When will the global warming debate be resolved?

Reader feedback at end

As last week’s entry made clear, there is a wide gap between supporters and critics of the manmade global warming theory (MMGWT), so wide in fact that one wonders whether the two sides are talking about the same thing. Marketing the climate crisis, 9/16/19 (for reader feedback, scroll to the end).

Supporters (Side A) insist there is a climate crisis, which will necessitate a rapid, cost is no object response to save the planet. Even if the MMGWT wasn’t ultimately vindicated, they add, the contemplated overhaul of our energy infrastructure would create bountiful investment opportunities, millions of new jobs, etc. Pay no attention to those pesky mandates and subsidies; like training wheels on a bicycle, they won’t be needed for long.

Critics (Side B) concede atmospheric CO2 levels are rising steadily and global temperatures have been generally trending up. But they don’t see the warming trend as dangerous and have even suggested there might be some benefits. It’s also claimed that a far more pressing problem, namely the need to balance the government’s budget, is being ignored. Consider this SAFE cartoon.



Screen Shot 2019-09-21 at 5.13.21 PM

Gee, wouldn’t it be nice to have experts from both sides debate the MMGWT based on the latest evidence and scientific thinking? Maybe such a debate (or series of debates) would settle the issue, or at least narrow the areas of disagreement.

As it happens, just such a debate has been proposed. If the event materializes, it would take place tonight (Sept. 23, 7:00 to 9:00 PM) and be live-streamed on YouTube (
video link).

“It is long past time that we have a real debate from people on both sides of this issue about what is happening to our climate,” said Heartland Institute Director of Communications Jim Lakely. “This debate has never been more important than now, especially considering the views and plans put forth by the Democratic candidates for president.

“Every one of them, and the United Nations, blame human activity for global warming, insist it will be catastrophic to life on Earth, and demand big changes to the way Americans live, work, eat, travel, and build,” Lakely added. “Doesn’t the wholesale reordering of our society demand at least a little bit of public debate? We think so.”


Heartland would promote the event, John Stossel would be the moderator, and the debaters would be scientific experts from Sides A (to be determined) and B (Patrick Michaels, David Legates & Willie Soon). Heartland Institute to host debate in NYC during UN climate summit, press release, heartland.org,
9/11/19.

Experience has shown, however, that MMGWT supporters aren’t keen on having debates. There’s an “overwhelming scientific consensus” in favor of this theory, they claim, and it’s now time for action. Will climate alarmists accept Heartland’s latest debate challenge? Sterling Burnett, heartland.org,
9/13/19.

Time will tell what happens (tune in to the debate link at 7:00 PM to find out), but we wouldn’t be surprised if none of the Side A invitees showed up – thereby ensuring a one-sided discussion. Here’s why.

A. Human nature – When their beliefs are challenged, most people tend to push back. This isn’t just true about the MMGWT, it also goes for social norms, religion, the proper role of government, the theory of evolution, and much more. Resolving differences of opinion, 4/15/19.

Pushing back may be quite justifiable if one’s beliefs are correct (or at least more nearly correct than the opposing point of view). Once the arguments start flying, however, there is a tendency to offer whatever argument is handy whether it’s logically supported by the known facts or not. And in an increasingly polarized political environment, claims that “facts don’t matter” to the other side are in vogue.
Ibid.

“Facts don’t matter,” some observers have asserted, as an explanation for why it’s so difficult to resolve differences of opinion about public policy issues. The underlying premise is that “our side” operates on facts and logic, but the “other side” won’t listen to reason. No wonder DC is mired in partisan gridlock, and the government often fails to do much beyond kicking the policy can down the road.

Query: What’s the reason for this pattern of behavior, don’t all of us have a common interest in finding the right answer to policy issues – including what action (if any) should be taken based on the MMGWT?

Answer: Not necessarily, because hard core supporters of a given premise or policy, in this case the MMGWT, have interests that transcend truth or falsity.

•Political leaders or activists may be interested in claiming a climate crisis if that will help them in expanding or maintaining their power. No wonder the Democratic presidential candidates seem so willing to embrace the MMGWT, while the president brags about the results of expanded petroleum production.

•Business leaders and investors may have economic interests in the outcome, e.g., the MMGWT may lead to a crackdown on coal companies but be very helpful for wind and solar power companies.

•What about the far more numerous category of marginally committed people whose opinions about the MMGWT are primarily based on what they were taught in school, heard from their family or friends, picked up from whatever news sources they follow, etc. They too are reluctant to change their minds, it seems, and for a somewhat surprising reason. In tuning out arguments of the other side, they are – in effect – striving to remain in synch with their own past behavior rather than seeking to secure future benefits. The art of political persuasion, Christine Pazzanese, harvard.edu/gazette,
6/19/15.

In a new working paper, the researchers [at Harvard and Stanford] say changing political attitudes can be understood in the context of “cognitive dissonance,” a theory of behavioral psychology that asserts that people experience uneasiness after acting in a way that appears to conflict with their beliefs and preferences about themselves or others. To minimize that mental discomfort, the theory posits, a person will adapt his or her attitude to better fit with or justify previous actions.

Given the foregoing, Side A has no apparent interest in supporting a debate on MMGWT, which would primarily serve to give Side B an opportunity to make its case. The strategy of organizing one-sided events to fuel the climate crisis narrative is more likely to pay off for Side A, as they surely realize.

B. Recent activity – A good deal has been accomplished in the past week from Side A’s perspective, building on the townhall (Sept. 4) and debate (Sept. 12) for Democratic candidates that were reviewed last week.

#ANOTHER TOWNHALL – MSNBC hosted a two-day (Sep. 19-20) townhall at Georgetown University, where 11 Democratic presidential candidates were interviewed for an hour apiece. According to the reporters, who diligently sat through the entire event, the results were less impactful (Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren & Kamala Harris sat this one out) – but more meaningful (addition of John Delaney & Tim Ryan, who hadn’t made the cut for the previous events, added a bit of political restraint) – than the first townhall in NYC. Some clarity on the climate controversies in the Democratic primaries, Josh Siegel & Abby Smith, Washington Examiner,
9/20/19.

•Tim Ryan opposed an immediate ban on fracking; Julian Castro said his fracking ban would initially be directed at drilling on federal lands.

•Andrew Yang expressed support for nuclear power; John Delaney said existing nuclear power facilities should be kept in operation.

•Andrew Yang and John Delaney favor a carbon fee/dividend plan that would redistribute the entire proceeds of the “fee” to the US population. “I don’t take money and spend it on a bunch of government projects,” said Delaney. “You can’t do that politically.”

•Bernie Sanders clarified that he’s not proposing a nationalization of electric power utilities, but envisions that the federal government would take a "much more active role" in production of zero-carbon power, to then be sold to public and private utilities. Tim Ryan wanted to boost renewable energy, battery facilities, etc. with mandates and tax credits instead.

#GLOBAL CLIMATE STRIKE – Starting on Sept. 20 and continuing for a week, climate crisis rallies will be going on around the globe.
https://globalclimatestrike.net

There was extensive coverage of the “strike” in the News Journal on Sept. 21, both locally (students at various DE high schools and the University of Delaware were cutting classes to attend demonstrations); USA Today reported activity in other locations, including NYC where the UN General Assembly is in session and countries around the globe. If anything was said about skeptical reactions, we missed it.

Were the young people qualified to speak about the MMGWT? One would assume they were primarily expressing points they had been taught in school or otherwise encouraged by their elders to say. And it wasn’t accidental that they were showing up in the vicinity of the UN at just the right time to lend emotional punch to its planned activities. From the streets to the summit: Young climate leaders mobilize at UN, Issam Ahmed, yahoo.com,
9/21/19.

A day after youth-led global climate strikes, several hundred young activists including Greta Thunberg (a 16-year-old from Sweden) gathered for a climate summit at the United Nations on Saturday, hitting out at older generations for doing too little to curb carbon emissions. *** It comes days before a climate action summit which UN chief Antonio Guterres has called to seek greater commitments from world leaders on reducing their greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris accord to avert runaway global warming.

It's also notable that there haven’t been any youth-led demands for action on the fiscal problem, which will leave younger Americans holding the fiscal bag if the problem isn’t effectively addressed. Maybe our kids aren’t being taught about the perils of skyrocketing debt in school, but if current practices are allowed to continue they will learn the hard way in due course.

#UN CLIMATE ACTION SUMMIT/PRESIDENTIAL CLIMATE FORUM - As we understand it there will be two events on Sept. 23, a UN Climate Action Summit to consider possible action by the UN and a Presidential Climate Forum for Democratic presidential candidates. Presidential Climate Forum set for Sept. 23 (and United Nations Climate Summit), Angmar, dailykos.com,
7/23/19.

For all sorts of compelling reasons, the Democratic electorate has decided that this is the climate change election—and they want to know what candidates are going to do if they win the White House.

As the candidates will be encouraged to attend the UN Summit, the line of demarcation between the two events doesn’t seem entirely clear. One would imagine that the event details will be geared to making the biggest splash possible and embarrassing the Trump administration in the process.

C. Proposed debate – No doubt there is room in the schedule for the debate that Heartland has proposed, but Side A may argue that there is already a lot going on this week and they don’t want to confuse the public by scheduling yet another global warming event. Alternatively, Side A could encourage their scientists to decline due to previous commitments.

Either way, Side B would be forced to cancel the debate or repackage it as a climate conversation, which would attract very little attention. Let’s hope that’s not what will happen, because the debate was a nice idea. If it doesn’t happen now, we’d love to see it happen later.

And as an instructive example of the kind of insights that might emerge from a real climate debate, consider this analysis. The bottom line: if you want to assess the MMGWT, it’s not enough to know how you feel, you must consider the actual evidence. How the media help to destroy rational climate debate, Roy Spencer, Ph.D,
8/25/19.

When you dig into the details, what the experts agree upon in their official pronouncements is rather unremarkable. The Earth has warmed a little since the 1950s, a date chosen because before that humans had not produced enough CO2 to really matter. Not enough warming for most people to actually feel, but enough for thermometers to pick up the signal buried in the noise of natural weather swings of many tens of degrees and spurious warming from urbanization effects. The UN consensus is that most of that warming is probably due to increasing atmospheric CO2 from fossil fuel use (but we really don’t know for sure). For now, I tend to agree with this consensus.

And still I am widely considered a climate denier. Why? Because I am not willing to exaggerate and make claims that cannot be supported by data.

**********FEEDBACK**********

#I don’t see much hope for a real debate about climate change, because the leftist position is based on phony science or threats. These cannot be presented as arguments in a debate if it’s on a level playing field. – SAFE director

#Outright fraud is apparent in the climate records. No wonder no one wants to debate David. – SAFE director
My gift to science deniers. Tony Heller, realclimatescience.com,
video (12:51).

# I am a skeptic---because the global warming folks have repeatedly been shown to have used data very selectively. Also, as an aside, when they pay attention to what a 16 yr. old does it makes me wonder. – SAFE member (DE)

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