Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Swindled by global warming denialists

Global warming is an extraordinary public policy issue. The citizens of the world are being induced by almost all reputable climate scientists to urge their governments to take collective action to limit their CO2 emissions while a smaller group of scientists are denying the hypothesis and doing whatever they can to delay action on CO2 emissions.

The denialists gain publicity not because their claims are necessarily substantial but because of the inappropriate idea – promoted by the media - that a ‘debate’ is being held where pros and cons of a scientific argument are being evaluated. For the most part it is not a debate – climate scientists overwhelmingly endorse the warming hypothesis. This doesn’t mean the science is settled – it does mean there is widespread backing for the notion that anthropogenic global warming is a reality.

The denialists claim that those supporting the global warming hypothesis are motivated by greed for grants and that their case is being delivered as a quasi-religious crusade.

Mr. Average Joe in the street listens to the denialist case because of the ‘debate’ fallacy and because he or she is aware of past propensities of those in the environmental movement to ‘cry wolf’. He is also subject to irresponsible assertions by the denialist camp and by an irresponsible mass media that promotes such views.

Last night I watched BBC TV’s Channel 4 show The Great Global Warming Swindle which denies anthropogenic global warming. It is a polished, well-presented instance of denialism. The basic claim is simple - climate change is not being driven by anthropogenic CO2 emissions. The evidence isn’t there or the evidence that is there contradicts the hypothesis. Climate change is occurring but it is natural and driven by solar and cloud activity. Global warming is a swindle engineered by climate scientists seeking to sell science by creating extreme stories and who benefit from larger research budgets. Its all a ‘lie’ and a ‘conspiracy’.

The film thus attacks the global warming orthodoxy. The arguments are familiar – the film apparently took 10 years to make so, in fact, many of the arguments have been addressed and thoroughly refuted. The film ignores all evidence and views supporting the global warming hypothesis and the extensive literature setting out these refutations.

But I think the film is worth viewing – if for no other reason that I am certain this that it will have an impact and this needs to be accounted for and understood. It already has had some impact as this morning’s editorial in The Australian makes clear:

That climate change politics represents the new front line for anti-capitalist, anti-globalisation campaigners is not new. This is why the Government is right to reject climate change demands that risk economic wellbeing, both for Australia and the developing world. And it is why Labor must be careful how it handles the debate. While Australian commercial television networks are jumping on the climate change bandwagon with sophisticated graphics showing tornadoes ripping through Sydney Harbour Bridge, debate is increasing about the quality of the science underpinning global warming hysteria. A recent Channel Four documentary in Britain, The Great Climate Change Swindle, presents a coherent argument for why governments must hasten slowly in responding. The British documentary highlights the anomaly that temperatures are rising faster at the earth's surface than in the upper atmosphere, directly contradicting the greenhouse hypothesis. It also highlights the fact that ice core data relied on by global warming alarmists actually shows world temperature increases occurred hundreds of years before corresponding rises in the level of atmospheric C02, again contradicting greenhouse theory. The program puts forward evidence to show the world's climate is controlled by clouds, which are controlled by cosmic rays, which are in turn controlled by the sun.
The Australian is my newspaper but it is disappointing to again see it give credence to thoroughly discredited viewpoint since it weakens the case against dealing with what is almost certainly a very real problem.

The very polemical director of The Great Climate Change Swindle, Martin Durkin, is discussed here. He is a film maker with a history of producing extreme, dubious documentaries.

Critiques are here , here with, guess what, claims of misrepresentation from Carl Wunsch here. The Guardian and RealClimate provide a thorough debunking of this show's claims. John Quiggin comments on the strange mix of left and right wing politics that created the film here.


chrisl said...

I wouldn't get too worked up about it Harry. It's just propaganda. Like those other "masterpieces" Super size me,Farenheit 911,An inconvenient truth.
Embellished facts.
Watch them with an open mind then do your own research.

hc said...

I do get a bit worked up. It almost seems a deliberate attempt to mislead. I found 'An Inconvenient Truth' fairly accurate. The links to modern climate and melting icecaps may have been sensationalist but otherwise not.

hc said...

Chrisl, I just noticed in the NYT a broadly positive endorsement of the accuracy of Al Gore's film here. Not perfect but reasonably accurate which is my view.

chrisl said...

Yes good balanced article Harry. It is interesting that James Hansen said that Al Gore's film has "technical flaws" .This might be scientific speak for "load of crap".Really it is in the eye of the beholder. I noticed elsewhere that the film is requiring footnotes where the science has "moved on" . Perhaps it will soon be inconveniently out of date?

conrad said...


I don't think it is in the eye of the beholder. Its easy to find out what the generally agreed predictions are and then compare them with what the film suggests. You can also look at how often less probable possibilities are mentioned and compare them with the generally agreed upon chance of less probably events occuring.

drwoood said...

There is an interesting entry on sourcewatch.org on The Australia . The editor in chief Chris Mitchell was been named by Clive Hamilton as a member of the climate change "Dirty Dozen", and the environmental reporter Mathew Warren used do be Director of External Affairs for the NSW Minerals Council where he would do PR for the coal industry. The Australian seems to have a very dodgy agenda when it comes to global warming.

chrisl said...

Conrad: Further to my "eye of the beholder"comments :Harry linked to an article in the NYT which he described as broadly positive to Al Gore. Over at deltoid it is exactly the opposite , the usual suspects, they are all tainted blah blah blah. It is hard to see where any "new" science is going to come from in such an environment.

hc said...

The peoiple at Deltoisd include experts on global warming and I guess are right to focus on every error they pick up.

But vI think one needs to be careful of overreacting on every issue. The article discussed some claimed problems with Gore's arguments but overall it had a fairly positive tone. The last two paras:

'Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton who advised Mr. Gore on the book and movie, said that reasonable scientists disagreed on the malaria issue and other points that the critics had raised. In general, he said, Mr. Gore had distinguished himself for integrity.

“On balance, he did quite well — a credible and entertaining job on a difficult subject,” Dr. Oppenheimer said. “For that, he deserves a lot of credit. If you rake him over the coals, you’re going to find people who disagree. But in terms of the big picture, he got it right.”'

Of course it is right to attack misrepresentations but the overall impression from Broad, as I say, I thought endorsed Gore.

chrisl said...

They certainly play for keeps over there don't they Harry. I think you can disagree with aspects of Gore's movie without throwing the whole thing out.It is exaggerated but it was made in Hollywood after all. I think the gang at Deltoid have painted themselves into a corner by endorsing everything Gore says and then when cracks appear...send the attack dogs.

conrad said...


its easy to see where "new" science is going to come from -- where it always has, i.e., from physicists doing modelling of climate data. The main problem is that the general public has a hard time interpreting it(even though many believe they should be able to understand it with ease), which is always going to be the case with complex systems.