I'm back home now, and I need to set down my thoughts on the Spectator debate. I don't intend to go into too much detail, because I need sleep more than I need to write right now.
I was a bit disappointed overall - none of the presentations managed to combine slick presentation with a strong coherent argument and many of them were not really about the motion at hand: "The global warming concern is over, time for a return to sanity".
Here are some of the things that stuck in my mind. The first was the sense of anger in the auditorium. People were just very, very annoyed about what was going on. There were times when the warmists on the stage looked taken aback by the heat that they were receiving.
Simon Singh's presentation was memorable, but unfortunately mostly for the wrong reasons. He set up what he called a credibility spectrum, with scientists and academies on one side and sceptics on the other and called on us to trust the establishment on the climate change issue. His whole presentation, while outstanding in terms of slick delivery, was an intellectual void, amounting to little more than ten minutes of argument from authority, a point later made by Graham Stringer. It struck me as a little ambitious to even try this sort of fallacious approach to an audience that was likely to be both hostile and well informed on climate science itself. As catcalls of "what about the hockey stick?" rang out, it was clear that many people knew exactly what has been happening. Asking these same people to trust the word of the scientists struck me as a foolish mistake.
Tim Palmer presented a moderate figure although there was little that struck me as noteworthy about his presentation - a familiar recounting of the IPCC story, with the IPCC graphs to demonstrate that CO2 is the culprit. Science didn't want to minimise the uncertainties, he said, and there were a few sniggers among the audience. I was struck by his repeated use of the phrase "the risk is unequivocal", which is probably a better way of expressing the warmist case than some in the past.
Sir David King's contribution was little better than Singh's. It seemed to lack any coherent thread and appeared to be largely an attempt to blind with science: a procession of numbers and graphs the meaning of which was lost in a wall of obfuscation. I didn't warm to him.
On the sceptic side, Lawson was sound and witty - I liked the notion of the IPCC as the Ark of the Covenant of the Conventional Wisdom, but again, I didn't hear anything that surprised me. He was much better at sticking to the motion than most of the others though. At one point he referred to schoolchildren being scared to death about global warming, and I noticed Bob Ward shaking his head a few rows in front of me.
Graham Stringer spoke mainly about the Climategate inquiries, and carried a certain authority as a sitting MP. His point about the detrimental effects of greenery on the poor was an important one.
Benny Peiser's talk was the one that intrigued me. He essentially argued that the science is irrelevant - that the public have made their minds up and that they vote out any party that pushes the green line too far. He also noted that they have moved on to other issues, such as the economy.
Votes were taken before and after the debate, and although sceptics won both by a clear majority there was a swing to the warmists on the night.
I managed a couple of words with Simon Singh after the event, but didn't seem keen to talk - his wife was waiting to take him home. I also said hello to Andrew Neil, who said he had read my book, which was nice.
Then there was the obligatory post-mortem at the pub, and it was nice to meet several BH regulars in the flesh.