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Archive for October, 2007

Some people just don’t give up do they.

The Channel 4 programme ‘The Great Global Warming Swindle’, broadcast in March this year caused a huge uproar, and rightly so. Its central ideas were that global warming is due to increased activity of the sun, and that even temperature data may not be correct. The programme contained many statements that were just wrong (1), misleading the audience, and convincing many, that man-made climate change is a nice big fat conspiracy.

I don’t need to go into the details of which bits were wrong, how interviewed people were misled, and the questionable track record of the director Martin Durkin (who likes to tell people who question him to go fuck themselves) (2, 10). This has all been done thoroughly and eloquently by more informed minds (3,4,5).

The film ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, for which Al Gore got a Nobel Peace Prize recently (jointly with the IPCC), has been a major factor in increasing awareness of the issue worldwide since it was released in 2006. In early 2007, the secretaries for Education and Environment announced that a copy of the film would be sent to every secondary school in England (6). That really must have pissed off the global warming sceptics, and they weren’t going to let it happen without a fight.

The High Court case which followed, resulted in the Judge ruling that there were some errors in Al Gore’s film (7), and that the Government had to send out some guidelines accompanying it when sending it to schools. ‘Errors’ included Gore saying that melting ice in either west Antarctica or Greenland would cause a 20-foot increase in sea level “in the near future”. It is generally accepted this would happen, but over a period of millennia, not soon. The judge rightly said that this was alarmist (8).

But there is a bit of difference between errors like that, and the errors in ‘The Great Global Warming Swindle’, which included saying that volcanoes were responsible for more CO2 emissions than human beings (they are thought to be responsible for less than 2% of that from humans (9)).

In my opinion Al Gore got carried away and careless, but I don’t think the recognition of several errors in his film should overshadow the good work he has done for the cause, and luckily I don’t think this will happen. As Johann Hari, writing for The Independent, has pointed out, several of the ‘errors’ found by the judge were not errors at all – and it was, in fact, the judge who was in error (10).

But the ‘sceptics’ didn’t stop at the High Court. They have now decided to distribute their own material to schools in the UK (11), including ‘The Great Global Warming Swindle’ a well as another film of climate change denial ‘Apocalypse No!’ (inspired title I thought) which, according to Lord Monckton, is going to be reviewed by scientists before it is given out. How considerate and sensible of them. Pity they couldn’t have done the same before they broadcast the swindle. Of course, they will claim that all they are doing is presenting the other side of the argument.

There is still a group of people in the world that thinks the earth is flat (12). One day Martin Durkin and co. will be thought of in the same category, but as long as they are allowed to deliver their agenda to the masses there is always going to be a section of society that believe them. The fight to minimise the effects of climate change would not be easy even if everyone was trying to help, but this is making things even harder, and it needs to be stopped.

References

1. The Great Channel 4 Swindle – Mark Lynas, 4th April 2007, Marklynas.org.
2. http://ocean.mit.edu/~cwunsch/papersonline/durkinemails.htm – A copy of emails between Durkin and Armand Leroi.
3. Channel 4s problem with science – George Monbiot, 13th March2007.
4. ‘The Great Global Warming Swindle’ – Jonathon Porritt, 12th July 2007.
5. Critique by John Houghton, President of John Ray Initiative and previous IPCC chair.
6. http://www.defra.gov.uk/news/latest/2007/climate-0202a.htm. – Government distributes climate change film to all secondary schools.
7. Gore climate film’s nine ‘errors’ – BBC.co.uk.
8. http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2007/2288.html – England and Wales High Court (Administrative Court) Decisions.
9. Complaint to Ofcom: Seven major misrepresentations of the scientific evidence in ‘The Great Global Warming Swindle’.
10. Gore tells the truth. His enemies smear him.
11. Climate deniers to send film to British schools. Guardian Unlimited – Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor.
12. The Flat Earth Society.

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The northwest passage is a sea route through the arctic ocean connecting the atlantic and pacific oceans, across the northern edge of North America. The route is normally extremely difficult to navigate, due to a hell of a lot of ice being in the way. Nobody was more aware of this than Roald Amundsen, who was the first person to navigate the route in 1903-6. He wrote in his diary – “This northwest passage stuff is a little tricky with all this ice in the way. The quicker we get a bit of global warming and melt all this bloody ice the better.”(1)

Well it seems that Amundsen got his way. At the end of August the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre reported that the northwest was opening up, and would soon be open for nice new shipping routes to further escalate the problems. Whoopee! Now we can sail from the UK to San Francisco over the top of North America (2). Just what I’ve always wanted. Oh and the arctic ice has just melted to its lowest level ever too, by a lonnggggg way, which is a little scary (3). So we can add that to the list of nasty things we have done through global warming.

In other news recently, George Bush has excelled himself again by telling everyone that will listen that he is extremely concerned about global warming and reserves his right to do absolutely nothing about it (4). Unless people want to. But they certainly shouldn’t be forced to change. Oh no.

Bush’s announcement (basically that he is sticking firm and not supporting binding targets for carbon emissions) infuriated lots of people (5), and so it should. You can’t expect carbon emissions to reduce worldwide if you just ask nicely. Nobody really wants to cut their emissions, but everyone knows that it has to happen, which is why targets have to be binding. And as I pointed out in my previous post/rant, even targets which are soon to be law aren’t necessarily going to be met.

But maybe I’m being a little too pessimistic. The whole problem is apparently going to be solved by putting lots and lots of fancy pipes in the sea (6). Time will tell whether this might actually help, but to say I’m sceptical would be a massive understatement. Not that I’m a climate scientist. If it does work then it’s going to take about 400 million pipes to take up all the man-made carbon each year (6). We’d better get going then………..

References

1. Okay, he didn’t really say that. But he might as well have.
2. North west passage is now plain sailing – Gwladys Fouché, The Guardian online, 28th August 2007.
3. Arctic sea ice melts to its lowest level ever – Michael McCarthy, The Independent online, 22nd Sept. 2007.
4. Bush prepares for ‘greenwashing’ climate summit – Leonard Doyle, The Independent online 27th Sept. 2007.
5. Europeans angry after Bush climate speech ‘charade’ – Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian online, 29th Sept. 2007.
6. Lovelock urges ocean climate fix – Richard Black, BBC.co.uk, 26th Sept. 2007.

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