A follow-up on that last climate post (thanks to all who read and commented):
Tune in to ABC Wednesday afternoon for a televised debate about climate change. The lineup pits climate scientists Richard Somerville, Brenda Ekwurzel, and RealClimate‘s Gavin Schmidt against skeptics Michael Crichton, Richard Lindzen, and Philip Stott. (Lindzen and Stott are respected scientists – it’s not clear what landed Crichton on the panel besides name recognition).
Lindzen is one of the most exalted and crotchety thorns still jabbing at climate science’s side. I’ve heard from casualties of his atmospheric physics classes that he’s a very difficult man to out-argue. Here’s hoping that the debate rises above bait-and-switch (i.e., “We’re not causing all of it, so we shouldn’t worry about it.). At the same time, here’s hoping it doesn’t sink so deeply into differential equations that we hear an entire TV nation simultaneously scratching its head.
Another of MIT’s esteemed climate scientists, Carl Wunsch, was the victim of severe mischaracterization on the UK’s Channel 4 program “The Great Global Warming Swindle” last week. Wunsch thinks that climate change is real and dangerous, but wishes that people would stop proclaiming that the Gulf Stream is about to shut down. When he tried to say as much to Channel 4, he found himself edited down to a sound bite implying that human carbon emissions are inconsequential. You can find his side of the story at RealClimate as well as a copy of his politely irate e-mail to Channel 4.
And in today’s NYT, a plea for moderation on both sides. The story cites scientists unhappy with Al Gore’s stark assessment who still think society needs to be taking strong steps.
The trouble is that moderation is not a very good spur to action, as well-meaning RealClimate reader “Colin” sweetly illustrated:
I have no idea where the truth lies in any of this, but I come down on the sceptic side, because I believe if there really was a problem, the government would, as an example, drop VAT to zero on all energy efficient goods, cars etc, to encourage the masses to buy items that are good for the environment.
Could all you climate scientologist answer me a few questions? Why can’t all you people who really know get together and present a totally unbiased and impartial, scientific paper on what is really happening, declaring all sources of funding etc?
Sounds like the IPCC report to me. Still, I like this comment, because it demonstrates that people actually do expect government to act in our best interests. Trouble is, that means government inaction is sort of implicit evidence that things aren’t as bad as they sound.
In that case, Gore’s conviction that people need to be shocked into taking matters into their own hands sounds like wisdom. But how do you square that with science’s tradition of careful analysis and understatement? Good luck to Somerville, Ekwurzel, and Schmidt.