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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. 101
    Dan says:

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

  2. 102
    Doc Jenes says:

    My last 6 posts have not gotten through.

    Someone does not like me.

  3. 103
    Dan says:

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

  4. 104
    Dan says:

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

  5. 105
    Doe Janus says:

    Sometimes the majority is wrong.

    Swine flu, SARS.
    Y2K. lacrosse case.

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

  6. 106
    Rod B says:

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

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

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

  7. 107
    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

  8. 108
    TJH says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  9. 109
    Dan says:

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

  10. 110
    David donovan says:

    Re 105.

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

  11. 111
    Di Oja Nee says:

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

    Data don’t lie. But liars use data.

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

  12. 112
    AdrianJC says:

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

  13. 113
    Beth says:

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

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

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

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

  14. 114
    Rick says:


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

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


  15. 115
    Ray Ladbury says:

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

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

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

  16. 116
    Deja Vu says:

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

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

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

  17. 117
    David donovan says:


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

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

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

  18. 118
    Tom Boucher says:

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

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

  19. 119
    Eli Rabett says:

    Mthematicians don’t have data, they have assumptions.

  20. 120
    Dave Rado says:

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

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

  21. 121
    Dan says:

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

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

    And you are talking to a meteorologist/physicist.

  22. 122
    Ray Ladbury says:

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

  23. 123
    David B. Benson says:

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

    Best wishes.

  24. 124

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

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

  25. 125

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

    Like science in action. Remember continental drift?

  26. 126
    jack keith says:

    One percent risk and 90 percent certainty:

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

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

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

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

    Diversion from what the hard responses and solutions must be.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  27. 127
    David donovan says:

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

  28. 128
    AndrewM says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

    …and move them on to your ground.

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

  29. 129
    Alex says:

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

  30. 130
    El Cid says:

    Rhetorical point:

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

    Turn that quickness and surprise around to satire.

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

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

  31. 131
    Richard Ordway says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  32. 132
    Rod B. says:

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

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

  33. 133
    Dan says:

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

  34. 134
    ken says:

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

  35. 135
    Dave Rado says:

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

  36. 136
    Miaplacida says:

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

  37. 137
    ken says:

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

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

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

  38. 138
    Eli Rabett says:

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

  39. 139
    Eli Rabett says:

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

  40. 140
    Richard Simons says:

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

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

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

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

    I hope it goes well.

  41. 141
    Philippe Chantreau says:

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

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

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

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

  42. 142
    Rod B. says:

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

  43. 143
    Arthur Smith says:

    Just a few suggestions among all the comments here!

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

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

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

  44. 144
    Ike Solem says:

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

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

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

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

  45. 145
    Hank Roberts says:

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

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

  46. 146
    Tim McDermott says:

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

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

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

  47. 147
    Hank Roberts says:

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

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

  48. 148
    Jim Glendenning says:

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

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

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

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

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

  49. 149
    ken says:

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

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

  50. 150
    Wallace says:

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