This interesting report comes from St Andrews University Debating Society, written by Dr.Richard Courtney ...
I write to report on a debate that defeated the motion “This House Believes Global Warming is a Global Crisis” during a meeting of the St Andrews University Debating Society. It is difficult to arrange a debate of anthropogenic (that is, man-made) global warming (AGW) because few proponents of AGW are willing to face such debate. They know from past experience that they always lose such debates because there is no evidence that AGW exists and much evidence that it does not.
However, on Wednesday 4 March 2009, the St Andrews University Debating Society held their debate of the motion, “This House Believes Global Warming is a Global Crisis” in the Old Parliament Building, St Andrews. The debate was organized and presided over with exemplary efficiency and professionalism by the Speaker of the Society, Ms Jessica Siegel. It was conducted with all the pomp and ceremony that could be expected of an ancient society of so ancient and prestigious a university.
And the debate was lively, informative and entertaining. It got emotional at times. Some of the contributions from the floor were of exceptionally high quality. But, it was somewhat spoiled by the weakness of the proponents of the motion (I have good reason to suspect this weakness is because stronger speakers could not be obtained to propose the motion. If so, then it is yet another example of leading proponents of AGW fearing to face their critics in open debate).
The proponents of the motion were Ross Finnie MSP, former Scottish Government Minister for Environment and Rural Development; Mike Robinson, Chief Executive of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society and Chair of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland; Gregory Norminton, Novelist ‘Serious Things’, Environmental Activist, Founder of ‘Alliance against Urban 4x4s’.
The motion was opposed by myself, and Nils-Axel Morner, Leader of the Maldives International Sea-Level Project who was awarded the ‘Golden Contrite of Merits’ by Algarve University, Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, Former advisor to then UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and now an Investigator of Scientific Frauds.
Each speaker was given a strict maximum of 7 minutes to speak. The speakers would alternate between proponents and opponents of the motion until all 6 had spoken. No speaker was allowed to speak more than once except to raise a point of information, order, or etc.
The proponents had clearly not prepared. They were not co-ordinated in their presentations, they each lacked any significant knowledge of the science of AGW, and they each assumed that AGW is a fact. None of them made a substantial presentation of arguments supporting the motion, and they all (including the politician!) lacked adequate skills at public speaking. The opponents of the motion were a sharp contrast to that. They each have significant expertise in their subject, and they had agreed the case they were to put and how they were to put it. Also, they are all very competent public speakers and their very different styles made their presentation much better than the sum of its parts.
Finnie spoke first. He argued that AGW is a fact because the United Nations (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has published its Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) that says the IPCC is “90% certain” that AGW exists. From this he claimed there is a “crisis” because governments are failing to give the matter sufficient importance. It is necessary for governments to decide a treaty that would follow on from the Kyoto Ptotocol that intends to constrain emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) but ends in 2012. The decision needs to be made at a meeting later this year.
I replied by outlining the case for the opposition. I asserted that governments do need to have policies on climate change but empirical evidence denies the existence of AGW and so there is no need to constrain fossil fuel emissions. Indeed, the harm caused by the emission constraints would be greater than any harm that AGW could induce if it were to exist.
Robinson’s response was very angry. He seemed to think attacking the opposition speakers would provide a victory for the motion. Almost his entire speech was attempted defamation of the opposition speakers. Within seconds of starting to speak he had accused them of being “like supporters of the Nazis in 1930s Germany” (my family lost everything in the blitz so I did not take kindly to that). The speakers on the opposition side “could not get anything published in peer-reviewed journals” (Morner and I each shouted out that we have and we do). And much of the same. He said people and governments must act to stop global warming (but he did not say how they should act) because - according to him - if a person had an elevated temperature of 2 degrees then he would die so we cannot let the Earth get 2 degrees hotter in case that kills the Earth.
Morner then gave a witty, entertaining and informative lecture on sea level change. The major potential threat from AGW is severe sea-level change. He interacted with the audience and selected one individual to jape with (his skill at this selection was later demonstrated when that individual stood and gave a speech that won the prize - of a Society neck-tie - for best speech from the floor). Morner presented data that showed sea level is not rising as a result of AGW at a detectable rate anywhere.
Norminton then spoke to conclude the case for the proponents of the motion. Like Finnie he seemed to be extremely nervous: both were shaking during their presentations. Norminton’s hand was shaking so much he put it into his pocket (I know others interpret this to be nervousness, but I think it was extreme anger: Norminton had not expected any opposition to the motion, and the assertion of clear evidence that AGW does not exist was - to him - an outrage too hard to accept). Also, like Finnie, he did not address the motion. He said he was not a scientist so he had to accept the word of scientists about global warming and scientists agree that global warming is real and man-made. He said the speakers on the opposition side were “not scientists”. Lord Monckton interjected that “Courtney and Morner are”. And Norminton replied, “So was Mengele.” Monckton raised a Point of Order demanding withdrawal of the remark. Norminton lacked the wit to withdraw. Monckton persisted, pressing the Point of Order, and Norminton continued to refuse to withdraw. Only moments before Morner had made himself the lecturer the students would most like to have, and support for Norminton drained away as he insisted that Morner was akin to a murderer operating in a Nazi concentration camp. Norminton continued by saying the threat of global warming was real, and it was killing polar bears, but it is not clear that anybody was listening to him.
Monckton then summated the case for the opposition. He had not prepared a speech but took notes of the proponents’ speeches with a view to refuting arguments of the proponents that Morner and myself had not covered, and by defending the opposition case against rebuttals of its arguments. This was a deliberate use by our side of Monckton’s debating skills. But he had a problem because the proponents of the motion had not made a case and they had not addressed any of our arguments. Instead, they had made personal attacks on the opposition speakers, and they had asserted - with no evidence or argument - that the IPCC is right. So, Monckton’s summarizing speech consisted of evidence that the proponents of the motion had merely provided errors of logic and fact but they had not a case. He pointed out that polar bears had quadrupled their number in recent decades and this was not a sign that their species is threatened. And he cited and named each of the logical fallacies utilized by the proponents of the motion.
The debate then opened to the floor. Four persons each spoke well. One gave a balanced presentation and the other three spoke in favour of the motion. But by then the debate had been settled. Prior to the debate the opponents of the motion had expected to lose the vote because the students have been exposed to a lifetime (i.e. their short lifetime) of pro-AGW propaganda. We consoled ourselves with the certainty that we would win the arguments because opponents of AGW have all the facts on our side. But in the event we won both. The motion was defeated when put to the vote.
Leaving aside the slightly adolescent tone of Dr.Courtney's report, this was evidently a fascinating occasion - one wishes one had been present.
Debates are essentially a very democratic process - everyone gets their say, and the audience decides who said it best. But in recent years it's become very typical of the green lobby that democratic process isn't to be allowed to stand in the way of their superior knowledge and will. They know best, and the rest of us can just keep our opinions to ourselves. Secretary of State Ed Miliband is our current Wanker of the Week for saying just this - he claims that opposing wind farms should be as socially unacceptable as not wearing a seatbelt.
James Hansen, a climate modeller with Nasa and the darling of his American Global Warming co-religionists, said this week that corporate lobbying has undermined democratic attempts to curb carbon pollution. "The democratic process doesn't quite seem to be working," he said.
Speaking on the eve of joining a protest against the headquarters of power firm E.ON in Coventry, Hansen said: "The first action that people should take is to use the democratic process. What is frustrating people, me included, is that democratic action affects elections but what we get then from political leaders is greenwash. The democratic process is supposed to be one person one vote, but it turns out that money is talking louder than the votes. So, I'm not surprised that people are getting frustrated. I think that peaceful demonstration is not out of order, because we're running out of time."
Hansen, who famously dubbed coal-trains "death trains", said he was taking part in the Coventry demonstration tomorrow because he wants a worldwide moratorium on new coal power stations. E.ON wants to build such a station at Kingsnorth in Kent.
So, democracy is all well and good as long as it produces the results Hansen wants. As soon as the majority of people stop accepting the gospel according to Gore, democracy is clearly not working and should go out of the window. Let's leave the last word to Christopher Booker, writing in the Telegraph ...
If the present trend continues, the world will be 1.1C cooler in 2100
Considering how the fear of global warming is inspiring the world's politicians to put forward the most costly and economically damaging package of measures ever imposed on mankind, it is obviously important that we can trust the basis on which all this is being proposed. Last week two international conferences addressed this issue and the contrast between them could not have been starker.
The first in Copenhagen, billed as "an emergency summit on climate change" and attracting acres of worldwide media coverage, was explicitly designed to stoke up the fear of global warming to an unprecedented pitch. As one of the organisers put it, "this is not a regular scientific conference: this is a deliberate attempt to influence policy".
What worries them are all the signs that when the world's politicians converge on Copenhagen in December to discuss a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, under the guidance of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), there will be so much disagreement that they may not get the much more drastic measures to cut carbon emissions that the alarmists are calling for.
Thus the name of the game last week, as we see from a sample of quotations, was to win headlines by claiming that everything is far worse than previously supposed. Sea level rises by 2100 could be "much greater than the 59cm predicted by the last IPCC report". Global warming could kill off 85 per cent of the Amazon rainforest, "much more than previously predicted". The ice caps in Greenland and Antarctica are melting "much faster than predicted". The number of people dying from heat could be "twice as many as previously predicted".
None of the government-funded scientists making these claims were particularly distinguished, but they succeeded in their object, as the media cheerfully recycled all this wild scaremongering without bothering to check the scientific facts.
What a striking contrast this was to the second conference, which I attended with 700 others in New York, organised by the Heartland Institute under the title Global Warming: Was It Ever Really A Crisis? In Britain this received no coverage at all, apart from a sneering mention by the Guardian, although it was addressed by dozens of expert scientists, not a few of world rank, who for professional standing put those in Copenhagen in the shade.
Led off with stirring speeches from the Czech President Vaclav Klaus, the acting head of the European Union, and Professor Richard Lindzen of MIT, perhaps the most distinguished climatologist in the world, the message of this gathering was that the scare over global warming has been deliberately stoked up for political reasons and has long since parted company with proper scientific evidence.
Nothing has more acutely demonstrated this than the reliance of the IPCC on computer models to predict what is going to happen to global temperatures over the next 100 years. On these predictions, that temperatures are likely to rise by up to 5.3C, all their other predictions and recommendations depend, yet nearly 10 years into the 21st century it is already painfully clear that the computer forecasts are going hopelessly astray. Far from rising with CO2, as the models are programmed to predict they should, the satellite-measured temperature curve has flattened out and then dropped. If the present trend were to continue, the world in 2100 would not in fact be hotter but 1.1C cooler than the 1979-1998 average.
Yet it is on this fundamental inability of the computer models to predict what has already happened that all else hangs. For two days in New York we heard distinguished experts, such as Professor Syun-Ichi Akasofu, former director of the International Arctic Research Center, Dr Willie Soon of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Professor Paul Reiter of the Pasteur Institute, authoritatively (and often wittily) tear apart one piece of the scare orthodoxy after another.
Sea levels are not shooting up but only continuing their modest 3mm a year rise over the past 200 years. The vast Antarctic ice-sheet is not melting, except in one tiny corner, the Antarctic Peninsula. Tropical hurricane activity, far from increasing, is at its lowest level for 30 years. The best correlation for temperature fluctuations is not CO2 but the magnetic activity of the sun. (For an admirable summary of proceedings by the Australian paleoclimatologist Professor Bob Carter, Google "Heartland" and "Quadrant").
Yet the terrifying thing, as President Klaus observed in his magisterial opening address, is that there is no dialogue on these issues. When recently at the World Economic Forum in Davos, he found the minds of his fellow world leaders firmly shut to anything but the fantasies of the scaremongers. As I said in my own modest contribution to the conference, there seems little doubt that global warming is leading the world towards an unprecedented catastrophe. But it is not the Technicolor apocalypse promised by the likes of Al Gore. The real disaster hanging over us lies in all those astronomically costly measures proposed by politicians, to meet a crisis which in reality never existed.
So let's see if we can sort this out: is Booker a democrat who is saying unpopular things and should therefore be ignored? Or is he a fascist for denying Al Gore and James Hansen their democratic right to tell the rest of us what to think?
Either way he's obviously wrong and should be strung up from the nearest lamp-post like the polar-bear murderer he is.
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