RealClimate logo

Note 3/23/2021: we had a few hiccups with comments after moving the site to https/SSL. Hopefully they're fixed now. Please let us know if there are remaining issues.

Adventures on the East Side

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

So that was …. interesting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

490 Responses to “Adventures on the East Side”

  1. 51

    Thom (#38)-

    You’ve badly mischaracterized my views. If you are in fact interested in what my views actually are on science in policy and politics you can find them here:


  2. 52
    Mateo says:

    Re 41 Ed Dullaghan debate is good, USA is good.

    Debate is less good when public policy is dominated by the inaction of excessive deliberation or by the arbitrary imposition of political power.

    Sometimes USA is good; sometimes USA not so good.

  3. 53
    cce says:

    Despite what you read in the papers, there is a consensus. e.g. NAS/NRC, AMS, AAAS, Geophysical Union, and, of course, the IPCC. Given the stakes and the time constraints, policymakers and the public would be fools to disregard the opinion of virtually every scientific body that matters in favor of more “debate.”

  4. 54
    Richard Ordway says:

    Thanks Gavin for giving us such rapid feedback report on the “debate” and doing all you do for the scientific community. I was indeed curious.

    I wonder if you were “debating” hard science in a place where science should not be debated…(it should perhaps only be debated in the juried peer-reviewed scientific journals where provable evidence is used).

    Outside of journals, people can just make up false evidence and debate reality with it…and win.

    A publizer prize winning reporter named a book chapter “The Battle for the Control of Reality” in his expose book about industry and politics interfering with the evidence of climate change science in a recent book titled the “The Heat is On.”(By publizer prize winning author Ross Gelbspan)

    To me, last night’s “debate” was indeed part of that larger battle for the control of reality…where reality could not be either proved or disproved to the audience (unlike in scientific juried peer-reviewed journals- where that is the whole point).

    I hope the “debate” is not “edited” by the denialists and distributed publicly as propaganda.

    Indeed, I feel that evidence was not debated last night…just reality…and I guess they won.

  5. 55

    I consider myself more worried about anthropogenic change than most other scientists, but in a debate like this I would still have trouble defending the affirmative. The question of whether we are yet in “crisis” forces a defense of a position that is already a bit outside the scientific mainstream. Just before I gave up on sci.environment completely a fellow was stridently insisting that I was asserting “catastrophic global warming” no matter how often I insisted that this didn’t constitute an assertion and that my position wasn’t close to any assertion that might reasonably be associated with that phrase.

    So one problem is defending the word “crisis”. In some sense, the problem is crucial because it will never have the sort of urgency typically associated with the concept of “crisis”. In getting pulled into such a debate you are allowing the esteemed opposition to control the terms of the discussion. This has already been discussed at some length in previous commentary, but it ties into a point I haven’t seen addressed yet, one which is highlighted nicely by comment #6.

    Another way in which the denialist camp seeks to control the debate is by presenting the matter as a two-sided debate. In #6, emotional appeals toward resisting AGW and exagerrations are attributed to the “other side”.

    Science is ideally completely immune to emotional appeal, and for all its flaws does a pretty good job on that score. A big problem with allowing the question to be formulated as two-sided debate is that it is easy to acquire, in the views of the audience, a great deal of non-scientific baggage along the way, in exactly the way postulated by #6.

    If the connection between science and politics were functional, the correct way to formulate the discussion is to emphasize the symmetry between extreme arguments on both sides by putting scientists in the middle. Where were the “gulf stream shutdown” people? Where were the “superstorm” crowd?

    The scientific consensus represents the middle, and allowing it to be represented as an extreme is a serious error.

    If I may be permitted to wander off topic a bit, Mr. Gore’s most serious error in his presidential campaign, I believe, was in refusing to debate Mr. Nader. This allowed him to be cast as a “liberal”, whereas in any realistic assessment he is very much a centrist.

    Scientists pulled into the evolution vs creationism pseudo-debate have an intrinsic weakness that those of us trying to inject reasonable proportion into the global change arena do. It is obvious that evolution either is or is not the central organizing principle of biology; that Biblical creation either is or is not admissible in a fair consideration of the evidence. Thus there really are only two “sides” possible.

    In the case of anthropogenic interference in climate, however, the question is not a yes/no question but a “how much” question.

    It is also the case that the more uncertainty about “how much”, the more vigorous the response ought to be! Weaker science requires a stronger response, because weaker science cannot exclude the most alarming scenarions, whose cost dominates a risk analysis more the more uncertainty we have.

    That aside, consider the polemics of it. The science seems to be honing in on an equilibrium sensitiity to CO2 doubling, all else equal, of 3 C. The scientific debate has gone from a range of 0.5 to 8 C to a range of 2 to 4. This constitutes progress. Of course there are many open policy relevant scientific questions beyond this, but most of them also represent a range.

    The less responsible among the fossil fuel interests, and the less reality-constrained of their allied theorists therefore will not want to focus on the plausible ranges and the risks. They will try to frame the matter as a debate with an answer. “Do you believe in global warming?” is no longer a winner for them, as the warming is (as predicted!) now becoming quite obvious in many places. So the question is now “Do you believe global warming is a crisis?”

    Once you take a position on a yes/no question you can be tarred with the brush of the least responsible of the people taking the same side. You allow the question to be reframed from scientific ones (1 degree or 5, 1 meter or 100, 50 years or 500) to awkward positions where a risk analysis is impossible and an appeal to emotion is far more effective (yes/no/maybe).

    The people advancing the no argument have not the least interest in winning the debate, understand. There objective is to keep people at maybe. Talk numbers, ranges, probabilities, because that is where our understanding lies.

    “Yes/no” is pernicious nonsense. Rephrase the question as a continuous one rather than a binary one, or if necessary invite some extremist environmentalists to the debate and occupy a central position, or stay away, I think.

  6. 56
    Jack says:

    In general, creationists (notably Duane Gish and Ken Ham) pummeled respectable, respected evolutionary scientists in debates all over the country. That doesn’t mean they were even close to right. And on this issue, like creationism, there will be a hard-core that will never concede, no matter how high the cognitive dissonance signal ramps up.

    However, the creationists didn’t have Stephen J. Gould (or as one poster noted, they didn’t have Thomas Huxley). Where it really mattered, as the science was continuing to come out, Gould masterfully undermined argument-after-argument from the creationists. The preponderance of science eroded uncertainty about creationism in the church’s moderate center; but the hard conservatives won’t be swayed.

    To make progress here, the preponderance of science must also emerge in full force. Someone needs to step up and be the Stephen J. Gould (and not the Richard Dawkins, despite his acumen) of climate science. Al Gore has ably aligned the goal posts on the field now, and the game is moving into the third quarter. Who is going to be the quarterback of public opinion? Nominations?

  7. 57
    Terry Miesle says:

    Debate is good, debate is healthy.
    As long as it IS a debate about the issues.

    What we increasingly have are debates about the debate, which is merely a diversionary tactic. Again, the Creationist model holds.

    Meanwhile, science education languishes.

  8. 58
    Terry says:

    “Why would it be over? The IPCC summary said its conclusions were more than 90 percent certain.”

    I’d love to see a thorough analysis of this claim. Were all of the responding scientist’s opinions given equal weight?

    I happen to agree that the Earth is undergoing climate change. However, I (and many others) are unconvinced that human activity is a major factor. I also think FAR more analysis should be done as to what the best courses of action are as we truly determine what’s going on. I find the projections of the costs and effects of global warming truly laughable since they fail to account for future disruptive technologies, as well as future non-human-induced climate changes. We have little idea of the chaotic feedback and/or damping mechanisms which may be activated as the planet warms.

    Here are a few thoughts:

    The developed West, and America in particular, is doing quite a lot to control pollution and make a cleaner planet. Going forward, the bulk of the problem is going to be developing countries. Penalizing the United States’ economy with the Kyoto Protocol would have been counterproductive. It has also been admitted by Kyoto proponents that it won’t significantly reduce global warming going forward, according to their own models.

    If you really want to ‘solve’ greenhouse gas generation, do it in a win-win fashion, rather than claiming (incorrectly) that sacrifice or wealth redistribution is required to solve the problem. For instance, replacing fossil fuel fired power plants with nuclear plants, and then encouraging people to commute in wall-socket-charged electric cars (or hybrids) could eliminate a tremendous amount of ‘carbon footprint’, as well as probably resulting in cheaper electricity.

    Neither the evidence nor the science presented so far is sufficient to warrant the remedies proposed by GW believers. Further, many of those suggested remedies are poorly conceived and will never fly in the real world, regardless of the situation.

  9. 59
    David M. Brown says:

    The sun is the culprit!

    The current irrational debate over global warming will not be settled until we realize that there is one overwhelming factor that is seldom, if ever mentioned. The most significant contributor to global warming is the temperature of the heat source, the sun. All studies that I have read or heard assume that the temperature at the heat source is constant, but there is absolutely no evidence to prove this hypothesis.

    In fact, a variable heat source is the only rational explanation that explains multiple ice ages and subsequent warming of the earth for millions of years before the earth’s population was large enough to have any possible impact. You can experience the equivalent of global warming and cooling at home when you adjust the setting on your thermostat.

    Humans obviously have some impact on our environment but I believe that our impact is absolutely miniscule. It is much like standing in a “Category 5 Hurricane” and trying to influence the direction that a feather is flying by simply blowing on it!

    David M. Brown

  10. 60
    Hank Roberts says:


    Hot Topic
    by Elizabeth Kolbert February 12, 2007

    Begins: “Except in certain benighted precincts – oil-industry-funded Web sites, the Bush White House, Michael Crichton’s den – no one wastes much energy these days trying to deny global warming….”

    Picking the terms on which the debate is made is important; this seems to have been a mix of denial of the science, and debate about whether this is a critical time to take action, as well as a debate about whether there’s a crisis NOW or a crisis guaranteed later or no worries.

    Who got to vote? I never saw the ‘online poll’ enabled any time I looked.

    Tangential to this topic:

    — on the ‘Swindle’ TV program, if you want to see it, check which version of it you find (it was somewhat changed between its first and second showings on British TV, as their fudging of charts has been coming to light — see Stoat, it’s an ongoing story. Still bogus; fascinating for that.

  11. 61
    Eli Rabett says:

    One is tempted to be a bit snarky, but, as in much else, Gavin and Roger are using the same word with different meanings (Theory, anyone)?. Gavin is talking about the physical and biological dangers posed by man made climate change (ditch the anthropic), Roger is talking about the metaphysical (political and economic) dangers associated with man made climate change.

    Roger has actually gone a long way in saying that even 450 ppm CO2 equivalent would be a very bad thing with significant negative consequences and that major mitigation will be needed

    So, as I said many months ago, the ball has really moved into the court of WGII and III – dangers and how to deal with them. In this respect you have to talk past the Lindzen’s of the world, which is what Gore does. Here is a model which might be useful. Note that the climate change problem differs from evolution in that there is not an evolution crisis on the near horizon:

    OK folks, on the otherside you have the bitter enders. Even Bill O’Reilly says that anyone who does not recognize the challenge of man made climate change is a fool; essentially every scientist who studies climate recognizes the problems and the challenges. What we have to do is decide how to meet those challenges. Part of that job is mine, to improve our understanding of climate so we can better meet the challenge, but a big part is yours and mine, to decide how to meet the challenge and do it. I’ll give you a brief summary of the science to provide a backdrop to the more important points I want to make today.

    All you are going to hear from the other side is the science of the residuals. Anyone who has come up hard and fast against reality understands that there is neither a theory or a model that explains everything. There are always residuals, unexplained anomalies and people on the fringes who will hold onto those for dear life, weaving webs of conspiracy theories that focus only on what remains unexplained. This throws the baby out with the bathwater: the fringe theories might explain the residuals, but they can’t deal with the basic facts of the situation.

    The best theories and models deal with the largest extent of the evidence available using intellectually valid and understandable ideas with predictive power. Those with no tolerance for ambiguity are doomed to a life of carping. The study of typewriters is not as interesting as the study of what has been written on typewriters.

    However, if the typewriter salesman, is loud and insistent he can attract an audience, and if someone is paying him a lot of money to attract typewriter customers, why, he can sell a lot of typewriters. You all have computers, you don’t need their typewriters anymore.

  12. 62
    Steffen Christensen says:

    Thanks, Gavin, for putting yourself out there and debating these charlatans. It’s thankless work, and many many reputable scientists have given up on participating.

    Unfortunately, I have to echo the lines of Ron R., above: “Fact is, as long as there’s big bucks in preserving the status quo you can expect there to be vocal opposition. They’re not going to go away no matter the evidence.” That means that the producers are going to put on the “debate” regardless of who turns up to defend the science side of the story. If the heroes don’t show to the battle, then the job falls to the losers. Some fool will always show up, and will perform even more poorly than the clever, informed guys.

    I participated in a “debate” on Evolution vs. Creation that an evangelical church put on at our university, no less, as did the chair of Biology, my advisor at the time, and a few other stalwart foes. We did the best we could, but strangely, the ones who hit the hardest were the Biology prof and his drinking buddy, who was a Ph.D. student in Geology. The Geologist mocked the flood theory evidence, while the biologist – a Jesuit Christian – quoted the bible right back to them, asking them to explain the two versions of creation in Genesis.

    I would say that in the kind of venue, honestly mocking or openly laughing at the pathetic arguments of the supports could play well. It’s past time to play nicey-nice with these guys. It’s literally laughable that they would refer to cosmic rays as a plausible source of warming, so why not laugh? That can help the audience realize that they are jokers, and gets the emotional tone correct. Jon Stewart does an excellent job of attacking the right on some of their craziness. Point and laugh, it’s not normally nice, but it can well be effective. It’s the least these guys deserve.

  13. 63
    Paul M. MacKinney says:

    144 million cubic miles of earth water divided by 6 billion persons provides each person with about 50 square miles of water 6 feet deep. I gave up trying to figure out how to control the temperature of my share and decided to leave it up to the sun and the clouds. Psalm 2:4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.

  14. 64
    Ben H. says:

    Re #25
    “The climate science community really needs to create a site that lays out the the theories and the facts in a clear and concise manner […] There is an opportunity here for a brilliant web developer to make a major contribution toward saving the planet. Any volunteers?”

    The planet doesn’t need saving. It’s been around for 4600 Myr and once had an atmosphere which was mostly CO2. As recently as 350 Myr ago, all the carbon now buried in fossil fuels was in the atmosphere, together with a whole lot more carbon which is now incorporated in low grade carbonaceous shales and limestones.

    What we are talking about is saving the human species, not the planet. Personally I don’t think there’s any chance of Homo sapiens lasting a million years. The unassuming and unambitious mollusc Lingula has been around for 500 million.

  15. 65
    Kevin G says:

    Some people cannot be successfully debated. These persons adhere completely to their leader’s or group’s position, no matter what facts are presented to the contrary, and they cannot be persuaded by adversaries. When denialists are down to that core group, which they seem to be, then the only purpose to debating them is to keep their influence in check. You will not change their minds. Some day, out of the blue, the Wall Street Journal editors and the big oil companies will adopt a position accepting human-induced global warming. At that time, 90% of the remaining denialists will follow right along with them, without questioning the change. I have seen this amazing transformation repeatedly in the field of energy efficiency.

  16. 66

    well cynically, if you guys are going to help the skeptics win support, then perhaps doing these publicity stunts is a bad idea! ;-)

    Although considering uber-right-wing sites like FreeRepublic were following this, and they are notorious for stacking (“freeping”) polls in a childish attempt to facilely swap opinion, that could explain some things:

  17. 67
    TJH says:

    re: 4 – “It is all a bit sad really that the USA is still debating this subject when action is required to curb their emissions. The USA knows very little of the rest of the world, the denialists are being overtly political in their zest”

    My particular feeling is that non-climatologists supporting the AGC theory are as bad as non-climatologists attempting to dilute the issue. The opponents are going for the political argument because they perceive this is what the other side is doing. We’ve got more than enough hot air from both the debating and from GHGs, we need more climatologists explaining. That’s why I’m so interested in this particular event, although I find the poll numbers disappointing. My opinion is that it’s far better to appeal to the people, but probably more difficult.


    re: 41 – “So debate is bad? USA is bad and dumb? Despite what you read in the papers and hear on the news, there is no “consensus” on the anthropogenic forcing issue. And since when was science by consensus anyway.”

    Debate isn’t bad. But the opponents are suggesting that the climatologists are driven by their political views, then attacking them based on this assumption. The debate about the science has come and gone, yet past debates are being reintroduced as if they’re new ideas, giving the impression that there is great doubt, when in fact the competiting hypotheses did not hold up under peer review.

    The talking points for the AGC theory opponents perhaps are (or were) based on acceptable science, but they still amount to little more than bricks atop the wall of evidence. What the debate is accomplishing is little more that putting a brick on the wall so the opposing side may knock it off. Now they’ve been reduced to using the same bricks. Clearly we’re getting nowhere, and the opponents haven’t actually disturbed the foundation of the wall.

    There is consensus in science when many independent experiments produce data that leads scientists to the same conclusion. I know this is Crichton’s mantra, but his examples are an equation that is mostly unknowns, and something that was based on an unscientific assumption. Modern AGC theory is built around observed phenomena, the most likely possibility for those observations being GHGs, and the most likely possibility to account for the volume of the GHGs being mankind.


    re: 45 – No one is asking you to do it all by yourself. What is needed is your cooperation, patience and some sacrifice to move away from conventional combustion-based energy to something else.

  18. 68
    George says:

    Re #44. Excellent point in that reality is not peer-reviewed. Anyone who thinks that having the facts on their side helps them in the reality arena did not live through the Vietnam War or has not absorbed the lessons of Iraq. Humans are at least as emotional as rational and also have their opinions formed by a range of social pressures. Ideally it would be best to have a PR firm take the GW debate to the public but that would mean acknowledging the imperfections of human intelligence – which few academics are eager to do since it threatens the basis for their intellectual exercises.
    But I do applaud Gavin’s attempt to go up against Crichton et al.

  19. 69
    Jim O'Donnell says:

    While I’m sure you guys did well as scientists, I still feel that you shouldnt have even gone there. I feel that simply by debating with people like Crichton we loose. Science looses. Advocacy for a solution looses. You guys here at realclimate are too good. People like Crichton dont deserve to be seen in the same room with you. GW is a fact, its here. Dont debate it anymore. Lets just find solutions.

  20. 70
    J.C.H says:

    kevin G wrote: “… Some day, out of the blue, the Wall Street Journal editors and the big oil companies will adopt a position accepting human-induced global warming. …”

    With respect to big oil, that has already happened to varying degrees – even at ExxMob:

    “…There is increasing evidence that the earth’s climate has warmed on average about 0.7 C in the last century. Many global ecosystems, especially the polar areas, are showing signs of warming. CO2 emissions have increased during this same time period – and emissions from fossil fuels and land use changes are one source of these emissions.

    Climate remains today an extraordinarily complex area of scientific study. The risks to society and ecosystems from increases in CO2 emissions could prove to be significant – so despite the areas of uncertainty that do exist, it is prudent to develop and implement strategies that address the risks, …”

    Read the entire statement here:

    The Valdez is making a hard turn to port.

  21. 71
    Steve Reynolds says:

    Re 47:

    Following your link I see (correct info?):

    Last night, NPR and intelligence squared hosted a debate in New York City on the motion “Global Warming is not a Crisis.” The proposition, Michael Crichton, Prof. Richard Lindzen and Prof. Philip Stott, won by 46% to 42%. What makes the performance all the more impressive is that before the event the organizers found the motion would have been disapproved of 57% to 30%, so there was quite a swing as a result of the arguments deployed.

  22. 72
    JohnLee says:

    Your comment “We are scientists, and we talk about science and we’re not going start getting into questions of personal morality and wider political agendas – and obviously that put us at a sharp disadvantage” bears further scrutiny. Why do you presume that since you talk about science that you cannot also talk about morality and have a political perspective? You must have some sort of moral and political perspective about the world and especially about the implications of global warming, climate changes, resources use, consumerism etc. These issues will be resolved, if we are fortunate enough, through a political process in which we must be involved. I strongly suggest that in the future you do engage “them” with the same polish and performance and make the selling of the science an integral part of the public presentation of these ideas. We are dealing with too many important issues not to take a persuasive stand.

  23. 73
    Yo! says:

    You need another website for the public. Real Climate is really ‘climate science for climate scientists’.

  24. 74
  25. 75
    Jim Glendenning says:

    It seems to me that someone should write a book that is understandable for non-scientists explaining the case for AGW. This issue is something that will require government regulation and laws if the CO2 emissions are to be cut. Such a book, if done without appealing to fear and emotion, and written in a readable fashion with simple pictures and charts to illustrate points, could be a real service to the voters and politicians of this country. If AGW is to be mitigated, slowed, or stopped voters must understand what they are voting on when a candidate talks about instituting laws and regualations that will curb freedom and choice. Very few people understand the details and are often skeptical of doomsday presentations like VP Gore’s film. There have been far too many dooms-day books published in the past predicting starvation, over-population, disease, and pestilence; none of which came true. Just a thought. Anyone out there with the expertise and willingness to do such a thing?

  26. 76
    Philippe Chantreau says:

    Kevin G is right, I did not think much could come out of that debate. The contrarian camp is deeply entranched in an emotional view of reality. And they have already formed a camp, with leaders, doctrine, us-against-them attitudes, etc…

    I have not read other blogs today but I’m sure that they are portaying this debate as a victory.

    Anything favorable to their cause, regardless of validity, provides them with massive reinforcing brain chemistry. It is not really possible to establish a rational argument. At least it did not come down as low as the scientific-conspiracy-for-self-interest BS.

    And of course, in pure Rovian inspiration, they accuse the other side of what they are themselves guilty, throwing confusion and doubt and essentially voiding the issue, which then becomes unusable against them.

    The crucial thing about a Rovian argument is that, apparently, whoever launches first wins. So it does not help when counter-arguments against skeptics are trying to take an overly emotional tone. It seems that reality itself is the best antidote to mind-manipulation methods. In Australia, their 4 years (probably going on to 5 now) drought has definitely evaporated doubts as well as water, whether or not it is AGW related. Alexander Ac. is right in post 10: people believe what they can observe (look at Pat Robertson).

    And I don’t agree either that all debate is necessarily good. Once I saw the example of a HIV positive child whose mother did not “believe” in antiretroviral therapy. The child died of PCP, an opportunistic lung infection. The mother in denial managed to find a pathologist willing to “debate” whether the death might have had other causes, despite the evidence from the autopsy. That kind of debate pitting fantasy against reality, is not only useless but harmful. The AGW problem might not have yet the same kind of certitude as an autopsy but it is getting pretty darn close. Proof is that, according to Gavin, there was actually little argument about the science, except from Lintzen sticking to his usual rusty guns. So there might still be hope after all.

  27. 77
    David B. Benson says:

    Re #59: David M. Brown — I suggest you read

    W.F. Ruddiman
    Earth’s CLimate: Past and Future
    W.H. Freeman, 2001

    to obtain a correct understanding of climate.

  28. 78
    Webster says:

    Chrichton may be a loser but at least he knows how to spell.

  29. 79
    cat black says:

    #74: “debate skills” would play differently in front of a different audience, or one more attuned to the realities of our situation. I think that what is apparent now is that the general public is still somewhat amused by all this “global warming nonsense” and enjoys a good show/laugh. In some ways this mirrors the last days of the Roman empire, where mass entertainment involved feeding humans alive to fierce animals, or watching them hack each other’s limbs off, as a partial antidote to the angst they were experiencing due to threats at home and abroad. You can draw whatever expectations for *our* future that you care to based on what happened to the Romans. Only worse, because the Romans weren’t burning down the entire world, just Rome.

    Though I’m not sure it was properly recorded, we can probably assume that the last leaders of the Roman empire finally took ahold of the situation and tried to react in a measured and sensible way to their impending doom. All we know for certain now is that they did not succeed. But you know what, I think I know what they were feeling as they faced the end of everything they knew because I’m feeling it myself now.

  30. 80

    Re 71:


    Thanks for posting the results of the debate…not sure the moderators of RC would have gotten around to it. For more information on the before and after poll numbers see the event’s website .


  31. 81
    Dana Johnson says:

    It’s prety humorous that “I lost the debate” = “the audience just wasn’t smart enough to understand the science.”

    As Albert Eistein, a reasonably smart scientist with several peer-reviewed papers to his name once said “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.â??

    Maybe the problem is that predicting 3C warming in response to a doubling of CO2 concentration when the radiative forcing is only ~1C and nobody can cite a single example of a climate model that has demonstrated predictive skill for gloabl temperature (actual prediction, not ‘hindcasting’) over a period of 10 years, never mind a century, has something to do with why the audience remained unconvinced.

  32. 82

    [[Maybe the problem is that predicting 3C warming in response to a doubling of CO2 concentration when the radiative forcing is only ~1C and nobody can cite a single example of a climate model that has demonstrated predictive skill for gloabl temperature (actual prediction, not ‘hindcasting’) over a period of 10 years, never mind a century, has something to do with why the audience remained unconvinced. ]]

    Look again at Hansen’s middle scenario, scenario B, from his 1988 testimony. Then look at the GISS temperature record for the period of his prediction.

  33. 83
    Thom says:

    Roger Pielke Jr. (#51),

    As usual, you did not engage a single point. Instead, you used a reply as a way to hawk your latest opinion. This time it’s a book instead of a op-ed or other sort of opinion piece.

    Please deal with some substance. [edit]

  34. 84
    Reasic says:

    This is unrelated, and for that I apologize. I just posted an answer to a question on the 800-year lag, and I just wanted to see if anyone could help either verify what I’ve said or show me where I went wrong. Thanks.

  35. 85
    Dana Johnson says:

    Re: 82


    Thanks for the reply. Jim Hansen is a great example of how scientists usually maintain standards of intellectual honesty, when speaking as researchers in their area of expertise, that other participants in the public debate should emulate.

    Hansen’s own evaluation of the forecast that you describe through 2005, in his 2006 peer-reviewed paper from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, was that:

    “a 17-year period is too brief for precise assessment of model predictions, but … comparison with the real world will become clearer within a decade”.

    In other words, even according to the author, we have to wait another 5 – 10 years before we can empirically evaluate the accuracy of those specific models. It’s not that the forecast was wrong, simply that we are simply in a period when the forecast signal can not yet be statistically distinguished form noise.


    [Response: Not so. The forecast signal is clearly distinguishable from noise – it not yet useful as a test of the precise values of the sensitivity. I may post on this soon… -gavin]

  36. 86
    bayesian says:

    You say “we’re not going start getting into questions of personal morality and wider political agendas” and then immediately go on to say “One minor detail that might be interesting is that the organisers put on luxury SUVs for the participants to get to the restaurant – 5 blocks away. None of our side used them (preferring to walk), but all of the other side did.” which sounds to me like just such an attack, and unnecessary, especially if we are to believe that the argument can be won without recourse to such comments.

    It sounds as if you need to toughen up quite a bit, as the sceptics deploy increasingly better presentation (TGGWS excepted), and politicians get hold of the issue and as ever, go over the top, making people suspicious that some kind of tax and power grab is being built.

  37. 87
    Edward Greisch says:

    We may have the reason why SETI [the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence] hasn’t found any space aliens yet. They all died in ecological disasters of their own creation, mostly global warmings. Hasn’t anybody mentioned what happens to the poor during a mass extinction event?

  38. 88
    Ron Taylor says:

    I am deeply grateful for the courage of the scientists on this site. It would be so easy to say “Nuts to it – I don’t need this” and retire to your labs to quietly continue your very interesting and challenging work. You could do that fully aware that you know what you are doing and that the truth will win out sooner or later anyway. In the final analysis, no one can bluff nature. For hanging in and trying to make a difference, you have my gratitude, and that of countless others, I am sure.

  39. 89
    Rod B. says:

    This ole skeptic thinks, from your description, that you carried your water just fine. These things never go as planned and certainly not to perfection. Everybody in the stands knows which play should have been called, or that we should have played on a different field, or maybe even played a different game. That’s the way things go. Though they are well-intentioned.

    I’m curious if you think you had a credible moderator. I heard it was Lerher (sp??), who like McNeil leans a little left but none-the-less has, also like McNeil, a stellar reputation for factual and fair journalism. [I think the PBS nightly news hour is by far the best news/reporting broadcast.]

    [Response: The moderator was excellent. Brian Lehrer (no relation I think) of the WNYC morning program. -gavin]

  40. 90
    interested observer says:

    Well, I wasn’t there, but if, as recorded on the sciam blog (see #74), Mr. Schmidt made the “fatal debating error of dismissing the ability of the audience to judge the scientific nuances”, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the arguments of his side didn’t carry the day. People don’t like being insulted. Also, if one is arguing that something constitutes a crisis, one had better be aware that we non-experts are being bombarded day in and day out by experts’ warnings of all kinds of crises e.g. the “crisis in education”, the “housing crisis”, the “crime in the streets” crisis, etc. The word “crisis” is simply worn out. So, if Mr. Schmidt, as an expert in the field, wishes to argue that global warming is a crisis, he will have to have some pretty convincing proof to satisfy non-experts such as me, when where I live we’ve just endured the longest winter we have had in quite a few years and have had to put up with a blizzard and -26 C. temperatures during the last 24 hours (somewhat unusual for the 15th of March even at this location). Until then, I am afraid I will have to fall back on Churchill’s reported statement that experts should be kept on tap not on top.

    [Response: Just so you know, ‘crisis’ was not the word of our choosing. The debate was put together sceptics side first and only after a wide search did they find enough people to counter. -gavin]

  41. 91
    Tavita says:

    On moral issues and presentation: Get Al Gore, or John McCain, or David Attenbourgh or someone like that on your team to level the playing field.

    On the poor: Inexpensive, clean, decentralized energy will help the poor. Even if the price of oil goes down; if one has cheap solar and cheap batteries, one will simply leapfrog over expensive centralized power distribution systems were they don’t exist and stop maintaining them where they do. (For example, there are many places in the third world that don’t and never will have landlines for telephone service because cell phones are much cheaper.)

    On the poor: The irony is that many of the denialists claim that global warming is a socialist, communist, environmentalist, leftist, UN hoax to redistribute wealth. So is Stott’s a commie, but on the wrong team?

    Do a search on,

    global warming is UN way to redistribute wealth

    (note: an interesting “Did you mean..” pops up.)

    On the AGW debate:

    When John Howard of Austriala bans incandencent light bulbs, when George Bush praises the IPPC, when venture capitalist are pouring their money into alternative energy projects, when US auto makers are ready to agree to emission cut backs and a “cap and trade” system, it would seem that the debate over AGW is over.

    “Out of the ashes of the Internet bust, many technology veterans have regrouped and found a new mission in alternative energy: developing wind power, solar panels, ethanol plants and hydrogen-powered cars.”

    “The Administration welcomes the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which was developed through thousands of hours of research by leading U.S. and international scientists and informed by significant U.S. investments in advancing climate science research,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman said. “Climate change is a global challenge that requires global solutions. Through President Bush’s leadership, the U.S. government is taking action to curb the growth of greenhouse gas emissions and encouraging the development and deployment of clean energy technologies here in the United States and across the globe.”

    “Earlier this week, chief executives of America’s four largest car companies Ford, DaimlerChrysler, Toyota North America and General Motors (GM) acknowledged they intend to change their ways. Collectively the group told lawmakers that they would accept a US economy-wide strategy to reduce carbon emissions as long as it did not disproportionately target car producers. In addition they agreed on the merits of devising a US-wide carbon emission “cap and trade” regime. Their pledge, which took place in a rare joint appearance before Congress, marked a significant step forward for the new Democratic majority on Capitol Hill, which aims to draft America’s first national global warming legislation in the next few months.”

    “Howard has become a global warming convert, conceding in recent months for the first time that human activity is having an effect on rising temperatures. But he has steadfastly refused to bring Australia into line with most of the world and ratify the Kyoto protocol on greenhouse gas reductions, arguing that doing so could damage Australia’s coal-dependent economy.”,8599,1591757,00.html

    So here is where the debate is, what to do about it.

    Remember evolutionary biologists “lost” a lot of debates, but our schools still teach evolutionary theory; you may have “lost” this debate, but virtually the whole world agrees that AGW is real and we need to do something about it. The denialists are really in the minority with nothing but talking points to comfort them.

  42. 92
    David B. Benson says:

    Re #84: Reasic — Your answer is reasonably correct. I recommend you read the comments on the Swindled thread regarding this matter. At least one of the comments describes the limited feedback process rather beautifully and simply.

    Re #90: interested observer — Checking today’s news, I found an article entitled Worldwide Warmest Winter on Record

  43. 93
    Lynn says:

    Hi, I am just a lay person. I’ve been reading this website to try to understand some arguments that can be used against deniers when they bring up their points such as global warming is a natural cycle and not man-made. Of course most of the finer points that are discussed here go over my head. But about this particular post, I think that better than debating the other side in person, is to do presentations where you bring up the other side’s arguments and then counter them (like you do on this website). But even if you do debate them, and find it impossible to debate lies and irrelevant arguments, take heart. Nothing that one individual does will make or break the effort. It is a cumulative effort that counts and no one can know how one’s effort will influence another effort or build on something to change someone’s mind. It is the effort of all the scientists, combined with writers, good journalists, Gore, and other politicians, teachers and lay people like me talking to their friends and going on the local newspaper blogs to counter the comments of lunatics. You can’t change the lunatic mind, but it is all the other folks that need to see the truth of what science has discovered about climate change who are the real audience. So even if you have a down day, we all need you scientists to keep plugging away. And even if you didn’t win the poll in this debate (which could be skewed so easily) you planted seeds. Eventually the seeds will bloom and the social tipping point of understanding global warming in the US will come fast. It may already be happening. But you’ve got to keep talking to the world in whatever way you are comfortable, just remember the vast majority of the public is probably at a 3rd grade level when it comes to understanding science, so if your audience is general always include the basics.

  44. 94
    Richard Ordway says:

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

    I for one, could really use a post on this topic and highly encourage you to please do it!

  45. 95
    Matchett-PI says:

    Carl Re: #66

    You should have asked people to refresh their browsers when they clicked on your link. :)

    Refresh browser:

  46. 96

    Re 60

    Er,Hank- about “check which version of it you find (it was somewhat changed between its first and second showings on British TV, as their fudging of charts has been coming to light — see Stoat, it’s an ongoing story. Still bogus; fascinating for that.

    One recalls the vigorous defense here of a certain chart that has vanished from another mass media product- I suppose it’s a matter of whose rubber graph paper is Gored.

  47. 97
    Ike Solem says:

    Roger (RE#51),
    I don’t think Thom’s statement was a misrepresentation of your viewpoint, thought it perhaps could have been couched more diplomatically. I assume that your statements before the House Oversight Committee do represent your viewpoint, so let’s run through them ( ):

    First, in boldface we have “There is no Bright Line that Separates Science from Politics”.

    Well, science is what you can communicate to others; for example I should be able to phone someone in Australia and confirm that when they boil water at sea level, it boils at 100C, just as it does in here, and that it freezes at 0C, just as it does here. Political concerns have absolutely noting to do with it! Your attitude can only be characterized as profoundly anti-scientific, and yet you don’t seem to realize this.

    Then you say (boldface) that “Politics and Science Have Always Mixed”. This is again nonsense, though it could be said that “Politics and Government Policy on Funding Science Have Always Mixed” but science itself is something different. For example, the severe cut in funding renewable energy research in 1980 was due to politics – that’s very clear.

    Continuing, we have “Science in Policy is Unavoidably Political” – this is a little closer to the truth, but still misses it altogether. Take out the Science and you have the correct statement: “Policy is Unavoidably Political”. Politics, government and policy do go hand in hand, but science is something different.

    Next we have “Scientific Cherry Picking and Mischaracterizations are a Part of Politics” – no, such behavior is simply dishonest and deceptive – unless you are claiming that all politics are dishonest and deceptive, which is a rather cynical viewpoint, though it may occassionally be true. Most scientists call such behavior fraudulent.

    What next: “Scientists Have Contributed to the Politicization of Science” – sort of inconsistent with your earlier statements about science being unavoidably political, but inconsistency seems to be something you have little trouble with – for example, claiming that the AMO is the only cause of the increased trend in hurricane intensity, while also claiming that the data is too poor to reliably show such a trend – huh? I suppose if you are referring to yourself, then yes, some political scientists do try and politicize science.

    By the way, I’m still waiting for an answer to my question on your view of temperature trends:

    The question (still standing) is “With respect to the fact that the warmest years since accurate records began have all been in the last decade, does this represent an anomalous spike in the natural climate variability, or are we looking at a generally increasing temperature trend that is due to the increased concentration of atmospheric CO2 brought on by buring fossil fuels? (A generally increasing temperature trend would be expected to set a systematic trend of new temperature records, wouldn’t it?)”

    Thanks in advance for your response.

  48. 98
    Pat Joseph says:

    I wrote a response to this on the blog, “Compass”, which I maintain on the Sierra Club website. Upon reflection, I may come off a bit harsh, but let me say that up front that I’m a big fan of Real Climate and would be genuinely interested in what people think. Thus the heading: Debate This. To the RC crew, keep up the good work.

  49. 99

    #30, The bet thing would work, but I rather we review science achievements in climate projections, in a comprehensive way. There is no defense against past success. There is also no offense against future possible scenarios they can easily be wrong (unless one is always right), the track record is a matter of verification. The warming signal is so obvious to the lay, the last thing to do is to explain it right.

  50. 100
    Ed Sears says:

    To 59: ‘The Sun is the Culprit’: the whole science of the Earth’s climate starts with incoming radiation from the sun – it’s not ignored. The Independent (UK) of today (Thurs 15th) shows the correct versions of the graphs showing the sun’s input alongside the out-of-date graphs used in The Great Global Warming Swindle. You also need to know about Milankovitch cycles (changes in the Earth’s orbit which affect how much sunlight hits the Earth and where): explore Realclimate a bit further to find out more.

    Re. Al Gore: I know he annoys his political opponents in the US but he has had an enormous impact around the rest of the world (that’s the other 95% of the world’s population by the way).

    re 40 and the media no longer inviting tired arguments onto their programmes: I have collected a database of Climate Change articles and reports over the last 2 years (about 800 at last count, covering science, impacts and response) and I can back that up. The old-school ‘balance’ has given way to a new discussion on what to do about the problem, and documenting the rise of clean tech in places like Silicon Valley.

    It’s also worth pointing out that while the likes of Exxon may fund denialists to preserve their financial/regulatory/lucrative government subsidies, they are in fact fairly cold-hearted about their decision-making and don’t actually believe all the rubbish which is put forth at their behest. No multi-national would ever base their decision-making on Michael Crichton, even if his talk advantages them.

    On keeping the developing countries in poverty, wearing hair shirts, destroying the economy etc:
    Anil Sethi of Swiss startup Flisom:
    ‘The â��tipping pointâ�� will arrive when the capital cost of solar power falls below US$1 (HK$7.80) per watt, roughly the cost of carbon power. We are not there yet. The best options today vary from US$3 to US$4 per watt, though that compares with US$100 in the late 1970s.’

    Sethi believes his product will cut the cost to 80 US cents per watt within five years and US 50 cents in a decade.

    Mike Splinter, chief executive of the US semiconductor group Applied Materials, said his company is two years away from a solar product that reaches the magic level of US$1 a watt.

    Cell conversion efficiency and economies of scale are galloping ahead so fast that the cost will be down to 70 US cents by 2010, with a target of 30 or 40 cents in a decade.

    â��We think solar power can provide 20 percent of all the incremental energy needed worldwide by 2040,â�� he said. â��This is a very powerful technology and we’re seeing dramatic improvements all the time. It can be used across the entire range from small houses to big buildings and power plants,â�� he said. â��The beauty is that you can use it in rural areas of India without having to install power lines or truck in fuel.â��

    Villages across Asia and Africa that have never seen electricity may soon leapfrog directly into the solar age, replicating the jump to mobile phones seen in countries that never had a network of fixed lines.

    (from the Hong Kong Standard)

    The rural masses of Africa and Asia will take to cheap solar the same way they have taken to cheap mobiles and cheap internet: they love it, and nothing Crichton, Stott et al say will make the blind bit of difference.