By Kisa Lala
Despite the heat, hundreds gathered outside Manhattan's Bowery Hotel to hear Christopher Monckton, the Viscount Monckton of Brenchley (known widely as Lord Monckton, former policy advisor to Margaret Thatcher) debate Eric Bates, the editor of Rolling Stone and a vocal critic of the opponents of global warming, the so-called climate killers.
While the debate attracted a mix of entertainers and musicians (The Yeah Yeah Yeahs), with actors Ewan McGregor and Liev Schreiber also attending -- any serious concern for the environment soon became beside the point. Outside, in the sweltering open rooftop bar, energy consumption was at its peak with the A.C pumping out gusts of cold air to keep guests in an icy cocoon. Ewan McGregor claimed innocence, "I'm Scottish. A.C. is a novelty where I'm from."
Moderated by Tracy Morgan (attired in more bling than the Queen at her coronation) and sponsored by Lexus, (the Darker Side of Green series), the mood was amiable enough, with Mr. Bates beginning a grim recitation of statistics, noting the scaldingly high 129F of the recent Pakistani summer -- along with the consensus of opinion amongst scientists, that we are at great peril.
"Ewan McGregor at the global warming debate July 27, 2010"
Lord Monckton, who by his own admission, only inherited his greatness, leapt up at the word "consensus," waving a placard (he seemed to have quite a few other props tucked away up his sleeve) -- a term he regarded as highly misused -- his objection being that there was no consensus on how much harmful warming a given amount of C02 was likely to cause and therefore no reason to incur costs to forestall it.
The audience had warmed to the one with the most theatrical approach, and Lord Monckton had the crowd in his lap. "Sit back and enjoy the sunshine,"he exulted. The crowd cheered.
Still, one could guess in which camp the downtown-crowd was morally invested. Liev Schreiber, a Manhattan resident, chatted about how even his kids' clothes get recycled, the junior inheriting the elder brother's discards.
Even so, Mr. Bates' more reserved approach had the crowds heading for the bar. He persevered nonetheless, driving home the point that though a certain degree of skepticism was healthy in matters of scientific study, the facts of global warming were not a media conspiracy. He looked on drolly as Lord Monckton countered with his shock and awe strategy, which to summarize was:
- Humans are capable of adapting to a wide range of temperatures. We are not at risk, so let's just adapt.
- It was warmer during Roman times. As well as 8500 years ago.
- The consensus was a conspiracy. Just because people say it is so -- doesn't make it true ('Aristotelian head count fallacy')
- Antarctica is expanding -- a little reported fact, and penguins were doing jolly well.
- Climate change has been taking place for 4,567 million years, so what's the big deal?
Mr. McGregor leaned against the doorway, cheeks pressed against glass, looking mildly unhappy or alternatively horrified depending on how one interpreted the arch of his eyebrows. Judging by his prior work, it was apparent which side of the debate he was on.
"Lord Monckton getting warmer at the Bowery Hotel"
Mr. Bates inveighed against the tardy political process, Senator Kerry's one too many compromises, and the consequence of treating our atmosphere as a sewer: We should be able to decide on what kind of energy to spend our money on, he declared.
It was when Lord Monckton taking it a step further, began riling against Hollywood loveys and the Al Gore faction that the debate degenerated to a travesty. Mr. Morgan looked on, flustered, as Mr. Bates, out for blood, pointed out that Lord Monckton's non-scientific appraisals had recently extended to claims of discovering a cure for MS and HIV. "I am glad that he is interested in treating HIV now because at the beginning Christopher (i.e. Lord M.), argued for a worldwide quarantine for anybody who tested positive for HIV."
Lord Monckton, taking this as a personal attack, countered that it was standard practice to quarantine new incurable diseases and that he was sorry that 25 million people had died because of the lack of such precautions. Mr. Morgan, losing his umpire-cool, interjected that his own father died of AIDS and that "he would not have wanted him quarantined."
"Mr. McGregor enjoying the air conditioning at Bowery Hotel"
Mr. Bates freshened his attack, "One of Christopher's main points was to question the messenger when it comes to climate scientists and it's not a personal attack to say we ought to question the messenger in this case as well."
Mr. Morgan's entreaties to end the debate amicably on something they both agreed on was met with hostile silence from Mr. Bates. "Laughing and scoffing about it, as climate-deniers such as Christopher get us to do, is part of the real danger here. They want to confuse and trivialize the threat."
Indeed, on that note the mood of the evening had descended into the darker side of green... but not for long. Whether the message was brought home or not, the crowds dispersed to refresh their drinks and went back to enjoying the summer night -- in one of the hottest ten years on record.
Ewan McGregor, narrator on U.K. global warming message:
By Kiša Lala
All photos: Kiša Lala