A refreshing debate … on the IPCC

There have been a couple of so-called debates pertaining to climate change that I’ve watched over the past few days, thanks to pointers at Andrew Montford’s Bishop Hill.

The first was not really a “debate” (at least not by my definition of the word); but rather an Al-Jazeera English (AJ) editing of a live event that had actually taken place on March 7, of this year. It purported to be a “debate” between respected climate scientist, Dr. Richard Lindzen (although he was not billed so courteously on the AJ site) and one of those hot-shot journalists who is overly-impressed with himself; in this instance a young, shallow and callow fellow, named Mehdi Hasan. The program in question is called “Head to Head” and is promoted as:

Al Jazeera’s new forum for ideas, hosted by Mehdi Hasan.

Hasan asks the probing, hard-hitting questions few dare to ask and in each episode goes head to head with a special guest and expert witnesses who help to flesh-out the topic.
[…]

Hasan is so “well-informed” about climate science and/or climate change aka global warming that he was totally dependent on his notes for all his questions (none of which could even remotely be considered as one that “few dare to ask”) – and for his annoyingly frequent rude interruptions whenever Lindzen was speaking. One of the “expert witnesses” was Mark Lynas, whom Hasan was quite content to permit to pontificate with no interruption – least of all from Lindzen. Hasan played “traffic cop” to prevent Lindzen from responding to Lynas (except for Hasan’s chosen snippets after Lynas had concluded his pro-alarmist shpiel!)

If you’re looking to raise your blood pressure by subjecting yourself to almost an hour of Hasan’s arrogance and ill-informed monopolization of air-time, in which he seems intent on demonstrating how wonderful he is, by all means do so! Alternatively, I would suggest that your time might be better spent reading Lubos Motl’s review of this program.

All I can say is that my hat’s off to Richard Lindzen for his remarkable tolerance and equanimity – and attempts to respond to the questions and discussion points, in spite of Hasan’s performance as an incredibly rude alarmist parrot!

In contrast to this AJ abomination, today there was an interview on the BBC’s “Sunday Politics” TV program, in which Ed Davey, the U.K.’s current Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, was challenged by the (far more knowledgeable and respectful journalist) Andrew Neil. If you are in the U.K., you can watch this (much shorter) program via the post at Bishop Hill – but if you happen to see the “Not available in your area” message, you can watch “Ed Davey Feels the Heat“.

Truth be told, Neil does his share of interrupting; but not until Davey demonstrated his ability to interrupt – and to do his best to ignore the questions asked while sticking to his party-line message of the day!

But … if you only have time to watch one video today, I would heartily recommend what I found to be a pause that genuinely refreshes! After watching the Neil-Davey discussion, I had stumbled across a title that I found quite intriguing: “Can We Trust the Evidence? The IPCC – A Case Study“.

This less than one-hour video features Fred Pearce as well as The Economist‘s (I believe now former) energy and environment editor, Oliver Morton, and Tony Gilland from the UK Institute of Ideas (IoI).

Gilland’s is not a name that was familiar to me, nor was the IoI. But I must say, that I quite like the following from their 2010 “challenge to prospective MPs”:

21 PLEDGES FOR PROGRESS 2010

Policy ideas that would make candidates worth voting for; positions that voters should argue and campaign for.

[…]

Re PUBLIC SERVICES

[…]
Scrap the ‘impact statement’ demands on university research, in the interests of valuing knowledge for its own sake and protecting academic freedom from the demand for policy outcomes.

Support the arts financially, for their own sake, in the interests of liberating them from ever more prescriptive and politicised instrumental demands.

Direct state funding of health to biomedical research into cures, the latest drugs and equipment, rather than punitive campaigns to change individual behaviour, in the interests of public health and good cheer.

Direct state funding of schools into providing universal access to the highest standard of education in academic subjects, rather than politicised cross curricular themes like sustainability or citizenship, in the interests of passing on real knowledge to our children. [emphasis added -hro]

One of the long-standing annual projects of the IoI is a “two-day festival, the Battle of Ideas“. And, on October 31, 2010, the festival schedule included “Can We Trust the Evidence? The IPCC – A Case Study“.

The YouTube backgrounder concludes as follows:

Has what was intended to be an impartial assessment of climate change and its impact become inextricably entangled in political arguments? Without strong political vision or moral authority to justify their policy decisions, has the IPCC become the politician’s only source of authority with which to act? Does ‘The Science’ end all debate? When science and politics become so deeply entwined, must we ask ourselves — can we trust the evidence?

Apart from the fact that this was an intelligent, civilized and respectful debate (no one interrupted anyone else!) and that many of the views expressed were not dissimilar to those you are quite likely to find in posts on this blog (OK, call it confirmation bias if you must!), I found it to be 54 minutes very well spent! It’s a video I can point to when encountering an Uninformed Lay Person (ULP) who doesn’t quite have the time to read Donna Laframboise’s The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World’s Top Climate Expert.

The money quote for me came from Gilland during the course of his remarks pertaining to the political warping of the science (my phrasing, not his!) Gilland summarized UNEP head honcho Achim Steiner’s take on the release of the IPCC’s 2007 “climate bible” as: “Here’s the science. It’s scary. Do this.”

So, now, without further ado …

Enjoy!

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