Monbiot debates Lomborg

I heard about it too late for the live webcast, but you can watch this event at this link.

I don't know if this will be a permanent link.

It was "live blogged" by Steve Easterbrook and David Roberts.

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A really interesting debate. If the pro's had put up some slightly better debaters that Elizabeth May and George Monbiot I would have thought the honours should have come out about even rather than the cons making considerable gains in the final result. I really am surprised that so many people changed their minds on the basis of the debate. What it showed me was that such a display was of very little use. Each side often called upon often contradictory science, science which the audience had no real way of verifying before they voted. As a Brit I know Lord Lawson from way back and he is a wily old snake but I have been wondering that even though I have very little doubt that his convictions do conveniently reflect his own , and those of his ilk's, commercial interests, he seems to putting an awful lot of personal effort into his campaign and I am starting to believe his convictions may just be genuinely held. I have a lot of time for Lomborg. He was not the most coherent of debaters but got his pragmatic point of view across. In the end, it was a question of whether I considered his version of pragmatism coincided with my own. By and large it did.
Elizabeth May was pretty hopeless, I thought, though there was no doubting her sincerity. George Monbiot was passionate as ever but relied a bit too much on appeals to authority and on anecdote.
I can see why any activist of any stamp might want to avoid this kind of limited debate. The subject is so complex that the victory in the end will go to the best debater, rather than the person whose cause is scientifically the stronger.
Can someone please tell me exactly what science the cons rely on when they say the world has not shown any significant warming this century? I note the pros strenuously denied this but surely the cons must be basing this assertion on SOMETHING rather than just making it up as the pros were suggesting.
Brave people all, though and I salute their courage to stand up and be counted in front of an audience.

By jack savage (not verified) on 03 Dec 2009 #permalink

The setup looks strangely familiar to the debate Gavin Schmidt took part in early 2007. Back when I blogged about that, I noticed the opposing team (which included the late Michael Crichton, and Philip "It's the Sun" Stott) was using a Lomborg approach. It is amazing how little the argument has moved on since then. So much so I am sure I could recycle a whole lot of what I commented on 2 years ago in relation to this debate.

I thought monbiot had sworn off debates? Especially against do-nothings like Lomborg, who can tie audiences in knots with fals equivalencies (But Malaria is a more urgent problem! Yeah, and nobodies hurrying to pay for treatments now either)

Elizabeth May was pretty hopeless

Agreed. Yet another example for Randy Olson on the importance of likeability in winning arguments. She certainly bested Gavin Schmidt in the how to lose the audience stakes.

Can someone please tell me exactly what science the cons rely on when they say the world has not shown any significant warming this century?... the cons must be basing this assertion on SOMETHING

It's called blog science. Or maybe Roger Pielke Jr.. Pity neither May or Monbiot cited this blind study in which the temperature record was given to statisticians after being stripped of labels so they couldn't tell it was actually global temperature data. They all detected a long term rising trend but none picked up on any true decline, not even in that last decade of measurements.

Note also how Lawson tries to emphasise rates and trends instead of absolute temperature values, yet when the debate deviated into peak oil territory, Lawson started emphasising absolute values instead of rates.

Especially against do-nothings like Lomborg, who can tie audiences in knots with fals equivalencies

And a whole lot of false dichotomy. Maybe it is a problem with his English. To Lomborg for GW to be the defining problem, it means that there are no other problems. And once the opposing team admits that there are other problems, then GW is no longer the defining one. Does "defining"="only" in his native tongue? Weird.

But he does come across as more likeable than May.

I managed to find this graph of global temperature produced by the Hadley CRU centre ( are they the same as the controversial East Anglia CRU? ) which seems to suggest that temperatures have indeed flattened out over the last decade.…

It seems that Lawson was telling the truth about the last 10 years or so but conveniently forgetting to mention that the flattening out came at the end of a steady rise since 1975!

However, I thought the climate models the IPCC were relying on all predicted an increase in temperature rising proportionately to the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere, and this patently is not the case. So, surely,either the temperature data are wrong or the models are? If it is a natural variation not predicted by the models it seems to be lasting a considerable period of time compared with the other much smaller variations between 1975 and 2000?
Please, someone, direct me to a simple explanation of this.

By Jack Savage (not verified) on 08 Dec 2009 #permalink

I thought it was the El Nino high point of 1998.

You're pretty sharp, Jack, and I assumed you were aware of that explanation (whether you agreed or not) so I have to admit I'm puzzled by this question.


Well Jack, for starters, GWPF is the latest re-incarnation of the denier movement. It is full of the usual lying deniers, just check their Academic Advisory Council:

If you want to see how real data and statistics show that what you said is wrong then check out this post at Tamino's blog:

Of course, you do need an open mind to understand this.

By Ian Forrester (not verified) on 09 Dec 2009 #permalink

Too many people make the mistake of respecting Lomborg. He is nothing but an ignorant layman crank and should be loudly and publicly treated as such. He has asserted that climate change will not threaten polar bears because the bears will consciously seize control of their evolution and turn themselves into grizzly-like creatures. And then there's his old saw about how since we're catching so many fish, the fisheries can't be in decline!

To Ian Forrester . Thank you for the note on GWPF. I do know exactly who they are and Lawson's connection to them. It was the accuracy of the graph I was wondering about. Is it right or not? It seems to have come from HADCRU.
You have sent me off to another series of graphs and stats which are too complicated for me to properly comprehend saying they are the "real" stats. Are the ones produced by HADCRU (or whoever they are ) not real? Or has Lawson distorted them?

To TTT . Ignorant layman crank? I looked him up in Wikipedia (I, know,I know ) and he seems to be an academic of some sort. He seems to have no formal academic grounding in climate science but then Our George seems only to have a second class degree in zoology. I do not think such outbursts add to an argument.
As for the polar bears, their main problem was that the Arctic Indigenous peoples, once they got rifles, kept shooting them and still (mercifully in smaller numbers) do!…

I stopped listening to any environmental bleating about polar bears once I found that out.

By Jack Savage (not verified) on 14 Dec 2009 #permalink

Thank you Chris. I was not holding up Bjorn as a man who never made any errors. I was suggesting he might not be an ignorant layman crank. I can see a difference.
Dear old Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth" has taken a bit of a bashing over the years for containing an error or two, but you do not hear him being called an ignorant layman crank. I am more interested in what people got right rather than what they got wrong.
The man-made global warming debate is the most extraordinary one I have ever come across. Each corner of the debate seems to be saying that everything everybody else says is wrong wrong wrong.
I have just watched an extraordinary rant by Lord Monckton addressing some Germans in which he called Mann, Jones, Briffa, Trenberth and several others pre-eminent in Climate Science "crooks", "frauds" and , believe it or not, "racketeers".

What the hell is going on? Surely he will be sued into bankruptcy? Where are the lawyers?

By Jack Savage (not verified) on 16 Dec 2009 #permalink

Hi Jack,

"Each corner of the debate seems to be saying that everything everybody else says is wrong wrong wrong."

This is true with one caveat: the corner where the position is "humans are causing dangerous climate change" holds 97% of the working experts and the other 3% is divided into many different camps. You have the "it's not happening" people, the "it's GCRs" people, "its sunspots", "its unknown natural cycles", "its its ocean currents", "its volcanoes", "it's stopped already", "it's hardly happening", "it's happening but won't continue" etc etc. These positions are by and large mutually exclusive.

Coby - Agreed. But surely that is how science works and how it should be? Why would that be put forward as some kind of vindication that the concensus must be right? There is only one way to be right,but lots of ways to be wrong. The trick is to find out which theory is right! I would be surprised if there WERE only one alternate theory to that of CO2. Now that would indicate a "conspiratorial" closing of ranks on the sceptic side if ALL sceptics said ALL the time that it was ONLY (say) the sun causing global warming.

By Jack Savage (not verified) on 16 Dec 2009 #permalink

Both Lawson and Lomborg make intelligent well thought out arguments.
Global warming hysterics such as Monbiot are on shaky ground.
If you are believers in the new environmentalist religion it will be difficult for you to understand why most people will in time be turned off by your beliefs.
Marxism failed after costing many lives. Hopefully the Environmentalist and anti human quasi religion will fail before costing third world lives from a lack of development.
Our climate is poorly understood, empirical measurements suggest a low climate sensitivity,
thats good news. Find some other cause to rant about!

By Andrew Ansari (not verified) on 26 Jan 2010 #permalink

Oh, God.

new environmentalist [sometimes 'quasi']religion . . . Marxism . . . anti-human . . . costing third world lives

What is it with these guys that read all these caricatures and babble points at Heartland or wherever and think they have the world figured out?

But here's the best part of this one:

Our climate is poorly understood,

except when

empirical measurements suggest a low climate sensitivity, thats good news.

I don't think we'll be seeing Andrew for a while.