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Scientific Smackdown: Skeptics Voted The Clear Winners
By Marc Morano
March 19, 2007
Just days before former Vice President Al Gore’s scheduled visit to testify about global warming before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works, a high profile climate debate between prominent scientists Wednesday evening, March 14, ended with global warming skeptics being voted the clear winner by a tough New York City, before an audience of hundreds of people.
Before the start of the nearly two-hour debate, the audience polled 57.3% to 29.9% in favor of believing that Global Warming was a “crisis”, but following the debate, the numbers completely flipped to 46.2% to 42.2% in favor of the skeptical point of view. The audience also found humor at the expense of former Vice President Gore’s reportedly excessive home energy use.
After the stunning victory, one of the scientists on the side promoting the belief in a climate "crisis" appeared to concede defeat by noting his debate team was ‘pretty dull" and at "a sharp disadvantage" against the skeptics. ScientificAmerican.com’s blog agreed, saying the believers in a man-made climate catastrophe “seemed underarmed for the debate and, not surprising, it swung against them."
The New York City audience laughed as Gore became the butt of humor during the debate.
"What we see in this is an enormous danger for politicians in terms of their hypocrisy. I’m not going to say anything about Al Gore and his house. But it is a very serious point," quipped University of London emeritus professor Philip Stott, to laughter from the audience.
The audience also applauded a call by novelist Michael Crichton to stop the hypocrisy of environmentalists and Hollywood liberals by enacting a ban on private jet travel.
"Let’s have the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), the Sierra Club and Greenpeace make it a rule that all of their members, cannot fly on private jets. They must get their houses off the [power] grid. They must live in the way that they’re telling everyone else to live. And if they won’t do that, why should we? And why should we take them seriously?" Crichton said to applause audience. (For more debate quotes see bottom of article)
The debate was sponsored by the Oxford-style debating group Intelligence Squared and featured such prominent man-made global warming skeptics as MIT scientist Richard Lindzen, the University of London emeritus professor of biogeography Philip Stott and Physician turned Novelist/filmmaker Michael Crichton on one side.
The scientists arguing for a climate ‘crisis’ were NASA scientist Gavin Schmidt, meteorologist Richard C.J. Somerville of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Brenda Ekwurzel of the Union of Concerned Scientists. The event, which was moderated by New York Public Radio’s Brian Lehrer, debated the proposition: "Global warming is not a crisis.”
Skeptics Dramatically Convinced Audience
The skeptics achieved the vote victory despite facing an audience that had voted 57% in favor of the belief that mankind has created a climate "crisis" moments before the debate began.
But by the end of the debate, the audience dramatically reversed themselves, and became convinced by the arguments presented by the skeptical scientists. At the conclusion, the audience voted for the views of the skeptics, by a margin of 46.2% to 42.2%. Skeptical audience members grew from a pre-debate low of 29.9% to a post debate high of 46.2% - a jump of nearly 17 percentage points. [Link to official audience voting results]
[Link to full debate pdf transcript]
Scientist Concedes Debate To Skeptics
NASA’s Gavin Schmidt, one of the scientists debating for the notion of a man-made global warming "crisis" conceded after the debate that his side was ‘pretty dull’ and was at "a sharp disadvantage." Schmidt made the comments in a March 15 blog posting at RealCilmate.org.
"…I'm afraid the actual audience (who by temperament I'd say were split roughly half/half on the question) were apparently more convinced by the entertaining narratives from [Novelist Michael] Crichton and [UK’s Philip] Stott (not so sure about Lindzen) than they were by our drier fare. Entertainment-wise it's hard to blame them. Crichton is extremely polished, and Stott has a touch of the revivalist preacher about him. Comparatively, we were pretty dull," Schmidt wrote.
‘Advantage: Climate Contrarians’
The ScientificAmerican.com’s blog also declared the global warming skeptics the clear winner of the debate in a March 15 post titled: "Debate Skills? Advantage: Climate Contrarians."
"The proponents [of a climate crisis] seemed underarmed for the debate and, not surprisingly, it swung against them, particularly when Schmidt made the fatal debating error of dismissing the ability of the audience to judge the scientific nuances," ScientificAmerican.com’s David Biello wrote.
The advocates of climate alarmism "were faced with the folksy anecdotes of Crichton and the oratorical fire of Stott," Biello wrote at ScientificAmerican.com.
Biello concluded, "…the audience responded to Crichton's satirical call for a ban on private jets, more than Ekwurzel's vague we need to throw ‘everything we can at the climate crisis.’ By the final vote, 46 percent of the audience had been convinced that global warming was indeed not a crisis, while just 42 percent persisted in their opinion that it was."
Biello also criticized climate "crisis" advocate Richard Somerville as "perplexed" and "hardly inspiring."
Skeptics ‘Very Popular’
Debate participant Schmidt lamented that the evening turned into one of futility for believers in a man-made global warming catastrophe.
"Crichton went with the crowd-pleasing condemnation of private jet-flying liberals - very popular, even among the private jet-flying Eastsiders present, and the apparent hypocrisy of people who think that global warming is a problem [of] using any energy at all."
Schmidt continued, "Stott is a bit of a force of nature, and essentially accused anyone who thinks global warming is a problem. of explicitly rooting for misery and poverty in the third world. He also brought up the whole cosmic ray issue, as the next big thing in climate science."
Schmidt appeared so demoralized that he mused that debates equally split between believers of a climate ‘crisis’ and scientific skeptics are probably not “worthwhile” to ever agree to again.
Selected Quotes from the climate debate from transcript: [Link to full debate pdf transcript]
Skeptical quotes from Novelist Michael Crichton:
"I would like to suggest a few symbolic actions that might — might really mean something. One of them, which is very simple: 99% of the American population doesn’t care, is ban private jets. Nobody needs to fly in them, ban them now. And, and in addition, [APPLAUSE] "Let’s have the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), the Sierra Club and Greenpeace make it a rule that all of their members, cannot fly on private jets. They must get their houses off the [electrical] grid. They must live in the way that they’re telling everyone else to live. And if they won’t do that, why should we? And why should we take them seriously? [APPLAUSE]"
"I suddenly think about my friends, you know, getting on their private jets. And I think, well, you know, maybe they have the right idea. Maybe all that we have to do is mouth a few platitudes, show a good, expression of concern on our faces, buy a Prius, drive it around for a while, and give it to the maid, attend a few fundraisers, and you’re done. Because, actually, all anybody really wants to do is talk about it."
"I mean, haven’t we actually raised temperatures so much that we, as stewards of the planet, have to act? These are the questions that friends of mine ask, as they are getting on board their private jets to fly to their second and third homes. [LAUGHTER]"
"Everyday, 30,000 people on this planet die of the diseases of poverty. There are, a third of the planet doesn’t have electricity. We have a billion people with no clean water. We have half a billion people going to bed hungry every night. Do we care about this? It seems that we don’t. It seems that we would rather look a hundred years into the future, than pay attention to what’s going on now. I think that's unacceptable. I think that’s really a disgrace."
Skeptical quotes of University of London’s emeritus professor of biogeography Philip Stott:
"What we see in this is an enormous danger for politicians in terms of their hypocrisy. I’m not going to say anything about Al Gore and his house. [LAUGHTER] But it is a very serious point."
"In the early 20th century, 95% of scientists believed in eugenics. [LAUGHTER] Science does not progress by consensus, it progresses by falsification and by what we call paradigm shifts."
"The first Earth Day in America claimed the following, that because of global cooling, the population of America would have collapsed to 22 million by the year 2000. And, the average calorie intake of the average American would be wait for this, 2,400 calories, (would be good if it were.) [LAUGHTER] It’s nonsense, and very dangerous. And what we have fundamentally forgotten is simple primary school science. Climate always changes."
"Angela Merkel the German chancellor, my own good prime minister (Tony Blair) for whom I voted - let me emphasize, arguing in public two weeks ago, as to who in Annie-get-the-gun style could produce the best temperature. ‘I could do two degrees C," said Angela.’ ‘No, I could only do three," said Tony.’ [LAUGHTER] Stand back a minute, those are politicians, telling you that they can control climate to a degree Celsius.”
“And can I remind everybody that IPCC that we keep talking about, very honestly admits that we know very little about 80% of the factors behind climate change. Well let’s use an engineer; I don’t think I’d want to cross Brooklyn Bridge if it were built by an engineer who only understood 80% of the forces on that bridge. [LAUGHTER]”
Skeptical quotes of MIT’s Professor of Atmospheric Science Richard Lindzen:
"Now, much of the current alarm, I would suggest, is based on ignorance of what is normal for weather and climate."
"The impact on temperature per unit carbon dioxide actually goes down, not up, with increasing CO2. The role of anthropogenic greenhouse gases is not directly related to the emissions rate or even CO2 levels, which is what the legislation is hitting on, but rather to the impact of these gases on the greenhouse effect."
"The real signature of greenhouse warming is not surface temperature, but temperature in the middle of the troposphere, about five kilometers. And that is going up even slower than the temperature at the surface."
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