My one-on-one meeting with Bill McKibben

UPDATED 6/8/15 (comment added by Bill McKibben, see end of article) About a month ago I got an e-mail from Bill McKibben telling me that he would be in my town to do a presentation on June 5th. He wanted to know if he could meet with me and just sit down over a beer and talk about things. I jumped at the chance. This photo below was taken yesterday, June 5th, at the Sierra Nevada Taproom in Chico, CA just before 6PM PDT after I had a two hour conversation with Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org.

mckibben-watts-06-05-2014

Bill McKibben at left, Anthony Watts, at right

One of the most interesting things about Bill McKibben is that he has always been civil and courteous to me unlike some others that are on the other side of the climate debate aisle. So, I didn’t think twice about meeting him because I knew that despite our differences we would likely have a very interesting and productive conversation.

My prediction came true. We had conversations that spanned everything from stories about our families and how we grew up to the current debates over climate and energy. We also spoke of the personal challenges that each of us face due to who we are and how we are perceived by others.

I didn’t make any recordings and I didn’t make any notes, I also did not tell anyone I had a time of this meeting and I don’t think Bill did either. I really didn’t want to because the last thing I wanted was to have someone come along and disrupt it. As I mentioned to Bill that some of the local environmentalists have what I would describe as a “severe hatred” of my position on climate change and because I have the to temerity to dare write about it. In fact, he was going to be addressing a number of environmentally oriented people right after our meeting at an event cosponsored by our local alternate radio station and the Butte Environmental Council. I suggested to Bill that perhaps he should mention that we had a pleasant and productive meeting to see if a “groan” might erupt from the audience. He said he would but I have not heard back from him yet as to whether or not my prediction came true.

Bill and I both had a couple of beers and we shared a dessert all the while chatting away as if we’d known each other for years. Essentially we have, but we just never met in person before.

Below are a few highlights that I remember from our conversation.

What we agreed upon:

We both agreed that tackling real pollution issues was a good thing. When I say real pollution issues, I mean things like water pollution, air pollution, Ocean plastics pollution, and other real tangible and solvable problems.

We both agreed that as technology advances, energy production is likely to become cleaner and more efficient.

We both agreed that coal use especially in China and India where there are not significant environmental controls is creating harm for the environment and the people who live there.

We both agreed that climate sensitivity, the response to a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, hasn’t been nailed down yet. Bill thinks it’s on the high side while I think it’s on the low side neither of us thought the number had been correctly defined yet.

We both talked about how nuclear power especially Thorium-based nuclear power could be a solution for future power needs that would provide a stable base electrical grid while at the same time having far fewer problems than the current fission products based on uranium and plutonium.

We both agreed that the solar power systems we have put on our respective homes have been good things for each of us.

We both agreed that there are “crazy people” on both sides of the debate and that each of us have suffered personally at the hands of some of the actions of these people (you know who you are). We both spoke of some of the hatred and threats that we have endured over the years, some of which required police intervention.

We both agreed that if we could talk to our opponents more there would probably be less rhetoric, less noise, and less tribalism that fosters hatred of the opposing side.

We both agreed that we enjoy the musings of Willis Eschenbach on WUWT, and we spoke about his most recent essay describing the self-regulating mechanism that may exist due to albedo changes in the inter-tropical convergence zone (ITCZ).

We both agreed that it would be a great thing if climate skeptics were right, and carbon dioxide increases in the atmosphere wasn’t quite as big a problem as we have been led to believe.

What we disagreed upon:

Climate sensitivity was the first issue that we disagreed about. While we both thought the number has not been nailed down yet, Bill thought the number was high, while I thought the number was lower such as the kind of numbers we were getting from the recent climate sensitivity analysis of Judith Curry and Nicolas Lewis. I spent a fair amount of time explaining to Bill how I believe, as do many others, that the effect of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is now approaching saturation point, such that a doubling of CO2 from this point forward might not be as catastrophic rise problematic as we have been told.

Bill seems to think that carbon dioxide influences along with other man-made influences have perturbed our atmosphere, which he considers “finally finely tuned”, enough to create some of the severe weather events that we have witnessed recently. He specifically spoke of the recent flooding in Texas calling it an “unnatural outlier”, and attributed it to man-made influences on our atmospheric processes. I pointed out that we only have about 100 years or so of good weather records and that we don’t really know for sure what the true outlier bounds are for such kinds of events. For example I told him of the great 1861 flood in California, followed by an exceptional drought within a few years. At the time, both events seemed like fantastic outliers. I also spoke of studies that have been attributing more extreme rainfall to the effects of cities.

And there just doesn’t seem to be any significant trend as this graph shows:

Global Precipitation, from CRU TS3 1° grid. DATA SOURCE

[Willis Eschenbach writes] As in all of the records above, there is nothing at all anomalous in the recent rainfall record. The average varies by about ± 2%. There is no trend in the data.

As does this one:

https://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/us-rainfall-events-trend.jpg

Bill also seem to think that many other weather events could be attributable to the changes that humans have made on our planet. He was quite sincere about this belief and cited many examples of events he witnessed or saw the aftermath of. I could tell that his perspective was one of empathy as were many of his concerns. But I came away with the impression that Bill feels such things more than he understands them in a physical sense. This was not unexpected because Bill is a writer by nature, and his tools of the trade are to convey human experience into words. I can’t really fault him for feeling these things and expanding on them but I did note he seemed quite resistive to factual rebuttals because they didn’t assuage the feelings he harbored.

For example I tried to explain how the increase in reporting through cell phones, video cameras, 24-hour cable news, and the Internet have made severe weather events seem much more frequent and menacing than they used to be.

Bill and I disagreed about the usefulness of computer models and I pointed out how models have been diverging from the measurements. Bill seemed concerned that we have to act on the advice of the models and the people who run them because the risk of not doing so could be a fateful decision. I pointed out that mankind has been quite adaptable and resilient, and thrived on warmer periods of Earth’s history than cooler ones, while he seemed to think that we are more fragile especially when it relates to crop production then one might think.

A few other points that we discussed:

Bill and I talked about how government can sometimes over-regulate things to the point of killing them, such as some of the problems I had with the California Air Resources Board and my attempt to start an electric car company in 2008. He was surprised to learn that electric cars in California have to be emissions tested just like gasoline powered cars, instead of simply looking into under the hood and noting the electric motor and checking a box on a form. He laughed all the way through my tales of woe trying to deal with that insane bureaucracy, and was quite sympathetic.

I told Bill that up until recently I had trusted (but considered misguided) the climate scientists at NOAA/NCDC, but with the recent publication of the Karl 2015 paper and some of the data manipulation shenanigans that I witnessed, I no longer have that trust. Bill responded with he doesn’t know those people but he believed that Dr. James Hansen had integrity. I asked Bill that if the people at NOAA/NCDC had the same integrity he believed Jim Hansen has, why would they have to adjust data that had been previously considered okay, and why would they not publish data from the most state-of-the-art Climate Reference Network in our monthly and yearly US. State of the Climate reports, but instead rely on the old and problematic surface temperature network that is full adjustments, assumptions, and biases – none of which exist in the Climate Reference Network? He didn’t have an answer.

Bill and I both lamented how some people perceived us on opposite sides of the aisle. He was annoyed that some people see him as an “idiot”, while I spoke of my annoyance of being called a “denier” when I don’t deny that the climate has warmed; I just don’t think it’s as big a problem as some others do. I can tell you this: I don’t think Bill McKibben is an idiot. But I do think he perceives things more on a feeling or emotional level and translates that into words and actions. People that are more factual and pragmatic might see that as an unrealistic response.

Bill was amazed at my ability to keep WUWT going all these years without having any budget, sponsor or funding. I explained to him, as I have many times to readers that doing this is little more than an extension of all my years in broadcasting. In broadcasting we never allow for “dead air”; we always have to keep fresh content going and thanks to the help of many people who contribute their time for moderation, in the form of guest articles, and in the form of comments I am able to keep this enterprise fresh and relevant. Bill says he reads every day and I took that as a compliment.

In closing:

I offered Bill the ability to inspect what I was going to write about our meeting before I published it. He declined saying it’s okay, that he’ll just comment on whatever I write.

All in all it was a good meeting and while we might fervently disagree on some (but not all) issues, I can say that Bill McKibben was a pleasant individual to talk to and that I could count him among one of the more friendly people in the climate debate.


 

UPDATE: 6/8/15

In comments Bill says that he really isn’t for nuclear power of any kind. I got the impression that he was against conventional fission reactors, due to the problems and costs, but because he voiced no strong opinions to me about Thorium power,( that Jim Hansen also agrees with me on) I got the impression he was open to such new technology. Apparently, he isn’t. His comment is reproduced below:

Just a couple of points

1) It doesn’t actually bother me when people call me an idiot–I’m used to it, and it’s always possible it’s true

2) I don’t think thorium or cold fusion or anything like it is the future of power; I’d wager all things nuclear are mostly relics of the past, in no small part because they cost like sin. But the point I was trying to make is that the new fact in the world is the remarkably rapid fall in the price of renewable energy. That solar panels cost so much less than they did just a few years ago strikes me as a destabilizing factor for anyone’s world view

3) Sierra Nevada beer is even better fresh out of the tap at the brewery than it is in a bottle

I had a fine evening at the Masonic Hall in Chico following with a large crowd of local environmentalists, celebrating the week’s many big divestment victories. For the record, I mentioned my drink with Anthony and no one hissed or groaned. A few did chuckle.

 

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“But I do think he perceives things moron a feeling or emotional level”
=====================================
I assume you mean “more on.”
Given the tone of the rest of the article, you may want to edit that (:

daniel barasch

please correct “moron” to “more on” :)….
I can tell you this: I don’t think Bill McKibben is an idiot. But I do think he perceives things moron a feeling or emotional level and translates that into words and actions.

Mariwarcwm

He comes at things from a religious position. I like to check facts, like the logarithmic nature of CO2 warming, the evidence from previous warmings during this Holocene Interglacial, the influence of the Milankovitch Cycles on the Pleistocene Ice Age Interglacials. There was a time when people thought that the Sun went round the Earth. Rational Galileo worked it out. The rest came from Bill McKibben’s angle.

mellyrn

When you look at the sky with your naked eye, out of the thousands of clearly-celestial objects you can see, only three/3 — Mars, Jupiter and Saturn — appear to do anything other than neatly orbit the Earth, and they only do that every once in a while. Yet they were the ancients’ only indication that Earth was not the center of everything, those three “wandering stars” and their occasional reversals.
How quick would you be to ignore ten thousand data points, in favor of accommodating three?
Moderns do not appreciate what a huge intellectual accomplishment it was, to work out heliocentrism.
[Technically, there were seven: The Sun, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and .. the moon were considered the “planets” (wanderers against the fixed background of the stars. .mod]

rgbatduke

And you can see Venus, Jupiter and Saturn at the same time in the early evening — having just missed Mercury that was visible at the setting of the sun until around a month and a half ago.
People do not appreciate the fact that Ptolemy’s model with epicycles worked — it was just enormously complex, like an Orrery. And Plato and the Pythagoreans had set the stage for it with his Ideals and the notions that everything is related to simple geometry, the movements “in the spheres”. It was also utterly free from internal sense other than this complex design was the will of a complex designer. Reality is actually far simpler and more consistently connected than this model allowed for.
But it wasn’t until Tycho Brahe, rich and idle in Denmark’s long cold winter nights, performed years’ worth of systematic observations of the precise positions of the stars at precise dates and times in the night sky and was able to use parallax against the background of the distant stars to resolve distances to the planets that his lab rat (mathematician Johannes Kepler) was able to discover that the orbits were absolutely around the Sun, not the Earth, and that they were not circular but rather were elliptical (later shown to be conic sections, later still to be shown to be a nearly unsolvably complex set of coupled orbits that were slow perturbations of conic sections). Galileo also made observations — some of the first telescopic observations — of sky-objects that were not orbiting the sun, notably Jupiter’s moons. Sadly, Galileo largely ignored Kepler’s much more carefully done and mathematically precise work. Both Tycho Brahe and Kepler had occasion to observe Supernovae, and these too shook the prevailing worldview that the stellar portion of the sky was “fixed and immutable”. Not at all. On a decadal scale, there was observable change (including comets).
IMO Kepler was the single person most responsible for the failure of the Heliocentric model. Brahe’s observations and his analysis were really beyond criticism — simple parallax was an idea too easy to grasp, and worked perfectly and consistently to measure the precise positions of the planets as they varied in time. Brahe thought (mistakenly) that the stars were fixed, because he was unable to observe any parallax in their relative motion, but the problem was simply that his great circles were not large enough or precise enough to measure arc-seconds, which is the scale of parallax to the nearest stars (and that the nearest stars are not visible from Denmark!). It took over 200 years (1838) for measuring technology to improve to the point where the distance to the nearest stars could be measured, and it wasn’t until the telescope technology of the early 20th century that enough stars could be observed and the distances to them measured via parallax to establish the Hertzsprung-Russel diagram and a way of estimating the distance to a star based on its type (established by its spectrum) its inferred brightness (total radiated power) and the observed intensity of the light. It wasn’t until 1924 that Edwin Hubble, using Cepheid Variable stars (100,000 times brighter than the sun and with a relationship between their period and their brightness) as a “stanard candle”, was able to measure the distance to the nearest “nebulae” and show that they were galaxies made up of hundreds of billions of stars (in in due course, showed that Earth isn’t the center of the Universe, that the Earth’s sun isn’t the center of the Universe, that the Earth’s Galaxy isn’t the center of the Universe, and in the latter half of the 20th century through the present) that the Universe probably doesn’t have a boundary (certainly not within something on the order of 500 billion light years, hundreds of times further than the farthest back and away we can see) so, paradoxically, you are free to consider your own navel the Center of It All as all points are in the middle of an infinite line.
The biggest problem with all of this is that it directly contradicted a fair number of verses from the Bible, as well as a body of Greek Philosophy that was taught as true largely by authority all over the western world. Sadly, that body did not include the work of Aristarchus of Samos, who proposed a Heliocentric model in the 3rd century BCE. It wasn’t until 1822 that the Pope signed a decree allowing the publication of Heliocentric works in Rome, although they removed Newton’s Principia and other heliocentric works from the Index of Forbidden Books in 1758, well over a century after the publication of the data that proved that the heliocentric model was much “righter” than the Ptolemaic model of motion in and of the spheres. The Bible verses were basically proven wrong, stimulating the continued development of apologia and “hermeneutics”. The Bible never recovered its former mantle of “infallibility”, and today nearly all of the Abrahamic religions openly acknowledge that the Bible is not a reliable source of knowledge about the real world, although there are a few holdouts.
rgb

Mariwarcwm, rgbatduke and mellyrn,
You might enjoy this.

OK S.

Thanks for the link, Smokey.
Very nice reading.

LHFRY

This is the problem with most of the left – feelings take precedence over facts. When “global warming” became “climate change” it was obvious what we were dealing with. If the facts support your position, there is no need to make an obscurantist change to your terminology.

johnofenfield

A very civilised conversation it seems. The true essence of life. (Moron = more on: Freud would have enjoyed that).

Mike

We both agreed that it would be a great thing if climate skeptics were right, and carbon dioxide increases in the atmosphere wasn’t quite as big a problem as we have been led to believe.

That is possibly the most significant thing to get from an alarmist.
From the way that many seem to be wishing for Arctic sea ice to collapse and for a super El Nino to boost global temps, it would seem that for most the last thing they want is this not be a problem.
If Bill said that , there is some hope. He will probably get booed for saying so though.

Guy

Mike,
Yes, the alarmists seem to want things to get worse. However, it seems some skeptics want things to get colder while believing warmer is better. I am embarrassed to say I am in this group.

Jason Calley

Hey Mike, “We both agreed that it would be a great thing if climate skeptics were right, and carbon dioxide increases in the atmosphere wasn’t quite as big a problem as we have been led to believe.”
Yes, I was struck also that that may be the most important statement in the article. A sincere warmist may hope that things are not as bad as they suspect. On the other hand, a CAGW cultist becomes angry at the very suggestion that the planet is not being destroyed. Kudos to McKibben for that.

Paul Coppin

Thing is, climate skeptics are right – “carbon dioxide increases in the atmosphere wasn’t quite as big a problem as we have been led to believe”, and it makes no damn difference to the McKibbens. His article WaPo the other day might put the lie to what you two think you may have agreed on…

Soren F

I, not convinced about AD20GW (anthro-dominated 20th-c global-warming), for sure would prefer cooling now.

etudiant

Excellent! Having a few beers with a fellow human being is a great way to establish a dialog.
Ideally, it should be a normal part of communications.
I’d love to see similar interactions with other AGW proponents, it would aid in bringing understanding.

Jim Waters

I suggest that you change “moron” in the fourth from the last paragraph to “more on”
[Fixed, thanks. -mod]

Well done both of you

I think you meant to write ‘finely tuned’ instead of ‘finally tuned.’
Mr. McKibben, great conversation, could you sincerely and Seriously pass it on to anyone who calls us ‘deniers’?

Alan Robertson

Since Daryl Hannah has been so outspoken on climate issues, maybe she’d like to get together with me and discuss…

Stevan Makarevich

She’s probably too busy, but I’m sure RK Pachauri has free time now and would love to meet with you!

Alan Robertson

That’s it for you! Sabers Pistols at 20 paces!

Alan Robertson

Oops meant to say, Cabers at 20 paces…

Mike Henderson

Ah, d’ye nae ken hernias?

Bruce

A most interesting discussion. If it happens again I’d like to see something on the philosophy of the human ego and how it seems to go without question that just because there IS climate change, mankind MUST be causing it. Now THAT exchange would be fun!

Guy

And that it is necessarily bad and not potentially very good.

“… doing this [WUWT] is little more than an extension of all my years in broadcasting.”
Aha! Finally, a statement from Anthony I have trouble believing!
Thank you Bill for contacting Anthony. One thing that is in distressingly short supply is people sitting down for a friendly chat.

Brute

I have trouble believing that a website with the traffic of WUWT does not generate thousands of dollars from ads. At least.

” He specifically spoke of the recent flooding in Texas calling it an “unnatural outlier”, and attributed it to man-made influences on our atmospheric processes”
Having lived in Texas for a long time now, I can promise that the recent flooding event was not unusual at all. In fact, Austin has somewhat of a tradition for Memorial Day flooding.

McKibben doesn’t sound sufficiently technically knowledgeable to actually understand the issue he stands for – so he parrots what he hears that suits his desires.

MarkW

I recently had a geologist assure me that fraking was causing the earthquakes in Oklahoma because there had never been earthquakes in Oklahoma before. She persisted with this belief even after I showed her the Oklahoma geologic service page showing earthquakes going back into the 1800’s.
The fact that she had never heard of earthquakes in Oklahoma was sufficient to prove to her that earthquakes must be a new phenomena.

Alan Robertson

MarkW- I’ve seen that phenomena in play so many times that I’m convinced it must be coded into the human psyche, something like: “I don’t know it, so it is not true.”
It’s something which I have to be on guard against in my own responses to the world.

McKibben doesn’t sound sufficiently technically knowledgeable to actually understand the issue he stands for – so he parrots what he hears that suits his desires.

Just like 97% of the rest of us…

This is true. And I really don’t like it when an ignorant activist tells me that because I drive a pickup truck, I am partially responsible for a six-year-old boy and his four-year-old sister getting swept to their deaths in the Blanco River.

Bear

One possible reason for the flooding getting worse? More asphalt, more concrete, more houses = more impenetrable surfaces.

TedM

Spot on.

JohnB

Exactly. The rain isn’t any worse but it can no longer soak into the ground. It immediately becomes runoff into the waterways.

DonM

Nope, even close..
Measure the man-made impervious area in Texas (or any other non northeast state) … measure the non-impervious area … divide the former by the later … you get a very small number.
Localized ponding comes from impervious areas; regional flooding is and always has been regional flooding. The fact that people build (create impervious areas) in convenient areas (near the drainage ways) is the reason that they get wet.

Billy Liar

Funnily enough Texas appears high up on the list of World Record Point Precipitation Measurements having achieved a world record for the most amount of rain to fall in 2.75 hours at 22 ins (559mm). This occurred in D’Hanis in Texas on … wait for it … 31st May 1935 (four days after Memorial Day).
Source NOAA:
http://nws.noaa.gov/oh/hdsc/record_precip/record_precip_world.html

Sam The First

This is certainly the case Bear, in the UK, where we have had some catastrophic flooding in recent years.
Other factors include neglect of the waterways (no dredging etc); the Environment Agency forbidding locals to touch the minor waterways even when it was obvious to those locals (some elderly) that a problem was growing, and they had asked for action; failure to maintain floodgates which in times of heavy rain in the past has been closed upstream from a town or village by said locals, so directing floods onto the flood plains (low lying meadows) maintained for the purpose; persistent building on such floodplains in spite of all advice to the contrary – and so on, and so forth.
In other words, every single instance seems to have been due to human mismanagement in the modern way: ie, an ignorant bureauracy insisting it knows best, and ignoring the lessons of history. It then compounds the problem, by forbidding people with local knowledge to help themselves.

Janice The American Elder

I grew up in Southern California, before the big storm drainage projects were done. The flooding looked very much like Austin and Houston. Put in a couple of trillion dollars of drainage ditches, which will be dry 99.99% of the time, and the problem will be solved. Even though it seems stupid to have large empty ditches, they would save lives and property during flood season. And be a great place to film movies and for kids to drive bicycles down during the dry seasons.

inMAGICn

“Them”

robert_g

inMAGICn
thanks for resurrecting this memory! sleepless nights as a kid.

If the recent flooding in Texas was an “unnatural outlier” attributable to man, why wasn’t the pronounced drought the past 3 years an unnatural outlier attributable to man — a view some organizations held.
Not only is Texas flooding a natural occurrence, Texas relies upon it. Check out the multi-year history tabs for the various reservoirs in Texas at http://www.waterdatafortexas.org/reservoirs/statewide
Lake Travis was at 37% a month ago, now at 80% with 560,000 new acre feet. Lake Medina outside San Antonio was below 4% just a month ago and is now 57%.
See also: Richland-Chambers, Sam Rayburn, Lake Tawakoni, Lake Texoma, Whitney Lake.

David Springer

Yahoo on Lake Travis! I live on the shore which is now 300 feet closer, no hazards that aren’t well known, all the boat ramps in the water, private docks mostly floating, and lots of boaters again.
Lake Buchanan however didn’t get refilled all that much. A rain bomb hit the Pedernales watershed, which feeds into the Colorado downstream of Buchanan, and Lake Travis impounded the entire thing without even reaching into its own flood plain.

Children are easily terrified – children 30 years old and younger think that only THEIR generation has ever experienced floods, drought, storms, etc. – they see every normal storm as a human-caused event – it is like the human race under 30 has regressed into Medieval Times and I can easily imagine them looking for witches to blame…

Paul

“and I can easily imagine them looking for witches to blame”
Found ’em, it’s US living our lives.

Glenn999

Bill McKibben should have a sit down with Joe Bastardi. He would be amazed at the past weather and would start to understand how cyclical weather is. A bet you Joe would be a blast to have a beer with!

spren

Just a crazy guess, but seeing how Joe is from State College, PA, I bet you would have more than just one beer. I’m also from western PA and know how things are done out there.

David Springer

I live on the shore of Lake Travis. It came up 38 feet so far. Thank God. There’s a local saying here from the old timers which I guess includes me now: Our weather is constant drought punctuated by an occasional flood. McKibben calling the flood unnatural is just him doing what he always does which is making crap up as he goes along.

Warren in New Zealand

And thanks to this http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/11/05/how-i-got-my-life-back-my-hearing-has-been-restored-to-near-normal/ I just know you looked forward to the meeting, knowing you would be able to hear and understand everything Bill said, in a Bar/Restaurant.
Well done for accepting the invitation Anthony.

Two of the most significant events in the whole global warming debate combined there, thanks Warren. This post among other things comprises a brilliant introduction for the newcomer.

markl

I can’t think of too many one on one talks that wouldn’t go well with a beer. It’s good to hear that there are some warmists that will still engage in dialogue.

Paul Westhaver

Anthony I have been reading and commenting on your site for many years and I have 2 observations.
I think that the description of the meeting with Bill was touching and represents a heartfelt desire of yours to bring good people together and simply talk. Great photo!
I have aggregated many of your attitudes towards the environment and global warming but never have you so succinctly assembled your major positions in such a concise array. I seem to be in relative harmony with your broader view. Likely since I read so many of your articles. Thanks.
Bill, Thank-you too for your convivial repast with Anthony. We all want to do our best to leave a better world for or children. Let us keep talking, here if you will, and close the gap in our POVs.

NoFixedAddress

Anthony,
Great to see and kudos to Bill and yourself.

So you only disagreed on the important points – surprise.
It sounds like McKibben isn’t a Cardinal of the Church of CAGW, just one of those people who sings along without actually understanding or thinking about what he’s doing. A true believer. If only he would sit down and have a good long think.
Anyone who thinks climate models (programmed by CAGW profiteers) must be acted on because (paraphrasing) “they’e the best information we have” is a moron, once models diverge from reality they’re useless. Following the advice of climate modelers would be fine if it only led to positive consequences, but fiddling with the economies of every country in the world while restricting the availability of cheap energy is not harmless.
I despise these people.

I understand your message, but your use of moron does a disservice to the skeptic side and I am sure Mr. Watts is not appreciative.
Let the other side use pejoratives as they have been, including Obama – it debases them. Over a number of years reading articles, reading postings to same, it is just plain disheartening. I know the AGW meme is driven by a political agenda; it is supported by deliberate deception that emanates from the the same Government agenda due to funding. The AGW propaganda now exists in Common Core and has existed via the media for many years. Critical thinking has been replaced by emotion and selfish interests.

I don’t even think McKibben is being political – that wouldn’t fit with instigating the meeting. I think he’s one of the useful idiots – albeit a noisy one – who understands enough to cling to the ideas put in his head but not enough to question them. A dangerous individual.

D. Cohen

I also despise people who resort to “feelings” when it’s time to think. Note how easy it is to go around preening about what great “feelings” you have, as opposed to doing something constructive like thinking things through. And it is completely out-of-line to respond to difficult questions with a feelings-based “How dare you!” or “I hate you!” type of response.
Historically speaking, thinking leads to study and experiment while feelings lead to people being killed in grotesque and painful ways.

David A

Was Bill asked why he blew up children in a video?

David A

It is a fair question, and not inflammatory. The video was inflammatory.

Philip

Bill didn’t blow up children in a video. He was disgusted by the No Pressure video and stopped associating with 10:10, the organisation that produced it. http://spectator.org/blog/23768/corporate-partners-out-1010org-cosponsors

Show me his condemnation of it in public, and the subsequent total refutation and closure of that group by the climastrologist community and those who fund them. Else it sounds more like a “Darn! Why didn’t I (my group) think of something that visually stunning first?” from Gore’s apostles and priests.

takebackthegreen

In other words “I feel McKibben is a bad guy, and facts don’t change my feelings. Present me with facts and I will move the bar.”
We are hardwired to see incorrect thinking in others and ignore it in ourselves. Isn’t it great to be human?

He may have one too many X chromosomes.

Good for both of you. I have always enjoyed McKibben’s writing about nature and, despite his views on AGW, have tremendous respect for him as a writer.
These are the conversations which will remove the bile from the debate. We need many more of them.

Gary

Well done, both of you, for engaging in the discussions Bill Nye was calling for just the other day. To Bill, especially, thank you for reaching out despite the criticisms you will get from less descent people. WUWT again proves it’s a place for reasonable people to have reasonable conversations about important matters without getting a bent out of shape.

Craig

Bill, I will leave you with a quote from an unknown source:
“The best way to win an argument is to begin by being right.”
Bill, feelings and emotions are all very well but does that help your position when the unbiased facts get in the way?

This is really interesting and soulful.

The point about computer models is fascinating. As an IT expert with over 20 years of experience, I’ve noticed before that people who aren’t computer experts, often have a distorted view of what they can do.
Computers are remarkable, and are likely to become much more so – but math modelling has its limits!

One thing that would keep me from looking for a climate modeling gig is that I have no idea how one can model water in the atmosphere. One moment it’s saturating (or supersaturating) the atmosphere and doing its best to be the dominant greenhouse gas. The next moment it’s turning into a cloud and reflecting nearly all the sunlight back into space.
Maybe I could start with the Atacama Desert.

jorgekafkazar

I don’t know, Ric. That Atacama is mighty small.

lee

First you tip 5fl.oz. into the computer…

Planet8788

Exactly Ric. I’ve said the same thing 150 times. The greatest greenhouse gas is also the greatest albedo. And we still know squat about how, why and when certain clouds form.

Dave Worley

It’s not just the albedo effect of clouds. It’s radiant energy high in the troposphere during the phase change. Just look at any IR satellite photo. Photons into space.

joelobryan

And until the first sentient computer program arises from sufficient complexity that can pass true Turing tests and exhibit novel emergent behaviors, then those climate models simply produce the “finely tuned” results the creators expected.

jorgekafkazar

Yes. “Novel emergent behaviors.” But novels are fiction, and so are all climate models. They’re combinations of determinate, stochastic, or empirical modules, each with their own pitfalls, tiny butterflies of ignorance, lurking to flap up a tornado where you least expect it.

Karl Compton

There was a famous paper written back in the days of Token Ring vs. Ethernet. sometime around 1990, by Boggs et al that recounted a well-known model by another group whose name escapes me (but whose products may have been Inferior But Marketable) that ‘proved’ that Ethernet didn’t work beyond about 37% capacity. The fact that it demonstrably did, however, wasn’t of interest to the ‘Smokin’ Ring’ zealots, who touted it widely to demonstrate how much better their flavor of Kool-Aid was. In this case, the error in the model (failure to model the random fallback after a collision) was easy to find, and at first glance trivial, but it lead to a huge variance from reality.
Now Ethernet is not trivial, but compared to climate it is dead simple, clearly understood in great detail, and has a tiny number of moving parts; if ‘experts’ had trouble modeling something as simple as Ethernet, there’s no real hope of closely modeling something as ill-understood and wildly complex as real-world climate. There are two currently insurmountable problems: 1: You can’t accurately model what you don’t understand well, and 2: Current technology just doesn’t have the power to accurately model something as complex as global climate on a sufficiently fine scale to give reasonable accuracy.
But hey, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain…

Dawtgtomis

Anthony, thank you for giving your all, trying to save humanity from the harm of those who are trying to save the planet from humanity’s presence.

Anthony you take a lot of heat in this debate, so I am glad you are making more friends on the other side where possible. In the long run it will pay off.
“But I do think he perceives things more on a feeling or emotional level and translates that into words and actions. People that are more factual and pragmatic might see that as an unrealistic response.”
Unfortunately this is the problem with even the most reasonable on the other side of the debate. They confuse their personal feelings with factual evidence.

Dawtgtomis

Oddly, when confronted with reality-borne evidence, they respond with: “I guess it’s all what you choose to believe”.

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Yogyakarta

Dawtgtomis
I noticed this and it confirms what Anthony observed about acting on feelings ‘whatever the evidence’. The perceptions that feed confirmation bias reinforce feelings whether ‘right’ or not. Making a decision to believe that ‘things are going wrong and mankind is probably responsible’ are very common in tribal cultures around the world.
Western adventurers reacted in horror when ‘locals’ sacrificed virgins to appease volcanoes, denigrating then mostly for not understanding cause and effect. Why didn’t they understand cause? Ignorance about how the world works.
350.org feeds on ignorance about how things work. 350.org relies heavily for ‘success’ on guessing that things work is a way that supports the feelings they already have. Contradicting physical evidence is dismissed using a variety techniques which, if they fail, are substituted with blunt denial that either the evidence exists or stating that it has no real meaning.
350.org concentrates heavily on children, delivering ‘believe us’ messages and offering ‘a chance to get involved’ while defining the entire process to keep it within the church of CO2. It limits the library of resources and the films the children should watch decrying unapproved sources as misleading traps set by corporate ogres.
Independent investigation of truth, what should be the hallmark of youth of that age, is discouraged to the point where the thoughts, actions and enemies are selected and defined by 350.org – the opposite of what a good teacher does. ‘Climate’ is now a cult in every sense of the word.
Cartoon ‘deniers’ are metaphorically held up like piñatas to be beaten and the beaters are rewarded with sweets when they tear into the mock demons. This is neither science nor education. It is indoctrination.
Bill’s fundamental mistrust of fundamental physical processes and their impact on ‘the volcano’ doesn’t surprise me in the least. I have experienced this type of belief-response multiple times. So I offer the following observation:
When beliefs are contradicted by scientific facts it moves those beliefs from the “Might be” column over to the “Superstition” column. 350.org indoctrinated youth in multiple superstitions and seeks money to indoctrinate more.
To discern the difference between a fact like a temperature reading and a mistaken calculation like the ‘trend’ in Karl et al 2015 one needs enough understanding to perform conceptual and logical analyses. That 350.org concentrates their indoctrination of that population group that does not yet have a mature skill set is telling. Lacking the skills themselves to spot something as incompetent (alternatively, mendacious) as Karl et al 2015 they nevertheless feel quite justified in promulgating their feelings about factual matters and anointing as Enemies of Good those who see through the nonsense that is the modern catastrophist movement.
Bill, learn more, consume a balanced diet of information and help rid the world of this fanatical, destructive cult. Teach thinking and analytical skills, not the porridge of mystical attribution flavoured with the salts of bitter belief and self-deprecation.

sailboarder

Crispen:
Well said. What you described is “anti-science” and Bill is very effective at it. CBC Canada is doing a series on science and it makes a big deal about us skeptics being anti-science. Bill would fit right in with his propaganda, The CBC says it is the returning of the dark ages. I would agree, but they have it backwards, as science begins with skepticism.

GoFigure560

What’s depressing is that the same thing is going on now in both medicine and cosmology. Alternative health practices can get a doctor into BIG trouble. In the meantime the “big-bang” cosmologists are compounding their bogus hypothesis by continuing to add more speculation – dark matter, dark energy, expanding space, distant galaxies and stars moving away at enormous speed. All due to their firm belief in “red-shift” and that gravity is the only force to consider in outer space. Never mind that satellites see electricity everywhere, and that there are some 40 quasars now which have proper motion.

Yirgach

A good definition of “Cognitive Dissonance”…

This is very cool. Good for you both.

Aphan

Wow. Bravo to you both for agreeing to meet civilly and privately (no fuss or looking for a media moment) and then sharing your experience so candidly. It gives me hope. And I’ll even admit that some of my impressions of Mr. McKibbon might be incorrect and that I look forward to more evidence of this nature to prove it.

Frank Lee

Unless I missed it, you neglected to note if you talked about whether people on one side should even enter into a scientific debate with people from the other side. That, it seems to me, is the critical division. Skeptics, like most scientists, say the debate should be ongoing. Warmists, like most religious fanatics, insist that there should be no debate, the debate is over, etc. Did you even bring this point up? Did you suggest to McKibben that he should shame warmists who insist that no scientific debate should be allowed? It’s hard to see this field of study going forward when more than half (97%?–just kidding) of the participants have their ears plugged.

Marnof

Civility. Conversation. Craft brew. The world needs more of this and I’m quite grateful that this meeting was made public, and so eloquently, at that.
Very insightful look into the thinking and emotions of McKibben. That being said, I would have been tempted to ask him if he planned to update his website to, say, 400.org? The 350 is a bit passé.

Dawtgtomis

Respectfully to Mr. Mckibben, 400 ppm Co2 is making west-central Illinois an explosion of growth. 60″ oats are common right now and the corn planted in late April is waist high. all that CO2 needs is a little H2O and away we grow!

Dawtgtomis

incidentally, it’s been cooler than normal for the most part on my farm.

joelobryan

That’s the only real green revolution that isn’t a consumer fraud.

D.J. Hawkins

I don’t know if it was universal or local to New Jersey, but the determination if we’d have a good corn crop was the saying “Knee high by the 4th of July”. By that measure, you’re WAY ahead!

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Yogyakarta

Marnof, don’t be too impressed. The meeting in Yalta was civil too.
Helping understand Bill helps me deal more effectively with the damage he is doing on campuses with his organisation.
We should keep reinforcing the message of facts about the climate and reminding people they have a personal and unavoidable responsibility to learn to find, analyse and digest information and think for themselves. Self-appointed, unelected ‘leaders’ such as Hanson and McKibben and others in the Cli-Sci-Die movement are exactly what children need to study for methods, faults and fanatics. Nothing is so difficult about climate science that others cannot learn it. There is no need for a host of cloistered sages to interpret entrails, save they be the guts of these pernicious climate models of futures past.

I believe Hartland invite many folk holding the warming belief to speak at their conferences. Perhaps Bill et al should accept so we can both hear what they claim and the basis for it, and know they are also listening to the skeptical side, with the ability to ask questions and debate.
Dialog is important and Anthony is to be congratulated for doing this. I hope Bill reflects on the difference of acting from an emotional basis to acting from an informed, factual one. As has been mentioned, (re)acting emotionally often has dangerous and disastrous consequences.

stevefitzpatrick

Anthony,
“People that are more factual and pragmatic might see that as an unrealistic response.”
And there you have most of the disagreement in a few words. Of course people who view the world primarily through rational analysis will disagree with “touchy-feely” types. So it has always been. The important issue is which of those two views of the world will guide public policy. It is a crucially important question with huge long term impacts, especially for the poorest of people…. the $2 per day and less poor. I would like to ask Bill how much effort he exerts on behalf of those poor people.

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Yogyakarta

Good question. The money spent on Big Green subsidies is enough to double the income of the $2 a day population. That is the impact equivalent of doubling every harvest.
There is another waste that should not be overlooked. The value of tanks lost in the Six Day War (alone) could have built a hospital in every major city in Africa and staffed it for ten years.
The climateers are even claiming Syrian refugees are partly climate refugees. Climate needs an equal sized slice of the pie. That’s the message. Now we see the emergence of the military-climate complex that is literally planning to take over governments. The military needs viable enemies and the climateers need viable demon-species, even if they both have to fabricate them out of whole cloth. The only fodder left will be ‘cannon’.

Phil

One question I would like to see Bill address: why, exactly, is the earth warming a *bad* thing, if the alternatives are taken into account? This (https://xkcd.com/1225/) has become, to me, iconic in pointing out that ice ages are approximately infinitely worse than the world getting warmer and the residual ice melting away. Statistically, cold kills far people than heat.

Dawtgtomis

..and does he have any idea what solar cycle 25 might be bringing, and how the CO2 concentration might help ease the cooling which historically has occurred when solar activity and heliospheric density are lower than normal?
Additionally, how does CO2 concentration make an effect on the PDO and AMO? When both are negative does CO2 offset the cooling?
This would be valuable to know!

rogerknights

The main worry is sea level rise, which would cause huge damage if the world’s coastal cities got inundated at high tide or in storms.

snopercod

Wasn’t Bill McKibben the one who wrote, “Until such time as Homo Sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along.”? Personally, I would have no desire to share a beer with a nut like that.

Andrew S

Good article. Really appreciate these sort of meetings are happening.

joelobryan

350.org opposition to Keystone XL pipeline is purely symbolic, endangering the lives of everyone who lives within several hundred metres of active railroad oil transport route. I would ask him to go to Lac Magantic, Quebec and talk to those who lost family, friends, homes, and businesses. Or of any of the several communities here in the lower 48 where there have been deadly oil train derailments. If he wants to understand the costs to real people of opposition to oil pipelines, start there.

DoctorK

More cow bell, er… dialogue!
Thanks to Bill and Anthony for sitting down mano-et-mano to discuss the topic of our times. May it bring more dialogue and direct us away from policy lunacy driven by bad science.

Mickey Reno

Mano a mano means hand-to-hand. If Bill and Anthony meet mano a mano, that means they’re fighting with fists and knives and bayonets. I suppose in a very literal sense, a cordial handshake COULD be considered going mano a mano, but that is not the normal interpretation.

A positive development. I hope we see more of it!

jorgekafkazar

“Bill responded with he doesn’t know those people but he believed that Dr. James Hansen had integrity.”
There’s something I agree with Bill on. I believe in Hansen’s sincerity. I also believe he (Hansen) is as wrong as he can be. I won’t assess Bill in this context; I think he was brave and doing the right thing just to reach out and show up. Well, done, Bill.
I think many issues of great disagreement devolve about different premises, including the relative importance of feelings and facts, and long-term vs. short-term considerations. I think Democrats greatly favor short-term solutions; Republicans generally prefer long-term solutions.
Who is right? Often we can’t tell until it’s too late, but I think a large fraction of the short-term fixes we’ve had foisted upon us have ultimately caused far greater disasters than the problems they were intended to solve. ¿What is your freedom worth, that is the true question before us now.
Great post, Anthöny.

joelobryan

I have long suspected that despite the mistake of combining activism with a scientist’s own field of study (an impossible combination), Hanson left GISS because he didn’t want to participate in the data manipulation being demanded from on-high. Only Hanson though really knows the answer to that.

Hansen’s mistake is he goes further than the evidence permits, IMO.
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/04/10/why-a-compelling-theory-is-not-enough/

I have a hard time believing Hansen has any integrity . His all too widely believed claim that Venus is a “runaway” is the most trivially quantitatively provable scare story in this whole determined stupidity . If it is not willful , it is in any case an unconscionable failure to understand the basics of radiative heat transfer .

Amatør1

I believe in Hansen’s sincerity.

I believe he got caught in something he originally didn’t understand, and it snowballed out of control for political reasons. He did not see any way out of it and had to play along, even though he had figured out the deception long ago. To me it isn’t being sincere.

jorgekafkazar

You may be right, but we have no proof of that. I think it’s far more likely that he knows the truth only at an unconscious level, and is able to maintain his faith by suppressing what he knows, not letting it reach his conscious mind. He’s able to rapidly quash any nagging doubts by focusing on the fact that he’s a savior of the world.

Jim Keil

Hansen is sincere. Some of my lefty friends did not like him and I could not understand why. Then I discovered that his policy prescription was to ramp up nuclear power for the near future. Now I get the picture.

Great Post Mr Watts, I think you encapsulate the major divide beautifully.
Logic versus Emotion.
Some of us, having been educated by the school of hard knocks, try to focus on what is, rather than what we feel should be.
Actions speak louder than good intentions, Mr McKibben becomes an idiot in my eyes, when he projects emotional certainty onto weather.
This is the problem of arguing with the catastrophic averting citizens, no logic, no historic records, no facts seem to register , they just do not matter, when the concerned persons know that how they feel is more important.
Most of them are very nice people in every way, except for their desire to surrender all our individual rights to forstall an imaginary doom.
Conform to the norm, to avoid emotional brainstorm?

Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

Excellent reporting.
Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

Reblogged this on gottadobetterthanthis and commented:

Face to face discussion. Good.

Niff

A very important example for us all. If we could all discuss this topic on the basis of our thoughts and feelings we might move it forward. Otherwise we have to assume that it is a deceitful, agenda-driven cause unrelated to reality.

No need to assume.

David Sivyer Western Australia

An enjoyable read, Anthony.
A transient thought just shuffled through the grey room.
Your thoughts of Bill being guided more by feelings is interesting and brings intuition into play.
Intuition and “gut” feelings can be overpowering, anchor an idea and resist all attempts to shift it.
It just may be that by appealing to people’s “goodness” through argument associated with polar bears & butterflies, the less pragmatic of us will follow the path which provides personal comfort by “siding” with Nature.

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Yogyakarta

It is also the root of confirmation bias.

tobyglyn

A really great post and a perfect example of one of the many reasons I keep coming back here.
Respect +++ to both Bill McKibben Anthony Watts!

wacojoe

It may be so simple as that an empath is spring-loaded to look for human cause of misery as a source of easy blame, when the fact is that Mother Nature is often a bitch unaided by man. It would be interesting to know how Mr. McKibben explains impact on the “Earth’s-atmosphere-as-finely-tuned” of the regular ~100,000 year 12 degree of fluctuation of global temperatures without human assistance. Perhaps with a bit of study, realization will come that natural forces have far more impact than do we.

Gamecock

Picture not labeled . . . I assume Anthony is the good looking one.

Glad so many are enjoying the love-fest, and I’ve no doubt Bill can be a pleasant fellow, but I regard him as unforgivably ignorant.. He owed it to himself…as a man of principle if that’s what he is…to get himself educated. Failure to do so goes directly to character.
(aka pokerguy)

Should probably be “owes” ….present tense. A man of fairness and integrity should walk away from such a frank discussion with Anthony, asking himself some important questions.

nigelf

This meeting was a wonderful thing and I commend Bill for reaching out. I too have a different perspective of Bill McKibbon now after reading this.
Kudos to both of you.

Thanks for reaching out. However I fear McKibbin will now be investigated by Senator Whitehouse and subjected to RICO laws. And I must admit you two do look a bit like gangsters, in that photo. Or…maybe not gangsters…maybe it is just the two beers. But Senator Whitehouse will surely feel you two look suspicious. /Sarc
For what its worth, here is my two cents about writers and “feelings.”
Writers are after Truth, just as scientists are after Truth (if they are any good). Just because writers are perhaps employing intuition more than scientists are allowed to do does not give writers an excuse to promote falsehood. They need to be humble, and not pretend to be smarter than they are, and it is very important (and refreshing) for writers to admit their mistakes.
In the August, 2006 National Geographic McKibben contributed an essay called, “A Deeper Shade Of Green,” which contained ideas he got from Kerry Emanuel suggesting Global Warming was creating hurricanes of unprecedented size. Some of the predictions within that essay have not turned out to be accurate. Now that he has had nearly a decade to double-check the premises contained in that essay, McKibben should be able to say “I was wrong” about a few things. It is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign you are older and wiser, and love Truth more than your own ego.
Also I wish McKibben would write about his experiences at Harvard and at The New Yorker magazine. That must have been an interesting and unique journey, and his insights would contain lots he knows about, whereas hurricanes and extreme weather events are things he knows less about.

Yet, McKibben still harbors weather events due to AGW even after provided with data that prove otherwise. This is not a result of scientific review, but of an emotional response. This is a prevalent disease of the human animal and I do not know how to counter same.

I no longer expect an immediate response, but have the hope that persistence and patience will slowly but surely wake people up. It takes time for a starfish to open an oyster.
Also I kept a diary when I was in my teens and twenties. When I reread it I cringe, for what an idiot I was, at times! It took me a long time, and a number of debacles, to learn some fairly simple things.

If someone doesn’t want to be thought of as an idiot, they ought to try to reduce the number of idiotic things they do or say (everyone has done some idiotic things). Refusing to talk about the science sure make it seem like that person either doesn’t know the science or is only interested in the science that supports his view, that isn’t real science. Mckibben only has himself to blame for being thought of as an idiot.

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Yogyakarta

Caleb, some writers are shills. They are after money and steady work. Fame wouldn’t hurt at all either. One of the smartest of the writers is Monbiot yet look at the outrageous things he puts out. He is shilling. He is so smart he understood the short and long term implications of the ClimateGate emails in a few minutes and moved fast to cover his butt in case it went nuclear, which it didn’t.
CAGW is filled with wile and guile and bile. 350.org is a marketing agent led by a true believer. I hold the Guardian and the BBC more culpable.

Wharfplank

I’m glad your meeting was civil and cutlery was only used for the food, but my opinion of a man who arranges other peoples children, at their teachers behest, into the shape of 350, photographs them and posts the images for his “mission”, will never change.

Plus one to each of the above two comments and of course, the civilized
communication btxt Anthony W and Bill McK.

Mike M.

It is nice to here of people from the sides being able to have a civilized conversation. Kudos to both Watts and McKibbon.
I think the “finely tuned” comment is telling. If you believe that, and that nature is in a “delicate balance”, then it is “obvious” that if we cause any major change, the results will likely be catastrophic. Details as to the actual value of climate sensitivity or specific effects don’t matter. The science is settled and the debate is over.
The question then is how do you try to get such a person to see the other side? I think one has to start by getting them to see that those of us who disagree with them see nature as robust and fully able to cope with a changing climate, and that climate changes all on its own even without any help from us. Then further civilized discussion becomes possible.

EternalOptimist

I would say that Bill is one of those fellows who is easily daunted, while he would think me reckless. It takes all sorts to make the world. Well done Anthony. and Bill