The conference of climate sceptics meeting in Chicago as I write this seems much like an attempt to tie together climate sceptics in a unified block, an attempt thwarted by the reality that they simply are not all of the same mind. While by all accounts there was a strong sense on clamouring for blood and cheap shots, like the cheers for a member of the audience calling for the jailing of UEA scientists, it’s unsurprising this was scuppered by those who’ve proved sceptical of the sceptics.

In the first place, Steve McIntyre’s reserved speech defended both the UEA e-mail leakers and the creators of the hockey stick graph. McIntyre, as the statisticion who led the charge of disproving the now infamous hockey-stick graph, is lauded by climate sceptics and has a book of his story seemingly widely read and discussed – it has 45 amazon reviews, not to mention accompanying comments. Many of these do, as is so often the case on anything involving climate change, descend into punch-and-judy arguments. (Read my review of “The Hockey Stick Illusion” here.)

(One review comments: “The majority of people reviewing the book are celebrating the fact that it supports their pre-existing bigotry and valids their delusions of superiority over most of the world’s best scientists.” The eight comments include attacks including “I also must say that your comment seems to have missed this completely, and gone off at a tangent of your own imagining” and, better still “following on from several inexactitudes regarding the book’s science in your review then it’s hard not to jump to the conclusion that you probably didn’t read the book because and that that would be because your pre-existing opinions on the ‘hockey stick’ and its inventor make it difficult for you to stomach the real science. Shame on you.”)

Another dissatisfied sceptic was interviewed on the BBC’s Today Programme this morning – Tom Harris, executive director of the International Climate Science Coalition showed a concern that sceptic groups are dominated by right-wing agents, and seeks to draw together the left-wing of the climate sceptics under one banner, and give a voice for those who share the scepticism but don’t have much in common with many of the leading sceptic forces.

I am in favour of such a move. The polarisation of the camps closes down dialogue. Does it matter if sceptics are ignored? It is reasonable question for those of use seeking to reconcile our liberal concern for exchange of ideas with our concern over the current and potential hazards of climate change. If public (and institutional) belief in climate change were strong, then perhaps it wouldn’t matter so much from the purely selfish point of view from advancing an agenda of adaptation and mitigation. In fact, however, sceptical perspectives have gained a lot of public support in the last couple of years, a BBC poll in February showed. Moreover, in the UK at least there has been a wave of broadly sceptical books by Nigel Lawson, Christopher Booker and Peter Taylor, among others, and, one of the most recent, the aforementioned “The Hockey Stick Illusion: Climategate and the Corruption of Science”, and Booker in his book claims significant increases in interest in climate blogs.

The PR war with the sceptics is being lost. It is time to consider some PR diplomacy instead.

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