Originally blogged at Realclimategate
I am going along to the Spectator ‘climate change’ debate on Tuesday 29th March in London, hopefully I can meet up with some ‘climate change’ blog regulars (both sides very welcome)to have a chat afterwards.
Yet, it has been noted before that it can be difficult to get the opposing side of the debate to show up for a climate change (man made) debate. Peter Gill’s summarised his experience at Bishop Hill a couple of weeks ago, or possibly Peter is not quite famous enough as a former Chancellor
Some of you may remember Peter as the man who famously didn’t write the Institute of Physics submission to the House of Commons inquiry into Climategate. Peter wanted to tell me about a recent invitation he’d had to take part in a global warming debate at one of the bits of the University of London. After several months of to-ing and fro-ing, the who event has now been cancelled because nobody was willing stand up to represent the other side of the argument. – Bishop Hill
Anyway, I imight turn up as an eco warrior (or just a name badge) and see how it plays out. The idea of most debates of course are about winning over an audience, it would be much more interesting if one party opposing or for the motion is open-minded enough to be persuaded by the debate, but I imagine in this case it may be unlikely.
Spectator Debate – The global warming concern is over. Time for a return to sanity
SPEAKERS FOR THE MOTION:
Lord Nigel Lawson
Chairman, Global Warming Policy Foundation
Dr Benny Peiser
Director, Global Warming Policy Foundation
Graham Stringer MP
Member of House of Commons Science and Technology Committee
SPEAKERS AGAINST THE MOTION:
Professor Tim Palmer
Royal Society Research Professor in Climate Physics, Oxford University
Professor Sir David King
Director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, and former Government Chief Scientific Adviser
The Spectator debate should be interesting, not least because it is chaired by Andrew Neill (BBC Daily Politics) because even IF the science were settled, the economic policies based on man made global warming are (or at lest should be) very open to debate. Andrew Neil with his experience should be well able to keep the debate on the straight and narrow and deal with any climate politic ‘spin’.
One thought is, if the scientists on the panel criticize the politicians (Lawson & Stringer) for not being scientists, the charge can equally be reversed to – what do scientists know, about politics and economic policies.
I bumped into Peter Gill at the Climate Fools day last year and again last week and he sent me a description of his experience about organising a scientific debate. One possible explanation of his, for a reluctance to debate is very relevant.
Perhaps the other side have taken notice of the five page Futerra document providing recommendations to the Climate Change Communications Working Group was supported by DEFRA, the Carbon Trust, DTI, the Environmental Agency, the Energy Savings Trust and the UK Climate Impacts Programme (see: Futerra – Rules of the Game).
I will just quote one paragraph:
“Forget the climate change detractors. Those who deny climate change science are irritating, but unimportant. The argument is not about if we should deal with climate change, but how we should deal with climate change – Peter Gill
A later Futerra document I have come across – Sell the Sizzle – The New Climate Change Message (actually not that hard to find, direct link on their website 😉 ) goes much further beyond this:
“climate action is no longer a scientist’s job; it’s now a salesman’s job”
Climate Change Deniers
Unfortunately, these guys are back (if they
ever went away). The edge of this group are
the conspiracy theorists who are sure that
climate science is an excuse for either (a) the
environmentalists to curtail consumption or
undermine our way of life, or (b) for the developed
world to hold back the developing world.” – Futerra- Sell the Sizzle
Anyway here are Peter Gill’s thoughts about another debate, that despite initial interest never happened. (and if he send me another Word document, may the curse of WordPress be upon him 😉 – WordPress doe not like all the MS formating codes ;). There is another possible reason, that we discussed, that the general public are just not that interested, and only a tiny number of people (on both sides of the debate) are bothered to attend this sort of thing, yet trillions of dollars and world econimics are being shaped by the policies of AGW.
Peter Gill: CLIMATE CHANGE DEBATE AT MAJOR BRITISH UNIVERSITY ABORTED
On 27th of October 2010 I was in the queue for security clearance and the issue of a pass at the House of Commons. I was on my way to the “Climate Fools Day” meeting at which I would be one of Sammy Wilson MP’s guest speakers. During the long wait I became engaged in conversion with a number of people around me. It turned out that one of them a young woman (Ms X) from a top British University, would be attending the Sammy Wilson Meeting.
A few days later Ms X telephoned me to discuss a number of climate change issues including the possibility of her University running a debate on the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis with the suggestion that I could be one of speakers. In the months that have followed this became the main thread of e-mail exchanges extracts of which appear below in italics and in grey blocks. Quotes from other sources are simply in italics
At the initial stage Ms X indicated:
I am contacting Christopher Booker and Piers Corbyn to see if they would be interested in speaking at my university. On the other side of the debate I was hoping to invite the following speakers: Prof Maslin, Prof Costello, Prof Redclift. They were all involved in writing a piece in the Lancet claiming that climate change was the greatest threat to humanity. I imagine that most will refuse to speak. Are there any others that you would like to argue against?
Having three speakers with similar backgrounds may not be ideal. It may be worth approaching the Hadley Centre and CRU for a speaker. After all, the main anthropogenic signature is supposed to arise out of the failure of models to follow the atmospheric temperature without involving anthropogenic emissions (CO2 in particular). I have met a number of the guys there for example Adam Scaife. If you want a very lively debate you could try to involve George Monbiot of the Guardian – at least he would balance Chris Booker. Others you may consider would be Lord Oxburgh. Actually there is no shortage of names supporting the AGW hypothesis so if you want more just let me know. On the other side of the argument you could ask David Bellamy, Peter Taylor, Lord Lawson, Dr Benny Peiser, Philip Foster, and Phil Hutchinson I could list others but in the main they reside abroad and so it would be pot luck if they were to be in the UK at the time of your proposed meeting.
Ms X early November 2010:
I have got approval from my university authorities to run this debate. I need to put together a panel. I’m going to try to get in contact with everyone that you have on this list. Who would you recommend for a chair? Looking through the BBC list is pretty depressing as I don’t seem to be able to make out anyone that is sitting on the fence or even anyone that could pretend to be impartial for an hour and a half.
The BBC is no longer a good source of impartiality particularly on anything to do with the Climate Change issue. Similarly there are not many politicians who are even handed on the issue except possibly Tony Benn (certainly not his son Hilary!). Perhaps you could find a well known sportsman (cricket, rugby or football captain?) who sits on the fence on climate change but could easily have the authority to Chair. If I have any other thoughts on the Chair I shall let you know. By the way as Piers’ brother is an MP you will probably be able to make contact with Tony that way.
The main difference of opinion on climate change is to do with the importance or not of so-called anthropogenic greenhouse emissions versus other specified or unspecified climate change mechanisms. In my opinion to have a proper scientific debate various graphics need to be shown. Trying to describe the behaviour of a particular variable through time especially against one or more other variables is rather difficult just in words. Consequently you will need to allow those speaking to have access to PowerPoint or other presentation methods and appropriate projection facilities. You will also have to decide whether everyone on the panel should be allowed to make a presentation (fixed time each?) or only selected members. After the presentations the audience could be invited to question the panel (whether all presenters or supporters to presenters). I shall leave it to you to decide whether to have a vote at the end. By the way on that score I think that you will find that other universities have held debates over the past year or so and you may get some help from them. Try Googling university climate change debates and see what comes up.
I ran something similar to what you are attempting some years ago at the Institute of Physics. We got that well known “impartial” politician Malcolm Meacher to Chair the event with Dick Lindzen speaking against a significant anthropogenic effect and Alan Thorpe supporting the notion that recent climate change was largely a result of human emissions as modelled by the Hadley Centre computers (he is an ex Director of the Hadley Centre). After the two presentations Piers joined Dick and one of the Hadley Center guys joined Alan on the panel and all panel members answered questions from the audience. It was however quite clear that done properly answers to questions from the floor would have often benefited from further visuals but we had not allowed enough time for the latter.
Shortly afterwards PFG added:
I should perhaps have mentioned that the choice of date for your event is likely to be crucial. It would probably be best if you could first accommodate those who think that anthropogenic global warming is the most important current driver of climate change and then fit in those who oppose this position. I say that from experience that if one first accommodate sceptics one generally finds that the opposition tend not to be available on the date chosen.
Things went quiet for some time prompting me to write at the end of January 2011, PFG:
Something that happened recently reminded me of your intention to run a debate on climate change. I see that over three months have passed by and I am not aware of any further contact. I suspect that you may have run into difficulties in obtaining agreement from the believers in the anthropogenic hypothesis to take part or that pressure has been put on the University not to run such an event. I hope I am wrong.
I have been in e-mail contact with Roy Spencer ….(this) has resulted in a very simple and basic difference between the AGW hypothesis and the natural explanations that are favoured by others like Roy. Put simply it is the extent to which positive and negative feedbacks contribute to a sensitive or an insensitive climate. All the models have positive feedbacks built-in with (as far as I can see) very little justification. All alarmist projections rely on these positive feedbacks.
Please update me on your efforts (to arrange the debate).
It transpired that Ms X had unfortunately been unwell and handed over the organisation to a colleague, Mr Y. Through accidental corruption of Ms X’s e-mail address list and losses of e-mails through an over burdened in –box there was some loss of continuity and much of my earlier advice was obviously either lost or not transferred to Mr Y who fed back:
The university is planning a debate on climate science tentatively titled ‘Would the real global warming please stand up? A debate on the causes of climate change.’
We’re hoping to get some discussion of the causes of climate change, how accurate models of climate science are, and how appropriate the response to climate change has been, between the main consensus group of climate scientists and those who don’t think contemporary climate models tell the whole story. Would you be willing to take part?
It’s short notice, but we were hoping to have the debate at the end of this month (February 2011). If you’re interested, and there are any dates that would suit you for a debate in central London, do let me know.
I would be happy to take part in a debate such as you have suggested. However as it is a very important subject it needs to be organised well. My standpoint is one of a sceptic to the popular hypothesis of anthropogenic global warming. I think that you will find no problem in attracting people like me to contribute. However for a fruitful meeting it is essential to have an equal number of those who support the AGW hypothesis prepared to contribute to the debate and to accept that there could be a vote at the end.
My experience having tried to run such a debate myself when Chair of the Institute of Physics Energy Group suggests that (a) it is difficult to tie down supporters of AGW to dates and times (b) it is difficult to gain agreement to an actual debate rather than the simple presentation of position papers. I hope you have more luck.
The issues that need to be ventilated may involve reference to climate models but are more fundamental – Are recent average atmospheric and ocean temperature changes largely natural in origin or largely anthropogenic and if the latter do they pose any serious threat to mankind?
As this is a scientific topic those conducting the debate will need to be able to show graphs and data and so facilities for say PowerPoint need to be available.
At the moment there is nothing in my diary at the end of February or beginning of March that cannot be moved or someone else substituted to act for me but it would help considerably if 28th February, 4th March and 10th March could be avoided.
In terms of preparation for the event it would be essential to confirm or otherwise the final wording of the subject of the debate and the names of the key contributors and the side for which they have chosen to speak.
Although I cannot speak for other possible contributors I have to say that any comments I make are my own and do not necessarily reflect any of the bodies (eg IOP, EI etc) in which I am involved.
Finally as I know a number of people will be interested in your approach I have included some of them by BCC.
Through the blind copy route I know that a number of people offered their views and contributions not least Lord Monckton.
10th March Mr Y:
Initially, we had planned to postpone the debate to late March as room bookings were proving difficult and we’d had a relative dearth of responses. Ultimately, we’ve not seen much enthusiasm from the ‘consensus’ side so it looks as though the debate will have to be shelved, sad as that is.
I am sorry for keeping you in limbo—Ms X and I have only just reached this decision after chasing people up and not getting very far.
Thanks for being such a good sport. We’ll have the debate if we ever manage to get your adversaries together in a room!
So here we are over four months down the line with no debate on the science of climate change despite research that shows the university involved is one of the 20 most highly regarded universities in the world.
Some people have asked me why “the other side” are not prepared to debate the science. Well unfortunately this would call for speculation on my part and in any event it is for the other side to say. I do know from personal experience that when asked the responses tend to stretch credibility- “things like my dairy is full” and “I have another meeting on that day” even when the day has not been specified or is to the choice of the other side. Nevertheless it is difficult to resist a little speculation. Perhaps the other side have taken notice of the five page Futerra document providing recommendations to the Climate Change Communications Working Group was supported by DEFRA, the Carbon Trust, DTI, the Environmental Agency, the Energy Savings Trust and the UK Climate Impacts Programme (see: http://www.futerra.co.uk/downloads/RulesOfTheGame.pdf). I will just quote one paragraph: “Forget the climate change detractors. Those who deny climate change science are irritating, but unimportant. The argument is not about if we should deal with climate change, but how we should deal with climate change.”
Final thought in Thursday March 10 London edition of Metro page 29 “More people believe in climate change than global warming – even though it is the same thing, a new study suggests.” Does this indicate more or less need for a debate on climate science I wonder?
Peter F Gill 12th March 2011