Orthodoxy heavyweights lose climate change debate

Posted on timeMarch 16th, 2007 by userPali Gap

For those who are naive about the consensus on global warming it should come as a big surprise that three of the top hitters for the climate change orthodoxy could be taken on – and beaten – in a public debate. Yet this happened just recently in a ticket-only event hosted by the Rosenkranz Foundation (March 14 2007)

The Motion: “Global warming is not a crisis

Prior to the debate the motion had only 30% support from the audience.

After the debate – 46% of the audience had been convinced that global warming was indeed not a crisis, while just 42 percent continued to believe it was a crisis.

For the orthodoxy there were some big hitters:

  • Gavin Schmidt ~ a climate modeller at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space. Gavin is chief guru-in-residence at realclimate.org (the prime resource for those seeking to stock up on anti-contrarian weaponry)
  • Brenda Ekwurzel ~ works on the national climate program at the Union of Concerned Scientists
  • Richard Somerville ~ University of California, San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Who could the so-called ‘contrarians’ field to match this fearsome firepower?

  • Richard Lindzen ~ Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology, Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Philip Stott ~ Professor Emeritus of Biogeography at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
  • Michael Crichton ~ MD Harvard Medical School & Postdoctoral Fellow at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. (Also a writer and filmmaker…)

If you favour an epistemology that respects argument & reason, then the result of this debate is interesting and thought-provoking. But of course not ultimately especially conclusive.

On the other hand if you hold to an epistemology that offers no better than ‘knowledge by authority‘ you will see the debate as quite insignificant and indeed ill-advised: only the “priesthood” should make up the audience, and presumably only certain “approved priests” should be permitted to conduct the argument in any case. Attitudes such as this can be found on show at the inquest that followed the debate held at realclimate.org here as in this kind of comment:

Our experience and that of all the scientists we know is that public debates with sceptics or denialists are not useful at all

By “useful” one supposes this contributor means: “convenient to our authority“.

Or take this counsel against public debate:

You’re guaranteed a hostile audience and a rhetorical ambush of some sort, your mere presence legitimates the proceedings, and they can always count it as a win with some justification afterward

I would have thought that advocates of sound scientific theories (Boyle’s law, Archimedes’ Principle, Relativity) have no fear of public debate. On the contrary how could a public airing be other than entirely welcome and quite “un-threatening“?

So why plead a “special case” for AGW (anthropogenic global warming)?


I have a transcript of the debate in PDF (255KB) here.


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