Last week, political broadcaster Andrew Neil (right) hosted a debate on climate science. He invited libertarian polemicist James Delingpole and Friends of the Earth campaigner Andrew Pendleton to give their views. Presumably the choice of participants was to give the debate 'balance', but Delingpole and Pendleton have one very important thing in common which should disqualify both - neither is a climate scientist. If Neil really wanted light rather than heat, why didn't he simply ask someone who actually knows what they are talking about?
If I want to understand a bit more about, say, the Higgs Boson, like everyone else I listen to Prof Brian Cox, because he does know his stuff and is great at explaining it in context: "It's 99.999% sure [we've found the Higgs Boson], which actually, in particle physics, is only just sure enough." Brilliant.
The two worst nightmares I come across in the culture change programmes I run are:
- Someone who has loaded themselves up on nonsense spouted by Delingpole, Christopher Booker or the rest of the denialosphere and sits there regurgitating it to show off in front of others;
- Someone who has loaded themselves up on self-righteous drivel about how we all just don't get it and need to and live in yurts. One woman at an event I attended asked "How can we just sit here and talk about climate when people are dying in Syria?" I had to restrain myself from shouting "Well if that's what you think, why are you just sitting here yourself?"
Fortunately both are quite rare, but to avoid getting bogged down in lengthy, pointless debates, I try to avoid talking about "problems" and focus instead on solutions. You can't debate climate science properly in a short session, just as you can't debate the Higgs Boson - you can only talk in broad terms. Climate solutions, however, focus the mind much more productively. If you do get one of my stereotypes holding forth, you can set the solutions exercise going and invite the show off to discuss their pet subject with you in the sidelines. But never let yourself or your sessions get hijacked by such people - life is way too short.
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