I must admit I was intrigued to hear about a climate change debate happening in Oxford especially when it was involving ‘one of the world’s leading climate change sceptics’, atmospheric physicist, Professor Richard Lindzen. Little did I know, not only was it a complete waste of my time but I may of played a vital role in the push to bury any attempts to encourage the world to act on climate change.
In a room that hosted speakers from the Dalai Lama to Steven Hawkings, Al Jazeera presented a televised debate on “Climate Change, Fact… or Fiction?” were its host Medhi Hasan went head to head with professor Lindzen. Comments were taken from expert panellists; Professor Myles Allen from the School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, Mark Lynas, author and environmentalist and David Rose, the token Daily Mail reporter.
For those who understandable don’t know who Richard Lindzen is, please let me explain. Lindzen, professor of Meteorology at MIT, proposed that the Earth acts like an infrared iris, the iris being the part of your eye that widens in the dark to let more light in. In Lindzen’s theory, the Earth’s iris uses the cloud system to allow the swift exit of the surplus heat we are creating in our atmosphere due to the increase in CO2 emissions. Long story short, we can emit as much as we want and the Earth will never heat up due to this handy little escape valve. *Surprisingly, this paper was never successfully published in a scientific journal due to the lack in credibility. However, he has been a major influence in scientific policy as lead author in the IPCC Third Assessment Report on Climate Change.
Al Jazeera invited Lindzen and his buddy, the Daily Mail reporter to shine light on a debate that should be long out-of-date, yet certain members of the audience dotted around the union made it clear that there was still a conversation to be had. Without sounding as conspiracist as the sceptics themselves, these audience members had an agenda and that was to make loud, misconstrued statements, interrupting the debate out of turn. When on the subject of changing weather patterns, an aging interjector announced that while in his house in Oxford during the winter, he didn’t open his window once. *Some obviously clear evidence to debunk climate change.
*I seem to use sarcasm to funnel my anger.
Hasan started the debate asking Lindzen if he’d categorise himself as a sceptic or a climate change denier. He refused both claiming he didn’t wish to be labelled, despite going by the strap line ‘most credible of all climate skeptics’. Hasan continued by presenting all the accusations that were made against Lindzen, such as science journals rejecting his paper, his theories going against proven data records and the fact that there’s a 97% consensus by climate experts that climate change is going to affect us all. Lindzen admitted to charging “oil and gas interests $2,500 a day for his consulting services”.
At the age of 73, Lindzen didn’t make an exceptional speaker, pointing this out when Hasan commented on how relaxed he was that it was due to what his doctor had prescribed him. He agreed that the Earth is warming gradually (not in the past decade he adds) with the increase in greenhouse gases, but he spent the majority of his time on stage boring the hell out of me. He claims that the climate is not as sensitive that we think it is and it can control the heat that we produce in the atmosphere. He’s sides with the IPCC in taking proper precaution in making predictions and calls mainstream media ‘alarmists’. It got interesting when the Daily Mail guy, David Rose started making claims that global warming stopped 16 years ago, bless him. Mark Lynas made reluctant attempts to speak next to hot headed sceptics while Professor Allen tried to come to some sort of consensus with Lindzen, failing at each painful attempt. The whole time, these dotted interjectors hissed and mocked any actual science that was discussed.
This was nothing but a cockfight with male experts either fighting or trying to appease Dick, the reason for this fowl debate on the subject.
It was at this moment where I began to agree with Bob Ward, Policy and Communications Director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at LSE. Ward expressed his anger, via Twitter, that we were giving air time to a person who is now completely irrelevant to science and research in climate change: “Yet another example of the media hosting a falsely balanced debate about climate science instead of covering the real issues.” Ward did not attend this debate and I very soon saw his point. Not only would this be reaching media in the UK, but globally and with such power to control what people take away from this issue.
Hasan, on the side of real science made some intelligent statements but the audience were too polite to speak compared to the loudmouths in front tossing the debate around, making it seem more complicated then it was. I am sorry I was there, I felt like I was a contributor to this horse and pony show. The aim was to shame the sceptic, but we just gave him a stage.