A Free-Market Energy Blog

A Rare Global Warming Debate (and guess who won?)

By Roy Cordato -- February 12, 2009

Last night, a debate over the prospects for catastrophic climate change was held between Dr. John Christy, , noted climate scientist and Alabama State Climatologist, and Dr. William Schlesinger, President of the Cary Institute of Ecosystems Studies and former dean of Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

The debate was videotaped here.

The Event was held in Hickory, North Carolina and was co-sponsored by the John Locke Foundation and the Reese Institute for the Conservation of Natural Resources at Lenoir-Rhyne University.

After making a few opening remarks about how nearly “all scientists agree” and that it’s time to stop discussion and get on with making dramatic changes to curtail CO2 emissions and change our lifestyles, Dr. Schlesinger said that he was not going to further discuss the science. He then went to a series of slides showing scary scenarios about the future. So about two-thirds of his talk was hypotheticals with no actual defense of the hypothesis that human-induced catastrophic global warming is in the process of occurring.

In “skipping over the science,”  Dr. Schlesinger flipped through a number of slides that he had prepared to explain in more detail, including the now discredited “hockey stick” graph showing 900 years of little temperature change and then the last 100 years of dramatic warming. If he really believed in the graph, he should have stopped and explained it.

Dr. Christy noted that the medieval warming period occurred naturally and was warmer than it is today. The logical thing for Schlesinger to do would have been to call up the hockey stick to counter Christy’s claim. He did not. It was quite clear that he was ready to use the graph, and I have to imagine that he would have if he could have gotten away with it.

Christy carefully went through data—temperature records, sea level rise, melting ice caps—to show that the alarmist case is exaggerated on all counts. But Schlesinger chose not to rebut despite having plenty of time to do so. He wanted to assume the problem to get to the public policy and the new world that he favors.

I’m biased. I saw science-up from one presenter and alarmism-down from the other. (Schlesinger did start with a number of very basic propositions that Christy, as other skeptics, did/do not contest.)  But the 250 people in attendance, including a large number of students, clearly saw the weaknesses of alarmism. And I bet that very few, if any, of the crowd woke up with a climate nightmare last night.

Over a hundred questions were turned in on cards for the Q&A; unfortunately we only had time to get to about 10 of them. In the coverage of the event in today’s Hickory Daily Record, it was reported that the audience seemed to favor the “skeptic” side.

As noted before at MasterResource, this is why the other side does not really want to debate.  Let there be debate!


  1. Jason Gillman  

    Truth.. let there be debate.

    Sadly the alarmist rhetoric DOES work in convincing normally sane persons into believing there must be something done, and quickly! However those like the fat flat earther AlGore are certainly not limiting their own footprint while reaping the rewards of massive speaking fees etc..

    In Michigan, we have felt the trauma of the “green disease” for a few years now leading this country into the recession. Our own governor has failed to stand up for our workers in the manufacturing industries, and has instead touted the future of green.

    Yippee Kai yay ..cause at the same time, you have the congress under the guise of green refusing to take a vote on the direction of drilling as Pelosi herself stood to reap the windfall of… wind, and her relationship to Wind power via CLNE of which she was an investor.

    Congress is what is producing the most deadly gas.. I would have to leave it at that.


  2. jae  

    “As noted before at MasterResource, this is why the other side does not really want to debate. ”

    Indeed! And the more often the “annointed ones” resort to overtly ad-hom arguments (like “oil company shill”) and invoke the stupid “consensus” argument, the faster they will be exposed for the charletans they are!


  3. Ed Zunich  

    The argument hinges on one basic observation. The alarmists use only models. The realists use data. When a complex model is devised, such as those used by the alarmists, any following analysis is of the model, not the data. From experience I know models can produce just about any desired outcome. Statistician Dr. Donald J. Wheeler notes, “All models are wrong; some are useful.”


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