If you blinked you might've missed it. It could've slipped under readers' radar last week due to news coverage of the tragedy occurring in the Gulf of Mexico, the new immigration law in Arizona, the season finale of "Survivor" or the series conclusion of "Lost." But the Fourth Annual International Conference on Climate Change, held in Chicago May 16-18 and sponsored by The Heartland Institute, provided three days of news-intensive stories that should've taken precedence over nearly every other story of last week's news cycle.

In the interest of full disclosure, I recently accepted a freelance contract position as managing editor of a Heartland technology and public policy-based newspaper and have contributed several articles to Heartland's Environment & Climate News. But to assume that conference attendance precluded independent thinking in favor of a consensus is erroneous. In fact, the only consensus found in Chicago last week was that there is no consensus. Now to this writer, that's real science.

Among the nearly three dozen scientists speaking at the event were Dr. Craig Idso, Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, on the real impacts of ocean acidification; Dr. Gary Sharp, marine biologist, on ecological responses to climate change; Dr. Nils-Axel Morner, Stockholm University, on his theory that there is no imminent threat of alarming rising of sea levels; and Dr. Howard Maccabee, Doctors for Disaster Preparedness, on health data refuting the urgency for  Environmental Protection Agency regulation of carbon dioxide.

Other presenters included Dr. Helen Roe, Queens University, Northern Ireland, who studies proxies of temperature in the peat bogs of Ireland.  She explained the value of biomass assessment for core proxy data for periods in time prior to the invention of thermometers.  She was followed by Dr. Tim Patterson, Carleton University, Canada, who presented a paper on isotope analysis of Canadian peat bog sphagnum moss for Holocene age climate history studies; Willis Eschenbach, an independent climate researcher, spoke on his theory that thunderstorm complexes create up and down circulation not previously appreciated as the possible source of a tremendous stabilizing influence on the climate.

Dr. Ian Plimer, University of Adelaide, Australia, reminded his audience that most of the carbon on Earth is solid - in other words, rocks.  He also spoke on the importance of deep sea volcanoes and other earth mantle sources of carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds, and proposed that we should be careful before we claim to know the cycling of carbon on a complex system like planet earth. Dr. Indur Goklany, American Enterprise Institute, discussed the positive aspects of potential climate warming by comparing mortality rates of populations indigenous to colder and warmer environments.

Many voices were heard as many were invited to attend and participate. Those scientists who do believe that humankind's carbon dioxide emissions drive climate change were underrepresented, as many of them declined event organizer James Taylor's invitation to present. Those who did attend - notably Dr. A. Scott Denning, Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere - received warm and respectful consideration.  Even Stephen McIntyre, Climate Audit, the man responsible (with Dr. Ross McKitrick, University of Guelph, Canada, who also attended) for discrediting the infamous hockey stick graph, admitted he wouldn't support any criminal charges brought against the East Anglia scientists who participated in Climategate.

Don't take my word for it. The video of all of the conference presentations is available.  It was an event that was woefully underreported, but that shouldn't prevent anyone interested in solidly researched scientific debate from viewing the conference in its entirety to shed more light on what is perhaps the most fiercely contested issues of our time. You may not come away with definitive answers, but you may find the presentations more satisfying than the confusing last episode of "Lost."