Geologists' Debate Sparks Debate

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The International Geological Congress in Oslo, Norway this month apparently took a break from struggling with science in favor of hosting a reality TV segment on “climate change debate.”

Characterized by RealClimate. org as “a step backwards towards confusion,” and hailed in the denier community as evidence of open-mindedness, the panel included a grab-bag of international “skeptics” including Dr. Henrik Svensmark of the Danish National Space Centre (“even though he’s not a geologist, and said that he didn’t understand what he was doing on the panel”).

The arguments, as reported, seemed pretty familiar: it’s all about clouds; it’s too soon to tell; forecasters can’t handle the weather, why would we let them talk about climate? The latter view was put forth by a “Canadian paleoclimatolgist/sedimentary geologist.” (I am on the road, with access to a lame wireless connection that won’t deliver the video. If anyone has the patience to sit through it, or to jump to the 43rd minute, Id love to hear who that was.)

There is, once again, an unquenchable enthusiasm in the denier community for “debate” of this kind, rather than the more conventional form of scientific argument, in which scientists must make their case, in writing, before a group of their peers and must stand accountable for the accuracy of their work. People like the Australian Bob Carter, who has no research credits in atmospheric science and therefore no expertise when it comes to criticizing climate models, stand up in a public debate such as this as quotable contrarians, not as literal “experts. Which, to belabour the point, means that this was not science: it was public relations.

And public relations on whose behalf? Ask yourself, who is the biggest employer of geologists – in Norway and the world?

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