The great climate debate was supposed to be yesterday, but it was not to be. My opponent, Dr. Tim Ball, was a no-show. He knew the debate started at 2:00 p.m., but got the time zone wrong. After he figured that out, his phone stopped working. Go figure.

So it was just me, and I spent about 75 minutes answering questions that readers had left on Eric Berger’s Sciguy site, as well as taking questions from the phone lines. Many of the questions were interesting and reasonable, and I very much appreciate the people that posed them.

However, what would a climate change debate be without a few wackos?

One caller asked (and later emailed me the same question):

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I would like to know if you really believe you and others like you can manage the climate of this planet? As the Wizard of Oz found out, there are unforeseen consequences to your actions.

That’s right, if the Wizard can’t make good policy concerning flying monkeys, witches, and Judy Garland, what chance do we have of handling climate change? This caller will most definitely not like my suggestion that we geoengineer a cooler climate by sending up flying monkeys carrying mirrors to reflect sunlight back to space.

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The last caller was also a doozy. I’m still not 100 percent sure what he was asking, but my response, describing how most scientists agree that climate change is real, triggered Godwin’s law and brought the ubiquitous comparison between the IPCC and Nazis. Steve Hayword of AEI fame emailed me to say that he caught this exchange and described it as “a train wreck.” It’s definitely worth listening to.

I was also surprised at the venom some skeptics have reserved for the “scientific consensus.” It almost seems as if the existence of a consensus among scientists is evidence that a scientific consensus doesn’t exist. That doesn’t make sense to me, but it must to them.

And as I was answering some of the more hostile questions, I started wondering how you convince someone of the reality of climate change who thinks everything you say is a lie. I don’t think there’s any way to have a meaningful and civil conversation in that context. Thus, there are some people that you simply can never convince.

It also drove home just how useless these kinds of “debates” really are. At this point, the public policy debate has really shifted to what we need to be doing rather than the reality of climate change. Trying to convince the remaining die-hard skeptics is a waste of time and effort. (I know that many Grist readers have been saying this for a while, and I guess I’m now on board.)

You can download a mp3 of the debate from the blogtalkradio site. Enjoy!