I finally got round to watching the piece of polemic that was the UK’s Channel 4 programme, the Great Global Warming Swindle. As someone who accepts the anthropogenic global warming theory, I found the show disturbing and its alleged influence depressing. See wikipedia for an overview – or even the programme in eight parts on YouTube, starting at part one here.
Far more instructive would have been a programme that aimed to document the debates that have been had by, and the decision-making processes involved in, the IPCC (Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change); I can well appreciate that these may have left ‘casualties’ and have been unsatisfactory to both current and former participants. But failing to check one person’s perspective alongside others, as well as grossly caricaturing alternative perspectives, gives viewers no opportunity to weigh up and think through issues for themselves. To claim anthropogenic global warming proponents are anti-human, anti-development and anti-science seems to me quite mind-boggling, and an insidious misrepresentation of real and valid concerns and a wealth of evidence.
Perhaps one of the programme’s more striking outcomes has been the dispute with one of the scientists presented in the programme. Professor Carl Wunsch (see previous wikipedia link), the oceanographer presented as disproving anthropogenic global warming, has written that his views were distorted and taken out of context; he does think, actually, that anthropogenic global warming is happening and is dangerous. Subsequently, Wunsch was threatened by the production company with legal action for defamation if he did not publicly renounce his claims to being misrepresented or misled. This is warped, given a central strand of the programme attacks global warming proponents for a) being more politically motivated than scientifically informed, and b) for bullying those with differing perspectives and for stifling debate.
No wonder that OFCOM (the UK’s rather Orwellian-sounding regulatory body, the ‘Office of Communications’) has been contacted, and that Wunsch has joined dozens of other scientists in an open letter to the producer, stating
We recognise and support the right of the programme-makers to report different viewpoints on climate change. However, we believe that it is in the public interest for adequate quality control to be exercised over information that is disseminated to the public to ensure that it does not include major misrepresentations of the scientific evidence and interpretations of it by researchers. Such quality control does not appear to have been applied to your programme.
The programme was dismally one-sided. It failed to present more than one perspective or any sense of debate. Based on how the producer responds to some of his critics, he’s not so interested in fostering discussion. Some original correspondence can be found here, in which the producer responds to a respectful email with, ‘you’re a big daft c&ck’: maybe superb as a piece of theatre, but talk about undermining one’s line of argument! (It may be that, as evidenced by that personal correspondence, Durkin made the programme more as an opportunity to vent spleen at the BBC rather than toward climate change scientists with whom he disagrees.) An interview with the producer can be found here; his final response is revealing – ‘No flaws, no flaws, no flaws’. And yet there are allegedly many, the more widely-reported relating to the producer’s use of outdated information and failure to include some of the more recent findings, even those of some of his interviewees. For a list of websites that seek to address many of the ‘non-flaws’ in the programme, start here.
All of which reveal the programme makers to be lacking a healthy dose of self-reflexivity, and the narrator’s final sentence as hollow:
The theory of manmade global warming is now so firmly entrenched, the voices of opposition so effectively silenced, it seems invincible. Untroubled by any contrary evidence, no matter how strong, the global warming alarm is now beyond reason.
… on the production company behind the programme.