Climate Change: Making the case. winning the argument

I was recently asked to provide some guidance notes for a member of the public invited onto the BBC to debate Climate Change.  This is a difficult challenge.  These are complex arguments that are not easy to reduce to sound-bites, and well-meaning non-specialists may risk being tied in knots by those working in the field.  But I did my best, with five key points:
1  Current climate developments are entirely normal
The small increase in average global temperatures in the last hundred years (+ 0.7 degrees C) is entirely consistent with well-established, long-term, natural climate cycles that have been in place for the last ten thousand years.  (The Holocene maxima, the Roman Optimum, the cooler Dark Ages, the Mediaeval Warm Period, the Little Ice Age).  We now seem to be moving into a new and entirely natural 21st century climate optimum.  Alarmists often talk of “reducing temperatures to the pre-industrial level”.  But pre-industrial temperatures varied widely, and the immediate pre-industrial period was the Little Ice Age of the 17th & 18th centuries.  Throughout Earth history, temperatures have often been warmer than today’s, and CO2 levels have often been higher (more than ten times as high at times).  But this has not led to any “tipping point” or to a “runaway greenhouse effect”.
In the last ten years mean global temperatures have declined significantly, reversing much of the previous warming.
2  CO2 has largely shot its bolt
CO2 is a greenhouse gas (although a much less important one than water vapour, which we cannot hope to control — and anyway man-made CO2 emissions are only about 3% of the total natural carbon cycle).  But the “climate forcing” (greenhouse warming) effect of CO2 is not linear.  It is governed by a negative logarithmic equation, a law of diminishing returns.  At the current level of around 390 ppm of atmospheric CO2, we are already close to the top of the curve, and further increases will have a trivial effect.
(To understand this better and to see the graph, I strongly recommend Prof Bob Carter’s  paper:
3  The pattern of warming doesn’t fit the predictions
All climate alarmism is based on computer predictions.  They vary widely, but all agree that Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) caused by CO2 should have a distinctive pattern — a “signature” or “fingerprint”.  We should expect maximum warming in the upper troposphere (high atmosphere) and in tropical latitudes.  But all the evidence from meteorological balloons and satellite data shows a completely different pattern — warming mostly at ground level, and mostly Northern hemisphere.  The fingerprint doesn’t match.  This finding is not only inconsistent with AGW theory — it is sufficient by itself to disprove it.
This is a difficult but vital concept.  To understand it better, visit and look for the NIPCC report, which covers this issue in detail with graphic colour illustrations of the expected and actual patterns of warming.
4  There is no “scientific consensus”.
Professor Richard Lindzen is one of the world’s most respected climate scientists, and was the lead author of the science section of the IPCC’s major 2001 report.  He is an American atmospheric physiscist and Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.   He is also a climate sceptic, who explicitly rejects the idea that human activity has a significant effect on the climate.  A number of scientists from the IPCC’s panel — touted as the “consensus” — deny its findings.  Hundreds of scientists around the world, in Germany, in Australia and elsewhere (and thousands in the USA) are questioning the AGW theory, and writing to urge governments not to make huge, irreversible economic decisions based on flawed science.
5  Current policy proposals would not work, even if AGW were true
China and India have made it clear that they will not accept any programme that damages their economies.  The US Senate will not approve a Cap & Trade programme.  The Copenhagen Conference in December is unlikely to succeed.  China is building more than one coal-fired power station a week.  Nothing that we in the UK do will make a scrap of difference in global terms.  Now we are being asked to provide billions of pounds to promote “green energy” in developing countries, yet China is the world’s largest polluter; in a few years it will be the world’s largest economy, and it has the world’s largest foreign exchange reserves.  It is absurd that British tax-payers facing recession and years of austerity should be asked to subsidise Chinese industry.

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4 Responses to Climate Change: Making the case. winning the argument

  1. Tony says:

    I must say I do not know the format of the programme but you infer that this member of the public will be up against professionals in the field. On the face of it this upcoming debate will do the cause (of spreading the word that agw is a myth) may do more damage than anticipated. I hold very strong views against the consensus and am able to hold my own in arguments with those who lie in the warmist camp. However I would not dream of taking part in such a discussion on national radio. I would let the likes of Booker and others or your good self put forward our side of the argument. Unless this person is really steeped in the points which can topple those on the other side they may end up making the case for agw even truer in the mind of the listener.
    It’s a very complicated debate and can be won by a few soundbites unless this person is able to rebutt by knowing the subject very well.
    This doesn’t mean that they have to be a qualified climate scientist (most believers in the myth aren’t either) but they do need a though grounding in all the major issues surrounding topic.
    One thing however. There is one thing which I find rather odd. A reasonably well known Professor who holds strong views on this issue and is on the right side takes part on a regular radio four programme dealing with questions on the environment. Reading this persons essays and opinions on the internet make compelling reading but seems to take the middle ground or worse when appearing on this particular show. It’s as if the views of this person have been neutered.
    Sorry for the long reply and good luck to you.

  2. Thanks for your comment Tony. I share your concern but hope my notes may go some way to help.

  3. JeffM says:

    Mr. Helmer:

    Although I would wish you all the best, I am fearful your potential for stumbling is too great a risk. Please do not participate in this debate. The viewing public expects you to be one of, if not THE best qualified to represent and champion the skeptical side of the AGW issue. Are you? If you are not this person, if you put yourself forward to be this person, and if you cannot give an Academy Award performance, you may as well be a shill for the Warmers…someone setup to make skeptics look like idiots. As Tony already alluded, your opponent has only to trip you up ONCE to discredit everything you say.

    Please do not participate in this debate. If you do, and if you give an unconvincing performance, we could only think of you as a “Manchurian Candidate” sent by the Warmers, for you would have irreparably damaged the skeptic position. I’m sorry to be so blunt about this, and I’m certain you have the best of intentions, but….


  4. Paul Biggs says:

    Roger – there is good peer reviewed evidence that the global average near surface temperature data has a warm bias of 30% to 50%. Actual warming could be a lot less than 0.7C.

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