Climate Debate Daily is a website which claims to offer “a new way to understand disputes about global warming”:
Climate Debate Daily is intended to deepen our understanding of disputes over climate change and the human contribution to it. The site links to scientific articles, news stories, economic studies, polemics, historical articles, PR releases, editorials, feature commentaries, and blog entries. The main column on the left includes arguments and evidence generally in support of the IPCC position on the reality of signficant [sic] anthropogenic global warming. The right-hand column includes material skeptical of the IPCC position and the notion that anthropogenic global warming represents a genuine threat to humanity.
On the surface of it, it sounds promising. Present all the evidence to people and let them make up their own minds. Isn’t that what informed democracy is all about? Sadly, no. Science isn’t a democracy. Good science is separated from bad based on the weight of evidence. In order to evaluate the evidence, you need to understand the field as a whole. Context is everything – and if you don’t understand the context, it’s almost impossible to gauge the significance of any one paper.
The site is run by two philosophers – Douglas Campbell a doctoral student in philosophy at the University of Arizona (who is impressed by the breadth and depth of the scientific evidence supporting the theory of anthropogenic global warming) and Denis Dutton, an associate professo at the University of Canterbury (who is skeptical about the degree to which human activity has contributed to the general warming trend). Therein lies the first problem – philosophers have a bad habit of weighing arguments instead of weighing evidence. I’ve seen that approach among philosophers and historians of science in the evolution-creation debate – some of them seem almost naive in their willingness to suspend judgment.
Looking a little deeper at the site, more red flags pop up. It pits a graduate student against an associate professor. Hardly a battle of equals. It is funded by Peter Farrell, who is skeptical of the threat of anthropogenic global warming. That shifts the balance of power even more.
Farrell is quoted as saying “Let the best argument win”. Sadly, that is the problem that’s at the heart of the issue. Science isn’t a battle of rhetoric – it’s a battle of evidence. And whatever its public policy implications, climate change is a scientific issue.
A quick search on Google turns up quite a few links to this site. Most simply document its existence, or broadly fall for its spin. A few sites call it for what it is – a website playing the Fox News game of deception “we report, you decide”. And then there’s a wealth of libertarian/Objectivist sites which, unsurprisingly, are almost giddy over the site. Perhaps that the most telling bit – the people who are praising the site are all “skeptics”. No one pro-science seems to have anything positive to say about the site. Only the “skeptics”. Curious, isn’t it?
David Appell of Quark Soup says
I’m not very impressed by the new Climate Debate Daily site that purports to offer both consensus and dissenting views on global warming. The former consists of reports on peer-reviewed papers in the scientific literature, and the latter seems to consist of items like an experiment by some kid and his dad (who admits he has the attention span of an 8-year old).
(The dad, that is. Not the kid.)
Brian Thomas of Carbon-Based describes the site as “giv[ing] a megaphone to denial”
A more accurate tag would be “the same old ways of garbling disputes about global warming.”…The site’s layout creates the appearance of evenhandedness…Thus the casual viewer of Climate Debate Daily will have little chance to learn that the scientific debate has long moved on. At this point, making a fetish of balance just favors the rear guard.
Others have a more positive take on the site. Peter Cresswell of Not PC says
Now he’s collaborating in a new project that seems just as likely to be on every thinking web user’s list of essential reading: Climate Debate Daily, a regular summation of the latest news and writing from both the sceptical and warmist sides of the global warming debate.
(Of course, it doesn’t help his credibility much to have links to the denialist tripe The Great Global Warming Swindle on his sidebar, and on to the Exploit the Earth or Die campaign (sponsored by the Ayn Randist Objective Standard), which touts itself as the battle for civilization and against “environmentalism”.
Will Wilkinson of The Fly Bottle also sees the site in a positive light. Of course, his comment is telling
Campbell looks to be a bit more convinced of AGW and thinks action is warranted. But he wants to hash it out. Good man.
Interesting. The pro-science person is praised for being “willing to hash it out”. The same isn’t expected of the denialists. Of course, Wilkinson is also a Policy Analyst at the Cato Institute. Of well. Can’t let the facts get in the way of ideology, can we?
Matthew Dallman at Polysemy seems to be seeking redemption in the site
Well, duh. Climate change denialists use the same set of tactics at Holocaust denialists. If you don’t want to be associated with those types, stop using their techniques.
Another “skeptic”, Cheryl Cline of der Blaustrumpf has an interesting take on the whole issue
I am very pleased to see a website devoted to give-and-take on the issue. My own position is that of a skeptic, but I’m also in the “So what?” camp. As in: so what if global warming were caused by human activity? Because if there is global warming, and if it is caused by human activity, and if the only solution is to de-industrialize the Western nations and prevent the undeveloped nations from industrializing, the cure is worse than the disease.
(“Interesting” being a euphemism for shockingly devoid of compassion for humanity…though I suppose that’s a common characteristic of “libertarians”.)
The Texas Scribbler says something quite amusing
It’s the very thing the poltroonish MSM should be giving us, but, having pretty much come down on the threat side, can’t be trusted to do it consistently.
Actually, it’s exactly the thing that the mainstream media has been giving us – presenting “both sides” as if they were equally valid, without bothering to do their job of trying to figure out whether there’s any difference in the validity of one side or the other.