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March 12th, 2007

Apparently Channel Four in the UK has put out a program which, with admirable honesty entitles itself The Great Global Warming Swindle, and offers the same tired set of swindlers we’ve heard for fifteen years or more, although their site breathlessly proclaims

But just as the environmental lobby think they’ve got our attention, a group of naysayers have emerged to slay the whole premise of global warming.

Particularly amusing for those of us who follow these things is the linkup between the US right, represented by Fred Singer, Patrick Michaels and others, and the Revolutionary Communist Party/LM crew at Spiked who put the whole thing together.* George Marshall (no relation to the George C Marshall Institute, which in turn bears no relation to George C Marshall, the soldier and statesman whose name it shamelessly ripped off) details names, track records of and (an incomplete list of) cash payments received by the participants.

*For those who like to keep track of the links between various forms of delusionism, this is the same group that denied ethnic cleansing in Bosnia.

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  1. Seeker
    March 13th, 2007 at 04:31 | #1

    Had to deal with Spiked’s work before (unrelated to Bosnia), and its real-world consequences for innocent humans.

    Seriously unimpressed. They are actually far more authoritarian than libertarian.

  2. March 13th, 2007 at 06:45 | #2

    I watched it last night – its a totally one-sided story that presents only the views of denialists – already it has been claimed to misrepresent. But it is well-produced (it looked like an expensive production – who funded it?) and is a sustained polemic directed at supporters of the global warming hypothesis.

    See it .

    I am sure it will be influential and damaging – bit-by-bit it needs to be refuted.

  3. March 13th, 2007 at 06:47 | #3

    The link got screwed up – its the underlined bit.

  4. Paul Kelly (not the journo)
    March 13th, 2007 at 10:43 | #4

    Somebody get Michael Duffy a copy.

  5. Ken Miles
    March 13th, 2007 at 11:35 | #5

    The Australian’s editorial has come out in support of The Great Global Warming Swindle.

    They seem to think that TGGWS has evidence that contradicts the greenhouse effect. Can’t wait to see Richard defend this latest delusion.

    A recent Channel Four documentary in Britain, The Great Climate Change Swindle, presents a coherent argument for why governments must hasten slowly in responding. The British documentary highlights the anomaly that temperatures are rising faster at the earth’s surface than in the upper atmosphere, directly contradicting the greenhouse hypothesis. It also highlights the fact that ice core data relied on by global warming alarmists actually shows world temperature increases occurred hundreds of years before corresponding rises in the level of atmospheric C02, again contradicting greenhouse theory. The program puts forward evidence to show the world’s climate is controlled by clouds, which are controlled by cosmic rays, which are in turn controlled by the sun.

  6. Andrew
    March 13th, 2007 at 13:20 | #6

    I posted on this on a previous thread – but for those interested there was an interesting article in the Observer denouncing this documentary. It raised an interesting point as to why GW denialists still exist despite overwhelming evidence – I think you could probably summarise it by saying saying that the denialists exist as a counterpart to the left wing groups who see climate change as a tool to achieve social objectives. Ambit claims beget ambit claims.


  7. Simonjm
    March 13th, 2007 at 13:26 | #7

    Paul kelly maybe he can borrow a copy from Bolt since he’s already used the environmentalists and Nazis argument I bet he already has a copy and will be preaching about it soon.

    Communists and Nazis


    “As one of our commenters has astutely observed, the director of the documentary endeavours, not-so-subtly, to marginalise environmentalists – painting them with a Communist type persona – and Monbiot points out that his previous work has likened greenies to Nazis:

    Mr Durkin has often been accused of taking liberties with the facts. In 1997 he made a series for Channel 4 called “Against Natureâ€?, which compared environmentalists with Nazis, conspiring against the world’s poor. – Monbiot”

  8. jquiggin
    March 13th, 2007 at 13:27 | #8

    This may be an explanation, Andrew, but it’s not an excuse for blatant lies. And it’s important to observe that virtually the whole of the right in the US and (until very recently, and still in many cases) Australia is delusionist/denialist. By contrast, people wanting to use climate change as a vehicle for radical social change are pretty much confined to green groups (and not even all of them). The vast majority of people in the centre and left just want to fix the problem with as little disruption as possible, accepting that some disruption is going to be necessary.

  9. Uncle Milton
    March 13th, 2007 at 13:40 | #9

    “It raised an interesting point as to why GW denialists still exist despite overwhelming evidence – I think you could probably summarise it by saying saying that the denialists exist as a counterpart to the left wing groups who see climate change as a tool to achieve social objectives.”

    Possibly, but a more plausible reason is that GW denialists exist for the same reason that people exist who believe that: the moon landings were a hoax; Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed were murdered by the British secret service; AIDS is not caused by the HIV virus; no planes flew into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon on September 11 2001 (they were instead bombed by the United States government); Elvis Presley is still alive; and so on.

    Some people choose to believe what they want to believe, regardless of the evidence. In fact, the more evidence that is presented that shows them to be wrong, the stronger their beliefs become.

    Just as it is impossible to persuade Mr Mohammed Al Fayed that his son was not murderered by the secret service (any and all evidence to the contrary being part of the conspiracy) the more scientific evidence is presented of the existence of human-induced global warming, the more GW denialists believe that GW science is merely a political conspiracy, or the product of scientists conforming to peer pressure, etc.

    Since these types of beliefs are impossible to falsify, they can be maintained for as long as the believers have the energy or interest to maintain them.

  10. Simonjm
    March 13th, 2007 at 13:45 | #10

    Andrew I wonder regarding his point about not feeling guilty about air travel since Australia as a country only contributes a small % of total Co2 emissions we shouldn’t feel guilty about our co2 activities?

    His point about the hair shirts wanting us to make sacrifices, well read the rest of my above post about the resources needed for the rest of the world to do things like taking holidays overseas. I wonder if the editor thinks we have a few spare Earths just lying around?

    Personally I’m with Singer on this one, living a affluent 1st world lifestyle while much of the rest of the world cannot get enough to eat drink or be saved from preventable diseases is immoral. At least now the 3rd world cannot be ignored for if they do what we do and have done we are all screwed. I’m not sure we need to do a Ted Trainer but things need to change. Talking about emission caps is one thing doing that without raising the living standards in the 3rd world is next to useless.

    Don’t pass me that hair shirt what about that Fair Trade one instead?

  11. D McCarthy
    March 13th, 2007 at 14:51 | #11

    I notice you put “denied ethnic cleansing”, is that the tamer version of genocide and ‘concentration camps’. 10 years on how diluted things have become. Must be something to do with the evidence http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6395791.stm.

    Serbs bad (they started the war) all else good (as victims of the war), great analysis and wonderful ‘delusion’ as you may say. That was the childrens guide to conflict in the Balkans we had to endure. Avoiding entirely the backdrop to the Balkan wars, the fall of the Iron Curtain, and subsequent outside intervention precipitating and extending that bloody conflict.

    With the simpleton’s guide to war and doing good, no wonder the other deluded groups like the international mujahideen (including our own super hero David Hicks) saw the conflict as somewhere to define their existence.

    They were joined by those darlings in the media and in politics who deliberately chose to describe the bloody civil war as a conflict between evil Bosnian Serbs and good innocent Bosnian Muslims in the FRY back in the 1990′s? The emotive terminology about the conflict was so simple, truly black and white back, almost as black and white as the contemporary debate about how and what causes climate change and how and what to do to manage climate change.

    If in doubt just say to yourself, its all a plot hatched by the far left and the far right. Keep the faith guys.

  12. March 13th, 2007 at 15:36 | #12

    Paul Kelly-not-the-Journo, someone must have got Michael Duffy a copy, because he was discussing (?) it yesterday in his ABC program. I’m not sure if I can quote word for word, but he said that Margaret Thatcher was actually responsible for starting the Global Warming concept. Something like “the scientists all followed the money, and the rest is history”. One of the nuttier pronouncements I’ve heard from him.

  13. Andrew
    March 13th, 2007 at 16:47 | #13


    I agree – no excuse for blatant lies…. but nonetheless, if we get blatant exaggeration on one side we’ll get blatant lies on the other. Unfortunately that’s just the way these debates work. We’ll all get far more achieved if both sides calm down the rhetoric and get on with finding solutions to the problem.

    There are plenty of things we can do without significantly impacting our lifestyle to address climate change… energy efficiency (in power stations, industry and in the home)should be right up the top of the agenda. I liked the author’s ozone depletion example. Leadership from government is required – unfortunately it is sadly lacking or is being hijacked by vested interest groups (on both sides).

  14. Ian Gould
    March 13th, 2007 at 17:10 | #14

    “Andrew I wonder regarding his point about not feeling guilty about air travel since Australia as a country only contributes a small % of total Co2 emissions we shouldn’t feel guilty about our co2 activities?”

    Of course, Australia also only represents a small percentage of the world’s total cases of murder and pedophilia.

  15. Jill Rush
    March 13th, 2007 at 17:51 | #15

    In a system of beliefs it would be nice to have one which worships mother earth – a new form of animism. The denialists are in general woshipping at the altar of Mammon – no wonder they have irrational belief systems which can withstand any amount of evidence. After all the evolutionary denialists still have adherents who prefer their own cultural myth to any kind of evidence. In fact they don’t need evidence.

    It is interesting that Muslims have received another beating for suggesting that the current drought is related to god’s decision. Strange when many Christians have been praying for rain. the comparison in beliefs is intriguing however the denialist do need to be opposed as like the evangelicals they will convert the self interested, the weak and the gullible who affect the way that the politicians respond.

  16. March 13th, 2007 at 18:05 | #16

    Perhaps, before you talk about “current drought” you should answer Steve Edney’s question.

  17. March 13th, 2007 at 19:21 | #17

    Hi John

    Why the total reliance on ad hominem attacks?

  18. March 13th, 2007 at 19:25 | #18

    On this show I enjoyed reading:

    The Guardian




    The show seemed to show persistent deceit with respect to critiques of the various claims it made – including in one case at least the repetition of an error by an author who had previously acknowledged his error. The word ‘lies’ is often slung around inappropriately but on this occasion it seems spot on.

  19. March 13th, 2007 at 19:48 | #19

    Paul kelly maybe he can borrow a copy from Bolt since he’s already used the environmentalists and Nazis argument I bet he already has a copy and will be preaching about it soon.

    Bolt has been preaching about it since early Monday morning:
    The global warming film you mustn’t watch

  20. Mike Pepperday
    March 13th, 2007 at 20:57 | #20

    The NYT has a criticism of Gore’s film today:


    It does not mention whether or not CO2 historically lags behind warming by 800 years. If it does the CO2 cannot be the culprit.

  21. krusty
    March 13th, 2007 at 21:56 | #21

    David, nobody who’s up to speed on the science or the politics of the past several years should have any interest in hearing another word from the bozos whose opinions JQ’s ignored here. Feel free to indulge yourself though.

    Mike the scientists and the IPCC agree with you that CO2 was not the culprit that initiated all the warmings of the relatively recent historical record. On the other hand I think you’ll find the popular favourite explanation for the Eocene warming and mass extinction event was indeed a sudden, catastrophic rise in atmospheric methane and carbon dioxide levels.

  22. Simonjm
    March 13th, 2007 at 23:01 | #22

    Andrew R from my recollections they are well aware of the general trends, given this, it would it be more likely they are looking to study the specific mechanisms of these trends to give a better understanding when factoring in changes to the Polar Vortex El Nino etc from AGW.

    BTW PLS can we not feed any remaining AGW TROLLS!! Enough is enough, debate about policies for solutions yes, but PLS no more debate about the science, it just encourages them. If they haven’t got it by now they never will.

    Morally it is now beneath contempt.

  23. Richard Tol
    March 14th, 2007 at 07:22 | #23

    Mike: Temperature clearly leads carbon dioxide in the Vostok series that Gore shows. This only shows that Gore is a politician, twisting facts as he sees fit. The fact that the causality is from temperature to carbon dioxide in the past, does not imply that there is no causality from carbon dioxide to temperature in the future.

  24. Simonjm
    March 14th, 2007 at 09:36 | #24

    The latest Science Show covers some of the lastest AGW search plus the scientist that was misquoted by Bolt has his say.


    BTW looks like AGW will cause a greater uptake of CO2 in the Southern ocean that may give us some breathing space at the expense of increased sea level rises and increased acidification of the southern oceans. Expect denialists to try to spin this to the max.

  25. Lobes
    March 14th, 2007 at 09:40 | #25

    Could the 800 years of warming (perhaps caused by solar cycles, perhaps otherwise) have gradually raised temperature levels so that areas of ground under permafrost then thawed out and released their CO2 stores in the form of decaying organic matter? This would explain the CO2 spike after 8 centuries.

    This is similar to one prediction for the Siberian Tundra. If and when it thaws out methane emissions are expected to spike causing a positive feedback.

  26. Simonjm
    March 14th, 2007 at 09:45 | #26

    BTW Bolt has his say

  27. observa
    March 14th, 2007 at 10:47 | #27

    “The vast majority of people in the centre and left just want to fix the problem with as little disruption as possible, accepting that some disruption is going to be necessary.”

    That of course assumes that they can fix ‘the problem’ and are not totally deluding themselves here that it can be, albeit with the best of intentions. Sometimes they might have to consider that ‘the problem’ is so entrenched and intractable, as to defy such well intentioned bumbling along their own personal road to Baghdad and exhorting us all to follow. Certainly some seemed to be aware of such a paradigm, when others were so keen to set out on such a road and yet now they seem to have caught the same disease perhaps? Maybe we need to accept that GW is inevitable and here to stay and in developed countries, at least we’ll be better able to cope with air-conditioning?

  28. observa
    March 14th, 2007 at 11:01 | #28

    Roll up, roll up and sign The Pledge! “No child shall be globally warmed by 2050″

  29. Simonjm
    March 14th, 2007 at 11:42 | #29

    You haven’t quite caught on yet Observa but given that around 5 degrees is the difference between now and the last ice age and the world had time to adapt and the global environment wasn’t under stress from a few billion humans. Now mass extinction events are in the range of 10 degrees the sort of thing that kill off the majority of the human population.

    Is that something you wish to adapt to?

    Business as usual and turning up the air conditioner isn’t an option.

    Do you think the you will be hunky dory with millions of climate refugees looking to crash your party? Let alone the countless deaths?

    If they go down they will drag us down with them.

    On the other hand Mirko Bagaric http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/author.asp?id=3915 has raised the point though why should we be worried about the millions of deaths from GW when many people already allow millions of deaths from other preventable causes, again something similar to Singers line.

  30. Hal9000
    March 14th, 2007 at 11:44 | #30

    “at the expense of increased sea level rises and increased acidification of the southern oceans”

    If the acidification and surface warming wipes out phytoplankton, as others have predicted, the southern ocean uptake will count for nought. I think though that Observa’s increasingly hysterical giggles on the subject show the way deniers are more likely to go – the ‘it’s inevitable, so best do nothing – apres moi le deluge’ line.

  31. libertarian
    March 14th, 2007 at 11:52 | #31


    BTW looks like AGW will cause a greater uptake of CO2 in the Southern ocean that may give us some breathing space at the expense of increased sea level rises and increased acidification of the southern oceans. Expect denialists to try to spin this to the max.

    No need for “denialists” to spin anything. FTA:

    there have been several blockbuster papers recently saying, hey, did you know that the Southern Ocean is taking up about half of the global anthropogenic carbon dioxide?

    No no no no no.


    Half the CO2 you say? Please tell me it isn’t so. The debate is over! The science is settled!!

    Anyone have any dirt on this guy? He needs discrediting and soon, before he causes any more damage. Unleash the inquisitors!

  32. Simonjm
    March 14th, 2007 at 12:32 | #32

    Don’t worry Hal9000 we will have fished out the oceans before the food chain collapses.

  33. observa
    March 14th, 2007 at 12:40 | #33

    “As a nation, we are now obsessed with fussing about speculative future harm, while failing to come even close to meeting the international benchmark of donating 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income to the developing world.”

    Bargaric certainly has a point here simonjm. If MDCs are not prepared to give up so much as 1% of their income to help save the LDC’s poor, then even by John Quiggin’s 1% of GDP reckoning, the GW ‘gotta do something’ crowd are pushing manure up inclines. What’s more, apparently they want them to give up their air conditioners to Chinese, so that they can still experience GW without them. What’s the point? Why not leave it to individuals to cut their own emissions, according to their psychological needs to assuage their own personal guilt? The Chinese Govt certainly are.

  34. observa
    March 14th, 2007 at 13:00 | #34

    Amazing how we all immediately scoffed at a certain national leader’s professed claim that ‘No Australian child shall live in poverty by 1990′(wasn’t it?) yet now we have a plethora of world leaders virtually saying the same about globally warmed kiddies all over the globe by 2050 and we’re supposed to take them deadly seriously. Just a matter of us all chipping in, changing a few light globes and going back to windmills and bingo! Sorry the light just doesn’t go on for me.

  35. March 14th, 2007 at 13:11 | #35

    The problem with the 1990 “pledge” was that it was likely to happen within the Leader’s term in office – by 2050 most of the current leaders will not only be out of office, but probably dead. Ergo – easy, safe promise, but allows the Leader to appear to be far-sighted. Setting goals 1, 2 or 3 years ahead would be much better – but more measurable.

  36. melanie
    March 14th, 2007 at 13:17 | #36

    Medialens has a very scary quote from the film’s writer and director, Martin Durkin:

    I think it [the film] will go down in history as the first chapter in a new era of the relationship between scientists and society. Legitimate scientists – people with qualifications – are the bad guys. It is a big story that is going to cause controversy.

    It’s very rare that a film changes history, but I think this is a turning point and in five years the idea that the greenhouse effect is the main reason behind global warming will be seen as total bollocks. (‘“Global Warming Is Liesâ€? Claims Documentary,’ Life Style Extra, March 4, 2007; http://www.lse.co.uk/ShowStory.asp?story=CZ434669 U&news_headline=global_warming_is_lies_ claims_documentary)

    Scientists have on many occasions produced stuff that has been used badly (nuclear fission, for example), but it isn’t the science that is the problem it is the way we, the society, use it. Now it seems we are to have an all out war on science as such.

    I realize that the term ‘delusionists’ has only just appeared in this blog, but I think it’s time to abandon it already. These are not delusionists, they are illusionists (magicians). Worse still, they are witch-hunters.

    Go here to see more of the enthusiasm with which the MSM is taking up the witch hunt.

  37. melanie
    March 14th, 2007 at 13:19 | #37

    That would be “go here: http://www.medialens.org/alerts/index.php

  38. Simonjm
    March 14th, 2007 at 14:03 | #38


    There must be a game theory term for situations where neither side will give an inch waiting for the other to move before they do. Decision lock or is it just stubbornness? Like a car with two sets of controls racing towards a cliff that they know is there but cannot see in the fog, arguing that before one takes his foot off the accelerator and onto the brake the other has to first. Real smart!

    The great thing about the climate no one escapes the consequences you cannot take unilateral decisions it must be all in. But the fact remains the developed nation caused the problems so even if China becomes number 1 polluter it is just making up for lost time.

    As I said before it will no longer be possible to ignore the living standards of the developing nations, if the first world wish to enjoy the fruits of their pollution they have to now share that wealth to help others do the same in a sustainable way.

    At some stage there will either be a Global Marshal type plan with serious money to help the developing world to leapfrog or we allow China and India to do what we have done and we all go down the drain. I don’t know whether carbon trading will transfer enough capital to do this but I imagine development aid will also need to be substantially increased as well.

    Throw in some mega natural disasters and the money will be forthcoming.

  39. D McCarthy
    March 14th, 2007 at 14:12 | #39

    keep the faith brothers and sisters. Durkin’s programme took 10 years to get anyone to commission it for him, such is the extent of mainstream bias towards global warming panic and mitigation as the answer.

    The stuff on the holy union of capitalism’s apologists was probably the most insightful part of the programme. Might have been a bit more interesting if that was the focus of the show. That and the modern apologists aim to fight global warming to the last third world inhabitant. More believable than the cosmic-ray-sun-thing-bad-guy causing it.

    (I’ve had my earlier request removed for some reason, but could Ian Gould explain what he meant above or could someone else?)

  40. March 14th, 2007 at 15:03 | #40

    The most read article at the SMH website today is this:
    which is the same article that appeared in the NY Times yesterday.

  41. March 14th, 2007 at 15:27 | #41

    Its horrifying to think that this article is being reprinted around the world and is being read by millions. It is (as Drudge put it) a “hit on Gore” presented as an impartial critique of An Inconvenient Truth.

    Anyone who has followed the debate will note that the author quotes six hard-core denialists and only two mainstream climate scientists. This is hardly a representative of scientific opinion.

    For those who think we can and should ignore the denialists this kind of thing should be a wake up call.

  42. rog
    March 14th, 2007 at 16:17 | #42

    I have a problem with one of the films sources, Prof Carl Wunsch, who later claimed to have been misrepresented in the film and has talked of legal action. Protaganists say that he has not been misrepresented and that he did say those things but that he is now buckling under pressure to recant.

    Leaving all the guff aside he is either;

    a) telling the truth
    b) telling porkies

    If he is a) then his claims that he has been misrepresented are true and therefore the film is untrue. If he is b) then his views as expressed in the film are untrue and the film lacks credibilty.

    Of course, the same could also be said about some of the IPCC contributors who now claim to have been misrepresented.

  43. Richard Tol
    March 14th, 2007 at 18:07 | #43


    Lobes, the Vostok record does not have a high enough resolution to say, really. Also, it is not 800 years, but 8 plus or minus 5 centuries. Last time I checked, nobody really understood the mechanism, but it indeed must be something like that a higher temperature would allow the biosphere to mobilise soil and ocean carbon and put it in the atmosphere, leading to yet higher temperature and so on.

    The fact that nobody really understands ice ages (although there are a good many that present hypotheses as facts) pours cold water on any claim that the science on global warming is settled.

  44. Richard Tol
    March 14th, 2007 at 18:15 | #44


    Rog, Carl Wunsch is not known to buckle under pressure. As he is a colleague of Dick Lindzen, it is equally unlikely that his employer intervened. I would be inclined to believe him when he said he was misled, while an interview can be edited to make you say whatever they wish.

    (I once gave an interview, and the reporter used all my lines for herself, except for the bit where I was playing my own devil’s advocate.)

    And yes, the same can be said about some part of the IPCC summaries for policy makers, that ignore, twist, or contradict the underlying chapters.

  45. melanie
    March 14th, 2007 at 18:21 | #45

    I think the climate change debate is now all politics. Science is being left out and propaganda has taken over. In the War Against Science everything becomes a matter of faith or opinion and the rest of us only get a choice about which faith to back. Given that those with power, especially the power of propaganda, are generally backing the anti-AGW faith, I don’t feel very optimistic that anything will be done on the basis of scientific evidence. Then, when things get really bad, scientists (i.e., those who demand evidence) will probably be competing with Arabs/Muslims for the title of the 21st century’s Jews or Witches.

  46. Richard Tol
    March 14th, 2007 at 19:45 | #46

    “those with the power of propaganda” like the IPCC, Tony Blair, Al Gore, Angela Merkel, the Guardian, Richard Branson — those?

  47. Simonjm
    March 14th, 2007 at 20:18 | #47

    Don’t forget the science journals themselves eh Richard, shameless aren’t they!

  48. melanie
    March 14th, 2007 at 20:20 | #48

    I was thinking rather of Rupert and his Fox. The Guardian has a minor minority readership. The others in your list get media attention from time to time, but so do George W Bush, the Chinese premier, the CEOs or propaganda chiefs of Ryan Air & Exxon, the proponents of “clean” coal (wtf is that? coal that doesn’t emit CO2? and how far away is it?), etc. Who gets more air-time do you think? What are the relative readerships/viewerships?

  49. Richard Tol
    March 14th, 2007 at 21:02 | #49

    SimonJM: I sometimes wonder about Nature and Science. Most academic journals stay far away from the press.

    Melanie: I was only pointing out that both sides of the debate have the power of propaganda, and use it. If you happen to live in Europe, you would think that one side has a monopoly on the truth (I recently astounded a French journalist by arguing that the Stern Review has imperfections), but if you live elsewhere, you may think that the other side is stronger.

  50. Jill Rush
    March 14th, 2007 at 21:54 | #50

    Andrew Reynolds,
    Your reference is obscure. You may not have noticed in the south west corner rain has been so scarce in the last 12 months that the River Murray has begun to dry up. This is not to say that drought hasn’t occurred before after all we have the title of the sunburnt country. The 1890s were very bad years.

    The conservative approach however is to look after what we have and to look at the natural lifecycles and to make assessments on science and also on common sense. The disappearance of frogs is like the canary in the mine – a warning which can be ignored but is a warning none the less. Prayers are no substitute for action to try and restore a more natural balance to the world’s ecosystems to mitigate effects.

  51. March 14th, 2007 at 22:05 | #51

    I wonder if the majority on this blog have ever read Karl poppers The Logic of Scientific Discovery? (if you have the time you might wish also to read Emeritus Professor John Adams fantastic book “Risk” in which he tackles the Information issues within the AGW debate and how they will impact upon the decision from it.)

    It does not matter how good a scientist you are, or the accomplishments of your career, you will find other scientists criticizing in whole or parts of your work, its how the system (Dialectic) works

    Can we FOR ONCE start believing that other people believe in what they believe for honest reasons? It DOES NOT MATTER if a piece of research is funded by the the Nazis or a article is written by a Marxist. WHAT MATTERS IS THE MERIT OR OTHERWISE OF THE ARGUMENT.

    This is a summary of what I think, and yes there will be plenty of folks to tell me I am wrong, that is the scientific way.

    1, one year ago the idea that cosmic rays could form clouds was called “fantasy”, this year Cern particle accelerator is busy replicating prof.Svensmark ground breaking experiment proving that this indeed is the case. Things have a habit of changing, we can never know the future.

    2, All climate models until they include cloud formation are junk and should be ignored.

    3, The idea that a small part of the overall climate equation, and indeed an even smaller part, that of man made Co2 production drives climate is a highly speculative theory. (that does not mean it is wrong, it means you need some very solid evidence to show it is correct, of which I await with interest)

    4, The IPCC themselves have stated that there is a 10% of AGW being wrong, IF YOU DONT keep an open mind, you will and mankind might miss something very important, So im gald there are vocal skeptics, I have no idea if they are wrong or right, but I am and you should be glad that they are there.

    5, From all the evidence ive seen, I think that there might never be Direct evidence of AGW, decisions will have to be made of indirect evidence. We are all arguing in the dark

  52. Chris O’Neill
    March 15th, 2007 at 05:51 | #52

    “The fact that nobody really understands ice ages (although there are a good many that present hypotheses as facts) pours cold water on any claim that the science on global warming is settled.”

    That’s right we don’t understand how such a relatively small change in forcing from solar energy can cause such very large changes in global average temperature. What we could do is run an experiment that generates similar or larger changes in the earth’s thermal forcing (using greenhouse gases for example) and then see if we can get a similar or larger temperature change than the ones coming out of ice ages. Warming up the earth by another 8 degrees C should be a lot of fun.

  53. derrida derider
    March 15th, 2007 at 07:02 | #53

    Yep, Chris, you’re spot on. That past increases in solar forcing have led to large increases in CO2 (though never as large as the increase in the last 100 years!) is a cause for concern, not consolation. It greatly increases the chance of a positive feedback cycle (man-made CO2 leads to warming, leads to more release of natural CO2, leads to more warming).

    While our main effort should still be going towards Kyoto-style things, we need to be putting more lots more research dollars into radical (hence inherently dangerous) tech fixes in case the more extreme scenarios happen.

    AS for the denialists Uncle Milton’s right in that they rank with creationists, alien abductionists, etc in their irrationality. The more you argue with them, the stronger their psychological investment in nonsense. But the trouble is that this particular bunch of loonies are backed by vested interests with serious money and influence.

  54. Richard Tol
    March 15th, 2007 at 07:22 | #54

    Well, Chris, you’re dead wrong. While we don’t know how ice ages came to their ends, we do know that this was not caused by a build-up of atmospheric CO2. We also know that we’re in an interglacial, and that the climate works differently in glacials and interglacials. Our current experiment will teach us very little about ice ages.

  55. Majorajam
    March 15th, 2007 at 08:41 | #55

    Pay no attention to Tol. He would equate fraudulence in the rantings of a metro station preacher with that backed by the full faith and credit of trillion dollar industries.

    That said, there’s something to be said for the fact that it’s not helpful that each side of this debate sees the other as evil incarnate- (as typified by the Bush administration and the US in general, but also by many other boogeymen of notable renown, e.g. Greenpeace). The passion that said imparts on the issues is debilitating, increasing the degree to which each side accepts its own arguments unquestionably.

    However, those who would argue in light of the existence of imperfection on both sides in favor of equal opportunity condemnation and qualification are hopelessly naive. Such a solution is tantamount to support of the far more egregiously out of line denialist position, by encouraging the impression of ambiguity and, ultimately, continued inaction.

    On that basis, it is clear that the denialists need to be exposed first- they’ve got the most money, the most influence on policy, (redundant, I know) and the fewest scruples. The more hyperbolic of the environmental left are far less threatening.

  56. libertarian
    March 15th, 2007 at 08:59 | #56

    “each side of this debate sees the other as evil incarnate”, but the denialist side really is evil incarnate.

    Glad you cleared that up for us, Majorajam.

  57. Paul Norton
    March 15th, 2007 at 09:25 | #57

    “Possibly, but a more plausible reason is that GW denialists exist for the same reason that people exist who believe that: the moon landings were a hoax; Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed were murdered by the British secret service; AIDS is not caused by the HIV virus; no planes flew into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon on September 11 2001 (they were instead bombed by the United States government); Elvis Presley is still alive; and so on.”

    Quite so. Nexus magazine has joined the ranks of greenhouse denialists. See http://www.nexusmagazine.com/backissues/1401.conts.html

  58. Jill Rush
    March 15th, 2007 at 11:56 | #58

    Perhaps the kind of propaganda put into the “Swindle” is self defeating. Even after reading the arguments 84 % believe that CO2 has a relationship to GW. 65% think that a conservative approach in the absence of conclusive evidence is the best response.

  59. Stephen L
    March 15th, 2007 at 12:45 | #59

    Sean: “Can we FOR ONCE start believing that other people believe in what they believe for honest reasons?”

    Sure, but not if those people provide clear evidence of their dishonesty. There are plenty of examples of this, but my lightbulb moment came when I interviewed a young scientist who was deeply nervous about the interview (apologies to those who have read this account before). If confirmed her research completely destroyed one of the favourite arguments of the anti-AGW crew. If they honestly believed their position they could have noted that any one piece of research should not be relied upon until independently confirmed. They could also have noted that she was using relatively new techniques that might have some unknown flaw. Or that work done for a PhD might be less reliable than from a more experienced scientist. Most convincingly they could have noted that her sample size was really quite small.

    In fact, this woman made all those points (except the one about the PhD) herself. But this is not what happened. Instead they had posted her work all over their sites with a completely dishonest distortion making out that it actually *supported* their case. Anyone with mush familiarity with the debate could see this was wrong, but someone new to the whole thing might have been suckered in. That particular distortion is still up in the archives of these sites, and no apology or acknowledgment has been made.

    As long as examples like this exist (and they are increasing not decreasing) the denialists cannot be treated as honest believers.

  60. rog
    March 15th, 2007 at 13:44 | #60

    The films producer, Durkin, responds with much charm to claims that some of his data may have been in error;


  61. Chris O’Neill
    March 15th, 2007 at 13:53 | #61

    Richard Tol: “While we don’t know how ice ages came to their ends, we do know that this was not caused by a build-up of atmospheric CO2.”

    Where did I say that? You’re dead wrong. The point is that the forcing that we are responsible for will be greater than the forcing that ended the ice ages. I’m making the point that we’re damned lucky that the climate sensitivity is not as great as the sensitivity that existed at the end of the ice ages (I hope), otherwise we will be causing a warming of more than 8 degrees C. As it is,the climate sensitivity is a serious fraction of this.

    “Our current experiment will teach us very little about ice ages.”

    That’s right, it will teach us a lot about the opposite.

  62. March 15th, 2007 at 14:01 | #62

    >>As long as examples like this exist (and they are increasing not decreasing) the denialists cannot be treated as honest believers.

  63. March 15th, 2007 at 14:05 | #63

    A deeply insidious statement. To make this statement you have to have ABSOLUTE TRUTH, and I can tell you for near objective certainty you don’t.

    Let me give you an example, there are around 5 million known chemical substances known to man, of which around 7000 have been tested and of those around 30 have been shown as being carcinogenic to humans, so take a piece of A4 paper, put a dot in the top corner with a sharp pencil, and draw a small 3mm box at the bottom, the dot is what is carcinogenic, the box is what we have tested, the REST (of your sheet)IS THE UNKNOWN.

    Humans beings have this strange idea they have infinite or the possibility of infinite knowledge, they don’t, knowledge is finite.

    There is no such thing as a DENITALIST, there is nothing to deny, neither side as off now has had their theories (in whole) FALSIFIED. In essence when it comes to Earth Climate, you can say much as you like within the limitations of what is known, and as the climate is a asymmetric nonlinear problem, not a lot is known.

    I could make a argument that a rapid decline of man made co2 gases over a few decades would destablise the climate, pushing up temps even more, and I could bring computer models to the show as evidence, and no doubt many would shout distortion, but its just a good a theory as anybody else’s.

    The million dollar question really is, “with limited knowledge, how do we make good public policy with regards to climate issues”?

    Kyoto certainly is not good policy, you potentially bankrupt yourself and don’t have enough economic muscles to face a rapid climate disaster and adapt, if one should arise.
    (imo Kyoto is the most dangerous piece of public policy I have ever seen in my life, it is a policy much worse than the threat it pretends to address )

  64. Simonjm
    March 15th, 2007 at 14:39 | #64

    Sean by chance are you either a libertarian or geologist?

  65. D McCarthy
    March 15th, 2007 at 14:46 | #65

    “You have destroyed nature with your industrial waste and gases more than any other nation in history. Despite this, you refuse to sign the Kyoto agreement so that you can secure the profit of your greedy companies and industries,� Osama bin Laden 2002 in his letter to the American people.

    Divinely inspired? I’d say!

  66. March 15th, 2007 at 15:02 | #66

    >>Sean by chance are you either a libertarian or geologist?

  67. March 15th, 2007 at 15:03 | #67

    Neither, Game theory, and computer modeling are my bag BUT using Karl Popper’s formulation that liberals ‘typically develop their opinions by looking for reasons why they may be wrong, rather than proof that they are right. I would be happy to call myself one off those.

  68. libertarian
    March 15th, 2007 at 16:10 | #68

    D McCarthy, so you don’t consume anything produced, designed or invented by any American company or industry?

    I pity your children: almost all pharmaceuticals will be unavailable to them. And I don’t know how you are posting to this blog without using a computer or any product that contains a silicon chip.

    Damned evil American companies. Damned capitalism. It gives us things we actually want – how subversive.

  69. D McCarthy
    March 15th, 2007 at 16:42 | #69

    On the contrary ‘libertarian’, I have worked for one of uncle sam’s finest and had many loved one’s lives turned around and a few saved directly by US owned pharmaceutical companies, and of course with the added benefit of modern transport, hospitals and modern sanitation.

    I was pointing out OBL as an uber-apologist for the limits of 21st century capitalism.

    What is damned about capitalism is it fails go far enough.

    Don’t get me wrong its been efficacious. At the turn of the century the average GLOBAL AGE upon death was estimated around 30. I would therefore assume on average all contributors here would have snuffed it by now. If not on average they would at least have had one or two ailments crippling them. They would have had a mouth of rotten teeth and unable to read four words put together. Globally it had been that way for millennia for the average person. Life for most on this sparsely populated planet was short and brutish not so very long ago.

    Globally we have come a long, long way as many better than me have noted. But too many still have no electricity, clean running water, medical facilities and consistent nutrition. Too many here are using science to back up a longstanding agenda to make sure it stays that way.

  70. Richard Tol
    March 15th, 2007 at 16:43 | #70

    #61 Chris, sorry for misinterpreting #52, if that is what I did. The placing of your first and second sentence suggests a logical connection, but the grammar indeed does not.

    You continue to profess faith in our ability to understand ice ages, though.

  71. fatfingers
    March 15th, 2007 at 18:40 | #71

    “All climate models until they include cloud formation are junk and should be ignored”

    But since the models have made predictions that have been borne out, surely Popper would approve? ;-)

  72. observa
    March 15th, 2007 at 18:45 | #72

    ‘The million dollar question really is, “with limited knowledge, how do we make good public policy with regards to climate issuesâ€??

    Kyoto certainly is not good policy, you potentially bankrupt yourself and don’t have enough economic muscles to face a rapid climate disaster and adapt, if one should arise.
    (imo Kyoto is the most dangerous piece of public policy I have ever seen in my life, it is a policy much worse than the threat it pretends to address )’

    Well that’s the rub really Sean. You see, you’re not a Global Warming enthusiast and so you can’t really appreciate these things like true afficionados can. Unfortunately you have to be tolerated as one of the teeming illiterati. It’s a feel kinda thingy and you either feel it or you don’t.

  73. Richard Tol
    March 15th, 2007 at 19:48 | #73

    FatFingers: Wrong interpretation. In climate models, the cloud scheme has been tuned to fit the observations. This is therefore no prediction.

  74. chrisl
    March 15th, 2007 at 20:04 | #74

    With limited knowledge, how do we make good public policy with regard to climate policy.

    Excellent sean, You have distilled the whole debate into one question.

    But it is not a milion dollar question, but a billion dollar question.

  75. melanie
    March 15th, 2007 at 20:29 | #75

    Tol #49
    I heard a rumour that you were a scientist, but you base your case on one French journalist?

    Likewise Nature and Science are not the only word. Yet, even if highly regarded among scientists, they are still capable of being derided by anti-AGW propagandists in the media.

    I live in Australia, where nearly everything is syndicated via Murdoch and one or two others. Maybe that’s why I have the overwhelming impression of anti-AGW power.

  76. Richard Tol
    March 15th, 2007 at 20:39 | #76

    #75 No, Melanie, I did not make a case with one observation, I illustrated a case. As I said, things are different in different places. In Europe, pro-climate propaganda dominates. If you want a taste, try http://www.guardian.co.uk.

  77. Simonjm
    March 15th, 2007 at 21:13 | #77

    Sean that a difference but I thought old style liberals were still fundamentally cornered with peoples rights and welfare and would on this issue take the precautionary principle?

    The rub is Sean if science set the bar where you and other uber sceptics would wish it, it would be very unlikely that we could ever get anywhere. Secondly it doesn’t say much about the methodology of science itself nor when the premier scientists or scientific institutions come up with a consensus position on something of crucial global importance, that is signed off on by the leaders of leading scientific nations as well. All that training and resources and they still cannot get it right.

    Wait wait Sean has something to tell us!!

    This is the best science the world can offer but you can slam dunk them with some Popper and claims of limited knowledge.

    Tell you what write it up in a paper, get it published and I’m sure if you are right the has to be a Nobel prize just waiting for you!

    Don’t spare a moment stop, wasting your time of leftie blogs and get to it, don’t stop til its published.

    Better yet put it on your resume and then when you are found right and the worlds leading experts in their field and the world’s premier institutes are wrong I’m sure you will get a job wherever you want.

    Oh BTW when you are on the same side as Observa you know you are right.

  78. Richard Tol
    March 15th, 2007 at 21:29 | #78

    SimonJM: I think that Sean asked: “With limited knowledge, how do we make good climate policy?”

    Is that a reason to ridicule him?

  79. melanie
    March 15th, 2007 at 21:45 | #79

    Tol. I’m so glad you’re a Guardian reader, but you’re in a tiny minority. Try reading the Times, the Telegraph, The Daily Mire, the Page Three Tits, The Hicksville Herald, the New York Times and watch Fox TV, listen to Rush Limbaugh… not to mention the People’s Daily etc. Oh yeah and Channel 4.

  80. Simonjm
    March 15th, 2007 at 21:52 | #80

    Richard I was listening to The Science Show and a good analogy was put that we are in a speeding car in the fog going towards a cliff. Now we have imperfect knowledge about where exactly the cliff is but to say well since our knowledge isn’t perfect hey any attempt to slow the car is just plain crazy.

    The latest IPPC was as good as it gets as far as certainty, if anything it underplays things but it was done this way to get everyone on board.

    Personally I’m sick to death of those who are being negative and not looking to provide solutions esp when millions of lives are at risk. Morally I think it is reprehensible.

    Many even argue or mock the low hanging fruit solutions or think it is just a matter of adaptation. If you guys had any clue about the situation in China or the global security dimension the cost from Kyoto or Kyoto 2,3 etc is the least of your worries.

    By not acknowledging the problem you are part of the problem and coming up with Popper, frothing of Kyoto is a joke, when the Sh%t hits the fan Kyoto will be nothing compared to the medicine we will have to take.

    Tell you what it pretty dam hard to have a functioning global economy if China goes down the drain, and you have millions of GW refugees clamoring at the borders.

  81. Chris O’Neill
    March 15th, 2007 at 22:06 | #81

    Richard Tol: “sorry for misinterpreting #52.. The placing of your first and second sentence suggests a logical connection, but the grammar indeed does not.”

    It’s an easy mistake to make if you’re not familiar with climate theory. The same climate forcing produces the same climate effect regardless of what actually produces the forcing, whether it was produced by solar variation or CO2 variation. In the case of the glacial-interglacial difference, the average solar variation was about 0.2% which translates to a forcing of 0.5 W/square metre of earth’s surface. If CO2 is doubled, radiation physics tells us that this generates a forcing of 4 W/square metre of earth’s surface. Even with the CO2 we’ve put up already, the forcing is 1.9 W/square metre. So our CO2 is producing and will produce a lot more climate forcing than the average solar forcing that took the earth out of ice ages. We may be ignorant of how 0.5 W/square metre of forcing was sufficient to bring earth out of ice ages but for the life of me I cannot understand how our ignorance proves that an artificial forcing of 2-4 W/square metre must be insignificant.

  82. TokyoTom
    March 15th, 2007 at 22:33 | #82

    #74, Trillions, actually – that can be used partly to offset income taxes and partly to fund quicker and cleaner development in the countries that are either at greatest risk to climate change or most likely to contributes substantially to it.

    But “skeptics” on the right only like to spend sums of that size things that go boom, like obviously counterproductive wars where it’s easier to skim of fat profits.

    Never, ever to engage in the difficult and messy project of coordinating with others to solve the abuse of global or regional open-access commons, which have no value as public goods – at least as long as rent-seeking statist corporations are busy robbing the store.

    So it won’t be the steady application of an ounce of prevention that sends signals through the markets, but lining up when the government finally decides to pay for a pound of cure, in the form of $$$ for R&D or for “geoengineering”.

    Those like Goklany and Lomborg who say we need to start spending on adaptation in the developing world are right, but there’s no real appetite for actually tackling the difficult work that must be done so these countries can generate the wealth needed to cope with climate change – the work of moving away from kleptocracy by elites of “public” resources and towards rule of law and property rights. Much easier to both downplay the problem, say we’ll just have to “adapt” and to cast aspersions at the evil, misanthropic Nazi-Commie enviros who want to destroy civilization.

  83. Richard Tol
    March 15th, 2007 at 22:38 | #83

    #81 Sorry, Chris: Google “chris o’neill climate” does not return a great climatologist. Who are you?

    By the way, I did not say that future climate change is insignificant, or not a problem — nothing of the sort. I only said that it is a different process than the warming that ended the ice ages.

    I also said that the fact that nobody understands the end of the ice ages, implies that a major part of climate science is terribly uncertain — and this implies that projections of future climate change are overconfident. There may be positive surprises, and there may be negative ones.

    #80 SimonJM: The world is not a car, there is no single driver, uncertainty is not fog, and climate change is not a cliff. My question, however, was about why you think that ad hominem attacks help anything?

    #79: Melanie: Thank God the Guardian is not more widely read in the English-speaking world. The Guardian, however, is more like the French, German, Dutch, and Italian media than the titles you list.

  84. Chris O’Neill
    March 15th, 2007 at 22:47 | #84

    “The fact that nobody really understands ice ages (although there are a good many that present hypotheses as facts) pours cold water on any claim that the science on global warming is settled.�

    The fact that nobody understands all the additional positive feedbacks involved in glacial-interglacial transitions does not mean we don’t have a good idea of short term climate sensitivity. The only difference that these unknown positive feedbacks make is that the long term climate sensitivity may be a lot greater than the short term climate sensitivity. So Tol is correct to imply that the science on global warming is not settled: in the long term it may turn out to be a lot worse than we currently know.

  85. TokyoTom
    March 15th, 2007 at 23:09 | #85

    #83 Richard, “The world is not a car, there is no single driver, uncertainty is not fog, and climate change is not a cliff.” Yeah, it’s more like a bus – we’re all passengers, it’s moving, we’ve figured out there’s an accelerator that seems jammed on, we’re picking up speed, we think there might be curves ahead, but we’ve got no steering wheel or brakes. We’re investing in clearing off the windshield and being told to enjoy the ride or, if we’re worried, to jerry-rig our own seatbelt or maybe even stick our own foot out the door if we think that will help. No need to think abouty a steering wheel or brakes yet. We should also politely ignore that those who are selling us the gas and their buds are the real heavyweights on the bus.

  86. Richard Tol
    March 15th, 2007 at 23:13 | #86

    Chris: I’m amazed. Is it really possible to reach agreement on this blog? Wow. I agree that climate change is lot more uncertain that some people would like us to believe. Although there may a positive surprises, I think that greater uncertainty implies that we should be more cautious.

  87. wbb
    March 15th, 2007 at 23:17 | #87

    It’s a continuing wonder to behold the level of comfort ppl like observa and Richard Tol extract from the fact that we don’t know everything about Global Warming.

    This is the defining attribute of the denialist. The blind faith that things must naturally turn out OK in the end. It’s the attitude of a true innocent.

  88. March 15th, 2007 at 23:24 | #88

    lets take a scenario.

    Lets take AGW as a nailed on certainty (putting the conflicting evidence of co2 impact, diminishing effect of Co2 levels, ice core evaluation, climate sensitivity,troposphere discrepancy to one side for the moment)

    And you come to the conclusion that the only way to save mankind is to reduce the co2 going into the atmosphere, what is your best policy or strategy going forwards?

    All the “fixes” ive seen so far are ones that reduce the level of rising of co2 into the atmosphere, they are just targets for less co2 growth.

    As a fellow carbon based life form I can tell you there is only one way to reduce co2 levels and thats to have less of us living on starship earth.

    I can think of a few ways of doing this,
    1, War, not popular with the natives
    2, mass extermination, once again some moral concerns
    3, natural disaster, quasar going off in the near galaxies, asteroid, disease..all out of our jurisdiction

    and im sure there is a few more, but these are all unacceptable in one way or another.
    Then there is birth control (china is a good example) but once again affects peoples human rights, unless they are incentivised not to have children (a highly difficult thing to do)

    The one proven thing that reduces population (discounting the others) is economic growth, the richer people get the less children they have, thats why the population is set to level off in the mid part of the century because economic growth is built into the models.

    So paradoxically the counterintuitive response is in the short and medium term is to make a dash for growth, developed nations are the only ones that can possibly have the resources and knowledge to deal with any major problem, thus we need more of them.

    The US clean air act is a good example, it has done more to cut co2 emissions than Kyoto could ever do, because its a local policy that works to the benefit of the local area, only developed nations populations want more than material wealth. When you live in the developing world or third world, the aim your life is to feed yourself, not to save the planet, or have less smog on your afternoon stroll around the park.

    Smaller population of the earth would result in not just less energy use, but much more importantly less land use for agriculture, thus a bigger lung capacity for starship earth.

    Back to the real world.

    If AGW is true then it is highly likely that the emergence of mankind has thru the clearing of forest averted an ice age, we could with genetic engineering develop fast growing trees, grow meat thus not off the hoof again a GE solution, again with GE develop new forms of phytoplankton which are responsible for around 50% of photosynthesis on the planet at the moment, and farm it in the oceans and of course the adapt the one bolt on energy solution as of now until we develop fission technology, nuclear energy.

    In short the only way of dealing with any problem that Humans come up against, is adaptation, and the more tech we have the better we adapt, thats how humans emerged on this planet and its the way we will stay here

    remember 2 things, Problems will arise, problems are soluble

  89. wbb
    March 15th, 2007 at 23:28 | #89

    “Problems will arise, problems are soluble”

    Yes, and the solution to the problem of CO2 pollution is to cut it back!

  90. Richard Tol
    March 15th, 2007 at 23:42 | #90


    The Independent

    I should never have trusted Channel 4

    Our credibility as scientists rests on being protective of our authority and expertise

    Carl Wunsch

    15 March 2007

    I believe that climate change is real, a major threat, and almost surely has a major human-induced component. But I have tried to stay out of the “climate wars” because all nuance tends to be lost, and the distinction between what we know firmly, as scientists, and what we suspect is happening, is so difficult to maintain in the presence of rhetorical excess. In the long run, our credibility as scientists rests on being very careful of, and protective of, our authority and expertise.

    The science of climate change remains incomplete. Some elements are based so firmly on well understood principles, or on such clear observational records, that most scientists would agree that they are almost surely true (adding CO2 to the atmosphere is dangerous; sea level will continue to rise…). Other elements remain more uncertain, but we as scientists in our roles as informed citizens believe society should be deeply concerned about their possibility: a Mid-western US megadrought in 100 years; melting of a large part of the Greenland ice sheet, among many other examples.

    I am on record in a number of places as complaining about the over-dramatisation and unwarranted extrapolation of scientific facts. Thus the notion that the Gulf Stream would or could “shut off” or that with global warming Britain would go into a “new ice age” are either scientifically impossible or so unlikely as to threaten our credibility as a scientific discipline if we proclaim their reality. They also are huge distractions from more immediate and realistic threats. I’ve focused more on the extreme claims in the literature warning of coming catastrophe, both because I regard the scientists there as more serious, and because I am very sympathetic to the goals of those who sometimes seem, however, to be confusing their specific scientific knowledge with their worries about the future.

    When approached by WAGTV, on behalf of Channel 4, I was led to believe that I would be given an opportunity to explain why I, like some others, find the statements at both extremes of the global change debate distasteful. This seemed like a good opportunity to explain why, for example, I thought more attention should be paid to sea level rise, which is ongoing and unstoppable and carries a real threat of acceleration, than to the unsupportable claims that the ocean circulation was undergoing shutdown.

    I wanted to explain why observing the ocean was so difficult, and why it is so tricky to predict with any degree of confidence such important climate elements as its heat and carbon storage and transports in 10 or 100 years. I am distrustful of prediction scenarios for details of the ocean circulation that rely on extremely complicated coupled models that must run unconstrained by observations for decades to thousands of years. Nonetheless, and contrary to the impression given in the film, I firmly believe there is a great deal about the mechanisms of climate to be learnt from models. With effort, all of this ambiguity is explicable to the public.

    In the part of The Great Climate Change Swindle where I am describing the fact that the ocean tends to expel carbon dioxide where it is warm, and to absorb it where it is cold, my intent was to explain that warming the ocean could be dangerous – because it is such a gigantic reservoir of carbon. By its 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.

    Channel 4 now says they were making a film in a series of “polemics”. There is nothing in the communication we had that suggested they were making a film that was one-sided, anti-educational, and misleading. I took them at face value – a great error.

    As a society, we need to take out insurance against catastrophe in the same way we take out homeowner’s protection against fire. I buy fire insurance, but I also take the precaution of having the wiring in the house checked, keeping the heating system up to date, etc.How large a fire insurance premium is it worth paying? How much is it worth paying for rewiring the house? $10,000 but perhaps not $100,000? Answers, even at this mundane level, are not obvious.

    How much is it worth to society to restrain CO2 emissions – will that guarantee protection against global warming? Is it sensible to subsidise insurance for people who wish to build in regions strongly susceptible to coastal flooding? These and others are truly complicated questions where often the science is not mature enough give definitive answers, much as we would like to be able to provide them.

    Scientifically, we can recognise the reality of the threat, and much of what society needs to insure against. Statements of concern do not need to imply that we have all the answers. Channel 4 had an opportunity to elucidate some of this ambiguity and complexity. The outcome is sad.

    The writer [Carl Wunsch] is Professor of Physical Oceanography at MIT

  91. Richard Tol
    March 15th, 2007 at 23:43 | #91

    # 87: wbb, my anonymous friend, why do think I derive comfort from uncertainty?

  92. March 16th, 2007 at 00:00 | #92

    Professor Wunsch:
    25:43 The ocean is the major reservoir into which carbon dioxide goes when it comes out of the atmosphere or to from which it is re-emitted to the the atmosphere. If you heat the surface of the ocean, it tends to emit carbon dioxide. Similarly, if you cool the ocean surface, the ocean can dissolve more carbon dioxide.

    Professor Wunsch:
    26:44 – The ocean has a memory of past events ugh running out as far as 10,000 years. So for example, if somebody says oh I’m seeing changes in the North Atlantic, this must mean that the climate system is changing, it may only mean that something happened in a remote part of the ocean decades or hundreds of years ago who’s effects are now beginning to show up in the North Atlantic.

    In this portion of the film, the professor is speaking about the complexity of climate models and how their results can be greatly influenced by the input data they are given.

    Professor Wunsch:
    49:22 – The models are so complicated, you can often adjust them is such a way that they do something very exciting.

    Professor Wunsch:
    50:46 – Even within the scientific community you see, it’s a problem.
    If I run a complicated model and I do something to it like ugh melt a lot of ice into the ocean and nothing happens, ugh it’s not likely to get printed. But if I run the same model, and I adjust it in such a way that something dramatic happens to the ocean circulation like the heat transport turns off, ugh it will be published. People will say this is very exciting. It will even get picked by the media. So there is a bias, there’s is a very powerful bias within the media, and within the science community itself, toward results which are ugh dramatizable. If Earth freezes over, that’s a much more interesting story than saying well you know it ugh fluctuates around, sometimes the mass flux goes up by 10%, sometimes it goes down by 20%, but eventually it comes back. Well you know, which would you do a story on? That’s what it’s about.

    Anybody disagree? I dont.




  93. Chris O’Neill
    March 16th, 2007 at 00:02 | #93

    “Google “chris o’neill climateâ€? does not return a great climatologist.”

    Whoopee doo. Neither does Google “richard tol climateâ€?. BTW, you don’t need to be a great climatologist to understand basic climatology.

    “I also said that the fact that nobody understands the end of the ice ages, implies that a major part of climate science is terribly uncertain — and this implies that projections of future climate change are overconfident. There may be positive surprises, and there may be negative ones.”

    The glacial-interglacial transition implies a negative surprise, not a positive one.

    “I agree that climate change is lot more uncertain that some people would like us to believe. Although there may a positive surprises, I think that greater uncertainty implies that we should be more cautious.”

    I didn’t notice “negative surprises” in that statement. A Freudian slip?

  94. observa
    March 16th, 2007 at 00:15 | #94

    And another good analogy is that we are in a speeding car in the fog going towards a cliff. Now we have imperfect knowledge about where exactly the cliff is but it should be obvious to any thinking person, that wrenching the wheel violently to the left will slow the car and save us all.

  95. Richard Tol
    March 16th, 2007 at 00:21 | #95

    #90 Sean, you are being unkind. Wunsch indeed said these things. But he also said other things that were edited out.

  96. Richard Tol
    March 16th, 2007 at 00:58 | #96


    From Times Online

    March 15, 2007

    C4′s debate on global warming boils over

    Sam Coates and Mark Henderson

    Two eminent British scientists who questioned the accuracy of a Channel 4 programme that claimed global warming was an unfounded conspiracy theory have received an expletive-filled tirade from the programme maker.

    In an e-mail exchange leaked to The Times, Martin Durkin, the executive producer of The Great Global Warming Swindle, responded to the concerns of Dr Armand Leroi, from Imperial College, and Simon Singh, the respected scientific author, by telling them to “go and f*** yourself”.

    The tirade has caused Dr Leroi to withdraw his cooperation from another Channel 4 project with Mr Durkin on race, The Times has learnt.

    The programme, broadcast by Channel 4 last Thursday, featured a number of scientists who disputed the consensus on the causes of global warming.

    Dr Leroi was particularly concerned about a segment that featured a correlation between solar activity and global temperatures, which was based on a 1991 paper in the journal Science by Eigil Friis-Christensen. He was surprised that the programme failed to mention that while these findings look convincing superficially, they have been revealed as flawed by subsequent research by Peter Laut.

    Dr Leroi e-mailed Mr Durkin about his use of data, concluding: “To put this bluntly: the data that you showed in your programme were . . . wrong in several different ways.” He copied Mr Singh into the exchange.

    Mr Durkin replied to both later that morning, saying: “You’re a big daft cock.” Less than an hour later, Mr Singh, who has worked for the BBC, intervened to urge Mr Durkin to engage in serious debate. He wrote: “I suspect that you will have upset many people (if Armand is right), so it would be great if you could engage in the debate rather than just resorting to one-line replies. That way we could figure out what went wrong/ right and how do things better/ even better in the future.” Mr Durkin replied nine minutes later: “The BBC is now a force for bigotry and intolerance . . . Since 1940 we have had four decades of cooling, three of warming, and the last decade when temperature has been doing nothing.

    “Why have we not heard this in the hours and hours of shit programming on global warming shoved down our throats by the BBC?

    “Never mind an irresponsible bit of film-making. Go and f*** yourself.”

    Last night Dr Leroi said that he was amazed at the rudeness of Mr Durkin’s reply.

    “It was rather a shocking response,” Dr Leroi said. “It was my intention to make a film with Martin Durkin and [the production company] Wag, but that is something I am seriously reconsidering now. I am no climate scientist, but I was very concerned at the way that flaws in these data were brushed over.”

    He said that the global warming film had glossed over flaws in data that it used to make its case, and that it was critical that a documentary about a subject as controversial as race and biology did not make similar mistakes.

    “As the subject of our proposed film was race, it is such a sensitive topic that it requires great care and great balance. That he has shown so little respect for scientific consensus and such little nuance is a cause for great concern. I cannot imagine it will go ahead now.”

    The film would have addressed Dr Leroi’s thesis that race is a biologically meaningful and medically valuable concept, a view that is highly controversial among scientists.

    Last night Mr Durkin apologised for his langauge. “As far as I was concerned these were private e-mails. They arrived when I was quite tired having just finished the programme in time for transmission,” he said.

    “Needless, to say, I regret the use of intemperate language. It is so unlike me. I am very eager to have all the science properly debated with scientists qualified in the right areas and have asked Channel 4 if they will stage a live debate on this subject.”

    Where Channel 4 got it wrong over climate change

    Claim: Ice core data shows that carbon dioxide levels rise after temperatures go up, not before

    Fact: This is correct, but climate scientists have a good explanation. There is a substantial feedback effect – initial small rises in temperature lead to substantial release of carbon dioxide from natural reservoirs in the oceans, which then produce much steeper warming later on

    Claim: Temperatures in the troposphere, the lower part of the atmosphere, have not risen as predicted by the models

    Fact: This was once the case, but it has been resolved now that initial measurement errors have been corrected

    Claim: Temperatures rose for the first part of the century, then cooled for three decades before warming again. There is no link to carbon dioxide

    Fact: Temperatures did follow this pattern, but again there is a good explanation. The mid-century effect fall came about chiefly because of sulphate aerosols – particles that have a cooling effect on the atmosphere. These are no longer produced so heavily by industry because of environmental regulations to combat other problems, such as acid rain

    Source: Mark Henderson, Science Editor

  97. Majorajam
    March 16th, 2007 at 02:07 | #97

    #56, I used to be a libertarian too, but then I also used to believe in the tooth fairy. The thing is, once you start putting together relationships in the data- like the fact that mom always tucked me in when I had lost a tooth- the world outside will never seem quite as simple again.

  98. Majorajam
    March 16th, 2007 at 02:11 | #98

    Sean, skimming through your lengthy contributions to this blog I have it that Kyoto will bankrupt us and that the science of AGW is so shrouded in uncertainty that it’s devoid of meaning, (no major surprise seeing as we can’t know anything about anything given that any theory of anything is as meritous as any other theory of anything that anyone might proffer at anytime anyway). Does that about sum it up?

    On the first point, I wonder what your prediction of global growth would be if we, I don’t know, say doubled the price of energy. Any thoughts? My guess is that people would stop economic activity and mass starvation would ensue.

    Also, I’ve done some analysis that suggests that Kyoto will increase economic activity. Do me a favor and falsify that.

  99. Majorajam
    March 16th, 2007 at 02:19 | #99


    I’m amazed. Is it really possible to reach agreement on this blog?

    There is when you back down. Otherwise, all apologies, but I’d sooner part with my right arm.

  100. libertarian
    March 16th, 2007 at 05:02 | #100

    #94, realizing the tooth fairy is ficticious is a good start. Now we can start working on your delusion that all social ills can be cured by bigger government.

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