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?
- George Marshall, Climate Denial blog (13 March 2007) Stuff and Nonscience
- George Marshall, Climate Denial blog (9 March 2007) The Great Channel 4 Swindle
- Indymedia Ireland (9 March 2007) Climate Change: Answering the Sceptics (and Channel 4)
- Campaign Against Climate Change (9 March 2007) Channel 4: Great Global Warming Swindle
- Robin McKie, The Observer (4 March 2007) Why Channel 4 has got it wrong over climate change