I am always wary of reducing a complex area like climate-science to a televised debate format, so I settled into the debate with some apprehension.
So how did it go? More to the point, who won?
Jones opened asking Monboit to explain why he recently pessimistically claimed that AGW deniers are 'winning' ("There is no point in denying it: we're losing. Climate change denial is spreading like a contagious disease..."), which he did by elucidating the profound irony that poll after poll shows that, as the scientific evidence hardens (e.g., the IPCC says that they are 90% confident that man is causing dangerous global warming), the public is more and more gripped by climate change doubt. He believes this is because people simply don't want to face "the writing that's now on the wall".
Jones made the interesting point that the very conference Monboit was joining the debate from, COP15 Copenhagen, shows that world leaders are out touch with their faltering public. Monboit agreed, and made the equally interesting point that this is because governments are taking their lead from their scientific advisors, so they know they have to do something.
Plimer parried this, claiming that it is because governments can't resist the idea of a tax, and went on to accuse their scientific advisors of being "dodgy", citing the recent University of East Anglia so called 'climategate' hack. Monboit agrees that he as been let down by what he says the emails show in terms of keeping certain papers out of the IPCC process. But he pointed out that this did not make the science a "hoax or a con". Not taking Plimer's bait, he made the fair point that Phil Jones' indiscretions (in private emails I might add) do not debunk the consistent message coming from tens of thousands of peer-reviewed scientists.
Plimer argued that the two or three CRU scientists involved in using "mafia-style tactics"were the main people the IPCC relied upon. Further cracks in Plimer's credibility appeared, when he claimed this is the "biggest scientific fraud in history". What about the work of your intellectual antecedents Ian, the pro-smoking, 'no link to cancer' lobby?
The rest of the debate was devoted to Monboit successfully taking Plimer to task over inaccuracies in his Plimer's book, Heaven + Earth, and his subsequent evasiveness over his real "scientific fraud". He mentioned two specifically — Plimer's claim that the world has cooled since 1998 (page 383 of Plimer's book referring to the Charles F.Keller paper), and that volcanoes emit more co2 than mankind.
Once presented with the the facts, that the WMO claims the last decade to be the hottest on record yet, and the US Geological Survey claim Pilmer to be wrong by an order of magnitude of 130 times, Plimer ducked and weaved. When asked to detract or stand by his claims, Plimer squirmed and distracted, obfuscated and attacked. But he just would not answer the question. Oh, look, a unicorn!
After it was clear that Monboit was not going to let him off his left-hook, Plimer jumped out of the ring to run away, and Tony Jones pulled him right back into it by his scruff. It was like watching an exorcism; his charm gave way to smarm, and viewers witnessed a denier being expertly dissected.
When Plimer accused Monboit of being rude for interjecting (when trying to get a straight answer out of Plimer), Monboit returned by pointing out it was rude to wittingly lie on television, and bad manners to not answer the question.
Monboit kicked Plimer's arse between Heaven + Earth, hell and high water. Deniers will pick on Monboit's aggression, but that's because they cannot fall back on Plimer's arguments. I was left with the impression that Plimer is aware and unconcerned about the irony of the full title of his book, "Heaven + Earth: The Missing Science of Global Warming" — it's clear that it's his book that is missing the science.
In short, Plimer got pwned.