Friday, July 13, 2007

The Great Global Warming Swindle

"The Great Global Warming Swindle does not represent the views of the ABC. It is an independent film and is only opinion."

That much is clear. Last night, the ABC aired the 'misleading and scientifically flawed' documentary, The Great Global Warming Swindle, by Martin Durkin.

The purpose of this post is not to discuss the merits of Durkin's arguments as the film is not new and has been available on YouTube for ages, but to take a look at the reaction in Australia.

In a nutshell, TGGWS is to Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth as Chalk is to Cheese.

Since it first aired on Channel 4 earlier this year, the chorus of voices trying to drown out or discredit its message has been overwhelming. Hence the editors at ABC made a very brave decision to air the documentary. However they sensibly (for their careers, that is) hedged themselves by

i) issuing the disclaimer at the top of this post

ii) discrediting Durkin, by showing previous documentaries he had worked on including one on silicon breast implants, that ABC gratuitously saw as a great opportunity to show footage of naked busty women.

iii) discrediting Channel 4 for commissioning the program, describing them as having a history of producing controversial material (not a million miles off the mark, i have to say)

iv) aggressively questioning Martin Durkin. Jones' interview with Durkin was excellent (even if he did have to fly all the way to London to film it!). He did what all good journalists should do to all controversial film-makers - he tried to pull his film apart. It is sad that the ABC have not felt the need to subject Al Gore and Stern to the same rigorous cross-examination.

v) discrediting the scientists featured in the film. For example, Fred Singer, who has questioned the relationship between sunlight and skin cancer ( i don't know the science behind this one but i thought this was largely agreed) and second hand smoke and lung cancer (definitely not agreed), was portrayed as some sort of moonbat.

Following this sledgehammer approach, the program gave way to a panel discussion whereby firmly entrenched people expressed firmly entrenched views. When the panel attempted to besmirch the reputation of Richard Lindzen, one of the scientists in the film, because he 'smoked three cigarettes during our last meeting' i realised i was not about to learn anything new. We didn't really learn a great deal more from this panel except that Tony Jones has less understanding of the science of global warming than my Aunt Gladys.

A commendable decision by the ABC, a good day for the sceptics, a good day for science (as a scientist myself it was wonderful to hear one of the green scientists on the panel utter the immortal words, 'I am a scientist. It is my job to be sceptical!') and a good day for freedom of speech, something head honcho Ben Stewart of Greenpeace needs to remember,

"We have a policy at Greenpeace that we no longer debate people who don’t accept the scientific reality of anthropogenic climate change. It’s similar to the policy undertaken by cancer specialists who used to debate the tobacco industry but discontinued doing so."

However not everyone was happy. The biggest casualty of the program has been the hapless MIT scientist, Carl Wunsch, who saw his career disappearing faster than an Antarctic iceberg when he first watched the film. He was furious with the ABC's decision to run the program, saying

"Anybody who tells you they know what is going to happen 20 years from now, 100 years from now, is not a good scientist. The science can only say, at this stage, that there are certain possibilities that we are aware of."

Well, err, quite, Carl. But isn't this the precise point the program was making?

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