Are we all intelligent adults in the room – can we discuss the weather without calling people names?
The state of the national conversation is pathetic.
Matt Ridley, best selling science writer, PhD, elected to the UK Parliament did the unthinkable and switched to become skeptical of carbon crisis a few years ago. This week he wrote about that transformation and the different behaviour of skeptics and those who disagree with them…
UPDATE: Attacking the man takes on an especially blunt meaning today. Bishop Hill reports that in comments Gary Evans, a Guardian author (aka Bluecloud) laid out his best scientific argument. Should that not be [Matt] Ridley’s severed head in the photo? Where else but that paragon of progressive ethics: The Guardian? Such is the intellectual parry of gullible believers: We would actually solve a great deal of the world’s problems by chopping off everyone’s heads. Why are you deniers so touchy? see More Greenpeace Death Threats? Nice of him to prove Ridley’s point.
From My Life As a LukeWarmer: Matt Ridley
In the climate debate, paying obeisance to climate scaremongering is about as mandatory for a public appointment, or public funding, as being a Protestant was in 18th-century England.
Matt used to believe (like so many of us did):
I was not always a lukewarmer. When I first started writing about the threat of global warming more than 26 years ago, as science editor ofThe Economist, I thought it was a genuinely dangerous threat. Like, for instance, Margaret Thatcher, I accepted the predictions being made at the time that we would see warming of a third or a half a degree (Centigrade) a decade, perhaps more, and that this would have devastating consequences
When he initially switched there was a genuine conversation. People did try to engage him in long exchanges, but he gradually grew more and more skeptical, and the conversation just got more and more silly.
Then a funny thing happened a few years ago. Those who disagreed with me stopped pointing out politely where or why they disagreed and started calling me names. One by one, many of the most prominent people in the climate debate began to throw vitriolic playground abuse at me. I was “paranoid”, “specious”, “risible”, “self-defaming”, “daft”, “lying”, “irrational”, an “idiot”. Their letters to the editor or their blog responses asserted that I was “error-riddled” or had seriously misrepresented something, but then they not only failed to substantiate the charge but often roughly confirmed what I had written.
Kind friends send me news almost weekly of whole blog posts devoted to nothing but analysing my intellectual and personal inadequacies, always in relation to my views on climate. Writing about climate change is a small part of my life but, to judge by some of the stuff that gets written about me, writing about me is a large part of the life of some of the more obsessive climate commentators. It’s all a bit strange. Why is this debate so fractious?
Rather than attack my arguments, my critics like to attack my motives. I stand accused of “wanting” climate change to be mild because I support free markets or because I receive income indirectly from the mining of coal in Northumberland. Two surface coal mines (which I do not own), operating without subsidies, do indeed dig coal partly from land that I own. They pay me a fee, as I have repeatedly declared in speeches, books and articles.
Matt goes on to point out that he writes and speaks in favour of gas, coal’s biggest competitive threat, and that if he were in this for the money, he would make more from renewables (but he won’t take those subsidies).
Matt explains the points that slowly convinced him, the failed predictions, the ClimateGate scandal, the Hockeystick graph – -and the shocking realization that the scientific establishment was pretending that nothing was wrong.
Then there is the point about how hard it is to discuss any shade of grey:
I am especially unimpressed by the claim that a prediction of rapid and dangerous warming is “settled science”, as firm as evolution or gravity. How could it be? It is a prediction! No prediction, let alone in a multi-causal, chaotic and poorly understood system like the global climate, should ever be treated as gospel. With the exception of eclipses, there is virtually nothing scientists can say with certainty about the future. It is absurd to argue that one cannot disagree with a forecast. Is the Bank of England’s inflation forecast infallible?
Matt Ridley was also one of the few writers to understand the point about the feedbacks in the models. We were lucky enough to have lunch with him when he visited Perth a few years ago, and we discussed amplification in the models at length. He was one of the few, like the late great Tony Kelly of The Royal Society, who saw the importance immediately.
Matt’s last word says so much about this debate.
I have never met a climate sceptic, let alone a lukewarmer, who wants his opponents silenced. I wish I could say the same of those who think climate change is an alarming prospect.