Wednesday, June 14, 2006

An open letter to to Debra Saunders and Cinnamon Stilwell

Dear Ms. Saunders and Ms. Stilwell,

I see in your recent Chronicle articles criticizing Al Gore that you promote the ideas of global warming denialists and skeptics, and the more recent position to the effect of "it's just a coincidentally-natural warming, people." These ideas have no support in the scientific literature or from within the scientific consensus.

I suggest you put your money where your mouths are, something that's especially relevant when you presumably make some money from your columns advocating this stuff. Please bet me over whether global warming is happening, or over whether we're in a natural warming cycle. I've asked Ms. Saunders once before to bet me, and heard nothing; seeing as she continues to support these opinions, maybe she will be willing to bet. I hope that Ms. Stilwell will also be interested.

Ms. Saunders, you cite Bill Gray and Richard Lindzen for support, both of whom are unwilling to bet over global warming. You also cite noted Creationist Roy Spencer, whose discredited work on satellite temperature readings might give some pause, but apparently doesn't. Ms. Stilwell, you cite the "it's just natural" argument prepared in advance by people highly unlikely to admit that their lifestyles could be problematic for others. Curiously, not even fringe climatologists seem to support that viewpoint.

There are enormous consequences to what we do about global warming. I'll even admit there are consequences to spending money on stopping a dangerous warming that wouldn't actually happen, although it's less harmful than the consequences of your advice being wrong. Given the consequences, I'm willing to back up my position with money, and I hope you would do the same.

I expect one reaction would be to say that you haven't claimed Al Gore is wrong, but just that he hasn't proved his position. My response is that my bet offers are very generous to the skeptic position, so only someone who gives a significant chance to human-caused warming would reject them. In other words, if you reject action on global warming and also reject my bets, then you are applying the precautionary principle to your money, but not to other people's lives.

I could call this a "put up or shut up" email, but I actually prefer to give the issue an immediacy that will people more thoughtful about rejecting the scientific consensus. If not, then I hope to make some money.

My bet offers are here:

and on natural warming:

I hope to hear from you both.

Brian Schmidt

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