Posts Tagged ‘arguments’
Back in the golden age of the climate controversy–say, about 18 months ago–there was a time when everybody was challenging everybody else to debate. I suppose you couldn’t click more than a few links before tripping over a gauntlet.
What does a formal debate offer that the ordinary disorderly flow of arguing in the blogosphere doesn’t? To pick up on a theme from my last post: a formal debate allows the participants to control what they are taking responsibility for–and to force others to take responsibility, too. Roger Pielke, Jr. is a masterful debater, and his recent challenge to critics of “climate pragmatism” shows this strategy at its finest.
Let’s return one last time to the Morano v. Maslin debate. I’ve been saying some favorable things about Marc Morano’s skill as an advocate. But what about the fact that he–and in fact this whole debate–is boring? Haven’t we heard all these arguments before, over and over again? Yes–and it’s a good thing, too.
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As a second way in to assessing the arguments in this debate, let’s examine how the two debaters deal with one bit of testimonial evidence they actually share.
So, here’s another example of the logos/pathos (or statistics/example, or abstract/concrete) problem for climate change communication I was talking about yesterday. A communication consultant advises:
A better setting for talking about climate science is a real time impact of climate change, be it a record heat wave or record heavy rains followed by heavy flooding. There is no denying what your eyes can see. Last fall’s record setting flood in Atlanta was a textbook example of the kind of impact that should be highlighted. Only months earlier, NOAA had released a consensus science report documenting the trend of increased heavy precipitation during the fall months in the southeastern United States. NOAA identified climate change as driving the trend and predicted more of the same for the future.
Some have argued that focusing on current weather can be tricky. However, advocates were forced to do just that when opponents focused on the recent snowstorms as “proof” that global warming was oversold. Advocates were successful in pushing back on climate change deniers in that instance, and the same effort should be applied to upcoming heat waves, droughts and flooding, events that fit the pattern of increasing extreme events that scientists have clearly documented and predicted will only increase as the impacts of climate change intensify.
Which is it? Is an extreme weather event supposed to be presented as an “impact” caused by climate change? Or does it just “fit the pattern” (i.e., is consistent with) what scientists have predicted?
I’m not sure what the “success” advocates achieved explaining the recent cold weather. Was it success in arguing that any particular weather event we experience gives us no basis for inferring the general state of the climate? If so, that’s a success that AGW-skeptics will also achieve, if advocates keep insisting that a hot summer demonstrates global warming.
I’ve been looking at the verbal work that’s occurring in this small transaction–the work of construing the relationship between the speakers as a relationship of a certain type (for Maslin, attacker/victim), the work of framing the topic they will mutually address (anthropogenic global warming, AGW). All this work is supposed to be aimed at allowing the two men to debate–that is, it’s supposed to make room for them to exchange arguments. Now that’s they’ve gotten their debate well underway, can Maslin the scientist use his expertise to craft arguments that will stand up to Morano’s expected attacks? No.