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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. 201
    Dan says:

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

  2. 202
    Rod B. says:

    re 201: [Science is not a popularity contest]

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

  3. 203

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

  4. 204
    Adam says:

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

  5. 205

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

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

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

  6. 206
    Dan says:

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

  7. 207
    Rod B. says:

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

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

  8. 208
    Dan says:

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

  9. 209
    Rod B. says:

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

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

  10. 210

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

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

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

  11. 211
    Dan says:

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

  12. 212
    Tom Boucher says:

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

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


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

    I wonder why?

  13. 213
    David B. Benson says:

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

  14. 214
    Michael says:

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

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

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

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

  15. 215
    Ron Taylor says:

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

  16. 216
    Aaron says:

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

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

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


  17. 217
    Steven Soleri says:

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

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

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

  18. 218

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

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

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

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

  19. 219
    Victor Dupuis says:

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

  20. 220
    Bruce G Frykman says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

  21. 221
    Ray says:

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

  22. 222
    OldManOnFire says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  23. 223
    Max Anacker says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

  24. 224

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

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

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

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

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

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

  25. 225
    Jim says:

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

    We need to raise the issues!