Last night I watched The Great Global Warming Swindle on Channel 4. It was a very interesting programme, whether or not one believes in anthropomorphic global warming. In essence, it argued that
1) Our climate is always changing. The current change is not out of the ordinary if one considers the Little Ice Age of C16-C18th, or the Medieval Warm Period
2) Man produces only a small amount of carbon dioxide compared with natural causes
3) Changes in carbon dioxide do not precede global warming. They follow global warming
4) If the theory of climate change science is correct, temperatures should be rising more rapidly in the troposphere. This is not the case
5) Global temperatures are dependent on cloud formation, which in turn are seeded by sub-atomic particles from the sun. In periods of high solar activity, such as now, fewer particles reach the earth leading to fewer clouds and therefore more warming
6) Support for global warming science began in the 1980s with an unholy alliance of anti-capitalists and anti-coal Thatcherites; after the death of communism, environmentalism became a useful rack on which to hang otherwise-discredited socialist beliefs
7) Promoting climate change was a great way for climate scientists to leverage money for their research. It has since become a way for any researcher to attract cash. It has spawned a massive industry that is now devoted to protecting its “rents”.
8) The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change is a political body, and its findings are shaped by politics, not science. Of the thousands of scientists listed as contributing, many are not scientific contributors but reviewers and government officials. Other scientists that demurred from the agreed position had their names added to the IPCC’s list of supporting scientists anyway. Sceptical portions of the IPCC’s report were excluded in the final draft
9) The global environmental movement has been radicalised by its own success: once they became mainstream, movements such as Greenpeace could only continue to make headlines and generate revenue by becoming ever more extreme (e.g. their campaign to ban chlorine, an element!).
10) Efforts to convince Third World nations to limit their development to the use of renewable energy sources will retard their economic development and leave them mired in poverty.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten large parts of it, but I think that’s a reasonable précis. Other viewers are welcome to add (or disagree with) bits.
What was interesting was that the programme interviewed many physical and climatic scientists from renowned institutions (including MIT and Harvard), as well as Dr. Patrick Moore, co-founder and critic of Greenpeace and now a hate figure for some environmentalists. On the one hand this would appear to undermine the suggestion that only a few kooks and petrophiles still question the “global warming consensus”. On the other hand, at least one blogging colleague has suggested that some of these academics and researchers may not be all that they seem.
Other criticisms include The Independent saying that many of the scientific objections have already been addressed long ago (certainly no.1 is not new), and suggestions that the producer of the programme, Martin Durkin, has in the past used selective editing and misrepresentation to present interviewees’ beliefs in a manner that supports his views (though, to be fair, the people interviewed last night seemed fairly categorical).
Personally, this reminds me of much of the debate that flies around many major issues. It is a debate between scientists, which we poor mortals are obliged to look upon with increasing incomprehension as the debate becomes ever-more arcane. As we have been warned many times, the tyranny of “experts” is one of the most dangerous of all; we need to keep strict democratic control of policy, while trusting neutral and well-informed people to judge the evidence and advise accordingly.
However, if there is one accusation within the programme that is undoubtedly true, it is that those who dissent from the “global warming consensus” are increasingly being treated not as mistaken or even stupid, but as callous or wicked. As liberals we should be open minded to debate. As I have argued elsewhere in other contexts, we need sceptics. If we are correct then they will help sharpen our arguments and iron out any inaccuracies in our theories; if we are wrong they will save us from disaster.
So I welcome Mr. Durkin’s programme (as long as it was not deliberately disingenuous or based on misrepresentation or lies), not because I believe that the “climate consensus” is exaggerated, but because I believe that it is important that people question received wisdom.
Let the debate roar on!