Patrick Moore – the climate realist

The Heartland Institute hosted ICCC9 – the ninth International Conference on Climate Change – in Las Vegas from 7 – 9 July 2014.

With a debate like the climate one I find my sympathies instinctively tending towards the side that shows its workings. I want to be able to take my own look at the data in question. Many years ago I noticed that whereas sceptics fell over themselves to cite chapter and verse to support their theories, alarmists tended to restrict themselves to unsubstantiated assertions and infantile name-calling (often aimed at anyone who dared protest that they weren’t showing their workings). Part of the name-calling involved the term ‘anti-science’. This was rather rich coming from those who were never prepared to engage in a debate on the science, preferring to hide behind the risible debate-killer “the science is settled”. At any rate I looked at the source data as hard as a non-scientist is able, and closely followed the debate from the standpoint of a rhetorician. I also followed the money. The alarmists’ assertions collapsed before my eyes. As far as I am concerned the game was up many years ago. The global warming movement has nothing to do with science, and everything to do with politics – and pretty questionable politics at that. With any friends who continue to espouse this dead hypothesis I no longer bother to argue: I merely invite them to look more closely.

Greenpeace’s most famous dropout, Patrick Moore, spoke at ICCC9 on 8 July.

I believe this is the first time on this blog that I have failed to attach to the first mention of the speaker’s name a hyperlink to biographical material. There is a good reason: nothing you can read will give you a more comprehensive overview of Patrick Moore’s environmental career than the beginning of this speech. Till 5:15 it is wall-to-wall ethos.

His slides during this section are purely wordless pictures, which is good, the words he speaks are scripted, which isn’t. He doesn’t seem to be reading from the lectern, so why do I believe it is scripted? It’s in the rhythm. The pauses and links between sentences are unnatural in their duration. Also it’s in the stumbles and self-corrections which have ‘script’ written all over them. He appears not to be reading, so he is reciting: he has learnt it. He did not need to. He is perfectly capable of speaking all of this spontaneously. For some reason he just does not dare. Reciting a learnt script is not true shooting from the hip: it doesn’t have the sparkle that so seduces audiences.

Then he turns to why he left Greenpeace and to the main message of his speech, the essential climate-realism that he preaches. Now – disastrously – his slides are smothered in verbiage. Watching the video of this speech, we can pause it to read it all; but the audience in the hall cannot do that. They can listen to him or they can read the slides, but not both. He has set up his slides in competition to himself. Why, in heaven’s name, do so many speakers make this mistake?

Curiously, just as the slides get submerged under words, Moore starts to sound spontaneous. Now I believe that he is shooting this from the hip.

At 8:35 he gets into a muddle over his slides, Things start coming up in the wrong order. This may not be his fault, but having too many slides is his fault.

I am not anti-slides: I am anti-words-on-slides. I know that in speeches like this speakers feel they need to give chapter and verse to back up what they are saying. They are right: look at my second paragraph above. Therefore consider something along the lines of …

The IPCC in their report said on page xxx, “///////////////”.  

You will find the precise quote and its context on page y in the conference program.

By all means show pictures and graphs, but wherever possible restrict your words to graph labels only. You will be astonished how liberating that is. The fewer slides you have the less chance there is for things to go wrong. A trainee of mine had to conduct an all-day workshop the day after attending my course. He later told me that during my course he was mentally pruning down his dozen slides. By the time we parted he was determined to use just two. In the event he didn’t use even those – or a script, or notes. He shot the entire day from the hip with no slides, and received ecstatic feedback.

There is absolutely no added credibility or emphasis in the audience’s being able to read the words you are speaking.

Back to Patrick Moore! This is a very good speech. From 10:36, just after the hiatus with the mixed up slides, he gets into his stride. His speaking is now spontaneous and impassioned, and his slides get much sparser with words. At that point he becomes, frankly, awesome. He knows his stuff inside out, and it pours out of him with all the authority which his 40 years of experience as an ecologist have generated.

Just compare this with Al Gore’s ghastly sci-fi film, An Inconvenient Truth. Go check the facts.

Go figure.

Patrick Moore – The Sensible Environmentalist

At a TEDx gathering in Vancouver in November 2009, Patrick Moore was one of the speakers. If you have clicked the link on his name, or looked at the picture below, you will know that we are dealing here not with the late, English, wonderfully eccentric, amateur astronomer and xylophone player, but with the Canadian environmentalist, the co-founder of Greenpeace who left that organisation in disgust when it conspicuously lost its way a few years ago. He now calls himself The Sensible Environmentalist, and spends much of his time campaigning on behalf of Golden Rice.

I am not an environmentalist but I have read a few books on the subject, been around the block a few times, and watched enough speakers to have developed a nose for, and allergy to, bullshit. The field of environmental activism tends to be so deep in the steaming stuff that in order to critique most speeches I’d need to be equipped with a JCB. So I usually don’t. Let’s see whether I was justified in hoping that Moore would be worth my making an exception in his case.

There’s something that bothers me about his voice and the manner of his speaking. The urgency he conveys is not a problem for me because it indicates a willingness to get into the driving seat. It’s not exactly the speed with which he speaks, because it doesn’t feel like undue nervousness. It is as if he were driving in too low a gear: the voice is working too hard. I bet he gets sore throats after big presentations. If so, it’s absurdly easy to prevent it.

At 2:35 there’s a lovely catalogue of names. If you don’t understand why I like it, you have neither had a course with me nor read The Face & Tripod.

There are a few occasions when he stumbles and momentarily loses his place. Some might blame this on his shooting the speech from the hip, but a couple of small stumbles are a tiny price to pay for the audience engagement that goes with being paper-free. The stumbles don’t bother me, and I’d lay money that they don’t bother his audience; but if they trouble him, there are a few improvements that could be made to his structure to make the mind-mapping easier.

I enjoy his summary dismissal of fallacy after fallacy connected to the global warming scam. At the time of writing we have just been treated (if that’s the word) to mounds of garbage in a recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  Proper scientists having over the years deserted the IPCC in disgust over being misquoted, it is now mainly a nest of political activists still trying to masquerade as scientists. The main-stream media, either too idle to check or in politico/economic thrall to the alarmist nonsense, make up an eager team of cheer-leaders. I’m old enough to remember when the BBC, for instance, was a respectable organisation employing proper journalists. Others of a similar age who seem to swallow this tripe show themselves too trusting or too busy to check any details. At least I hope that’s the case: the alternative is too depressing.

The most depressing thing is when people start clamouring for ‘deniers’ to be silenced, sectioned, or imprisoned. They might as well burn books like they did in Berlin in 1933. People behave like this only when they know their own argument to be weak. It is weak because its scientific basis is flimsy, and was always actually political rather than scientific.

If you want one reason why I believe this, just go and see how many attempts by sceptical scientists to join in public debate with warmists have had the warmists scurrying for cover. Christopher Monckton has repeatedly challenged Al Gore. Gore has made increasingly pathetic excuses; and who’s to blame him? He’d be slaughtered.

Watching this speech, I find myself wanting to endorse Patrick Moore’s description of himself as The Sensible Environmentalist. He could easily be a better speaker, but meanwhile he’s quite good enough for most markets. And what he says is suitably coloured with doubt as to persuade me that he is a genuine seeker after truth.