The ‘Great Global Warming Swindle’ Debate
On July 12, 2007 the ABC1 (Australian TV Channel 2) showed a documentary film entitled The Great Global Warming Swindle, produced by filmmaker Martin Durkin of Wag TV Productions in the UK, and shown there last February. This was followed by an interview between ABC presenter Tony Jones and Martin Durkin, in London, which in turn was followed by a panel discussion in the ABC studio, led by Tony Jones, with studio audience involvement.
The purpose of this web article is not to take sides or promote any position in the global warming debate, as we do not regard this as part of our mandate (see our article Global warming: what is the creationist view?). Rather it is to assess the scientific integrity and fairness of the presentation of this program by the ABC, in view of the ABC’s flexibility in its use of these values in many of its presentations that attack Christianity, the Bible, moral values, Creation, etc. (See for example Catalytic reporting: An Australian science show flags its bias and Atheists Blast Christianity: Yet another misleading anti-Christian assault from Australia’s taxpayer-funded TV station). In passing, we will also note some curious similarities between this debate and the creation vs evolution issue.
In his introduction of the film, presenter Tony Jones announced: ‘I am bound to say The Great Global Warming Swindle does not represent the views of the ABC.’ How extraordinary! Nobody says that when the ABC presents its customary anti-Christian programs at Easter and Christmas, or before it broadcasts any of its many anti-Bible or anti-Creation programs. One would be forgiven for concluding that this is because all such programs do, in fact, represent the views of the ABC.
The message of the film was unapologetically polemic: namely that we are being told lies by those who say that man-made climate change has been proven beyond doubt, i.e. that global warming is due to increased levels of carbon dioxide (CO2 ) in the atmosphere from human activity, such as burning coal and other fossil fuels, and using electricity generated by burning these materials.
The film claims to be ‘a story of how a theory about climate turned into a political ideology … a story of the distortion of a whole area of science’ … and, ‘It has been applauded by sceptics as the ultimate answer to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.’
Evidence for all this according to Swindle:
- The film has many statements that ‘the scientific evidence does not support the notion that climate is driven by CO2 , man-made or otherwise’, and related comments, by a dozen or so reputable scientific experts in climatology, oceanography, meteorology, environmental science, biogeography and paleoclimatology, who work or have worked within such reputable institutions as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), NASA, the International Arctic Research Centre, the Pasteur Institute in Paris, the Danish National Space Centre and the Universities of London, Ottawa, Jerusalem, Winnipeg, Alabama and Virginia, as well as comments by Nigel Calder, former editor of New Scientist.
Figure 1.The disputed Little Ice Age and Medieval Warm Period, as shown in the film.
- From 1905 to 1940, Earth’s temperature rose, when industrial activity was still relatively small. But from 1940 to 1968, during the post-WW2 economic boom (with its huge increase in use of electricity),2 Earth’s temperature actually fell, until the economic recession of the 1970s.
- The film said that CO2 is only 0.054% of Earth’s atmosphere and is a small component of greenhouse gases. Human-produced greenhouse gases are a much smaller fraction again. By comparison, water vapour makes up 95% of greenhouse gases—infrared spectroscopists try to exclude water from their spectrometers precisely because water is such a strong infrared absorber.
- If global warming were due to greenhouse gases, the troposphere (the layer of earth’s atmosphere 10–15 km above us) should heat up faster than the surface of Earth, because greenhouse gases there would trap the sun’s rays bouncing off the Earth’s surface, but data from satellites, as well as from weather balloons, does not support this and does not match the theory of climate models. ‘Most observations show a slight decrease in the rate of warming with altitude, so in a sense you can say that the hypothesis of man-made global warming is falsified by the evidence.’—Prof. Frederick Singer, First Director, US National Weather Satellite Service.
- Ice core drills all show that, historically, increase in CO2 has lagged behind Earth’s warming by up to 800 years, i.e. Earth’s warming produced the increase in CO2 , not vice versa. [So Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth reversed cause and effect.—Ed.] This CO2 was said to come from the earth’s warmer oceans, because gases are less soluble in hot liquids than in cold. Earth’s temperature was controlled by the oceans, and because these are so vast, it took hundreds of years for the oceans to warm up and cool down. ‘So the most fundamental assumption of the whole theory of climate change due to humans is shown to be wrong.’—Dr Tim Ball, Former Professor of Climatology, University of Winnipeg.
Figure 2. Graph of CO2 and Temperature produced by astrophysicists from Harvard University and published in 2005 in the Journal of the American Geophysical Union, as shown in the film.
Figure 3. Graph of Sun and Temperature produced independently by scientists from NASA and America’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as shown in the film.
Click here for larger view.
If CO2 is not driving climate change, what is?
According to Swindle:
The main cause is solar activity, which regulates cloud formation, and includes heat, solar wind and sunspots (intense magnetic fields which appear at times of high solar activity). In 1991, senior scientists at the Danish Meteorological Institute compiled a record of sunspots in the 20th century and found an incredibly close correlation between Earth’s temperature fluctuation in the 20th century and solar activity, but not with variation of CO2 concentration. To show that this was not a coincidence the scientists identified similar results for the last 400 years, back to the Little Ice Age of the 17th century. See Figures 2 and 3.
Why is man-made CO2 promoted to the exclusion of other causes?
According to Swindle:
- A rise in funding for promoting nuclear power (and hence climate-related science
research) from $170 million p.a. to $2 billion p.a., in the 1990s, has meant that
many scientists and ‘environmental journalists’ have jumped on board
the bandwagon. The former (climate scientists) need there to be a problem in order
to get funding. The latter require more and more hysterical stories for news media
to publish. Now tens of thousands of jobs depend on global warming.
A large portion of Government funds went into building computer models to forecast future climate. However, all such forecasts depend on the assumptions put into them, and ‘all models assume man-made CO2 is the main cause of climate change rather than the sun or the clouds’.
A light-hearted note was supplied by Nigel Calder, former editor of New Scientist, who said, ‘If I wanted to do research on the squirrels of Sussex any time from 1990 onwards, I would write my grant application saying, “I want to investigate the nut-gathering behaviour of squirrels with special reference to the effects of global warming”, and that way I get my money; if I forget to mention global warming, I might not get the money.’
Calder also added, ‘The whole global warming business has become like a religion. People who disagree are called heretics.’
[And not just the global warming business. Creationists too have been referred to as heretics, see Is Young-Earth Creationism a heresy?—Ed.]
- Prof. Richard Lindzen (Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at MIT) was quoted saying, ‘Every textbook on meteorology is telling you the main source of weather disturbances is the temperature difference between the tropics and the Pole. And we are told in a warmer world this difference will get less—less storminess, less variability. But for some reason that isn’t considered catastrophic, so you’re told the opposite.’
- In the 1990s the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)3 issued a report from which (it was claimed by Prof.
Frederick Seitz, former President of America’s National Academy of Sciences
in a letter to the Wall Street Journal), the IPCC had deleted at least
15 of the key sections of the science chapter,4
so that ‘this report is not the version that was approved by the contributing
scientists listed on the title page’. The IPCC then included the names of
these dissenting scientists in its list of 2,500 consenting scientists.
Seitz is quoted as saying, ‘I have never witnessed a more disturbing corruption
of the peer-review process than the event that led to this IPCC report.’
[We at Creation Ministries International are well aware of the peer-review process in secular evolutionist journals that regularly rejects articles by creationist scientists, no matter how well the science is presented. See also this criticism by an experienced peer reviewer on the way that peer review can sometimes protect the ruling paradigm from objections—Ed.]
Social problems in the CO2 scenario
- Concerning the alarm that global warming will cause malaria mosquitoes to migrate northwards to cooler regions, Prof. Paul Reiter of the Pasteur Institute, Paris, and recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on malaria, said, ‘Mosquitoes are not specifically tropical … in fact, mosquitoes are extremely abundant in the Arctic. The most devastating epidemic of malaria was in the Soviet Union in the 1920s. There were something like 13 million cases a year and something like 600,000 deaths.’
- The present agreement among Western governments to restrain industrial production in the developed and developing world may have disastrous consequences for the world’s poorest people, prolonging poverty and disease, if they do not use their oil and coal resources (e.g. in Africa) to produce electricity, as wind and solar power are not viable for them.
Near the end of the film, a voice-over says, ‘The theory of man-made 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.’
[Alas, the theory of evolution is also firmly entrenched. However, voices of opposition have not been silenced on this topic, even though evolutionists may disregard the huge amounts of contrary evidence, no matter how strong.—Ed.].
After the film showing, there was a prerecorded interview of filmmaker Martin Durkin by Tony Jones, who had flown to London, as explained by Jones, ‘To provide some balance of our own and to examine how sound his arguments really are.’ [The incongruity of a global warming alarmist jetsetting across the globe, emitting copious greenhouse gases, didn’t seem to bother him; similarly Al Gore or aging rock stars and Hollywood actors with private jets lecturing others about the emissions from their vehicles—Ed.]
Jones did this by confronting Durkin about an earlier version of the film shown in the UK in February. This appeared to be an edited interview, with Durkin’s replies obviously cut off by Jones [or perhaps later edited out?—Ed], especially when Durkin tried to discuss the scientific evidence lacking for CO2 and that presented for solar activity in Swindle. Note: Durkin has subsequently defended himself in The Australian.
Jones began this section of the program by showing a film-clip of George Monbiot, Guardian newspaper (UK) columnist, who said that, in the film, people were being misled by ‘a whole series of fraudulent statements’. Unfortunately, he did not itemize a single one of these for us, but instead attacked two other films made by Durkin, Against Nature5 (1997) and Storm in a D Cup6 (1999) which Monbiot said involved scientific fraud.
Figure 4. The ‘hockeystick’ graph of climate change
over the last one thousand years, presented by the IPCC in its 2001 Assessment Report,
and reproduced in Nature8
in 2006. It eliminates the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age (shown in the
above Swindle graph, Figure 1), thereby pictorially enhancing the upward temperature
effect post-2000. It is supported by the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS),
even though the NAS Committee said that the temperature reconstructions from that
era (i.e. AD 900 to 1600) ‘had a two-to-one
chance of being right’.8
Click here for larger view
Jones then took issue with the fact that Prof. Singer’s dates of service as First Director of the US national Weather Service, viz. 1962–64, were missing from the film, and that Singer was sceptical about many things.
Another point of issue was the fact that Prof. Seitz’s challenge to the IPCC report was dated 1996. [This suggests that the IPCC report in question was the 2nd released in 1995. No one on either side said whether this alleged censoring was repeated in the 3rd and 4th IPCC reports of 2001 and 2007.—Ed.] Seitz’s credibility was also challenged.
Jones did not give Durkin opportunity to reply to these criticisms. Instead, topics covered in his interview with Durkin were:
- Professor Andrew Pitman, Climatologist, UNSW, said in a film clip that over billions
of years planet Earth had developed its own mechanisms for taking back up from the
atmosphere [surplus] CO2 , but ‘what we have done is change that
natural balance by adding significant amounts of greenhouse gases’.
Durkin’s response: ‘I think it’s absolute rubbish!’
- Why did Durkin’s chart of Earth temperature over the last 1000 years stop
at 1990, instead of going on to the present day, as more recent IPCC charts were
Durkin replied that the later IPCC charts mistakenly eliminated the Medieval Warm Period, and replaced it with a graph that looked like a ‘hockey stick’,7 i.e. with a horizontal line that eliminated the up-and-down temperatures of the last 1000 years. See Figure 4.
Ironically, none other than vociferous anticreationist Ian Plimer was scathing regarding the ABC’s handling of this debate in Global warming zealots are stifling scientific debate, and argues:
‘Groups like BAMOS and the IPCC deny, minimise or ignore significant recent climate changes that gave us the Roman Warming, the Dark Ages, the Medieval Warming and the Little Ice Age. Both history and archaeology show that in previous warmings, temperatures were far higher than at present. Populations and the economy thrived. Previous coolings led to famine, depopulation and social disruption. History shows that it is dangerous to ignore history.’
- Why did your graph of Temp. & Solar Activity stop at 1980, as global temperature
increases from then on and solar activity decreases, so why not continue the graph
on to the present day?
Durkin’s best answer to this was that it was a moot point.
- The film shown in Australia was the 4th version, meaning (according to
Jones) that earlier versions had shown false data, including comments by the Professor
of Physical Oceanography at MIT, who said he had been misrepresented.
Durkin replied that he had quoted him accurately, but then had taken him out of the later versions at his own request. Some other criticisms had also been attended to.
[We in Australia hadn’t been shown the other versions, in any case, from which Durkin claimed to have eliminated some mistakes—Ed.]
Historical evidence for the Medieval Warm Period
‘The Normans’ Domesday survey of 1086 listed no less than 38 vineyards in England, with Ely marking the most northerly spot, seventy miles northeast of London. It was a warmer world. Archaeological evidence indicates that the years 950 to 1300 were marked by noticeably warmer temperatures than we experience today, even in the age of “global warming”. Meteorologists describe this medieval warm epoch as the “Little Optimum”, and they cite it as the explanation of such phenomena as the Viking explosion into Russia, France, Iceland, and the northwestern Atlantic.’
‘The northerly retreat of icebergs and pack-ice under the impact of warmer temperatures is a plausible explanation of why Lief Eriksson was able to sail round the top of the Atlantic as far as Newfoundland in or about the year 1000, and why he found vines there. During the “Little Optimum”, Edinburgh enjoyed the climate of London, while London enjoyed the climate of the Loire valley in France, a difference of 2 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit—the equivalent in modern American terms of San Fransisco’s climate moving north to Seattle.’ 9
The panel discussion
The ABC studio panel consisted of eight people, comprising Australian scientists, industrial leaders, broadcasters and environmentalists. Five were anti-Swindle and three were pro. Most of the time was spent by the anti’s saying that Earth’s temperature had gone up since 1990 (and especially since 1998), and the pro’s maintaining that it had not. Notably, no one on either side cited any actual temperature figures for this period.
ABC’s science presenter Robyn Williams, a passionate opponent of biblical creation, began by challenging the idea that thousands of scientists were telling lies. He claimed that scientists in many different disciplines were separately coming back to CO2 as the villain.
Michael Duffy (radio broadcaster and columnist) wanted to know why only one side was being put under the microscope, and when was Al Gore, who presented his global-warming film An Inconvenient Truth in Australia recently, going to be subjected to the same treatment?
Prof. David Karoly of Earth Sciences University of Melbourne, and lead author of the IPCC denied he was engaged in a swindle. He said, ‘I’m sceptical about all of science. I’m trained to question everything.’ [That’s a very odd thing for a scientist to say when apparently he is not at all sceptical about the theory of evolution—the most unproven alleged ‘fact’ of our time.—Ed.]
Prof. Karoly continued that in the last 50 to 100 million years we’ve had CO2 increases that are 30% higher than in any time over the last million years. Now CO2 concentration is 380 ppm, but it has never exceeded 300 ppm over last 650,000 years. By comparison, 55 million years ago it was in excess of 2000 ppm, and in the Cretaceous and Jurassic it was ten times the present-day concentration. [He did not tell us how he arrived at these figures, nor that even according to evolutionary histories, life thrived in this environment (‘age of dinosaurs’).—Ed.]
Prof. Karoly claimed that flaws in the film were:
- 55 million years ago the Earth’s temperature rose 20 degrees or more due to a massive injection of carbon from geological processes into the atmosphere. [Yet even the graphs showed the temperature rise happened before the CO2 rise.—Ed.]
- Increases in CO2 in the 20th century were not mainly from natural causes, but ‘the vast proportion were due to human activity—burning fossil fuels and land clearing’.
- If warming was due to solar activity we would expect more warming during the day than at night, and during summer not winter, but the opposite was the case, he said.
- The stratosphere (which is warmed by the sun) has been cooler not warmer in the last 30 years, he said.
The studio audience participation
The first person to speak from the TV audience stated that 14C had been found in coal, which meant that coal was not millions of years old, so all the statistics and data based on these long ages given by IPCC scientist Prof. David Karoly were in doubt. This obviously devastating criticism was quickly averted by Prof. Karoly saying he didn’t understand the question. [The presence of 14C in coal and diamonds, said to be hundreds of millions or even billions of years old, undermines the whole theory of evolution based as it is on long ages. See Diamonds: a creationist’s best friend: Radiocarbon in diamonds: enemy of billions of years—Ed.]
Most of the audience speakers made statements rather than ask questions, with both sides trying to disparage the opposition by derogatory comments, such as that the Environmentalist Movement was founded by Julian Huxley, and the Green Movement was founded by those in the Eugenics Movement. Those who deny humankind as the chief cause of global warming were said to be in the same category as those who deny smoking causes lung cancer.
The Swindle film presented its scientific evidence anti-CO2 and pro-solar activity very well. However, by not dealing with the post-1990 time period, with the alleged temperature increase and alleged solar-activity decrease therein, Durkin left himself open to a charge of ‘flaws’ by his opponents. Of course, if one anomaly in the claimed correlation of solar activity and warming can invalidate the suggestions, then what about the anomalies with correlating CO2 and warming?
Regardless of which argument is correct, there is no doubt that if there were a Logie (Australian television industry award) given for bias in TV presentation, Tony Jones would be the outstanding candidate.
The panel, being a panel, was restricted to oral assertions, which did not uphold the case for CO2 nearly as well. The five ‘anti-Swindle’ members avoided discussing much of the scientific evidence presented in the film.
I was surprised that no one from the studio audience suggested that the alleged flaws in Swindle did not negate it by 100% but possibly by something like say 10%, which scenario would still have left 90% of it extremely viable.
The evidence presented indicated a clear winner. It also showed the importance many people placed on belief when given a choice between facts and interpretations.
It would also be good to screen the public debate ‘Global Warming Is Not a Crisis’, 14 March 2007, where the sides were evenly matched, unlike this panel in the ABC hatchet job. To show that a fair debate is needed, rather than the ‘debate is over’ mentality, a report states:
‘A pre-debate poll of audience members indicated that by a 2 to 1 margin (57 percent to 29 percent, with 14 percent undecided) they believed global warming has become a crisis. After the debate, however, the audience indicated by 46 percent to 42 percent they do not believe it is a crisis, with 12 percent undecided.’
- Australian Broadcasting Corporation, a public broadcaster not to be confused with ABC in the USA. Return to Text.
- Durkin, M., ‘[T]he post-war economic boom … was the biggest explosion of economic activity in the history of civilisation up to that point; an unprecedented volume of CO2 was pumped into the atmosphere from lots of factories.’ New Scientist 194(2604):26, 19 May 2007. Return to Text.
- According to Wikipedia, ‘The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established in 1988 by two United Nations organizations, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), to evaluate the risk of climate change brought on by humans. The IPCC does not carry out research, nor does it monitor climate or related phenomena. One of the main activities of the IPCC is to publish special reports on topics relevant to the implementation of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).’ 16 July 2007. Return to Text.
- Sample: ‘None of the studies cited above has shown clear evidence that we can attribute the observed [climate] changes to the specific causes of increases in global gases.’ Return to Text.
- About which it was claimed that the editing of interviews with four environmentalists had ‘distorted or misrepresented their known views.’ Return to Text.
- Which apparently said that silicone implants reduced the risk of breast cancer. Return to Text.
- For an explanation and critique of this concept see Fox, M., The Hockeystick : The Global Warming Scandal of the Decade, 16 July 2007. Return to Text.
- Brumfiel, G., Academy affirms hockey-stick graph, Nature 441:1032, 29 June 2006. Return to Text.
- Robert Lacey and Danny Danziger, The Year 1000, Little, Brown and Company, Great Britain, 1999; page 139. Cited in Journal of Creation 16(2):62, 2002. Return to Text.