Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Hertsgaard-Spencer Debate

I have to agree that Mark Hertsgaard came off as a little boorish in his brief debate with Roy Spencer on the Piers Morgan show:

He interrupted Spencer, and said "you don't even agree that climate change is manmade," which is just wrong -- Spencer does accept that humans are playing a role in climate change, he just thinks climate sensitivity is lower (OK, significantly lower) than most.

On the other hand, Spencer's "climate has always changed" line is facile.

Hertsgaard didn't seem interested in any unknowns or uncertainties regarding Pacific typhoons, like these. A much better point, it seems to me, would have been that while we don't know if this typhoon was augmented (let alone caused) by global warming, there are indications they are getting stronger and that, together with sea level rise (which is especially fast in the western Pacific), increases future risks, and will increasingly do so.

And Spencer's claim that Hertsgaard only interviews scientists on one side doesn't seem fair to me. I've asked Spencer for an interview at least once, and never even got a reply.

There's certainly room for debate, but Hertsgaard reinforced the stereotype of the angry environmentalist, especially against Spencer's calm demeanor.

Anyway, these kinds of debates look increasingly fruitless, just a way to manufacture a quick conflict to rile viewers. Maybe that's good TV, but then so would a joust be with two horsemen carrying lances. It's like Gavin Schmidt told John Stossel, which one commenter on Spencer's site posted:
John Stossel – “I’m not qualified to debate you as a climatologist. Why won’t you debate Roy Spencer? He’s not a flake. He helped produce the data that the government uses for atmospheric temperature...”

Gavin Schmidt – “I’m not a politician. You know, I’m here because you asked me come on and talk about the science, and I’m totally happy to do that. Any time you want to ask me again, just give me a call and I’ll come on and I will tell you about the science, and I will point you in the right direction, but I’m not interested in doing this because it’s good TV. I’m interested because what we have discovered as a scientific community needs to be talked about, and you need to talk about it, and Roy needs to talk about it, we all need to talk about it, but I don’t need to be arguing with people because it makes good TV.“

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