Thanks to Utah leaders for careful approach on climate politics

Click the graphic to watch a live stream of the International Conference on Climate Change.

Click the above graphic to watch a live stream of climate scientists and policy experts at the conference.

In “Herbert Catching Heat for Climate Change Stance,” (July 7, 2014, Utah Policy Daily), Bryan Schott shares the observation that “half of the nation’s Republican governors are climate change deniers, including Utah Gov. Gary Herbert.”

To which an appropriate response would be “Thank you, Gov. Herbert” – with similar expressions of gratitude to the majority of Utah legislators that prudently have not embraced group-think-based proposed responses to purported anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming/change/disruption/etc.

The perspective underlying Mr. Schott’s July 7 post is similar that of his June 9 “Krugman: Anti-Intellectualism Biggest Hurdle to Addressing Climate Change,” wherein he notes,

Economist Paul Krugman says it’s not vested interests that pose the biggest obstacle to addressing climate change, it’s those who don’t trust scientists. Krugman argues that economic ideology and hostility to science is the biggest problem in the climate debate, because it directly challenges the world view of those who deny climate change.

Quoting Krugman, Schott includes,

And the natural reaction is denial – angry denial. Read or watch any extended debate over climate policy and you’ll be struck by the venom, the sheer rage, of the denialists.

We should be pleased to hear any debate, even a brief one, between anthropogenic global warming (AGW) proponents and those skeptical of that view. Several years ago, while I was collaborating with the governor’s environmental advisor in efforts to plan and organize a public forum/debate that would address the topic of anthropogenic global warming, he and I were frustrated that our efforts came to the disappointing conclusion that no debate would be held. Why? In large measure because, despite earnest and persistent attempts, we could find no AGW advocates of national stature that would be willing to accept our invitation to engage in a public contest of ideas and data on the subject.

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Take advantage of the opportunity today and tomorrow (July 8-9) to watch via live streaming as climate scientists and policy experts meet this week to provide updates on current climate research at the Ninth International Conference on Climate Change. Sponsored and hosted by the Heartland Institute, the full conference schedule, including all keynote addresses and 21 break-out panel discussions, can be viewed live and at no cost as the proceedings unfold, and will be available online after the conference. Note that as all times listed are PDT (Pacific Daylight Time), Utah viewers will be watching one hour later than the listed time.

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  • Barry Bickmore

    Stan, let me tell you another climate change debate story. Years ago, some BYU scientists, including myself, publicly challenged some members of the Utah Legislature for putting a bunch of self-contradictory nonsense and conspiracy theories into a legislative resolution urging the EPA not to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Next thing you know, we all got a nasty letter from Bob Ferguson, the handler for Lord Christopher Monckton, challenging us to debate His Lordship, and some of the legislators immediately began trying to goad us into taking the bait. Monckton is a very prominent climate change contrarian, who has a long history of 1) telling great whopping porkies about climate science, 2) going about falsely claiming to be a member of the UK Parliament, and 3) threatening those who have challenged the falsehoods he promotes. (I should know. He’s tried to get me fired and/or threatened to sue me at least twice.) Almost all the BYU scientists refused the offer. After all, why should mainstream scientists agree to “debate” some fringe crackpot who can stand up there and spout a continuous stream of nonsense, for an audience who doesn’t have the background to realize what’s going on? I was the exception. I told Ferguson that I would be happy to debate Monckton IF we could do it in an online, written format, in which we would have time between rounds to check each others’ sources and such. Ferguson said he thought that was a reasonable idea, but then he didn’t get back to me about it. Later, when I met him in person, he renewed the original request, and sweetened it with an offer of a $5000 speaking fee. I told him again that I would do it for free if we could do an online, written debate in which we could check sources. His answer was a flat “No.”

    So keep patting yourself on the back for wanting a “debate”. What you really want is to create the impression among the public that, “Gee, there seems to be good arguments on both sides. I guess we should wait to do anything too drastic until we’re more sure about it.” For instance, you are promoting the Heartland Institute’s climate change contrarian conference, featuring a bunch of speakers, most of whom don’t actually publish any real climate research. Just look at one of the keynote speakers, Joe Bastardi. He has a BS in Meteorology, and is a TV weatherman. He goes on Fox News and says all kinds of bizarre stuff, such as that the greenhouse effect can’t be real, because it involves greenhouse gas molecules creating energy out of nothing in the atmosphere. (In case you were wondering, this is both false and comically idiotic.) But that’s ok! The Heartland crowd will prop Bastardi up there as a fake expert because they don’t really care about the truth. They just want to create the impression that there is a real scientific debate going on, so they don’t have to work so hard to promote Libertarian policies.

    • Stan Rasmussen

      Thanks for sharing your story, Barry. It’s clear that you take issue with the views and opinions of Ferguson and Monckton and apparently they with yours. My guess is you’re not alone and likely neither are they. With your willingness to debate, perhaps the Heartland Institute would be interested to provide a context and maybe in the written format you prefer. And rather than another presumptuous and unsuccessful attempt at reading my mind – “What you really want is to create the impression…” – may I suggest that you consider selecting one of the keynotes or panels presented at the 2014 Heartland conference (I believe most sessions soon will be available online) or other similar gathering and explicate your concerns with what was discussed / point out what you regard as flaws or deficiencies in data presented, interpretive errors, etc. In this manner, you could initiate an enlightening debate, presuming those listening do not also fall short of your standards; “an audience who doesn’t have the background to realize what’s going on.”
      — Stan Rasmussen

  • Melospiza

    Why? In large measure because, despite earnest and persistent attempts, we could find no AGW advocates of national stature that would be willing to accept our invitation to engage in a public contest of ideas and data on the subject.

    This is no surprise to anyone who has followed the evolution/creationism issue, which shares many commonalities with the climate change issue. The public one-on-one verbal debate format just does not lend itself to enlightenment. Rhetorical flourish and style, sadly, predominate over substance. Many an evolutionary scientist can cite an encounter with the Gish Gallop, a debate tactic named after creationist Duane Gish, who would run off a laundry list of alleged faults of evolution. If, in the time constraints of the oral debate, the mainstream scientist could only rebut items 1-12 on the list, the creationist responds that items 13-20 must be true because the scientist was unable to refute them. Point scored. Audiences to such debates tend to be stoked for conflict and partisanship and are unlikely to be persuaded to a differing viewpoint. The return on investment for the scientist is just not there. The scientist may be a brilliant practitioner in his or her field armed with all of the data and latest research, but can still lose to the flash of a practiced charIatan. One is reminded of the old saw about wrestling with a pig. You both get covered with mud but at some point you realize the pig likes it.

    Although not nearly as slick or dramatic and more tedious, the online written debate format that Dr. Bickmore proposes in his comment holds much more promise for genuine education and persuasion. It removes the time constraint. It allows for cooler, objective discussion not tainted by partisanship. It removes the hoots and hollers of the audience. It removes the incentive to score points and hurl zingers in favor of making constructive criticism. It provides an opportunity to provide extended footnotes and references. It is globally available. In many ways, it mirrors the mainstream scientific process of peer review and publication. If scientists are reluctant to engage with climate skeptics, part of the reason is that the scientists feel their ideas have already been debated and vetted by knowledgable peers; they don’t need to repeat the process with skeptical laypeople. They feel that if the skeptical laypeople have ideas of merit, then they can subject them to the same review process they went through. They can submit them for peer review. Scientists are not afraid of debating the topic, but they may shy away from certain debate formats because they do not promote good science or enhance understanding.