Thursday 22 March 2007

The Great Global Warming Swindle (2006) - ickleReview (TV)

I heard about this programme on BBC Radio 4's The Moral Maze. I was keen to see it because apparently my party, the Liberal Democrats, had tried to prevent it from being show on Channel 4 television. It is a rare example of a dissenting position against the majority consensus that climate change is man-made and is caused by carbon dioxide emissions. Opponents of this consensus have been portrayed as heretics and deniers (with distasteful connotations of Holocaust denial). Although the science is partly a forecast, the majority of us have faith in what we are being told will happen. The belief in man-made climate change is starting to look like a religion or an ideology.

Now I myself am quite happy to buy into this belief. It fits with my naturally lefty, liberal, environmental, anti-capitalist (or at least anti-relentless economic growth) bent. I do not agree, however, that programmes such as this should be gagged because they offer a different point of view. I'm not sure it's completely trustworthy. I don't understand how much of the other side's scientific evidence they are bending or leaving out. But I do think it is important to hear the opposition calmly, without hysteria.

Some of the cases they make are convincing. I was certainly intrigued by their arguments that it was primarily the sun's activity, rather than carbon dioxide levels within the Earth's atmosphere, that determines climate change. They do practise counter-propaganda by suggesting that a huge $2 billion industry has been created with vested interests in proving the case for man-made global warming. They are also insightful on the way the issue is covered in the media, and how they, too, are eager to report a story with ever-increasing urgency and intensity. (Although they don't consider that the media will always have a story to tell, even if it isn't this one. Just as one story cools and slips down the news agenda, so another will rise.)

I'm not sure what I believe anymore. I certainly think we should aim to reduce our energy consumption because fossil fuels are running out and we have not yet developed sustainable and reliable alternatives to replace entirely the energy we generate from fossil fuels. I believe we should be trying to curb our consumption and economic growth and try to redistribute our wealth more evenly within our own countries and worldwide; and to allow the developing world to catch up with us through industrialization, even if that means burning fossil fuels. I guess it will take a few days for this programme to sink in before I really know where I still stand. I'm certainly now more prepared to question what I'm being told, which I think is always a healthy thing in a democracy.

Nugget: this acts as a good counter-weight to the article I posted the other day and Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. A compelling programme. I should go hunting to see if there are any proper critiques of the documentary evidence it uses.



  2. Fact - The earth is warming quite quickly, I don't think many people can doubt this any more and certainly most of the views of this programme don't.

    Fact - Carbon Dioxide and Methane are greenhouse gasses, they really are responsible for raising the earths temperature, without them life would be impossible. In the past rises in greenhouse gasses do appear to have caused global warming.

    The thesis being disputed here is that it is our increase in greenhouse gas emissions that are responsible for global warming, however even if we take the line of saying that it is not we still face an environmental disaster if current trends persist.

    So what on earth can we do? Can we send giant mirrors up into space to reduce the sun's emissions, of course not, can we pup energy out into space, of course not, these are simply not practical solutions. THE ONLY THING THAT WE CAN DO is to try and curb out greenhouse gas emissions. Of course we cannot prove that this will do the trick, even if the global warming science is all correct we still don't know exactly how the atmospheric systems work so how can we be true. Yet surly we must do something. Unless we want to turn south east England into a Mediterranean desert, destroy all current coral reefs, force the movement of millions of people out of low lying regions (have you ever looked at just how densely populated and low lying (not to mention poor and flood threatened already) Bangladesh is?

    I guess you have something a bit like Pascals wager going on at the moment, of course I cannot prove that these things will happen either, although I think it is indubitable that if current trends continue, even if they are slowed, they will (and that this has occurred before, and destroyed as much as 90% of life on earth). As I said we cannot prove either that reducing greenhouse gas emissions isn't a sure fire way of dealing with the problem, yet I still say it is the best, and perhaps the only, option we have, the most backed by scientific evidence. Quite simply we have no other alternative except inaction and do you really want you're children to grow up and say 'they could have done something, but they choose to do nothing'. I personally am quite happy to take the wager and think that anybody who doesn't is walking on some very dangerous ground!

  3. Thanks for your comments. I forgot about MediaLens. They offer two powerful rebuttals of the documentary's evidence. The link Will suggested is still live at the time of writing, but will eventually be archived here: There's a link on that page to the earlier alert.

    The documentary was misleading in a number of ways, it seems. One of them was that it claimed carbon dioxide made up only a tiny percentage of the gases in the Earth's atmosphere, but it said nothing about its relative density.

    I quite like the idea of polluters being labelled as child-abusers. I wonder if the Daily Mail will ever start ranting about CO2 emissions in the same way they do about paedophiles.

    Where do you stand, though, on the use of fossil fuels in the developing world? Should they be allowed to use them as we have done for the last 150 years? I think we in the developed world can afford to develop cleaner technologies. I know we don't want to afford it, but we can.