Changing Climate Debate History

By Andy May

While researching my next book, I found a bit of interesting deception on the Intelligence Squared web site. This is the organization that hosted the famous March 14, 2007 global warming debate on the motion “Global Warming is not a Crisis.” Debating in favor of the motion were the late Michael Crichton, Professor Richard Lindzen (MIT, now emeritus), and Professor Philip Stott (University of London, emeritus). Against the motion were Dr. Brenda Ekwurzel of the Union of Concerned Scientists, Dr. Gavin Schmidt of NASA, and Professor Richard Somerville of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

The debate was held at the Asia Society and Museum in New York City. Their auditorium holds 258 people and, I presume, every seat was filled. The audience was polled on the assertion before the debate and after. According to the verbatim transcript of the debate (one of the tabs on the Intelligence Squared link above), moderator Brian Lehrer, announced the results at 1 hour 37 minutes:

“And now the results of our debate. After our debaters did their best to sway you…you went from, 30% for the motion that global warming is not a crisis, from 30% to 46%. [APPLAUSE]

01:38:58

Against the motion, went from 57% to 42%… [SCATTERED APPLAUSE, MOANS] And “undecided” went from 13% to 12%. The hardcore ambivalent are still among us. [LAUGHTER] So, in terms of opinion change, those in favor of the motion, have carried the day, congratulations to the team for the motion.”

You can hear the debate and the results on an NPR recording as well.

Gavin Schmidt was intensely embarrassed at their clear defeat in the debate. As Anthony Watts wrote in 2018, eleven years after the debate, Schmidt was so demoralized and defeated he still would not appear on stage with skeptical scientists, like Dr. Roy Spencer. Schmidt reportedly said debates are not worthwhile, regardless of the outcome. This is quite shocking to hear, debate is at the heart of scientific research. If you will not debate your points, you are not doing scientific work.

As you can probably imagine, I was nearly knocked to the floor when I clicked on the Intelligence Squared tab for the debate results on 28 December 2020. This was after I had listened to the debate and read the transcript. Under the tab on December 28 and still there January 6th, I read the winner, post-debate, was Against the motion, by 89%! Someone with access to the Intelligence Squared web site had radically changed the results from a win for the climate skeptics to a win for the alarmists. You may still be able to see this when you go to the web site. I wrote to them about this error December 28, and have received no answer.

There is certainly no excuse for lying about the results of this famous debate, but someone did.