There was a good turnout at Wellesley College last night for my talk “A Quick Tour of the Ultimate in Political Correctness: The ‘Global Warming’ Issue, Agenda and Industry”, hosted by the College Republican Club… once presided over here by Hillary Rodham on her way to a thesis about Saul Alinksy, whose ghost as we see still lingers.
The students were gracious particularly given the trying circumstances in recent days, including a faculty member (department-head level) expressing in a fairly open forum, with occasional lapses of civility, her sentiments about the club members and their decision to screen “Not Evil Just Wrong” Sunday, followed by hosting me on Wednesday. Oddly – read on – her peculiar take on campus tolerance and diversity included an often salty angst over the students supposedly showing no interest in actually having debate or discussion.
That she had been originally approached to speak on a panel adds to the mystery. She said, in short, no professor would want to participate with someone “like that” (er, me). The school administrators have now agreed to address the issue of this instance and similar, fairly regular treatment of a political minority. But, having failed to interest any faculty in sharing a panel let alone debating the merits, the students finally asked a different faculty member to at least speak after the film. He declined and offered instead an informative lunch with his faculty colleagues. The ones who don’t want open discussion or debate (the real kind) except when they do (the purely aspirational type).
So with all of that as prologue it was with curiosity that, during the question and answer period last night, this latter faculty member was indeed in attendance with a (non-faculty) friend, the latter who was busy on a cell phone, passing it on occasion to said faculty member who feverishly took notes. With said notes transcribed, he raised his hand with a slightly inane inquiry about whether, if we seek to heat the planet, is CO2 a cost-effective approach? On one level I was pleased he apparently had no problem with anything I presented, though I did have to correct him for placing numerous words in my mouth in order to frame his query.
Moments later, after another passing of the phone, he wanted to know if I knew what the greenhouse effect was. I began to describe it, though not without interjections demanding that I direct my answer more to his liking (by chance, the repetitive and interrupting “you’re not answering my question” was the one typical campus Alinsky-like tactic I had mentioned to the students over dinner beforehand). In that context I did get out that greenhouse gases in our atmosphere either (take your pick) absorb or trap radiation… “From?” Well, radiation comes “From the sun.”
“Incorrect! It’s a basic principle of how the earth’s climate system works. If you don’t know that you should not standing there representing yourself as someone who can speak to that point” (then somewhat muffled comments as he gathers his things to run out, ironically showing no interest in discussion or debate).
Well he’s got a very good point, in that I walked into the trap with lazy shorthand, about which I know better regardless of the circumstances and which made what I said incorrect. As he quickly bundled up his effects I inquired which slides of mine he disagreed. This was followed by some undecipherable comment at which point he begins his exit. I asked him to “Don’t storm out. Stay. We’re having a nice discussion.” [Audience member: “Don’t. That’s the coward’s way out”. That only made him hurry faster, at least on the videotape I turned on when I sensed something good was in the midst of being staged.] My hat is off to him, at least up to the storm-out, he was textbook and followed it fairly well though to no substantive point, if the entirety of the act is transparent.
I do feel compelled to note, somewhat in my defense – the radiation is, as you might imagine, radiation courtesy of the sun, as asked and answered – and somewhat in a mea culpa – technically, of course and as I have described in numerous uninterrupted talks, pieces, books, and radio shows, the radiation when trapped/absorbed is so trapped or absorbed on the way out, at which point it is infrared and no longer “solar” radiation.
So, yes it of course comes from the sun but to not specify that this absorption/trapping occurs when it is re-radiated from the earth was without question my bad. President Obama will be more articulate on this point when raised today across town at MIT, when he keens about the climate crisis.
While not exactly rising to the level of Al Gore reversing the cause-and-effect relationship of CO2 and temperatures, or Gore’s producer swapping a graphs axis labels to falsely present findings (two things identified in my talk but which apparently did not interest my emotional interlocutor), it was sloppy and therefore literally inaccurate, to be sure. Of course, I don’t know if he really assumed that I was asserting a belief that GHGs absorb or trap radiation before it gets to the earth, but I suggest his hystrionics thereafter affirm that it doesn’t matter. By text message or otherwise, it was decided that storming out claiming ignorance too insufferable to countenance was the way to best attain involvement without dreaded discussion or debate.
Whether that supports a tantrum by a fully grown man, if an environmental studies teacher, is in the eye of the beholder.* His hasty retreat surely had more to do with a bristling Richard Lindzen sitting just over his shoulder than a fear that I would elaborate in response. In no indirect terms Dr. Lindzen strode to the mike to express his impression of such behavior, likely not commonly experienced by a chaired Ivy professor renowned in his field. But on the other hand, maybe such acting out is why he dropped out of the IPCC.
Regardless, it did this department little more honor than the behavior of the previously mentioned faculty colleague – and, I’ll speculate, text-buddy – leading up to the event. The Environmental Studies faculty had already made a meeting necessary to address its behavior. Given that, as I understand it, the administration appears sincere in its concern for such and related outbursts as in the past few days, there should now be more to talk about. Regardless, we got some funny video.
* In fact, after more than two dozen campuses, this is only the second time a faculty member has attended and spoken, though both stormed out (the former was at UNC-Charlotte; related, the ES department chair and actual PhD climatologist at Knox College also stormed out, but only saying to a student “I’ll get him in class, tomorrow!”)