Thursday, June 02, 2005

HOWTO call right-wing radio and argue about global warming

This post is also a HOWNOTTO argue about global warming on right wing radio, but it was just my first time, and I'll tell you what I did wrong so you won't make the same mistake.

Key thing to remember: every time the right wing host says something stupid and wrong about global warming, challenge him (it's almost always a "him") to a bet with real money. I did this once and got him to back off, and then missed my next chance to either make him look ridiculous or make some money off of him. And if you don't feel like betting, tell him to pick up on the bets available on the web - better still, tell him to come here and bet with me.

The other key thing to remember: eventually the right-winger will come up with something you don't have the immediate answer to, because there's all kinds of bogus crud out there that they'll pick up and proclaim as God's truth. When that happens, repeat the strongest point you've made and challenge him to give enough identifying information about whatever garbage he's repeating so the listeners can go out and research its validity on their own. The more strongly it refutes global warming, the more likely it's complete garbage.

So, the story: I was driving to the gym and switched the radio from Air America to the San Francisco Bay Area right-wing radio, KSFO 960. The local host, Brian Sussman, was making fun of using tree rings to understand past climate, then said no one had thermometers before 100 years ago (should've bet him on that stupid statement too), then said very little good data exists for the past 100 years except in the US, and then said the US data actually shows global cooling, not warming. I suspect every part of his statement is wrong, but it sounds like someone who's claiming global warming isn't happening and won't happen. Then, he gave the call-in number and switched to commercials. It was a sign!

I called and explained to the guy answering that I was calling about the global warming issue. The guy asked what my take was, and I said I think Brian's wrong and I want to make a bet with him on it. Partial mistake there - I shouldn't have mentioned the bet, if I just said he's wrong, Brian may not have been ready to backtrack when the guy answering presumably told him what I would be saying.

Several minutes later, the commercials end and I'm on the air, with Brian politely saying he has a caller who disagrees with him. I say I think he's wrong, that global warming is happening, that there are a number of bets floating around on the Internet about warming and that I'd be interested in betting him about it. NOW, Brian says that the best data actually shows some global warming is happening, that the earth has warmed 0.3 degrees Celsius in the last century (I think it's actually .5 to .6 C). Note the change in tune? Partial victory in that change should have been obvious to listeners, but I should also have drilled it in and said "five minutes ago you said the best data showed global cooling, but now faced with a bet you change and you're conceding it's warming. How can your listeners trust you?"

We then moved on to whether the warming was caused by humans. I cited the Oreskes study in Science magazine. Brian said it had been refuted. I said the refutation was by Benny Peiser who had been proven wrong (I should've added "dishonest). Brian said satellite data showed cooling, not warming.

This is where I blew it, because I know the updated satellite data shows warming, not cooling. I should've gotten him to repeat the statement and then challenge him to a second bet over whether it's accurate. And, I should've said if he believes the satellite data shows cooling then he should be willing to accept my first bet about global warming happening in the future. Instead, I just said listeners should look up satellite measurements in Wikipedia, and they'll find the measurements show warming.

Finally, he started talking about a survey of climatologists that showed no consensus on human-caused global warming. I said he must be referring to the survey of climatologists that actually went to a lot of non-climatogist skeptics. He asked me what percentage of climatologists I thought believed in global warming. I said based on the Oreskes study, 98 percent (I should've said 99 percent). He said no, it's 9.4 percent. I challenged him to tell me what study he's referring to now, and he said it was a survey of 500 German climatologists. He finally kind of got me here, because I had a vague memory of that survey and that it was bogus but I couldn't remember why. (UPDATE: it's the same survey I originally talked about that got sent to non-scientists - refutation here.) I think I started talking about Oreskes again, and he interrupted and said environmentalists can't be taken seriously when they deny science, and then the line went dead - he had cut me off. When I got the radio on, he was talking to some dittohead about how great nuclear power is.

Finishing this HOWTO, most people probably don't know as many counter-arguments to the garbage that the denialists dredge up, but you don't need to. For that German survey, I should've said it's pretty clear from anyone who looks beyond the right-wing fantasy media that there's a consensus on anthropogenic global warming, and that he should give us enough information to look up his survey because I expect it's fatally flawed. Same answer would apply to any other piece of dreck you might come across in a debate with the right-wingers. And get back to basics - when they say something you know is wrong, like cooling is as likely as warming, or anything else you know is ridiculous, challenge them to a bet.

keywords: science, global warming, Peiser, bet

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.