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What if you held a conference, and no (real) scientists came?

Filed under: — group @ 30 January 2008

Over the past days, many of us have received invitations to a conference called “The 2008 International Conference on Climate Change” in New York. At first sight this may look like a scientific conference – especially to those who are not familiar with the activities of the Heartland Institute, a front group for the fossil fuel industry that is sponsoring the conference. You may remember them. They were the promoters of the Avery and Singer “Unstoppable” tour and purveyors of disinformation about numerous topics such as the demise of Kilimanjaro’s ice cap.

A number of things reveal that this is no ordinary scientific meeting:

  • Normal scientific conferences have the goal of discussing ideas and data in order to advance scientific understanding. Not this one. The organisers are suprisingly open about this in their invitation letter to prospective speakers, which states:

    “The purpose of the conference is to generate international media attention to the fact that many scientists believe forecasts of rapid warming and catastrophic events are not supported by sound science, and that expensive campaigns to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are not necessary or cost-effective.”

    So this conference is not aimed at understanding, it is a PR event aimed at generating media reports. (The “official” conference goals presented to the general public on their website sound rather different, though – evidently these are already part of the PR campaign.)

  • At the regular scientific conferences we attend in our field, like the AGU conferences or many smaller ones, we do not get any honorarium for speaking – if we are lucky, we get some travel expenses paid or the conference fee waived, but often not even this. We attend such conferences not for personal financial gains but because we like to discuss science with other scientists. The Heartland Institute must have realized that this is not what drives the kind of people they are trying to attract as speakers: they are offering $1,000 to those willing to give a talk. This reminds us of the American Enterprise Institute last year offering a honorarium of $10,000 for articles by scientists disputing anthropogenic climate change. So this appear to be the current market prices for calling global warming into question: $1000 for a lecture and $10,000 for a written paper.
  • At regular scientific conferences, an independent scientific committee selects the talks. Here, the financial sponsors get to select their favorite speakers. The Heartland website is seeking sponsors and in return for the cash promises “input into the program regarding speakers and panel topics”. Easier than predicting future climate is therefore to predict who some of those speakers will be. We will be surprised if they do not include the many of the usual suspects e.g. Fred Singer, Pat Michaels, Richard Lindzen, Roy Spencer, and other such luminaries. (For those interested in scientists’ links to industry sponsors, use the search function on sites like or
  • Heartland promises a free weekend at the Marriott Marquis in Manhattan, including travel costs, to all elected officials wanting to attend.

This is very nice hotel indeed. Our recommendation to those elected officials tempted by the offer: enjoy a great weekend in Manhattan at Heartland’s expense and don’t waste your time on tobacco-science lectures – you are highly unlikely to hear any real science there.

452 Responses to “What if you held a conference, and no (real) scientists came?”

  1. 1
    Mark A. York says:

    It won’t surprise you to learn that this Heartland was the primary source my latest sceptic foe used. You guys were “lefty scientists” to him. This is the primary problem with looking at science through a political frame.

  2. 2
    Walt Bennett says:

    I could not be more disappointed in RC.

    Why are you rolling around in the mud?

    Where is the promised post regarding Hadley/GISS discrepencies? And if you have any extra time, you might post on what attention climate science is paying to alternatives to “emissions reduction” as a response to the potential for catastrophic warming.

    What purpose can possibly be served by this topic? The people whose noses you are tweaking don’t already know how you feel about them?

    Very, very dosappointing.

  3. 3
    SecularAnimist says:

    According to, the Heartland Institute describes itself as “the marketing arm of the free-market movement” and has received $791,500 from ExxonMobil since 1998. The Heartland Institute is in no way a scientific organization. It is a propaganda mill.

    The success of the fossil fuel industry’s multi-million dollar, years long campaign of propaganda to disinform the American public about the reality of global warming cannot be underestimated. They successfully delayed serious action to reduce emissions (and the consumption of their products) by ten or twenty years at least. With ExxonMobil alone reaping annual profit approaching 40 billion dollars, the payoff for the paltry millions they’ve paid outfits like Heartland has been huge.

    But not as huge as the cost of that lost time will be to all of us.

  4. 4
    C. W. Magee says:

    Don’t your employer(s) usually play for conference fees and travel?

    It would be fun to submit a “results pending” abstract and see if they still pay if the talk gives them a result they don’t like-

    I think one of the mojor differences between this adn real scientific conferences is that at real conferences, talk are generally chosen based on abstracts describing the experimental or observational methods, but often the results are partially or wholly unknown by everyone except the speaker when the talk begins.

  5. 5
    Sean O says:

    I guess I don’t understand.

    Why not go and debate in person with those that don’t agree with you? I struggle with the attitude on both sides of this important issue that refuses to have an intellectual conversation with the other side. Much of the written discussion on this topic tends to talk PAST each other and not TO each other. Both sides say that the other side is driven by ulterior motives and both sides call the other side to be the equivalent of dunderheads.

    At nearly every conference (and surely this one as well) the floor is open to questions. Go to the conference, pick a particularly erroneous statement by the presenter and ask them to reply to the evidence that you would like to present. Listen to their answer and POLITELY explain where you think that person is incorrect.

  6. 6

    The problem is that science should not be viewed through any frame, it should jsut be science. Dr. Hansen’s arguments have pointed this out very well. The Public affairs offices should not be propaganda offices, they should be reporting offices.

    “Public Affairs Offices should be staffed by career professionals protected by civil service rules, not headed by political appointees.”

    It is hard to fathom, at this point in time, with the level of knowledge and indicators, and understanding, that anyone would want to confuse the issue of global warming… considering all the risks and costs?

    Do they think they will be immune to the economic strains?

    The arguments are so contrary to solid reasoning and logic as well as the profoundly work of the relevant science organizations around the world and its resultant aggregate understanding.

    The cost of delay only increases the cost of needed solutions and further strains or erodes the economic system they seem to be trying to protect.

    Maybe they think the politicians, to whom they have contributed so much, will always side with them?

    Maybe they think they are immune to large changes in the climate system?

    Maybe they think that delaying this will give them time to make enough money to ensure their security in the future?

    Maybe they don’t have objective financial advisers?

    Maybe they don’t understand the nature of lawsuits to come?

    They seem comfortable with waiting. The unfortunate part is that everyone has to pay for their delays, even people that have no idea that ‘they’ even exist.

    The moral questions will eventually be raised. In the mean time developing relevant understanding of relevant facts must continue. That is the best offense.

    I am thankful for and all the wonderful work done by every climate scientist that is digging for the facts and putting them in context with the paleo reality, so we can get this right and get the facts and understanding to the people.

  7. 7

    Re #1. Not sure what your point is Mark. Are you saying that RealClimate is part of the problem? That they are “looking at science through a political frame”? Can’t agree with you there.

    There are those who believe in the IPCC and peer-reviewed science, and those who don’t. Those who don’t aren’t real scientists — they can’t be convinced by any evidence. Their conclusions aren’t tentative and testable.

    Conservatives and fossil fuel companies have politicized this — not RealClimate or the IPCC.

  8. 8
    Simon D says:

    That story pretty much kills the ridiculous conceit that we (reputable climate change scientists) are in this for the money.

  9. 9
    Mark A. York says:

    No Joseph I’m not others are and that is what they say, not I. This is what we are up against in the propaganda war. Many people buy that over truth.

  10. 10
    A. Fritz says:

    Pat Michaels also gave a nice little talk at my departments seminar series, aimed at all the earth and atmospheric science students with the goal of interdisciplinary education. He did so for a hefty fee. It reminded me of a traveling show…

  11. 11
    Ike says:

    It’s amazing how much money and time is being thrown around with media attention – money and time which should be devoted to learning more about our (potential) impact on the climate and whether or not there is actually any way we are significantly impacting it.

  12. 12
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Sean O. Scientific debate takes place between the pages of scientific journals and in the hallways of real scientific conferences–you know, the ones where papers are refereed by experts in the field, not conference donors. There are no two sides to this issue–at least not two scientific sides. There are almost no scientific papers published that dispute the anthropogenic causation of climate change, and those few that are published are mostly not by climate scientists (e.g. Scafetta and West). There’s no middle ground here, Sean. It’s science or anti-science. Choose.

  13. 13
    Ron Crouch says:

    I’m sure some (real) scientists will show up. It’s just that they will carry unreal ideas.

  14. 14
    Jim Eager says:

    Re Sean O @4: “I guess I don’t understand.”

    I guess you don’t understand that there is simply no point in attempting an intellectual conversation with the other side when the other side has repeatedly demonstrated that it quite clearly is not at all interested in having an honest intellectual conversation about the facts and science of climate change, that it is quite willing to buy, cherry pick, bend, distort, and even outright fabricate “evidence” to support its position, and that it is quite willing to bald face lie in the process.

  15. 15
    cosmo says:

    If wonder if Borat could be encouraged to give a talk …

  16. 16
    F Mackenzie says:

    Sean O (#4), Raypierre has addressed this very point in the previous article: It’s a no win situation. If you accept [the invitation to debate] you give the appearance that these skeptics have something to say that’s actually worth debating about — and give their bogus ideas more publicity. If you decline there are all sorts of squawks that “X won’t debate!” or implications that scientists have declared “the debate” (whatever that is supposed to mean) prematurely closed when in fact it is “just beginning.”

  17. 17
    Aaron Lewis says:

    Go! Help the media understand that there are many (well, 400 or so) deluded souls out there that think they are scientists but that do not, in fact, understand AGW. Just make sure your contract ensures that can correct any errors in their versions of your material.

  18. 18

    I have only contempt for conferences that narrow the spectrum of presentation and interaction by deliberate hostility towards smokers.

  19. 19

    #4 Sean O

    The way I see it, they will use this conference to introduce all the arguments brought to the table; and they will ignore the relevance of the relevant science, and merely present the conflicting views.

    By giving each opposing argument equal time and relevance they can successfully keep the argument alive and keep the policy makers from getting the relevant understanding. On the relevant science side the evidence indicates that we have severely departed from natural variability and trend. ON the irrelevant science side they are still using fog generators.

    Their main goal is to keep the argument alive and ignore relevance. This way they can have a big conference and make lots of claims like ‘so and so’ says this and ‘so and so’ disagrees, so climate scientists still can’t agree that there is really a problem.

    Of course they can also say things like ‘so and so’ was invited and didn’t show up so ‘so and so’ who is supposedly an important climate scientist that thinks global warming is human caused, didn’t want to face the scientists that did come.

    It will basically be a festival for disinformation potentials. They will take all the propaganda they foment and generate from the conference and disseminate it throughout the media in order to confuse the public and the policy makers as much as possible.

  20. 20
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Agree. I’d rather see the scientists wasting their time :-) here on RC, where there is at least a partly receptive audience, than lending false legitimacy to a propaganda event.

    (Wasn’t AEI the gang that invented the Iraq disaster, Richard Perle et al.? Nice job folks.)

  21. 21
    cce says:

    I think you guys should sign up. Each person pick a skeptical talking point. For example,

    1) DO events. Should be a big hit with that croud. Aren’t most Realclimate contributers on the list of “500 scientists” that supposedly endorse “unstoppable global warming?
    2) Temperature Record (UHI, global warming has “stopped”)
    3) “Iris”, recent Douglas/Spencer/Christy papers.
    4) Solar and cosmic rays
    5) The difference between what happened thousands of years ago (or millions) over thousands of years to what is happening, and will happen over the next 100 years. I’ve found that the most insurmountable talking point with the public is the idea that “the climate changed in the past, therefore . . . global warming is a fraud.” You know, “my mother died from natural causes, therefore, a bullet to the head will never kill me.” That kind of thing.

    Donate the speaking fees to charity.

    And if, for some reason, the “financial sponsers” don’t select your talks, you can do a post breaking down who got to speak and who didn’t. After all, as the great philospher Marc Morano once said, “Remember, there is nothing to fear from a free open scientific debate.” Certainly, the EPW minority blog wouldn’t cover such a onesided event . . .

  22. 22
    Sean O says:

    Thank you for your replies to my earlier comment. However, I do not agree with Raypierre that non-discussion is the correct course. One does not give credence to another’s point of view by discussing it in a public setting. Rather, one gives credence to another’s point of view by NOT discussing it openly.

    By ignoring the conference (or other venues) you simply give the other guy an ability to completely and totally control the message. Then you complain about that message after the fact. This is a perfect example of talking PAST the other person rather than TO the other person. My “definition” of talking PAST someone is that they say something and then in an entirely different venue, at another time, and to a different audience, a response is given. This isn’t dialog.

    The ability to over-excite and exaggerate claims is not unique to the skeptics. Even Mr. Gore made some fairly outlandish “inferences” in his political movie. These “embellishments” probably did as much harm to the discussion as they did help it because they were not discussed and debated at the time of statement. My point is that allowing a statement to be said without immediate discussion only allows those that hear it to believe it as complete truth.

    So I see nothing wrong with someone attending a talk by Mr. Singer (or one of the others that will be speaking) and politely but directly challenging any mis-statements that may have occurred in the discussion. While that conversation may not sway Mr. Singer, it may at least allow someone else in the audience to think more on the subject before they are swayed by a one-sided argument.

    This site regularly challenges views directly. I am sure that there will be those that challenge this view and that discussion is appropriate and welcome. I am simply suggesting that it is equally correct for a conference that is sponsored by Heartland.

  23. 23
    Mark A. York says:

    “I guess I don’t understand.” Sigh. Me either. I tried this. it went badly. I’m willing to bear some of the burden, that of impatience, but not for my assertion of truth.

  24. 24
    Hank Roberts says:

    > tobacco-science lectures

    > > hostility toward smokers

    You’re accusing the commenters of blaming the victim.

    That’s misreading (at best) what was written above.

    It’s the fake (“advocacy”) science they’re hostile to, not the poor fools and governments who get taken in.

    But, what the heck, it’s safer than diesel exhaust.

    Mice breathed either downtown LA freeway air or the same air filtered to remove the ultrafines. The mice breathing freeway air had 55% more plaquing and the plaques were 25% bigger than the filtered air mice. And it all happened pretty quickly.

    So far large scale epidemiologic studies haven’t been able to find a “no effect” level for air pollution. If there is one, we are a long way away from it in most urban areas.

  25. 25
    George Robinson says:

    It could be a very interesting “climate” conference. This should make the headlines in all the leading US newspapers, as well as the evening TV news. The Americans will just lap this up, believing everything hook line and sinker

    [Response: Actually, I don’t think it will make any mainstream news. They have moved on from this kind of rubbish. Expect lots of blog activity demanding ‘debate’ though… – gavin]

  26. 26
    Mike Donald says:

    There’s also which has a search function in it. And good articles.

  27. 27
    Mike Donald says:

    And (almost forgot)

    You’re forgiven if you think I’ve got it in for denial type characters.

  28. 28

    Sean O (#21) wrote:

    Thank you for your replies to my earlier comment. However, I do not agree with Raypierre that non-discussion is the correct course. One does not give credence to another’s point of view by discussing it in a public setting. Rather, one gives credence to another’s point of view by NOT discussing it openly.

    But does one grant them an advantage if one lets them choose the forum and set the terms of the discussion? And if they choose to let an honest climatologist present his views, this will simply be one of numerous presentations in a forum which places politics above science. It will lend a respectability to the forum itself, giving that forum a form of capital which the owners could not acquire by themselves.

    It may be appropriate to debate even someone like Patrick Michaels — given the right forum — although I would strongly recommend giving it a great deal of thought before choosing to actually do so. However, I believe that the present situation is fairly clear-cut. The most productive thing which can be accomplished at that forum would probably best be handled by well-informed members of the audience (preferably without PhDs) who bring with them well-chosen questions — but they can in all likelihood expect to be shut down as soon as they become too inconvenient.

  29. 29
    José Sousa says:

    I am from Portugal; recently I have found an unexpected denialist in the portuguese academic comunity. I read an interview and attendend one of his presentations. I am an economist but I found it relatively easy to confront him with what I think were plain misrepresentations to say the least. He is a big name here in Portugal and usually people tend to be reverent. He actually is a member of the American Meteorology Society. That´s why he astonished me with his claims.
    His presentation (partly in english):

    He said such things as water vapour being the most important GHG; Combating CO2 emissions being such thing as an ideology, etc.

    Actually I found a lot of counter arguments here and commented in my blog:

    Anyway he quotes some parts of the IPPC technical report. Can you confirm those quotes and tell me where I can get the full sentences where he picked it?


    José Sousa

    [Response: Full IPCC reports are at stefan]

  30. 30
    Charles says:

    There are several things which are give-aways that this is “no ordinary scientific meeting.” The first is that they’re trying to deal with a ship which has sailed. By and large, the media, major corporations (including Big Oil), most governments, and the public have accepted the well-established science of anthropogenic climate change. The focus now is on the policies, engineerings, and economics of dealing with the problem. I guess these folks are trying to influence policy-making in the only ways they know how.

    Second is the fact the pitch to the media and policymakers. I don’t see much of a pitch to scientists, when this is supposedly a conference about the science.

    Third is the limited registration of 500 for a “major international conference,” especially when said 500 can include members of the public.

    Fourth is the fact that the speakers list and topics, even for plenary sessions, have yet to be set—for a “major” conference occurring at the beginning of March! Heck, they seem to be still looking for speakers! Not much time for peer review of submissions. (I know, I know: “What peer review?”) And some of the remarks on the website about the conference are just plain laughable, like this gem from the “Background” page: “Actual surveys of climate scientists and recent reviews of the scholarly literature both show the so-called ‘skeptics’ may actually be in the majority of the climate science community. They do not lack scholarly credentials or scientific integrity, but a platform from which they can be heard.” I guess the peer-reviewed literature platform just ain’t cutting it anymore!

  31. 31
    Hank Roberts says:

    Sean O., you clearly misunderstand something important.

    Scientific research is not a “point of view”

    You write

    > One does not give credence to another’s point
    > of view by discussing it in a public setting.

    Look who’s most eager to have “debates” — the people who don’t have _publications_ in the scientific work.

    This was true of the tobacco “advocacy science” crap, is true of the religious “intelligent design” stuff, and, is true of the “anything but effective action” political response to ocean chemistry and atmospheric physics research as the effects of rapid fossil fuel use come in.

    If there were any scientists able to argue in the literature that the ocean’s pH is not changing fast they’d publish. If there were any scientists able to argue that continuing to harvest codfish and salmon while the populations crash, they’d publish. If there were any scientists able to argue that there’s a “no effects” safe amount of small particle air pollution, they’d publish.

    Debate is the last refuge of a prescientific scoundrel, it would appear on the evidence.

    The question is whether it’s possible to _have_ a scientific culture, in this species, or not.

    Remains to be seen. “Where is everybody intelligent” is the Fermi Paradox.

    Note the Fermi Paradox applies on as well as off Earth.

  32. 32
    pete best says:

    Indeed it is doubtful that it will attract much news globally but it may peak the interest of some news networks and political groups who see the IPCC and the UN threatening americas sovereignty.

  33. 33

    Re #29


    You can find the whole of the IPCC AR4 WG1 online from at or The home page of the IPCC is at where there are links to other IPCC documents.


    Cheers, Alastair.

  34. 34
    Nick Gotts says:

    Sean O,

    There’s a reason why the formal verbal debate is not one of the normal tools of science: it is a completely inappropriate way of resolving scientific questions. Such debates privilege rhetorical facility and appeals to existing prejudices in the audience over logic and evidence: that’s why politicians love them. There’s also a reason why real scientific conferences require papers to be submitted months in advance, and sent out to referees: if you don’t do this, your programme will be full of garbage, because only those who cannot get their papers into real scientific conferences will want to speak. Tell me, if the creationist/ID crowd were to organise a “conference” in the same way as the AGW denialists, complete with lack of peer review and similar distortions of the state of expert opinion, would you say prominent evolutionary biologists should take part? Speaking of which, this post reminds me of the response apparently used as standard by Robert May when invited to debate prominent creationists (though perhaps few have the combination of eminence and ego required to make use of it): “That would look great on your CV, not so good on mine!”. [Note to US readers: “CV” is British (and maybe Australian) for “resume” (with an acute accent over the final “e”).]

    [Response: Most scientific conferences in climate require only an abstract and a registration fee. There is no pre-screening at AGU or EGU for instance – so anyone can go and present if they want. They fact that there are only a trickle of contrarian abstracts (one or two out of thousands) is an eloquent a demonstration of their lack of scientific bona fides in the community. – gavin]

  35. 35
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Sean O.,
    There is more than enough opportunity to engage in scientific debate within the pages of refereed scientific journals and at real scientific conferences. If a true skeptic had something to say, they could say it there. They do not–instead opting for the editorial pages of conservative rags (not exactly good sources of science) and “public debates”.
    Biologists have been debating creationists since the time of Darwin. Thomas Huxley earned the epithet “Darwin’s Bulldog” for his fierce debating style. Still 49% of Americans believe in the Biblical creation myth as literal truth. I don’t call that progress.
    Public debates bring out the worst in the anti-science types–even those who are nominally scientists, like Lindzen. They will trot out arguments they know are bogus to score points. Debate does not work when the two sides play by different rules. Scientists must stick to the truth or they cease to become scientists. Anti-science has no such scruples.
    Put another way: “You cannot reason a man out of an opinion into which he was not reasoned to begin with.”–variously attributed to Ben Franklin and Johnathan Swift

  36. 36

    Maybe a scientist or two who doesn’t have a financial incentive ought to show up and help them out with the facts,like for example that eleven of the last 12 years(1995-2006) were among the 12 warmest on the instrumental record of global surface temperature since since 1850.(IPCC Summary for Policymakers.In Climate Change 2007:The Physical Science Basis.)

  37. 37
    Cobblyworlds says:

    #21 Sean O,

    I have wasted a substantial chunk of my time for the last 3 years dealing with so-called sceptics.
    The problem with what you suggest is where you have a party in a debate who do not want to debate
    honestly, but is determined to obfuscate in order to support a pre-determined position.

    I’ve virtually stopped “debating” this issue now, in favour of leaving the ongoing physical process
    of anthropogenic global warming to address the doubts and concerns of those who consider themselves
    sceptics. They can say what they want: The physical reality is immutable; the longer they hang on, the
    more ridiculous they become. By the way I don’t think your implicit assumption that there is a valid
    debate about the reality of human driven climate change bears analysis. To see where the real debates
    are see something like Dr Pierrehumbert’s recent post on the Cretaceous, it’s in the detail of climate change, not the broad acceptance of it’s reality and that it’s likely to be at least problematic.

    #14 Cosmo,
    I think Borat will be superfluous at such a gathering. ;)

  38. 38
    Tim McDermott says:

    Perhaps the best answer to the call for debates is to return to real debate, with rules and judges. The fact of the matter is that laymen are not more able to “judge” the credibility of complex climatology than we are able to judge the proof of the four color theorem, or the correctness of string theory. What we need are a panel of judges to decide who won, just like we have in school debates.

    How about a debate judged by a panel of Nobel laureates in the physical sciences? With teams doing the debating, one or two speakers and a gang of others online pulling up references, graphs, and validating statistical interpretations.

    I’d pay to see that debate!

  39. 39
    José Sousa says:

    Thanks Alastair and Stefan

    I had this one:
    “A report accepted by Working Group I of the Intergovernmental
    Panel on Climate Change but not approved in detail”
    but since it says, “not approved in detail” I was unsure if I could quote it;

    I suppose the rest Chapters 1 to 11 ( is the approved report.

  40. 40

    Adding to Gavin’s response to #34, Fred Singer gave a presentaion of his arguments at the last EGU Assembly, where he showed that the models are wrong. See S.F. Singer (2007) “Test for validation of climate models from observational evidence”

    Interestingly, all the audience could find to criticise was the 50 year long record of radiosonde data. They failed to see that Singer’s argument that because the models are wrong then AGW is not happening is a non-sequitur. In fact, because the models are wrong, we now find that AGW is proceeding faster than the models predict :-(.

  41. 41
    Jack says:

    RC: Whilst I am a devotee of your scientifically-focused posts, and I admire your ability to persevere in face of the attacks from the Heartland Institute and like-minded mouthpieces, this article does not fit your profile. It would have been better to let the meeting happen, acquire some abstracts, press releases, and even presentations (depending on how they are published) and then rip them efficiently, relentlessly, and heartlessly into the shards of dishonest propaganda that they truly are. I.e., you do your best work attacking the message, not the misguided and misbegotten messengers. I have no respect for the shills that will attend this meeting, and I respect RC, so I urge you to (as much as possible) take the high road. I know your opponents won’t, and by their actions we will know them for what they are.

  42. 42
    Paul says:

    “The purpose of the conference is to generate international media attention to the fact that many scientists believe forecasts of rapid warming and catastrophic events are not supported by sound science, and that expensive campaigns to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are not necessary or cost-effective.”

    A quick question: Is it real climate’s position that there are no competant and unbaised scientists who would agree with the statement, “forecasts of rapid warming and catastrophic events are not supported by sound science.”
    From my perspective as a layman it seems to me that “forecasts of rapid warming and catastrophic events” are based on climate models that have not been thoroughly verified and that necessarily make assumptions about many important aspects of the climate that are poorly understood (e.g. clouds, precipitation, the possible iris effect and water vapor feedbacks). Moreover, it seems to me that the climate models themselves estimate a wide-range of uncertainty about the future that range from relatively insignificant warming to catastrophic warming. So is it that unreasonable to say that the predictions may be the best we can develop now, but are not yet on a sound scientific basis?” It does not seem to me that a scientist who would emphasize these points would fall within the same category as cigarette lobby scientists.

  43. 43
    Hank Roberts says:

    Tim, what you’re thinking of is a refereed journal.
    The process simply can’t be done at break-dancing speed suitable to television. It happens at the speed of thought, not faster, sometimes taking months to get details looked into.

    Unlike debate, where the ‘thoughts’ are pre-canned and spring-loaded on triggers, and it’s considered utterly wrong to stop and think, let alone agree on a point that could be argued in any way.

    The real question, I submit, is which _media_ and journalism people are getting invitations to this fancy affair along with the politicians.

    And isn’t this basically a way of giving a lot of politicians a fancy good time in a New York hotel, without having to disclose any of it as payments by lobbyists for the industries putting up the money?

    Someone should look up what else might be going on in the hotel, or the area, at the same time that warrants funding lots of politicians to be there. Good room service?

  44. 44
    Phillip Shaw says:

    Have you considered holding a ‘counter-conference’? You could host panel discussions on the same topics as the Heartland’s circus and invite the media to cover it. And if it were held at a university in New York it wouldn’t necessarily be prohibitively expensive. This could be an opportunity to reach a lot of people hungry for real information, not the toxic fluff served up by the denialists. I think the contrast between scientists and loons would be apparent even to laypeople.

    I know it would be a chore/challenge/expense to host but I, and I’m sure others, would contribute to offset expenses. And I’m sure you would get a lot of volunteers to help.

  45. 45
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Tim McDermott,
    The problem is that general physics/geophysics, etc. knowledge is not sufficient. The judges have to be experts themselves–and that is what is going on at conferences and in journals anyway. A “public” debate would not be edifying for the public and adds nothing to the scientific process. The system ain’t broke. The public just needs to become sufficiently knowledgeable that they can tell the real scientists from the vendors of snakeoil.

  46. 46
    Ben Hocking says:

    Nick: We in the US use the term CV distinctly from résumé – a résumé is usually a one-page document that does not include your publication history, etc.

    Tim: Obviously, such a setting would be biased. Nobel laureates (and reality) have a well-known liberal bias!

  47. 47

    The anonymously authored Real Climate article above is a disappointing smear job — i.e., you have nothing to say substantively, so you attempt to smear your intellectual opponents. Many of the world’s leading climate scientists from some of the world’s most prestigious universities will be giving presentations. Rather than behaving like children and throwing mud at them, perhaps you might behave like adults and discuss the science. Of course, that will never happen because open and honest debate is what you fear most.

    I never thought I would see the day when scientific debate and inquiry, conducted by some of the most credentialed scientists in the world, would be considered a bad thing. But that is what happens when people are afraid of the truth.

    Al Gore in one day rakes in more honorarium money than all of our speakers combined. Nevertheless, we have offered to pay his usual honorarium to speak at our conference, but have not heard back from Mr. Gore. We have invited Real Climate’s Michael Mann to come and speak at our conference, but Mr. Mann also has failed to respond to our invitation.

    Unlike Real Climate, we do not attempt to stifle scientific inquiry. Instead, we encourage it. We are equal opportunity investigators of science. As the Real Climate article above notes, we have invited many members of Real Climate to come and give presentations. It is odd that Real Climate is invited to discuss the science in a professional, scholarly environment, yet throws stones from afar, where they do not have to subject their claims to scientific scrutiny.

    Perhaps Real Climate will abandon their fear of public discourse, and will reconsider their decision to decline our invitation to speak at the conference. After all, isn’t honest and open scientific discussion a good thing? Please send me an email at and, as my prior emails indicate, I would be happy to add you to our conference lineup.

    With warmest regards,

    – James

    [Response: The level of chutzpah in your comment is breathtaking. Our ‘substantive’ additions to the scientific knowledge is well attested to by our publications in the peer reviewed literature and is subject to scientific scrutiny every day. I will even venture to make a prediction that the number of peer-reviewed papers on climate science we have collectively authored in the last 5 years will be substantially more than all of your speakers put together. Honest and open scientific discussion is greatly to be wished for, and in fact, happens all the time. I don’t recall ever bumping into you at a real conference (AGU/AMS/EGU), but should you ever go, you’ll see it how it works first hand. Your institute plays no role in that because your approach is the anti-thesis of scientific inquiry – your conclusions have been decided before you look at the evidence. When you decide to stop abusing the scientific process for political gain, then perhaps we can talk. – gavin]

  48. 48
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Paul contends: “From my perspective as a layman it seems to me that “forecasts of rapid warming and catastrophic events” are based on climate models that have not been thoroughly verified and that necessarily make assumptions about many important aspects of the climate that are poorly understood (e.g. clouds, precipitation, the possible iris effect and water vapor feedbacks). ”

    Where on Earth are you getting your information? Rapid warming has already occurred. New York City was snow-free in January for the first time in 75 years. Arctic sea ice nearly disappeared this summer. Both alpine and polar glaciers are melting at an alarming rate. These are empirical facts, not model predictions.
    And while global climate models do indeed have uncertainties, the role of CO2 in causing warming is not uncertain at all. All the available science–from paleoclimate studies to laboratory IR spectroscopy measurements supports it.

    Paul, I don’t need to know the know the mass of a graviton to know that if I drop an apple it will fall. Likewise, I don’t have to know every detail of aerosol forcing or the role of clouds to know that if I add CO2–which persists in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, mixes at all altitudes, etc–things will heat up. Some results are robust and don’t depend on every detail of the models.

  49. 49
    Matthew says:

    I’m a global warming denialist, and I’ve been doing it for free all along. You guys are right…I *am* dumb!

  50. 50
    Hank Roberts says:

    I sure hope someone — any of the real science bloggers, perhaps — will be live-blogging this event.

    My imagination is it’ll go something along these lines: