The psuedo-documentary by Martin Durkin, called “The Great Global Warming Swindle“, continues to get attention. Following a swag of complaints to the British broadcasting regulator, the Office of Communications (OfCom), it was found to have breached the broadcasting code regarding impartiality and treated interviewees unfairly. Yet the ruling was a fizzler, because of a bizzare loophole. George Monbiot explains:
As the ruling showed, it would be impossible for the Swindle to have broken Ofcom’s accuracy guidelines, because, while news programmes must be accurate, “there is no such requirement for other types of programming, including factual programmes of this type.” The regulator would have reached the same conclusion had the programme announced that the moon was made of blue cheese.
Some didn’t seem to understand this ‘subtle’ distinction…
Anyway, here was my take on it, which was published by ABC News Opinion last year - around the time it was screened in Australia by the ABC TV. Incidentally, the studio analysis that was screened afterwards was well worth seeing (YouTube link) both for the flaying done by Tony Jones in a post-screening interview with Martin Durkin, and for the gobsmackingly wierd hijaking of the Q&A session by a gaggle of LaRouchites!
The Great Global Warming Swindle‘documentary’ purports to prove that the warming we have experienced over the last century is, in fact, unrelated to the more than 300 billion tonnes of heat-trapping carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases that we have released into the atmosphere since the furnaces of the industrial revolution were first lit. Instead, producer Martin Durkin points the finger squarely at natural changes in the sun.
On the face of it, GGWS appears convincing enough. It follows the style of many well-respected documentaries, with a faceless (and, by implication, objective) narrator, a cadre of well-credentialed experts, and considerable supporting evidence.
Yet in reality, GGWS is a deeply deceptive and propagandist portrayal of the science of global warming. This is not really surprising, when you consider that Durkin was previously reprimanded by the UK Independent Television Commission for using selective editing to misrepresent and distort the views of interviewees in his earlier anti-environmentalist documentary, Against Nature.
Indeed, the running time of the 72-minute original, screened in the UK in March this year, has since been pruned by Durkin to 52 minutes. Deletions include the blatant out-of-context quotes of Carl Wunsch (he threatened legal action after the UK screening), a removal of a slew of false statements (such as that volcanoes release far more CO2 than humans, when volcanoes actually release about 50 times less), and a number of distorted graphics, such as a manipulation of 20th century temperature rise. Alas, many others remain.
Amongst the selected contrarian ‘experts’ Durkin has rallied to his cause, there are Tim Ball and Patrick Michaels (who also happen to deny that CFCs cause damage to the ozone layer), and Fred Singer and Richard Lindzen (who, in earlier incarnations, had been active denialists of the link between passive smoking and lung cancer, despite neither having any medical expertise).
Investigative journalism has revealed that many of the interviewees who appear have received “research funds”, in various guises, from the fossil fuel industry. Most are retired and have not published a scientific paper in years. Many have not published on climate change at all.
The GGWS program is riddled with errors and distortions, including howlers from ‘climate scientist’ Tim Ball who says the atmospheric content of CO2 is 0.054 per cent (it is 0.038 per cent – someone who purports to understand the atmosphere should get this basic fact right!) and Fred Singer misattributing a statement made by environmentalist James Lovelock to the UK Chief Scientist, Sir David King.
Durkin never states that the mythical charts, which apparently show a medieval warm period and Holocene climatic optimum that were warmer than the present day, come from doctored diagrams produced by a German school teacher, EG Beck. Moreover, the substantial planetary warming of the last three decades (inconvenient to the filmmaker’s message) was mysteriously lopped off the end of this chart! This list of inaccuracies and misrepresentations goes on (and on), and has been detailed by numerous scientific and media outlets.
Most strikingly, it is not mentioned in the GGWS that total solar irradiance – the factor claimed to be responsible for global warming – has actually weakened over the last 30 years, and that many of the historical correlations presented have been shown to fabricated. This decline in the sun’s output has occurred at the same time as an unprecedented spike in global temperature (which again, is not plotted).
In fact, essentially all the ‘contradictory science’ Durkin presents, such as that the upper atmosphere is not warming, has been debunked by later research. John Christy, the scientist and interviewee on whose work this latter claim is based, seems to have forgotten that he had written in a US Climate Change Science Program report: “This significant discrepancy [between lower and upper atmosphere warming] no longer exists because errors in the satellite and radiosonde [weather balloon instrument] data have been identified and corrected. New data sets have also been developed that do not show such discrepancies“.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change lead author, Stephen Schneider of Stanford University, has previously rebuked the arguments of political scientist Bjorn Lomborg, contained in his book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, for ‘selective inattention to inconvenient literature and overemphasis of work that supports his lopsided views’. This is indeed an apt description of the GGWS.
It is remarkable that for each apparent ‘inconsistency’ presented in the program, the well-known alternative (and evidence-based) scientific explanation is never offered. For instance, the cooling from the mid-1940s to the late 1970s in the northern hemisphere is attributable mostly to global dimming (primarily sulphur pollution from post-war industry, prior to implementation of clean air acts).
The 800-year lag between the beginnings of temperature increase and CO2 rise in the polar ice record is because the initial warming that provoked the end of the ice ages was caused by changes in the Earth’s alignment and orbit around the sun; not anthropogenic CO2. But it was an eventual increase in CO2, subsequently released by the oceans and biosphere as a feedback after they had begun to warm, that caused much more substantial global heating, and an eventual sea level rise of 120 metres.
Let me conclude by emphasising that the ‘expert views’ presented in the GGWS in reality represent the opinion of far fewer than 1 per cent of researchers engaged worldwide into research on the causes and consequences of global warming.
It is therefore staggering that such minority views are given such air time by the ABC, and moreover, that they are trumped with such gusto by special interest groups (such as the “Lavoisier group“, who were represented on the follow-up panel of debaters) as providing ‘the answer to the lies and conspiracy’. One must wonder, what’s next on the ABC’s agenda? Perhaps it is a documentary on the reality of a 6000-year-old flat Earth, orbited by the sun and other planets, and resting on the shell of a giant turtle?
Feel free to post your GGWS de-bunking links below…
Filed under: Sceptics