RealClimate logo

Global Warming debate

Filed under: — gavin @ 12 March 2007 - (Türkçe)

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 Responses to “Global Warming debate”

  1. 51
    Hank Roberts says:

    P.S. — check if Broad’s talking about the movie, which is definitely outdated by now, or about the current slideshow, which one of the people here recently said is being kept up to date and has good cites.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.)

  2. 52

    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.

  3. 53
    Adam says:

    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?

  4. 54
    Valuethinker says:

    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.

  5. 55
    teacher ocean says:

    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.

  6. 56
    Dan says:

    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.” ;-)

  7. 57
    Dave Rado says:

    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.


  8. 58
    pat neuman says:


    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:

  9. 59
    Dave Rado says:

    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.

  10. 60
    Neal J. King says:


    – 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.

  11. 61
    Mike says:


    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.”

  12. 62
    Fredrik says:

    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.

  13. 63

    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. :)

  14. 64
    Alan says:

    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.

  15. 65
    Bob Arning says:

    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?

  16. 66
    hopp says:

    “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.

  17. 67
    ghost says:

    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.

  18. 68
    Lawrence McLean says:

    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!

  19. 69
    Lou Grinzo says:

    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.

  20. 70
    Diogenes says:

    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?

  21. 71
    Terry Miesle says:

    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.

  22. 72
    Fergus Brown says:

    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.

  23. 73
    macles says:

    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.

  24. 74
    Herb says:

    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

  25. 75
    Eli Rabett says:

    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.”

  26. 76
    Eli Rabett says:

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

  27. 77
    Max says:

    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…

  28. 78
    Naz says:

    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.

  29. 79
    NU says:


    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.

  30. 80
    Ray Ladbury says:

    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.

  31. 81
    Craig Allen says:

    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!

  32. 82
    tom says:

    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]

  33. 83
    Ray Ladbury says:

    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.

  34. 84
    Thom says:

    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.

  35. 85
    Mitch Golden says:

    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.

  36. 86
    tom says:


    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]

  37. 87
    Ray Ladbury says:

    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.

  38. 88
    Rob Davis says:

    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?

  39. 89
    Pedrolito says:

    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”.

  40. 90
    Ron Taylor says:

    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.

  41. 91
    Lloyd Flack says:

    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.

  42. 92
    Ed says:


    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.

  43. 93
    Jason Parker says:

    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.

  44. 94
    Jeff DeLaune says:

    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.

  45. 95
    Terry Miesle says:


    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…

  46. 96
    Diogenes says:

    [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.

  47. 97
    Ray Ladbury says:

    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.

  48. 98
    Ray Ladbury says:

    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.

  49. 99
    Ron Taylor says:

    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.

  50. 100
    David donovan says:

    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