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Last week there was a much bally-hooed public event where several very well known scientists from both sides of the global-warming debate were given an opportunity to make their case before the public. Though they were not the only speakers, the two names that were of the most interest were Michael Mann (global warming advocate) and Judith Curry (global warming skeptic).
Mann’s appearance was especially intriguing, because he has very carefully insulated himself from any unpredictable public questioning in the decade since the climategate emails were released (revealing that his objectivity and rigor as a scientist could be considered very questionable). With Curry as an opposing panelist it seemed to me that this event could produce some interesting fireworks.
The event was in West Virginia, too far away for me to attend. However, one of my caving buddies from back when I lived in DC and caved monthly in West Virginia, John Harman, lives in West Virginia and as the owner of a company that builds space-related equipment I knew he’d be interested. I let him know about the event, and he decided to make the two and a half hour drive to watch.
Below is John’s detailed report on the event. You can see Judith Curry’s full presentation and script here.
I only have one comment, indicated by my headline above. The way this event was staged was specifically designed to prevent a real debate. There was no vibrant give and take between participants. Instead, the speakers were each given time to make their presentation, and then were faced with what appeared to be preplanned questions. Very staged. When Curry was given a question she didn’t expect, she said so, and was surprised.
This is not how real science is done. Michael Mann strongly pushes the theory that the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, caused by human-activity, is warming the climate. His work has been strongly challenged by qualified scientists like Judith Curry. For science, and the truth, to prosper, Mann has to be willing to face those challenges directly, and address them. Instead, this event as well as every other public forum that Mann has participated in for the past decade have all been designed to protect him from those challenges. Nor has Mann been the only global warming enthusiast protected in this way.
The result is a decline in intellectual rigor and the rise of politics and propaganda within the climate science community, as noted by Curry in her last slide. She calls this “The Madhouse effect”:
The madhouse is characterized by
- Rampant overconfidence in an overly simplistic theory of climate change
- Enforcement of a politically-motivated, manufactured ‘consensus’
- Attempts to stifle scientific and policy debates
- Activism and advocacy for their preferred politics and policy
- Self-promotion and ‘cashing in’
- Public attacks on other scientists that do not support the ‘consensus’
Curry notes that she was forced out of academia expressly because of these factors, merely because she expressed skepticism concerning the hypothesis of human-caused global warming.
The worst part of this lack of debate is that it now permeates our society. In every area of importance to our nation’s future, debate is now impossible. The left, to which global warming activists like Michael Mann routinely belong, will not tolerate it, and will do anything to avoid it, even so far as to destroy the careers of anyone who dares challenge them. This is what Mann advocated in the climategate emails, and this is exactly what happened to Judith Curry.
Anyway, take a look at John’s very fair-minded report of the event. You will find it quite edifying.
Held at University of Charleston Geary Auditorium which was a very nice venue. The event was put on by Spillman and Battle, a local WV law firm specializing in energy law and regulatory compliance. The event started promptly at 6PM. Dr. Mann and Admiral Titley to audience left, Dr. Curry and Dr. Moore to audience right with the moderator in the middle. The event was not structured as a debate. Each participant was given 15 minutes to give a power point presentation outlining their position after which the moderator gave them pre-selected questions. One final common question was given to the participants and each had 2 minutes to answer – more on that later. After the question and answer session each participant was given a couple more minutes to make closing statements.
15 Min Presentations
Dr. Mann was the first in the lineup, I assume this was not random, but rather he’d conditioned his participation on being allowed to speak first. His presentation was very polished with highly cultivated graphics. However, the scientific content in the presentation was what you would expect for a middle school presentation, it was very basic, showing his famous hockey stick graph, but not much other supporting evidence. He made the claim that CO2 and its impact on global temperature had been theorized as far back as the 1800s by several notable scientists. He stopped short of making the claim that the current models were developed in the 1800s, but it’s possible that a layperson would easily jump to that conclusion. He discussed the consensus of AGW / climate change. Overall, it was by far the best presentation of the evening but unfortunately, was highly devoid of any real scientific content which was highly disappointing.
Dr. Currys 15 minutes were spent reading from a script while flipping through about 20 power point slides. Her presentation was not forceful and at times she seemed timid and nervous. Her presentation was not flashy and would have been boring had it not been for the content. Early in the presentation she clearly made her point – that she does not believe that CO2 is the only, and potentially not the most important variable that determines global temperature tends. She stated that she resigned her tenured faculty position last year because of backlash received from her viewpoint.
Admiral Titley (who has an honorary doctorate) gave a presentation with little scientific content, but instead focused on the human repercussions of sea level rise. He stressed the national security concerns associated with displacement of large numbers of people from costal regions. His presentation appeared to largely build on the underpinnings outlined in Manns presentation. He was an effective speaker with an impassioned delivery. One very interesting graph that Dr. Titley presented was a prediction by Dr. James Hansen published sometime in the early 1980s. The Hansen prediction had been supplemented with empirical temperature data since the prediction was made. The observational data appeared to match the Hansen predictions.
Dr. Patrick Moore gave the final presentation wherein he put forth the view that carbon dioxide is not correlated with temperature over geologic time. One of his graphs showed CO2 levels on the order of 1000PPM in the past and he pointed out times where temperature was anticorrelated with CO2 level. He claimed that in the past all the carbon in fossil fuels and in limestone rocks was actually present in the atmosphere, and that biological processes over eons scrubbed this CO2 from the atmosphere. He claimed that in the last two ice ages CO2 levels dropped to around 180PPM, dangerously close to the threshold of 150PPM where plants cant survive. He said that human release of CO2 has likely saved the earth from catastrophe by increasing CO2 to levels where plants can thrive.
Next, the panel was given pre-selected questions to respond to. Unfortunately, I don’t remember all the questions. However, I do remember Dr. Curry was asked a question regarding CO2 equilibrium temperature. The moderator stumbled through the question and Dr. Curry asked him to repeat the question and said something along the lines of “I wasn’t given this question in advance”. This comment made me wonder if the panelists were given the questions in advance. Was this one added at the last minute? Regardless, Dr. Curry went on to explain what was meant by equilibrium CO2 temperature, stating that it was the time required for global temperature to stabilize after a doubling of atmospheric CO2. Finally, all the panelists were asked to respond to the same question – how much CO2 should be in the atmosphere? Dr. Mann took some umbrage to the question saying that it was a common contrarian question. He finally settled that 350PPM was likely a safe level of CO2. Admiral Titley came to the same conclusion as Dr. Mann. Dr. Curry indicated that she didn’t know while Dr. Moore took the position of more is better.
Each panelist was given a couple minutes for closing statements. Naturally, they aligned with their primary viewpoint. Dr. Mann and Dr. Moore used the closing statements to exchange jabs. Dr. Moore’s closing statement was incredibly impassioned and he made the point that “consensus” is not a word that has any place in science and instead is a political word.
Reading the Crowd
There were roughly 100-150 people at the event and 90% seemed to be above the age of 50. The crowd was very respectful save one gentleman in the front row wearing a “save the grandkids” shirt who interrupted Dr. Moore and had to be reprimanded by the moderator. I did note that some of the people seated behind us refused to applaud for Dr. Curry or Dr. Moore.
A straightforward analysis from WV News is available here.
After the event I asked the moderator if a video would be published. He assured me it would be, but would take some time. He said the web registered attendees would be notified via e-mail.