Has Global Warming increased the toll of disasters?
Feb 6, 2010
Bishop Hill in Climate: RP Jnr, Climate: WG2, Josh

This report on the debate between Pielke Jnr, Ward and Muir-Wood at the Royal Institution is by Josh, the cartoonist whose work has been adorning this site recently.

The Royal Institution has all the academic grandeur you would expect but its decor is up to date and, in a word, posh. The RI website reassuringly says "..although this event is held on a Friday...there is no dress code". The discussion was held in their old lecture theatre, with its steep seats and kitted out with excellent sound, projectors, and very comfy seats. You could imagine the room hearing Michael Faraday 150 years ago - this time it was Roger Pielke Jr.

I am a scientific and medical artist and the notes I take are visual, usually in the form of cartoons, a few of which I include here. This post will just be some overall impressions of the evening as you can listen to all the finer points on the RI website.

James Renderson chaired what was billed as a 'debate'. He got off to a bad start. He attempted to ask the question 'Has global warming increased the toll of disasters?' but was immediately in trouble with the audience - most simply not understanding what the question was, and to be fair it was not a very good question, it was too 'fine'. The 'dont knows' won hands down. It was clear that although good natured, there was a lot of passion in the room and it felt overwhelmingly sceptical.

Robert Muir-Wood spoke first putting up the graph which has caused the IPCC so much recent embarrassment - the one that supposedly has global warming causing an upward trend in natural disasters and increased costs. He gave details as to how it was taken out of context, misleadingly cited, and not peer reviewed.

Bob Ward followed. He gives off an air of steely determination and slight menace, with a touch of the not-from-this-planet vibe. However with this topic and this audience he was strangely tamed. Robert had just shown that any linking of disasters with global warming was spurious, so anything he said to the contrary sounded unconvincing. He sounded unconvinced himself.

Roger Pielke Jr came last and was without doubt the star turn. He spoke succinctly and with authority. It is worth listening to the discussion just for his segment. He showed that the IPCC ignored the advice of the expert reviewers to remove the misleading graph, that they made up an erroneous statement about Roger changing his mind, made a claim unsupported by the data in the final report and even now refuse to admit there is a problem.

The questions afterwards were fun. Some asked interesting questions, some just rambled. Piers Corbyn was there and told us all about his website and weather services - what a character he is.  

So three speakers, not debating the wider subject of anthropogenic global warming but agreeing that there was no the link between disasters and global warming. Not really a debate, unless you count the heckling from the audience.

I sat next to Christine Ottery, a Guardian journalist, who, impressively, twittered the whole thing - read her here.

James ended the discussion with a plug and, of course, a vote. The plug was for the launch next week of a Guardian hosted web account from all sides of the Climate change debate - everyone will be able to add their arguments and annotate them.

And on the question 'Has global warming increased the toll of disasters?'  - the house said decisively not.


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