One of the best debates I’ve seen in a while was the Munk Debate on Climate Change, a debate sponsored by the University of Toronto’s Munk Centre for International Studies, held days before the United Nation’s Copenhagen summit. The proposition:
It was a spectacle, the kind that would have taken place in ancient Rome, where all moral codes were broken and where the audience was as much involved in the theatre as the actors themselves.
On the pro side was Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada, and George Monbiot, environmental activist, Guardian journalist, and author of Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning. On the contre side: Bjorn Lomborg, adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School and author of The Skeptical Environmentalist and Cool It, along with Lord Nigel Lawson, British politico, since crossed over into the investment world, and author of An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming.
Personally, I thought May was the real winner of the debate, for her attention to historical trends and deference to ‘the real experts’ – the IPCC, academics, and policy experts around the world. More importantly, I came away profoundly disturbed that the skeptics had been given such equal footing. It wasn’t that I necessarily agree that climate change is “mankind’s defining crisis”, or that there aren’t other top priorities, as Lomborg identified, such as extreme poverty, hunger, access to clean drinking water and sanitation, and easily-curable infectious diseases.
What was so disturbing were the highly rhetorical arguments against climate change science evoked by Lomborg and Lawson.
Finally, today I feel some respite from my anger. After reading The New York Times’ dot earth blog post highlighting the Skeptical Scientist blog, I checked out the 101 skeptical arguments that John Cook, an Australian Physicist, has systematically debunked. To do this, Cook drew on a broad-level analysis of peer-reviewed scientific literature.
Here are Cooks top three ‘Skeptic Arguments’ and ‘What the Science Says’:
I highly recommend taking the time to watch the Munk climate debate (runs just under 2 hours), and browsing through Cook’s well-researched counter-points to climate change skeptics.