Climate Change Denial

March 9, 2007

THE GREAT CHANNEL FOUR SWINDLE

George Marshall @ 2:39 pm

Last night Channel Four kindly gave an hour and half and a large budget to the international network of professional climate change deniers. ‘The Great Global Warming Swindle’ was a propaganda gift to the various vested interests who seek to undermine the fragile political and social will to take action on this global crisis.

And it was sometimes very convincing, as strongly worded opinions often are when they are not subject to any verification or external challenge. For example, there are excellent rebuttals against the contention that global warming is correlated to cosmic rays (for example see… ) At the bottom I list the growing number of well referenced and detailed rebuttals of the scientific claims in the programme.

There was only one scientific advisor on the programme, Martin Livermore, whose sole scientific qualification is that he is the Director of a web-based think tank, The Scientific Alliance. The Alliance was set up by in 2001 by Robert Durward, the fiercely anti-green director of the British Aggregates Association, and Foresight Communications, a Westminster public relations and lobbying company, to “counter scare-mongering by the so-called green lobby”. (For more…)

The Scientific Alliance has no affiliation with any recognised scientific body but, like most of the contributors to the programme, it does have very strong links with the US public relations and lobbying organisations that have been so effective in setting the Bush agenda on climate change.

The writer and presenter of the programme was Martin Durkin. Although it was written in a highly personal and opinionated style- speaking freely of “lies”, and the “shrill frenzy” of “scare stories” – we never saw Durkin or discovered his personal credentials. As George Monbiot has revealed Durkin is closely affiliated with the Revolutionary Communist Party which has a strong ideological opposition to environmental science (more on Durkin and the RCP.

In 1997 Channel Four was forced to issue a humiliating public apology over a previous series of anti-environment programmes directed by Durkin called “Against Nature”. The Independent Television Commission found that “the views of the four complainants, as made clear to the interviewer, had been distorted by selective editing” and that they had been “misled as to the content and purpose of the programmes when they agreed to take part.”

For this programme Durkin drew up a dream team of scientists who have built personal careers as media pundits debunking the peer-reviewed work of their colleagues. There are few of them, but they are well supported by the Washington lobbies and kept very busy with media debates, documentaries and opinion pieces. (I have personally debated with five of them in media debates).

Is it any surprise then, that they were so persuasive. Most of the people on the programme are professional communicators who are more familiar with the chat show than the lab. Of course they give good interviews – it is what they do for a living.

And let us not forget that we all want to believe them. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to believe that the science is unsettled, that all that carbon dioxide that we are pumping into the atmosphere really has no effect, and that we do not have to worry about the future.

It would be entirely possible to put together a similar programme, with a string of credible former academics, to argue that smoking does no cause cancer, that HIV does not cause AIDS, or that black people are less intelligent. However, Channel Four would not dare broadcast the programme and we would not believe them if they did. Is it not a reflection of the deep public ambivalence about climate change that these dissenters are given such a prominent and uncritical showcase and that we are so keen to listen to them?

Make up your own minds from their track records. Here is a little more information on some of the people who appeared on the programme:

Fred Singer. Despite the caption on the programme, Singer has retired from the University of Virginia and has not had a single article accepted for any peer-reviewed scientific journal for 20 years. His main work has been as a hired gun for business interests to undermine scientific research on environmental and health matters. Before turning to climate change denial he has argued that CFCs do not cause ozone depletion and second hand smoke does not cause cancer (more… ). In 1990 he founded “The Science and Environment Policy Project”, which aggressively contradicts climate science and has received direct funding from Exxon, Shell, Unocal and ARCO. Exxon is also among the funders ($20,000 in 1998 and 2000)

Patrick Michaels is the most prominent US climate change denier. In the programme he claimed “I’ve never been paid a nickel by the old and gas companies” which is a curious claim. According to the US journalist Ross Gebspan Michaels has received direct funding from, among others German Coal Mining Association ($49,000), Edison Electric Institute ($15,000), and the Western Fuels Association ($63,000) an association of US coal producing interests (more…). The WFA is one of the most powerful forces in the US actively denying the basic science of climate change, funding, amongs other things, the Greening Earth Society which is directed by Patrick Michaels. Tom Wigley, one of the leading IPCC scientists, describes Michaels work as “a catalog of misrepresentation and misinterpretation”. (More on Michaels…)

Philip Stott was captioned as a Professor at the University of London although he is retired and is therefore free of any academic accountability. Stott is a geographer by training and has no qualifications in climate science. Since retiring Stott has aimed to become Britain’s leading anti-green pundit dedicating himself to wittily criticizing rainforest campaigns (with Patrick Moore), advocating genetic engineering and claiming that “global warming is the new fundamentalist religion.”

Patrick Moore is Stott’s Canadian equivalent. Since a very personal and painful falling out with Greenpeace in 1986 Moore has put his considerable campaigning energies into undermining environmentalists, especially his former friends and colleagues. Typical of his rhetoric was his claim in the programme that environmentalists were “anti-human” and “treat humans as scum”. Throughout the 1990s Moore worked as lead consultant for the British Columbian Timber Products Association undermining Greenpeace’s international campaign to protect old growth forest there. Whenever he has the chance he also makes strong public statements in favour of genetic engineering, nuclear power, logging the Amazon, and industrial fishing- all, strangely, lead campaigns for Greenpeace (more on Moore..)

Piers Corbyn has no academic status and his role in such programmes is to promote his own weather prediction business. He has steadfastly refused to ever subject his climatological theories to any form of external review or scrutiny.

Richard Lindzen. As a Professor of Meteorology at the credible Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Lindzen is by far the most reputable academic among the US climate deniers and, for this reason, he is heavily cited by sympathetic journalists such as Melanie Phillips and Michael Crichton. His arguments though are identical to the other deniers – for example an article in the Wall Street Journal (June 11 2001) he claims that “there is no consensus, unanimous or otherwise, about long-term climate trends or what causes them”.
He is strongly associated with the other people on the programme though co-authored reports, articles, conference appearances and co-signed statements.

Tim Ball was captioned as the University of Winnipeg. In fact he left in 1996 since when he has run political campaigns through two organisations he helped found: the Natural Resources Stewardship Project and the Friends of Science which, according to their websites aim to run “a proactive grassroots campaign to counter the Kyoto Protocol”; and “encourage and assist the Canadian Federal Government to re-evaluate the Kyoto Protocol”. Ian Clark is also on the board of the NRSP.

REBUTTALS OF THE ALLEGATIONS IN THE PROGRAMME

I have received a lot of postings from people criticising me for not dealing with the specific allegations in the programme. I am not qualified to do so, but here are links to people who are. I am not going to accept any more postings making this point. This website is a discussion of why we find it so hard to come to terms with climate change, not a bulletin board for people who people who are still not prepared to accept the conclusions of 20 years of research by every scientific insitution in the world.

1. Sir John Houghton, one of Britain’s leading climate scientists and former chair of the IPCC. Link… He states baldly that virtually every allegation was false.

2. The Royal Society. In a press release the Royal Society is very critical of the programme and concludes that “Those who promote fringe scientific views but ignore the weight of evidence are playing a dangerous game. They run the risk of diverting attention from what we can do to ensure the world’s population has the best possible future” link….

3. In the Sunday 11th issue of the Observer, six leading climate scientists from four universities criticise the conclusions of the progamme. They say: “we defend the right of people to be sceptical, but for C4 to imply that the thousands of scientists and published peer-reviewed papers, summarised in the recent international science assessment, are misguided or lying lacks scientific credibility and simply beggars belief” link…

4. In 13th March edition of the Guardian, George Monbiot takes out the claims of the programme one by one. Link… On his website full scientific references are given for his article which, unlike the Swindle, was checked by professional climate scientists before publication

5. Realclimate, an excellent blogsite run byclimate scientists in large part to deal with climate skeptic arguments also goes through the allegations point by point link…

6. It took a long while for Sir David King the UK government chief scientist to catch onto the damage done by this programme but at long last he has pulled together a very well argued science based analysis and refutation. Link…
I have to say that anyone reading this who still wants to believe that the Swindle film was based on strong science really is desparate to believe that climate change is not happening- there is a reason why this website is called Climate Denial after all.

7. One of the few real scientists to appear on the programme (that is to say he really does do climate science rather than working for a public relations company) was Professor Carl Wunsch, professor of physical oceanography at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In the Independent Wunsch claims that “They completely misrepresented me. My views were distorted by the context in which they placed them….I am the one who has been swindled…The movie was terrible propaganda. It is characteristic of propaganda that you take an area where there is legitimate dispute and you claim straight out that people who disagree with you are swindlers. That is what the film does in any area where some things are subject to argument.” link…

According The Times when the director Durkin was challenged by Dr Armand Leroi from Imperial College on his use of dubious data in the programme he replied by e-mail saying “you’re a big daft cock”. When Dr Leroi persisted Durkin wrote back telling him to “Go fuck yourself”. Maybe those people who have written posts to this item complaining about the “character assassination” of Mr Durkin would like to drop him a line and congratulate him on his reasoned engagement in the scientific debate link…

Well no surprise that Durkin lied to the participants about the programme and then edited what they said to misrepresent their views. This is exactly what he did last time he got a major programme and it led to the public humiliation of Channel Four, The question is this: what reputable broadcaster would ever give another major commission to this man. Obviously the same channel that thinks that subjecting an Asian woman to racist bullying makes good entertainment.

Let’s answer that last question another way. If you want a painful laugh, have a look at Channel Four’s own website on the programme link…

On the left side of the page is the information about the rubbish in the Swindle film. On the other side are links to other pages on climate change including “Explore the issues around the greatest challenge of our time”, which tells us that “little doubt exists among the scientific community that human activity is changing the climate…For the first time in our history the whole human species is under threat from the alarmingly powerful forces of climate change” Another featured link take us to “Environmentalism: A brief history of this powerful movement”.

OH FOR GODS SAKE! So even Channel Four don’t believe this programme. How unspeakably shallow and cynical can the media be?

65 Responses to “THE GREAT CHANNEL FOUR SWINDLE”

  1. Stephen Bush says:

    Danny says in 49 he has written a detailed rebuttal of the program but his rebuttal starts with him saying I didnt watch the program. Sheesh.

  2. Natalia says:

    I think people like Wendy Simon (who posted some “disgusting” comments above) are the kind of ignorant disgraceful human beings that are going to allow all this nonsense to carry on. What the hell are you thinking? I guess some people like being the devil’s advocate. Fight and defend things that are worthy of it. Let’s try to be better people, take care of our planet and let’s stop being self centered idiots. Wake up. I know loads of people really want to believe that we are not responsible for destroying the planet..well..It’s very convenient isn’t? Shame on all the Wendy Simon’s in the world.

  3. Johnny S. says:

    Great response no. 52. A “disgraceful human being” just because of her belief? Shame on you, for believing you’re belief is more relevant than hers.
    It is possible for someone to believe that climate change due to CO2 may not be happening yet still believe in conservation and environmental protection (I happen to be one of those people, I’m not sure about Wendy Simon though).

    In the latest rebuttal article on this website I read the statement that it has been proven that in the last 15 years, carbon emissions have become more responsible than the sun for the extra warming on our planet. Ok. I’m positive that there are a lot of great scientists with great data that can prove this. I am just amused at how this type of statement can be perceived by the layperson or public. Essentially what this is saying is that we have become more influential than the thing that sustains our planet. Is this so hard to disbelieve?

  4. Johnny S. says:

    The statement does not say the last 15 years, rather, since early this century….my mistake.

  5. Dan R. says:

    If I were sick, and a vast majority of qualified doctors suggested a certain treatment, I’d probably take it. If my plumbing was leaking, and a vast majority of qualified plumbers recommended a certain remedy, I’d probably trust ‘em and pay for it. If at my future child’s parent/teacher interview I was told by the vast majority of teachers that my child was mis-behaved, I’d probably believe ‘em. If CO2 was accumulating in the atmosphere and oceans and a rate unprecedented in the last 600,000 years or so, and the vast majority of climate scientists were telling me that this was leading nowhere good, why would I suddenly bet on the minority?
    Wake up folks – I don’t like the implications anymore than you do. Until the majority of scientists tell us that it’s safe to release CO2 into the atmosphere at our current levels, we owe it to our kids, and our neighbour’s kids, to limit our CO2 output. It may be uncomfortable to swallow, but it’s as simple as that.

  6. Danny says:

    In response to Stephen Bush (comment 51):

    I HAVE watched the programme. I saw it on YouTube, and it made me feel quite ill. My blog doesn’t say I haven’t watched it, it says:

    “…if you’ve never heard of the programme, didn’t see it, or aren’t bothered about it in the least – hooray!”

    Just thought I’d clear that up. Although hopefully people have moved onto more interesting topics than this by now.

    Dx

  7. Natalia says:

    well number 53 (if we are calling each other by numbers) I respect people who have different beliefs than I do. I don’t respect people that don’t take responsabilities because is inconvenient. My point is that even if it’s not co2 that’s going to destroy us, this shouldn’t give us the license to behave so selfishly. We still should change our habits and stop living in the world of disposable. Our behaviour is wrong. Calling a well intentioned article disgusting, as wendy did, is just not right. So sorry number 53, i feel no shame I just feel sadness because wendy and you just don’t get it. We shouldn’t even be discussing this. Our relationship with the earth is complacient and selfish. Consecuences or not it shouldn’t be the way it is.

  8. Ken Arnold says:

    Interesting comments by Natalia. Often people try to muddy the issue “is global warming caused by man?” with the unassailable position of saving the earth from man’s gluttony. This may be innocent, as many times I’ve heard people confuse smog and other atmospheric poisons with CO2 (plant food!). In Canada, the lefties have tried to morph global warming into “climate change”, thereby allowing those who want to control your life to “See?!? I told you, we’re killing ourselves!” every time the temperature is above OR below it’s average. Thankfully, it seems like we are talking solely about warming again.
    It does appear that most people consider talking about it enough, and that real action is downplayed. Here in Canada the Liberals had 6 or 7 years to pretend to be committed to Kyoto and did nothing. Besides, warming will be good for Canada – we may be able to feed the whole world if we lose the permafrost …. and polar bears either reevolved very quickly after the warm period 800 years ago, or maybe even survived somehow.
    2 quick thought starters: since China will more than undo ANY potential good the developed countries will achieve, shouldn’t we be allocating resources on dealing with the predicted problems?
    Our winter started Oct. 26. We still have snow on the ground. There is a heavy snowfall warning for Thursday. This will get us to six months with snow on the ground. Two of the last 3 winters have been much longer than average. Is global warming really happening, or can anybody make a case for anything if you get to choose the starting point?
    Sorry to sound like such a fool and heretic. I’ve enjoyed everyone’s comments and perspectives and just want you all to know that I love this old planet as much as anybody – and I’ll put my “footprint” up against anybody living in a traditional North American lifestyle!

  9. Gary Ward says:

    I am a physicist, mathematician and teacher. I was peripherally aware of some arguments about global warming up until about 6 months ago, when I heard an environmental scientist’s talk about global warming. I have since heard David Suzuki speak and watched “An Inconvenient Truth.”

    While the evidence presented by the advocates for carbon dioxide led global warming and climate change sounds very convincing, I have not looked at the actual studies and the actual science. The arguments from this C4 programme fall into the same category for me. I have not seen the studies nor the acutal science. When I look at the tremendous population growth and resource use (a few simple mathematical calculations easily gives an alarming picture), it makes sense to me that greenhouse gases may lead or contribute to global warming and climate change, but I am still not absolutely convinced. I want to know all the HARD science and all the models that are being used.

    The reality of scientific study is that we tend to find what we are looking for. We set up experiments to find relationships, but more often than not, the experiments are set up in a way that are biased toward a result, whether the scientist is conscious of it or not. And the peer review process is far from perfect. If the bias is subtle, peer reviewers do not catch it. In many modern, complex studies, this is the case.

    Psycologically, people react to what is presented to them. Much of the information presented leads the populace to a market to satisfy their feelings of guilt. If we look at the past four decades this is more than evident. Marketers pick up on a single point and push it into the cultural psyche with bias, with the intention of making money. One only has to consider the effects of bran in the products in the US market in the 90′s as a single case. Another case was with Y2K. Doesn’t anyone remember this?

    I found this C4 programme while searching for carbon offset information. It was clear to me that the schemes behind carbon offsetting are money makers for someone. So we are back in the trap of someone cashing in on the guilt felt from biased marketing.

    While I was reasonably convinced about carbon dioxide emissions (and other “greenhouse” gases) contributing toward global warming and climate change, I am now back to a skeptical position and WILL look in more detail at the science behind both sides of the debate.

    If you want to argue with me or try to convince me that your position is right, you better have real numbers and exact information about the studies that give the numbers. I will not listen to the emotional, biased arguments of those of you who do not know what you are talking about except for how you feel.

    I, for one, do not want to spend the rest of my life paying someone or sacrificing my lifestyle and integrity for others who want to make money off of me by using alarmist tactics to sell products. I also do not want my children to have to inherit a dangerous world to live in nor to have to take on the responsility to try to fix problems created by their ancestors. I can happily carry on with my life with my head in the sand were it not for these two motivations. So now I want to know the truth, not the emotional, illogical, and often ridiculous, arguments of campaigners for biased points of view.

    For those of you who have contributed on the side of real information in this discussion, I thank you. For those of you who have made statements about another person, ridiculed another’s beliefs, or have just downright insulted someone, I ask you to take a look at your own biases and at what you ACTUALLY KNOW about this topic. Do some more research. What you are doing by making biased statements is only adding to the problem because your responses only detract from the credibility of your argument.

  10. lone ranger says:

    Who was jailed for claiming the earth was round?
    Who really knows what is going on?
    The media lies, can’t trust them.
    People have agendas, always have.
    What can someone do from their trailer park anyway?
    Hi 0 Silver, away!

  11. mij says:

    I totally agree with Gary Wards assessment.
    We all need to do more research on the facts of global warming.
    One thing I find common about his comment was the fact global warming is a money-maker.

    I think scientists on both sides on this issue should have televised debates on this subject. This would surely weed out some of the junk science we all have heard.

  12. Dave says:

    What worries me the most about your attempted rebuttal here, along with so many arguments against the climate sceptics, is that it is largely based on a personal attack. Even your section titled: “REBUTTALS OF THE ALLEGATIONS IN THE PROGRAMME” is little more than a continued attack on individuals. I have spent some time studying many of the arguments on both sides of this debate, and unfortunately, so much of the science is bad. As a particular example, take the computer modelling. I happen to be a modeller myself, albeit in a different field. Computer models rely on being stable about input paramaters. One of the key input parameters to most climate science models is the amount of feedback changes have to the environment, and these we do not understand. With negative feedback it is likely that changes to the environment will be minimal, with positive feedback we get extreme results. I routinely see climate change proponents publishing results from computer models that rely on positive feedback. Any engineer will tell you that positive feedback systems rarely exist in nature because they are fundamentally unstable, previous extreme climate events, like Krakatoa, would have been likely to cause instability yet they didn’t.

    Carbon is trapped in the earth in many ways, through life, limestone, and many other mechanisms. The greenhouse effect is maintained and regulated in many ways, through water vapour, dust, and various gasses. It is clear that the climate is changing at present, like it has throughout the history of the planet, what is not clear in any of the evidence I have yet to see is why. The fact that I continue to see sensationalist papers from proponents that claim to finally develop a solid link between humans and climate change tells a lot. The fact that when these papers are read they fail to establish a solid link is more interesting still.

    I find myself, at least at the moment, a sceptic. I am not biased enough that some good science might persuade me the other way, but at the moment the evidence I have seen clearly makes me feel that we are not responsible for current climate changes. Nevertheless, if we are, I have faith with the ingenuity of man. We are already seeing people with technology to trap large quantities of CO2 at the bottom of the ocean. If atmospheric CO2 levels become a genuine problem, I think we can fix them – without resorting to communist ideals by making Carbon more important than money, and then rationing it to the proletareat.

    [Dear Dave- I often refuse skeptic e-mails, but I accept this one because it is thoughtful. I'm afraid that it is also wrong. All my reading of the science is that the positive feedbacks from climate change will greatly outweigh the negative. I would also say that it is simply not true that positive feedbacks do not exist in nature- the rapid transition between glacial and inter-glacial climate regimes are exacerbated by positive feedbacks until the climate reaches a new equilibrium. This is exactly what will happen with climate change.

    And once again, I say that when a self styled scientist is deliberately opposing and criticising the well founded opinion of his peers it is entirtely legitimate to question his motivations and personal background. This is a personal blog and I make no bones that I don't like these people, so of course it reads as an attack, but you will find plenty of very moderate and well balanced opinions on wikipedia and http://www.realclimate.org. As for Martin Durkin, I think he is a disgrace as do many professional journalists.

    Your last two lines contain two key arguments for people who do not want to face up to climate change: that technology will save us, and that there is a leftist political motivation. Sorry to say, neither are correct- they are excuses for not taking immediate action- George]

  13. Frits W. van Dijk, NL says:

    I do not care what causes the warming up effects. Time will learn who is right. Once famous scientists thought the earth was flat. Now every school boy knows better. But as the energy situation develops to a “five PAST twelve” scenario, it is very clear to me that we should be very economical with the (energy and other) resources of our home planet!

  14. JJG says:

    I did not see this programme however, I find it strange that someone who obviously believes Climate Change and it’s links to human behaviour to be an inescapable truth would be so opposed to this programme being shown or made. Channel 4 is not a publicly funded body and so there can be no public outrage as to how it spends its money. What happened to debate anyway?

    20 years ago we we’re talking about a new ice-age, didn’t happen so everyone changed their tune to global warming, everyone was pleased about that so suddenly it’s climate change.

    Climate Change is the product of a strong global economy. People didn’t care about it when they had other stuff to care about, and we can watch it dissappear as a public or political issue as the new CC of the Credit Crunch takes headlines and becomes the new apocolypse chosen by the BBC.

    Climate Change is not an issue, problems arise when climates begin to stagnate. That is a real sign of danger and problems in ‘the environment’

    ‘The environment’ is spoken about these days as if it is an entity that first of exists, and not only that, can die.

    :( ‘We’re killing the environment’ said the teacher to the impressionable class of children.

    It was once said that just because the sun has risen everyday since the beginning of time, is no proof that it will rise tomorrow. This does not seem immediately relevant but it is an example of how we cannot know all the variables in certain issues. Climate change for me is one of these issues.

    I’m not a religious person but I believe Going Green is to some a new religion, the perfect religion where you don’t actually NEED to do anything, anything you do is a bonus, and if you don’t stick to it no one cares, and there are no consequences.

    If the climate is changing, and it is, obviously, there is nothing we can do. If you live in Bangladesh, at the apex of three rivers, you’re gonna flood, so move. Or, since it’s going to take f*cking years for anything to happen, perhaps some kind of wall is in order?

    I haven’t read all the comments or even the entire article, but I saw a youtube video critising another for giving BAD tips for going green :( so decided hysteria needed to be averted.

  15. Elwood says:

    i must confes, i didnt read the all of the article. i stopped after reading this

    “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to believe that the science is unsettled, that all that carbon dioxide that we are pumping into the atmosphere really has no effect, and that we do not have to worry about the future.
    It would be entirely possible to put together a similar programme, with a string of credible former academics, to argue that smoking does no cause cancer, that HIV does not cause AIDS, or that black people are less intelligent.”

    I can see were your going with this statment but the last part about “black people are less intelligent.” turned me off. I dont understand how comparing the people on that show to racists helps your argument

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