Ok, so here’s my public service post. A couple weeks back I saw a film that first aired Mar 8, 2007 on Channel 4 in the UK titled “The Great Global Warming Swindle” that (in brief) rejects the idea that climate change (global warming) is significantly prompted/accelerated by greenhouse gases produced by human industry (namely carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels).
It was a disturbing film to watch, to say the least. Anyhow, I was disturbed enough to ask some questions and do some research on my own, so here’re the results. In summary: “Swindle” is a big swindle.
Read my more detailed comments below (originally posted to the campus discussion list where I first heard of “Swindle”):
To C and everyone else,
I’m glad the Channel 4 “polemic” (their label, not mine, but note this is NOT an objective “documentary”) has come up on this list again so I can post about it. I can say that when I first saw it I thought it seemed pretty persuasively put together, and being a complete non-expert in the very specific fields covered (oceanography, atmospheric dynamics etc.) I wasn’t prepared to come to any conclusions. As background, I am a senior in ESPP, so it’s not as if I haven’t had a substantial amount of exposure to these fields or their experts; I’m just not an expert myself, as I imagine to be generally the case in society.
So I went to the head of ESPP, Professor James McCarthy, who’s worked on the IPCC report (co-author and/or co-chair for parts of the two most recent Reports). (Unrelated: He’s also Master of Pforzheimer House.) Anyway, I sent him a copy of the video and asked for his response. After he saw it, he rejected the arguments presented as being generally without merit (which is putting it mildly). Which of course skeptics and cynics might find unsurprising. However, here’re some revealing facts that emerge, which you can verify from various online sources.
(1) The main scientific counter-theory (or theories, if you like) to a significant human contribution to climate change via greenhouse gases has been roundly refuted a number of times already by a slew of other papers in Science and Nature, and mostly before 2005! (For example, the clips of Professor John Christy talking about discrepancies in troposphere/surface warming are outdated since Professor Christy has already authored a paper admitting that his earlier findings were wrong.) For more details on all this, here’s an easy-to-read summary: http://environment.guardian.co.uk/climatechange/story/0,,2032572,00.html
(2) The journalistic integrity of the filmmaker, Martin Durkin, is very questionable, which you can easily verify for yourselves. See the complaints of intentional and complete misrepresentation levelled by one of the scientists who appeared:
Carl Wunsch, the MIT oceanography professor in the film, has posted his official response to the “The Great Global Warming Swindle” program on his MIT website. In it, Professor Wunsch says that he was completely misrepresented, and is very unhappy about that, to say the least. He opens his response with: “I believe that climate change is real, a major threat, and almost surely has a major human-induced component.”
And specifically on the way his comments were edited into the film: “By [my comments'] placement in the film, it appears that I am saying that since carbon dioxide exists in the ocean in such large quantities, human influence must not be very important—diametrically opposite to the point I was making—which is that global warming is both real and threatening.”
On the film “An Inconvenient Truth” (heavily attacked by “Swindle”): “I am often asked about Al Gore and his film. [...] Some of the details in the film make me cringe, but I think the overall thrust is appropriate.” (emphasis mine) In other words, one of the few credible scientists in the film (and the only credible one according to Professor McCarthy) in fact believes the exact opposite of what the filmmaker(s) portrayed him as saying/believing!
Read Professor Wunsch’s response in full (and see links to other revealing news articles and websites about the science and filmmaker behind “Swindle”) online here: http://puddle.mit.edu/~cwunsch/
I appreciate the attention of those people who’ve read this far. I think debate is important, including in the natural sciences (and of course in the policies that lean on that science). At the same time I think the definitive conclusion to draw about Durkin’s film is NOT to take anything in “Swindle” very seriously without careful consideration.
PS: Please feel free to forward this to other lists where you’ve seen “Swindle” discussed or mentioned. I think it’s important that people have an opportunity to conclude for themselves whether the film has any actual merit.
PPS: Kindly refrain from making overly broad assumptions about the details of my personal (non-expert) opinions about climate change or how individuals and societies should respond to the issue.