The saying goes, ‘Never get into a wrestling match with a pig. You both get dirty, and the pig likes it.’
Unfortunately in the case of climate change debate, the temptation is difficult to resist. There is a small army of well-funded pseudo-scientists and PR hacks dedicated to spreading as much misinformation as possible who end up getting vastly disproportionate coverage by mainstream news media, perpetuating the myth that there is any legitimacy to their claims or that there is anything other than overwhelming scientific consensus on the matter of anthropogenic global warming.
Case in point being a recent radio discussion between Richard Littlemore of DeSmogBlog and Christopher Walter in which the two men (neither of whom, as Littlemore readily admits, have any real science background) were tasked with debating the reality of “human-induced climate change”. Early on in the debate, Littlemore made the point that, given that neither of them were scientists, there was no real point in debating the science behind the claims: what DeSmogBlog covers is public relations; likewise, Walter has no science credentials and has a background in politics and PR, meaning that neither of them should really be passing themselves off as climate change authorities.
However, predictably and unfortunately the debate goes precisely in the direction of debating “the facts” and when you enter this territory, the IPCC/scientific consensus is inevitably going to suffer. Even though all the points Walter introduces are widely acknowledged to be standard bullshit climate denier talking points, merely introducing them will produce in listeners (and transcript-readers) the impression that there is a level of uncertainty and disagreement in the scientific community that just isn’t there. Littlemore does a pretty good job debunking most of Walter’s BS on the spot, but the fact that a “debate” on the science behind anthropogenic climate change between two non-scientists is being legitimized in this way is a loss from the get go.
I just purchased it and haven’t read it yet, but it seems like the logic from George Lakoff’s book,
Don’t Think of an Elephant!, could be applied here: by entering into debates like this and in these circumstances, one accepts the frame being proposed by the deniers, which is that there is any point to such a debate, and public opinion could thereby be somehow better informed. The best thing to do is to stop wrestling with the pigs, and stop feeding the trolls.