Saturday, August 16, 2008

The 'Any Questions' Experience

I must admit I don't normally get nervous before appearing on radio or TV, but yesterday was different. There's enormous potential to make a complete dick of yourself on ANY QUESTIONS, and the thought of the four hour drive home afterwards thinking I had done really badly nagged away at me all day. As the panel walked on to the stage at the King's School in Ottery St Mary I whispered to my fellow panellist Sarah Sands: "I'd rather be interviewed by Paxman."

We were all asked to arrive at the Bowd Inn, near Sidmouth, for a pre-programme dinner with Jonathan Dimbleby at 6pm. Sarah Sands and Mary Beard were already there when I arrived, having travelled down by train. I had left Tunbridge Wells at 10am and had a good drive round the M25 and down the A30. I arrived in the area at around 2pm and spent the afternoon relaxing and reading the papers. I kept asking myself if I had done enough preparation, while all the time knowing in the back of my mind that I often perform best when I have done absolutely no preparation whatsoever.

The pre-programme dinner was very jolly, with Jonathan Dimbleby entertaining us with anecdote after anecdote, and telling us of his new job chairing Index on Censorship. Although I had met Sarah Sands before I didn't know Mary Beard (a left of centre Cambridge Don) or Tim Smit from the Eden Project. Attending the dinner beforehand was very useful in that it enabled us all to build a little bit of a rapport and size each other up. It was clear from the outset that Tim and I might well have a major disagreement on the programme. Jonathan left the dinner before the rest of us to head to the venue and choose the questions with his producer, Lisa Jenkinson.

There wasn't much discussion about the likely question areas, although we were all obsessed about the final 'funny' question'. But we did agree that GM foods was a definite possibility, given Jonathan Dimbleby's position as the recently retired Chairman of the Soil Association.

At 7.30pm we were taken the five miles to the School and spent ten minutes in the library, while the audience was warmed up by a man from BBC Radio Cornwall. There were about 350 people packed in the Assembly Hall. The local paper took a group photo of us as 'show time' approached.

As we walked out onto the raised stage, I looked out to the audience almost willing them to be responsive. I know I perform best when there is audience reaction - it's almost immaterial whether it's positive or negative. At 7.55 Jonathan asked a member of the audience for the warm up question which was: "Forty years on from Woodstock, which Woodstock Act would you like to see in a 2008 Woodstock". Oh bugger, I thought, I haven't got a clue who sang at Woodstock. I was called on last, and explained that my musical knowledge didn't extend back before 1974 and Abba, but the only sixties act worth hearing again would, of course, be Sir Cliff Richard. The men in the audience groaned, and all the 'women of a certain age' cheered!

Before we knew it, we heard the Radio 4 pips and after the news, off we went. That empty feeling in my stomach was disappearing... Jonathan finished introducing me by saying that I host the theatre show 'A Night With Ann Widdecombe'. He mischievously looked at me and asked: 'Is that a whole night?' I rolled with the audience laughter and replied: 'That's for me to know and you to guess'. Cue more audience laughter. We were on our way and having got an audience reaction my nerves had gone. It was a good way for Jonathan to put me at my ease.

We had three questions which I had predicted - on Georgia, Policy Exchange and GM Foods, and two questions which I hadn't - and nor had anyone who left comments in the previous thread. One question asked if we agreed with the Judge who said that a broken society was equally as apocalyptic as global warming and the other one posed the question as to how we could encourage boys to read more books. The final 'funny' question asked what alternative career path we would have taken had we not chosen to do what we currently do.

I had a good spat with Tim Smit on global warming. I expressed some scepticism about man made global warming, which both Tim and Jonathan seemed rather surprised by. He asserted that not a single scientist disagreed with the fact that global warming is entirely man made. I took issue with that and quoted the example of the UN report, for which many dissenting scientists had lost their jobs and were considered almost heretical. Tim had to agree I was right. I also layed into Greenpeace and others for refusing to debate the issue because they regard the argument as already won. Jonathan then asked the audience if they shared my scepticism and rather to all our surprise found that half of them did. Greenpeace clearly haven't won the argument if the Ottery St Mary audience is anything to go by.

Anyway, it all seemed to go by very quickly and I found the whole experience most enjoyable. I think I avoided the 'making a dick of yourself' factor - unless of course you tell me different! - although I think there were a couple of questions where I missed a trick or two.

After the programme we had a drink with the Ottery St Mary town councillors who had hosted the event and I left at around 9.30pm to drive back to Kent.

Much of the journey was spent thinking about how I could have done better, but also wondering if I had hogged it a bit. Sometimes saying less is more. Hopefully I did well enough to be invited back. Time will tell!

NB The programme is repeated at 1.10pm today, and then followed by ANY ANSWERS. It's then available for 7 days on the BBC iPlayer. If you listen to it, I hope you enjoy it.

Mary Beard's blog, A DON'S LIFE is HERE.

The transcript of ANY QUESTIONS is HERE.


Raedwald said...

Good stuff. One of your fellow panellists sounded as though they'd dined well but perhaps not wisely. But perhaps they always sound like that - some people do. And Tim's peppering of naughty words probably caused a minor wince or two at the producer's desk.

Yep, excellent GW points you made - Tim effectively did a 180deg spin in acknowledging your points.

Nick R Thomas said...

I'm looking forward to catching today's repeat.

A fascinating account of the preparation for and recording of this type of programme. I will certainly link to it on my public speaking tips blog.

But as far as that warm-up question was concerned, you actually had a year to think about your answer - Woodstock was 1969, not '68.

stuart said...

It's really interesting to know what goes on behind the scenes. Thanks Iain.

Anonymous said...

Mary Beard must be very "left of centre": she sent both of her children to private school.

Anonymous said...

Re GW:

A lot of people have not woken up to the reality that those behind the IPCC are a crafty as any other politically motivated shindig.

Real-world scientists are not other-worldly beings who only speak the truth, irrespective of the personal consequences for themselves.

Michael St George said...

Ian, I thought you did very well in countering the usual eco-fascist "total consensus on MMGW, not one scientist who disagrees" propaganda from Smit. While he was saying "name me one", I was saying over and over again "say Steve McIntyre, Say Steve McIntyre", hoping you'd quote the Canadian climatologist who has forced the IPC to admit that both their temperature data sets and their interpretation of them are seriously flawed - I really should get out more........

Tom FD said...

Getting climate change scepticism broadcast on the BBC? Of course you won't be asked back ;)

Wallenstein said...

Looking forward to catching this tonight on Listen Again. Fascinating to read a "behind the scenes" report of the process... was always slightly sceptical that the pannelists didn't know the questions beforehand, but clearly not!

Iain Dale said...

Wallenstein, that's right. We weren;t even given a hint!

Anonymous said...

I normally ensure I do not listen to that programme because (a) they have so many twats on the panel and (b) Dimblebore (both of them, but especially that one) makes me want to puke. As you were on I forced myself to listen.

"thinking I had done really badly nagged away at me all day"

You didn't. In fact, you were the towering intellect of the team. God knows who those other people were. A so-called don - from a Poly or just an indictment of what we've come to? Some other bird so vacuous an empty seat would have done just as well. A foul-mouthed leftoid spouting platitudes from the leftoid book of what we've decided we ought to think.

When Al-beeb types tell you what 'most' 'scientists' think, remember to ask them how they know, and how many Commie propagandists they are counting as 'scientists'.

You were talking balls about Georgia, of course. Try to understand: being not anti-Russian does not equal being anti-American. Other than that, not bad.

Alex said...


Very good, but if you listen again you will hear yourself interrupting a lot which doesn't put you in a good light. Any Questions isn't like Question Time, it is a sort of Brains Trust format where the plebiscite are nourished by the snippets of wisdom handed to them by the great and the good. The good performers in AQ are those who can make their point succinctly and forcefully, and that usually raises the greatest applause from the audience and hence wins the argument. I don't know how you get a chance to respond (put your hand up/ flash a smile at JD?), but when it descends into trying to win the point all the squabbling panel members sound bad.

rob's uncle said...

'Sometimes saying less is more.' Yes indeed.

To inform yourself about Climate Change a bit more, I recommend RealClimate: 'a commentary site on climate science by working climate scientists for the interested public and journalists. We aim to provide a quick response to developing stories and provide the context sometimes missing in mainstream commentary. The discussion here is restricted to scientific topics and will not get involved in any political or economic implications of the science.'

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 12.20 pm said...
"A so-called don - from a Poly or just an indictment of what we've come to?"

'so-called don - from a Poly'?

She is a Professor at Cambridge University.

maryb said...

Dear raedwald... no I always sound like that when I'm THINKING! it's the noises of the brain working, honest. Iain will assure you that I only had a plate of moules and a modest amount of wine at supper....Mary

Wallenstein said...

"'so-called don - from a Poly'?
She is a Professor at Cambridge University."

Indeed, "Fenland Polytechnic" as my brother (MA Oxon.) delights in reminding me (MPhil Cantab.)!

Anonymous said...

"He (Tim Smit) asserted that not a single scientist disagreed with the fact that global warming is entirely man made."

I'm sorry Iain but this isn't what Tim Smit said. He actually said that every scientist who disagreed with the fact that global warming is entirely man made had received funding from big oil companies. The implication being that their views were therefore biased.

Anonymous said...

Just listened to AQ…. how can an intelligent person say the Georgian president had the EU flag behind him? It’s the Council of Europe Flag (that the EU uses) and Georgia is a member of the Council of Europe. Even the Times made the same error.

Anonymous said...

I'm as annoyed with new taxes as the next man, but 99% of the scientific evidence points to climate change being man-made. That doesn't make the case for higher tax, but on the facts of GW it is a scientific near-certainty.

This whole anti-man made malarkey seems like a bunch of Tories taking up any quixotic position they can find just so they can put "clear blue water" between them and Labour. It does you no good with the voters, as you might have learnt when you were doing it big style around the turn of the century.

Richard Dale said...

Wash your mouth out Iain! Cambridge doesn't have any "dons". They reside at the other place, the fourth best university in the country, near Didcott.

Mary Beard is a fellow. She is in fact a fellow of Newnham College, the same college that gives space to the "intellectual" self publicist Germaine Greer. Not an especially proud boast.

Ron Todd said...

This was typical BBC. Only they would use the Russian invasion of Georgia as a way of having a planted leftie in the audience ask a question to give his fellow lefties on the panel backed by the resident Dimbelby a chance to attack America.

I would have liked to hear somebody on the panel say more about prince Charles king in waiting owner of Cornwall making money from selling organic food that the majority of his subjects to be could never afford to buy.

Unsworth said...

I thought it was a good solid performance. You didn't sound at all nervous. Well done.

norman said...

Your AQ panel colleagues Tim and Mary were good, although I might not agree with Mary's politics. You did well albeit you did interrupt Mary (which I would have done too!) Your suggestion to Sands to send to boys free copies of Readers Digest was quite good and practical.

Richard Dale said...

On a more serious note I am glad you didn't let them get away with lying. There have been letters signed by hundreds of scientists disagreeing with the IPCC report. Unlike the IPCC these were actual scientists not pressure-group leaders, and actually working in relevant fields.

The "scientists" working on the IPCC report were often not well qualified, with few having any publications to their names (real scientists need dozens of papers published to gain anyh respect and influence). Published scientists were often working outside their fields (one had no real field, about 30 papers in various subjects but most prominently bicycle helmet safety!), and several of those who were not became so fed up of the poor science that they left. Despite this the IPCC report listed most as co-authors. In fact one had to threaten legal action to get his name taken off the report (the epidemiologist who featured heavily on "The Global Warming Swindle", i don't recall his name.

Dave H. said...

It wasn’t a stellar performance but you certainly didn’t make a dick of yourself either. You laughed well and easily too.

A bit of digging, the question was “who thinks the catastrophic potential of global warming is overstated?” it’s hardly the same as asking whether they are a climate change sceptic.

I imagine some people are getting sick of an extremely unpopular Government using AGW as justification for its favourite activities: raising taxes and taking control.

"Not a single scientist..." is a stupid line to take when you had just complained about the way sceptics are hounded. In reality there is a clear scientific consensus on the subject, though it has become hijacked wildly as a political issue. Both sides distort freely. Official bodies with ulterior motives, hectoring Greens and other pious busybodies all get up eveyones nose (what gets up Gordon’s nose?)

I have now this AQ episode as an MP3 file. How sad is that?

This post was an interesting insight. If someone rings Any Answers to complain about 'that awful Iain Dale' you may take it as a compliment.

Final dig on the post: 'layed into Greenpeace'?! It's laid. Honestly, Iain.

Anonymous said...

Re 'Realclimate'

I've looked at that site many times - and I cannot remember anything that was not following the GW party line. My advice to non-scientists on this matter is simple: 'don't be taken in by computer models.

I, as a retired scientist, Physics from Cambridge (yep Fen Tech), must commiserate with the Ladies of Newnham College who clearly have another Patricia Hewitt in their ranks.

Geoff Bond said...

Brilliant! Any Questions is usually insufferable unless they mistakenly get a freethinking maverick on the panel.

I couldn't wait while the other panelists droned on through their predictable superficial platitudes to hear your penetrating insights.

Will you be invited back? Not likely! You are too articulate, quick-witted, and display a level of intellectually honesty that is anathema to the BBC.

Yak40 said...

example of the UN report, for which many dissenting scientists had lost their jobs

Which report was that ?

lavrentiy beria said...

I haven't listened to AQ in ages, and now I remember why. Mary Beard was a parody lefty, and the Smit fellow was a smug pottymouth.

The biggest thing I learned was that America was behind the Russian invasion of Georgia, but then for these useful idiots America is behind everything: If America attacks an enemy country, it's America's fault; if America gets attacked by terrorists, it's America's fault; if another country attacks a country which is a friend of America, it's America's fault. Bottom line: everything is America's fault.

Good job that President Obama will have the audacity to hope to change this, and make everyone love America, even Dr Beard.

Anonymous said...

Good performance Iain.

You kept the GW enthusiasts at bay.

Stowford said...

Everyone, especially scientists, should feel free to express themselves without the Monty Python foot descending on them. The morphing of the Climate Change argument into the Carbon Religion is very unhelpful.

Note I use the term "Climate Change" not "Global Warming".
This latter principle has caused more confusion and lying than any other factor. At this moment, the average Global temparature is not rising. What, instead, is happening is that the Earth's ecosystem is adjusting to the changes we have made to the Earth's surface, carbon included.

The scientists which are being listened to are those who are prepared to equate Global Warming to Carbon emissions including those that make up the IPCC. There is no simple equation nor can there be with such a complex system which cannot yet be predicted by our most powerful computers. In any case is a major mathematical misunderstanding to equate a near static temperature to an ever-increasing carbon level. That's like pushing the accelerator and expecting a car to stay at the same speed. Going downhill.

What is happening is an increase in the total of the retained heat from the Sun, in other words Heat Retention, which is very different from warming. For instance melting ice at 0 deg C absorbs a great deal of heat when it melts to water still at 0 deg C.

The Carbon Religion states that if we continue to emit fossil fuel carbon but at a slightly reduced rate we can "save the Planet". Like many fringe and not-so-fringe religions a simple dogma gives a lot of power to its clergy and cloaks over the many inconsistencies.

Please encourage this debate even though we may never come to the same conclusion. Expose the lies including the repeated mantra that doing this or that will "save the Planet". It can't and it won't and we must continue the argument instead of swallowing the bollox we are being fed from many quarters. We have no solution at present and it is political lying to suggest that we have.

I posted yesterday on the subject of Maplin Airport and pointed out that our Governement (and no other Government) is actually proposing to reduce total carbon emissions. They may pretend they are, but look at the oil and coal extraction totals and the proimses that we will not run out.

What is ridiculous is to suggest that, given the position the Planet is now in, we can reverse the Climate Change. Look at the climate records and the Ice core data and it is obvious we are now already in "the flip". I can argue that the Industrial Revolution atarted a process which has hastened the flip, but that is not what worries me.

What worries me is the inability of the Earth to complete the flip as it did 110,000 years ago and start another ice age. We have changed the surface and the ecology too much for that to happen.

We are now the dominant force in the Earth's ecosphere. There is a word for this which was debated in the BBC Reith Lecture in 2007 - we are now in the geological Era of the Anthopocene. We are in control of our environment. Does that worry you or does that worry you? This has never happened before in tens of millions of years and we are in uncharted territory with no precedents to go on.

Before I sound too much like a Guardian reader, I will state the obvious cause of Climate Change which is a natural process since the last Ice Age, recently boosted by man.

Forget oil and coal; for centuries we have insulted the Earth's surface in the quest for our betterment, and I can't think of any alternative we should have chosen as we are clearly the dominant species. People have altered the Earth just by existing.

The crunch is not with agricultural monocultures, over-fishing, deforestation, or the use of fossil fuels, but is because of our population explosion which has recently got to a critical point where megadeaths are now significant. Population limitation is by infant mortality and low life expectancy. These of course impact mainly on the developiing World.

The developed nations will of course continue to develop, or their systems will fail. To bring the rest of the World up to our standards would take the resources of several planets. The conclusion must be that several peasants somewhere must support each one of us. Possibly with their lives. Debate that.

David Brinicombe

Anonymous said...

Iain - you should read Nigel Lawson's little book on global warming. He doesn't write as well as he can, but it (rightly) debunks much of the nonsense that so-called scientists spout. The foreword's illuminating too - he looked for a publisher before starting and struggled to find anyone to take him on, because "there wouldn't be a market".

Anonymous said...

From TLS link "M. Beard, a professor of Classics at Cambridge"

Hmm, must know a lot about the modern world. I wonder if Caesar worried about the same things - iPods etc?

TonyN said...


I can well imagine the expression on Jonathan's face when you committed your great global warming heresy. Thanks and well done in the face of enormous odds, the spontaneous applause was very revealing. It would be interesting to know how many people in the audience didn't dare put up their hand at all.

If you are interested in the BBC's attitude to climate change then you may find this relevant:


PS Just listening to Any Answers, and this one may be even more relevant:

Anonymous said...

Why all the angst about the long drive Iain? Surely AQ offered to send a driver to collect you and drop you back to the place of your choice in the UK. (That's the standard offering for politicians who appear.)

Al said...

Iain, special congratulations for bringing sensible global warming discussions onto a major R4 programme. Also heartening to know 50% of the audience agreed with us - now just to work on the other 50%.

ps you should have taken the train. Much more comfortable and relaxing :)

Hitchy said...

"Greenpeace clearly haven't won the argument if the Ottery St Mary audience is anything to go by"

Given they've won in London, New York, Paris etc etc...I suspect Greenpeace won't be losing any sleep over that

trevorsden said...

Lets get one thing straight ---- if you want truth about 'global warming' - or lack of it, since temperatures now as low as in the 1930's, then you will NOT go to ' RealClimate'

One of the people behind Real Climate is Michael E. Mann whose deceitful paper on the 'hockey stick' curve has been widely debunked.

Another contributer is Caspar Ammann whose work in defence of the hockey stick has also been exposed.

The techniques of both these scientists and others brings 'science' into widespread disrepute.

For more about the hockey stick scandal read this
its esensial reading if you want to understand the corruption of science at the alter of political expediency.

As has been suggested
ttp:// run by statistitian Steve McIntyre is a must. The world owes this man a massive vote of thanks.
by metrologist Anthony Watts.

And finally I urge everyone with an interest in wondering where all this politicking comes from to read all they can about former UN aparatchick Maurice Strong.

Oxbridge Prat said...

Anonymous 3:08 is right that Nigel Lawson's book is a good place to start on questioning the conventional wisdom on global warming, though it is strongest on the politics and the economics, rather than the science.

The science is genuinely complicated, which makes it hard to get a good grasp of the issues without serious study. I am a professional scientist, but not in a close enough field to make a professional judgment. But I do have enough expertise to judge whether there is indeed a clear evidence based consensus, and it doesn't take much digging around to realise that there isn't one. The models contain far too many fitted parameters for comfort, with no real theory behind them. The obvious validation checks, that simply have to be done, either haven't been done or have been but give the wrong answer or ambiguous answers.

Global warming is an interesting idea, and it's probably basically correct, but the idea that we grasp the situation well enough to make serious predictions is simply wrong. In many ways it reminds me of string theory: the string theory community believe absolutely in the truth of their ideas, even though there is no clear evidence for them and several sound grounds for doubting them; the science community doesn't really understand what's going on, but tends to assume that it must be basically right given how many clever people seem to believe in it; the general public lap it up and enjoy the idea of eleven dimensions with no idea whatsoever as to what's really going on. The only real difference is that string theory either doesn't make apocalyptic predictions, or when it does they are so apocalyptic that there's absolutely nothing we can do about them.

The last few years have seen two decent semi-popular books attacking string theory, The Trouble with Physics and Not Even Wrong; I suspect we'll see the equivalent books on global warming in a few years time.

Roger said...

Iain. I listened to AQ today and thought you were the stongest panel member - a pity the others were so useless. Sands was quite senible most of the time, but didn't show much street cred with her response on boy's reading. Beard was a self-important dope nad Smit a rent-a-mouth.

Still you had the guts to challenge the GW lobby on air so you deserve a smallish medal for that.
Well done

Splashitallover said...

As Nixon might have said, at least you had the balls to go into the arena. Nice one.

ukipwebmaster said...

Sceptical about global warming?
Bravo Iain! You're becoming more 'UKIPPY' every day......

Iain Dale said...

Thanks for all the nice comments. Here are a few reactions to some of them.

Nick R 10.08am - that point was made by JD too!

Alex, 12.42. A good point well made. Yes, I do think I interrupted too much.

Anonymous 3.19. I find train journeys very stressful as I usually get on the wrong one, or the wrong bit of the train, or they don't arrive on time. I was given the choice of being picked up, but I also hate being driven. I always drive myself. Far more relaxing.

Dave H - if you would like to send me the MP3, I'd be grateful - I can then put it on my personal website.

Anonymous said...

Apropos the Great Global Warming controversy, here's an interesting footnote aboout apocalyptic predictions: The Arctic ice which refused to melt. Seems it's, er, pretty much the same as it used to be, whilst the Antarctic ice cap is actually, um, getting bigger.

Pssstt! Better not tell the BBC!!

Anonymous said...

Listened to the repeat today - you definitely seemed the most human and sensible :)

If you want more climate scepticism details, there's also which goes quite deeply into the science (or lack of it), and Professor Philip Stott's excellent essays on the political and economic aspects at Global Warming Politics

Jim Carr said...

Re 'Realclimate'

Realclimate is the website of Michael Mann and co., the authors of the discredited hockey stick graph.
There is nothing impartial about that site.
Try, the site of Steve McIntyre, who revealed the mendacity of the hockey stick hoaxers.
PS: sounds like the panel reflected the usual BBC idea of balance, three out of four being lefties.

Archie said...

I have to admit, Mr. Dale, that your appearance on "Any Questions?" made me revise my opinion of you. I had previously thought you a bit of a prat. No longer. I can't say the same of another member of the panel.

Londoner said...


I deliberately didn't look back at this site until I had had a chance to hear the programme, which I now have. I commented on the previous thread yesterday that the important thing is not to be invited on, but to do well when you are, and then be invited back (preferably not in August).

You did very well. I agree with one or two above who said you were the best on the panel. Yes, you may have interrupted a little too much but your first answers were perfect length - enough for people to get their teeth into but not burbling on. Also your interruptions often contained humour which softened the effect. For the general audience your answers were also relatively unpredictable, which ought to be a reason to be invited back despite the cynicism of some about the BBC.

I don't take your line on climate change, but I think you made your points reasonably, and you wrongfooted the other panellist on that report. I did like his line asking you whether you still thought the world was flat though.

But in terms of being invited back, no-one has commented that JD almost did so live on air (to debate against a green on climate change). In your letter of appreciation afterwards you should remind him of that, and say you will look forward to the invitation!

Anonymous said...

Cheers for the detail Ian. Explains why Live Any Questions is far far superior to recorded Question Time.

Roger Thornhill said...


You did very well* and came across as rational, measured but not fence-sitting, opportunistic nor equivocal. It basically reduced my desire to yell at the radio to acceptable levels!

Tim came out with an absolute shocker as part of his U-turn - he was quite happy for the AGW conceit to go ahead as long as it made the clay, I mean the people change their behaviour "for the environment".

* Mr Grace

Anonymous said...

Iain, I thought you were the best of the four panellists.

There was one remark from you that I thought was odd. Referring to GM crops you said:

"Do we trust the science - the same science that gave us BSE"

Odd because BSE was brought to us not by 'science' but by bad animal husbandry, i.e. feeding cattle with the ground up remains of other cattle.

Anonymous said...

Auntie Flo,

Re your comment on an earlier thread:

"Go back to nulab spin school, anon, all this bunking off is shrinking your pea sized brain."

Are you taking over the role of the late and unlamented Verity in delivering gratuitous insults in response to perfectly reasonable comments from other people. Or would you care to withdraw that comment?

Johnny Norfolk said...

A very interesting post Iain.

Thank you.

J Bonington Jagworth said...

Good to hear a bit of AGW scepticism on air. I often find AQ rather tedious, but not today. I hope they ask you back...

electro-kevin said...

It's easy for the likes of me to slag people off from our positions of relative anonymity.

Getting out and puting your own face on show and duelling in front of millions takes real self-belief and courage - though I'm sure there's an element of addiction and compulsion involved too.

Well done, you.

Anonymous said...

Oxbridge Prat said...

"Global warming is ... probably basically correct"

Why would you say that? The world is cooling, the ice isn't reducing, the carbon-heating causality seems to be the wrong way round, the climate has always been changing, etc etc. Where does this probability come from?

Colin said...

I was slightly concerned that mary beard thought that the most disgusting thing about the Georgian conflict was the the sight of Dick Cheney on TV and not the sight of Russian combat units rampaging through the Georgian countryside flattening anything that moved, military or civilian.

Classic useful "idiot stuff".

In her world Cheney = right wing. Right wing = bad. Cheney/America is against Russian combat units rampaging through Georgia, therefore Russian aggression must be good.

Oscar Miller said...

Iain - I disagree that you interrupted too much. You were on the right side of assertive in the face of some statements that seriously needed answering. It wasn't a case of not letting the other panellist speak, as sometimes happens. It was not done rudely or disruptively and Mary Beard could more than hold her own when it came to sounding off. You managed to rescue the programme from the stock leftism it usually suffers from - and that required a bit of upfront speaking out. You did it admirably. I also agree it was pretty outrageous that the BBC framed Georgia as an anti-American issue. Incredible!

Patrick said...

I too thought that the other panellists were weak. Particularly Sands and Beard. Their comments were too predictable..... Perhaps this was the fault of the questions being a bit on the dull side too.

For a moment I was worried that you might not ever be invited back to the BBC again.... when you started to talk about your scepticism to climate change.

Its pretty rare for this discussion to be broadcast on a mainstream media. The BBC thinks that the argument is over too.

Anonymous said...

Mary Beard became "famous" for writing after 9-11 that the "Americans had it coming to them". Booker and North write amusingly about the process failures and mendacity behind the publications on global warming (in "Scared to Death"), and Bjorn Lomborg is indespensible reading, and provides thousands of references backing his position (in e.g. "The Sceptical Environmentalist").

Anonymous said...

I think you achieved the 'making a dick of yourself' factor with your very first answer. Very mature! Its the kind of response you hear on schoolkids' playgrounds ... that's for me to know and you to find out.

Peter Mc said...

Anon 7.42. The models predict increased precipitation on the Antarctic ice cap.

Oscar Miller said...

What I don't understand is how global warming and carbon emissions have taken over the entire environmental debate. I regard myself as an environmentalist who is sceptical about global warming. But the warmists have made it into a 'you're with us or against us' issue. According to them if you doubt global warming you must be a very bad human being who doesn't care about the environment. Why?

Oxbridge Prat said...

Just because global warming is massively overhyped doesn't mean that it's all necessarily complete rubbish, and its unfortunate that many people go beyond healthy scepticism into full scale conspiracy theory.

The basic ideas of the greenhouse effect are entirely uncontroversial and clearly correct; without the effect the earth would be a great deal colder. That carbon dioxide is an important contributor to this is also clear.

It is pretty uncontroversial that a rise in CO2 should give a rise in temperature, but it is much harder to work out how much. There's a simple direct calculation which if I recall correctly suggests the CO2 rise we have seen so far should give a temperature rise of about 0.5 degrees, and that we might expect another degree from the next doubling in CO2. These numbers are much lower than the numbers in the scare stories, which depend heavily on the inclusion of feedback factors.

The role of positive feedbacks and confounding factors in global warming is where the whole thing gets really dodgy. There are good reasons for believing that there will be interactions, but we have nowhere near a good enough understanding of the processes involved to know what these interactions will look like. So the current approach is to do a multi variable fit to historic data and hope for the best.

Any serious scientist will tell you that using muti varianble fits without clear underlying theory is a very dangerous approach. You can always fit the data, but that doesn't mean you've got it right. You have to test it by predicting the future and seeing how you do. So far these attempts have failed pretty miserably. Clearly we don't understand the feedbacks and confounding factors yet, and it is simply dishonest to pretend (as the IPCC does) that we do.

So what do I mean by saying that "global warming is probably basically right"? Simply that rising CO2 does drive rising temperatures to some extent. It is however entirely possible (indeed pretty plausible) that the effects are and will be relatively small, and that the apocalyptic scenarios being bandied around are nonsense. The fact that global temperatures stopped rising around 1998 was not predicted by any model, and shows clearly that we don't yet understand the system. The models have been retrospectively adjusted, and now "predict" a pause in warming followed by a rapid rise in about five years time. If that doesn't happen (and I suspect it won't) we can pretty much kiss current models goodbye.

Arctic ice is largely driven by multi-decadal patterns in ocean curents which we really don't understand.

p.c. parker. (nosy to his mates) said...

After the programme we had a drink with the Ottery St Mary town councillors who had hosted the event and I left at around 9.30pm to drive back to Kent.

So Mr. Dale, for the benefit of the tape.

What was in the drink that you consumed in the presence of the Ottery Saint Mary town councillors?

Was it an alcoholic drink?

Iain Dale said...

For the benefit of the tape, anyone that knows me knows I am teetotal. And anyone who knows me knows my rather extreme views on drink driving ie I'd cut the limit from 80 units to 20.

p.c. parker (nosy to his mates) said...

Good man, I salute you.

It's nice to know you a little better.

Unfortunately, your views are not extreme as mine, not that I believe them to be extreme, just sensible.

The limit should be reduced to zero.

Anonymous said...

Oxbridge Prat said...

"So what do I mean by saying that "global warming is probably basically right"? Simply that rising CO2 does drive rising temperatures to some extent."

Thanks for the clarification.

As I uderstand it there are plenty of relevant scientists, as opposed to eco-moonbats, who assert that rises in CO2 have occurred years after rises in temperature.

Leaving that aside, what you mean by this 'probably' is fair enough but is nothing like what is meant by eco-religionists.

scott redding said...

"Jonathan then asked the audience if they shared my scepticism and rather to all our surprise found that half of them did."

Well, of course. It's the same reaction as some commenters on this thread, the scramble for some theory, any theory, that says climate change isn't man-made.

People don't want to face up to substantially and permanently changing nearly every aspect of how they live their lives in industrial society. Of course 50% of the audience will shy away from that!

Oscar Miller said...

Scott Redding - did you bother to read Oxbridge prat's eminently sensible contribution to this debate? Or are you so far gone evidence means nothing to you? You write like an evangelist, not a scientist.

Anonymous said...

You did very well.

That Cambridge Don was as mad as a box of frogs and insufferable too.

Geoffrey G Brooking said...

Very good performance Mr Dale.

Shame about some of the language from the other one.

Rodney said...

Jolly amusing and you fought your corner valiantly, although I can't believe the posters here who seem to hold the deluded belief that the audience is "random"!
A friend who happens to be a reformed Trot has told me that they were directed to seek out such public interest broadcasts and fill as many seats as possible. Question Time anyone?

Anonymous said...

Rodney said...

"the deluded belief that the audience is "random"!"

When I was politically active I received an invitationfrom Al-beeb for myself and a number of other party activists to attend a 'Question Time' show.

Given that the audience was likely composed of politicos, and that the libs and labs, and sometimes the cons, see the MMGW, oops MMCC, scam as a great wheeze for spending our money getting support from 50% of the audience was a considerable acheivement.

The general population is far more sensible i.e. doesn't believe a word of it.

Anonymous said...

"Jonathan then asked the audience if they shared my scepticism and rather to all our surprise found that half of them did."

I was at the 'Any Questions?' in Ottery St Mary, and this isn't true. Many didn't put their hands up and, out of those that did, more agreed that global warming was happening. I would estimate that, at the most, a quarter of people shared your scepticism.

Also, which UN report are you talking about? I have looked for it all over the internet and have been unable to find anything.

Holly Wrightson

Iain Dale said...

Holly, with respect, Jonathan Dimbleby on the programme reckoned it was half and half. He was right. Perhaps I had a better view than you as I was on the stage and could see all the hands raised.

And just for the record, I specifically did NOT say global warming wasn't happening. I questioned what was causing it.

I can hardly believe you couldn't find the UN report I was referring to. Typing UN climage change report into Google brings it up as the first item.

Anonymous said...

Iain, I think you may have misunderstood me. The number of people who agreed that man-made climate change is exaggerated was roughly equal (though slightly less, according to Dimbleby) than the number of people who agreed that it is not exaggerated. However, I think that many people in the audience did not agree with either statement: so, as a total proportion of the audience, in my opinion a maximum of a quarter shared your scepticism that climate change is man-made. Just for the record, to show that I can see and hear (and am not brainwashed by those do-gooder 'eco-fascists'), I noticed that when you expressed doubt as to whether climate change is man-made, a sizeable cheer went up. If you still disagree, we'll just have to agree to disagree. In any case, what people think is one thing, and what's true is another.

Thank you for the link to the report, but what I wanted was a link to a page providing evidence for your assertion that "many dissenting scientists had lost their jobs and were considered almost heretical" as a result of the UN report. Sorry to be so sceptical, but with so many conflicting voices in the debate about climate change I have learnt to accept nothing which isn't backed by hard, unbiased evidence.