by Judith Curry
Resolved: That all states have an obligation to anticipate, prevent and minimize the causes of climate change and mitigate its adverse effects.
At the Congressional Hearing that I attended last Wednesday, one of the Congresswomen made opening remarks that said something like ‘Welcome to the Science Committee, the last place on earth where climate change is still debated.’
Lets face it, that seems sort of true. Instead of genuine debate, we have one side shouting ‘denier’, and the other side shouting ‘green alarmist’, and reasonable people trying to have a reasonable discussion about the issue get dismissed with one of these two epithets, which acts to polarize reasonable people.
But something interesting is going on this year on at least some of the U.S. campuses: the Lafayette Debates on climate change. About the Lafayette Debates:
The Lafayette Debates is an academic series initiated by the Higher Education Department of the French Embassy in the United States in partnership with The George Washington University and U.S. civil society to promote intercultural understanding and relations by means of public debate on issues lying at the very heart of the Franco-American relationship. The program builds upon the central role of dissent in both the French and American intellectual traditions, as well as the prominence of competitive intercollegiate debate in the United States, to realize the possibilities for public debate as a method for education and diplomacy in a globalized world and digital era.
In 2015, The Lafayette Debates will include public debates at French consulates, an online speech competition, a national debate tournament on April 18th & 19th at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and a study tour for tournament champions to Paris, France, organized by the Embassy of France. During this study tour, tournament champions will continue their exploration of our tournament topic in meetings with high-level French officials, diplomats and scholars as part of our Young Ambassadors Program.
In anticipation of the 2015 Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris, France, the topic selected for the 2014-15 Lafayette Debates is:
Resolved: That all states have an obligation to anticipate, prevent and minimize the causes of climate change, and mitigate its adverse effects.
The 2015 debates will draw contributions and expertise from vast swathes of French and American intellectual, political and business circles. Participating students will benefit from a once-in-a-lifetime gathering of thinkers addressing the question of climate change and development from a Franco-American perspective.
Yesterday I was privileged to attend a Lafayette Debate sponsored by the French Consulate in Atlanta, between Emory University and Moorehouse College. Both Peter Webster and I were among the judges. An article on the Atlanta debate is here, excerpts:
Emory’s debate team won the 2014 Lafayette Debates held in Washington, D.C.
“The French Embassy hopes this will be the beginning of annual Emory-Morehouse debates, as do we,” says Melissa Wade, executive director of the Barkley Forum, Emory’s nationally award-winning debate team and community service organization.
The Lafayette Debates, named for the French general who fought for the United States in the American Revolution, is an academic series initiated by the Higher Education Department of the French Embassy in the United States. The goal is to promote intercultural understanding and relations by means of public debate on issues of importance to the Franco-American relationship. The program builds upon the central role of debate in both French and American intellectual traditions.
Flickr photos of the Atlanta debate are here.
The debate was exhilarating. Each of the 4 students participating were superb; all were humanities majors. The winner was Emory, by a narrow vote (6 to 5).
All of the debaters started from the premise that human caused climate change is dangerous; uncertainty in that conclusion did not factor in. The main issue was the developed world, vs developing countries, vs undeveloped countries. The debaters were better at handling the concerns of the undeveloped countries (rather than issues of concern for China and India). The judges asked questions; my question related to adaptation versus mitigation, and the benefits NOW from adaptation versus potential future benefits from mitigation.
One of the really interesting people that I met was Ed Lee of Emory University, who is Senior Director of Debate. One of the things we discussed was Emory’s new Quality Enhancement Plan, required for accreditation for the Southern Associations of Colleges [link]. The topic of their QEP is “The Nature of Evidence.” One of the main applications will be be climate change.
I am thrilled to see the topic of climate change being debated on college campuses, particularly the Lafayette Debates. I am of course concerned that science doesn’t seem to be a topic of debate, but perhaps through better understanding of the nature of evidence, progress can be made here.
France has a unique culture that welcomes dissent (Charlie: challenging free speech). In the U.S., there is definitely a lot of dissent, but it devolves into nasty name calling, and is eventually resolved to some extent when we vote.
The campus culture in the US is overall evolving in some unhealthy directions, I have been collecting material for a future post on this.
But kudos to the French Consulate and the university students that are participating in these debates.