A reader sends me a story of global warming activist who clearly doesn't know even the most basic facts about global warming. Since this article is about avoiding appeals to authority, so I hate to ask you to take my word for it, but it is simply impossible to immerse oneself in the science of global warming for any amount of time without being able to immediately rattle off the four major global temperature data bases (or at least one of them!)
I don't typically find it very compelling to knock a particular point of view just because one of its defenders is a moron, unless that defender has been set up as a quasi-official representative of that point of view (e.g. Al Gore). After all, there are plenty of folks on my side of issues, including those who are voicing opinions skeptical of catastrophic global warming, who are making screwed up arguments.
However, I have found over time this to be an absolutely typical situation in the global warming advocacy world. Every single time I have publicly debated this issue, I have understood the opposing argument, ie the argument for catastrophic global warming, better than my opponent. In fact, I finally had to write a first chapter to my usual presentation. In this preamble, I outline the case and evidence for manmade global warming so the audience could understand it before I then set out to refute it.
The problem is that the global warming alarm movement has come to rely very heavily on appeals to authority and ad hominem attacks in making their case. What headlines do you see? 97% of scientists agree, the IPCC is 95% sure, etc. These "studies", which Lord Monkton (with whom I often disagree but who can be very clever) calls "no better than a show of hands", dominate the news. When have you ever seen a story in the media about the core issue of global warming, which is diagnosing whether positive feedbacks truly multiply small bits of manmade warming to catastrophic levels. The answer is never.
Global warming advocates thus have failed to learn how to really argue the science of their theory. In their echo chambers, they have all agreed that saying "the science is settled" over and over and then responding to criticism by saying "skeptics are just like tobacco lawyers and holocaust deniers and are paid off by oil companies" represents a sufficient argument.** Which means that in an actual debate, they can be surprisingly easy to rip to pieces. Which may be why most, taking Al Gore's lead, refuse to debate.
All of this is particularly ironic since it is the global warming alarmists who try to wrap themselves in the mantle of the defenders of science. Ironic because the scientific revolution began only when men and women were willing to reject appeals to authority and try to understand things for themselves.
** Another very typical tactic: They will present whole presentations without a single citation. But make one statement in your rebuttal as a skeptic that is not backed with a named, peer-reviewed study, and they will call you out on it. I remember in one presentation, I was presenting some material that was based on my own analysis. "But this is not peer-reviewed" said one participant, implying that it should therefore be ignored. I retorted that it was basic math, that the data sources were all cited, and they were my peers -- review it. Use you brains. Does it make sense? Is there a flaw? But they don't want to do that. Increasingly, oddly, science is about having officially licensed scientists delivery findings to them on a platter.