CABI Blog

If you saw this programme on Channel 4 last Thursday (8 March) you will probably either be shocked and appalled that Channel 4 could possibly dare to air such a programme, or you will be relieved that somebody finally took a look at the science behind the theory and presented an alternative view. The programme interviewed a number of influential scientists who, having studied the science behind climate change for many years, have come to the conclusion that climate change is not man-made and that current global warming may in fact be a myth! A controversial point of view I know, but let’s take a look at what they had to say…

Here are some of the points they argued:

  • The climate has always been changing. Most of the rise in temperature that has taken place since around 1900 happened before 1940, that is, before the post war economic boom when CO2 emissions rose dramatically because cars and electric lights came into use much more. In fact, in 1940-1975 the temperature decreased. The "Little Ice Age" of 1500 happened long before industry and the "Medieval warm period" before that is associated with riches, not the apocalypse that is forecast for continued global warming now.
  • CO2 does not cause global warming. Only 0.054% of the atmosphere is CO2. Greenhouse gases are a very minor part of the atmosphere and CO2 itself is a minor greenhouse gas. Water vapour is the most important greenhouse gas. If greenhouse gases are causing global warming there should be a temperature change in the troposphere. Weather balloon measurements found that the rate of warming in the troposphere is slower than at the surface. Therefore warming is not due to greenhouse gases.
  • Al Gore’s ice core evidence has the cause and effect the wrong way round. CO2 levels follow temperature change by an 800 year lag time. Therefore the temperature change causes the CO2 level to change. Humans produce very little CO2; much more comes from volcanoes, animals and bacteria, dying vegetation and the oceans. Carl Wunsch, an oceanographer at MIT argued that if you heat the surface of the ocean it released more CO2. The ocean is so big and deep that it takes hundreds of years to heat it up and cool it down, therefore the 800 year time lag.
  • So, what does drive climate change? Piers Corbyn, a climate forecaster has successfully used the sun to predict the weather. The Danish Meteorological Institute compared sun spot evidence with the temperature record over the last 100 years and found a very close correlation. As the earth moves through space, the atmosphere is bombarded by cosmic rays controlled by the sun. As these particles hit water vapour evaporating from the oceans, clouds form in the atmosphere. These clouds shield the earth from some of the sun’s radiation and have a cooling effect. When solar activity is high (marked by more sun spots), there is an increase in solar wind which reduces the amount of cosmic radiation that reaches Earth. This means fewer clouds form and the full effects of the sun’s radiation heats the planet.
  • Dr Roy Spencer of NASA pointed out that models are only as good as the assumptions you put into them. The models of global warming assume humans produce CO2 and ignore the sun, water vapour and clouds. Therefore the models are worthless. They also assume an increase in CO2 by 1% each year – CO2 levels have been increasing at 0.49% for the last 10 years and 0.42% in the 10 years before that!
  • Scientists at the International Arctic Research Centre (IARC) pointed out that the ice caps have always been expanding and contracting, it’s just that satellites show it now. Rises in sea level ocean wide would be due to the thermal expansion of water, not melting ice caps.

After presenting these arguments the programme went on to suggest why the theory of man-made global warming has been so popular despite the science presented. They argue that Margaret Thatcher politicised climate change to support her will for nuclear power because she mistrusted the Middle East for oil and miners for coal. Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace argued that in the 80s the majority of people started to agree with environmental ideas and therefore environmental activists became more extreme in order to remain confrontational. Then, once the Berlin wall was pulled down the political activists needed a new project and they got involved. As more and more people jumped on the bandwagon, this created more funding for scientists and it was in their interest to support the theory. The recent IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report was censored and was not the version approved by scientists and the claimed “2500 of the world’s best scientists” included reviewers and government officials and scientists who didn’t want their names included because they didn’t agree with the censored version.

Paul Driessen, a senior fellow with the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow said that the global warming policies that are being pushed to cut CO2 emissions are having disastrous effects on the developing world. They may be a precautionary approach but what damage are they doing? Africa has coal and oil but environmental groups are campaigning against using these forms of energy. Wind and solar power are notoriously unreliable, inefficient and expensive and yet we are forcing the developing world to have to use them. Solar panels can’t power a steel industry or a train track, therefore we’re preventing development.

So, what do you think of these arguments presented in the Channel 4 programme? I think what I’ve come to realise is that people now assume that the research has been done, conclusions have been drawn and it’s a closed book. But what if the research was ignored or manipulated to support another agenda? Do we need to go back to the evidence and ask again whether anthropogenic CO2 is really causing an apocalyptic level of global warming? Should we follow these carbon emission policies “just in case” it really is happening? Let’s not forget the science.

For details of the programme and some of the arguments presented go to the programme website. For more arguments supporting and disputing the evidence presented please go to some of the following websites. To view some of the scientific research into climate change subscribers can search CAB Abstracts. Why not leave a comment to let us know what you thought of the programme?

8 Comments

  1. Hippyshopper on 14th March 2007 at 3:37 pm

    More bloggers react to ‘global warming swindle’ show

    Last week’s C4 documentary, which questioned mankind’s role in climate change, seems to have left a greater impression than I’d suspected, and I stumbled across a fresh crop of blog posts after it was repeated on Monday night. It seems…

  2. landers53 on 14th March 2007 at 6:25 pm

    The fact that CO2 is part of the problem is a given. But the idea that human made CO2 emissions is the major part of this problem is something else all together.
    I just got done reading an article that touches on this very point. You can find it here:
    http://www.signs-of-the-times.org/
    articles/show/128521-Climate+
    Change+Swindlers+and+the+Political
    +Agenda
    This is a very informative article that everyone should take a look at.

  3. RobCra on 14th March 2007 at 6:56 pm

    I’ll take these points in the same order you listed them.
    * No one challenges the notion that solar activity was the main influence on global average temperature when CO2 levels were lower and essentially constant. Solar activity increased between 1900 and 1960, along with rises in both CO2 concentration and temperature. However, the film mis-states the facts about solar activity between 1940 and 1960; solar activity actually increased in that period. The cooling effect is actually well-understood. Pollution during and after the war, when industrial activity was raised to unprecedented levels, caused temperatures to decline. Particulates and aerosols have a cooling effect by reflecting sunlight and by causing clouds to form. About 1970, serious efforts were started to control particulate emissions from fossil-burning power plants, and the temperature data clearly show that global warming accelerated.
    No one really knows what temperatures were in the medieval warm period, since no records were kept.
    But anecdotal information suggests they were about what the world is experiencing now. If you lived in Eastern Africa in medieval times maybe you wouldn’t think times were so prosperous. In any event, if people thought conditions were going to stay as they are now, we’d be okay with it. The concern is that temperatures are going to rise because of rising CO2 levels, with highly destructive effects.
    * It’s true, CO2 is a small contributor compared to water vapor. However, it’s misleading to compare CO2 to the whole atmosphere, since the major constituents, O2 and N2, have very little greenhouse effect. But look at this: The greenhouse effect is 33 deg C. That is, the world would be 33 deg C colder if there were no greenhouse effect. Temperature has risen 0.7 deg C, indicating a 2% increase in the greenhouse effect. CO2 concentration has risen 35%, so it only has to be 6% as effective as all the other greenhouse gases to cause all of the warming. In fact, though, other artifical greenhouse gases also contribute, and water vapor has an amplifying role: warmer air induces higher water-vapor concentration.
    The remark about troposphere temperatures is based on outdated, incorrect information. Here’s a quotation from the Executive Summary of the Climate Change Science Program Synthesis and Analysis Product 1.1:
    “Previously reported discrepancies between the amount of warming near the surface and higher in the atmosphere have been used to challenge the reliability of climate models and the reality of humaninduced global warming. Specifically, surface data showed substantial global-average warming, while early versions of satellite and radiosonde data showed little or no warming above the surface. This significant discrepancy no longer exists because errors in the satellite and radiosonde data have been identified and corrected. New data sets have also been developed that do not show such discrepancies.”
    This correction is widely known and including such misinformation has to have been intentional.
    * About the 800-year lag: First, this reading depends on proxy data, since records don’t go back that far. But it could well be true because it’s so consistent. If it is true, it’s not good news. The proxy records show what you’d expect anyway: global warming causes greenhouse gases. Since greenhouse gases cause global warming (an inescapable fact of physics), we could face a compounding effect, where greenhouse-gas concentration and temperature reinforce each other all the way to the worst case. This is the possibility that causes the most concern.
    With respect to global warming, however, all this is irrelevant to the question of whether or not artifical CO2 emissions are causing an increase in global average temperature.
    * The claim that solar activity matches temperatures in the last 100 years better than CO2 concentrations, especially 1940-1970, is plainly false. Solar activity clearly increased between 1940 and 1960. To justify this claim, the producer presents a different data plot altogether, a plot that correlates temperature not with solar activity but with solar-cycle length. The correlation was discredited years ago because the authors had to distort the data to make it fit the curve. To deepen the deception, the filmmaker showed the data as a smooth curve, when in fact the data can only be represented as discrete points. Then he misrepresented the data as solar activity measured by sunspot count, which it definitely is not. The cosmic-ray/cloud hypothesis is interesting, and still being evaluated, but doesn’t discount the role of CO2 in climate change.
    * There are many criticisms one can make about models. But the relative importances of CO2 and solar activity don’t depend on computer models.
    * The ice-cap hypothesis is still being evaluated. Even if it’s found to be valid, it only shows that ocean-current shifts are more important than global average temperature and in no way nullifies the reality of global warming.
    Oh, no. The program did not go on to describe some murky conspiracy theory after delivering the arguments. The conspiracy theory took up at least 90% of the presentation; the global-warming part was inserted as an intermission from the steady onslaught of unsupported accusations of political scheming, corruption, and hostility toward poor people.
    We can ask as many times as we like whether global warming is real, but the facts are starkly clear. I’ve assembled the most reliable information I could find on a web page called Global Warming: A Guide for the Perplexed at http://www.geocities.com/gwperplexed/.

  4. s on 14th March 2007 at 7:18 pm

    Really, you need to think this one through.Most of you are not old enough to remember the hysteria in the 1970’s over the ‘impending ice age’&’global cooling’.One of the proposed solutions was to build many nuclear generating stations so that inexpensive electrical power would be available.The same folks who screamed about freezing protested nuclear energy as unsafe. When global cooling, complete oil depletion and over-population to the point of starvation did not occur, these people scurried into their dark corners to await the next “crisis of captialism’ that they could champion.Today warming is the danger and CO2 the enemy.Same hystrionics.Same slogans.Now let’s say CO2 is the enemy and MUST be reduced, dramatically as Kyoto says.Logic demands that we switch to nuclear power generation saving oodles of CO2. Yet no one offers that solution.Next is ‘carbon credits’.Without accurate measurements/controls,firms buy this ‘paper’ from traders CCX)who buy credits from corrupt 3rd world (transfer of wealth to poor nations) then invest in green stocks w/trading profits (free money is fun to invest). Firms then justify the same or greater production levels of CO2.Net result, no change in emmissions,warming continues. Traders get rich. That is why Barclay’s is lobbying to be the world source of ‘carbon credit’ trading. Big players from Goldman-Sachs started CCX & ECX (both funded in part by Generation Investment LLP Al Gore et al). Duke Energy supports carbon credit trading…why? Because in the areas they operate, they are a monopoly. If they bare forced to implement better technology they can pass the cost onto their captured customer base. A lot of money stands to be made from this without any verifiable value. Imagine, trading pieces of paper that have zero value and represent no increase in the GDP and that cannot be measured, monitored or controlled. It is a license to steal…. a 1920’s banker’s dream come true. It’s like permissioning them to print their own money. No wonder the financiers are all over this like cops at a donut shop. And I have not yet even begun to address the science..the enormity and scale of mathematical calculations, assumptions, error factors, forced vs non-force radiative corallaries along with non-constant patterns of absorbtion & dissipation. It is overwhelming. And computer models….not super models, perhaps super computer models! As a scientist and especially one involved in climatology, you must know that climatology computer modelling can be used for diagnostics but never, ever, for prognostics. As far as climate change, I would find, given the laws of thermodynamics, that it will actually be far more likely that we enter a dramatic cooling period at some time in the next 100 years. That is historic and a pattern most certain to repeat. If it does not happen, perhaps we will have CO2 emmissions to thank for it. This is not scientific, it is socio-political and should be labeled as such.

  5. Marieke on 14th March 2007 at 9:14 pm

    I didn’t see the program on channel 4 but all the things you are saying have some viability. People always go on about how the ‘flowers never came out this early’ or ‘January was very mild’. I have always remembered warm winters and flowers coming out early, but because we are always bombarded by the perils of global warming we have no choice but to believe that is it global warming.I seem to remember hearing that the hole in the ozone layer has closed up now. Also, if greenhouse gases are stopping the warmth getting out, then it should in theory be stopping to warmth coming in?

  6. Kelly Ghent on 15th March 2007 at 2:08 am

    I waited with baited breath for Channel 4’s The Great Climate Change Swindle? While it answered many questions it still left a lot of unanswered questions. This subject is so important it must have serious debate and study.
    If any of you are concerned about your children and your children’s children then climate change is a subject that ought to receive a lot of attention and real in depth study of the causes, outcomes and consequences.
    I recently read a very very interesting article and was so impressed by it’s straightforward analysis and logical connections that I immediately passed it onto my sister, who passed it onto her husband, you get the picture, it is now all over the place. So just in case you guys haven’t heard of it here is the URL Not TO Be Missed For Serious Researchers
    Fire and Ice: The Day After Tomorrow
    http://www.signs-of-the-times.org/articles/show/125454-Fire+and+Ice%3A+The+Day+After+Tomorrow

  7. P Baker on 15th March 2007 at 4:08 pm

    George Monbiot nails the ‘Swindle’ programme pretty succinctly:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Column/0,,2032570,00.html

  8. Tom Harris on 16th March 2007 at 6:15 pm

    Is this George Monbiot the same fellow who suggested that every time that a cyclone hits Bangladesh an airline executive should be taken out and lynched?

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