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March 3, 2008

A Meeting of Skeptics

Posted: 02:42 PM ET

A Meeting of Skeptics

Check out the Anderson Cooper 360 show tonight for Miles O'Brien's report on the Heartland Institute's 2008 International Conference on Climate Change. Judging just from the title, the meeting sounds official, maybe even boring...but it is in fact one of the largest gatherings of the year for global warming skeptics, doubters and dissenters.

Conference organizers bill it as the "first major international conference to focus on issues and questions not answered by advocates of the theory of man-made global warming."

And they go on to say:

"The global warming debate that the public and policymakers usually see is one-sided, dominated by government scientists and government organizations agenda-driven to find data that suggest a human impact on climate and to call for immediate government action, if only to fund their own continued research, but often to achieve political agendas entirely unrelated to the science of climate change. There is another side, but in recent years it has been denied a platform from which to speak."

They'll get a platform tonight...but expect Miles to ask some tough questions...about the Heartland Institute's ties to the oil and gas industry, about the overwhelming scientific consensus supporting the human link to climate change expressed last year by the blue ribbon Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and about just who in this debate might be trying to advance an agenda.

Heartland raised some eyebrows by offering “fellowships” to cover travel and lodging costs for legislators attending the conference. The conference literature says that no energy company funds are paying for the conference, but the list of sponsoring organizations include many groups who receive direct support from Exxon/Mobil and other oil and coal entities.

The conference agenda includes several credentialed scientists, and a few who are members of the IPCC. Those few are in the ironic, if not uncomfortable position of sharing a slice of the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore – who to many at this conference is the arch-villain of climate change. Others are political advocates from groups like the Competitive Enterprise Institute. And the political opposites of those groups are keeping their powder dry., a website which describes itself as unmasking the motives of global warming skeptics, has labeled the conference a “Denial-a-palooza.”

–Kate Tobin and Peter Dykstra, CNN Science & Technology

Filed under: climate change • environment • Scientists

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Ken in Dallas   March 3rd, 2008 3:33 pm ET

I read some of the so-called "NIPCC"'s views on climate change, and find that they routinely draw conclusions based on their own declarations of ignorance and the inadequacy of science to model the longest-range impacts of climate change accurately. The only science these people are trying to practice is psychology.

apparently a flat earther   March 4th, 2008 8:32 pm ET


You work pretty hard explaining to us that the debate on global warming is over:

I would only offer this constructive criticism: Instead of spending your efforts in a repetitive attempt to quell debate; spend your time answering some of these questions:

Additionally, I don't believe that you would ridicule a Muslim for his beliefs, or a Christian that believes the world is only 6,000 years old. But, if someone questions that the world is getting warmer by a degree; and that global flooding and catasthrope are eminent unless we submit our policy making over to global governing bodies: they deserve ridicule?

Stop fighting so hard to stop debate and maybe we will all come to the conclusions that you seem to think are so obvious. To be honest, when you try to limit debate, it gives the perception that you aren't confident about the possible outcome of further debate.

Jason-Milwaukee   March 5th, 2008 11:07 am ET

Global warming is an issue that should take center-stage in politics here at home and abroad. Granted, there is no exact science to perdict climate change, but we have to realize we (humans) are having a negative impact on the environment.

Recycling Today For A Greener Tomorrow

Brian   March 5th, 2008 3:29 pm ET

At least the 'NIPCCs' admit that they don't know everything. All I ever hear from the 'other side' is "they're wrong!" or "they don't know what they're doing!" The 'other side' offers nothing at all, no proof of anything. They simply say that the other side is not correct.

The only people who make arguments like that are those who know that they have nothing but a personal interest in the issue at hand.

How about the 'other side' answer this: is all of this pollution good for us? I'd really like them to explain how it isn't hurting us or the environment in any way.

Global warming may not be quite the 'end of days' that some speak of, but it certainly is not a good thing by any stretch of the imagination. The only reason why the 'other side' is fighting so hard is greed, plain and simple.

This reminds me of the tobacco companies... I believe they made the same exact arguments... nah... the oil and coal industries wouldn't be like them... breathing in CO2 and methane is nothing like smoking... nope, nothing like them at all.

Chicken Little   March 5th, 2008 3:35 pm ET

You told us how the Heartland Institute profits from denying global warming. How about telling us about those grants and profits and career-building events that warming-believers get? You imply here that they are motivated by nothing but nobility, and I don't believe you. Why? Because you offer no evidence. If your side is obviously right, let me make up my own mind, okay?

Ubik   March 5th, 2008 5:07 pm ET

I'm pretty disgusted by how much the topic of climate change has been politicized. I honestly want to know what the impact we have on climate change but It's getting harder and harder to get the information I need. I just get more and more rhetoric and less and less information.

The Heartland Institute's web site is a perfect example. When articles starte with phrases like "The alarmists in the global warming debate have had their say..." you know you're going to be subjected to propaganda instead of information an informed reader can use to form their own opinion. isn't much better when they charge their articles with phrases like "manmade global warming myth".

The advocates of the manmade global warming theory aren't any better with their fear mongering and propaganda (I just don't have any examples handy). The end result is I treat anything I read on the subject with a great deal of skepticism. Or I get tired of it all and just don't listen.

That IPCC website looks promising. It doesn't reek of rhetoric and appears to be somewhat neutral. /me bookmarks it.

Kibu   March 6th, 2008 9:53 am ET

I completely agree. It drives me absolutely crazy that protecting the environment is a political issue. How can that be?!? I'm not too bothered by the term alarmists because Gore's goal was to raise the alarm on the environment and it shouldn't be taken as an insult. From a scientific point, many of his arguments were very weak and some just plain wrong, but you can't deny the most important points such as overpopulation and pollution. I'm tired of the environment being trampled in the name of 'progress'. We must protect the earth, period. CO2 seems to follow temperature instead of temperature following CO2 since we've sent CO2 through the roof and temperatures haven't followed and other evidence shows the same thing. It's even a real possibility that we could even be entering a global cooling period which could be catastrophic(see ice core graphs). If this happens people like Gore will end up being mocked which would be unfortunate since something had to be done to raise awareness of the environment.

Jarrett Fennell   March 6th, 2008 10:31 am ET

climate change is not entirely due to human activity the pole has been moving as long as we've known and if it continues to head in the same direction the north pole will be where Russia is right now meaning that all the frozen water at the current north pole will melt the temperature will drop in Russia and because the pole will no longer be on water and will be on land so the only way to prevent the effects of "global warming" which should be more correcctly called pole shifting or something along those lines is to increase the elevation of the coasts or build infrastructure such as canals or barriers on the coasts government mandates can't stop a natural inevitable process

Ken in Dallas   March 6th, 2008 3:03 pm ET

The trouble with having a debate about this topic is that there is no a priori agreement about what the standards of proof are; that's why nobody can "prove" anything about climate change to general satisfaction.

Most of the detailed models of climate systems are intricate and full of assumptions that make them infinitely impeachable. Since no standards of proof exist, and there are legitimate grounds for attacking any possible forecast, we can't make truly fact-based forecasts with enough confidence that it would, in itself, provide a basis for policy. We have to make some policy judgments based on insufficient data; welcome to life as we have it.

Now that we've (hopefully) debunked the insistence on certainty and accepted the reality of knowing less than we need to, we have to assess what we do know and start making value judgments. The least wise way we can approach this is to consider only those values to which we can easily attach a dollar valuation, because we attach no such valuation to clean air, clean water, or various other things essential to life.

Firstly, can we assert that the global climate is changing? That's a point on which there is a pretty strong consensus available: yes.

Without delving into the intricate logic and underpinning assumptions of high-end climate modeling, and without digressing into arguments regarding climate change causation, what sorts of empirical effects can we reasonably expect from a global warming trend? Well, to simplify things to a fairly unreasonable degree, the climate system is known to absorb energy, store energy, and release energy.

The atmospheric part of the climate system is an elastic, compressible fluid, that stores energy and moves it from place to place. When you add energy to the system, the atmosphere starts moving around more, changing temperature more, and generally oscillating around the average increase in system energy levels; in other words, weather patterns change.

Now consider human dependence on stable weather patterns: whole civilizations have sprung up and died consequent to small climatic variations that changed the long–term distribution of rain very slightly. In this context, consider the southeastern US, and the plight of the people dependent on Lake Lanier: to Atlantans, climate change is no longer an abstract topic, but a crisis that poses the very real possibility that Atlanta, within the coming decade, will no longer be able to support its population.

It's not necessary or advisable to consider climate change as a stand-alone issue. The need to move to less-impactful and/or renewable energy arises from the simple fact that our energy status quo is not stable; there will never again be enough oil to satisfy the status quo. We're going to either make a pro-active transition to a way of living that doesn't depend on vanishing resources, or we'll continue as we are until those resources vanish completely, and the status quo will die a protracted and ugly death, along with most or all of humanity.

Good gamblers express a fundamental rule of risk management very succinctly: "Consider the odds, but always remember the stakes. When we think about policy regarding climate change and energy economies, we should think about what our short and long term choices are, and we should never forget that the stakes in our policy bets include the survival of the human species.

Terry from El Paso   March 8th, 2008 9:29 am ET

Energy corporations have a huge stake in this debate. If the global warming arguments are true and corrective actions are taken, then these corporations' profits will dwindle as we develop and use cleaner energy sources. To the corporate mind, that which reduces profits must be untrue. That which increases corporate profits must be true (or at least unfalse).

For large energy corporations to spend lots of money in support of false scientific conclusions is immoral, predictable, unethical, and very common. A couple of centuries ago, scientists sought a grant from the king or from the university. Now scientists seek money from corporations. The difference is that the king did not dictate the required findings before the experiments were conducted.

Rex Seno   April 8th, 2008 1:09 am ET

April 7, 2008

Dear Someone,

Why doesn’t the scientific community invent a machine that could suck up the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere? A machine that could separate the carbon dioxide from the other elements in the atmosphere. Just like how white blood cells are separated from the red blood cells. Then, maybe solidify it and send to outer space using a rocket, releasing it beyond the outer limits of our solar system.

This machine could work 24 hours a day and should be placed around the world where there are heavy concentrations of these carbons. Say thousands of them everywhere.

If all the developed countries, concerned with the global warming, will put together their resources, I hope it can be done.

Thank you for reading this.

Your truly,

Rex V. Seno
Guizo, Mandaue City, Philippines.

Naim   April 4th, 2012 2:23 am ET

Hi Jonathon.The arguments are very very thin and ihuwott any real evidence to support them. The reasons are financial and therefore political. That and laziness.Some governments don't want to admit to it, or at least don't want to take responsibility. Mainly because most economies are built upon the trading of the Fossil Fuels etc. And if they admit to it they have to stop trading in Fuels and move to green technologies which are expensive to set up and can cause political tensions with people they purchase e.g. oil from.Many PEOPLE don't want to believe in it because:a) it's actually quite a scary idea (that the actions of people could be endangering not just other plants and animals but our very own futures);b) it means people have to stop being lazy; andc) they have to change their lifestyles. For most this seems too difficult and so they would choose to disbelieve. For some it's simply hard to change long-held ideas. And even those who DO believe will often do nothing about it because they say it's not my responsibility', why should I care', or I'll die before it gets too bad'.The biggest problem currently is the media (with the exception of the BBC who are criticised for being too supporting of current climate change being a human cause). Many stories on Climate Change will try to sow the seeds of doubt. It was strange to see (as I just watched An Inconvenient Truth on Fox Movies as it's Earth Day) Al Gore demonstrate that in 2005(?) there were over 900 scientific studies published in journals on Climate Change where there was no doubt at all that human impact is leading to the current round of Global Warming, and yet of all the Media stories published in the same year on that topic, over 50% of them tried to cast doubt on the science. When all Scientific studies HAVE to be peer-reviewed (examined by other scientists) and all of them were found to show the same thing, it's interesting the media wasn't publishing info in the same way.People that talk about mass-conspiracies are fools as there are literally tens of thousands of scientists investigating some aspect of climate change and they almost all will say the same thing.As Trevor demonstrated, the arguments are childish, illogical, insubstantiated, and ihuwott any scientific evidence to support them.You have to make your own mind up where you stand on issues but please always bear this in mind: Do your own research, but research the SCIENCE using science journals and magazines and avoid the conspiracy theory sites as they will never provide the whole story only results that support their biased views. Remember, a scientist as a person may be biased and try to be misleading in his reports, but scientists as a group are unbiased and are simply looking for the truth and for a report to be published other scientists have to review it and decide if it's a good study and carried out honestly.

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