There is something odd about the ferocious amount of energy expended suppressing any dissent from orthodoxy on climate change. After all, the climate cataclysmists have won the war of public opinion – for now, at least – with polls, business, media and Government enthusiastically on board.
So, if their case is so good, why try so fervently to extinguish other points of view? There is a disturbingly religious zeal in the attempts to silence critics and portray them as the moral equivalent of holocaust deniers.
Take the British Channel 4 documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle, which aired on the ABC last year with an extraordinary post-show panel of debunkers assembled to denounce it. The one program which actually questioned the consensus on man’s contribution to climate change, it has been singled out for condemnation and forensic dissection in a way no other program has, least of all Al Gore’s error-riddled An Inconvenient Truth.
This week, the British communications regulator, Ofcom, published a long report dealing with 265 complaints about perceived inaccuracy and unfairness in Swindle.
Despite crowing from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the ABC and others, Ofcom does not vindicate Swindle’s attackers. In fact, while it declared itself unable to adjudicate on the finer points of climate science, it found the program did not mislead audiences “so as to cause harm or offence”.
Further, Ofcom defended the right of Channel 4 and the much-vilified producer Martin Durkin to “continue to explore controversial subject matter. While such programs can polarise opinion, they are essential to our understanding of the world around us and are amongst the most important content that broadcasters produce.” Amen.
Ofcom also noted: “Although the complainants disagreed with the points made by the contributors in the programme, they did not suggest that the overall statements about climate models were factually inaccurate.”
It identified one factual error – a mislabelled axis of a temperature graph – which the program had already changed in later versions and which Ofcom described as “not of such significance as to have been materially misleading so as to cause harm and offence”.
Ofcom nitpicked as hard as it could and Swindle emerged virtually unscathed. I wonder how a Four Corners episode would fare under such scrutiny.
The two principal complainants, the oceanographer Carl Wunsch and Sir David King, Britain’s former chief scientific adviser, were found to have been wronged – but only partially.
King claimed to have been misquoted by the atmospheric physicist Fred Singer, who told the program: “There will still be people who believe that this is the end of the world – particularly when you have, for example, the chief scientist of the UK telling people that by the end of the century the only habitable place on the Earth will be the Antarctic. And humanity may survive thanks to some breeding couples who moved to the Antarctic.”
Ofcom found King had not said the Antarctic would be the “only habitable place on Earth” but “the most habitable place on Earth”. Big deal. However, he had not made the “breeding couples” comment, which was the invention of another cataclysmist, Sir James Lovelock.
As for Wunsch, Ofcom found the program’s producers had not “sufficiently informed” him of its “polemic” nature, although they had told him their aim was to be sceptical and “to examine critically the notion that recent global warming is primarily caused by industrial emissions of [carbon dioxide].” In any case, after he complained, his interview was removed.
Ofcom dismissed Wunsch’s more serious complaint that his views on the “complicated” relationship between carbon dioxide and atmospheric temperature had been misrepresented. But it acknowledged “unfairness” to him in the way his comments were placed “in the context of a range of scientists who denied the scientific consensus about the anthropogenic causes of global warming”.
Ofcom also dismissed all complaints about impartiality in most of the program dealing with science. But it found the final section on Africa lacked impartiality when it claimed Western government policies “seek to restrain industrial development [in the Third World] to reduce the production of carbon dioxide”, thus restricting the availability of electricity in Africa and causing health problems.
As for the climate change panel’s barrage of complaints, Ofcom found the program makers did not give the UN body adequate time to respond to allegations it was “politically driven”‘ and other claims, but the audience was not “materially misled so as to cause harm or offence”.
The Ofcom report (worth reading in full at www.ofcom.org.uk) is an embarrassment to the panel.
The fact is that, regardless of the definitive pronouncements made by politicians and economists, the science on global warming is far from finalised.
Dr. David Evans, a consultant to the Australian Greenhouse Office for six years to 2005, is one of many insiders who have reversed earlier positions.
“There is no evidence to support the idea that carbon emissions cause significant global warming,” he wrote this month in The Australian.
Ultimately, the integrity of the scientific community will triumph, Evans has said. “The cause of global warming is an issue that falls into the realm of science, because it is falsifiable. No amount of human posturing will affect what the cause is. The cause just physically is there, and after sufficient research and time we will know what it is.”
Until then, open debate is important. It is also wise to maintain a healthy suspicion of the zealots, who insist they have all the answers – and that Australia, which is responsible for 1 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions, ought to wreck its economy to prove a point.