Well, I Was Uninvited to Speak on Climate -- A Post-Modern Story of Ignorance and Narrow-Mindedness

Well, I got dis-invited yet again from giving my climate presentation.  I guess I should be used to it by now, but in this case I had agreed to actually do the presentation at my own personal expense (e.g. no honorarium and I paid my own travel expenses).  Since I was uninvited 2 days prior to the event, I ended up eating, personally, all my travel expenses.  There are perhaps folks out there in the climate debate living high off the hog from Exxon or Koch money, but if so that is definitely not me, so it came out of my own pocket.   I have waited a few days after this happened to cool off to make a point about the state of public discourse without being too emotional about it.

I don't want to get into the details of my presentation (you can see it here at Claremont-McKenna College) but it is called "Understanding the Climate Debate:  The Lost Middle Ground" (given the story that follows, this is deeply ironic).  The point of the presentation is that there is a pretty mainstream skeptic/lukewarmer position that manmade warming via greenhouse gasses is real but greatly exaggerated.  It even suggests a compromise legislative approach implementing a carbon tax offset by reductions in some other regressive tax (like payroll taxes) and accompanied by a reduction in government micro-meddling in green investments (e.g. ethanol subsidies, solyndra, EV subsidies, etc).

I am not going to name the specific group, because the gentleman running the groups' conference was probably just as pissed off as I at the forces that arrayed themselves to have me banned from speaking.  Suffice it to say that this is a sort of trade group that consists of people from both private companies and public agencies in Southern California.

Attentive readers will probably immediately look at the last sentence and guess whence the problem started.  Several public agencies, including the City of Los Angeles, voiced EXTREME displeasure with my being asked to speak.  The opposition, particularly from the LA city representative, called my presentation "the climate denier workshop" [ed note:  I don't deny there is a climate] and the organizer who invited me was sent flat Earth cartoons.

Now, it seems kind of amazing that a presentation that calls for a carbon tax and acknowledges 1-1.5 degrees C of man-made warming per century could be called an extremist denier presentation.  But here is the key to understand -- no one who opposed my presentation had ever bothered to see it.  This despite the fact that I sent them both a copy of the CMC video linked above as well as this very short 4-page summary from Forbes.  But everyone involved was more willing to spend hours and hours arguing that I was a child of Satan than they were willing to spend 5-minutes acquainting themselves with what I actually say.

In fact, I would be willing to bet that the folks who were most vociferous in their opposition to this talk have never actually read anything from a skeptic.  It is a hallmark of modern public discourse that people frequently don't know the other side's argument from the other side itself, but rather from its own side (Bryan Caplan, call your office).   This is roughly equivalent to knowing about Hillary Clinton's policy positions solely from listening to Rush Limbaugh.  It is a terrible way to be an informed adult participating in public discourse, but unfortunately it is a practice being encouraged by most universities.  Nearly every professor is Progressive or at least left of center.  Every speaker who is not left of center is banned or heckled into oblivion.  When a speaker who disagrees with the Progressive consensus on campus is let through the door, the university sponsors rubber rooms with coloring books and stuffed unicorns for delicate students.  There are actually prominent academics who argue against free speech and free exchange of diverse ideas on the theory that some ideas (ie all the ones they disagree with) are too dangerous be allowed a voice in public.   Universities have become cocoons for protecting young people from challenging and uncomfortable ideas.

I will take this all as a spur to do a next generation video or video series for YouTube  -- though YouTube has started banning videos not liked by the Left, there is still room there to have a public voice.  I just bought a nice new microphone so I guess it is time to get to work.  I am presenting in Regina next week (high 22F, yay!) but after that I will start working on a video.

Postscript:  You know what this reminds me of?  Back when I was a kid, forty years ago growing up in Texas, from time to time there would be a book-banning fight in the state.  Perhaps there still are such fights.  Generally some religious group will oppose a certain classic work of literature because it taught some bad moral lesson, or had bad words in it, or something.  But you know what often became totally clear in such events?  That the vast vast majority of the offended people had not actually read the book, or if they had, they could not remember any of it.  They were participating because someone else on their side told them they should be against the book, probably also someone else who had never even read the thing.  But I don't think that was the point.  The objective was one of virtue-signalling, to reinforce ties in their own tribe and make it clear that they did not like some other tribe.  At some point the content of the book became irrelevant to how the book was perceived by both tribes -- which is why I call this "post-modern" in my title.


  1. steamboatlion:

    If the recent election campaign proves anything, it's that facts are utterly irrelevant to public discourse. It's all about identity and affiliation. Having decided that you don't belong to their group of true believers, that your heresy is a small one is unimportant. In fact it's the heretics who hide in their midst who they see as the most dangerous.

  2. TruthisaPeskyThing:

    In general, I agree with you on identity politics. However, there are some commentators who say that the last election showed a weakening of identity politics. Democrats could not get as many women freaked out about the "Republican War on Women" as before. A good share of Hispanic thought that obeying the law was more important than the fear that illegal immigrant criminals would be sent out of the country. And a noteworthy number of blacks did not believe that slavery would be reinstituted under a Trump presidency.

  3. Thomas "Fat" Cat:

    Either yer fer me, or yer agin me.

  4. GoneWithTheWind:

    The whole purpose of the AGW myth/meme is to raise taxes and grab political power. You cannot compromise on those issues even if you do buy into the scam. Either get on the bandwagon or get off. Either you are part of the scam or you are not.

  5. Andrew_M_Garland:

    Yes. The left wants top-down control implemented by top-down distribution of correct thought. The intent is to shut out any non-controlled source of information. It goes against leftist tactics to suggest that people can come to their own decisionns based on source information.

    The left wants people to be prevented from believing that they can decide anything for themselves. They must be taught that only approved scientists working for the government can know what to do.

    The left distributes conclusions and talking points. They oppose any opposition based on data.

    Motto: "It is time to move beyond data and endless discussion, and move immediately to action and taxes."

  6. Mars Jackson:

    What amazes me in this discussion is that the left has become the Catholic church against Galileo. They refuse to hear any idea that challenges their perspectives.

    When I was in youth group in my midwest Methodist church, we asked our leaders if we could do a youth group exchange with a different Christian church. Of course we were told no because, as we were told, they didn't want us to decide to join a different church. But this was a church, not an academic discussion of a scientific nature.

    The fact is that the established characters in our government and in many of our institutions do not understand that the pendulum is swinging away from them. The world is becoming skeptical of their ideas and opinions, and rather than silence and try to ignore those people, they should take heed to what they have to say or risk becoming completely irrelevant.

  7. mx:

    YouTube removed videos after receiving multiple reports of copyright violations, not because of political ideology. Such reports, submitted under penalty of perjury, could well have been bogus and politically motivated, but YouTube has to act on them to maintain their safe harbor and avoid being responsible for copyright infringement themselves.

    It's an awful no good system that poses enormous problems, but you have to blame Congress for that.

  8. John O.:

    As much as California can be a great place to work, live, and enjoy, the current state of politics in the entire State has become extremely toxic so this is no surprise to me and really shouldn't be for anybody that this kind of political maneuvering happened.

  9. Luke J. Novak:

    I would encourage you to read some additional information on Galileo and the events that you referenced.

  10. esoxlucius:

    If several public agencies in a whole city, especially the second largest city in the nation, were extremely upset about what I was going to say, I'd say that I have pretty much accomplished all my goals in life and I could retire. That's quite an honor to be known well enough to be hated to that extent.

  11. J_W_W:

    Its interesting how the left is calling virtually Everyone who disagrees with them (even just slightly disagrees with them -- as you found out) a Fascist.

    I guess its so easy for them to recognize Fascists because they see one every time they look in the mirror....

  12. Gil G:

    No, it's on par with not giving "Intelligent Designer" proponents the time of day.

  13. Rick C:

    " This is roughly equivalent to knowing about Hillary Clinton's policy positions solely from listening to Rush Limbaugh."

    Talk about being guilty of what you're complaining about.

  14. Rick C:

    Actually, Youtube does not have to immediately pull them without even an attempt to contact the person who put up the video.

  15. johnmoore:

    I suggest that you have bought the politically correct history of Galileo. In fact, he was a good friend of the Pope and was the head of the Vatican Academy of Sciences. He was not harassed for heliocentrism or his faulty idea that orbits were circular. By that time, Copernicus had pretty well convinced scientists of heliocentrism, and Kepler had shown that orbits were elliptical. Galileo was sanctioned because he wrote a vicious screed attacking high ranking members of the Church. He penalty: house arrest in his luxurious home. Given the year and the location, that was the mildest penalty possible for pretty much anything.

    You might also be surprised to learn that the Catholic Church pretty much invented science, and created academic freedom in order to allow it to operate free from interference. The Church believed that since God created everything, it was man's duty to understand it as much as possible. Oh, and BTW, the Catholic Church is also not creationist.

    Other than that, you have a point.

  16. johnmoore:

    If a carbon tax is to be rational, it should be based on the social cost of carbon. As Judith Curry recently wrote, we have no useful knowledge about that:


    If it is merely a means to redirect foolish policies into slightly less damaging ways, then I suggest it is better to just stop those foolish policies.

    Curry makes it clear that there is no valid economic case for reducing CO2 emissions, and that includes trying to take into turn the perceived damage into a cost value.

  17. Peabody:

    Just title your talk something that makes it seem like you believe the AGW is the greatest problem facing mankind. Then just rely on the fact that no one will actual look at your talk beforehand and then have fun watching folks freak out.

  18. Jose Camoes Silva:

    "I had agreed to actually do the presentation at my own personal expense (e.g. no honorarium and I paid my own travel expenses). Since I was uninvited 2 days prior to the event, I ended up eating, personally, all my travel expenses."

    Well, this is one of the reasons I get paid my speaking fee in advance (and non-refundable) and travel expenses are paid directly by the client. This way, _they_ would eat the losses. (I talk about non-controversial technical material, never have been uninvited.) The speaking fee in advance is a great screening mechanism against organizations that would waste my time.

    I've also noticed that people respect speakers that they have to pay more than those who offer their speaking services for free. For that reason alone, I never offer free talks, even when I don't need the money. After all, many of these organizations would pay $40k to have Malcolm Gladwell say platitudes for 45 minutes, they can pay my fee for actual thought and research. ?

  19. JTW:

    in other words, people are more level headed than the left gives them credit for.
    Well, most people that is.

  20. JTW:

    the left is extremely good at projection. They always assume their opponents are acting in the exact opposite way they'd act but out of the exact same motivations...

  21. CapitalistRoader:

    Like Hayek dedicated The Road to Serfdom "to socialists of all parties".

  22. Ward Chartier:

    Very sorry you had to put up with such ignorance and close-mindedness. You example is yet another reason why California, where I lived in the 60s, is not the place for me to be.

  23. rst1317:

    I am presenting in Regina next week (high 22F, yay!)
    " ~Coyote Blog

    That's balmy. This time of year their high temps are usually twice as high.

  24. CC:

    There is a certain type of person who sees things in black and white (no racial context asserted here). Trump is not merely loathed but is actually Hitler. Any change in the climate is catastrophic. If you point out that even the IPCC estimates for sea level rise only endanger a tiny fraction of coastal areas, the reaction is anger. It MUST be a catastrophe because fossil fuels are evil. There is no quantification of how bad something is or that it might also have good aspects. If you are not 100% behind BLM (or are simply white) you are a racist. And not "a little bit racist" but 100% evil racist. This is not adult thinking and does not lend itself to compromise, win-win solutions, or admitting mistakes.

  25. J K Brown:

    I recently learned more of the evangelical pietists that arose in the mid-19th century US. If you track them through the Progressive movement, see the split into religious and secular variations in the early 20th century, it explains a lot.

    One common thread, emotional salvation and seeing their salvation as dependent upon stamping out "sin" in the rest of society using state (government) coercion and compulsion. Blue laws, prohibition, etc. are now soda bans, carbon prohibitions, etc. The Protestant side has been in retreat for the last 50 years, but not those who see using violence to make a more pious society the price for their salvation.

  26. joe:

    I have been disinvited for public talks a few times.

    All these talks are really just sales seminars, in your case, a sales seminar on AGW, You simply were not selling the product they wanted to sell.

    In my case, a branch of a major investment bank/brokerage company was a presenting a seminar to employees of a tech company whose employees held substantial quanities of employee stock options. My portion of the presentation was to cover the income tax consequences of excersising the options vs holding, etc. The investment analysists had projections the stock would double to triple in value in 1-3 years. Based on various factors, I told them the stock was substationally overvalued and the price would drop by half within 6 months. I got disinvited 20 minutes later.
    The good news was that I was vindicated 6 months later with the stock price had dropped from $75 to approx $8 per share.
    Warren wont be vindicated for another 30 or so years.

  27. Ann_In_Illinois:

    I grew up in a midwestern Lutheran church, and our youth group did things with Church groups of other denominations all the time. In 7th and 8th grade, we had to take Catechism lessons, and much of it was about the differing beliefs of Lutherans versus Methodists, Presbyterians, Catholics, etc. We were expected to understand the differences before being confirmed.

  28. Jan Rhebergen:

    Maybe naive of me but,...why not send them a bill anyway? Perhaps even give them a choice. 1) Either pay/reimburse you the costs incurred 2) Pay a charity the same amount in stead 3) Hear from your high profile well paid lawyer ;)

  29. KrakenFartz:

    In many cases the claims of 'multiple reports of copyright violation' are clearly bogus. Google has recruited an army of voluntary citizen censors under the aegis of its 'Youtube Heroes' program. While I am sure that many operate in good faith, and perform a public service by flagging offensive material, it is also certain that many 'Heroes' operate on the basis of political ideology. The flagged channels and videos are supposed to be reviewed by Google employees, but it is either the case that those reviewers also make their decisions on an ideological basis, or, more likely the process is largely automated.

    It is interesting that the reports are submitted under penalty of perjury. I had not read the terms of service. Even so, it has not been a disincentive for false reports so far.

  30. sped2001:

    Difficult to think of a more regressive tax than a carbon tax.

    If we must implement an ineffective, unnecessary feel good program in the name of fighting Climate Change, I'd prefer we pick one whose cost is not borne disproportionately by the poorest among us.

  31. Zachriel:

    johnmoore: He was not harassed for heliocentrism or his faulty idea that orbits were circular.

    Galileo (under threat of the Inquisition): "I have been pronounced by the Holy Office to be vehemently suspected of heresy, that is to say, of having held and believed that the Sun is the center of the world and immovable, and that the earth is not the center and moves"

  32. Zachriel:

    Galileo's forced abjuration speaks for itself.

  33. johnmoore:

    And what does it say?

  34. Zachriel:

    Galileo (under threat of the Inquisition): "I have been pronounced by the Holy Office to be vehemently suspected of heresy, that is to say, of having held and believed that the Sun is the center of the world and immovable, and that the earth is not the center and moves"

    You had claimed that "He was not harassed for heliocentrism". That is patently false.

  35. johnmoore:

    You are confusing the politically correct wording with the motivation. He was harassed for insulting high officials, including labeling the Pope "Simplicio." Of course, he didn't want to say that. He was also committed heresy, but it was not about heliocentrism. He also was violating the standards of truth assertion, and that was about heliocentrism.

    There were others who were talking about heliocentrism, and they were not prosecuted. Copernicus had published his treatise with detailed support for heliocentrism 90 years before this affair, and Copernicus was a Catholic cleric.

    There is deep material on this. I suggest you read it. Judging this affair by 21st century cultural norms leads to false conclusions, and judging it in a culture that has been exposed to 400 years of protestant anti-Catholic propaganda is fraught with intellectual peril. This took place at a time where the Church was under theological attack by the new protestant reformation. And, it took place at a time when those who insulted rulers were routinely tortured and executed, whereas Galileo suffered merely a comfortable house arrest.

    The Galileo affair is frequently raised, as it was in this discussion, as an assertion (or example) that the Church was immune to evidence and is and was anti-science. It was and is not, which is what motivates me to set the record straight about Galileo. It did, however, require assertions of fact to be held to stronger standards than the assertion of hypotheses. Galileo was sloppy, and he claimed to have proved heliocentrism, when he had not. He also claimed to have proved that the orbits of the planets were circular, even though Kepler had already shown them to be elliptical. Galileo's "proof" of heliocentrism was that moons orbited Jupiter, and therefore the Earth circles the Sun. This was an interesting argument, but it was not proof. Proof came from measuring the parallax change in stars as the earth moved, which was not possible at the time.

    Heliocentrism was an ancient theory. It just wasn't the "consensus" theory at the time of Galileo.

    The best and most detailed information, presented in a quite humorous way, is here: http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2013/08/the-great-ptolemaic-smackdown.html

  36. Zachriel:

    johnmoore: You are confusing the politically correct wording with the motivation.

    We're not confusing anything. You said, Galileo "was not harassed for heliocentrism". That is simply not correct. He was forced, under threat of the Inquisition, to repudiate heliocentrism as heresy.

  37. Zachriel:

    However, the Church finally did admit their error — 350 years later.