I managed to get blocked by Peter Hitchens last night. Apparently I’m an intolerant, arrogant, fanatic, who was a little bit patronising. The irony was that the exchange started with him ranting at me was because I had the temerity to suggest that maybe rather than missing the evidence about AGW, he simply didn’t understand it, and it ended with him asking me – at 10pm on a Saturday night – to explain two papers I had sent him. Well, not only was it late, but if someone is going to get upset when I ask if maybe they misunderstand the evidence, then I’m going to assume that that’s because they do understand the evidence; I shouldn’t then have to then explain it to them, especially when being called an intolerant, arrogant, fanatic.
What was interesting was watching a Twitter exchange between Chris Colose and Peter Hitchens. Chris was trying to explain the basics of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) to Peter Hitchens, who seemed to suggest that he regarded what Chris was saying as being wrong, while – at the same time – appearing to not even understand the terminology that Chris was using. Of course, people can hold any opinion they like, but how can someone have an informed view about AGW if they don’t even understand the concepts of energy conservation and radiative transfer? These are fundamental, so having a view about AGW would seem to at least require understanding that these concepts exist and why they’re relevant.
Peter Hitchens isn’t, however, alone in this respect. There seem to be a number of journalists; Rose, Booker, Delingpole, Ridley (yes, I know he has a PhD, but in this context he’s a journalist) who seem to think that they can have their own view about the credibility of AGW, but don’t seem to even understand the basics that underpin this scientific concept. They presumably would not do this when it came to other scientific concepts. Do they publicly dispute the existence of dark matter, the Higgs Boson, black holes? No, of course not, that would be silly. However, somehow they feel qualified to dispute the reality of AGW and either argue with scientists who try to explain this to them, or block them (and it isn’t just me, Gavin Schmidt has been blocked too).
I realise that the reason is probably because of the potential consequences of AGW being real, but it still seems a little bizarre. Surely bright people can distinguish between the scientific position, and what that scientific position might suggest. One should be able to accept the reality AGW and still argue against wind turbines, for example. That many journalists who typically argue against AGW also dispute its reality, makes me think that deep down they know that if they do accept it’s reality, then their arguments against addressing it collapses. Maybe as an exercise they could try to see how their basic arguments would change if they did accept the reality of AGW, or is that just too much to expect?