Climate Dialogue is a blog that is mainly run by Marcel Crok, but also involves a number of other people. I must admit that I’ve largely ignored Climate Dialogue as it has always seemed to me to be just another pseudo-skeptic blog. However – to be fair – it has had some interesting discussions that I have read, so maybe my general impression isn’t quite fair. Climate Dialogue mainly worked by inviting different scientists to present their ideas about a particular topic, and then opening it up to discussion through the comments. What I hadn’t realised is that it is actually a project funded by the Dutch government, and the final report has just been released.
As far as I can tell from the report, the basic conclusion is that it was an interesting idea, that there were some interesting discussions, but – overall – it wasn’t particularly successful. It said, for example,
The experiment has shown there is potential for a blog such as Climate Dialogue in the polarised landscape of climate change science communication, bringing together scientists with different viewpoints,
but also said
It was more difficult to attract mainstream climate scientists than sceptical climate scientists. One important reason was what is sometimes called ‘false balance’, i.e. the perception that the format of specifically inviting sceptical scientists to the dialogue gives them more ‘weight’ than they have in the broader scientific community, and as such provides a skewed view of the scientific debate.
which, I think, is fundamentally the problem. Apparently it was required that at least one of the participating scientists was someone perceived to be a climate sceptic. Climate Dialogue covered 6 different topics in the last two years, and I suspect that most who have some knowledge of climate science would have a good shot of correctly guessing a reasonable fraction of the 6 scientists who were included through being perceived to be climate sceptics.
When it comes to the general topics covered by Climate Dialogue, there is a great deal of agreement within the scientific community. Where is the value in having a dialogue about these topics that will give the impression that the minority view has more acceptance than it actually has? To be clear, I’m certainly not suggesting that those who are “skeptical” should not be allowed to speak, but false balance is a genuine issue. If you were to select randomly from amongst a group of climate science experts, your chance of selecting someone who disputed the mainstream view would be small. By insisting that each discussion has a noted climate sceptic you run the real risk of suggesting that there is more disagreement than is actually the case.
Personally, I think there is no way to have any kind of really constructive dialogue about climate science (and I mean science specifically) between those who broadly accept the mainstream position, and those who do not. It might be interesting, but it won’t really resolve anything. This is mainly because this really isn’t how scientific disagreements are resolved. However, if such a project is to continue, maybe the next step should be to remove the rule about there being a climate sceptic involved in every dialogue. Select the participants in some random way and just see what happens. My guess is that it would become much more boring, but would probably better reflect the views of the general scientific community.