Home > Environment > A surprise invitation

A surprise invitation

January 12th, 2010

I’ve just received an invitation from the Brisbane Institute to participate in a debate with Ian Plimer and Lord Monckton. Having seen Plimer’s Lateline performance, I can’t imagine that this exercise will add much to the sum of human knowledge. OTOH, the event will go ahead regardless. Any thoughts?

Clarification I should say straight off that I have no intention of attempt to debate climate science. Although I’m probably better qualified to discuss the key issues (many of which involve statistics) than either Plimer or Monckton, that’ s not saying much. In any case, discussing these issues in a debate format with dishonest antagonists is pointless, as has been shown many times.

So, the only way to approach it is to address the underlying conspiracy theory directly. If Monckton and Plimer are right, all the major scientific bodies in the world are engaged in a conspiracy to introduce communist world government by (drumroll!) auctioning tradeable carbon emissions permits. The question is, can I convince an audience sympathetic to delusionism that this is a really silly thing to believe?

Update Without advising me that my invitation had been withdrawn, the Institute made another invitation, to Barry Brook, who accepted. So, the decision has been made for me. I did, however, think about the approach I might take if I accepted.

I planned to elaborate Monckton’s conspiracy theory, announce myself as part of the global conspiracy, and conclude by pointing to Margaret Thatcher (Monckton’s former employer) as the originator of the whole thing (she has a great 1990 speech putting forward the case for urgent action based on the precautionary principle). At the end I would have played it straight for a minute or so, asking the audience whether they want to believe this black helicopter nonsense or the alternative that the scientists have it right. Would this have worked? We’ll never know.

Regardless, I certainly hope that Barry Brook and Graham Readfearn (the Courier-Mail environment blogger who will also appear on the pro-science side) stick it to Monckton and Plimer for their political axe-grinding, long track record of lies, and general nuttiness, rather than giving this deplorable event any credibility.

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  1. Gerard
    January 12th, 2010 at 17:07 | #1

    Pilmer obviously doesn’t believe anything he says, he is just promoting his book and laughing all the way to the bank. You should call him out as such

  2. January 12th, 2010 at 17:07 | #2

    Go. That way your ideas and rebuttal of theirs are spread a little wider, and we get to see a further explanation of your position, which we can adopt and/or adapt.

  3. Fran Barlow
    January 12th, 2010 at 17:20 | #3

    I’m doubtful that any good can come of it. Plimer will simply reiterate his talking points, ignore all substantive challenges and make detailed examination of any point at hand impossible for the audience to unpick.

    He refused to debate Monbiot in London when Monbiot attemped to place constraints on Plimer’s freedom to make the topic whatever he wanted and more recently his confrontation with Monbiot on Lateline turned farcical when he proved unwilling to defend the contents of his own book — which he had in his hand as he spoke. In the end he tried winning by blithering endlessly about anything but the claims he made and asking Monbiot to be have some manners.

    It would be far better if Plimer were to face the kind of examination that Lomborg did before the DCSD over The Skeptical Environmentalist and if University of Adelaide were to examine whether he met their tests for academic misconduct.

    The fact remains that Plimer’s book is an academic shambles posturing as “a search for the science”. Plimer ought be heard no more until he can warrant his ostensibly scientific claims and the integrity of his work or he rescinds. Handwaving loudly ought not to secure him the recognition of respectable persons such as you.

  4. Fran Barlow
    January 12th, 2010 at 17:22 | #4

    PS — a chinwag in which only Monckton and Plimer, along with perhaps the loopier members of our local agnotologists ight actually be entertaining. Freed of all restraint, they may well attest even more generously to their complete idiocy or venality.

  5. Salient Green
    January 12th, 2010 at 17:39 | #5

    Who’s in the audience? Are they worth the effort? If you want to do it, do it but if you feel pressured, you have a prior engagement.

  6. fred
    January 12th, 2010 at 17:40 | #6

    My opinion FWIW is that you are in a no win situation.

    Similar to those biological scientists who try to debate creationists and its seems the
    common feeling among them now is that its best to deprive them of oxygen.

    Plimer and Monckton can willy nilly throw out any number of single sentence nonsense assertions that unfortunately will require either elaborate organized detailed answers which take too much time and space to develop or smart retorts of, unfortunately, little substance.
    Its a shallow game.
    The sound bite will appear to beat the detailed response and I presume that the audience will be stacked by denialists.
    We have seen here and elsewhere they are not interested in fact or logic.
    Your training and ethics won’t allow you to confidently spruik nonsense or resort to debating tricks.
    Your opponents, if you do participate, have shown no such scruples.

    The real question is: why are the Brissy Inst pushing this pair?

  7. David Peetz
    January 12th, 2010 at 17:41 | #7

    A while ago I would have seen this as a bit like a challenge to evolutionary scientists to debate the creationists: no amount of scientific facts would serve to make a minority group of crackpots rethink their position. So why bother to give any legitimacy to them?

    But although Plimer’s position, and that if the denialists generally, has been shown to have no scientific foundation, it is supported by a very heavily funded lobby that is eating away at the strong majority position of climate change realism and at the stomach of policy makers. Because of the resources behind them (and the importance of the issues), I don’t think they can be ignored now.

    So reluctantly, and assuming that it will go ahead anyway (and won’t be loaded two against one) I say take them on.

  8. nanks
    January 12th, 2010 at 17:50 | #8

    Who will benefit? Plimer seems capable of saying the most outrageous stuff whilst keeping an air of injured civility about him. I doubt you will puncture his ‘argument’, he seems to have his responses fairly pat and will ignore any evidence or challenge of substance. You could try Monbiot’s tactic of re-asking and restating the problems with Plimer’s claims.However Plimer may have trained up after Lateline and counter with the ‘kindly old man injured by the harsh badgering assailant’.
    Monckton I don’t know but I imagine he is at least as good as Plimer at manipulating audiences. In the end denialists at the level of the ‘interested public’ are swayed by stereotyped emotional triggers. Do you think reason and evidence can counter that, or will their abiities to emotionally manipulate the crowd – who themselves may be quite hostile – overwhelm reasoned debate?
    I’d really want a clear idea of what winning the debate would achieve, and what winning would require strategically.

  9. Freelander
    January 12th, 2010 at 17:52 | #9

    On first thought, Plimer is really too badly behaved and irrational to bother with.

    Too some extent debating fools like these is to give them credibility. From what I read in Wikipedia, even his ‘debate’ with the creationist loonies didn’t reflect well on him.

    From the entry on him in Wikipedia “Plimer is an outspoken critic of creationism and is famous [sic] for a 1988 debate with creationist Duane Gish in which he asked his opponent to hold live electrical cables to prove that electromagnetism was ‘only a theory’. Gish accused him of being theatrical, …”

    Talk about non sequitur. Of course, creationism (‘God did it’) and intelligent design (‘Someone identically similar to God did it’) are absurd nonsense. However, many of these creationist nutters believe in things like electromagnetism and so on. And the time honoured result from holding live electrical cables neither proves nor disproves the theory of electromagnetism. Hence, one is forced to agree with the nitwit Gish. Plimer was simply being theatrical. But neither he nor at least some of the audience seem to appreciate that.

    Given that Plimer doesn’t seem to know what a valid or a sound argument is, or what facts are, and too many of the typical audience don’t seem to know either, you can only expect to win these types of encounters by being quick on your feet and cleverer in finding ways to humiliate him.

    A problem with people like Plimer, who have loud voices, strong opinions and are the party to many acrimonious down and dirty debates, is that, as a consequence, they have practice, and hence, through experience, combined with a low animal cunning which they often possess, may know how to appeal to the rabble with every fallacious trick available.

    If you are good and experienced at this sort of sport, and think you will splatter him, then why not? Otherwise, why bother? If you can’t be bothered, you could say that having watched the Lateline debate where he was thoroughly trounced you can see no point in working over old ground.

  10. Ken Lovell
    January 12th, 2010 at 17:59 | #10

    Salient Green is correct: who’s likely to be watching? I suspect they will be people who made up their minds about AGW long ago and are only there to enjoy watching their champions make Al Gore jokes at your expense.

    Sample of Monckton’s rhetoric from yesterday’s Online Opinion (which I refuse to dignify with a link):

    ‘So, who are the criminals against humanity? The brave and diligent scientists whose research in many different fields now amply demonstrates that the chief conclusions of the UN’s climate panel are nonsense, or the pietistic true-believers whose policies allegedly designed to address the non-problem of “global warming” are already killing millions by starvation?’

    That’s the level of scholarship you can expect. Constantly rebutting the same old tired fraudulent crap from the likes of Plimer and Monckton simply gives it more credibility than it deserves, IMHO. Better to leave them alone in the echo chamber looking like the sad losers they are.

  11. Fran Barlow
    January 12th, 2010 at 18:03 | #11

    @Ken Lovell

    And one can expect the local LaRouchites will be out in force asking why you want to engineer a final solution for most of the planet.

  12. January 12th, 2010 at 18:30 | #12

    Monckton is a bit of a lunatic but his remarks about Copenhagen being a communist conspiracy to overthrow capitalism were widely reported. He will presumably use standard exaggerated lines of argument. He doesn’t have much of a sense of shame.

    It’s better to focus on a few of these – warming stopped in 1998, water vapour is more important than CO2 etc – and politely annihilate his arguments.

  13. smiths
    January 12th, 2010 at 18:46 | #13

    you have to go, you have no choice

  14. nanks
    January 12th, 2010 at 18:52 | #14

    and I guess another issue is – What has happened to the Brisbane Institute that they would give these two a forum?

  15. January 12th, 2010 at 18:59 | #15

    Tough one, I reckon. My initial reaction was that you should do it and show them up for the ill-informed people they are. But on 2nd thoughts, I don’t think it is worth it. Clearly neither person has any credibility and will not be swayed by any argument or evidence. Neither deserve a public forum, as Plimer’s last LL performance proved and really, it is a shame the Brisbane Institute is giving them one: it counts against their own credibility. Perhaps your best move would be to issue a statement turning down the invitation on the grounds that, given their track record and lack of credibility you will not do anything to suggest they should be taken seriously? “Mere participation would accord their position more respect than it deserves” or words to that effect.

    I’m really coming to the view that the sooner credible organisations (inc the MSM) stop bowing to the likes of these two in the name of some phoney idea of “balance” the better off we will all be. I’m all for open debate, but that isn’t what these two are engaged in. How many more times will they be given a forum to repeat their usual, well-refuted rubbish, before someone says enough?

  16. Alice
    January 12th, 2010 at 19:01 | #16

    My thoughts are JQ that I wouldnt debase myself by debating anything with a couple of paid for delusionists.

    Sorry but you can mix in better circles than debating a couple of charlatans. I would decline on that basis and make it clear why.

    Some things are beneath one’s dignity as an economist. You are a good one…as for these two – they arent even economists, let alone intelligent or worth debating. They really are sell outs – both of them.

  17. Alice
    January 12th, 2010 at 19:04 | #17

    Brisbane institute has now proved itself an irreputable group nanks. This is the second time…so which new ratbag denialist manager has turned coated the Brisbane institute.

    He should be fired immediately for being a biased jerk that he would evenconsider house charlatans like Plimer and Monkton. Are they that desperate to sell seats?

  18. Alice
    January 12th, 2010 at 19:06 | #18

    Looks like the general consensus here JQ is to tell them to get st****d.

  19. Rationalist
    January 12th, 2010 at 19:20 | #19

    Good luck John, it will be a tough debate to win.

  20. Andrew
    January 12th, 2010 at 19:54 | #20

    IMHO you should go John.
    I recently attended a “presentation” by David Archibald, another geologist and denier/delusionist. Of course, there is no convincing people like him (his slides were riddled with inconsistencies, errors and, well, lies) but some of the audiences in such meetings may be genuine seekers of the truth. I’d suggest you stick to facts (I made the mistake of calling Lomborg and Plimer charlatons so I got into an unwanted discussion on tactics rather than facts), and take two or three key points that you want to get across (the sea levels are rising, C14 shows where it is coming from, etc) and not get distracted. Basic debating points maybe, but it might work.

  21. Uncle Milton
    January 12th, 2010 at 20:35 | #21

    Complete waste of time, at best.

    With all due respect, JQ, you are not a skilled polemicist, and what is required is someone who can get down and dirty and dish it out mercilessly, like Paul Keating did to his enemies (in and out of the Labor Party) in the 1980s.

  22. wilful
    January 12th, 2010 at 20:42 | #22

    Tough gig.

    Why give them any oxygen, why lend them your credibility?

    Really, will any open, inquiring minds be there?

    I’m sure any unbiased observer would recognise that the’re a pair of wittering old fools (I loved Clive Hamilton’s ad hominem attack in crikey today!), but how many unbiased people will be there?

  23. Kate
    January 12th, 2010 at 21:00 | #23

    Nthing all the other commenters saying: don’t give them the oxygen. And you are unlikely to win over anyone in that audience.

  24. Ernestine Gross
    January 12th, 2010 at 21:08 | #24

    What is the topic of the debate?

  25. CM
    January 12th, 2010 at 21:20 | #25

    You have to do it. I really believe the commenters saying no good will come of it are wrong. Very silly things are entirely believable when unchallenged. I recently had a debate with some climate change skeptics. As a scientist (not a climate scientist), it made me incredibly upset, but the end result was that (i) I was able to quote from the very sources they used to rebut them and (ii) they looked very silly for claiming as their own someone else’s words. Now, this isn’t to say I convinced the skeptics, but other friends of mine were involved and they were convinced. Refusal to engage with AIDS denialism seems sensible, because they are so isolated and such fringe players in western society. (Rebutting them in African nations where they have policy influence might be worthwhile). However, climate denialism isn’t fringe anymore – it’s a contrarian reflex that I have no seen, somewhat bizarrely, adopted on the left, the right and even by so called environmentalists. There is too much danger that ‘innocent bystanders’ will be sucked in. Address the absurdity of the conspiracy. Address the dishonesty of the skeptics, their funding sources. At the end of the day, reason doesn’t always win, but a refusal to speak sense means that only nonsense gets spoken.

  26. may
    January 12th, 2010 at 21:54 | #26


    it seems to be one of those situations where winning is sorta either/or.

    debate with an eye to

    Not Lose.

  27. boconnor
    January 12th, 2010 at 22:06 | #27

    Looks like a set-up. Don’t go. Cogently argued points will be unlikely to change that audience’s views.

  28. Trent
    January 12th, 2010 at 22:22 | #28

    It really is a no win situation. If you agree, there won’t be much in the way of actual rational debate on their behalf. If you don’t agree, they’ll gloat about you refusing to debate them on the issue. With that said, I still think the best option is to turn down the offer. There is little doubt that it would be a waste of time.

  29. Michael
    January 12th, 2010 at 22:25 | #29

    Plimer and Monckton will not debate in good faith and the audience is a waste of time. If they are not convinced already it is because they have committed to a firm self-serving position and no amount of facts, evidence or logic will change it. By sharing a stage with them you will be conferring on them a legitimicy they don’t deserve. Check the debate at the Sydney institute between Ray Evans and Ian Dunlop. Evans made a complete fool of himself but they audience lapped it up because this is the nonsense they want to hear.

  30. January 12th, 2010 at 22:36 | #30

    Send someone with qualifications in rhetoric/pr/media or a humorous item to substitute for yourself. Don’t go.
    Monckton is an articulate, unflappable, show pony for the denial show.

  31. Fran Barlow
    January 12th, 2010 at 22:38 | #31

    Well done you but really I don’t agree that AIDS and this issue are comparable. Sure there are people with cultural reasons for taking nonsense positions on AIDS but they are nothing like the numbers of people who feel that mitigation is an existential question.

    If you’re pitching at the mass of the populace the message is simple — can you do what you propose without causing me to be seriously worse off? If the answer is yes, you win. If the answer is “I don’t know” the other side wins. The science doesn’t get a guernsey.

    That’s why the delusionals aim for maximum FUD. They appeal to people’s fears of being ripped off, suspicion of remote elites, especially government and especially foreign government since foreigners are always suspicious and in a majority. These days scientists get called ivory tower boffins, and Dunning-Kruger gets tested three times a week as every nong who thinks he can read a graph and look out of the window can tell what the climate is.

    You can’t beat that. You just can’t.

    I teach at high school 205 days per year. During that time you learn and relearn what the window of significance is. For children it is quite short. The lower the educational stream, the shorter it is. Tell them something good will happen (or something bad) and you get their attention, until you tell them it’s the other side of the weekend and then it becomes irrelevant. Behavioural economists sometimes call this “the discount rate”.

    This is true of adults too. If you are modestly well educated you wil,probably spend most of your time in the company of people with similar education and accomplishment. The idea of planning for the future and of connectedness with things that are geographically and temporally remote seems unremarkable. The better educated your milieu the more remote it can be and still be significant.

    The reverse is also true though, sadly. Trying to talk about 30-year climate trends and problems in 2050 seems to vast numbers of people — even those who accept it in principle — hard to buy into and so the incentive to believe any old tosh that allows you to keep doing now what feels good is damned near irrestistable. Cognitive dissonance is hard to beat when it comes with incentives. Throw in three-year election cycles and where does policy wind up? Nowhere good.

    PrQ is a great guy but he can’t win the politics at Brisbane Institute. The “balanced” media who report will bend over backwards to be “fair to both sides” and treat the nonsense of Monckton and Plimer with equal reverence to the half quotes they get from PrQ.

    Not a good risk trade IMO

  32. frankis
    January 12th, 2010 at 23:35 | #32

    Ample support above I think for your own good instincts on a no-win proposal, John. You don’t take a knife to a gunfight; you don’t take a respected economist to try to talk sense at a delusionals’ cabaret. I’m pretty sure you know how much hope there’d be of your winning any points with an audience that will have turned up to be inflamed by these two charlatans. It’ll be an ugly crowd in a mood only for the murder of science and government. I think though that you might put frankly in writing to the Brisbane Institute a few references to the proven fraudulence of Plimer and at best delusionism of Monckton – is the Institute unaware of this evidence, or does it not care?

  33. Fran Barlow
    January 12th, 2010 at 23:39 | #33

    PrQ asks:

    The question is, can I convince an audience sympathetic to delusionism that this is a really silly thing to believe?

    Not a chance. To reason with people who believe stuff because they like how it sounds to them is an impossible paradox. They didn’t come to their ideas through reason but through sentiment. They think people they are remote from are highly likely to be spivs or worse. If you defend them, you too are a spiv or worse. “Climategate” is alll they will hear.

    You have to give them a more impressive sentiment to attach themselves to. Except you can’t because most will be 45+ and so they will already have made up their minds that they know all they need to know about everything. They aren’t in thje market for new ideas or new places to belong. They will be there to defend their way of life from socialists and carbon traders and people who can’t see how fat Al Gore is.

  34. Nick R
    January 13th, 2010 at 01:44 | #34

    I agree that you should not do this. It seems pretty clear that climate change delusionism is motivated by anti intellectual hostility rather than a rational disagreement of how to interpret scientific data. The audience will make themselves immune to your rigorous, well researched scientific arguments and crow that you failed to convince them.

    The only approach that I have found to have any effect on these people is to abandon the science and talk about economics. Point out that the costs of aggressive climate action are almost unnoticeably small and that it is wise to take action (even if you are a skeptic) as a form of insurance against disaster.

  35. rog
    January 13th, 2010 at 05:37 | #35

    I think that the best tactic would be to stick to the global commie conspiracy theory and encourage both of them to provide substantive evidence, as much as is required of the AGW camp.

    As climategate will be a weapon a good understanding of qty and quality of emails might be handy.

  36. Tim Dymond
    January 13th, 2010 at 07:28 | #36

    The Brisbane Insititute is sponsored by UQ, the City of Brisbane and the Queensland government. I’d be surprised if those bodies had an interest in pushing denialism (except maybe the Qld govt because of the Coal Industry).

    I’m not invited so it is easy for me to say – I’d go. I’d be interested in general terms to see Monckton and Plimer in the flesh so to speak. Emphasising the ludicrous level of conspiracy that would have to be true if Monckton and Plimer are correct is also an essential point to make in the ‘debate’.

  37. Freelander
    January 13th, 2010 at 07:35 | #37

    I suppose asking them to elaborate on the details of the conspiracy and their evidence for it would be one strategy….

  38. Chris Warren
    January 13th, 2010 at 08:28 | #38

    Unless your qualifications are in climatology or statistics, you should avoid such exercises.

    The Plimer line is overexposed.

  39. wilful
    January 13th, 2010 at 08:35 | #39

    What’s the saying? “Never debate a fool, they will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience”.

  40. Alice
    January 13th, 2010 at 08:37 | #40

    @Tim Dymond
    Tim – I can understand the QLD government polaying host to this pair of delusional dysfunctional self seeking charlatans. After all, its the same government who flogged off $15 billion worth of state assets on sham excuses communicated to the electorate as if addressing 6 year olds with no real accounatbility anywhere.
    Would we expect any less of Bligh and Fraser?

    (the labor government who has turned insanely right wing plus plus ie laissez faire neoliberal market ideologues? Its only natural the Bligh Government woiuld host these loony right charlatans)

    But UQ?? I have a problem with that. A big problem. What is going on there? You dont fund an institute that gives ar time to quacks and media conjurers. Or do you in the modern profit seeking university?

  41. Alice
    January 13th, 2010 at 08:39 | #41

    Let the event go on an usual OTOH without you….you could of course send a letter of apology saying you dont think these people are worth debating the matter as there is no real debate.

  42. Socrates
    January 13th, 2010 at 08:51 | #42

    I would approach this idea with great caution. Plimer uses very cynical tactics in a “debate”. assuming ther eis no moderator to make people answer questions or judge a winner, he will simply poster to try to convince the confused. He will use his usual weapons – repeat past lies, resorting to reputation, bombast and arrogance when he is caught out. Yet no matter what you or he says, he will NEVER admit he is wrong, even when it is plainly proven. All of the substantial points in the Lateline interview had been pointed out to Plimer publically before. Yet he proceeded to repeat the same “points”, already knowing they were false, and still refused to admit he was wrong, or that he had lied. So you will find it a very dissatisfying experience.

    If I had to debate Plimer, I would use two methods:

    1. Question his motives. Despite attacking others and conspiracies, Plimer himself has a vested interest in carbon fuels as director of several mining companies, and as a former petroleum geologist. He knows he is lying so ask him why does he lie? Is it for the money? Is it arrogance? Ask him when was the last time in his career he ever admitted being wrong about anything?

    2. Ridicule. Perhaps the best weapon against these charlatan experts is to parody them. Don’t take them seriously. Don’t give him undeserved credibility. Joke about his own claims. Ask Plimer if recent hot spells are just “lucky”. Invite him to buy Murray River farms without water allocations. Ask him when was the last time he had an article on climate change published in any peer revewed journal?

    I suppose the point is that Plimer has no intention of giving you an honest debate. He will just repeat his nonsense talking points. He will be confident in his ability to bluster and bully you. So have counter tactics prepared in advance.

  43. Socrates
    January 13th, 2010 at 08:53 | #43


    Living here in Adelaide I would have assumed the same about University of Adelaide (not allowing Plimer to speak like this). Yet they still do, to our collective shame.

  44. January 13th, 2010 at 08:59 | #44

    There’s also “Never debate a fool – from a distance people can’t tell the difference.”

  45. Doug
    January 13th, 2010 at 09:06 | #45

    Go – but go with a strategy to ensure you get your message across rather than trying to engage in rational debate which I doubt that you will get.

  46. Michael
    January 13th, 2010 at 09:08 | #46

    Let someone else more on their level have a silly high school debate with them. What’s the point of lowering yourself to that level and having Plimer attempt to patronise you with “have some manners young man” if you try to get him to answer a question. They have no credibility and no shame. There are people worth debating on climate change and there is a large sector of the public who might be one over by good arguments but not at that event.

  47. Joe
    January 13th, 2010 at 09:17 | #47

    Just think how The Australian/Courier Mail would report it!

  48. gerard
    January 13th, 2010 at 09:30 | #48


    Good luck John, it will be a tough debate to win.

    It will be the easiest debate in the world to win, since Pilmer is, objectively speaking, an established liar, a shameless fraud and a clown who can’t even defend the contents of his own book, and has precisely zero facts on his side.

    On the other hand, by being given a forum for “debate” with somebody serious, Pilmer already has won in a sense, because he’s bringing other people down to his level. That’s the dilemma. These people are not interested in “winning” a debate; facts, logic and reason exist outside their universe. Their objective is simply to waste other people’s time by having a debate, to create the illusion of doubt where none in fact exists. You should have some familiarity with this, because it is much like the objectives of a typical message-board troll.

  49. James
    January 13th, 2010 at 09:41 | #49

    If you did go, I suggest the standard debate tactic in an impossible-to-take-seriously debate of being more extremist than your opponents. Proudly proclaim your adherence to Marxist-Leninist-Goreism. Explain how Greenies are going to take over the world using specially trained polar bear shock troops ridden by cute little child soldiers who advocate atheism. Ridicule carbon trading permits as a capitalist plot to financially speculate upon the misery of peasants and workers caused by temperature increase, and suggest that an all powerful secret carbon police would be much more cost effective. Support all your statements with quotes from Plimer, Monckton and their mates (Spiked Online, Lubos Motl, Sen Inhofe, etc).

    Conspiracy theory lies gain strength from being denied, which (to them) constitutes suppression. If they are openly embraced their true ridiculousness often comes to the surface.

    Analogous case: A successful US propaganda campaign during WWII in the pacific was to rebroadcast Japanese propaganda, but inflate all the numbers by 50%. Japanese radio would proclaim “we have sunk 100 US ships!” and the US would rebroadcast (in the same language etc, so it sounded like it came from Japan) “we have sunk 150 US ships!”. Cumulative effect was to make the Japanese broadcasts sound unbelievable and untenable.

  50. January 13th, 2010 at 09:46 | #50

    Monbiot was successful when debating Plimer on Lateline because he turned the tables and pointed out that it was Plimer and others who were the ones actively deceiving the public.

    It might be worth making the risk management argument – i.e. even if you are skeptical of the science, the consequences of you being wrong are far worse than the consequences of being right.

    Might also be worth pointing out that there are no climate scientists on the panel (assuming they don’t invite any). Note that Plimer does not count as a climate scientist.

  51. costa
    January 13th, 2010 at 09:59 | #51

    You have better things to do than waste your time with delusional freaks and conspiracy nuts. Like you’ve said many times on your blog, we have moved on from debating the science of climate change.

  52. Alice
    January 13th, 2010 at 10:08 | #52

    No air. Debate why the universities are hosting charlatans instead.

  53. January 13th, 2010 at 10:38 | #53

    If you ‘believe’ in this AGW BS, then have the courage of your convictions and stand up for your beliefs.

    BTW, if you decide to go let me know how I can get tickets, so I can go and cheer for my side.

  54. Roger Jones
    January 13th, 2010 at 10:41 | #54


    the members of Climate Scientists Australia http://www.climatescientistsaustralia.org.au/ will not debate denialists becuse we believe that it is the wrong medium to counter simple lies with complex truths. We turned down a CEDA event in December for that very reason.

    On the other hand, if you joined Christopher and Ian and contributed a stand-up comedy routine to complement their biting satire of the scientific method, I would be there with bells on!

  55. Michael
    January 13th, 2010 at 10:47 | #55

    @Tony G
    There is only on “side” in this phoney debate and you are definitely on it.

  56. Michael
    January 13th, 2010 at 10:48 | #56

    @Tony G
    I meant “one side” not “on side”.

  57. Marginal Notes
    January 13th, 2010 at 12:01 | #57

    I agree with those who advise not to participate. Monckton and Plimer are egotisitc charlatans and frauds, but in a setting like this they will be entertaining and seemingly impregnable. Let the Brisbane Institute fly its new colours without the benefit of token “balance”. Then we can all freely question what it is on about.

  58. wilful
    January 13th, 2010 at 12:05 | #58

    That’s what it comes down to for you, Tont G, tribal ‘sides’.

    If forced to choose between science and the scientific method on one hand, and a vast global conspiracy on the other, hmmm, well that’s a tough choice.

  59. TerjeP (say Tay-a)
    January 13th, 2010 at 12:30 | #59

    John – if AGW is an incorrect theory, or significantly flawed, it does not follow that all the major scientific bodies in the world are engaged in a conspiracy. It does not even follow that all the major scientific bodies engages in climate science are engaged in a conspiracy. It merely entails that the later group have made some misjudgements, been mislead or otherwise got things wrong. I’m incredibly sceptical of any grand conspiracy theory but it does not prevent me also being sceptical of AGW.

  60. Michael
    January 13th, 2010 at 12:45 | #60

    @TerjeP (say Tay-a)
    Most of the scientists working in climate related science are not on a “side”, they are not all in total agreement with each other and they are not all putting forward a narrow unifying theory, despite the way they are being grouped into a straw man by mischief makers.

    I have no vested interest in AGW being proven true, in fact life would be easier if it could be comprehensively refuted. But the counter arguments haven’t convinced me, especially when they are made by the likes of Plimer who continually evade questions.

    The AGW debate Plimer is engaged in is a phoney side show that is wasting everyones time. The real work and the real debate takes place through peer reviewed research. The accusations of collusion and conspiracy speak more about Plimer than his straw man opponent.

  61. January 13th, 2010 at 12:58 | #61


    Members of Climate Scientists Australia are saying;
    “Making sense of scientific information on climate and climate change can be a daunting task: the key scientific topics are complex and MULTIDISCIPLINARY, and the huge amount of information on them is often overwhelming or conflicting.”

    The reality is that the scientific evidence for AGW is inconclusive and until that fact changes we are going to have DEBATES, so there is going to be sides it is not tribalism,.

    Plimer is a professor in an earth science, so he is more than qualified to debate his view point, Mockton is looking at the political implications and John is qualified in a political science, so he is should be able to articulate his view point.

    What do you want to do stick your head in the sand? the AGW issue is far from settled.

  62. Donald Oats
    January 13th, 2010 at 13:07 | #62

    John, I think it is worth “debating” with them, perhaps joining forces with someone who has a command of the more technical material. Joining up with someone who has paleo-geology expertise relevant to climate science would throw Plimer I reckon. Maybe a paleontologist like Peter Ward, if he is game?

    As for the conspiracy theory, you could hit them with the reciprocal case where they are basically following the “Tobacco is good for you” mob and their “Doubt is our business” line. The manner in which the Tobacco lobby’s hired guns (a big PR firm that run interference strategies for organisations, can’t remember the name) ran their campaign from 1954 until recently is pretty much the template for the recently re-grouped Australian denialists. Get Plimer et al to explain why they aren’t the guys running interference for our Australian coal and oil guys. Someone must know if/who the PR mob is behind the new more on-message Aussie denialists.

    Final thought: the denialist crowd also parallel the “Intelligent Design” mob in some aspects of strategy. The IDers differ from the Creationists in that the Cers tried to attack evolutionary theory while holding fast to a literalist reading of Genesis – the 4004BC flood, whatever – and the IDers simply aim for “teaching the controversy”, meaning that they want “Intelligent Design” to be part of the Biology curriculum as a counterpoint to evolution, but they are willing to concede ground on evolution so long as the “grand design” is kicked off by a creator (tacit in their educational material but the teachers know what to say to the students on this). Maybe some direct comparison here could help – something along the lines of noting the history of their rejections of AGW, eg how they’ve back-pedalled on the “since 1998 it’s been cooling”, to (Bob Carter’s) “since 2002 it has been cooling”, then the way in which they counter 2005 being the hottest year by saying 1934 was (but conveniently forgetting the bit about that being only the USA, all of 2% of the global surface area), and then finally (Bob Carter again) “recently it has been cooling”. Whew!

  63. Fran Barlow
    January 13th, 2010 at 13:17 | #63

    Or you could troll Plimer into going off topic himself, inviting him to defend his “iron sun” thesis or explain what was wrong with Wegener and continental drift theory, or to explain his own rather daffy theories on oceanic ridges, or point to weak and sloppy argumentation in his earlier book on the debunking of the creationists.

    This last especially should be a great wedge for the audience, since many of them will be religious fundies. Maybe you should get George Pell into the panel and wedge him against Plimer?

    just joking Don’t do it. Don’t wrestle that pig. [/metalepsis]

  64. Donald Oats
    January 13th, 2010 at 13:19 | #64

    Ah, I notice that Tony G has already covered “the science isn’t settled” meme, the “if there is one item that is uncertain in AGW, it is all uncertain” logic error that is ubiquitous. As a good source book for virtually all of the errors of logic and reason made by the paid-up AGW denialists is – strangely enough – “The Atheist Universe”, in which the arguments against atheism are systematically blown apart. But there you go.

    BTW John, if you do decide to debate Plimer and the Monckton, make sure your servers are well secured 🙂

  65. Donald Oats
    January 13th, 2010 at 13:28 | #65

    In the first interview on Lateline in 2009, Ian Plimer was asked about his book, and he explained that it wasn’t a book of science, or words to that effect, and he then follows on by saying it was written for the layperson who knows there is a smell about the AGW theory etc. In other words, Plimer was absolving himself of the need to be scientifically accurate (honest?) in his book; if this is the case then Plimer should not be able to get away with using his professional credentials as a geologist to sell the book. How to duck responsibility (for the errors in his book) by claiming it isn’t a science book, and yet to use one’s credentials to lend authority to that book and it’s extravagant claims – Plimer is the pre-eminent expert.
    Maybe this should be explored in a debate.

  66. wilful
    January 13th, 2010 at 13:34 | #66

    Tony G :
    the AGW issue is far from settled.

    Sorry, I must have missed all that non-consensus in the scientific literature.

  67. Graeme Bird
    January 13th, 2010 at 13:35 | #67

    Clearly this is two against one Professor Quiggin, unless the interviewer is biased on your side. Nothing good can come out of it for you. I’m a big fan of Ian Plimer (pause for boos and hisses) and I like Lord Monkton too. But this ought not be your fight. Let someone else be the patsy. Right now the last thing we need is you risking your standing when what we want is you helping put a moratorium on these outrageous trash and splurge versions of privatisation.

    Even if your version of the science is right and mine is wrong, nature has intervened with a period of cooling, making it not quite the time-pressed situation that a lot of you guys have recently thought. Even if you are right, we would then have to consider that its a medium-to-long term issue and not the pressing emergency that it recently seemed to so many people to be.

    And this privatisation and infrastructure issue, is not a thing separate and distinct from energy efficiency. In the old days a horse could pull cargo along a canal the likes of which it would take 20 horses to pull overland. If this warming, which I don’t think is an issue, is actually more of a medium term issue …………….. then getting infrastructure right in the next two or three decades would be crucial, for this self-same carbon emissions issue. Hence this privatisation business would then be pivotal.

    I hate being proven wrong. And it wasn’t but 15 years ago that I was spouting off to anyone too tactful not to listen that whilst the 19th Century was the century of rail and the 20th was not, I was confidently asserting that the twenty-first century would see the triumphant return of rail.

    I look around and read the papers and I don’t see a massive investment boom in wharves or shipping or rail. We don’t have the legal structure right for this infrastructure investment. We don’t have the private/public demarcation right when it comes to infrastructure. We don’t have the private eminent domain at premium. We don’t have anything we need to have to make the most effective (and energy efficient) transport mediums boom like any just God would have it.

    Clearly before we can get there we need the moratorium you are calling for and the subsequent massive public debate that only the halt on sales can possibly bring, to get this stuff right, once and for all. To have serious people like Henry Ergas and yourself and others working full-time on getting all aspects of this right. Not in an anti-private way. Or in a knee-jerk crony way. Or in a way which denies that there might be some things which we are just not yet ready to have in private hands, if this is indeed the case.

    Infrastructure is about energy-efficiency to a great degree. So its about CO2 emissions indirectly one supposes. One aspect of infrastructure is also about fresh water. And if we have more fresh water than we can possibly use we have a cheap carbon sink right there.

    I want to see Plimer and Monkton win this one. They don’t need to win against you. You ought to keep your powder dry.

  68. Graeme Bird
    January 13th, 2010 at 13:42 | #68

    “Or you could troll Plimer into going off topic himself, inviting him to defend his “iron sun”…”

    Good thesis. “or explain what was wrong with Wegener and continental drift theory….”

    In short: The continents fit together both ways and not just only one way and there is no wishing this away nor can this fact be rightly ignored. Wegener himself recognized this. But he also must have recognized that the academy was not in the least bit ready for this revelation. Continental drift, until recently, implied that the Atlantic was new and that therefore the Pacific must be old, with massive subduction zone and an ancient floor bed. Turns out that when they actually looked the Pacific floor was young and instead of subduction they had the ring of fire rift-zones.

    They had ignored that the continents fitted both ways in error. And they continue in the same error.

  69. Nick R
    January 13th, 2010 at 14:00 | #69

    It seems that AGW denialists fall into two slightly overlapping groups. On one hand you have the conspiracy theorists (Larouche etc) and on the other there are the armchair pseudo-scientists. An advantage of being a conspiracy theorist is that you do not have to engage in scientific debate (the data is all cooked, they are all liars etc) but the disadvantage is that you look, well… insane. Armchair pseudo-scientists can claim to be reasonable, but the disadvantage of this position is that they actually have to justify their position scientifically. If somebody were to believe that scientific AGW was ‘significantly flawed’ they would require very substantial evidence to overturn thousands of peer reviewed research papers from the world’s top experts.

    Terje- if you are in possession of this kind of evidence I suggest you write a series of technical papers for Nature and Science and settle the issue. If you did I’m sure you would receive a Nobel peace prize for your trouble. If you don’t have significant, hard (i.e. non-refuted) evidence for your position then one has to wonder how you justify it without having to resort to bizarre conspiracy theories.

  70. 2 tanners
    January 13th, 2010 at 15:08 | #70

    I’m with [email protected] No air.

  71. Paul Norton channelling Mark Twain
    January 13th, 2010 at 15:12 | #71

    Never argue with a fool. The audience may not be able to tell the difference.

  72. robert
    January 13th, 2010 at 15:51 | #72

    I suspect that if Professor Quiggin were to refuse this invitation, the supporters of the Moncktons and Plimers would commandeer the Murdoch media saying “Nyah nyah nyah! He gets invited to a debate, and he wimps out”. Therefore, if it were left to me and if I were in Professor Quiggin’s position, I would accept the invitation: simply to be able to say “Here is what I maintain, what is the problem with that?”. Being a complete ignoramus on the topic myself, I have nothing more concrete to contribute on the subject than this.

  73. jquiggin
    January 13th, 2010 at 16:02 | #73

    @Nick R
    Monckton is definitely a conspiracy theorist, first and foremost. Plimer is mostly a pseudo-scientist (his past research in geology is irrelevant to what he is saying here except as a source of status) but does the conspiracy thing from time to time.

  74. Roger Jones
    January 13th, 2010 at 17:18 | #74

    Monckton is one of the finest comedians on the planet. If you don’t believe me, read this. He is beyond parody.

    Plimer does not understand the scientific method, believing in Platonic ideals of “truthiness” (and moreover, knows exactly what it is). He has a Newtonian view of linear causality and tries to apply that to complex systems, does not understand feedbacks and does not appreciate that the main role of skepticism is to overcome cognitive bias, instead being a slave to it.

    A scientist can get away with being a contrarian (and sometimes it is an advantage) but full-on psychological denial is something else.

  75. January 13th, 2010 at 17:27 | #75

    From wikipedia:

    Monckton’s views on how the AIDS epidemic should be tackled have been the subject of some controversy. In an article for The American Spectator entitled “AIDS: A British View”,[39] written for the January 1987 issue of The American Spectator, he argued that “there is only one way to stop AIDS. That is to screen the entire population regularly and to quarantine all carriers of the disease for life. Every member of the population should be blood-tested every month … all those found to be infected with the virus, even if only as carriers, should be isolated compulsorily, immediately, and permanently.” This would involve isolating between 1.5 and 3 million people in the United States (“not altogether impossible”) and another 30,000 people in the UK (“not insuperably difficult”).

  76. Glenn Tamblyn
    January 13th, 2010 at 19:13 | #76

    Wow. This is a hard call John

    Maybe a few basic points to consider. What you might do if you accepted.

    1. Your principle purpose here would be to strike some blows for the debate here in Australia. Monckton will jet away but Plimer carries weight here, particularly with a certain Abbott (or was that Mad Monk). This will be before an Aussie audience, and the transcript will be available for dissemination. If it simply had the effect of removing one of the supports that TMM could lean on, that would make this all worthwhile. Its a pity it’s not Carter up there instead of Plimer. He is probably an easier target and more influential.

    2. What will the format of the ‘debate’ be. Lots of interactive Q&A with a moderator, or larger set-pieces where you can make a case. Would it be just you vs both of them in which case they could tag-team you and that might get ugly. Having a partner who can handle some of the more technical stuff as Donald sugested would help. But if you have a partner, you guys need to tag team as well.

    3. You say that debating the conspiracy theory is the primary goal. I don’t get the sense that the conspiracy theory is the dominant facet of general uncertainty about AGW in the general populace here – in the blogosphere thats a different story. Perhaps rather debate the motivations and psychology behind the people who created the conspiracy theory; the rejection of institutional sources of data – separate the anti-government wacko’s from the simply conservative right wing.

    4. And when targetting Plimer, don’t fall into Monbiot’s trap of trying to paint Plimer as a Liar and getting him to respond. Paint him as a fool and let others draw other conclusions. Use the logical fallacies in his book against him – you could wave his book around instead of him. Have a play list of key, major, and simple points and then be a pollie – stay on message. For example, he discusses the slow rising trend in solar output over the life of the solar system but only in a cursory way. Then later he shows 600 My of temperature and CO2 levels with CO2 much higher in the past with fairly constant temps, and claims that this refutes the idea of CO2’s importance, without reference to what 600 My of increases in solar output means. If Solar output is going up, why isn’t temperature? You don’t mention that Professor? Could it be that reducing CO2 levels are what compensate for rising solar output to keep temps steady? Throw Plimer back at Plimer in front of his audience

    Do this as Professor to Professor, all very civil, so that he can’t do the wounded puppy thing, attacked by lessor mortals. Highlight logical fallacies and that you, as a professor yourself, wouldn’t accept this from YOUR students.

    4. And note that I haven’t mentioned Monckton much. He is the lesser target. A target of opportunity if it arises. And use your background and standing as a Professor of Economics to go after him. Don’t debate Monckton on climate change at all. Debate him on the economics of our response.

    5. Do you have the killer instinct? Can you go into that room knowing that your intention is to rip someones throat out? And how cool are you under pressure?

    6. And can you handle getting a bloody nose if it doesn’t work out? Among anyone whose opinion of you matters, that won’t count, but it could happen. How is the state of your ego today?

    God, I would love an opportunity like this although I would probably give a poorer account of myself than you would. But Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained.

    But the format of the debate is paramount and don’t go 2 against 1. And attack (in the most civil, debating style of course) is the only option. They are the targets, not you. Your not there to beat them. You are there to win the audience (any part of it you can get), anfd the audience isn’t just the people in that hall.

    Also Donald’s point about protecting your servers. Maybe also be wary about anything said on this blog – they will read it before the debate. Maybe even go so far as, if you accept, closing this discussion and deleting it. Come back after the debate and post the full transcript. This is war John, and it aint pretty.

  77. JT
    January 13th, 2010 at 19:32 | #77

    Its tricky – I like to say that if you don’t vote you can’t complain about the outcome. That extrapolates to meaning that you should accept the invitation and put your views up to scrutiny or else keep them to yourself henceforth.

    This having been said, there is a lot of force in the arguments that this is a no win scenario.

    My feeling is that you should go nonetheless.

    If you do go along, be sure not to interrupt Plimer, after all it is “the height of bad manners”

  78. silkworm
    January 13th, 2010 at 19:55 | #78

    The Monckton-Plimer tour is being underwritten by engineer John Smeed and retiree Case Smit to the tune of $100,000. $20,000 will go into Monckton’s pocket. Given this, should you decide to participate in this glorious “debate,” demand a $1000 speaking fee, and tell them you will donate the money to environmental causes. See if they still want you. If they won’t pay you speaking fees, tell them you’ll participate, but then don’t show up. That may help waste some of their resources.

    I see that Fran Barlow beat me to that tagline about pigs: If you wrestle with pigs, you’ll end up in the mud.

  79. Ken N
    January 13th, 2010 at 20:10 | #79

    As I have said here before, I am not very interested in AGW discussions. I have no relevant qualifications and am willing to accept what seems to be the consensus view.
    Some aspects do bother me. Several commenters have said for JQ to participate in the discussion is a “no win” situation. Is it become one of those adversarial battles where winning each debate is important?
    I am also bothered by the decision of Climate Scientists Australia not to debate what they call denialists.
    Surely if you believe something and it’s important to you you should be willing to say what you believe at every opportunity – no matter who else is speaking. And no matter how you might look.
    It is a great pity if this has become one of those political games where you have to be sure you will win or you won’t play.
    Surely it is too important for that.
    I would have thought that JQ and the members of Climate Scientists Australia should appear wherever there might be a chance of convincing one person.

  80. January 13th, 2010 at 20:50 | #80

    So you will be prepared I ahve pasted this from http://www.climatesceptics.com.au

    “Public Presentations on Climate Change
    January and February
    Christopher Lord Monckton Tour
    Global Warming?
    Why did Copenhagen Fail?
    Why has global warming science failed?
    Why are the alarmists wrong?
    Why does the government still want to introduce
    a global warming tax which could bankrupt the nation?

    International commentator and former science and economic policy advisor
    Christopher Lord Monckton will explain why.

    Lord Monckton will be introduced by Professor Ian Plimer, leading academic and author of “Heaven and Earth”.

    A meeting sponsored by the Climate Sceptics party will be held in Newcastle on Thurday 28th January 2010
    at The Banquet Room, New Castle City Hall, King St., Newcastle.
    Admission $2 payable at the door.

    Other meetings are presently being organised around Australia. The itinerary is still to be detailed, but what has been agreed with Lord and Lady Monckton so far is:

    Sydney, January 26 & 27,
    Newcastle, January the 28th,
    Brisbane, January 29th,
    Noosa, January 30th & 31st,
    Melbourne, Feb. 1st & 2nd,
    Canberra, Feb. 3rd,
    Adelaide, Feb. 4th & 5th,
    Perth, Feb. 8th

    The cost of these meetings are being underwritten by concerned individual Australians and so donations towards the cost would be immensely helpful. If you would like to help your donations should be directed to:

    Westpac Bank – Lord Monckton Tour account
    Bank BSB: 035612
    Account: 253068 ”

    Donations will be appreciated as it is hard to fight big brother.

  81. Michael
    January 13th, 2010 at 21:10 | #81

    Ken N :

    It is a great pity if this has become one of those political games where you have to be sure you will win or you won’t play.
    Surely it is too important for that.
    I would have thought that JQ and the members of Climate Scientists Australia should appear wherever there might be a chance of convincing one person.

    There is quite a lot of evidence pointing to the dirty tricks and misrepresentations of data from prominent media savvy denailist vs. some hacked emails showing not much at all. You don’t have to look very far to find it. See books by Guy Pearse, Ian Enting, James Hoggan and Richard Littlemore. Scienctists should debate scientists and economists should debate economists. Plimer and Monckton aren’t serious and have not published any original research on the topic. This is not an opportunity to convince people, it is a farce.

  82. Freelander
    January 13th, 2010 at 21:34 | #82


    Yes. Demand a significant speaking fee. $10,000 at least. If they don’t meet your fee then it is they who wimped out.

  83. Ian Enting
    January 13th, 2010 at 22:12 | #83

    Dawkins and Gould took the line that they wouldn’t debate creationists, because the creationists would count it as a “win” just to be taken seriously enough to be debated.
    With Plimer, not even the other denialists take him seriously. You don’t see much of Bob Carter, Chris de Freitas, David Evans etc defending Plimer, and only a vague supportive letter to the Oz from Bill Kininmonth.
    However, it may be worth asking for $10,000 and taking the risk of them actually accepting.
    Presumably you know of my analysis:
    It gives over 20 other examples of type of misrepresentation that Plimer got confronted with on Lateline.

  84. Stephen L
    January 14th, 2010 at 00:03 | #84

    I’d go with the speaking fee idea as well. Of course they’ll use it to say you’re greedy, but if you phrase it as “On condition of payment equivalent to what Monkton is being paid for the trip, divided by his number of appearances, to be paid to xyz charity” that can only go so far. If they accept, then the value of the money to a well chosen cause will be far more than any damage they get out of the fact you debated them. And you might sway a few undecideds in the audience.

    If they refuse, it makes clear the double standard that’s being played. The Brisbane Institute might say they’re not the ones paying Monkton, so say to them that since they’re dancing to Smeed and Smit’s tune, those two should cough up.

  85. Ken N
    January 14th, 2010 at 04:49 | #85

    C’mon folks, be sensible. The Brisbane Institute is a non profit think tank sponsored by the University of Queensland, Brisbane City Council and other worthy organisations.

    How do you think it would look for JQ to demand a substantial speaking fee from it?

  86. Freelander
    January 14th, 2010 at 05:23 | #86

    They don’t need to pay for the speaking fee. The climate change deniers could pay for it. And anyway, JQ could donate the fee to some worthwhile cause like the IPCC. I wouldn’t imagine that the ‘Brisbane City Council’ is aptly described as a worthy organisation, maybe worthwhile, and even if it were, mere sponsorship by them does not, of itself, confer worthiness. If the Brisbane Institute is like most think tanks it is not likely to be worthy and if they sponsor or organise a venue for a crude climate denialist propaganda tour by a pair of self-interested fiction-as fact spouting right-wing ratbag loonies, then they certainly are not worthy.

    Moreover, $10,000 is hardly a substantial speaking fee. JQ could always get advice on what would be an appropriate fee from some of those who do it for a living. Every opportunity to get some not-hard earned right-wing money into non-right-wing hands should be grasped.

  87. Freelander
    January 14th, 2010 at 05:24 | #87

    The CIS, the IPA and maybe the Heartbreak Institute could have a whip-round to come up with the speaking fee.

  88. Alice
    January 14th, 2010 at 06:28 | #88

    No air and no sideshow fee. Beneath your dignity and reputation JQ. Its nothing but a sideshow for boguns and rednecks.

  89. Freelander
    January 14th, 2010 at 07:17 | #89

    @Tony G

    Apparently, they don’t know what begging the question is. Surely in the series of questions they could include “When did you stop beating your wife?”?

    Expect dumb things to be said.

  90. Freelander
    January 14th, 2010 at 07:21 | #90

    @Tony G

    Meetings are being underwritten by ‘concerned Australian individuals’. They are always ‘individuals’; although they like to hunt in packs. Concerned they should be, because evidently they have plenty of problems.

    If they are underwriting things then they won’t mind shelling out for Prof Quiggin’s nominal speakers fee. $10,000 shouldn’t be too hard for them to scrape together.

  91. Jill Rush
    January 14th, 2010 at 08:19 | #91

    What is your time worth? This is a situation where it is unlikely to have any positive. Those who are prepared to pay to come along to hear people with well known views are “believers” who are capable of cognitive dissonance.

    All of the well known views about conspiracy, religious belief etc reflect their own state of mind. You have a long standing policy on this site not to engage in the delusional views of deniers because it is a waste of time and energy and isn’t productive. Unless there was a big fat fee this would apply to this situation as well.

    At the moment it seems that there is nothing in this offer for you as you will have no control of the situation; and you will be used as the straw man for a hostile crowd of true believers who have only come along to hear their gurus; and you will be donating your time to enhance the reputations of people who need no encouragement.

  92. TerjeP (say Tay-a)
    January 14th, 2010 at 08:45 | #92

    Nick R – we are not allowed to discuss AGW science on this blog. As and when JQ lifts that ban I’d be happy to discuss the factors that make me a skeptic. Please note however that even though I’m a skeptic I’m not claiming that the AGW theory is wrong, merely that it isn’t conclusively settled. I’ve stated several times that I would support a revenue neutral carbon tax and that nuclear power should not be prohibited. I’m not sticking my head in the sand.

  93. Ubiquity
    January 14th, 2010 at 09:41 | #93


    Monbiot vs Plimer, was clearly Monbiot and Jones vs Plimer and it went well for Monbiot I thought. In this case I get the impression you are out numbered, this could be a disadvantage. Furthermore no amount of “truth telling” will win you many points in this debate. I suggest that it is in your best interest to protect your reputation first and foremost. Reputation is everything. Tell them you will meet them on neutral ground.

    Of course if you must debate then make sure you get them to agree to a re-match on your turf. It is only fair. Ask them why they picked you to debate and what they expected to achieve. Reinforce your credentials and how you can contribute to the debate on Climate Change, remind them you are an economist not a climate sicentist. Ask Plimer how his book sales are going then mention that it was a marvelous piece of fiction. Ask Plimer why he bought Monckton along, and was he familiar with Monckton solution to the Aids epidemic. Never address Monckton directly, that will irritate him.

    Your responses should mirror theirs, keep the responses short, the less you say the more credibility apparent. This debate is not about the science, you won’t win on science here, you will be dissapointed if you try. This is politics and I despise it for the dishonesty it delivers.

    Of course I am still a skeptic.

  94. John Mashey
    January 14th, 2010 at 09:42 | #94

    1) Don’t do it, so something else (3) below.

    2) It may be possible to have a live debate about science when the participants are actually arguing the merits of several points of view. I really don’t know how to have a remotely sensible debate when one side wants to create confusion and the other clarity – the field is too tilted.
    If I had to “win” a debate, I would always take the “confusion” side. For example, if I had 5 minutes, I’d just recite as many memes from John Cook’s Skeptical Science as I could, and dare you to refute me in your 5 minutes. All it takes for me to win is for each person in the audience to have one of those stick in their minds. “Mars is warming? hmmm…”

    3) SO, what I would do is write a cogent short piece explaining why such debate formats are about the dumbest thing going, point at a few of Monckton & Plimer’s videos (assuming such available) to illustrate the absurdity.
    Ask BI why they are promoting anti-science with a format that guarantees such outcomes.
    Ask them to prove why think this sort of debate format makes the slightest sense, except possibly as creation of ignorance. Is that BI’s mission? Maybe tell them you’ll come if they can publish a convincing set of arguments in the face of past data. But stop playing defense.

    4) I don’t think your problem is the tag team of Plimer & Monckton, it’s BI…
    and people might be asking hard questions about why they are doing this. They will still be there when P+M have gone…

    5) See my comment at RC for why such debates are bad ideas, with a pointer to a somewhat-reasonable blog-debate, and why it was different.

  95. January 14th, 2010 at 09:52 | #95

    As one who could be called an (unofficial) conspiracy theorist, I would certainly like to seem more debates such as that which occurred between Monbiot and Plimer.

    I have been assailed in recent months by a range of superficially plausible arguments by Global Warming Deniers, whose views on other issues I largely respect. Some even consider themselves committed environmentalists.

    It would be nice to see them put to rest as quite a few seemed to be by Monbiot (although I wouldn’t particuarly mind being proven wrong about Global Warming either ).

    Whether the debate at at the Brisbane Institute can be as useful as that between Monbiot and Plimer, with all the difficulties mentioned, is not clear. I hope someone plans to record in on video or at least on sound if it does proceed.

  96. jquiggin
    January 14th, 2010 at 10:05 | #96

    @TerjeP (say Tay-a)
    As you say, I discourage discussion of climate science, except from those qualified to discuss it. I do however, encourage derision directed at those (including you, it seems) who take it on themselves to form opinions contrary to the findings of mainstream science on issues on which they lack the requisite knowledge to read and understand the scientific literature.

  97. Marginal Notes
    January 14th, 2010 at 10:39 | #97

    John, I’ve changed my mind. If there is a second speaker with the appropriate scientific background and presentation skills I think it could be a productive encounter. Seeing how Plimer did himself in on Lateline when subject to well-informed and persistent questioning, the public exposure of these two frauds could be a very positive thing. Focusing on the global scientific and red-green dictatorship conspiracy theories will be a good strategy. I guess it depends a bit on the format. No speaker fee of course! I’ll buy you a beer as a concerned Australian.

  98. TerjeP (say Tay-a)
    January 14th, 2010 at 12:01 | #98

    John – the derision encouragement has been noted. In terms of fostering respectful dialogue I’ll see what I can do to reciprocate.

  99. Ian Enting
    January 14th, 2010 at 12:27 | #99

    Probably you’re better off without it, but if the conspiracy thing comes your way again:
    1. There’s a nice book”The Flat earth” by Christine Garwood (Macmillan 2007) that
    notes the claims of conspiracy by “globulists” such as Isaac Newton to misrepresent
    the shape of the earth.
    2. For AGW, communist world government is not the only thing meant to be motivating
    climate scientists – there are:
    * funding (hence Mike Tobis’ “only in it for the gold” blog)
    * front for nuclear industry
    * establishing a new pantheistic/pagan religion
    * genocide (see CEC for details).

  100. Glenn Tamblyn
    January 14th, 2010 at 13:36 | #100

    @Ian Enting

    Ian (I assume that is Prof’)

    If John accepts the challenge, maybe you could be his second as suggested by some here. You could both be up there waving Plimers book around and shooting it full of holes

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