Monday, March 12, 2007

The Great Global Warming Storm in a Teacup...

It seems Channel 4's documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle has hit a raw nerve on both sides of the pond. And so, for one momentito we'll have some more debate on the actual causes of global warming. But not for long. Rightly or wrongly, going by the general public and politicians worldwide, the jury is in and the carbon guys have won.

Zoe Williams in The Guardian's Art blog clearly didn't like the program too much, or as she put it: "The Great Global Warming Swindle is sceptical of climate change. I'm sceptical of this kind of TV." A few snippets:
"We're heretics! I'm a heretic. The makers of this programme are heretics." Nigel Calder is explaining how the world sees scientists who deny global warming. Channel 4's The Great Global Warming Swindle made one interesting point - that scientists are not unanimous in their assessment of the connection between global warming and CO2. Most say the second causes the first; a few say the first causes the second. Interesting, huh? Academics in not-all-thinking-exactly-the-same-thing shock. The amazing thing about global warming is not that someone from Winnipeg University disagrees (if you've ever been to Winnipeg, you will know what it means to be forced by your academic qualifications to live there); it's how many people don't disagree.

Sorry, I am just rolling over and handing the refuseniks a piece of their most powerful weaponry - when everyone agrees, why, that's like when we thought the world was flat! Only a few brave voices stood up, and they were ridiculed! I actually had this argument on the Daily Politics with Peter Hitchens. "You can't seriously be contending," said I, "that just because all scientists say you're talking rubbish, that de facto turns you into the brave, lone voice of truth?" (I am buffing my prose a bit, I admit.) "That's the trouble with you Guardian journalists! You only talk to each other!" he retorted.

I know Channel 4 has a new remit of its own devising, to make trouble and stir up hornets' nests and all that, but what this amounts to is not mischievous subversion, it's just more of that age-old Fox News formula: take a surprising fact that might make people think, but won't make a programme on its own; gather together some bouncy commentators, stick a snooty voice over the top, create a sense of conflict without properly interrogating the positions taken within it, and aah, Bisto!, you have successfully brought to the world the smell of confusion.


And the plot thickens some more. Programme contributor Professor Carl Wunsch (Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physical Oceanography, Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Foreign Member of the Royal Society) is quoted in this article titled Climate change: An inconvenient truth... for C4:
Professor Wunsch said: "I am angry because they completely misrepresented me. My views were distorted by the context in which they placed them. I was misled as to what it was going to be about. I was told about six months ago that this was to be a programme about how complicated it is to understand what is going on [my bold]. If they had told me even the title of the programme, I would have absolutely refused to be on it. I am the one who has been swindled."

When told what the commission had found, he said: "That is what happened to me." He said he believes it is "an almost inescapable conclusion" that "if man adds excess CO2 to the atmosphere, the climate will warm".

He went on: "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."

Mr Durkin last night said that Professor Wunsch was "most certainly not duped into appearing into the programme" and that it "had not in any way misrepresented what he said".

On climate change Wunsch wrote in March 2006:
…it is very difficult to separate human induced change from natural change, certainly not with the confidence we all seek. In these circumstances, it is essential to remember that the inability to prove human-induced change is not the same thing as a demonstration of its absence. It is probably true that most scientists would assign a very high probability that human-induced change is already strongly present in the climate system, while at the same time agreeing that clear-cut proof is not now available and may not be available for a long-time to come, if ever. Public policy has to be made on the basis of probabilities, not firm proof.

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