educate the public at-large about a serious problem – and is employed every time the groups in support of a status quo attempt to redirect fact by creating suspicion and feeding cynicism. They will state that poverty and hunger are caused by an inefficient energy system and that environmentalists are earth-centric and people-haters. You must be aware of this argument and counter it if you are to get your message to the layperson who needs factual information for understanding and decision-making (in consumption and at the electoral polls).

    One strategy to counter this argument is that poverty and disease are political problems (people will understand that given the enormous cynicism towards the US government) and not problems of food production. In fact, one could make the case that oversupply by some nations may lead to poverty in others exactly because of politics of distribution. Overproduction has led to the current crisis as well – more consumers and fewer producers lead to the disconnection between humans and ecological understanding.

    The downside of this strategy is that the dogma and propaganda of Western agricultural agencies, and governments in general, has been fed to people for decades leading them to believe that our production methods are “feeding the world”.

    One last note – Scott completely misses the social and ecological problems of the “green revolution” as he asserts the huge increases in food production brought on in the last century – the green revolution has led, in many areas, to increased poverty through increased participation at the local level in commodity cropping and export driven economies.

  94. Jeff DeLaune:

    I tried submitting this once before but I don’t know if it went through.

    I’m no expert, but taking assuming that this is a debate you can structure your thinking around the traditional strategies of ‘proving the positive’, or ‘disproving the negative’. Naturally they’ll do the opposite. You’ll have the weight of evidence, training, experience, and consensus on your side. They’ll have opinion, slander, cherry-picked data, and conservative rhetoric on their side. Their tactic will be the traditional one of putting you immediately on the defensive trying to use science-speak to refute their sound-bite.

    Naturally some lines of debate on the ‘proving the positive side’ is the scientific evidence, the climate models, the consensus, and the lack of alternative theories.

    On the ‘disproving the negative side’ is the lack of peer-reviewed science, the potential agendas of the individual skeptics and their funders, the lack of credentials by most skeptics (do you want a politician or political pundit telling you the pain in your side is nothing to worry about), and the over-arching strategy of trivializing their argument – their argument has no merit, these people have no credibility, the science has been decided and all scientists are doing now is refining it.

    I hope this helps.

  95. Terry Miesle:


    There’s the key question, Tom.
    What would it take for anyone to abandon their personal view? That can be a direct question – as in the Evolution Debate. What would it take for a fundamental Creationist to abandon that view? If the answer is no argument would sway them, then it’s religion. No argument or data can change that opinion.

    If the answer is, essentially, data and results which directly and overwhealmingly refute the held theory, that’s science. To rely on specious arguments, outright lies and data manipulation as has been done thus far in the climate denialist camp will not sway science. These arguments will not be published in scientific journals because they don’t claim to prove anything, merely cast doubt.

    The analogies to the tobacco and creation campaigns are apt. These are lawyer arguments (frequently written by lawyers like Johnson’s Darwin on Trial) and make no effort to address the underlying science.

    The only way to refute such arguments is piece-by-piece. Unfortunately, the same arguments will be used repeatedly with no acknowledgment of criticism or refutation. This is because, as I said, they’re not trying to prove anything so don’t have to make any assertions, they merely cast doubt. In a court of law, that is enough. In science, you have to explain your observations and publish them so they can be viewed and reviewed.

    These sorts of media “debates” are rarely true debates. This is not typically an arena well-suited to scientific discussion. It can be turned against the lawyer-style arguments by using their own means, but that does take practice and presentation. The true scientific debates take place in journals, at conferences and in letters and replies to papers. There is vigorous debate at this level, with models and observations held to peer review and discussion. That this interaction is not seen on the evening news or “talking head” shows is not the fault of the scientific community.

    The panel can hold Chrichton, Stott and Lintzen accountable for their mis-statements. Confront them where they outright lied or misled their audiences and perhaps even ask why they continued to use debunked arguments. Certainly, if one tries to publish a paper using disproven or outdated theories one should expect a rather harsh treatment from reviewers and certainly would need to fully explain why they’re doing so. If these three individuals want to wade into the pool, they should be expected to dive into the deep end, not just splash water on the sunbathers…

  96. Diogenes:

    [Since when are physics, climate modeling, atmospheric science, oceanography… not “mathematical sciences”.]

    To be a mathematical science, you need equations that can predict things to [more or less] 100% accuracy. Physics is a mathematical science. Few physicists believe that carbon dioxide is a major cause of warming.

    Climate modeling? The best they can model next month’s weather is to say it will be a lot like the same month last year. How can they predict the weather 100 years from now.

    Long range climate modeling isn’t a mathematical science. It isn’t any kind of science. It’s a confidence game.

  97. Ray Ladbury:

    Re 86: Once again, your arguments reflect a misunderstanding of science. By all means, one’s choices reflect one’s judgement, but that is not an argument for rigidity, but rather for carefully weighing the evidence BEFORE deciding which “camp” to join. How is this any different than deciding to believe in relativity or quantum mechanics or plate tectonics?
    Indeed if the evidentiary situation changes and you rigidly cling to your old views, your reputation will suffer more than if you change your position. This is not a US presidential election where “flip-flopping” is grounds for qualification. It is science, where the goal is to arrive at the best approximation of the truth we can given the available evidence.

  98. Ray Ladbury:

    Good God, Diogenes, do you just make this stuff up as you go along? How about this:
    Oh, since you seem to be unfamiliar with physics and physicists, AIP is an umbrella organization of physics professional societies. Just try and find more than a handful of physicists who don’t think we’re influencing climate. And while you’re at it, learn the difference between climate and weather.

  99. Ron Taylor:

    Re 96

    You seem to be saying that the only real science is in situations that can be described by mathematical equations having closed form solutions. That is utter nonsense. The step-wise solutions of the differential equations in the climate models is quite similar to the approach used to aerodynamically design aircraft or send probes to Mars. Only the simplest of problems could be described as “scientific” under your understanding.

  100. David donovan:

    Re 96

    You state..
    “Few physicists believe that carbon dioxide is a major cause of warming.’

    Hmm…news to me (being a physicist myself) and the many members of the American Institute of Physics (see ) for starters.

    BTW. Weather and climate are not quite the same thing…you’ll have to do better than that (see

  101. Dan:

    re: 98, 99, 100. It will be interesting to see if he/she recognizes that he/she is fundamentally wrong, can admit it, and learn. Or if he/she just goes with the preconceived, close-minded ideas. The former simply does not know and is willing to learn. The later is simply arrogant and following an agenda.

  102. Doc Jenes:

    My last 6 posts have not gotten through.

    Someone does not like me.

  103. Dan:

    re: 98, 99, 100. It will be interesting to see if he/she recognizes that he/she is fundamentally wrong, can admit it, and learn. Or if he/she just goes with the preconceived, close-minded ideas. The former simply does not know and is willing to learn. The later is simply arrogant and following an agenda.

  104. Dan:

    re: 102. Keep trying. There appears to be a software/server glitch, based on the error message that appears.

  105. Doe Janus:

    Sometimes the majority is wrong.

    Swine flu, SARS.
    Y2K. lacrosse case.

    All immediately obvious hoaxes, if you were not blinded by orthodoxy.

  106. Rod B:

    A minor nuance that might be helpful. You should be careful with the “consensus” point. It works well as a quick, succinct (even if superficial) soundbite. OTOH, the common but incorrect definition is “near-unanimous” or even unanimous (which BTW is implied by proponents). If you claim “consensus” it might be viewed as prima facie wrong since the stage will be 50/50, and this could affect your credibility. I don’t know which to recommend, but it deserves some thought — it’s kind of a crapshoot.

    I would also be cautious with the more rabid or the more detailed suggestions offered. Granted they’re from your ardent well-intentioned supporters, but sometimes they work very badly in the types of forum your headed for. The quarterback wants all the supportive zealous fans possible in the stands. But he sure does not let them call the plays.

    Though I’m one of the “bad guys”, I mean this as a sincere help.

  107. David donovan:

    Re 96

    You state..
    “Few physicists believe that carbon dioxide is a major cause of warming.’

    Hmm…news to me (being a physicist myself) and the many members of the American Institute of Physics (see ) for starters.

    BTW. Weather and climate are not quite the same thing…you’ll have to do better than that (see

  108. TJH:

    Wow, from 8 comments to 105 in 20 minutes. Hope what I say is useful…

    I don’t think it’s a mistake, unless you get railroaded while you’re up there. Who is moderating?

    You guys have to understand that what you’ve studied, and what we hear on the other side are too different things. Well, maybe not different, but the basic argument is buried. The media gives everyone the impression that every interesting suggestion is a calamity that is surely going to happen. It doesn’t help matters when a member of the AGC camp comes along later, and says, “well, that’s a little extreme.” Even if he gives another scenario, it tends to give the impression that the whole thing has been debunked.

    It’s how science happens, but in a political arena, if you change the facts in mid-stream, even if it’s not the actual meat of the argument, it tends to hurt credibility. Then there’s repetition. That’s why things like UHI, the “hockey stick” data, solar forcings, and the like persist. No one brings up the peer-review.

    I’m uncertain about the use of the term “crisis”, but I guess it’s too late for that, now that ABC has your summary. Whether or not you think it’s true, it kind of jives with the “alarmist” label. Political points scored, even if it’s ad hominem and irrelevant to the discussion.

    I would condense it down to the fundamentals to start: We are in the midst of a sharp rise in global temperatures. No historical record shows a like phenomenon. Even if it did, process of elimination has led to GHGs as the only likely culprit for the current trend. (History shows a feedback relationship between GHGs and temperature. This is supported by all the proxy data, and it doesn’t matter if temperature leads or follows.) The rise of GHGs follows human activity, and we’re currently dumping 6 gigatons (?) a year into the atmosphere. So far all competing hypotheses have been entertained, but no other explanation has held up to scientific scrutiny. If one were to attack the anthropogenic climate change theory at this point, he would have to successfully dispute all the proxy data, come up with another mechanism to explain global warming (it can’t be one that already choked under peer review), and come up with a hypothesis for where 4.5 GT of anthropogenic CO2 could go, after 1.5 GT are absorbed by the world’s largest CO2 sponge.

    Crichton’s been running around saying “consensus means no science”, so I think it would be helpful to point out that an agreement from the results of experiments is perfectly acceptable science. (The consensus argument is working because it is shifting the focus from the data to the people.)

    If a much-maligned right-winger like me can understand this, then so can anyone else. Please do not neglect to mention this site, it’s difficult to find. In fact, I only found it because I thought Carl Wunsch was an interesting guy after having watched the “Swindle” program, so I googled him and found this site.

    Are you going to discuss mitigation? People are running around demanding that we reduce our CO2 emissions by 90% immediately. I’m interested to know how that’s done without going back to the mid-19th century.

    p.s. Good luck. Any chance it will be on the web, for those of us who no longer watch the boob tube?

    p.p.p.s. Sorry to mods if I multi-post this, but I’m getting a lot of database connection errors on your site today.

  109. Dan:

    re: 105. Utterly irrelevant. Look at the climate data. Read the IPCC. Understand the science and the process. Do not go with preconceived notions, put your head in the sand or not beleive others simply because you do not like what the science tells you. That is not how science works. It is not a popularity contest. The data are non-political.

  110. David donovan:

    Re 105.

    You might consider why Y2K and SARS did not turn out to be real big deals. Might it have something to do with the fact that effort went into insuring they did not get out of hand ? (lots of code audits and recoding in the Y2K case and travel and hospital quarantine and medical detective work in the case of SARS).

  111. Di Oja Nee:

    [Look at the climate data. Read the IPCC. Understand the science and the process. Do not go with preconceived notions, put your head in the sand or not beleive others simply because you do not like what the science tells you. That is not how science works. It is not a popularity contest. The data are non-political.]

    Data don’t lie. But liars use data.

    You’re talking to a mathematician. I know all about massaging data to get whatever results you want.

  112. AdrianJC:

    Hopefully climate scientists realise that TV debates follow a completely different set of rules than do blogs or peer review. The perceived winner is often determined by body language and verbal dominance than anything else. For example, consider this video analysis of a FoxNews clip. Even though one cannot fault anything the interviewee says, it is the interviewer who comes out on top based on intimidative behaviour alone.

  113. Beth:

    Good luck. I found that the sceptics try to blind the public with science and undermine the validity of the most simple principles that are understood by the initiated, but not those who are not. You’ve seen their ideas. Go in prepared to let people know that thousands of studies across the world show supported facts that debunk the ones that the sceptics will bring with them.

    Keep to facts to support opinion, not the other way around. Show misuse of models. Highlight manipulation of information. Explain that they are devaluing and discrediting studies by people far and wide with years of expertise and experience.

    Let the public know that we are already seeing positive results, reduced emissions and happier people in areas where sustainable development and renewable energy have been established. Let the public know that the sceptics’ ideas that we are in a normal set of events with no consequences are wonderfully wistful scenarios, but socially irresponsible.

    Maybe this scenario is true for them, for they may not live long enough to see consequences, however, every person with children watching the programme had better be aware that their children need to be equipped and prepared to meet a vastly different future to our present. It is time to change the old BAU worldview diaper.

  114. Rick:


    Remember its the audience that is most important – you want them to make up their mind, you’ll not convert your opponents.

    So keep it simple for us normal people! You may not be able to win all the arguments, but at the end of the day we have to decide who we will believe, without understanding all the scientific arguments.


  115. Ray Ladbury:

    Re 105. We’re not talking “majority voting” here. We’re talking scientific consensus, which can be viewed as what the vast majority (not 50% +1) can agree is supported by the evidence. Yes the majority can be wrong. But scientific consensus is very rarely wrong and even more rarely wrong for very long. The consensus for anthropogenic causation of climate change has held up and indeed strengthened for a decade and a half.

    Diogenes/Doe Janus/Di Oja Nee/ said, “You’re talking to a mathematician. I know all about massaging data to get whatever results you want.”

    Well, as scientists, we don’t get paid to lie, but rather to tell the truth. It takes only a mediocre mind to lie with statistics, but a skilled one to use them to tell the truth.

  116. Deja Vu:

    [You might consider why Y2K and SARS did not turn out to be real big deals. Might it have something to do with the fact that effort went into insuring they did not get out of hand ? (lots of code audits and recoding in the Y2K case and travel and hospital quarantine and medical detective work in the case of SARS).]

    Y2K was not a problem in any country, no matter how little the country did about it. In fact, more problems were probably caused by bad attempts to “solve” the problem than were solved.

    SARS was a made-up disease. 10,000 times as many people die of influenza as supposedly died from SARS. Why isn’t more done about them? Because we don’t know how to.

  117. David donovan:


    I do not know if this tactic would work or not but you may consider it.

    You may try fighting fire with fire and take the fight to them.

    Make the point that the “skeptics’ are really clutching at straws. They are desperate to blame anything but CO2. They can not explain why adding CO2 will not result in warming (Lindzen’s iris theory has no observational support). None of the “its the sun’ or “cosmic” ray stuff stands up to the light of day and even if there was something to it, it still does nothing to stop GHG from having a warming effect. Also make strongly make the point that the greenhouse effect is basic physics and when combined with other factors (solar, aerosol, etc..) does a very good job in matching the 20th century climate. No other skeptic framework even comes close !

  118. Tom Boucher:

    Of course you should participate. The debate over the “global warming” hypothesis is ongoing – if the science is as settled and solid as is said by some, there should be little trouble in making this point.

    Here’s a hint: try to avoid name-calling, which people are beginning to notice is much of what “global warming” proponents have to answer those who question their theories.

  119. Eli Rabett:

    Mthematicians don’t have data, they have assumptions.

  120. Dave Rado:

    People are running around demanding that we reduce our CO2 emissions by 90% immediately.

    No serious commentators are. The most ambitious target announced by any policy makers is Britain’s 60% target cut in the UK’s carbon emissions by 2050, compared to 1990 levels ( That’s very different from a 90% immediate cut. With real politcal will, 60% by 2050 is quite likely to be achievable without seriously reducing economic growth, but the problem is that for the most part there is no real political will currently.

  121. Dan:

    re: 111. “You’re talking to a mathematician. I know all about massaging data to get whatever results you want.”

    Thank you for stating that you have no background in climate science. That speaks volumes. It is the absolute height of arrogance that any layman thinks they know more or something else that literally thousands of climate scientists (many of whom are also mathematicians) around the world have studied extensively. And who have published their results for peer-review.

    And you are talking to a meteorologist/physicist.

  122. Ray Ladbury:

    Re 121 and precedent: Hey Diogenes, do you have a point or are you going to buzz around our heads like a mosquito all day? I see lots of accusations and nothing to back them up–why do I get the feeling you live your life that way?

  123. David B. Benson:

    Gavin — Don’t let them do the Gish Gallop on you!

    Best wishes.

  124. Barton Paul Levenson:

    [[Few physicists believe that carbon dioxide is a major cause of warming.]]

    Where did you get that little factoid? I have a physics degree, and I know CO2 is a major source of the current warming, if not the major source.

  125. Barton Paul Levenson:

    [[After all, reputations are at stake. If you spent a good part of your career supporting a certain, and then changed it, how would that look? ]]

    Like science in action. Remember continental drift?

  126. jack keith:

    One percent risk and 90 percent certainty:

    V.P. Cheney asserts, without significant challenge, that a 1 percent risk of a terrorist attack justifies the suspension of domestic civil protections, as well as the initiation of any military action deemed necessary to reduce that risk.

    Scientists present decades of evidence indicating climate change is very likely (90 percent+?) an artifact of human behaviors. Yet spurious challenges to the science continue, and deniers still are able, at will, to create and exploit persistent doubt, and to delay significantly, perhaps fatally, meaningful societal responses and solutions.

    It’s a problem of immediacy: terrorist attacks occur rapidly, loudly, dramatically, in the homeland, with human intent. Climate is so slow, and ‘non-human’ — just sporadic killer hurricanes, and sometimes greater-than-usual numbers of tornados, heat-waves, warm winters, early springs, droughts, wildfires, species migrations; even if accompanied by gripping video and photos of polar bears, Andean glacial melt, big icebergs forming….it’s just another episode of “when good climates go bad”…one more reason for eco-tourism jaunts before it all disappears.

    Tomorrow’s debate is a diversion — which one suspects is precisely what pleases Crichton

    Diversion from what the hard responses and solutions must be.

    Why aren’t ‘we’ debating the sleight-of-hand of the carbon trading solution? (Reports indicate the EU carbon trading scheme has been riddled with fraud and evaded with impunity.)

    Why not discussing our comfortable reliance on clever accounting tricks that defer any meaningful sacrifice while shifting responsibility?

    Why aren’t we discussing a straightforward carbon tax, penny for penny, mile for mile, flight for flight, kilowatt for…

    Why aren’t we discussing individual human behaviors and appetites? From golf holidays to McMansions to momentous conferences in Montreal, Nairobi and Bali?

    Why aren’t we discussing how to curtail the worldwide, unrestrained, free-market, industrial growth, production and consumption that comprise the engine of environmental damage and change, in all guises?

    Most importantly, why aren’t we urgently discussing the formation of a counterpart to the IPCC in the behavioral sciences? An “IPBC” designed to find the means, the behavioral triggers and “cultural codes” that might help restrain humans and limit their impact — short of war, disease, famine, high walls, and, ultimately, unpleasant forms of triage? Our individual appetites are, after all, the ultimate engine responsible for generating the condition in which we now find ourselves.

    (And why not retain Clotaire Rapaille, the high-priest of corporate marketing, to work the opposite of his usual magic?)

    And why aren’t media hosts, more urgently and often, organizing such discussions and debates — say, at least weekly, on their daily shows? Can any issue, or celebrity moment and star turn, be more important?

    The scientific debate is over. The issue is human behaviors. Individual behaviors. That is where the spotlight must be directed.

    Nevertheless, good luck with a debate that’s already come and gone.

  127. David donovan:

    If the focus of the debate is “is global warming really it a crisis” as apposed to is it real at all, remember the probable but uncertain consequences of business as usual and reports like the Stern study. Also point out the the legit. range of uncertainty (from cloud feedbacks, carbon cycle feedbacks etc..) seem generally more likely to go in the direction of more warming…not less.

  128. AndrewM:

    Reading through Stott’s position it seems he’ll be playing the same emotive “environmentalism is choking the development of poorer nations” card that was used on TGGWS. It’s time this one was nailed shut, maybe not in this debate, but as a future rebuttal to this sort of sloppy thinking.

    The reason why developing nations are increasingly struggling is because the price of fossil fuel energy is rising rapidly. What has hurt poorer nations more: rich western nations telling them they should lower their carbon emissions, or oil going from $12 to $60 a barrel? There’s still plenty of oil about, but it’s getting costlier and costlier to extract (Canadian oil sands, deepwater projects, even Saudi Arabia is having to spend billions on latest extraction technology). As a rising global population consumes more of our diminishing FF resource base, how are the poorer nations ever going to be able to afford the infrastructure Stott advocates?

    I wouldn’t try and debate Stott on the environmentalism vs capitalism issue, but you can stick your knife in. Be honest, admit your public advocacy skills maybe aren’t as polished as your opponents.

    “I’m a climate scientist, and my job is to allow us to get the best understanding we can of what factors are driving climate changes on this planet. That’s what I spend most of my time doing. I know Philip and Michael spend a great deal of time discussing the more political aspects of all this on radio and TV (in fact I don’t know how they have time to read all the science papers the rest of us do! [chuckles])…so obviously they have very well-rehearsed arguments to make. But you know, I talk to a lot of ordinary people about this, and I think there’s a growing feeling that burning more and more fossil fuels just isn’t the answer. Gasoline prices keep going up…certain oil producing nations are increasingly trying to leverage the strategic hold they have on others…so reducing our fossil fuel use not only makes sense on scientific grounds, it makes sense on economic, national security and humanitarian grounds too. But as I said, I’m only a scientist…”

    [Stott/Crichton] “But Gavin, you must agree that yada yada…”

    [Gavin] “As I said, I’m just a scientist, and I think you’ll see from my discussions on the Internet that I generally try and steer clear of the politics. I believe that the science will prevail in the end, not the wild claims of swindles and conspiracies. That’s what I always find so ironic on programmes like this – my opponents always seem to want to steer clear of the science!” [friendly laugh]

    …and move them on to your ground.

    (But of course they’re reading this so they know you’re going to say it and they’ll be ready for you. Such is the game of chess that is PR debate in the MSM ;-) )

  129. Alex:

    I think it will be worthwhile, particularly if it can also be explained (in response to Stott) that rapid climate change is really many seperate problems (or the amplification of existing ones) in the making. I say get some good sleep, grab your favorite beverage, maybe some notes, and take the opportunity to show how full if it some of these people really are.

  130. El Cid:

    Rhetorical point:

    Often the GW deniers (apart from just general skeptics) try to make a quick science point about some factor *AS IF* the AGW scientists had never ever thought of that…

    Turn that quickness and surprise around to satire.

    So if they throw out that little nonsense about there already being so much CO2 in the atmosphere that all IR is absorbed anyway, saturated, respond satirically:

    ‘Hey, I wonder why there are all these physicists who keep on studying how photons and heat move through the atmosphere? Wow, they must have never, ever heard anyone make that point before. Oh, darn, I’ve got to call all these research institutes and college programs and tell them to throw away their fancy equations and satellite observations and computer simulations because this guy says that adding CO2 couldn’t possibly absorb anymore IR, and nobody done never thunk of that!”

  131. Richard Ordway:

    Yikes! I guess someone knowlegable had to stand up for the climate community, like you Gavin.

    But I am nervous because you seem to be an honest person and I wonder if these professional, slick, polished liars (I saw the whole video the “global warming swindle” and have seen videos the Greening Earth Society’s the Greening of Planet Earth, and a government one with Fred Singer and read Congressional transcripts.

    Lindzen etc. al I bet will try to bend you and the correct scientific information down to pieces with well-thought-out falsehoods backed with lies.

    They aren’t serious scientists…and they don’t care about the truth…but are professional, experienced, snakeoil salesmen, I find from personal experience.

    I think all you can say is that the correct global warming/climate change information is in the peer-reviewed literature and theirs is not.

    They will counter that with wild off-topic subjects such as all the crap about how science is all a conspiracy, that they are not allowed to print in the journals due to predudice against the truth, the IPCC is a sham and lead you off on defending science, the scientific process, your own credentials and everything else except climate change.

    They will most likely lie and make up whatever they want to discredit you and the science…who in the audience is to know the difference…They will try to end it most likely with the evidence being your personal word against theirs…and so it will be to the uneducated audience….this happened to me this Monday.

    I have dealt with many anti-global warming idealogues on almost a weekly basis for over 11 years with tours at a national science center….some were there to obviously confront me with polished pre-prepared question lists.

    I learned to keep it on subject and tell them I would talk later at the end of the presentation in more detail to answer their questions (that’s going to be hard for you to do).

    As soon as I would start making a scientific point, they would slickly hop on to the next non-scientific point they had before I could finish…It was like trying to tie down slime on a pig.

    I have found many of these people to be ruthless, totally immoral, lowest denominator, selfish human-beings who will do anything for their idealogy- alot like religious fanatics in the middle east. The end justifies the means to them….and that includes trying to screw you and your reputation.

    I’d recommend practicing with sparring partners beforehand…and tell them to lie through their teeth to prepare you. Prepare for the worst…they don’t fight above the belt, I’ve found. Prepare for all the false issues by having your sparring partners ask questions from the video the Global Warming Swindle….and don’t sink to their level. Keep your chin up!

  132. Rod B.:

    re 126
    jack, so you think Gavin can win the debate by solving/discussing all the problems with the world and humanity as you see them?!?!? I don’t think the case is helped by trotting out all of the old rants that basically say all of the earth’s problems would be fixed if only we could get rid of humanity (at least the 99% who just want to live, be happy and prosper a little.)

    For the record, Cheney’s 1% probability assumed doing the things stated, not ‘it’s 1% so we’d better do those things’. The chances of a terrorist attack (likely major) on the United States was 100% — in any event significantly higher than AGW probabilities, as high as they are. Unless of course you believe our enemies were either just kidding (like they really didn’t intend for 9/11 or their public declaration of war was just for fun) or were/are not extremely competent in what they do.

  133. Dan:

    re: 132. Perspective: For the record, we have much more certainty about global warming and its effects than we ever had about WMDs in Iraq.

  134. ken:

    Somebody already mentioned it, but: The general public doesn’t understand peer review. Help them to understand. Peer review is how modern science moves forward. Yet the skeptics have little to show in peer-reviewed journals (at this point, the only response is the academic conspiracy argument, which is mock-worthy).

  135. Dave Rado:

    Ken do you know of a link to a good article on how pr works and debunking the conspiracy theory?

  136. Miaplacida:

    I’ve always been flabbergasted by the attention that the media gives to Crighton. Never read any of his books but I saw the movie, assuming we’re talking about the Jurrassic Park writer here. Do archeologists call him up for his opinion when they dig up a new set of dinosaur bones? Why is PBS including this guy in their debate? I think the credibility of those debaters who need to align themselves with him is going to suffer. Good Luck Gavin. I heard you talk on a radio program and I thought you came across very well. I’ll be looking forward to the podcast.

  137. ken:

    Re 135: It’s difficult to offer proof that academics aren’t stealthily ganging up on the skeptics. It’s like proving that gremlins don’t exist. Rather than attempt that, you point out that conspiracy theories are always the last resort for folks who don’t have the evidence on their side. Quack doctors say the same things…the scientific establishment imposes a blackout on their heroic voices. (invoke creationism, UFO buffs, psi research, etc., at the risk of pissing off certain segments of the audience).

    The conspiracy theories are essentially an admission that the evidence lies on the side of the AGW folks!

    Lindzen may be able to recite a few anecdotes of skeptics being shut out…but we’re talking about a supposed black cloud that hangs over 1,000’s of institutions and journals!

  138. Eli Rabett:

    Ah yes, the polar bear thing. If anyone brings this up just refer to the maps at coruleus from Sir Oolius There is plenty of ice off Baffin Island, but the population in Hudson Bay are in deep trouble.

  139. Eli Rabett:

    If peer review comes up, shove the iris down Lindzen’s throat. If he says this proves he was ganged up on, say it was an interesting idea although there were always problems with it and others worked on it and you were wrong.

  140. Richard Simons:

    There needs to be a quick, very basic summary of the causes of global warming:
    Light from the sun hits the earth and warms the soil.
    The heat radiates from the soil but some is caught by CO2 in the air, so Earth is warmer than we would otherwise expect.
    If the amount of CO2 in the air increases, the amount of heat trapped also increases and the temperature of the Earth goes up.
    This has been known for over 100 years. Why do my opponents think this is not happening?

    They will have to point out that this is very simplistic and many other factors are involved, but I think it will make it seem that they are the ones trying to justify their views by introducing complications rather than you.

    I agree with the suggestion (I can’t find it now) that you should ask exactly what evidence would persuade them to change their minds (and be prepared for the question to be fired back at you).

    With regards to the last comment (Miaplacida: why all the attention on Crichton?), I have given a brief extract from ‘Jurassic Park’ to undergraduate students to see if they could spot the 5 blunders on the one page (‘a normal Poisson distribution’, a graph showing 2.4 dinosaurs at a specific height, an impossibly perfect distribution of the wrong shape, etc). I for one am not impressed by his science credentials, or even his common sense.

    I hope it goes well.

  141. Philippe Chantreau:

    I’m not optimistic about the result of that debate for the only reason that it will pit “reality-based” people against some who have likely subscribed to the idea that they can create their own reality (good comment on that in the “Broad” blog).

    All on the contrarian side are very adept at jousting, mind manipulation and other Rovian and Luntzian methods. You can expect them to use all the tricks in the book with total ruthlessness. Those tricks are unfortunately proven to be very effective. I have read blog postings by some who find it perfectly plausible that there is a general conspiracy in climatology circles, leading to the publication of only AGW favoring papers through a rigged review system. That being postulated, they proceed to completely invalidate the all idea of peer-reviewed science. The sad part is that this stuff is not wild imagination; it comes from their reading and listening of all the right-wing outlets.

    If I was in your shoes I’d go to a good law schol with a developped moot-court program and get a crash course from the best argumenter around.

    This debate will be about the perception of who is winning the argument, not about reality.

  142. Rod B.:

    re 133 (Dan): First off the comparison was the probability of some group pulling off a terror attack in the US, not Iraq’s military capabilities. Secondly, for the record, though different from the consensus revisionary history, Iraq absolutely and unequivocally had WMDs (also a higher probability than AGW ); we have tapes and bodies. For some reason Sadam choose to bury, export, or destroy them sometime between 2001 and 2003, and curiously play cat and mouse with the world.

  143. Arthur Smith:

    Just a few suggestions among all the comments here!

    * Exude confidence. As much as you can. Look good, even if they spring something on you.

    * Have a few very simple points that you can state in a short sentence, and which they cannot deny:
    – Since 1995 we’ve had 11 of the 12 hottest years ever recorded
    – CO2 has increased 40% since the 1800s
    – *all* the models show warming when you add CO2.
    – glaciers melting, arctic ice loss, earlier springs, animals and plants migrating north and to higher altitudes, cooling stratosphere etc etc

    * Point back to every time you can. If they spring something you don’t have an answer for, say “I’m a scientist, I’ll have to look at that in detail – I guarantee we’ll publicly review this on as soon as possible.”

  144. Ike Solem:

    I’m curious as to what the format of this debate will be as well as how it is moderated. Will it be a strictly moderated question and answer session with time limits, or will it be a question of who can get the most words in (Lindzen can talk and talk without saying much of substance)?

    I’d doublecheck with the moderator and push for the question and answer format over the Larry King format. Also, I’d suggest a change in the title to something like “Climate and Fossil Fuels” – that’s really what the subject is all about. A six person roundtable debate seems like a disaster waiting to happen – it’ll easily turn into a mess, which is probably what Lindzen, Crighton and Stott want to have happen.

    I’d be much more interested in hearing a debate between experts in glaciers, ocean circulation, atmospheric physics, paleoclimatology, computer models, and so on, which would actually illuminate the issues… Regardless, don’t waste time dismissing them – just explain the science to the audience. You won’t have time to go into things like a detailed rebuttal of the Iris hypothesis, but you could simply say that the behavior of water vapor based on real observations matches that predicted by models, and explain how the satellite temperature records also match the predictions made by models – but explain to the audience, don’t bother addressing any comments to Lindzen et al. Such an approach will likely cause them to try and use inflammatory language – the last thing they’ll want is cool, clear explanations of scientific phenomena.

    However, it seems that the format will be very important to the outcome.

  145. Hank Roberts:

    Ask for the tools you need, while you’re talking to the public.
    You can look past the ‘opponents’ and TV people, and speak to the camera.

    Triana? It’s sitting in a warehouse, built, with an offer to launch it. Got albedo?

  146. Tim McDermott:

    Good luck, Gavin. I would suggest very simple explanations of the basics. 6.4 GtC per year into the atmosphere may scare the pants off some of us, but it is mumbo jumbo to many, perhaps most, of our fellow citizens. Its been way too many years since I did Chemistry, so don’t trust my calculations, but that much carbon turns into about 130 cubic kilometers of CO2. So that dry number turns into something like enough CO2 to cover Orange County, CA 150 feet deep. And we are pumping out more every year.

    Another thing you might try if/when the “I don’t trust models” trope appears is to explain that _all_ of science is models, even Newton’s law of gravity. Physicists have been “tweaking” that model for centuries. (that is, refining the gravitational constant).

    If the, “you are trying to scare us to get more money” silliness appears, you could (if you want to get personal) tell that that you are a GS whatever, and could easily go to work in the private sector for 2 or 3 times what you are making now. You don’t because you love doing Science. And thanks, by the way, for doing such good work. If you wanted to get nasty, you could ask Chrighton how much money he makes by portraying scientists as villains. That anti-scienctist bent goes all the way back to The Andromeda Strain.

  147. Hank Roberts:

    Is there any other _slow_ crisis to point to, to make clear that the crisis is what _we_ do that affects the world a century and more from now — the crisis is that we know what we’re doing and we’re doing it anyhow.

    The crisis -=- what we do -=- won’t hurt us much at all.

  148. Jim Glendenning:

    My, my we are rather worried about this little debate.

    All these accusations that Chrichton, Stout, and Lindzen are devious, dishonest, evil people. Just like………..Rove and Luntz????

    If the facts are there and they can be clearly and simply explained then what’s to worry about? After all the facts are there………….aren’t they?

    The debate, it seems to me, is about two things.
    1. What is the actual cause of the warming trend of the last 100 years?
    2. If the warming is truly caused by man’s burning of fossil fuels, then what can be done to alleviate the situation without plunging the world into a depression or worse?

    If you can provide rational and convincing answers to those issues you will win the debate. Good luck!

  149. ken:

    Stott et al will blather about natural variability in the climage. Cut his legs out from under him immediately by pointing out that we’re not arguing about natural variability…we’re trying to understand what happens when humans inject gobs of CO2/CH4 into the atmosphere over a very short time span.

    One weak area for the AGW folks is the dependence on complex models. I’m a biochemist, so I won’t pretend to know how to counter these arguments in a grokkable way…but the debaters should certainly be prepared for them.

  150. Wallace:

    -Don’t use the word consensus it is irrelivent and they have lots of stories to show it.
    -Don’t expect them to be as contradictory as you want, they will be nice, funny and aggreable much of the time.
    -Don’t mention Stern it is not important.
    -try not to mention the new IPCC Summery report too much because the science report is not out yet which looks really bad.
    -Don’t ever attack their credentials, even if they do it to you, it looks bad so let them look bad.
    -Try not to base too many arguments on computor models, they are easily discounted as too complicated or not complicated enough.
    -Most of the simple Gore points are known by most people so overstating them makes you sound preachy.
    -Don’t say “I’m a scientist, I’ll have to look at that in detail – I guarantee we’ll publicly review this on as soon as possible.”
    -Infact I would just ask that they place your webaddress under your name when you are speaking because constant throw backs to a website, I mean, everybody has a website and unless they already know the website it carries no weight.

  151. Ron Tuckwell:

    I have just read an article in the Sydney Morning Herald by William Broad, entitled “Scientists have Inconvenient News for Gore”.
    It makes a number of claims of inaccuracy and “deceit”.
    Scientists mentioned are Dr Robert Carter of James Cook University, Queensland, Australia; and Emeritus Professor (Geology) Don Easterbrook of Western Washington University; Roy Spencer, a climatologist at the University of Alabama, Huntsville; and Kevin Vranes, a climatologist at the Centre for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado.
    What is “Real Climate’s” position on the Al Gore Documentary?

    [Response: We discuss the article here. – gavin]

  152. OK:

    CONservatives tend to do “popular” debates by which I mean they cynically appeal to the “common” masses with a lot of “common sense” arguements. As an example, look at (the recently incarcerated) Kent Hovind. In such debates the “winner” is the speaker who is the most charismatic – it usually doesn’t matter where the actual truth lies. Which is why Hovind seemed to “win” most of his debates, at least in the public opinion. He rarely stayed on one point for long but bounced around too fast for his opponent to catch up. And he had quick, polished ‘sound byte’ type answers for every conceivable question.

    If this is about trying to win over public opinion I’d suggest that you could do well by refraining from very technical points and language and stick to the big evidences (e.g. melting glaciers etc.). And bring along some big colorful charts or other media. But be prepared for some dirty tricks too (global cooling, claims of censorship etc.). You might bring up the fossil fuel funding for the skeptics and the fact that some skeptics are beginning to agree with the the fact of AGW And don’t leave your technical notes at home (just in case). As it will be televised, there’s a chance that they will have been coached in debating technique by a professional. They’ll probably try to get you to contradict yourself or lose your cool too, so don’t.

    Scientists probably should be doing this kind of thing more often. But they need to brush up on their debating skills.

  153. OK:

    Also keep in mind one of their favorite tactics (creationists love this one) – bring up some prior mistake or other on the science or the fact that not everything is perfectly understood yet and then use that bit of uncertainty as a wedge to try to discredit the entire argument.

  154. OK:

    Oh and what’s with the title of this debate, “Global Warming Is Not a Crisis”? Shouldn’t it have been “Is Global Warming a Crisis”?

  155. BarbieDoll Moment:

    Well you are certainly receiving many replies, but I agree with
    the postings that highlight the gist of the debate: crisis or not.

    Yea or nay, does one feel that global warming is a crisis.

    A point I haven’t seen made is the fact that why would one wait
    till the situation had reached a crisis point to act?

    That’s a rationale approach like one waiting till one has full blown cancer and it is spreading till they decide to approach their physician and seek out the mitigation and treatment options; and THEN one still has to undertake the treatment plan to deal with cancer.

    Additionally, I would point out that the natural
    toxicological sinks are our soils, water, and the atmosphere, and so on.

    I am not going to go into a whole toxicologically theme here but
    the gist of it is that we are not only approaching limits on the available sinks, but the rate at which the sinks can degrade the material that is being sunk into them.

    There is systemic carrying and rate processing capacity built into our biosystem.

    At what point does one let the sink fill up with CO2; and at higher and more rapid pace in the future due to the projections of higher global energy demand increases due to second and third world countries, and growing populations?

    When is it feasible to either decrease the amount being sunk into
    the sinks, and or to find a way, or an additional place or method to store/accelerate the degrading process of the CO2 and or other
    controllable greenhouse gases?

    That line of thinking, is fairly straightforward, and grounded in toxicology and the field of risk management, and easy enough for a layperson to understand and relate to if the analogy was made with everyday examples of sinks and their sources.

    For example: does one wait until the room fills with smoke before
    they open the door and let it out?

    Does one wait until the smell of seaping gas overwhelms one before they
    use dispersion methods of aeration to break down the ratio of the volume? Or does one wait till the levels are so high that they are forced to vacate the vicinity, forcing one to relocate to other premises?

    { sarcasm: here we come Mars :) }

    Everyone knows that if you paint or use cleaning chemicals
    that one needs to provide plenty of ventilation so the
    fumes do not build up to toxic levels in a confined space causing chemical lung injuries and so on.

    This would be a very simple angle and would provide some easy everyday analogies to make or use, IMO.

    But really, in the end, it does not make logical or rational sense
    to approach a problem after it has reached a crisis point.

    ANY PROBLEM…… not to mention the ocean lag time we are dealing with here.

    However, all of that being said, that is our historic norm for the government; their risk management approaches tied to the economic feasibility of acting or not acting based upon x expendable lives weighed against the cost of action and the economic prosperity of the U.S.

    So I’d ask these guys…..or throw it out there

    Who, what, and where is expendable in their opinion…

    and of course, WHY?

  156. Mike:

    A correctly balanced debate would be 2-3 (whatever) climate contrarians/sceptics/deniers versus 2000 climatologists. The debaters would outnumber the audience!

    We criticise Crichton but he has something that climatologists don’t. Fame.

    As the debate moves from science to the big bad world of politics, misinformed people and TV (Go for it Gavin) it’s good PR if there are climatologists who get some reflected fame and are recognisible to the public.
    A quick way to fame like buying Chelsea or Man Utd.

    Keep up the good work


  157. Dick Veldkamp:

    It is worrying that about 50% of the poll voters agree that there is NO climate crisis. However in my experience people who think this are usually uninformed, rather than having reached their position after looking at the facts.

    I agree with #79 that it is hard to see how such a debate can be “won”, and it is a serious drawback that the impression is given that there IS a controversy.

    Still, what the heck, why not have this debate? Future historians might very well describe what is happening now as: ‘In 2007, when climate scientist Gavin Schmidt debated Michael Crichton in IQ-squared, the debate on AGW was essentially already over with only a few contrarions holding out, By this time, the European Union had decided to reduce greenhouse gas emission by 20% in 2020, and the UK had plans to reduce with 60% by 2050.

  158. Dan:

    re: 142. “Secondly, for the record, though different from the consensus revisionary history, Iraq absolutely and unequivocally had WMDs (also a higher probability than AGW ); we have tapes and bodies.””

    Sigh. I knew this was coming. That is patently, utterly false. Please do not make up “facts” to try to prove a point, politically or about denying aspects of global warming. No, WMDs were never found. And the CIA said they would not be. That was ignored. Stop listening to Fox (supposed) News, ad nauseum, for opinions about Iraq or global warming.

  159. Mike:


    My attempts to discuss GW with my colleagues suggest what not to do.

    Be open wide mouthed at ridiculous assertions.
    Allow your emotions to get the better of you.
    Point at the nearest computer screen and babble “it’s all answered on”.
    Have a migraine 10 minutes later.

    Keep up the good work


  160. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Richard Ordway’s suggestion is a very good one. Definitely prepare by shadow debates beforehand, with friends playing the part of deniers. I’m kicking myself for not suggesting that myself.

  161. Wadard:

    At least the popular sceptic meme, that the views in An Inconvenient Truth are those of an ex-politician and not those of an expert, won’t grow legs in Michael Crichton’s presence.

  162. Wadard:

    The motion being debated is Global warming is not a crisis.

    Global warming is not a crisis, global warming is the crisis.

    You are for the motion so all you need to do to win is demonstrate that if we don’t change our behaviour then global warming will cause climate change and environmental, ecological, food-security, national security and health crises.

  163. Jeff Harvey:


    I (a senior scientist in population ecology) debated two well-known sceptics (Hans Labohm, Simon Rozendaal) over here in The Netherlands a couple of years ago, just as I had debated Bjorn Lomborg in 2002. In my view, its a good and a bad thing at the same time to debate these people. In the climate change debate, I was teamed with an actual climate scientist (Koos Verbeek). The problem in both debates is that by appearing it does give the impression that the opposition have something useful to say, which I think is a serious mistake: in my view these people for the most part are distorting or misinterpreting science in support of a political or other agenda. I feel that, by debating any sceptics (or ‘delusionists’ as John Quiggen more appropriately calls them), we do legitimize them by suggesting that they may have something useful to say (which I don’t think they do). The media courts controversy because it sells; consensus doesn’t. Furthermore, the mainstream media is muddying the waters by endlessly promoting what I refer to as “a” and “d” – adaptation and denial – largely because most mainstream sources are either owned by large corporations or depend on them for advertising revenue. Many – though not all – large corporations are promoting ‘business-as-usual’ in fear of lost profits if regulations are implemented limiting greenouse gas emissions. Therefore, they are more than happy to see the water ‘muddied’ in an attempt to mislead the public into believing that the science is far from settled. So long as the public think the debate is equally balanced, they will not support any kinds of measures, however moderate, that they fear will threaten their lifestyles. In my opinion, this has been the agenda of the anti-environmental lobby from day 1: the sceptics know that they will never win the scientific argument but they inflate the scientific uncertainties so as to create doubt. Its worked in a range of policy areas and its their current trump card in the climate change debate.

    I wish you all of the best luck in your debate. When I debated Lomborg, I gave him a very hard time and feel that my arguments, which emphasized his data cherry-picking, misquoting of scientists, and failure to understand important concepts in science resonated with the audience. In the climate change debate, I feel that Labohm in particular came out with some frankly bizarre arguments that actually undermined him. One thing is for certain: as more empirical evidence comes in, the sceptics are going to become even more desperate in peddling their denial.

  164. Jerry:

    Argument by analogy. Climate change is difficult to understand because it is huge, silent, and on human timescales, slow. Just like diseases, for example, diabetes and cancer.

    There is a diagnosis for the planet, and it’s not favorable going into the next century.

    The debate title, “Is Global Wrming a Crisis?” is not an invitation to discuss the science, but to discuss the response to the science. Whether it is a crisis or not depends on whether one chooses to make it a crisis.

    Following the medical analogy, patients tend to have better outcomes in treatment when the disease is managed aggressively and early. And yes, chemotherapy causes patients hair to fall out and other highly undesirable side effects.

    Decide a strategy, practice your tactics. Good luck.

  165. John L. McCormick:

    RE # 148:

    [If you can provide rational and convincing answers to those issues you will win the debate.]

    Gavin, you have all the rational and convincing answers to win the debate.

    But, you have a far more important task.

    Win the audience!

    And, I hope you will take a moment to go off script and appeal to the parents of the world to protect their childrens future.

  166. Ray Ladbury:

    One serious issue you will face is that human beings are not good at judging risk–particularly when the consequences of the risk are far-removed in time. There is a tendency to think that if the consequences will not manifest for a century, we can wait 90 years to address the issue. This works well when the threats in one’s environment are predominantly things like lions, elephants, snakes… It tends not to work well for systems with substantial inertia or whose trends are nonlinear–e.g. climate change, smoking and cancer, obesity related disorders. The issues raised above comparing climate related risks to those arising from a terrorist attack are a good example. The risks (cost times probability of occurrence) are greater for climate change than they are for terrorism–probably even terrorism with WMD. However, terrorism is what people worry about.
    One way to counter this might be to emphasize the inertia of the system–that if we don’t start making serious inroads to diminish ghg, our children and grandchildren may live through the horror of watching adverse impacts of climate change and be unable to do ANYTHING about it–rather like watching two oil tankers collide once it’s too late to turn them.
    The other thing I think you can count on is that they will bring up the “opportunity cost” argument–that dealing with climate change will prevent us from addressing “real” problems. The counter to this, is that our track record of addressing problems of hunger, poverty, pollution, etc. is piss poor in any case, and to point out that the fact that growth of energy use is most rapid in the developing world means that these problems are coupled to those of climate change. We cannot deal with climate change without also addressing these problems.

    Good luck. You have an unfair advantage in that truth is on your side, and when truth is your only tactic, those who oppose you do so with inferior weapons.

  167. J.S. McIntyre:

    I would suggest that you find a way early on in the debate, particularly if the issue of consensus comes up, to make a similar point to the one Lawrence Krauss made while debating Intelligent Design proponents in Ohio with Ken Miller.

    Observe that the consensus on Global Warming is a solid one, so large that your place in the debate could have been taken by any number of climatologists who would echo what you had to say here, and that if this were to have been a representative debate, than a fair representation would have been to have over a thousand climatologists on the Global Warming side for every single, legitimate “skeptic” on the other side. You could take it further by pointing out that the opposing panel had to find a science-fiction author who has no expertise in the subject in order to round out their number.

    Whatever you do – and to echo what others have said here – the debate is going to be about rhetoric, just as we’ve seen with the Evolution/Creationism issue. They are not so much interested in “winning” in the sense of carrying the day so much as creating the perception that their side has credible arguments, that they have “competing” theories.

  168. Alexander Ac:

    The results of the debate are
    54.76% of the audience think the GW is not a crisis and 41.94% just the opposite.
    Is it good or bad result?
    For me, as an european it is bad result, but this debate was in America, to it is probably good result ;-)

    [Response: Online polls are notorious lame since there is no check on people voting twice (or more). So they say more about the time each sides’ supporters have to waste. – gavin]

  169. P. Lewis:

    Re #167 by J.S. McIntyre

    You could take it further by pointing out that the opposing panel had to find a science-fiction author who has no expertise in the subject in order to round out their number.

    I understand the sentiment, and the temptation to do it, but this would be wrong IMHO. This is a thinly veiled ad hominem. You must just state your position, point out any untruths and logical fallacies in your opponents’ positions and let the inexpert dig their own holes (but by all means help them as much as possible with their digging). Granted, this will be a tall order when one’s opponents are well versed in the media.

  170. OK:

    They will try to create doubt and then might say something like “in court cases reasonable doubt is enough to throw out a verdict, how much more need to be CERTAIN when dealing with the economies of the world?”. To which you might say science is as certain as it can be about this issue with the evidence we have – which is pretty certain. But nothing is ever %100 certain in science. You might also point out the the title of he debate is wrong since there is no real debate among climate reseachers. They will probably also try to steer the debate toward trivial uncertainties and stay there, don’t let them control the debate.

    The analogy to cancer given above is a good one. At what point is it a crisis, when it is just one lump or when it has spread throughout the body and all hope is gone. The old wise saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is so true.

    By the way, it’s a given that the opposition is also reading these comments for a heads up on what you might say. Reagan won the Presidency in part because his compatriots stole the debate notes of Jimmy Carter which is why R looked so cool up there with his smile and his “there you go again!” to a flustered Carter.

    “In a 1983 book, Gambling with History, Time correspondent Laurence Barrett revealed that Reagan campaign aides “filched” (stole) President Carter’s briefing papers to help prepare Reagan for the 1980 debate. Chief of Staff James Baker would later say that Reagan’s campaign manager William Casey was the thief.”

    Just relax and stay flexible.

  171. ebw:


    First, good luck! Second, remember the “lock box” and how attempts to simplify complex policy analysis can go awry. Third, more good luck!

  172. Rod B.:

    Wallace’s advice (150) is not perfect but the best I’ve seen so far for offering pragmatic help, as opposed to most others which want Galvin to 1) shout some cutsey remark, 2) portray someone else’s agenda, or 3) slay some dragons — all of which make folks feel better but lose debates.

  173. Rod B.:

    re 158: Sorry, Dan, but the common (and your) revisionist history is what’s looney. You’ve never seen the pictures and records of gassing Kurds or Iranians?

    [edited–this is not the place for discussions of the Iraq war, Rumsfeld, or anything else of that sort. we’ll delete any additional such off-topic discussions, without regard to viewpoint]

  174. Ben H.:

    >170 posts on this thread in 40 hours, not including those moderated-out. Any guesses how much CO2 all your PCs are pumping into the atmosphere in a year? They can’t all be solar powered.

  175. J.S. McIntyre:

    re: 169 by P. Lewis.

    I agree that on the face of it this could be termed ad hominem. If this were Gregory Benford or David Brin, or even the late Robert Heinlein, who demonstrated his respect for the scientific process in the manner in which he conducted himself and wrote his stories, I would have no argument with you.

    At the same time, one point that the general public seems to not “get” is a large number of these people who conduct themselves as “authorities” on climate science are anything but (and, as the late Carl Sagan pointed out in his essay on the Art of Baloney Detection, there are no authorities, only experts). There is such a dearth of climatologists on the GW Skeptic side that this becomes a valid point, particularly when you understand Crichton’s work – an by extension of many of these people who continually appear to misrepresent the science – in context to the issue.

  176. Rod B.:

    re 166 […our track record of addressing problems of hunger, poverty, pollution, etc. is piss poor in any case…]

    A minor point: there might be a grain of truth in the absolute. But relatively, we have done far more than anyone, anywhere, anytime.

  177. Ben H.:


    I think your calculation is out � here�s mine:

    6.4 * 10^9 tonnes = 6.4 * 10^15 grams Carbon

    6.4 / 12 (atomic weight of Carbon) = 0.5333 * 10^15 moles

    Multiply by 22.4 litres/mole (if CO2 is an ideal gas � it ain�t, but who cares ?)

    = 0.5333 * 22.4 * 10^14 litres

    = 11.95 * 10^14 litres

    1 cubic km = 10^12 litres

    Therefore, 11.95 * 10^14 litres = 1195 cubic km. CO2

    Can�t think of a better place for it than right on top of Orange County, to be frank.

  178. interested observer:

    The question for debate is whether global warming is a crisis, and you are arguing for the side that holds that global warming is indeed a crisis. I assume you have taken that side because you believe it to be true. The general commentary on this blog seems to be in support of the view that the evidence for your side of the argument is clear, incontrovertible, beyond question, and essentially beyond debate. I am mystified by the fact that you would have any reticence at all about participating in a debate where your opponents presumably could not have a shred of evidence to support their position.

  179. David Graves:

    You should be aware that Stott asserts some things about the Earth’s history that are just flat-out wrong. I asked a biologist friend about Stott’s notion that the rainforests of the Amazon are 12-16,000 years old. First, my friend expressed incredulity,(the real figure is believed to be orders of magnitude longer) then he made some rude remarks that I will not repeat. Point is, Stott is on the fringe, and gets a hearing only because some elements in the “debate” wish to put him forward to muddle the issues.

  180. Rod B.:

    re 173 – Moderators: Can’t much argue with your edit. I did think my analogy of Rumsfeld’s smoking gun versus action against AGW was on point… though it took a long long way to get there.

  181. Dan:

    re: 173. It will be interesting to hear during the global warming debate if the denialist camp resorts to your similar, defensive ad hominem attacks when similarly the data, facts and evidence simply do not support their claims. Ad homs are a primary sign of a lost debate and a lack of critical analysis/thinking. Which is also a reflection of a lack of understanding of the scientific method and how science works.

  182. Rod B.:

    re 177: one piddly correction: it’s 22.4 liters at the surface — more volume high in the atmosphere. But… close enough, I guess .

  183. Ray Ladbury:

    Re 167. The truly pernicious thing about Crichton’s position is that it uses the very consensus scientists reach on considering the evidence and tries to paint it as groupthink at best and conspiracy at worst. It is not clear to me whether Crichton is really so dim as to not understand the importance and validity of scientific consensus (defined as a broad agreement as to what the evidence supports), or whether he adopts the view because it strengthens his minority/crank position. Regardless, it is important that if we are to make an appeal to the authority of scientific consensus the audience understands precisely what that means and how it differs from 1)majority voting, 2)legal consensus of a jury and other types of consensus they may be familiar with.

  184. Phillip Shaw:


    I agree with the commentors above about the need to refrain from ad hominem comments, but I think that there is ‘wiggle room’. You can safely praise Crichton as a master of fiction, and say that his book State of Fear is just (almost) as realistic as Jurassic Park or Dan Brown’s book The DaVinci Code. Hard to complain about praise, however faint, and it shouldn’t hurt to remind the audience that Crichton makes his living by making things up.

    In any event, best of luck with the debate. I suspect it will be the first of many.

  185. hopp:

    “Ad homs are a primary sign of a lost debate and a lack of critical analysis/thinking. Which is also a reflection of a lack of understanding of the scientific method and how science works.”

    Let’s be honest.

    I was shocked by the amount of personal attacks, and the general tone of speech towards the so called “denialists”. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. The holocaust denial comparison was the ultimate low, that was just very very sick, and the amount of people on here and elsewhere who seemed more than happy to repeat it was not a pretty sight… but it’s not just that. One person was character assassinated for being retired and old. Then claims of under table payments from oil/coal companies. These are ad homs of the worst sort. You should know that much about human psychology, that for the neutral observer, this type of very very arrogant behaviour is a big turn-off.

    The pre-cautionary point is valid and moral. Your cause is good. But it doesn’t look the good cause it is, if your speech and behaviour doesn’t reflect it. Some PR lessons wouldn’t go a miss. Serious advice.

  186. Kevin G:

    Long ago I’ve had to debate dissenters about whether being more energy efficient was possible. Things that worked to my favor: Being honest, sincere, and polite, but also determined and confident in my statements. Be well informed, and support my statements (and refute others) with very solid, clear numbers. Numbers should include both absolutes and percents that frame the boundaries. Stay calm, confident, and utterly unshakable.

  187. Ray Ladbury:

    Re:184 I can’t read Crichton. Ever since I got to the place in “The Andromeda Strain” where all the little alien bugs mutate in exactly the same way at the same time, I find myself counting up all the fundamental misunderstandings of science, and if I’ve gotten to >10 in the first chapter, I’m done.

    Gavin, an anecdote (that is supposedly true):
    A young man found himself sharing a train with the Secretary of the Interior for the Coolidge administration. Desperate to strike up a conversation, he scanned the horizon hoping for something to remark on. Alas, since the train was passing through Eastern Wyoming, there was little that was remarkable. Finally, he said, “Looks like those sheep have just been sheared,” hoping at least to impress the secretary with his keen powers of observation.
    The secretary regarded the pastoral scene a moment and then remarked, “Yeah…Yeah…on this side anyway.” Now that’s a true conservative!

  188. Rod B.:

    re 181, et al: So, Dan, your stating I “make up facts” is a valid learned point; my stating you are revising history is an ad hom. Hmmm.

  189. Dan:

    re: 188. Apparently you can not resist following the moderator’s admonition following post 173, I see, since your comment is in regards to the content in it. Yet you continue with the personal, misguided attacks. That speaks volumes. Hmmm, indeed! Thanks for reenforcing my comment 181!

  190. David B. Benson:

    Re #179: David Graves — Your example shows just how complex matters actually are and how easily misunderstandings arise. While it does appear, from the evidence, that there has been a tropical rain forest in South America for a very long time, it has not always been centered on the Amazon River.

    In particular, at LGM about 20,000 years ago, it appears that only the northernmost part of South America possessed a tropical rain forest and the Amazon basin was largely savannah. So in one sense, stated that the Amazon rain forest has only existed for 16,000 years is approximately correct.

    Incidently, if sufficiently energetic, I believe I could point to evidence that only 12,000 years is far too young.

  191. OK:

    Note the question is not “is Global Warming Real” but “Is Global Warming is a Crisis”. This presupposes that GW is real. Perhaps you should ask each one if they think that it is real? Might be interesting to see the range of answers. If they do accept it then you can score one for the AGW side with a comment like “good, we’re making progress here”. The moderator, Lehrer, should start by asking where the two sides agree – that might get the ball rolling.

    Maybe they will acknowledge its reality but just say that we need to just adapt to it. You might discover where their true sentiments lie if you ask them if they favor both mitigation and adaptation or just adaptation. The rightwing by far wants people to just adapt to future misery because that will not impinge upon oil co. profits now. If they say they favor adaptation then you can say “why I thought you didn’t accept global warming, so what would we be adapting to?”

    More on Stott here

  192. Ray Ladbury:

    Re 188 and precedent. Gentlemen, while the forum may not be the place for the debate you find yourselves in, I do believe that you have put paid to the myth that all who are concerned with anthropogenic climate change are leftist ideologues. ;-)

  193. Ben.H:

    RE #177,146 & 182:

    I seem to have dropped a power of ten somewhere in my calculation in #177 – the actual answer should be 11950 cubic km. And, as pointed out in #182, that would be at the surface. I’m sure somebody can find a suitably sized area other than Orange County which would effectively stretch all the way to space if you allow for the decreasing pressure and temperature with altitude. I’ll leave the maths to someone else…

  194. wayne davidson:

    Finally a true debate! Just a start, good news, Cudoos to the news organization.

    I am not very good with people predictions, but will say that Lindzen will avoid his Climate Meteorology confusion mixing trick, and he will strictly try to undermine forecasting beyond 3 days. My arm chair advice to the Climate specialists is to be well versed in Climatology and Meteorology projection successes, there are many, which never get exposed to the light of day. Please link a webcast if possible..

  195. tamino:

    So … how did it go?

  196. Wallace:

    They will all readily admit that Global Warming is real, they will not admit that the climate is completely understood or that CO2 can be singled out as the smoking gun!
    They will all be in favour of environmently friendly cutbacks, who isn’t!
    They will attack the manner in which the science is being carried out, they may even compare it to a faith based religion.
    They will talk about proper double blind procedures needed to ensure unbiased science by seperating:
    funding, procedures, results and review

    Largely from reading many of their works they believe in human ingenuity and the fact that it may seem like we are going down this straight CO2 pathway for the next hundred years but that assumes no further advancement from a highly advancing species.

  197. Wallace:

    opps, I guess the debate already happened. My fault I live in Hong Kong and got confused about the times.

  198. OK:

    Well I was not able to hear the debate but noted that the contrarian side had a 4% lead over the science side in the poll. Don’t know what this means but it could mean no more than that the audience was stacked against the science side, something that rightwing debaters have been known to do quite often.

    Anyway I’ve no doubt but that Gavin and the others representing the science side performed well.

  199. Russell Seitz:

    While waiting for the NPR broadcast of the Great Debate , those with strong stomachs can pass the time by watching ” The Great Global Warming Swindle on Google TV-

    I wonder who’s footing the bandwidth bill ?

  200. Jason:

    It looks like a big victory for the skeptics.

    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%

  201. Dan:

    re: 200. Science is not a popularity contest. The data and science speak for themselves. Failing to understand the data and science is simply a reflection of an inability to comprehend.

  202. Rod B.:

    re 201: [Science is not a popularity contest]

    …unless, of course, it’s on your side ala consensus…??

  203. wayne davidson:

    Yes its their most potent card: Why worry about something which might happen, with an emphasis on the word “might”, since the science is basically “unproven” and besides warmer ain’t so bad…
    That means that they are basically ignoring scientific progress and understanding which predicted this very warm winter some 20 years ago, some may say much longer ago. I haven’t seen the debate I thank #200 for the report.

  204. Adam:

    Belated good luck on the debate! Hope it went well, conventional wisdom at least in Canada is becoming clearer that global warming perpetuating climate change is real and is happening.

  205. Barton Paul Levenson:

    [[re 201: [Science is not a popularity contest]

    …unless, of course, it’s on your side ala consensus…?? ]]

    Rod, the scientific consensus is not “a popularity contest.” It’s the agreement of the vast majority of scientists as to what has been demonstrated and what hasn’t. Only those qualified in the field in question are involved.

  206. Dan:

    re: 202. Thank you for clearly admitting your utter failure to understand or comprehend what scientific consensus is and means.

  207. Rod B.:

    RE 205,6: Fine. Consensus means “general agreement” up to “vast majority” agreement. It means at least a 51%, and likely a much much larger, majority. It doesn’t say anything about the quality of the agree-ers. Look it up.

    You pooh-pooh 46% (a plurity) of a group of people disagreeing with AGW, but shout to the heavens when a “vast” majority agree with AGW. I assume (it’s what you say…) because the latter group is “elite and qualified” and you’re in it. I wouldn’t complain except your description of the consensus implies a lop-sided straight democratic process — which ain’t science. A scientific consensus does not forevermore stop any dissent within the scientific circles. Though that’s what (many/most) of you assert.

  208. Dan:

    re: 207. No. Stop making wild assumptions that have no basis. Science and the scientific method is about making hypotheses, gathering data to test those hypotheses via experiments, analyzing the data for conclusions, repeating the experiments to test validity, making further conclusions and drawing up new hypotheses for testing, and peer-reviewing the results. There is absolutely no “51%” involved although you appear to enjoy making up your own definitions. Stick to science, not speculation. No one asserts that dissent stops (some still claim the earth is flat). That is purely in your mind and absolutely fundamentally wrong. You need to understanding the scientific process and method.

  209. Rod B.:

    re 208/Dan: I’m not sure which assumptions I made without basis…

    I agree with most of what you say … until you get to “…No one asserts that dissent stops… . That is purely in your mind and absolutely fundamentally wrong…..” That could very well be true for you personally; but clearly you’re not reading the bulk of the posts that trumpet the consensus.

  210. Barton Paul Levenson:

    [[RE 205,6: Fine. Consensus means “general agreement” up to “vast majority” agreement. It means at least a 51%, and likely a much much larger, majority. It doesn’t say anything about the quality of the agree-ers. Look it up.

    You pooh-pooh 46% (a plurity) of a group of people disagreeing with AGW, but shout to the heavens when a “vast” majority agree with AGW. I assume (it’s what you say…) because the latter group is “elite and qualified” and you’re in it.]]

    I’m not in it. But I have the good sense to respect those who are. I would never go up to a 20-year union stonemason laying stone for a construction project and tell him, “You’re doing that all wrong.” He’d either laugh or tell me to get lost. Scientific truth, sad to say, is not democratic. If you don’t understand a field, your opinion on it is worthless.

  211. Dan:

    re: 210. Yes indeed, such an opinion is completely worthless. Any layman who thinks he/she knows more than literally thousands of climate science researchers and essentially every professional climate science society across the world represents the height of professional arrogance. And a simply sad reflection either of the state of science education wherever they may be or their science understanding/comprehension abilities.

  212. Tom Boucher:

    RE 202:
    “re 201: [Science is not a popularity contest]

    …unless, of course, it’s on your side ala consensus…??”


    As for the debate results, it looks like the global warming team had trouble conveying the overwhelming certainty of their argument.

    I wonder why?

  213. David B. Benson:

    Re #212: Tom Boucher — Perhaps the crisis is not perceived to be eminent nor immediate. This is unfortunate and worrisome…

  214. Michael:

    I can’t wait to hear the podcast. I’m really looking forward to it. I think an interesting point that may be worth making is how ‘cold hard science’ is debated and argued against (…too complex to understand…. isn’t reliable over a given time period…etc) yet when the skeptics find anything to further their cause, they’re more than willing to display information on solar cycles, flourishing wildlife statistics, etc.

    When you use statistics and science to protect your backside (as a skeptic), you can’t honestly dismiss the science and statistics of the global climate change community.

    Basically, “Mr Stott, why is your science more reliable than ours? They’re both based on gathered data, and we have the majority to back up ours.”

    If this is truly a debate on the science of GW, you can’t lose. This isn’t a trial. You needn’t produce ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’.

  215. Ron Taylor:

    Re 215 – CJ, just so you do not have the last word on this, I have a couple of questions: 1. On what basis do you declare that TGGW has better science and scientists (than who?)? 2. Why do you say the money of GW scientists outweighs that of the big oil scientists by only 30 to 1, when it is probably more like 100 to 1. There are that many more scientists who accept the scientific basis of AGW. Sorry, ideology just does not cut it in the real world of mother nature. Do you really think we made it this far with a scientific community that is guided by ideology, rather than the scientific method?

  216. Aaron:

    Not really adding to the debate but – thoughts from a lay person

    Great to see so many minds flexing over the climate change topic. I wonder if – through the course of human history – there has ever been a time when so many people (with such specialisation/expertise) have been applying their grey matter to one topic.

    Ponder – question – investigate – analyse – go you good thing scientists go!


  217. Steven Soleri:

    “”Is global warming still up for debate and should I debate??””

    That kind of Shakesperean question is a real howler. This site never ceases to entertain. Just got through a search on the MWP on this site. Man, that pesky little historical record just cannot be easily explained away can it?? You folks just have a very shallow site here. Let me help, may I suggest you include a link to a discussion on economics of GW. I know it is a weighty subject for the lemmings here but a fundamental issue of why Gore’s banner rec’s will not, can not, be implemented no more than you can recall gravity. Give it a go….an economics debate. You will see why this site should really fold up go home.

    [Response:We try to avoid the economics, not being economists. We do science, being scientists – William]

  218. Barton Paul Levenson:

    [[Man, that pesky little historical record just cannot be easily explained away can it??]]

    What historical record? Can you be a little more specific?

    [[ You folks just have a very shallow site here. ]]

    Maybe it reflects the quality of some of the posts we get.

  219. Victor Dupuis:

    This stuff is really scary. Within the next 20 years humanity will grow so extremely large that we will consume the earth, destroy almost every natural ecosystem that exhists, while driving almost every species on the planet to extinction. The science that allowed humanity to grow so large will be its doom…………
    But global warming is important too.

  220. Bruce G Frykman:

    I listened to the debate; the “against” side decidedly lost it. Gavin Schmitt made a good showing for your side and demonstrated that he could actually think and respond to the issues raised. I give him an A for effort and his British accent was helpful (we Americans still admire a British accent); even though, it was still a rout.

    After Schmitt it was hopeless just where did you drag up Somerville and Ekwurzel? You need to get better people if you want the public to care at all about global warming. I have the feeling that these people are well admired within the circles they operate but their pleadings are devoid of any intellectual heft.

    Ms Ekwurzel pleads that “everything” must be done to stop climate change. We suffer such messianic crackpots with humor until one of them gains political power – then its megadeaths. Somerville goes on to tell us we can do it all. Iâ??d like to sell him life insurance, retirement schemes, vacation condos, home improvement loans in one great package to him!
    Iâ??m sure that in his personal life all needs are met. Apparently there exist no compromises for competing interests in his life. These people are just too easily dismissed by a sophisticated audience. I suggest they make presentations to no one older than ten years of age where they might stand a chance of gaining one or two converts

    In listening to the debate I mentally postulated that we could “model” the trend line of past IPCC projections forward and compute just when global warming will cease to be a problem.

    In order to keep this on the front burner you’re going to need better spokespeople than Al Gore and the likes of Ms Ekwurzel?

    For the record your side did very poorly, better close down the debate before its too late, call it “settled science” you know – like phrenology!

  221. Ray:

    The next time a debate is proposed to deal with questions like â��Is the climate changing as a result of greenhouse gas emissions or not?â��, how about proposing a new format to reframe the question. Instead of just having two sides debate this issue, the real question should be â��What can science tell us about the future climate?â��. One person can argue to support the conventional wisdom (i.e. IPCC scenario), the denier can argue â��No we are not changing the climate and the science is bad, etc..â�� and a third can argue that the IPCC has been too conservative and climate change is going to more severe. This would be perhaps a more interesting and legitimate debate. I once saw a climate change debate in which the denier was simply a better debater, had better sound bites and was able to confuse the audience, but the fact is his points were all wrong. Having two different people supporting the â��climate is changingâ�� position would be better in case one is not a capable debater and in the end it leaves people wondering about the real question of “How severe is climate change going to be?”. In fact, now that I think about it, this type of debate should be encouraged because it can actually move the public away from the question â��Is climate change real or notâ��.

  222. OldManOnFire:

    I can’t help but think about Percival Lowell’s initial observations of Mars in the 1890’s; ‘…the bright areas were deserts and the dark areas were patches of vegetation, and water from the melting polar cap flowed down the canals toward the equatorial regions to revive the vegetation, and the canals were constructed by intelligent beings who once flourished…’.

    Recently, the European Union (EU) has stated they would ‘like to’ reduce CO2 emissions 20% by 2020. Bush squirms when the topic arises and of no surprise, he has no plans for the USA! What does the combined 6,584,295,604 humans who inhabit this Earth think about this topic??

    The EU plan comprises only 7.4% of the world’s population and it’s not clear if there will be enforcement. Even if the USA someday adopted a CO2 emissions reduction plan, we only represent 5% of the world’s population. The leading polluters are Russia, China, India, and the USA, who have 2.76 billion people, or 41% of the world’s population, of which India and China are industrializing at exponential rates! It’s true the USA currently is responsible for 25% of the world’s CO2 emissions, but with the rest of the world quickly industrializing, our CO2 contributions will soon be dwarfed.

    The USA alone cannot slow or stop global climate changes. When we have a new president who can understand more complex issues other than My Pet Goat, and this president is capable of articulating these issues to world citizens, perhaps the USA can once again become a global leader.

    If we truly have global climate changes taking place in which mankind is a significant contributor to this phenomenon, does anyone know where the threshold is for the point-of-no-return, and who knows if our slow responses and quasi actions will do anything to stop it??

    I give mankind a small chance of slowing or stopping global climate changes! Therefore, I contend that our focus on reducing CO2 emissions is somewhat misguided!

    It is wrong to assume, in the current fashion that global climate changes are being marketed to world citizens, that if we reduce CO2 emissions, that the global climate change issues will simply go away.

    Does anyone know how much CO2 needs to be reduced to have a slowing or stopping effect?? If we don’t know this answer, then what will be our CO2 reduction goals? It’s stupid to select some arbitrary CO2 levels; like a recent proposal to reduce CO2 emissions in the USA to 1990 levels and do so by 2020. I challenge any scientist to provide a solid theory describing the global climate responses of this proposal? We simply don’t know!

    If it’s true that there are hundreds or thousands of causes and effects of global climate, then are we being naive to think we can solve the entire issue by attacking one variable…CO2?

    For myriad critical reasons we must minimize our dependence on oil!! The by-product of this action will be a reduction of CO2 levels, and in doing so, the citizens of the USA can feel proud for taking the lead. The horrific issues that will stem from higher fuel prices, shortages, and outages, in every fabric of our lives, will be a mega-crisis of it’s own!!

    Assume at least $25 billion and ten years to build a nuclear power plant. Did you know that with products that exist today, a solar energy system can be installed on 1,250,000 homes for the same price as one nuclear power plant? And we never need to live with the dangers or deal with disposal of nuclear waste! On a smaller scale, this same concept applies to building coal-powered plants. Solar and wind power are readily available today!

    Instead of focusing only on CO2 emissions as the cure-all, we must begin today taking steps to deal with the potential and critical problems that can arise from global climate changes!

    There is a high probability that our actions to slow or stop critical global climate changes will fail. Not necessarily due to a lack of effort, but more to do with not fully understanding ‘if’ we can change the tide (no pun intended). How are we going to get at least half of the world’s population to agree on this topic and to jointly and equitably contribute? How much time do we have? Are 7 billion world citizens ready to invest in a better future?

    We already teeter on draught conditions in many areas of the USA, and if global climate change is going to exacerbate this critical issue, then we must place a priority on creating more dams, finding more aquifers, and creating efficient desalinization of our plentiful oceans! In order to transport potable water to all draught areas of the USA, there will be lots of ‘canals’ crisscrossing the nation.

    Percival Lowell’s observations of Mars turned out not to be accurate. But a few centuries from now, some young astronomer on Mars might be observing Earth and commenting that; the canals were constructed by intelligent beings who once flourished…

  223. Max Anacker:

    Anthropogenic global warming leading to planetary extinction is a great story, just scary enough to get the attention of the media and the politicians. Add to the disaster forecasts “but more research must still be done to determine the extent of the problem…” and you get the climate scientists on the bandwagon, with 3 to 4 billion dollars per year in research grants.

    The only problem is that it has not been scientifically proven that man-made CO2 is the cause for today’s warming trend.

    In fact, there is a lot of evidence out there that the most recent plus earlier warming trends were not caused by man-made CO2, but by fluctuations in solar activity.

    Even the most enthusiastic proponents of the MMGW theory will have to admit that the sun is our primary source of energy, not the exhaust gas from your car. It is also well known that the sun’s activity fluctuates in cycles. It is also well known that the earth has gone through many climate cycles over the past millions of years, without any help from “industrial age man”, who has only been around for the past few hundred years.

    Computer models can be programmed to predict anything, including man-made global warming. This is not scientific proof. Adding words such as “very high confidence”, “unequivocal” or “advances in climate change modelling” to a report based on computer models is not the same as scientific proof.

    Proponents of MMGW still have to bring the proof that their theory is indeed valid. So far this proof is lacking.

  224. Barton Paul Levenson:

    [[The only problem is that it has not been scientifically proven that man-made CO2 is the cause for today’s warming trend.
    In fact, there is a lot of evidence out there that the most recent plus earlier warming trends were not caused by man-made CO2, but by fluctuations in solar activity.

    Science doesn’t deal in “proof.” But when all the empirical tests for thirty years have borne out the predictions, it becomes stupid to withold at least provisional assent. There may not be proof in the legal sense that humans are causing global warming, but there are tons of evidence.

    And it’s definitely not the sun. Here’s why:

    1. We’ve been measuring the Solar constant from satellites like Nimbus-6 and -7 and the Solar Maximum Mission for decades now, and the Solar constant hasn’t appreciably varied in 50 years, aside from the usual 11- and 22-year cycles. On the other hand, global warming has turned up sharply in the last 30.

    2. Increased sunlight would heat the stratosphere. The stratosphere is cooling, which the climate modelers predicted on the basis of increased greenhouse gases.

    3. Solar heating would heat the equator most and the poles least (Lambert’s cosine law). Instead we see greater heating toward the poles — “polar amplification,” as also predicted by the modelers.

  225. Jim:

    This debate is getting fierce check out regarding the Al Gore Challenge Debate and check out

    We need to raise the issues!