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By William and Gavin

On Thursday March 8th, the UK TV Channel 4 aired a programme titled “The Great Global Warming Swindle”. We were hoping for important revelations and final proof that we have all been hornswoggled by the climate Illuminati, but it just repeated the usual specious claims we hear all the time. We feel swindled. Indeed we are not the only ones: Carl Wunsch (who was a surprise addition to the cast) was apparently misled into thinking this was going to be a balanced look at the issues (the producers have a history of doing this), but who found himself put into a very different context indeed [Update: a full letter from Wunsch appears as comment 109 on this post]

So what did they have to say for themselves?

CO2 doesn’t match the temperature record over the 20th C. True but not relevant, because it isn’t supposed to. The programme spent a long time agonising over what they presented as a sharp temperature fall for 4 decades from 1940 to 1980 (incidentally their graph looks rather odd and may have been carefully selected; on a more usual (and sourced!) plot the “4 decades of cooling” is rather less evident). They presented this as a major flaw in the theory, which is deeply deceptive, because as they and their interviewees must know, the 40-70 cooling type period is readily explained, in that the GCMs are quite happy to reproduce it, as largely caused by sulphate aerosols. See this for a wiki-pic, for example; or (all together now) the IPCC TAR SPM fig 4; or more up-to-date AR4 fig 4. So… they are lying to us by omission.

The troposphere should warm faster than the sfc, say the models and basic theory. As indeed it does – unless you’re wedded to the multiply-corrected Spencer+Christy version of the MSU series. Christy (naturally enough) features in this section, though he seems to have forgotten the US CCSP report, and the executive summary which he authored says 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 human induced 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. See-also previous RC posts.

Temperature leads CO2 by 800 years in the ice cores. Not quite as true as they said, but basically correct; however they misinterpret it. The way they said this you would have thought that T and CO2 are anti-correlated; but if you overlay the full 400/800 kyr of ice core record, you can’t even see the lag because its so small. The correct interpretation of this is well known: that there is a T-CO2 feedback: see RC again for more.

All the previous parts of the programme were leading up to “so if it isn’t CO2, what is it?” to which their answer is “solar”. The section was curiously weak, and largely lead by pictures of people on beaches. It was somewhat surprising that they didn’t feature Svensmark at all; other stuff we’ve commented on before. Note that the graph they used as “proof” of the excellent solar-T connection turns out to have some problems: see figure 1c of Damon and Laut.

Along the way the programme ticked off most of the other obligatory skeptic talking points: even down to Medieval English vineyards and that old favourite, volcanoes emitting more CO2 than humans.

It ended with politics, with a segment blaming the lack of African development on the environmental movement. We don’t want to get into the politics, but should point out what the programme didn’t: that Kyoto exempts developing nations.

[Also: other discussion at InTheGreen, Stoat, The Guardian and
Media lens.]
[Update: What Martin Durkin really thinks!]
[Update for our german readers: A german version of the “swindle” film was shown on June 11 on German TV (RTL); here is a german commentary by stefan.]

558 Responses to “Swindled!”

  1. 1
    Nick Riley says:

    They also stated that volcanic emissions of CO2 far exceeded those from human activity. This is untrue. Annual emissions from volcanoes are only 1% of the amount emitted to the atmosphere by humans.

    Hards Vicky L. (2005). Volcanic contributions to the global carbon cycle. British
    Geological Survey Occasional Publication no. 10, 26 pp.

    A free download on this is at
    {originally }

    The programme also used the link between the ocean and the atmosphere and CO2.

    It was an inconvenient truth though not to also include in this description the fact that with business as usual CO2 emissions our oceans will acidify.


    Reason enough to urgently curb CO2 emissions- regardless of whether or not there is an anthropogenic factor in the current warming world.

    The programme was irresponsible and lacked a basic duty of care to the audience- and it now appears to some who appeared on the programme itself.

  2. 2
    Andrew Simmons says:

    I’m delighted to see this swift response on RC – thanks!

    I got so annoyed with Channel 4 that I actually emailed them a complaint, which I’ve never done before. I’m sure that polite, articulate responses to the broadcast would be well received; C4 do generally seem to try to be responsive to viewer complaints.

    Their contact form is accessible from here:

  3. 3
    Sam Green says:

    What I find so depressing is that both sides of this debate are as bad as each other. For Gods sake we might have a problem here, so lets debate like adults, something devoid from real science, climate audit and Durkin. Stop being so petty and lets act like scientists are supposed to do – debate.

    It is so depressing, as essentially I agree with real climate, but you do your self no favours. Your stance preaches to the converted, but if you want the masses you need to change your focus.

  4. 4
    Ron Taylor says:

    #3 – Sam, the point you miss is that these issues have been debated, again, and again, and again… In science, that is done through the peer reviewed literature, not through the mass media. When you cannot win the debate in the normal process, then take to the media. Though not a climate scientist, I am frankly sick of reading that T leads CO2, as though that is the end of the discussion. Have these people never heard of strongly coupled variables? Feedback is real. When it happens, the physics of the problem says that increasing CO2 will increase T. Applying the equations through the models describes the observed temperature trends. Does this have to go on until our great-grandchildren are left with no hope?

    It is especially annoying to see people attack AGW folk in the guise of defending the future of the developing world. Just who do you think is going to suffer most under the BAU scenario? Do you think Americans will accept massive tax increases to help the developing world adapt? Okay, this is not part of the science, but skeptics have raised it, even though the downside risk for the developing world is far greater (in my opinion) under BAU.

  5. 5
    pete best says:

    Its amazing that you guys manage to keep on top of the UK climate change mass media as well as your own US situation.

    Well done, keep it up

  6. 6
    Charles Muller says:

    “The correct interpretation of this is well known: that there is a T-CO2 feedback”

    Hum… from what I read, I’d say there’s first an astronomic solar forcing (orbital/ regional, not TSI except for eccentricity cycle), and then diverse feedbacks including ice, CO2, vegetation, dust… and T of course. Your “T-CO2” feedback is quite restrictive. For Al Gore, OK (climate science from ex-president) ; but we’re on RC (climate science from climate scientist), so you should be more careful with vulgarized explanations. Unless you consider ice/vegetation/dust and other poorly constrained feedbacks or circulation changes as negligible, of course.

  7. 7
    rick hanheide says:

    I just read the Damon and Laut paper. Their most striking claim is that the key part of the graphs of Friis-Christensen and Lassen showing a strong link between solar and climate are the result of “trivial arithmetic errors”. As a non scientist, I’m thrilled. Seems like on this topic, at least, we ought to be able to come to a conclusion that everyone agrees on. So, in the 2.5 years since Damon and Laut published, what has happened ? Did Friis-Christensen and Lassen own up to their error ? Do they still maintain that they are right ? If all you guys with PHD’s can’t get to the bottom of “trivial arithmetic errors” in 2.5 years, the planet is in trouble from more than AGW !

  8. 8
    P. Lewis says:

    I purposely didn’t watch “it”. This was partly because, like that reporter chappy over at the Guardian, I didn’t want to feel like I had to put by boot through the screen, but mostly because I’d never got around to watching Master and Commander before last night, and there it was on Film 4. Wonderful scheduling that, C4!

    I did catch 2 minutes of “it” in one ad break, when they were “talking around” the satellite and sonde data mismatch. Well, if that was an exemplar of the level of disinformation being imparted, then I’m glad I missed the other 97% of it and all its probable vaingloriousness.

    One thing that has intrigued me since is the world temperature plot they attributed to NASA, which can now be seen at various places (like at Stoat). They have a manilla(ish) shaded portion called “Post War Economic Boom”, which, fair enough, starts in 1945 and goes to about 1978/1979. So why do they have two labels, one saying “1940” which is pointing to about 1945 and one saying “1975” pointing to about 1980? And another point. Why is the “Post War Economic Boom” given to end in 1979? My recollection of events was that the Western world was thrown into recession (and some regions of stagflation) from about 1970, helped along in no uncertain terms by the 1973 oil crisis. So what were they trying to convey? The 70s were not a period of economic boom anywhere on the planet! Anyway, that’s a diversion into politics and economics, which is for another place, perhaps.

    I was further intrigued by that small upward blip in that “shaded” temperature downturn in that world temperature plot. “Seems” significantly above the long-term trend. So I got to wondering what could have caused it. I have a theory. The peak of this blip looks as if it’s the summer of ’66. Why of course … it’s all that hot air in the press in the lead up to the ’66 footie World Cup in good ol’ Blighty, culminating in all those kettles going on and the ensuing mega CO2 output required to meet the electrical load when Hurst’s hat-trick goal went in. Of course, if the 1940 and 1975 labels are to be believed, then my 1966 is in fact 1961, and that shoots my theory down in flames.

    Daft hypothesis? Why yes, and as daft as the C4 programme it would seem! Yes, I’m glad I watched Master and Commander. There certainly seemed as if there was more science in that with their sojourn around the Galapagos Islands than there might have been in that main-channel C4 “science” programme. Hollywood for science, now there’s a first. Al Gore gets an Oscar; Durkin gets a Golden Raspberry. (Mind you, I’ve seen neither in their entirety. So, have I got those awards the right way around?)

  9. 9
    P. Lewis says:

    Re #7 and arithmetic errors.

    I believe degrees for radians usage has led some astray, too.

  10. 10
    Jim Prall says:

    I too left a comment on the Channel 4 website (based on transcript excerpts and web coverage, as we don’t get this channel here in Canada), and based on the rogues gallery of contrarians they used.
    I’ve looked at some blog responses to the show that have built up already (my goodness they accumulate fast, with so many unwashed masses allowed to express their views freely :-) ) At first I was depressed over this: yet another tin of red herrings to rebut! But then I remembered that I’m not alone, and plenty of sensible people are helping out. I googled the show title, and came upon this blog repsonse:
    which has already summed up a lot of good rejoinders to the show.
    As for “dT causes d[CO2]”, we can stress the basic physics behind the opposite direction. Skeptics love to quibble about attribution of recent dT, but the key issue for AGW is that basic physics tells us CO2 at current concentrations definitely does absorb IR. This is quantifiable, laboratory tested fact. The finer points are working out what the climate sensitivity is; here there’s some range in expert estimates, but it can’t be zero, as hard-core skeptics regularly imply. Even Lindzen admits it’s non-zero.
    So many skeptic sites are filled with “intuitive” arguments to the effect that CO2 can’t possibly have any effect, or that its spectral range is already saturated (no), or that [CO2] was much higher hundreds of millions of years ago (so!?), {insert red herring here}
    Anyway thanks to all RC contributors for carrying the ball.

  11. 11
    llewelly says:

    Its amazing that you guys manage to keep on top of the UK climate change mass media as well as your own US situation.

    I thought William lived and worked in the UK? And comparing with Stoat, this appears to be mostly his work. (Of the other RC folks not in on this particular piece, I thought Rasmus lived in Norway, and Rahmstorf in Potsdam.)

  12. 12
    Al Bedo says:

    “The troposphere should warm faster than the sfc”

    I didn’t see the program in question, but of course the NASA GISS model for one, indicates a large maxima of warming centered on the tropics around 300mb.

    This maxima is not observed in the RSS MSU, nor in the UAH MSU, nor in the RATPAC Raob set over the the MSU era.

    Clearly this model is not verifying this feature.

    [Response: Over the period when there are satellite measurements the model simulations span the response seen in the data. Thus there is no obvious contradiction between the models and the data. To be sure, stronger signals are seen for longer periods and for larger forcings, but you can only compare current observations with similar period transient runs. See the CCSP report for more details. -gavin]

  13. 13
    Chuck Booth says:

    Re #3 You seem to be confusing the comments posted by RC readers, most of whom are not climate scientists, with scientific discussions that go on in university laboratories and seminar rooms, scientific conferences, and peer-reviewed journals. The debates that go on in the comments to the RC threads have no bearing whatsoever on the scientific issues of AGW and what can be done about it, except that some of us come away with a better understanding of the issues.
    I’m curious – in what way should the climatologists change their focus? They conduct their research, they publish their findings in peer-reviewed journals, they respond to requests for comments from journalists writing stories on AGW, they appear in TV documentaries on AGW, and sometimes they publish papers on AGW for the general public in non-specialist journals. What else should they be doing?

  14. 14

    Distortions are hardly suprising. This programme was not a scientific documentary in any normal sense: it was a piece of political polemic.

    The writer and presenter of the programme was Martin Durkin who is closely affiliated with the Revolutionary Communist Party which has a strong ideological opposition to environmental science. In 1997 Channel Four was forced to issue its first ever broadcast apology over extreme editing distortions in a similar series knocking environmentalism. It is a great shame that Carl Wunsch and the other legitimate scientists in the programme did not do a quick web search on Durkin before agreeing to contribute

    There was only one scientific advisor on the programme, Martin Livermore, whose sole scientific qualification is that he is the Director of a web-based think tank, The Scientific Alliance. The Alliance was set up by in 2001 by Robert Durward, the fiercely anti-green director of the British Aggregates Association, and Foresight Communications, a Westminster public relations and lobbying company, to “counter scare-mongering by the so-called green lobby”. The Scientific Alliance has no affiliation with any recognised scientific body but, like most of the contributors to the programme, it does have very strong links with the US public relations and lobbying organisations that have been so effective in setting the Bush agenda on climate change.

    Many of the people who appeared on the programme were captioned to institutions and universities that they left years ago in order to pursue their political campaigning work: Fred Singer, Patrick Michaels, Philip Stott and Tim Ball are among them. Richard Lindzen is a practising scientist, but a highly politicised and criticised one. All of them have close associations with the Washington public relations and lobby groups that front for the fossil fuel companies and the libertarian right (whose ideology is often strangely indistinguishable from the Revolutionary Communists. Strange things happen at the political extremes).

    Is it any surprise then, that these “scientists” were so persuasive. Most of the people on the programme are professional communicators who are more familiar with the chat show than the lab. Of course they give good interviews – it is what they do for a living.

    And let us not forget that they are effective because they have a very willing audience. We would all like to believe them. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to believe that the science is unsettled, that all that carbon dioxide that we are pumping into the atmosphere really has no effect, and that we do not have to worry about the future.

    I believe it is crucial that Wunsch, other distorted contributors and the scientific community as a whole puts in a formal complaint to the Channel Four and the Independent Television Commission. Please don’t leave it to the NGOs to stand up for your science.

    This is an except from a longer analysis of the track record and associations of the contributors to this programme on Please visit the site and contribute to the growing discussion.

  15. 15
    BarbieDoll Moment says:

    RE: 13

    …”The debates that go on in the comments to the RC threads have no bearing whatsoever on the scientific issues of AGW and what can be done about it, except that some of us come away with a better understanding of the issues.”…

    Scientific issues are not even the issue. Real people have significantly more power than any scientists due to their ability to capture the attention of the congressmen/women who can indeed, change or enact legislation that WOULD effect a change.

    Whether it be climate change, pharm, or online predators, the people with the power are you and I.

    And ultimately, at the end of the day, ones view on the matter of climate change, hinges on how they feel the possible outcomes
    could or could not be, and weighing the costs of doing something against nothing against the reflection of various possible scenarios of the outcome of who is right or wrong on the matter climate change and responsibility for it.

    Statistical Analysis Debunks Climate Change Naysayers
    [Thompson Rivers University] Newswise, (08 Mar 2007)
    …” ‘A Type I error implies that you have accepted that global warming is caused by humans when in fact it is not, while a Type II error implies the opposite,’ he says”…It is obvious that a type II error, being unaware that global warming is caused by humans and maintaining our current living styles, is much more serious than a type I error which argues that humans are the cause when they are not, in terms of the costs,” he says.”…”The cost of changing behaviour and taking action now is estimated at one percent of global GDP and this can be seen as an investment from a long-term perspective: investing in cleaner technologies and also putting a price tag on the use of our atmosphere. If we delay as we would do if we accepted that climate change is not human-caused when this conclusion was false, we would be faced with a huge cost,” warns Tsigaris.”

  16. 16
    s.ball says:

    Carl Wunsch should sue them for frauding him and the public. Frauding- missleading the public should be considered a big crime!

  17. 17
    John A says:

    Temperature leads CO2 by 800 years in the ice cores. Not quite as true as they said, but basically correct; however they misinterpret it. The way they said this you would have thought that T and CO2 are anti-correlated; but if you overlay the full 400/800 kyr of ice core record, you can’t even see the lag because its so small. The correct interpretation of this is well known: that there is a T-CO2 feedback: see RC again for more.

    Where is the misinterpretation? If T rise precedes CO2 rise by eight centuries then CO2 cannot be forcing T rise.

    Unless of course you’re claiming that positive feedback implies going backwards in time, in which case all bets are off.

    Carbon dioxide rise appears to be a delayed response to temperature rise. The fact that the current T rise is happening during a CO2 rise implies nothing at all, because its almost certainly a spurious correlation that does not imply causation.

    Also in the ice core record, carbon dioxide continues to rise AFTER temperatures begins to fall, so no feedback is event there either.

    [Response: Try and get your head around the idea that two different things can be happening at the same time. One, the ocean and terrestrial carbon cycle is affected by climate. Two, the amount of CO2 in the air affects the greenhouse properties of the atmosphere. Part I is obvious from the paleo-record, Part II is measured in lab experiments and in observations. Together they do a pretty good job at explaining how cold it gets during the ice ages – which are paced by Milankovitch forcings. Without the radiative effect of the GHG changes, the ice ages would not have been so icy. There, that wasn’t so difficult, was it? – gavin]

  18. 18
    Ray Lopez says:

    Let’s see…according to you, the program was basically correct, just subject to different interpretations caused by backwards-looking GCMs. Thanks for your opinion. Move on now, nothing here…


    CO2 doesn’t match the temperature record over the 20th C. True but not relevant, because it isn’t supposed to.

    The troposphere should warm faster than the sfc, say the models and basic theory. As indeed it does – unless you’re wedded to the multiply-corrected Spencer+Christy version of the MSU series.

    Temperature leads CO2 by 800 years in the ice cores. Not quite as true as they said, but basically correct;

    [Response: I think you might be getting it after all. The errors made are usually in what observable facts imply, only occasionally are the ‘facts’ in error too. You are supposed to think that the radiative impact of CO2 somehow means that nothing else affects climate, or a long term trend implies that there no short term fluctuations are possible, or that a very slow connection between climate and CO2 implies that there is no connection the other way around. Logical fallacies all. Surely they can do better than that? -gavin]

  19. 19
    Reasic says:

    Thanks for these answers, guys. This post, especially when combined with the ones that you’ve linked at the bottom have been very helpful in answering questions I’ve received. It sure beats researching each specific claim.

  20. 20
    Chris says:

    I guess it’s possible to imagine, being charitable to the C4 executives, that they thought commissioning this may foster debate. It’s a misconception – dissemination of information fosters debate; dissemination of misinformation only fosters confusion.

    It seems that there’s a great opportunity for a budding internet broadcaster here! Edit out the key points from the documentary and then add in the scientific rebuttles outlined above. There’s even scope to approach Wunsch to add some material and maybe anyone else who was swindled into appearing. To do it properly, put in some of the genuine big names in climate change, and add a 5 minute piece at the end on political involvement in scientific broadcasting ala comment #14 above.

    Then the ball is in Channel 4’s court – would they have the guts to broadcast something like that? Maybe back to back with Al Gore’s film for a night on climate change?! Or if they’re scared of the baton, how about the BBC? And if not, there’s always youtube and free Internet broadcasting…

  21. 21
    Mike says:

    re #5
    Good old Pete Best – beat me to the punch again. On another associated media matter is BBC’s “Have Your Say” website. Their “Most Recommended” comments list on GW is an eye opener for me and makes me realise just what a mountain you chaps’ll have to climb to get your message across.

    Keep up the good work


  22. 22
    Paul D says:

    In the UK, TV has to follow certain guidelines, one is:

    “Due Impartiality and Due Accuracy and Undue Prominence of Views and Opinions”

    Rules include:
    “5.7 Views and facts must not be misrepresented. Views must also be presented with due weight over appropriate timeframes.”

    Because the show was advertised as being ‘partial’ to start with, it was probably legitimate. In other words, viewers were given fair warning of the content. However 5.7 could have been broken??

    If anyone in the UK is interested in complaining about the show then Ofcom has a complaints prodedure. The full set of rules are also available on the site.


  23. 23

    Re #7 and #9: Talking about “trivial arithmetic errors” please remember the embarassing 02Feb07 edition of IPCC’s SPM. Even good (and many!) scientists are not immune to errant calculations!

  24. 24
    Fernando Magyar says:

    Re #13

    While I don’t think I disagree with your overall point, I am somewhat amused whenever I read or hear someone say something like this:

    “Scientific issues are not even the issue. *Real* people have significantly more power than any *scientists* due to their ability to capture the attention of the congressmen/women who can indeed, change or enact legislation that WOULD effect a change.”

    I also understand why the *real scientists* of RealClimate try to keep political discussion out of this blog as much as possible and attempt to keep the focus on the science of global warming.

    They just want us all to keep it *Real*! :-)

  25. 25

    [[They also stated that volcanic emissions of CO2 far exceeded those from human activity. This is untrue. Annual emissions from volcanoes are only 1% of the amount emitted to the atmosphere by humans.]]

    Even better — according to the USGS, humans emit 150 times more CO2 than all the volcanoes in the world.

  26. 26
    tamino says:

    The blogosphere hoopla over “the swindle” was less than I expected. I haven’t seen it (didn’t get it in my area), but from what I’ve heard, it wasn’t even very good as propaganda goes. Also, a number of sites have done a good job debunking it.

    Someone commented that RealClimate isn’t really well-tuned to the skeptical lay reader. Perhaps that’s true, but I think RC fills a more useful role by helping to educate those of us who are scientists, or very science-savvy lay readers, but not climate scientists, giving us a pretty solid non-researcher’s foundation in climate science. This enables lots of us to carry the message forward much more effectively.

    RC is not just a source for reliable, detailed climate science. It’s also helping to create an army of advocates who advance the cause with considerably more rigor and correctness. This not only helps us refute the oft-ridiculous claims of close-minded skeptics, it also makes for a stark and illuminative contrast between those who actually work at learning about the issue, and those who just “spout off” without getting their facts, or their reasoning, anywhere near correct.

    So RC, keep up the good work, and don’t change your approach. You’re not just setting the record straight, you’re helping the “disciples” fight the good fight, with truth and reason. Rabbet, Reasic, Lynn V., myself, and others, all rely on you — and we’re carrying the banner forward.

  27. 27
    Nathan Rive says:

    Is anyone going to make a formal complaint to Ofcom? I had a look at the regulations before the show was aired, and I couldn’t see anything that they broke. As long as you aren’t claiming that you are presenting the news, there is no requirement for impartiality, I think.

    Thoughts? I’m a UK resident, and would be happy to partake/help out in a complaint – if there was any grounds for it.

  28. 28
    J McKeown says:

    Critique by Sir John Houghton
    of Channel 4 “Great Global Warming Swindle”

  29. 29
    P. Lewis says:

    Re #23, Francis Massen

    Yes. The very thought occurred to me as I penned my comment, but …

    The difference, surely, is between peer-reviewed published material (IIRC in both instances) and a policymakers’ document that was undergoing constant revision up until the moment it was published.

    The difference is that the SPM errors were acknowledged and rectified immediately, and were no more that drafting errors resulting from a decision to change to consistent units (presumably from disparate sources with regard to the now Table 1), whereas I don’t think the errors “elsewhere” have been acknowledged as errors and corrected in print/retracted (Or have they? Someone tell, please, so that I don’t labour under a false premise.) and they lead to false results that naysayers still seem to raise/use as fact in contrarian arguments.

    No contest, no comparison, I think. Errors are a fact of life: confess/retract/amend and move on; don’t retreat and hope people forget and then use your results as scientific fact.

  30. 30
    Geoff Wexler says:

    Question to experts please.

    Items which were new to me.

    1. The graph comparing “Sun” with Arctic-wide Surface Air temperature Anomalies over last century.
    They actually referred to a paper! I managed to find the source i.e.
    Willie W-H. Soon ,2005 Geophys Res.Lett.Vol. 32,L16712

    Now Realclimate have criticised earlier work by him but not referred to this one (as far as I know). The icon in TAR from e.g. the Hadley centre shows that you can only account for the GLOBAL temp. over a similar period without BOTH solar and CO2 (and aerosols). So these two pieces of work appear to disagree.

    Unlike that work, this is not based on a model but on a correlation. I have not had time to read the paper yet but that probably means that they just multiply the solar energy by a scaling factor and plot it on the same graph as T. Unlike the other comparison, both curves include the last thirty years warming. The Sun curve is a bit too flat over the recent period but it does not look too bad. The temperature is not of course the global value but it seems to have similar trends. I wonder what the experts think? It is not only CO2 which Soon appears to omit but also the aerosols during the global cooling phase after 1940.

    Has there been any fiddling here? There is more to the paper than this graph (but not much more to the TV programme, the rest of it was just recycled stuff).Some time ago I read a similar comparison by Solanki et al which still concluded that you needed to include CO2 to get a good fit. That was also done without a theory)

    2. In the case of the very long term changes it is believed that the orbital changes might act like a pacemaker with CO2 feedback acting as the amplifier. Is it possible that something similar might happen when you combine cosmic rays with CO2 ? (This question has nothing to do with Soon). That assumes that the correlations between solar and T are real.

    3. As I remember the direct solar effect would not cool the stratosphere which is an argument against solar being responsible for all the warming.
    What about the indirect effect (cosmic rays)? I have only a vague idea but here is a start:
    If short wave radiation is reflected from a low level cloud it might just
    be aborbed on its way out by the stratosphere ; this could warm the stratosphere or if the effect is too small it would produce zero effect. hence less low level clouds=> more warming and zero or slight cooling of stratosphere. On the other hand some clouds produce a greenhouse effect and reducing those would reduce the stratospheric cooling. This ramble suggests that this is not the right discriminator. Is it possible that there is another signature which could discriminate between cosmic rays (clouds) and CO2?

    4. Another Lindzen crit. of climate models. He said (in the program) that extremes of weather were caused by the difference in T between the poles and the equator. This difference is projected to fall so you would expect that this would reduce the incidence of extreme weather events. Am I right in think that this appears reasonable but that it would have to be combined with the opposite effect produced by shifting a normal distribution sideways which increases the frequency of what were previously rare events? This leads to the next question : Is it possible that Lindzen’s effect is actually there in the output of the models? (this would turn the topic into a straw man).

    5. My main conclusion from the film is that there is a need for something to replace/add to Al Gore’s film. Something between Realclimate (a bit too technical) and Gore (too little physics and too open to questions about lags). In a popular account it does not matter if SOME of it is a bit too advanced for some people. Being too simple makes it easier to misrepresent. Channel 4 can always claim that they have carried other programmes puting the consensus view. The trouble is that they have not been nearly as good as some of the material on the web. The right level used to be that of the early Horizon (BBC2). Unfortunately the recent versions of Horizon emphasise entertainment rather than education.

  31. 31
    Hank Roberts says:

    So, who paid for that program? Advertiser-sponsored?

  32. 32
    Brian says:

    I’ve posted some more of the screenshots from the programme here.

    For the 800 year lag, it is interesting that they cite Caillon et al.. They must have missed the conclusion, which says:

    “Finally, the situation at Termination III differs from the recent anthropogenic CO2 increase. As recently noted by Kump (38), we should
    distinguish between internal influences (such as the deglacial CO2 increase) and external influences on the climate system. Although the recent CO2 increase has clearly been imposed first, as a result of anthropogenic activities, it naturally takes, at Termination III, some time for CO2 to outgas from the ocean once it starts to react to a climate change that is first felt in the atmosphere. The sequence of events during this Termination is fully consistent with CO2 participating in the latter ~4200 years of the warming. The radiative forcing due to CO2 may serve as an amplifier of initial orbital forcing, which is then further amplified by fast atmospheric feedbacks (39) that are also at work for the present-day and future climate.”

    By the way, what is your take on this?

  33. 33
    Phil says:

    has anyone ID’d the data set presented in the graph (capture.jpg). To me it pretty clearly disagrees with the series I usually see, and if it could be identified as being incorrect then that would be a basis for a formal complaint.

  34. 34
    P. Lewis says:

    Since swindle means to practise fraud; deceive or cheat for purposes of gain; a specious or false representation; a pretence

    I think all you non-fraudsters, non-deceivers and non-cheats out there in the climate community have a bona fide case against defamation by the programme maker and the broadcaster.

  35. 35
    Iain says:

    Regarding BBC HYS debates, I’m of the opinion that they get ‘hit’, not just on climate change.

    Channel 4 is supposed, as part of it’s charter, to produce minority interest and controversial programmes. Of course if the programme contained substantial falsehoods and misrepresentations a concerted effort by bloggers and others might force a response from Channel 4. Widespread dissemination of Sir John Houghton’s response would be a good start.

    On a related note – anyone hear BBC Fivelive’s Up All Night last night? They had a guest on, whose name I missed, who went through a real script of contrarian memes. Never heard anyone say ‘there is no science behind it’ so many times.

  36. 36
    Daniel C. Goodwin says:

    I have only one quibble with this article: the overly-polite usage of the word “skeptic” to describe doctrinaire denialists, as in the oxymoronic phrase “skeptic talking points.” A true skeptic would question this absurd script they have to parrot, though this performance presents no difficulty to mercenary denialists. Call ’em what they are, and God bless ya.

  37. 37
    Dave Rado says:


    “Of course if the programme contained substantial falsehoods and misrepresentations a concerted effort by bloggers and others might force a response from Channel 4. Widespread dissemination of Sir John Houghton’s response would be a good start.”

    I would encourage those who are concerned about falsehoods and misrepresentation to write to Ofcom:, with special reference to Section 265 of the 2003 Communications act at–i.htm#265, and sections 5 and 7 of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code at

    Also see the update re. filling in of data at :-)

  38. 38
    Dave Rado says:

    Carl Wunsch has emailed me again; some of the email is confidential but I am allowed to pass on the following statement from him:

    Fundamentally, I am the one who was swindled. I was approached, as [it was] explained to me, because I was known to have been unhappy with some of the more excitable climate-change stories in the British media, most conspicuously the notion that the Gulf Stream could disappear, among others. When a journalist approaches me suggesting a “critical approach” to a technical subject, my inference is that we are to discuss which elements are contentious, why they are contentious, and what the arguments are on all sides. To a scientist, “critical” does not mean a hatchet job—it means a thorough-going examination of the science. The scientific subjects are complicated, worthy of exploration, debate, and an educational effort with the public. Hence my willingness to participate. Had the words “polemic”, or “swindle” appeared in these preliminary discussions, I would have instantly declined to be involved.

  39. 39
    Dave Pert says:

    It was a documentary expressing an opinion about the weather, not a speech denying the holocaust. It’s worth keeping that in perspective. As a member of the great unwashed, I found it quite interesting. The graph of solar activity certainly seemed a better fit to the temperature graph than the co2 graph was. And people ARE making a lot of money out of the current media “crisis”. The documentary contained a much more rational argument than any I’ve seen in the UK media, or heard from the UK government. People here in Scotland are getting rich by selling the “carbon rights” to trees which are currently 2 inches tall.These are bought by oil companies to justify air travel.
    Humanity needs to clean up it’s environmental act. But that should be done for it’s own sake, not because we’re being terrorized into it. It seems very convenient that the west gets to cripple the developing world in the process.
    I don’t know, I’ve got an open mind. Can anyone else here say that?

  40. 40

    Are any of you scientists here able to join the Step it Up campaign to make the Fossil Fools in the Senate pass effective Climate Change Legislation? Barbara Boxer has developed legislation that per the UCS is effective:

  41. 41
    Dave Rado says:

    Hi Dave

    If you have an open mind, as you say, I trust that means you want to see the strictly scientific evidence, and not anyone’s spin; so I would strongly recommend you start by reading the following peer reviewed scientific paper about that graph:

    .. and then read the following scientific evidence-based article and the links from it:


  42. 42
    Dick Veldkamp says:

    Re #39 Keep an open mind about AGW?


    Certainly it’s a good thing to keep an open mind if a question is still open. But the fact is that there’s lots of interconnected evidence that global warming is occurring, and that present warming is caused by rising CO2 levels because of anthropogenic emissions. (For a summary of that evidence, there’s for example IPCC’s AR4, or Al Gore’s movie.)

    Then there’s a thing that seems to be overlooked by proponents of alternative explanations (e.g. the cosmic ray hypothesis). If I want to make an alternative explanation stick, not only do I have to make the case for that alternative, but also explain why the perfectly sound physics of the CO2-warming theory would NOT work in this particular case.

    There comes a time when the evidence is so overwhelming that “keeping an open mind” just becomes silly. I am not open minded about the Earth being flat, about people having built the perpetuum mobile, or about the concensus view of AGW.

    The jury has reached a verdict, Your Honour.

  43. 43
    shindig says:

    I was alerted to this programme when I saw it advertised on the front page of the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s site a couple of weeks back. The CEI coordinates the US’s “Cooler Heads Coalition” and has received around $2 million from Exxon 1998-2005.

    I hear also that Channel 4 wants there to be a huge controversy about the doco. That there’s not much attention being paid to it apart from some excellent blogs ripping apart the science, like RealClimate, is therefore a good thing. We’ve heard all the arguments endlessly, always aired by the same people: Singer, Lindzen, Michaels, Christy, Ball… blah blah.

    That Carl Wunsch was misled was bad – possibly does form the basis of a complaint. I know of several other NGO’s and scientists who were also interviewed – but not included. They all debunked the rubbish run by Durkin.

  44. 44
    Geoff Wexler says:

    Dave (Re: 1st.and last sentences of comment number 39).

    Your term holocaust may appear far fetched especially if you live in the Northern part of the World, but imagine a future international court.
    Witness for the prosecution: take a look at the projected rainfalls for North Africa for later in the 21st century, if the temperature were to rise (e.g. in the Summary report of the AR4). It was already rather hostile territory in 2007; then these projected rises showed a changed colour on a map which meant human casualties
    in the future. The report also attributed these changed colours to human produced CO2. But the map was ignored and the casualties occurred. What has the defence to say? Witness for the defence decides to play a recording of this TV program.

    As for the convenient crippling of the third world; this accusation is directed against enviromentalists rather than the scientists, but it is based on a straw man because (as far as I know) I have not heard of environmentalists who want to stop Africans increasing their tiny carbon footprint.

  45. 45
    fieldnorth says:

    Is it possible to test for variations in low cloud with solar spot activity? I understand satellites can’t accurately measure this, because of overlying clouds. Is there any other way?

  46. 46
    Steve Reynolds says:

    >The difference is that the SPM errors were acknowledged and rectified immediately…

    I was not aware that the IPCC ever acknowledged the errors. Is there a link where they did?

  47. 47
    Colin says:

    I have no idea where the truth lies in any of this, but I come down on the sceptic side, because I believe if there really was a problem, the government would, as an example, drop VAT to zero on all energy efficient goods, cars etc, to encourage the masses to buy items that are good for the environment. Simplistic i know, but if governments can wage war for no reason, then they have the power to do this.

    I do believe that conservation of the earths resources is a sensible and responsible thing to do.

    Could all you climate scientologist answer me a few questions?

    Why can’t all you people who really know get together and present a totally unbiased and impartial, scientific paper on what is really happening, declaring all sources of funding etc? Ideally the funding should be blind i.e all industrial companies and all green companies should contribute, but without knowing which groups of scientists they were contributing to and without “leaning on” you guys to get the answer they want.

    Why can’t the funding be completely without strings, i.e. “Here you are Mr. Scientist, here is a lot of money, go away and tell us the truth, no politics, just truth”?

    Is this too much to ask?

  48. 48
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Carl Wunsch’s predicament reminds me again of the divergence between the meanings of words in science and the common vernacular–and the near parity transormation between scientific and political jargon. We as scientists need to be aware that we don’t speak the same language as the general public. To this end, I would urge every scientist to read Helen Quinn’s excellent editorial in the January 2007 Physics Today: “Belief and knowledge – a plea about language”.

    Especially in scientific issues that affect public policy, we need to learn to present our results to the public in language they will understand.

  49. 49
    Regina says:

    RE Comment #47, “Simplistic i know, but if governments can wage war for no reason, then they have the power to do this.”

    Ever heard of capitalism? Corporations in America have more rights than human beings. Furthermore, corporations don’t have grandchildren and they don’t breath oxygen. No one can get elected to the government in America without millions of corporate dollars behind them.

    Learn more about capitalism here:

  50. 50
    Ed Sears says:

    re Colin 47
    First of all, they are ‘scientists’ not ‘scientologists’: see Wikipedia on the Church of Scientology.

    Second, the IPCC reports seem to meet your requirements: they are signed off by most governments in the world so the views expressed are accepted not only by progressive countries eg Sweden but also deeply-fossil-fuel reliant places such as Saudi Arabia, or big industrial nations such as the USA or China.