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"
Roger Smith says
If the format allows enough time to really delve into a handful of topics and allows you to combat misrepresentation it could be worthwhile.
If not it could quickly descend into the denialists resorting to confusing the public with complexity and leaving them with the idea that the science is still unsettled. Time to hone the rhetorical skills!
One of the postdocs I work next to recently told me “Michael Moore has it right. If you can’t make it entertaining you will never reach the general population”. When it comes to disseminating the truth you need to set up a solid backbone for credibility and then grab their attention with entertainment. RC is a critical part of the backbone but it can not get everything done by itself. Al Gore has made this abundantly clear with his ‘documentary’. Just be careful and don’t let yourself become a target. RC is too important for you to be taking unnecessary risks.
The house is sold out. Have fun with this Gavin. I have no doubt you will slaughter them. BTW, since you are going to meet Crichton in person would you mind asking him if he still believes in spoon bending, auras, etc? His book Travels is quite a trip.
Todd Albert says
I think the value will depend greatly on the moderator. If the format and questions are fair, then truth will prevail. At least in theory.
Best of luck! We’ll be watching.
Gary McClellan says
It is worthwhile, because it accomplishes nothing positive to let them say their spiel unchallenged. The people who deny the reality of what is happening are still going to be out there, running their mouths. An appearance by someone who has undeniable credentials to discuss the issue will only help challenge the logjam that the denialists have in some people’s heads.
“If the format allows enough time to really delve into a handful of topics and allows you to combat misrepresentation it could be worthwhile.”
If the debate is going to be broadcasted I would make sure they tell the listeners that you (and your friends) will be doing a post-game analysis at RC. Time is your Achilles heel and if time is short Crichton will have the advantage. Making quick catchy soundbites is where Crichton excels and the vast majority of scientists fail miserably. Make sure you leave yourself an out.
Steven Leibo Ph.D. says
I have often been in that situation.. really two ways to approach the challenge aside from knowing the science of global warming down cold, one needs to know incredibly well the anti-global warming challenges and lots of quick soundbites to refute them. Second some really solid texts from major university presses that can be held up.. they make great props. Aside from that just keep reminding those on the other side of the debate that you would absolutely love for them to be right. That nothing would make you happier than to be proven wrong but unfortunately there is simply too much scientific consensus to do anything other that to face the challenge. Good luck!
For what it’s worth, Gavin, I wouldn’t touch this sort of event with a bargepole. By setting up a formal debate between two “sides”, it presupposes an equivalence of merit – that one side or the other can “win” on the night. It also leaves the result at the mercy of the rhetorical skills of the debaters.
My own strategy is not to ignore the sceptics – their misinterpretations of the science need to be pointed out whenever they manage to get them into the public arena (which RealClimate is of course very good at) – but to deny them importance. They are simply not relevant any more. The world is moving on, both politically and economically. The sceptics have no useful role to play, because they have no useful advice to offer. The low-carbon ship has set sail, and they’re left in port shouting at the wake.
I’ll still listen to the podcast, though…
pat neuman says
I think you and others could do more to change attitudes in the U.S. on global warming by joining forces in putting pressure on NOAA administrators and NWS supervisors to educate the 5,500 meteorologists in 120 National Weather Service offices so the NWS scientists can help other government people and other meteorologists who enter people’s private living rooms better understand climate change.
Grant McSorley says
While I worry about this type of thing lending too much credence to those who deny the problem of global warming, it seems like the media insists on giving even the least credible voices airtime. As a result, I think we still have to take them seriously and do our best to show the public that AGW is a serious threat. I doubt you’ll get to go into too much depth, but I’m sure you can score some good points.
David Graves says
I am ready for “Climate Change–the Movie”. This will *not* be a documentary, but a rather a work of imaginative fiction. In its depiction of this iq2.us debate, lots of computing power will be used by the special effects wizards to animate the sci-fi hybrids of red herrings and straw men Dr. Stott has marshalled to support his arguments. Think of Troy meets Lord of the Rings.
I am reminded of the admonition about not getting in an argument with a fool because onlookers may not be able to tell the difference. It may be a backward step to legitimize “the sceptics” by engaging with them. However, if you don’t, their argument would be “what are they afraid of?” Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I hope this goes better than the Larry King mess. And collect that bottle of whisky from the good Dr. L, or ask him why he is reneging on his bet about ice cores…
Michael Svoboda says
I agree with the previous comment; you have to have a strategy to prevent this from becoming a publicity stunt for the skeptics.
Part of this strategy might be to stress two things over and over again: 1) Every one of the skeptics’ points has been addressed–repeatedly–in forums like RealClimate.org and Grist’s “How to Talk with a Climate Skeptic” website (http://gristmill.grist.org./skeptics), and (2) One cannot construct a coherent explanation out of the many different counter-arguments skeptics offer.
These two points are related to two other points about method. First, climate skeptics enter this debate as trial lawyers, trying to hold climate scientists to a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard of proof, the standard we use when someone has been charged with a crime. That isn’t how we argue about policy choices. (Noting this also allows one to pose the question about the skeptics’ client(s).) Second, there are real questions of value here, one of which has to do with the precautionary principle. Do we really want to hold private property as the supreme value, which is what one does when one holds that absolute certainty is required before one acts to protect the commons?
Go get ’em!
P.S. I’d bring up Crichton’s “prescient” worries, in DISCLOSURE, about women sexually harassing men in the workplace (i.e. he’s always been a contrarian; it’s one of his core writing strategies).
P.P.S. If Lindzen’s iris theory were correct, wouldn’t it have compensated for past climate changes he acknowledges?
Dave Rado says
Make sure you have some large printoute of http://www.englishwineproducers.com/ (especially the page on Yorkshire) and http://www.wineries-and-vineyards.com/alaska-winery-guide.html to show to Philip Stott. You could ask him why he didn’t mention them during the C4 programme!
1. renewable energy sources and sustainable practices and technologies will STABILIZE societies and ALLEVIATE chronic poverty by giving people more control over their economies and their lives.
2. i agree: large-scale risks such as nuclear proliferation, water supply, fuel supply, diseases, and poverty should be taken seriously, not dismissed as paranoia. climate change is such a risk and it is accelerating at a pace we don’t fully understand. why is it being treated less seriously than the other worldwide problems, when it is arguably the easiest to solve? there are simple, minor changes that can be applied quickly to lower the risk.
3. the risk to life could be extreme if no action is taken. our finances, if we do curb emissions aggressively, would suffer no similar risk. in fact efficiency improvements could easily yield long-term benefits as great as those of the transistor. there’s really no reason not to do this! except politics.
4. in regard to historical comparisons, every situation can be said to resemble other situations in the past. that doesn’t make them the same, anymore than apples and oranges are the same because they’re both fruit. but having found a large growth on your skin, new and unusual, the wise person does not assume the growth is safe. the wise person has the growth scanned for cancer.
5. similarly a wise person who is dizzy and is covered with spots does not assume the spots are freckles. it’s common sense to be cautious, and it is common sense to listen to the doctor when the doctor has diagnosed a serious illness. climate change has thousands of second opinions available for reading on the internet.
6. as one part of our risk abatement effort, reducing fossil fuel consumption would get us many other health and safety improvements. dangers from particulates, dangers from poisons in food and water, dangers from fuel shortages, dangers from war, all of these would ease as we shifted away from this hydrocarbon economy. oil supply is not infinite; this is a change we will make one way or the other, for the good; and research and common sense both say we need to make it quickly.
Will there be a transcript available too?
Either way, I’m looking forward to it.
George Ortega says
If I were you, I’d highlight the point that the evidence we have now warrants immediate mitigation and adaptation actions. For them to drag you into a drawn out debate on the science would simply confuse the listeners and validate your opponents’ mistaken conclusions.
Keep stressing that your opponents are vastly outnumbered by the rest of the field, and science generally goes with the consensus, especially on matter as important as global warming. Also, stress the Stern reports findings that we can either pay 1% of global GDP now as an insurance policy or risk a 20% shrinking of the global economy as a result of our inaction.
Jim Redden says
My take and rant. It is not a debate. It is a discussion of fact, prudence, reason, and a chance for clarity to action rather than fear. An option for world leadership and economic flowering of new industries.
A risk analysis sums up that unless one can prove added CO2 poses no risk, which is of course impossible, that we should move at God speed to move to the alternatives of proven renewable energy technology.
FACTS ARE A CALL ACTION
Since the facts and prudent reason favor action now, hope you can impress the person on the street with the same. Phillip Stott and his thinking seems weak, so I don’t really know what he will have to say… The thinking of the past has no place in the analysis of this current evidence.
As I have seen and read, Somerville has a nice way of making analogies of commonplace events, such as the ocean as a flywheel of heat energy, and the planet has a fever suggesting the necessity of taking a fever seriously diagnosed by a doctor… This will be of great help, I am sure. Facility with the science is also a great asset in dealing with Lindzen, and one could even agree with Lindzen on the aspects of uncertainty – of opposing cloud processes– and still fully justify immediate actions.
Perhaps the argument goes like this: aspects of prudent and reasonable action should be founded on simple facts of total agreement that even a Pat Michaels is forced to admit.
– CO2 concentration is rising (due to human activities)
– CO2 retains solar energy
– the temperature is rising
– these points are admitted as scientific fact
Simple irrefutable points…
There are highly likely (almost virtually certain) manifested thermodynamic processes seen in a scientific consensus that leads one to see a sequence of events, of eventual grave consequence, that will result in adverse conditions for humanity.
Then the opposing argument is that there are uncertain cloud processes… Admittedly. And of course, this is exactly true. Emergent properties of cloud formation could very well work in opposition to rising surface temps, and could even mask the true degree of influence CO2 is having.
LINDZEN IDEAS SUPPORT ACTION
Thus, when Lindzen suggests that this is uncertain, yes, yes, yes, it is… Moreover, yes, even if the realized temperature forcings are just a few degrees, what are the eventual risks to the food chain and ecologies of that support human – Lindzen is not qualified, nor are any of the folks present qualified to render an opinion.
UNCERTAINTY IS A CALL TO ACTION
Encapsulated in this uncertainty is an even greater call to action of reason and prudence – reasoned action based on fact which meets a moral responsibility for decency.
Playing with a loaded gun, and for what benefit. If twenty aircraft mechanics tell you a plane is likely to crash, and just one, says the plane is fine, it;s time to pause before committing to that flight. That is what we need to do/alter course/think this through to a better end.
Moreover, at this juncture, proof is needed that added CO2 will have no adverse effects since it is the more than likely outcome. The burden is on business as usual to make a case, and it cannot prove safety of CO2 release.
The discussion can be nailed and framed on the notion that we are faced with such before unknown HUGE risks to human life, and there alternative technical solutions we can implement right now that work on many levels. Non action–seems – simply- foolish–unwise-irresponsible-foolish-crazy as seen by an unbiased fresh look at the facts.
I think one thing that would help is – if it is at all possible to do so in ‘plain English’ – give a qualitative description of how and why circulation patterns and other dynamics might be expected to change – the Hadley cells, the monsoons, and Walker Circulation, the transient eddies (size, frequency, distribution and motion, seasonality, etc.), the mesoscale and it’s offspring (hail, gust fronts, etc.), the planetary waves, Brewer-Dobson, – and also, how the behaviors of ENSO, PDO, NAO, etc., may change, and then, what these effects would mean (temperature and precipitation of course, but humidity, cloud cover, and wind would also be interesting).
Lynn Vincentnathan says
Go for it. At least they got someone on the “GW is real side” who knows the science very well AND has much experience in refuting all the contrarian talking points. You could probably do it blind-folded with one arm behind your back.
We all have to confront these sowers of doubt and scientific “creative accounting” and out&out dishonesty every possible chance we get.
I have my arguments, that don’t depend on a high level of climate sci knowledge, but it’s even better when one has that knowledge and a good scientific reputation.
Mark A. York says
Fantastic Gavin! And as a bonus, although I’d love to see this as well, Charlie Rose is considering you to debate Crichton one on one, but with this already out there it may be a two-fer. Crichton agreed to it though with an unamed scientist of Rose’s chosing.
Susan Kaplan says
i think it is hugely important to continue this discussion because the doubter population is very large and among our friends and neighbors. i agree that it not be framed as debate because that fuels an unnecessary fire.
there is a change cycle in behavioral science where at one end of the scale are those convinced and actively involved in advocating for change and at the other end, those who have made up their minds and will not budge. then there are those who haven’t made up their minds, and a group of doubters – these folks can often be convinced if the science, plan or other data are explained to them, in plain english as pat suggests. this is the group that can, with education, be moved along the change, or in this case belief, spectrum and can in time become change agents/advocates themselves. this is well-doumented in behavioal science literature and i have actually not only seen it occur but have facilitated it.
i say our friends and neighbors are at various parts of this spectrum based on two personal experiences. in the first case, my handyperson was installing a new ceiling fan for me and when i gave him cfl’s for the light fixture he somewhat unflatteringly referred to them as ‘al gore bulbs.’ we had a brief conversation on global change and he said he didn’t believe it was all human-induced. i said, the data show that climate variations in the last decade, if not longer, are much greater than one could have expected…and he conceded the point. i like to think i educated him, because he was actually very thoughtful when we talked about it and i don’t think he was just agreeing because i was paying him. in the other case, another friend made disparaging remarks about my cfl’s and when i later said, very casually, something to the effect that he doubted the science, he referred to something dixie lee ray said at least fifty years ago about ice ages and climate variations. this is dark ages stuff. but, i knew he was at the unconvincible end of the spectrum and it was not worth the energy to further engage.
so, the dialogue must continue to effect the changes we want.
i apologize for only using lower case letters but i currently only have the use of one hand.
Peter Backes says
Just so you know what you’re up against with Crichton, you may end up in one of this books:
Columnist Accuses Crichton of ‘Literary Hit-and-Run’
By FELICIA R. LEE
Published: December 14, 2006 New York Times
”Next,” Michael Crichton’s new novel about the perils of biotechnology, has not proved as polarizing as his previous thriller, ”State of Fear,” which dismisses global warming. But one of the new book’s minor characters — Mick Crowley, a Washington political columnist who rapes a baby — may be a literary dagger aimed at Michael Crowley, a Washington political reporter who wrote an unflattering article about Mr. Crichton this year.
Here’s the whole text if you have a subscription:
Bet you no one on your side of the panel has been accused of such a thing. Maybe you should ask him about it and the general level of public discourse on GW?
Stephen Spencer says
I am an Australian and regularly visit this site.
In this country in the last year there has been a sea change on the issue of Global Warming / Climate change. Our Prime Minister, John Howard, has been a vocal denialist until very recently. But opinion polls have shown in the last year that most people in this country accept the reality of Global Warming. The polls have forced our Prime Minister to become a believer. This has only occurred through the tireless efforts of scientific experts like you publicizing the issue.
I therefore think that you should “go for it” as we need to keep up the pressure on the crazy denialists.
John L. McCormick says
Crichton, Lindzen and Pat Michaels are irrelevant. You are not there to debate the science with a pulp fiction writer possessed with immoral fantasies. And, Lindzen is way past his sell date.
You are before a camera that is the means to your audience. You know the consequences that will fall on our children as the developed world follows the BAU scenario. That, of itself, will give you the passion to look into the camera and talk to the parents who may not grasp all the facts but dare not risk their childrens future.
Talk past those shills and use this valuable moment to tell us your fears as well as the facts.
Joel Shore says
I don’t know if this would be the right forum, but the two questions I would most like to ask Lindzen are:
(1) How does he reconcile his belief about the climate being so stable…i.e., having strong negative feedbacks…with the ice age — interglacial oscillations? What sort of gargantuan forcing does he believe caused those changes in such a stable climate system?
(2) Why does he make the claim that the global temperature has been basically steady since 1998? Does he really think this cherry-picking of a start year that was a few standard deviations above the mean at the time is a good way to analyze the data?
Carlos Rymer says
I think you should confront Michael and Lindzen and really debunk every incorrect thing they say. Be confrontational; they will try to put out a message that’s not correct and defends the people who fund them. Don’t let this happen; just like they’ll be representing their people, make sure you defend us in saying the truth.
Also, point people to https://www.realclimate.org for accurate information about the climate debate. Good luck! You’ll do great!
I think you need to state clearly that a consensus exists around the idea that increased CO2 will lead to significant warming. However, you need to acknowledge that there is uncertainty in how much warming will actually occur, and that the consensus also acknowledges this uncertainty. Then point out that this uncertainty extends far enough that it is possible that the skeptics will be right, and warming will not be disastrous. The final, key point is that the uncertainty extends just as far in the other direction, and it is possible that the warming will be much worse than the consensus!
It is up to scientists to attempt to determine a “most likely” scenario and a range of uncertainty over and below that scenario, ideally with some kind of probability estimates. Then it is up to policymakers to determine how much it is worth to bring down the upper, horrible end of the uncertainty tail by controlling emissions, and what the best way to do it is.
I don’t envy you, though. If there is one thing that being on debate team in high school taught me it is that the debate format is designed to favor the better speaker, not the speaker with the best facts.
Mark A. York says
Since I’ve been in a number of these debates, although not formal on stage, you have to watch language like “consensus.” To this crowd that means the ones onboard the gravy train of government climate funding, so it’s a conspiracy on its face in that regard. Define it upfront. On Charlie Rose Crichton ended with, “Are we moving away from science to ‘consensus.’ Why don’t facts matter anymore?” He’s a highly skilled propagandist. This has to be science defending its honor from political manipulation, much the same as when Darwin’s brother, I think, performed before the Royal Society, and slaughtered his creationist critics in public. This is huge. You’ll do well. If a line of sceptic reasoning is a fallacy, say so: This is fallacious because_____.
P. Lewis says
I think you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Both Crichton and Stott are adept with the media, it seems.
I dare say you know your opponents well enough anyway (and I wouldn’t presume to teach this grandma to suck eggs), but Prof. Stott’s position is here and here and he will likely want to raise the work of Vezier and of Svensmark at some point, and possibly grapes!
I saw the RC piece on British wine and Roman grapes some time back. I didn’t get around to commenting there (and I suppose this is not really the place to do it now), but on the off chance that Prof. Stott (or Crichton) bring Roman grapes up, perhaps this contemporaneous account of Roman Britain’s weather by the Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus in AD94 may be instructive:
And also from sections 10-13 of Tacitus’s biography of Agricola:
Then there’s this (from http://www.englishwineproducers.com/history.htm, which is well worth a read, I think) about wine and vineyards in Britain during the height (or should that be the depths) of the LIA:
And do what the politicians do: answer the questions you want asked (stick to your script), not what the other side or the questioner are asking (within reason, of course).
Hank Roberts says
Gavin, I sure hope you all can agree on a final numbered list for Global Warming Bingo, er, I mean, Coby’s list of stock arguments, to save time and enhance footnoting.
“Briefly — you can look this up, it’s skeptic point 7 on the list at the website — it’s been wrong since ….”
Charles Muller says
a debate (…) about whether Global Warming is a crisis (or not)
In order to help you in understanding skeptical lay psychology :D, my first reaction to your quoted sentence is: of course, global warming is NOT a crisis. I mean, nobody can seriously assert that the 0,75 K warming 1850-2005 (or, 1,7 mm/yr sea-level rise) lead to disasters, when compared to real disasters affecting humanity (wars, dictatorships, diseases, malnutrition, poverty, etc.).
Most models tell us GW would be a crisis in BAU scenario. Your basic problem is to give credibility to such a putative threat, whereas most people reason with present evidences. These remarks are just a reflexion on the word “crisis” and its implication for popular psychology.
Post scriptum : In France, for example, the mean climatic difference between two departements (administrative areas) like Bouches-du-Rhone (South, mediterranean) and Aisne (North, semi-continental) is 3,5 K. Hard to believe for laymen that the Southern French already live in hell (while most people prefer warm South departements – Riviera – for holidays as well as retirement).
Eli Rabett says
Practice. Research your opponents past performances. Get people to play your opponents roles. You probably can use the C4 thing for text as a start. Look at video of the moderator to gauge his or her style. Find video and transcripts of Crichton, Lindzen and Stott. Be prepared for their pat answers.
Go to the School of Journalism and have them video you during practice runs. Take advice on how to pitch and modulate your voice, hand motions, etc. Learn how to know where the camera is and talk to the camera. Plant someone in the audience with a small portable TV to point out to you where the camera is pointing if they hide it. Talk to Drew Shindell, he did very well at the House hearings.
BarbieDoll Moment says
…”The preliminary position statements (from me and from Philip Stott)
are available on the ABCnews site.”…
The gist of Stott’s argument is going to be a hard row to hoe and
defend against, because Stott’s points are sadly, very real
and very true.
Global Warming Is Not a Crisis
PHILIP STOTT March 9, 2007
…”Herein lies the moral danger behind global warming hysteria. Each
day, 20,000 people in the world die of waterborne diseases. Half a
billion people go hungry. A child is orphaned by AIDS every seven
seconds. This does not have to happen. We allow it while fretting about
“saving the planet.” What is wrong with us that we downplay this human
misery before our eyes and focus on events that will probably not
happen even a hundred years hence? We know that the greatest cause of
environmental degradation is poverty; on this, we can and must act.”…
The best line of defense is to agree with his point that those are
issues that need to be addressed, especially as adaptation methods for
climate change will be both technologically and economically
challenging to those very same countries; proving to be an additional
and extra burden to their fledging attempts to become second and first
What benefit, and to whom, at what cost, does it serve to ignore
factors of climate change if one,instead, focused on those issues that
Additionally, until those parts of the world are under stable
governments, the world wide financial aid that has been provided
to them for the last thirty plus years, is not effecting much of a
benefit to the direct residents of those countries.
So I would bring up that additional point up as well. That those issues
have been addressed for the last thirty years and xyz has resulted, or
not, from such and such.
The world bank essentially controls the loans provided to the third and
second world countries have, which is why Bono lauds loan forgiveness
DATA, Debt AIDS Trade Africa
Furthermore, many of those countries who have received financial aid
and or loans, have had their resources exploited by various outlets
the people reaping any benefit.
Not addressing climate changes will not change the reality of those
things that Stott mentions, but will just prove an additional hole for
those countries and residents to dig themselves out of.
One would need to be almost an economist, or do a lot of research on
the matter, to be able to defend against Stott’s arguments.
Bono’s DATA website has a lot of information on the numbers.
Personally, this appears to be a debate arranged to be against apples
Why one would subject themselves to a card game that has one with the
hand of the veracity of the science of climate change versus world
poverty and health versus the victim/no â??consensusâ?? and a pop culture
author is beyond me.
Now if you were debating the climate change scientific views against
OTHER climate change scientific views, negative and positive
perspectives of the science that underlies such, it would be a
different story. However it seems someone put you into an
orchestrated card game where it will be very difficult to just stay in
Yes, Lindzen’s name is listed, however he has made some of the very same
points as Stott in relation to climate changes plus his big gun, the
money spent on climate science, and of course he plays the victim card.
All that said, the only way, I think one would be able to come out of
this debate looking decent, is to be able to anticipate the points the
will use in their arguments and to have prepared a counter to each
point one would think the other players would make in the debate.
And of course, to have at least unanticipated ace on your part to use
against them that they won’t be expecting.
This is a strategic debate, and one has to think and anticipate many steps ahead, as
one does when they play cards or chess. One also has to decide whether
to take the offensive road, and play an offensive strategy and to someone be in the position to get ones points out first; or to play
a defensive strategy where one allows them to make their points and then
one is always on the defensive against their points.
I wish you the best of luck and strategy. And, personally, I would definitely
ask each of them what makes them so imminently qualified to have the power endowed
upon each of them to advise others on the mantra of doing nothing
when the ante they are putting up,
the earth and its six billion plus people and animals, isn’t theirs to speculate with or roll the dice on.
Climate of Fear
Global-warming alarmists intimidate dissenting scientists into silence.
BY RICHARD LINDZEN
April 12, 2006 OpinionJournal – Extra
…”Yet how can a barely discernible, one-degree increase in the
recorded global mean temperature since the late 19th century possibly
gain public acceptance as the source of recent weather catastrophes?
…” After all, who puts money into science–whether for AIDS, or
space, or climate–where there is nothing really alarming? Indeed, the
success of climate alarmism can be counted in the increased federal
spending on climate research from a few hundred million dollars
pre-1990 to $1.7 billion today. It can also be seen in heightened
spending on solar, wind, hydrogen, ethanol and clean coal technologies,
as well as on other energy-investment decisions.
But there is a more sinister side to this feeding frenzy. Scientists
who dissent from the alarmism have seen their grant funds disappear,
their work derided, and themselves libeled as industry stooges,
scientific hacks or worse. “…
MIT’s inconvenient scientist
Alex Beam, Globe Columnist August 30, 2006
…”He’s smart. He’s an effective debater. No wonder the Steve
Schneiders and Al Gores of the world don’t want you to hear from him.
It’s easier to call someone a shill and accuse him of corruption than
to debate him on the merits.”…
…”“This is the criminalization of opposition to global warming,”
says Lindzen, who adds he has never communicated with the auto
companies involved in the lawsuit. Of course Lindzen isn’t a fake
scientist, he’s an inconvenient scientist. No wonder you’re not
supposed to listen to him.”
The Stern Review: A Dual Critique
Part I: The Science
Robert M. Carter, C. R. de Freitas, Indur M. Goklany,
David Holland & Richard S. Lindzen
Part II: Economic Aspects
Ian Byatt, Ian Castles, Indur M. Goklany, David Henderson,
Nigel Lawson, Ross McKitrick, Julian Morris, Alan Peacock,
Colin Robinson & Robert Skidelsky
…”Each paper has its own list of authors. In relation to both
scientific and economic issues, the authors question the accuracy and
completeness of the Stern Reviewâ??s analysis and the objectivity of its
treatment. They conclude that the Review fails to present an accurate
picture of scientific understanding of climate change issues, and will
reinforce ill-informed alarm about climate change. Two interrelated
features of the Stern Review are that it greatly understates the extent
of uncertainty as to possible developments, in highly complex systems
that are not well understood, over a period of two centuries or more;
and its treatment of sources and evidence is persistently selective and
biased. These twin features have combined to make the Review a vehicle
for speculative alarmism. In the judgement of the authors of the Dual
Critique, the Stern Review mishandles data; gives too little attention
to actual observation and evidence, as distinct from the results of
model-based exercises; and takes no account of the failures of due
disclosure, and the chronic limitations of peer reviewing, that have
been characteristic of work relating to climate change which
governments have commissioned and drawn on. As to specifically economic
aspects, the authors note among other weaknesses that the Review
systematically overstates projected costs of climate change, partly
though by no means wholly as a result of its failure to acknowledge the
scope for long-term adaptation to possible global warming;
underestimates the likely costâ??including to the worldâ??s poorâ??of the
drastic global mitigation programme that it calls for; and proposes
worldwide adoption of a specially low rate of interest for discounting
the costs and benefits of mitigation, on the basis of inadequate
analysis and without regard for the problems and risks that would
Rob Davis says
I am a marketing and PR professional and yes, you are correct — participating in the debate validates the premise that the human of climate change is debatable. Your opponents need this kind of visibility and validation much more than you do! (e.g. Crichton’s writing isn’t exactly peer-reviewed.)
And so, yes, your time would be better spent on other activities. NPR’s willing to host this — great, they’re interested in the topic, find a way to give it to them without your opponents getting equal or more air time. Blogging here at RC is great, but how about expanding the base — some guest blogging posts perhaps on other extremely popular blogs? Or starting a betting pool for RC readers — which Antarctic shelf will fall into the ocean next? (and when? this could generate some media coverage..)
That said, don’t back out of the debate. However, push Crichton to identify the areas of his expertise and qualifications in those areas. Identify your opponents as the “Charton Hestons of oil” (you’ll get my SUV when you pry it from my cold, dead hand!” Ask them if they what they love about thousands of drowning polar bears–what do they have against polar bears? Bring some sample quotes from tobacco industry lobbyists of the 60s, 70s and 80s. The general public has a schema for the lying tobacco lobbyist–transfer that schema onto your opponents.
Also, tell the audience a story. Why do you do what you do? Gore does a good job of this in AIT.
By the way, you’ll get this advice and a whole lot more from reading “Made to Stick” by Chip and Dan Heath.
I strongly recommend this book for all RC readers — it’s a well-researched & diligently end-noted general interest book along the lines of “The Tipping Point” but with more useful/actionable advice on how to communicate your ideas.
The point is if they going to use parts and words/phrases out of the context to deliver their message. As in “swindle”. Or if you have the opportunity to clarify things and educate the public.
Zeke Hausfather says
Slightly off topic, whats up with the story slamming Gore’s movie in today’s Times? (link at http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/13/science/13gore.html?8dpc)
Is Revkin on vacation this week? I’d really expect better from them than gems like:
“The [IPCC] went further than ever before in saying that humans were the main cause of the globeâ��s warming since 1950, part of Mr. Gore’s message that few scientists dispute. But it also portrayed climate change as a slow-motion process.
It estimated that the world’s seas in this century would rise a maximum of 23 inches – down from earlier estimates. Mr. Gore, citing no particular time frame, envisions rises of up to 20 feet and depicts parts of New York, Florida and other heavily populated areas as sinking beneath the waves, implying, at least visually, that inundation is imminent…
So too, a report last June by the National Academies seemed to contradict Mr. Gore’s portrayal of recent temperatures as the highest in the past millennium. Instead, the report said, current highs appeared unrivaled since only 1600, the tail end of a temperature rise known as the medieval warm period.”
They clearly ignore the fact that IPCC sea level projections explicitly excludes ice melt, and their interpretation of the NAS report is rather off the mark. How one could read the AR4 and get the impressions that “climate change as a slow-motion process” boggles the mind, unless one happens to only care about impacts that occur in a single generation…
Ike Solem says
I’ll second Rob Davis’s comments. It’s worth looking over that recent Larry King interview with Lindzen – Lindzen’s style is to attempt to go on the attack. Crichton’s style is that of the carnie operator. Philip Stott is smooth and suave, and will say things like climate is too complex to be understood, and that it was warm in the past. What they all have in common is that they’ll shy away from any real discussion of the science in favor of polemic-style debating.
I’d say ignore them and just get the basic science out to the audience. If they try and bring up the medieval warm period, I’d suggest pointing out that it’s limited in extent and that it’s an example of how the climate is sensitive to various influences like volcanic inputs. It’s also sensitive to the atmospheric composition of gases, and humans have influenced that by burning fossil fuels for over a century. In other words, don’t talk to Lindzen, Stott and Crichton, but rather talk to the audience. I don’t expect that they’ll go for the honest debate approach.
Topics they are likely to try and avoid: the warming at the poles and the retreat of glaciers all over the world. They’ll try and focus on small-scale examples that support their position while ignoring the big picture. They’ll also try and avoid a discussion of the basic physics of how CO2 and water vapor act as a blanket. Again, I’d say just roll right over them – dismiss their statements in one sentance and spend the next five sentance explaining the actual science to the audience.
Anyhow, best of luck – I’m sure you’ll do a great job.
Curt Schroeder says
Science-based issues do need public exposure, but the proposed format and individuals for this debate lead me to believe that the real issues will not get the review they require. The moderator ought to be knowledgeable about the subject, if not a respected scientist. Involving the “average citizen” and young people will add value to the debate. This is not entertainment, but neither is this the end of the story.
Wang Dang says
Good idea Rob Davis, marketing and PR profesional. Thousands of drowning polar bears??? Crichton will point out the fact that polar bear populations have increased dramatically during the current warming period. That is why Gore’s movie shows a computer generated drowning polar bear and not a real drowning polar bear.
BarbieDoll Moment says
The online poll link at the site
where the FOR (Global warming is not a crisis)
outlead the Against ((Global warming is not a crisis) by a great margin.
Global warming is not a crisis
Speaking for the motion: Michael Crichton, Richard S. Lindzen, Philip Stott
Speaking against the motion: Brenda Ekwurzel, Gavin Schmidt, Richard C.J. Somerville
Moderator: Brian Lehrer
Global warming is not a crisis
This poll is not closed yet
Votes Online Poll
For 72.86 %
Against 26.00 %
Donâ??t Know 1.14 %
Make sure you have physical copies of all the most commonly distorted/cited articles and blog statements so you can quote them verbatim if they try to cite them out of context. i.e. take everything mentioned in “State of Fear” or in their op-ed pieces, all the Hockey Stick stuff and similar followup studies, Peiser’s differing methods and subsequent admissions, examples of his 34 abstracts, glacier retreat statistics (“some are advancing”), Greenland ice melt, Kilimanjaro, etc etc.
Not to drag up old controversies, but I was at the library this weekend to pull Hansen’s oft cited June 1988 testimony (“300% wrong”). It was missing, so I pulled the November 1987 testimony instead, and lo and behold, it ALSO includes the chart and Hansen’s specific statements as to which he believed was most plausible (“B”). From what I can tell, the ’88 testimony didn’t make this clear (which is what I was trying to find out), but the ’87 testimony certainly did. I will have this prepared by tomorrow if you want me to email you a copy.
Matthew Z. Davis says
Listen to #6, #25, and #27. I’d be ready to fire back quickly and strongly at any bald assertions made by the opposition. You’ve done it a thousand times before here, but be ready to do it again, and be succinct too. Knock them down while the argument they’ve just made is fresh in the listeners head. If they use any rhetorical ‘tricks’ call them out on it.
Also, cite papers briefly, if at all. The fact that evidence or work exists to back you up is infinitely more important than the actual authors name and date to the audience. ‘Verifiable’ is just as useful as a bibliographic citation, and much faster. You can always apologize to a colleague later.
Last. While not always 100% accurate. A good, simple, well placed analogy or simile can be invaluable to describing complex arguments to a layperson. I’d make up a useful list ahead of time.
Gavin, bon chance!
The risk in the debate is that they throw enough mud at sensitivities in forcings to say that given doubt/uncertainty about the level of warming, we should focus on issues such as debt relief/poverty/health etc (seems to be their position in the debate brief).
I think the best way of rebutting this is a three fold strategy.
First – get people thinking about what is acceptable risk? If someone has a 20% chance of losing their job, should they look at other options? If there is a 30% chance of a plane crashing, would someone fly? – make sure the scenarios hit home with everyday people.
Second – link acceptable risk levels to climate risk and a reasonable % chance that under BAU we get crop failures, flooding, droughts etc. – link these outcomes to the same ones Stott and co are saying we need to combat (health/poverty etc)
Third – point out that mitigating this risk can be done by reducing emissions with flow on benefits including improved air-quality, increased energy security, decreased geo-political risks and long run cost savings. Make it clear that current technologies can not only address climate issues, they can solve health issues, political issues, employment issues etc. I think it is important people understand that cleaner energy is great for the environment, but more directly, it will be great for them as individuals!
I think it is really important to sell the benefits of clean energy beyond climate change. Climate change can be too abstract for people to grasp. A big point to hit on in the US would be enegry security and independance – even energy freedom.
Lastly, they may try out the whole conspriacy theory debate. This is best done by highlighting, in detail the backgrounds and processes (that ensure due diligience) undertaken by researchers in this area. Reinforce the seriousness of the allegation of consipriacy and talk about what drives you, as a scientist to discover truth… as opposed to a fiction writer who is driven to create dramatic stories.
Vern Johnson says
Medical metaphors may be much more effective as the general public is very sensitive to those. Such as: “First, do no harm”, the prime directive of the Hippocratic oath. Thus doctors, and in this case climate-doctors, must be able to anticipate possible factors that might harm their patient, which in this case, is the planet and all it’s inhabitants, human and otherwise. To conserve ie to protect against coastal erosion, is more than a little like advising a patient to wear sun-screen, or to reduce their intake of fat. That is you are looking ahead and you are in the business of prevention of harm, to the coral reefs, to the arctic ecosystem, etc. and to be a medical conservative is a good thing as a trusted MD should not be advocating untried or unproven remedies but give the patient good advice about what you have been trained to detect ie dangerous trends in eating behaviour or inhaling noxious vapors into one’s lungs. The planet, too has lungs, the atmosphere. The body needs clean potable water. Sealife also does not thrive and is unlikely to be able to adapt to increasingly acidic sea-water. There are close analogies with the human body and it’s health all the way down the line Gavin. Play on these easily understood truisms. Appeal to the medical common-sense of the audience. If one knows that a course of action, or of inaction, would be dangerous to one’s health, one does not blunder ahead, he plays it safe.If there is a choice, any sane person plays it safe and does not advocate taking a silly chance with the lives of himself or of his loved ones. Yes, an emergent course of emission-reduction strategies might indeed be ill-advised but we cannot afford to take that chance. If we err, we must err on the side of caution.This is where Crichton, et al wll not have an answer.Some treatments are very expensive but still vitally necessary.
Edward Greisch says
You need to start by explaining what Science is: “Nature isn’t just the final authority on truth, Nature is the Only authority. There are zero human authorities. Scientists do not vote on what is the truth. Nor do scientists conspire. There is only one vote and Nature owns it. We find out what Nature’s vote is by doing Scientific [public and replicable] experiments. Scientific [public and replicable] experiments are the only source of truth. [To be public, it has to be visible to other people in the room. What goes on inside one person’s head isn’t public unless it can be seen on an X-ray or another instrument.]
Science is a simple faith in Scientific experiments and a simple absolute lack of faith in everything else.”
You need to explain that “Adapt” means “Die”. In the drudge report, people keep saying really stupid things like “No problem, we will adapt”, not realizing that adaptation is 99.999+% death and extinction, and .001- % mutation.
E.R. Beardsley says
Does participating help perpetuate the idea that global warming per se is still up for debate? Yes.
Is this kind of rhetorical jousting useful for clarifying issues of science that most people there will only superficially grasp? No.
Can this be entertaining and educational? On FOX, perhaps… given their audience.
Or does it just validate the least serious opposition? Yes.
Is it simply a waste of time that would be better spent blogging? Yes.
Patrick McKnight, J.D. says
That you would be concerned about legitimizing an argument counter to your own shows that this debate is moving from science to crusade. A sound scientific theory will take on critics for 10,000 years, without fear, and without regard to who profers the criticism, for the true scientist is interested only in the truth, and that can only be derived by vigorous testing and debate. Ignore those passioned pleas about “our children.” A trial lawyer makes his story emotional in order to sell it because he cares only about winning. Show me that you care about the truth. Argue the facts and insist the other side do the same. And let the chips fall where they may.
[Response: Arguing the facts is what I generally do. Insisting on the same from the other side is extremely unlikely to work. – gavin]
Hi gavin – go for it
Eli says it all in #30
Those three are all skilled communicators and rhetoricians who have honed their message in public, in front of audiences , cameras, etc.
I would expect their side would ‘win’ the debate on the night, but it doesn’t matter. The audience will consist of people that have heard Crichton, Lindzen, and maybe Stott and either know its all rubbish, in which case hearing it again won’t make any difference, or people that have never heard the answers to their objections – if you get a few of these thinking, you will have done a good job.
You could also look at this as a ‘practice run’ for a bigger event!
I’m not sure what persona you project in front of an audience, but you come across on these forums as a honest scientist trying to inform people of the truth – if you can project that to an audience it will be a very powerful message (so probably not too sarky, etc)
Fergus Brown says
It’s hard to imagine this debate being a lot different to previous examples, so my suggestion would be to take the moral high ground right from the start. If we know of an ill and a prevention of that ill, yet refuse to act, we are culpable. Put them on the back foot; make clear statements and force them to respond to your assertions rather than the other way around; put them in the position of defending their (indefensible) position, rather than attacking yours. Confront the falsehood, not the person; ignore ad homs.
My feeling is that you should aim for the most basic points and insist on agreement or denial: CO2 is a GHG; we produce CO2; ergo…
I have long said that the general public (ijn my experience) struggles to understand science and struggles to accept the word of scientists, often doesn’t have enough basic knowledge to distinguish good science from bad, but does want to know what the facts are. We are often swayed more by clever rhetoric than good argument, because few of us can tell a logical fallacy from a fish.
Set your stall out; let them try to knock it down; they can’t; they ‘lose’. If it goes the other way, you ‘lose’.
I’m not sure why I’m teeling you how to suck an egg, but there you go, for what its worth.
pete best says
Having read the two outlying articles he seems to be suggesting that climate change is but one of many challenges facing humanity, however we failed to feed the world when climate change was not known about so his argument there is spurious at best.
He is using sounds bites, non linear chaotic system to explain the climate, you could have him here as the non linear bit only comes into effect (tragically) once you push a system way beyond its equilibrium as we are starting to do.
Just be careful and best of luck.
Hank Roberts says
Check whatever William Broad’s up to in today’s NYT; nothing there but a teaser:
From a Rapt Audience, a Call to Cool the Hype
By WILLIAM J. BROAD
Published: March 13, 2007
Some scientists argue that a number of central points in Al Gore’s film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” are exaggerated and erroneous.