What if one side doesn't have evidence, though? Without the supporting structure of facts, that side is little more than a fake house on a movie set, projecting a pretty face in front of empty space. This more than just harmless entertainment; we humans are attracted to pretty faces, sometimes to the point of ignoring what's underneath. A full commitment to the facts by both parties is necessary for a debate, otherwise it's just an exchange of hot air.
By that metric, climate skepticism could launch a dirigible.
But the Earth has been warmer before, I hear you shout. Scientists thought the Earth was cooling down! They're in the pocket of environmentalists, anyway! The “hockey stick” is based on flawed statistical methods! CO2 lags behind temperature change! There's been no significant warming in the past 15 years! Besides, it's too late to adjust, and any changes would devastate our economy!
I can make a great argument for shifting from oil to renewable resources without once invoking climate science. Only the craziest crackpots claim our oil reserves are infinite; the vast majority of experts agree we'll have a tougher and tougher time extracting the lifeblood of our civilization in future, and most think we're already there. Switching energy sources is inevitable.
Oil also has the inconvenient habit of pooling into one place. Should that place be in hot political water, or smashed down by some hurricane, our supply will get cut off. In contrast, every part of the globe is drenched in sunlight and tickled by the wind for some portion of the year. A switch to them will improve availability, and likely reduce the cost from trivial to insignificant.
And yet our renewable sources aren't up to snuff yet. There's a ridiculous amount of opportunity there, which has some venture capital firms drooling. It's a vast, poorly-tapped market, and businesses here and around the globe are racing to be the Ford Motors of solar panels or wave power.
When I add the science back in, the argument goes from great to iron-clad.
We have so much data that shows increasing global temperatures, ranging from precise thermometer readings to shifting treelines, most skeptics have given up arguing the Earth isn't warming. They have instead started dragging out straw-men, such as warmer past temperatures (the rate of change is more important, and completely unprecedented), or flawed statistics (which didn't change the conclusion, after they were corrected for, and may not have been wrong in the first place), or historical trends (previous CO2 rises were due to increased solar radiation, not cars), or sensational media reports (the work of a few scientists who detected cooling was blown out of proportion, and has since been discredited). Half-truths are trotted out as wise sayings. Yes, it's true that there's no significant warming in the past fifteen years, because you need another year or two to reach statistical significance!
Climate skeptics have long criticized Al Gore for being little more than a celebrity cheerleader, using his fame to push an agenda. Now I see their community has responded... by pushing their own celebrity cheerleader.
One of the disturbing practices revealed by the great cache of emails out of the University of East Anglia — the so-called Climategate emails — was the attempted shortcutting or corruption of the oh-so precious peer-review process. The emails contained clear declarations of how the grand viziers of climate science would lean on journals and reporters to make sure certain critics did not get the validation, the laying on of peer-reviewed hands, so critical to full participation in the great climate debate. This was most succinctly expressed by the beautiful quote from Dr. Phil Jones of East Anglia that, “We will keep them out somehow — even if we have to redefine what peer-review literature is.”
http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/201 ... w-process/
Penn State University’s inquiry into climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann’s conduct surrounding the emails stolen from the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia University concluded there is no evidence to substantiate the claims made by the right-wing media against Mann.
The Penn State panel cleared Dr. Mann of any wrongdoing in three of the four areas it probed, recommending only that a separate panel of faculty members pursue a follow-up investigation into the allegation that Dr. Mann “engaged in, directly or indirectly, any actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting or reporting research or other scholarly activities.” [...]
Pete Altman over at NRDC’s Switchboard blog notes: “That’s about as close to a silver bullet as you are going to find in terms of shooting down the conspiracy theorists who are touting their ‘climategate’ nonsense.”
Altman notes that Professor Mann has “has been the victim of an extended vicious and unfounded smear campaign.”
http://www.desmogblog.com/climate-skept ... h%E2%80%9D
Please note the dates of these two articles. Over a year after the first independent inquiry ruled Climategate was a manufactured controversy, and despite two more inquiries reaching the same conclusion, Rex Murphy is still wailing about Climategate.
I note he's bringing his hot air to campus. I suggest you attend. After all, there's a slim chance that a political commentator has accidentally stumbled on some data that discredits decades of climate research gathered by professional scientists. If not, then you can enjoy bursting his bubble during the Q&A. In this era of smartphones, any claim can be Googled and verified within minutes, and there's no shortage of sites dedicated to deflating climate skeptics.
Look, I know it's sexy to oppose the experts, to think a consensus is a conspiracy. But when your opposition requires you to employ the same tactics as creationist dinosaurs, it might be a hint that you've floated into crackpot territory.