The real climate change swindle?

The issue of global climate change seems to polarise people. I was amazed how strongly some of the participants in a recent discussion expressed their views. Especially in the criticism of the current understanding of human contributions to climate change.

The willingness of some people to reject scientific findings, and even to slander the scientists for their discoveries, concerns me. However, I will return to this subject in a later post.

For now I just want to raise the necessity of proper assessment of evidence when confronted with this sort of discussion.

The Great Global Warming Swindle

People have been recommending the documentary film The Great Global Warming Swindle to me as evidence that climate scientists have been pulling the wool over our collective eyes

I have now had a chance to see the film and can concur that its message is that man-made global warming is “a lie” and “the biggest scam of modern times.” Its certainly a very effective documentary and will convince an uncritical audience. However, I found it polemical and emotive (never good for considering evidence). It presented data selectively and uncritically. I have no special, background in climate science. But even so I detected a number of misrepresentations.

Academic and other apparently authoritative spokesperson are used in the documentary – but all with the same argument. According to Dr. Stephen C. Nodvin “Most of the people who appear in the film are NOT respected climate scientists but long-time climate deniers: many of who have received significant funding from companies like ExxonMobil and Philip Morris. The arguments used are the same warmed-over arguments that have been thoroughly and carefully considered by the majority of climate scientists… and rejected.”

Getting some balance

It’s difficult for the layperson to get a balanced view of this subject. However, for those who have seen the film or are interested in a more objective look at the evidence I can highly recommend the video “Scam of the ‘Great Global Climate Warming Swindle.’”

It’s a video lecture by Chris Merchant of the School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh. He uses the documentary to show how it conveys its message by:

  • selective presentation and misrepresentation of data,
  • mistakes in logic, and
  • massaging or distortion of data.

Technically the lecture is not the best but it repays the effort. It presents video extracts of the documentary covering the sections he criticises. Therefore it’s not essential for viewers to watch the original documentary beforehand.

Have a look. Is his calm presentation of balanced evidence more convincing than than the emotional and slandering approach of the original documentary?

Scam of the “Great Global Warming Swindle” Swindle”

See also: (Thanks to Damian for most of these)
Misrepresentations of scientific evidence and researchers’ interpretations
The Great Global Warming Swindle – A Rebuttal.pdf
Why the Ch4 documentary “The Great Global Warming Swindle” is wrong
IPPC Fourth Assessment Report
Channel 4’s Problem with Science
Answers to Global Warming Skeptics
Global Warming Swindle?
Climate change: A Guide for the perplexed
The real global warming swindle

Related articles:
Intelligent design/creationism and climate change

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20 responses to “The real climate change swindle?

  1. Thanks for the video Ken.

    I recently got to watch the Great Global Warming Swindle after someone sent it to me thinking I needed education on the issue. Having watched it a few times now and having taken time to critically analyse it, I’m with you.

    It seems to follow the new documentary making formula though – formulate a hypothesis and then find everyone you can and every bit of information you can to enforce that hypothesis rather than test it. Such documentaries are becoming more and more frequent all the time… it is troublesome.

  2. I agree Frank. A good documentary (in my opinion) is one that you still don’t really know where the documentary-makers stand on the issue after watching it. Where they get such a range of opinions on the topic that you are able to draw your own conclusions and where you feel all arguments have been allowed to give their best shots.

    Of course this is never going to be 100% possible because there has to be a motive for making the documentary in the first place (a la ‘Jesus Camp’) but if they want to use the label ‘documentary’ they need to let the arguments speak for themselves.

    We’re starting to see more and more propaganda-dressed-as-documentaries.

  3. Too true.

    I think Jesus Camp follows a more immersive style of film-making where a subject is taken, filmed and then simply put on the screen for the audience to form their own impression.

    Jesus Camp doesn’t do it completely as it adds music backing that can have an influence on how one emotionally perceives the subject and it provides a view that opposes the subject in the form on the radio announcer.

    Truly immersive documentaries that simply take a snapshot of a subject with no commentary and limited use of forms that could influence perception are one of my favourite forms of film.

    Aside from such form of film making, it is hard to be truly objective… but a documentary film maker should always be doing their best to remove their bias. Film makers need to be clear about the line between propaganda (as TGGWS could easily be categorised) and presenting a view.

  4. Dan Pangburn

    If you are curious about global warming findings (with graphics) that were funded by neither government nor industry see http://www.middlebury.net/op-ed/pangburn.html .

    Significant recent warming of planet earth ended in 1998. The carbon dioxide level continues to increase. If it wasn’t for the 22 year period from 1976 to 1998 when the atmospheric carbon dioxide level and average global temperature happened to increase at the same time, the term ‘greenhouse gas’ would be virtually unknown and Kyoto and the rest of the Global Warming Mistake would never have happened. The challenge is to un-brainwash much of the public and get some climatologists and the IPCC to abandon their self serving agenda.

  5. Thanks Dan – I’ll have a read.
    However, I really must really get around to reading the IPPC technical report as I imagine that is where the basic scientific information is.

  6. Hmmm I have said this in another blog about global warming (so sorry if it seems that I am repeating myself) but global warming or not… it is good in what consequences occur of stating that “global warming is a real concern”… It would lead people to be more green, companies will be forced to polute less, technology will be made that is more friendly to the environment, smog levels are going to be reduced (Tho I suppose this will happen a lot LATER than sooner)

    Otherwise, for a lot of people, no global warming means, no need to care for the environment (granted there are people that dont care even if global warming is real, but it gets the message across to a few more people that are sitting on the fence)

    Anyway thats my 2 cents.
    Cheers!
    pKay.

  7. I believe that Global Warming (ie. Human Influenced climate change) is real, however I will fight to the death for the believers in Climate Change (ie Naturally Influenced climate change) to have the right to speak.

    There is no point in the progress of an idea where it is above skepticism. If it was we would still be practicing eugenics, lobotomies, appendectomies and tonsilectomies. Popular scientific opinion is as fallible as any other opinion because the scientists who make it are human and subject to all the same foibles as any other humans.

    Climatology is not an exact science and leaves considerable room for error. And what we are witnessing is every yahoo with an environmental agenda hopping on board and declaring that his beetle is a victim of global warming. It’s to the point where the cause is losing its meaning and its credibility with the public and making the most incompetent opponents attractive.

    The global warming advocates have to take care and focus their evidence and rhetoric and know that muzzling detractors is a recipe for disaster. The Catholic Church discovered this during the Rennaisance. George W. Bush discovered it when invading Iraq.

    Skepticism must prevail.

  8. PKay, I suspect that for many people the prospect of global warming is driving their concerns for the environment. However, I see global warming (or humanities contribution to it) as being just part of a much wider concern humanity should have. We should be concerned to live in harmony with our environment because if we don’t there are all sorts of unpleasant results. Besides climate change there is resource depletion and pollution.

    Humanity must develop its industry and agriculture so that they are more environmentally and resource friendly. I am sure we can do it. And, yes, global warming is currently a driving factor. But depletion of opil reserves is, in itself, another factor.

  9. Grant – I agree that skepticism must prevail. However, I don’t think that at the scientific level there is any evidence of muzzling. Granted at the political level, and the grass-roots environmental activist level, this behaviour can, and does occur. In many ways environmentalists act with religious zeal – which is never a good thing. And many people get turned off because they are no longer prepared to put up with the moral blackmail approach that they got from religion in the past.

    The lack of skepticism is an individual approach – and will occur with individual scientists. But let’s not forget that science is very much a social process. And the social process of science very much encourages skepticism.

    I certainly have the impression that the current assessment of humanity’s contributions to global change have very much come from the social activity of science with intensive competing hypotheses and theories, publication and peer review. To me this social activity is far less obvious in the arguments of the climate change deniers.

  10. Ken, if you honestly look into science you will discover that scientific method and peer review accomplish little or nothing. They are just terms that are waved around when someone is skeptical of a scientist. Most research is crap science which doesn’t hold up to scrutiny for proper method, sample, data or analysis. Much so called “science” is just speculation based on incongruent data by other clueless scientists.

    The truth is, we are still primitive as hell on all fronts. We haven’t taken control of nature, we are holding the tiger by the tail and claiming we have control. Which is what scientists do and the priests before them did. It doesn’t matter if your god count is zero, one or many. The primary things humans do is digest organic chemicals or burn organic chemicals and the byproducts have been increasing exponentially. But our understanding of climate is ridiculously primitive. What we understand about climate is incredibly scanty. We’ve barely been measuring it for more than 100 years with our own sparse instruments. We don’t understand the oceans. We don’t understand the sun. We don’t understand the ice ages. We have some elegant theories, some simple theories and some simplistic theories. We’re short on facts and long on anecdotes.

    We face the prospect of making a geologically quick decision without adequate geological information. And personally, I say we err on the side of caution. Considering the debt our children could be facing, a good conservative would say, “Tighten your belt and generate new revenue.”

  11. Global Warming is happening but it can’t be totally attributed to the human race, the human race is just speeding it up. Like the video points out, there have been various times where it’s been colder or hotter than other times and that might just be what’s happening and we’re just speeding everything up, say, every 40 million years, if I have the correct number on the most recent ice age, the earth warms up and then freezes. So supposing this happens every 40 million or so years then we’re only speeding things up to happen in say 20 million years instead of 40 million years.

  12. Grant, I have honestly looked into (and practiced) science. I’ve done it my whole professional life. For that reason of find you comments insulting to the honest endeavour of humanity to understand reality. You are just so mistaken about this. If you really believed it you would never take advantage of, and rely on, the knowledge our species has gained. You would never board a train, car , plane, etc. Participation in an internet discussion shows you really do accept most of our knowledge.

    Of course we never understand things completely – one of the main products of science is ignorance, or at least awareness of how much we are ignorant of. But, as a species, we use what we do know to make our lives better and to avoid problems we may be causing.

    I suggest your assessment of our level of knowledge in this area is somewhat prejudiced by your willingness to slander knowledge.

  13. C’mon, Ken, I am a scientist myself and I don’t consider science sacrosanct. And much of what you are talking about isn’t science, it’s engineering. There is one hell of a difference.

  14. Look, I personally am of the opinion that the Global Warming advocates are right, but I also of the opinion that free speech is even more important than knowledge. And if your feelings are hurt because I attack science then maybe you take your science the same way some take their religion.

    Don’t take your knowledge for granted. It may be regarded as ignorance tomorrow.

  15. Grant – your comment “Most research is crap science which doesn’t hold up to scrutiny for proper method, sample, data or analysis. Much so called “science” is just speculation based on incongruent data by other clueless scientists. is not a matter of “free speech.” It’s more slander.

    Part of the search for knowledge and understanding is a skeptical approach, requiring ideas, hypotheses and theories to be tested against reality. We don’t do that by calling them “crap.” We roll up our sleeves, do the work, submit to review and testing. That way we produce a body of authentic knowledge that has a lot of use, and is always open to change and development.

    That’s how we find out faults in our knowledge. Knowledge may well be ignorance tomorrow – but it doesn’t get that way by calling it “crap.”

  16. Cut the slander angle, Ken. You can’t slander a philosophy only a person. And science is a philosophy. Why don’t you start burning heretics, knight in white armor?

    What we often find in the scientific community is we are like a bunch of cattle first stampeding one way and then another and then another as one scientist says “this is the right theory” and then another says “no this is the right theory” and yet another says “no this is the right theory”. The cost of these changes can be enormous.

    I regard science, reason and logic is the best philosophy we have. However, scientists are human and subject to all the fallibility that humans have. And in many cases scientists forget to observe science, reason and logic themselves. They have mortgages to pay like anyone else and accordingly they generally are not champions of principle and end up doing crap science for whatever interest will pay that mortgage.

    Do you know that 89% of the “global” warming data was gathered in Europe? 10% in North America? And 1% in the rest of the world? Doesn’t sound scientific, reasonable or logical to me.

    Climatologists do not understand global climate at all. Creating an accurate model that can even make predictions 30 days in advance have not been achieved. In long term prediction there are too many variables that are not understood and compensated for with fudge factors. Personally, I consider accurate global climate prediction as great a challenge as artificial intelligence. Perhaps greater.

    Sure, burn me as a heretic. It will just prove that you are unscientific, irrational and illogical as any religious extremist. “Hold the cross higher, so I can see it through the flames.”

  17. Grant, you are confusing individual actions with the body of scientific knowledge. Of course individuals go off at tangents all the time, and scientists are no exception. The advantage of the scientific approach is that in the end it doesn’t depend on individual opinion. Ideas, hypotheses and theories are tested against reality.

    This is one of the reasons that the climate change deniers’ stuff is so suspect. it’s generally based on individual opinion and philosophies with very little checking against reality. That’s not to say that there aren’t genuine differences of interpretation and estimation of the dangers of anthropogenic contribution. There are. And these get discussed.

    But it really is not scientific discussion or debate to claim that someone is doing “crap science.” Whether they are or not is surely shown by the result of its validation, or otherwise, when tested against reality. These labels are generally used by people who haven’t got facts to back them up but have a motive (financial, ideological, political?) to attempt to discredit scientific findings.

    I think you are also confusing climate with weather. Of course weather predictions have a very low accuracy – there is so much noise. However, climate (which refers to mean values over very long times where the weather fluctuations balance out) is a different mater. Models for this are just models and their predictions have a wide variability. But one of the things that is happening is that models are improving with time as their predictions are checked against real measurements. That is why the confidence is improving.

    Have a look at the video Scam of the “Great Global Warming Swindle” Swindle” as I think it actually answers some of your criticisms.

  18. oh god so brain washed lol
    read some books, man made global warmin is a theory doesn’t mean it is true doesn’t mean it is scam, it means it is a theory wich has being proved worng many times, and visa versa there is critisism to both sides, so you shouldn’t be so religious about the “oh the greates heating globe”.

  19. and talking pretty words wont lead to an answer..

  20. Five years later and nothing has changed. No more warming, same old arguments.

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