It seems that Richard Treadgold, he of the “climate conversation” that isn’t, wants me to engage in an exchange of views. Following a brief flurry of comments at the Coal Action Network blog, Treadgold writes:
Here’s my challenge: let us, you and me, persevere with this most crucial of national debates.
I am afraid my answer is no, Richard, and I shall explain why.
There is no “debate” to be had about the reality of climate change. You might very much like there to be one, but there’s a very good reason why the rest of the world has moved on to talking about solutions. The evidence of rapid change is all around us, and incontrovertible to anyone who is willing to bring an open mind to the issue.
The only debate worth the candle is what we do about it. By pretending that there is no problem you shut yourself out of what is most certainly a crucial national political debate. Worse, by actively promoting misinformation you are deliberately trying to derail that discussion.
Your questioning of the science underlying our understanding of the problem does not mean there is any scientific debate about climate basics. There’s plenty of real science being done, and real debates going on, but they’re not about the policy-relevant big picture. We’ve known for 30 years that we need to cut emissions, and have been far too slow to take action.
In your comments at the Coal Action Network blog, and in your writings elsewhere, you show very little sign of understanding the way the climate system really works. I would have thought that if you wished to take part in a “crucial national debate”, you might have taken the trouble to learn some basic climate science, in order to ensure that your contributions made sense. As Patrick Stokes pointed out a few years ago:
false equivalence between experts and non-experts [..] is an increasingly pernicious feature of our public discourse
You clearly lack the expertise to make informed comment on climate science. However, you seem to think that I owe you an explanation for every climate denialist trope you can sling in my direction. I do not: it has already been done very well by Skeptical Science.
It is not my job to be your teacher. You can easily do what I did — read introductory textbooks, talk to scientists, check your reasoning with experts when unsure about something. You need to develop some expertise in the subject, and that takes time and effort. If you are willing to learn climate science from real climate scientists, as I did before writing a word of Hot Topic, you will find them more than willing to help.
Unfortunately, ten years of following what you and your friends in the NZ Climate “Science” Coalition say and do suggests very strongly that you are not exactly open-minded. I have done my modest best to point out when you and your colleagues are making mistakes, but none of you show any signs of learning from those errors.
To be blunt about it — and I think you would expect nothing else from me — I believe I would be wasting my time indulging in any form of protracted discussion about climate science with you. I do not believe that your position on the issue would alter in any important respect, however cogently I presented facts and figures. You have too much invested in your climate opinions — your blogging, your denialist colleagues, your public persona — to be willing to change. Your entire track record suggests arguing with you would be futile.
Your views on climate change only make sense in an odd world where 97 percent of climate scientists are somehow conspiring to force people to stop using fossil fuels for political reasons. That’s a very strange planet to live on. Very few people share it with you.
The rest of us have to live in a world where climate is changing — and fast — because of the cumulative effect of our greenhouse gas emissions. Our children will have to live with the consequences, and you have played a part, however small, in making that future a worse place than it need have been.
Notes: Richard, you are welcome to comment below this post – but only this post – and only if you follow the comment policy, paying careful attention to the fourth point. I would also prefer it if you did not misrepresent my expertise at your blog. I most certainly do have a science degree, and have spent most of the last 20 years working with and writing about science and scientists. [PS: RT might like to note that first degrees at Oxford and Cambridge are all BAs. But that might be inconvenient to his desire to denigrate…]