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The Great Global Warming Swindle

The Great Global Warming Swindle
Format Documentary
Created by Martin Durkin
Country of origin United Kingdom
Running time 75 mins
Original channel Channel 4, March 8, 2007
External links
Official website
IMDb profile

The Great Global Warming Swindle is a controversial documentary film that argues against the scientific consensus that human activity is the main cause of global warming. The film, made by British television producer Martin Durkin, showcases scientists, economists, politicians, writers, and others who are sceptical of the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming. The programme's publicity materials assert that man-made global warming is "a lie" and "the biggest scam of modern times."[1]

The UK's Channel 4 premiered the documentary on March 8 2007. The channel described the film as "a polemic that drew together the well-documented views of a number of respected scientists to reach the same conclusions. This is a controversial film but we feel that it is important that all sides of the debate are aired."[2]

Although the documentary was welcomed by global warming sceptics, it was criticised heavily by many scientific organisations and individual scientists (including two of the film's contributors[3][4]). The film's critics argued that it had misused data, relied on out-of-date research, employed misleading arguments, and misrepresented the position of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.[5][6][7][8]


Viewpoints expressed in the film

The film's basic premise is that the current scientific consensus on the anthropogenic causes of global warming has numerous scientific flaws, and that vested monetary interests in the scientific establishment and the media discourage the public and the scientific community from acknowledging or even debating this. The film asserts that the publicised scientific consensus is the product of a "global warming activist industry" driven by a desire for research funding. Other culprits, according to the film, are Western environmentalists promoting expensive solar and wind power over cheap fossil fuels in Africa, resulting in African countries being held back from industrialising.

A number of academics, environmentalists, think-tank consultants and writers are interviewed in the film in support of its various assertions. They include the Canadian environmentalist Patrick Moore, founding member of Greenpeace but for the past 21 years a critic of the organisation; Richard Lindzen, professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Patrick Michaels, Research Professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia; Nigel Calder, editor of New Scientist from 1962 to 1966; John Christy, professor and director of the Earth System Science Center at University of Alabama; Paul Reiter of the Pasteur Institute; the former British Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nigel Lawson; and Piers Corbyn, a British weather forecaster.

Carl Wunsch, professor of oceanography at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was also interviewed but has since said that he strongly disagrees with the film's conclusions and the way his interview material was used.[3]

Assertions made in the film

The film takes a strongly sceptical view of current scientific thinking on climate change. It argues that the consensus on climate change is the product of "a multibillion-dollar worldwide industry: created by fanatically anti-industrial environmentalists; supported by scientists peddling scare stories to chase funding; and propped up by complicit politicians and the media".[1] [9]

Using a series of interviews and graphics, the film sets out to challenge the scientific consensus by focusing on issues such as perceived inconsistencies in the evidence and the role said to have been played by ideology and politics.

Evidential issues

The film begins by highlighting what its makers perceive as a number of contradictions and inconsistencies in the evidence supporting the theory of man-made global warming.

  • Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and temperature change since 1940. The film asserts that records of atmospheric CO2 levels since 1940 show a continuing increase, but during this period, global temperature decreased until 1975, and has increased since then.

The programme's first airing supported this assertion with a graph that its producers originally attributed to a NASA source published twenty years previously. The producers subsequently corrected the attribution to a 1998 article found in the Medical Sentinel journal. The authors of the graph were from the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, publisher of the Oregon petition in opposition to the greenhouse gas-regulating Kyoto Protocol. The programme's producer Martin Durkin acknowledged that the graph's time axis was "mislabeled", indicating that 1988 data were valid through 2000. The graph was corrected in subsequent showings by ending the data series at 1988.[10]

  • Variations in warming rate. The programme states that all models of greenhouse effect-derived temperature increase predict that the warming will be at its greatest for a given location in the troposphere and at its lowest near the surface of the earth.

Current satellite and weather balloon data do not support this model, and instead show that the surface warming rate is greater than or equal to the rate in the lower troposphere.[citation needed]

  • Increases in CO2 and temperatures following the end of ice ages. According to the film, increases in CO2 levels lagged behind temperature increases during glacial terminations. 
  • Relationship between atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and temperature change. The film asserts that carbon dioxide levels increase or decrease as a result of temperatures increasing or decreasing rather than temperatures following carbon dioxide levels, because as the global climate cools the Earth's oceans absorb carbon dioxide, and as the climate warms the oceans release carbon dioxide.
  • Influence of oceanic mass on temperature changes. The programme argues that due to the very large mass of the world's oceans, it takes hundreds of years for global temperature changes to register in oceanic mass, which is why analysis of the Vostok Station and other ice cores shows that changes in the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide follow changes in global temperature lag temperature increases by 800 years.
  • Influence of water vapour on climate change. According to the film, water vapour makes up 95% of all greenhouse gases and has the largest impact on the planet's temperature. Water particles in the form of clouds act to reflect incoming solar heat. The effects of clouds cannot be accurately simulated by scientists attempting to predict future weather patterns and their effects on global warming.
  • Influence of carbon dioxide on climate change. The film states that carbon dioxide comprises only a very minuscule amount - just 0.054% - of the Earth's atmosphere]] is just 0.054%. According to the film, human activity contributes much less than 1% of that, while volcanoes produce significantly more CO2 per year than humans (Durkin has subsequently admitted that this claim is wrong[11]), while plants and animals produce 150 gigatons of CO2 each year. Dying leaves produce even more CO2, and the oceans are "the biggest source of CO2 by far." Human activity produces a "mere" 6.5 gigatons of CO2 each year. The film concludes that man-made CO2 emissions alone cannot be causing global warming.
  • Influence of the sun on climate change. The film highlights the solar variation theory of global warming, pointing out that solar activity is currently at an extremely high level, and is directly linked to changes in global temperature. The posited mechanism involves cosmic rays as well as heat from the sun aiding cloud formation.[12] Solar activity is far more influential on global warming and cooling than any other man-made or natural activity on Earth.
  • Previous episodes of warming. The programme asserts that the current episode of global warming is nothing unusual and temperatures were even more extreme during the Medieval Warm Period, a time of great prosperity in western Europe.

Political issues

The programme makes a number of assertions arguing that the integrity of climate research has been compromised by financial, ideological and political interests:

  • Increased funding of climate science. According to the film, there has been an increase in funds available for any research related to global warming "and it is now one of the best funded areas of science."
  • Increased availability of funding for global warming research. The film asserts that scientists seeking a research grant award have a much more likely chance of successfully obtaining funding if the grant is linked to global warming research.
  • Influence of vested interests. The programme argues that vested interests have a bigger impact on the proponents (rather than the detractors) of the theory of man-made global warming because hundreds of thousands of jobs in science, media, and government have been created and are subsidised as a result of this theory.
  • Suppression of dissenting views. According to the programme, scientists who speak out against the theory that global warming is man-made risk persecution, death threats, loss of funding, personal attacks, and damage to their reputations.
  • Role of ideology. The film proposes that some supporters of the theory that global warming is man-made do so because it supports their emotional and ideological beliefs against capitalism, economic development, globalization, industrialisation, and the United States.
  • Role of politics. The programme asserts that the theory that global warming is man-made was promoted by the British Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as a means of promoting nuclear power and reducing the impact of strike action in the state-owned coal industry by the National Union of Mineworkers.
  • Role of industry. The film argues that the assertion that global warming sceptics are funded by private industry (such as oil, gas, and coal industries) are false and have no basis in fact.

Disputing the global warming consensus

The film argues that the perceived consensus among climate scientists about global warming does not exist.

  • Status of IPCC contributors. The programme asserts that it is falsely stated that "2,500 top scientists" support the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)'s reports on the theory of man-made global warming. In fact, according to the programme, the report includes many politicians and non-scientists, and even dissenters who demanded that their names be removed from the report but were refused.
  • Accuracy of representation of IPCC contributors. The film argues that IPCC reports misrepresent the views of scientists who contribute to them through selective editorializing. The film highlights the case of Paul Reiter of the Pasteur Institute who complained that the IPCC did not take his professional opinion under greater consideration. It states that the IPCC kept his name on the report as a contributor and did not remove his name until he threatened legal action.
  • Suppression of dissenting views. According to the programme, the concept of man-made global warming is promoted with a ferocity and intensity that is similar to a religious fervor. Sceptics are treated as heretics and equated with holocaust deniers. Retired university professor Tim Ball states in the film (and in subsequent press publicity) that he has received death threats because of sceptical statements he has made about global warming.[13]

Killing the African dream of development

  • Author and economist James Shikwati says in the programme that environmentalists campaign against Africa using its fossil fuels: "there's somebody keen to kill the African dream. And the African dream is to develop." He describes renewable power as "luxurious experimentation" that might work for rich countries but will never work for Africa: "I don't see how a solar panel is going to power a steel industry ... We are being told, 'Don't touch your resources. Don't touch your oil. Don't touch your coal.' That is suicide."
  • An example is given in the film of a Kenyan health clinic which is powered by solar panels which do not provide enough electricity for both the medical refrigerator and the lights at the same time. The programme describes the idea of restricting the world's poorest people to alternative energy sources as "the most morally repugnant aspect of the Global Warming campaign."

Reception, criticism and changes made due to criticisms

The show attracted 2.5 million viewers and an audience share of 11.5%.[14] There have been 246 complaints to the British regulator Ofcom as of April 25, 2007,[15] including the complaints that the program falsified data[16] and that Durkin's previous track record was not disclosed.[17] Channel 4 stated that it had received 758 calls and emails about the programme, with those in favour outnumbering complaints by six to one.

Following criticism from scientists the film has been changed since it was first broadcast on Channel 4. One graph had its time axis relabelled, the claim that volcanoes produce more CO2 than humans was removed, and following objections about how his interview had been used, the interview with Carl Wunsch was removed for the international and DVD releases of the programme.

Other scientific arguments used in the film have been described as refuted or misleading by scientists working in the relevant fields.[5][18] Critics have also argued that the programme is one-sided and that the mainstream position on global warming, as supported by the scientific academies of the major industrialized nations and other scientific organizations, is incorrectly represented.[5]

Reactions from scientists

  • The IPCC was one of the main targets of the documentary. In response to the programme's broadcast, John T. Houghton (co-chair IPCC Scientific Assessment working group 1988-2002) assessed some of its main assertions and conclusions. According to Houghton the program was "a mixture of truth, half truth and falsehood put together with the sole purpose of discrediting the science of global warming", which he noted had been endorsed by the scientific community, including the Academies of Science of the major industrialized countries and China, India and Brazil. Houghton rejected claims that observed changes in global average temperature are within the range of natural climate variability or that solar influences are the main driver; that the troposphere is warming less than the surface; that volcanic eruptions emit more carbon dioxide than fossil fuel burning; that climate models are too complex and uncertain to provide useful projections of climate change; and that IPCC processes were biased. Houghton acknowledges that ice core samples show CO2 driven by temperature, but then writes that the programme's assertion that "this correlation has been presented as the main evidence for global warming by the IPCC [is] NOT TRUE. For instance, I often show that diagram in my lectures on climate change but always make the point that it gives no proof of global warming due to increased carbon dioxide."[5]
  • The British Antarctic Survey released a statement about the The Great Global Warming Swindle. It is highly critical of the programme, singling out the use of a graph with the incorrect time axis, and also the statements made about solar activity: "A comparison of the distorted and undistorted contemporary data reveal that the plot of solar activity bears no resemblance to the temperature curve, especially in the last 20 years." Comparing scientific methods with Channel 4's editorial standards, the statement says: "Any scientist found to have falsified data in the manner of the Channel 4 programme would be guilty of serious professional misconduct." It uses the feedback argument to explain temperatures rising before CO2. On the issue of volcanic CO2 emissions, it says:
A second issue was the claim that human emissions of CO2 are small compared to natural emissions from volcanoes. This is untrue: current annual emissions from fossil fuel burning and cement production are estimated to be around 100 times greater than average annual volcanic emissions of CO2. That large volcanoes cannot significantly perturb the CO2 concentration of the atmosphere is apparent from the ice core and atmospheric record of CO2 concentrations, which shows a steady rise during the industrial period, with no unusual changes after large eruptions.[19]
  • Alan Thorpe, professor of meteorology at the University of Reading and Chief Executive of the UK Natural Environment Research Council, commented on the film in New Scientist. He wrote, "First, let's deal with the main thesis: that the presence or absence of cosmic rays in Earth's atmosphere is a better explanation for temperature variation than the concentration of CO2 and other gases. This is not a new assertion and it is patently wrong: there is no credible evidence that cosmic rays play a significant role...Let scepticism reign, but let's not play games with the evidence."[20]
  • The Royal Society has issued a press release in reaction to the film. In it, Martin Rees, the president of the Royal Society, shortly restates the predominant scientific opinion on climate change and adds:
Scientists will continue to monitor the global climate and the factors which influence it. It is important that all legitimate potential scientific explanations continue to be considered and investigated. Debate will continue, and the Royal Society has just hosted a two day discussion meeting attended by over 300 scientists, but it must not be at the expense of action. Those who promote fringe scientific views but ignore the weight of evidence are playing a dangerous game. They run the risk of diverting attention from what we can do to ensure the world's population has the best possible future.[21]
  • Thirty-seven British scientists signed a letter of complaint, saying that they "believe that the misrepresentations of facts and views, both of which occur in your programme, are so serious that repeat broadcasts of the programme, without amendment, are not in the public interest. In view of the seriousness of climate change as an issue, it is crucial that public debate about it is balanced and well-informed".[22]
  • On 5 July 2007, The Guardian reported that Professor Mike Lockwood, a physicist at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory had carried out a study that disproved one of the key planks of The Great Global Warming Swindle's argument—namely that global warming directly correlates to solar activity. Lockwood's study showed that solar activity had diminished subsequent to 1987, despite a steady rise in the temperature of the Earth's surface. The study, to be published in a Royal Society journal, used temperature and solar data recorded from the last 100 years.[23]

    In a BBC interview about this study, Lockwood commented on the graphs shown in the documentary:

    All the graphs they showed stopped in about 1980, and I knew why, because things diverged after that...You can't just ignore bits of data that you do not like
  • Volume 20 of the Bulletin of the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society presented a critique by David Jones, Andrew Watkins, Karl Braganza and Michael Coughlan.
    The Great Global Warming Swindle does not represent the current state of knowledge in climate science… Many of the hypotheses presented in the Great Global Warming Swindle have been considered and rejected by due scientific process. This documentary is far from an objective, critical examination of climate science. Instead the Great Global Warming Swindle goes to great lengths to present outdated, incorrect or ambiguous data in such a way as to grossly distort the true understanding of climate change science, and to support a set of extremely controversial views.[24]
  • A public forum entitled “Debunking “The Great Global Warming Swindle"” was held at the Australian National University in Canberra on 13 July 2007, at which scientists from the Australian National University, Stanford University, USA, and ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies exposed what they described "as the scientific flaws and half-truths in the claims of climate change skeptics"[25]

Criticisms by the film's contributors

Two of the scientists featured in the film, Carl Wunsch and Eigil Friis-Christensen, have since stated that they disagree with the way their contributions were used.

Carl Wunsch

Carl Wunsch, professor of Physical Oceanography at MIT, was originally featured in the programme. Afterwards he said that he was "completely misrepresented" in the film and had been "totally misled" when he agreed to be interviewed.[26][3] He called the film "grossly distorted" and "as close to pure propaganda as anything since World War Two."[27] Wunsch was reported to have threatened legal action[27] and to have lodged a complaint with Ofcom, the UK broadcast regulator.[28] The production company denied that he had been misled and that correspondence to Wunsch had cleary stated the programme would 'examine critically the notion that recent global warming is primarily caused by industrial emissions of CO2'.[3] Filmmaker Durkin responded, "Carl Wunsch was most certainly not 'duped' into appearing in the film, as is perfectly clear from our correspondence with him. Nor are his comments taken out of context. His interview, as used in the programme, perfectly accurately represents what he said."[27] Wunsch has since said that Durkin "clearly quite deliberately understood my point of view but set out to imply, through the way he uses me in the film, the reverse of what I was trying to say" [4].

Wunsch wrote in a letter dated March 15 2007 that he believes climate change is "real, a major threat, and almost surely has a major human-induced component". He also says he had thought he was contributing to a programme which sought to counterbalance "over-dramatisation and unwarranted extrapolation of scientific facts". He raised objections as to how his interview material was used:

"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."[3]

Wunsch also stated his position on ABC's Lateline after the channel screened the film: I'm somewhat troubled that TV companies around the world are treating it as though this were a science documentary. It's not. It's a tendentious political propaganda piece... It's not a science film at all. It's a political statement. [5]

On March 11, 2007, The Independent covered the Carl Wunsch controversy, and asked Channel 4 to respond to what it described as "a serious challenge to its own credibility". A Channel 4 spokesman said:

"The film was a polemic that drew together the well-documented views of a number of respected scientists to reach the same conclusions. This is a controversial film but we feel that it is important that all sides of the debate are aired. If one of the contributors has concerns about his contribution we will look into that."[26]
Wunsch has said that he has received a legal letter from the production company, Wag TV, threatening to sue him for defamation unless he agrees to make a public statement that he was neither misrepresented nor misled.[29]

Following Wunsch's complaints, his interview material was removed from the international and DVD versions of the film.

Eigil Friis-Christensen

Eigil Friis-Christensen's research was used to support claims about the influence of solar activity on climate, both in the programme and Durkin's subsequent defence of it. Friis-Christensen, with environmental Research Fellow Nathan Rive, criticised the way the solar data were used:

We have concerns regarding the use of a graph featured in the documentary titled ‘Temp & Solar Activity 400 Years’. Firstly, we have reason to believe that parts of the graph were made up of fabricated data that were presented as genuine. The inclusion of the artificial data is both misleading and pointless. Secondly, although the narrator commentary during the presentation of the graph is consistent with the conclusions of the paper from which the figure originates, it incorrectly rules out a contribution by anthropogenic greenhouse gases to 20th century global warming.[30]

In response to a question from The Independent as to whether the programme was scientifically accurate, Friis-Christensen said: "No, I think several points were not explained in the way that I, as a scientist, would have explained them ... it is obvious it's not accurate."

Following Eigil Friis-Christensen's criticism of the ‘Temp & Solar Activity 400 Years’ graph used in the programme (for perfectly matching the lines in the 100 years 1610-1710 where data did not in fact exist in the original), Durkin emailed Friis-Christensen to thank him for highlighting the error: "it is an annoying mistake which all of us missed and is being fixed for all future transmissions of the film. It doesn't alter our argument".[31]

Reaction in the British media

The documentary received substantial coverage in the British press, both before and after its broadcast.

George Monbiot writing for The Guardian before the programme was shown, discussed the arguments for and against the "hockey-stick graph" used in An Inconvenient Truth, claiming that the criticism of it has been "debunked". He also highlighted Durkin's previous documentary Against Nature, where the Independent Television Commission found that four complainants had been "misled" and their views were "distorted by selective editing".[32] After the film was shown, Monbiot wrote another article arguing the documentary was based upon already debunked science. He accused Channel 4 of being more interested in generating controversy than in producing credible science programmes.[33] Robin McKie, science editor of The Guardian, attacked the documentary for opting "for dishonest rhetoric when a little effort could have produced an important contribution to a critical social problem".[34]

Dominic Lawson writing in The Independent was favourable toward the show. He echoed many of the show's claims and recommended that viewers tune in. He largely focused his attention on the reactions of the environmental community, first at Durkin's earlier production, Against Nature, and now at Swindle. He characterized the opponents of the film as being quick to leap to ad hominem attacks about Durkin's qualifications and political affiliations rather than the merits of his factual claims. Lawson summarized examples from the production of how dissenting scientists are pushed into the background and effectively censored by organizations such as the IPCC. Lawson describes the scientific theory posed by these dissenting scientists as "striking."[35]

Geoffrey Lean, The Independent's environment editor, was critical of the programme. He noted that Dominic Lawson is the son and brother-in-law, respectively, of two prominent global warming sceptics (Nigel Lawson, who is featured in the programme, and Christopher Monckton), implying that Lawson was not a neutral observer. The Independent mostly disagreed with three of the film's major claims, for example stating: "recent solar increases are too small to have produced the present warming, and have been much less important than greenhouse gases since about 1850". [36] In a later Independent article, Steve Connor heavily attacked the programme, saying that the programme makers had selectively used data which was sometimes decades old, and introduced other serious errors of their own:  

"Mr Durkin admitted that his graphics team had extended the time axis along the bottom of the graph to the year 2000. 'There was a fluff there,' he said. If Mr Durkin had gone directly to the NASA website he could have got the most up-to-date data. This would have demonstrated that the amount of global warming since 1975, as monitored by terrestrial weather stations around the world, has been greater than that between 1900 and 1940—although that would have undermined his argument. 'The original NASA data was very wiggly-lined and we wanted the simplest line we could find,' Mr Durkin said."[10]

The online magazine Spiked published an interview with the film's director, Martin Durkin. In the interview, Durkin complains about how OfCom censures "seriously controversial work", saying that the end result is "phoney controversialism on TV but not much real controversialism". Spiked describes the programme's "all-encompassing cosmic ray theory" as "a little unconvincing", but says that "the film poked some very big holes in the global warming consensus", and argues "we could do with more anti-conformist films from ‘mavericks’ like Durkin".[37]

The Times science editor Mark Henderson listed a number of points where, he said, "Channel 4 got it wrong over climate change". In this section he highlights the feedback argument for the ice core data, the measurement error explanation for temperatures in the troposphere, and the sulphate cooling argument for mid 20th century cooling.[38]

Janet Daley writing for The Daily Telegraph headlined her column "The Green Lobby Must Not Stifle The Debate", noting that "Among those who attempted to prevent the film being shown at all was the Liberal Democrat spokesman on the environment, Chris Huhne, who, without having seen the programme, wrote to Channel 4 executives advising them in the gravest terms to reconsider their decision to broadcast it". [6]

Huhne sent a letter to The Daily Telegraph about Daley's column, writing "Janet Daley is simply wrong to state that I wrote to Channel 4 'advising them in the gravest terms to reconsider their decision to broadcast' Martin Durkin’s The Great Global Warming Swindle. I wrote asking for Channel 4’s comments on the fact – not in dispute – that the last time Mr Durkin ventured onto this territory he suffered serious complaints for sloppy journalism – upheld by the Independent Television Commission - and had to apologise."[39] The Daily Telegraph apologised, saying they were happy to accept that "Mr Huhne's letter was not an attempt to prevent the film being shown or suppress debate on the issue".[40]

Other reaction

David Miliband, the UK Secretary of State for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs at the time, presented a rebuttal of the main points of the film on his blog and stated "There will always be people with conspiracy theories trying to do down the scientific consensus, and that is part of scientific and democratic debate, but the science of climate change looks like fact to me."[41]

Bob Ward, former spokesman for the Royal Society, complained to Britain's media regulator about inaccuracies in the film. (British broadcast law demands impartiality on matters of major political and industrial controversy.)[11]

Steven Milloy, who runs the Web site, endorsed the documentary on March 18, 2007.[42]

The program has been discussed extensively in Australia, including favourable mentions in an editorial in The Australian[43] and the Counterpoint radio program presented by Michael Duffy.[44][45] The Australian stated the film "presents a coherent argument for why governments must hasten slowly in responding". Duffy noted the program's claims regarding Margaret Thatcher. In response, writing in an opinion piece for the Australian Financial Review, John Quiggin criticised the program for putting forward "conspiracy theories".[46] According to The Australian, scientist Tim Flannery had wondered at a conference whether the programme should be classified as fiction rather than a documentary.[47]

In the Czech Republic, President Václav Klaus addressed the audience at the local first release of the movie on June 28, 2007. He called the premiere a "meeting of supporters of reason against irrationality" and compared the warnings of scientists against global warming to Communist propaganda. According to Czech news, Klaus - an outspoken critic of scientific consensus on global warming - has been the first head of state to introduce this movie.[48]

In March of 2007, media watchdog website Medialens published a refutation of Durkin's film describing the work as "Pure Propaganda"[49]

Reaction to DVD release

Thirty-seven climate scientists have written a letter[50] urging Martin Durkin to drop plans to release a DVD of the film. In the letter they say Durkin "misrepresented both the scientific evidence and the interpretations of researchers." Durkin said in response: "The reason they want to suppress The Great Global Warming Swindle is because the science has stung them.[51]

Bob Ward, former spokesman of the Royal Society, said, "Free speech does not extend to misleading the public by making factually inaccurate statements. Somebody has to stand up for the public interest here." Durkin acknowledged two of the errors mentioned by the scientists — including the claim about volcanic emissions — but he described those changes as minor and said they would be corrected in the expanded DVD release.[11]

In response to the call by these scientists not to market a DVD of the film, Times columnist Mick Hume, described environmentalism as a "new religion", saying "Scientists have become the equivalent of high priests in white coats, summoned to condemn heretics".[52]

The DVD was released in the UK on September 30, 2007. Christopher Monckton, a prominent British global warming sceptic, is funding the distribution of the documentary in English schools as a riposte to Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, which is also being shown in schools.[53]

Durkin's response to his critics

On March 17, 2007, The Daily Telegraph published a response by Durkin "The global-warmers were bound to attack, but why are they so feeble?"[54] In it, he rejects any criticism of the close correlation between solar variation and temperature change, saying that Friis-Christensen stands by his work, and that "No one any longer seriously disputes the link between solar activity and temperature in earth's climate history." He accepts that the time axis of one graph was incorrectly labelled when the programme was first transmitted, but says that this does not change his conclusions. Regarding the Carl Wunsch controversy (see above) he repeats that Wunsch was not duped into taking part in the programme.

 Durkin goes on to reject his opponents' position that the cooling period observed post Second World War was caused by sulphate aerosol cooling: "Thanks to China and the rest, SO2 levels are far, far higher now than they were back then. Why isn't it perishing cold?" He concludes by saying that the "global warming wrong, wrong, wrong."

Durkin commenting at a Cannes film festival press conference on April 17, 2007, noted "My name is absolute mud on the Internet; it's really vicious," adding "There is no good scientific basis for it but the theory continues to hold sway because so many people have built their careers and reputations on it."[55]

The Armand Leroi Correspondence

The Times reported that Durkin had seriously fallen out with a scientist who had been considering working with him. Armand Leroi, a geneticist, was concerned that Durkin had used data about a correlation between solar activity and global temperatures which had subsequently been found to be flawed. Leroi sent Durkin an e-mail in which he said that he thought the "programme made some good points (the politics of the IPCC) and some bad points (anthropogenic global warming is a conspiracy to keep Africa underdeveloped)" but said what had most interested him was some of the scientific claims about solar activity and global temperature; he said he looked for citations of the 1991 Friis-Christensen scientific paper used in the programme. While Leroi acknowledged "I am no climate scientist" he said that after reviewing criticisms of the paper, he had become convinced that: "To put this bluntly: the data that you showed in your programme were wrong -- and may have been deliberately faked... it does show what abundant experience has already taught me -- that, left to their own devices, TV producers simply cannot be trusted to tell the truth." "[56]

Leroi copied the e-mail to various colleagues including Guardian journalist and Bad Science columnist Ben Goldacre and science writer and mathematics expert Simon Singh. Durkin replied to all with the single sentence: "You’re a big daft cock". Singh then sent an email to Durkin that said: "I have not paid the same attention to your programme as Armand has done, but from what I did see it is an irresponsible piece of film-making. If you can send me a copy of the programme then I will examine it in more detail and give you a more considered would be great if you could engage in the debate rather just resorting to one line replies".

Durkin responded: "The IPCC's own figures show the hottest year in the past ten was 1998, and the temp has been flat-lining now for five years. If it's greenhouse gas causing the warming the rate of warming should be higher in the troposphere than on the surface. The opposite is the case. The ice core data shows that temperature change causes the level of atmospheric CO2 to change - not the other way round. Why have we not heard this in the hours and hours of shit programming on global warming shoved down our throats by the BBC?", and concluded with, "Go and fuck yourself".[56] Durkin later apologised for his language, saying that he had sent the e-mails when tired and had just finished making the programme, and that he was "eager to have all the science properly debated with scientists qualified in the right areas".[38]


The film was awarded the prize for Best Documentary at the Io Isabella Film Festival held in Southern Italy.[57]

Contributors to the programme

The film includes appearances from the following individuals:

  • Syun-Ichi Akasofu - Professor and Director, International Arctic Research Center
  • Tim Ball - Head of the Natural Resources Stewardship Project (Misidentified in the film as Professor from the Department of Climatology, University of Winnipeg. Ball left his faculty position in the Department of Geography in 1996; the University of Winnipeg has never had a Department of Climatology.)
  • Nigel Calder - Former Editor, New Scientist from 1962 to 1966
  • John Christy - Professor, Department of Atmospheric Science, University of Alabama in Huntsville and a Lead Author of Chapter 2 of the IPCC Third Assessment Report
  • Ian Clark - Professor, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Ottawa
  • Piers Corbyn - Weather Forecaster, Weather Action
  • Paul Driessen - Author: Eco-Imperialism: Green Power, Black Death
  • Eigil Friis-Christensen - Director, Danish National Space Center and Adjunct Professor, University of Copenhagen (who has since said his results were misused in the programme[58])
  • Nigel Lawson - Former UK Chancellor of the Exchequer
  • Richard Lindzen - Professor, Department of Meteorology, M.I.T.
  • Patrick Michaels - Research Professor, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia
  • Patrick Moore - Co-founder, Greenpeace
  • Paul Reiter - Professor, Department of Medical Entomology, Pasteur Institute, Paris
  • Nir Shaviv - Professor, Institute of Physics, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  • James Shikwati - Economist, Author, and CEO of The African Executive
  • Frederick Singer - Professor Emeritus, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia (Misidentified in the film as Former Director, U.S. National Weather Service. From 1962-64 he was Director of the National Weather Satellite Service.)
  • Roy Spencer - Weather Satellite Team Leader, NASA
  • Philip Stott - Professor Emeritus, Department of Biogeography, University of London
  • Carl Wunsch - Professor, Department of Oceanography, M.I.T. (who has since repudiated the programme)[59]

Related programmes and films

Against Nature: An earlier controversial Channel 4 programme made by Martin Durkin which was also critical of the environmental movement and was charged by the Independent Television Commission of the UK for misrepresenting and distorting the views of interviewees by selective editing.

An Inconvenient Truth: A film that showcases Al Gore's presentation on global warming, arguing that humans are the primary cause of recent climate change.

The Greenhouse Conspiracy: An earlier Channel 4 documentary broadcast on 12 August 1990, as part of the Equinox series, in which similar claims were made. Three of the people interviewed (Lindzen, Michaels and Spencer) were also interviewed in the The Great Global Warming Swindle.

International distribution

The documentary has been sold to Sweden's TV4,[60] Denmark's DR2, Germany's RTL (on June 11, 2007) and n-TV (on July 7, 2007), Finnish's MTV3 (on October 7, 2007) and Hong Kong's TVB Pearl (on November 16, 2007).[61] Negotiations are underway with the United States network ABC and France's TF1.[47][60]

A modified version (running time 55 minutes) of the documentary was shown in Germany. Many interviews were cut out, with others replaced by German speaking interview partners, and some claims were abandoned or changed. For example, the reference to Margaret Thatcher was replaced by the claim that Helmut Schmidt promoted climate change to justify the construction of nuclear power plants in Germany. The programme on RTL was followed by a discussion roundtable.[62]

A shortened version, excluding the interview with Carl Wunsch and claims about volcanoes, among other material, was shown on the ABC on 12 July 2007.[63] The Australian reported that this was "against the advice of ABC science journalist Robyn Williams, who instructed the ABC Television not to buy the program." Williams described the programme as "demonstrably wrong", and claimed that the ABC board had put pressure on ABC TV director Kim Dalton for the programme to be shown.[64] Dalton defended the decision, saying "[Durkin's] thesis is way outside the scientific mainstream. But that's no reason to keep his views away from audiences".[65]

The broadcast was followed by an interview between Durkin and ABC reporter Tony Jones, in which Jones challenged Durkin on a number of points, including the accuracy of graphs used in the program, criticism of the program's claims by climate scientists, its allegation of a conspiracy theory and the claims of misrepresentation by Carl Wunsch.[66] This was followed by a panel discussion, including participation from a studio audience. Lateline, which followed, included an interview with Wunsch in which he denied claims by Durkin that he had "backed down" under pressure, and accused Durkin of editing his words to give an impression opposite to his actual views.[67]

See also

  • Global warming controversy
  • Scientists opposing the mainstream scientific assessment of global warming
  • Attribution of recent climate change
  • The role of cosmic rays in cloud formation
  • The role of water vapor
  • The solar variation theory and global warming


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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "The_Great_Global_Warming_Swindle". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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