Analysis of the documentary "The Great Global Warming Swindle".

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Document Analysis: The Great Global Warming Swindle

PO1006 with Professor Oleg Kobtzeff

Anya Verkamp

The Great Global Warming Swindle is a documentary produced in 2007 which argues the nonexistence of anthropogenic climate change. It seeks to poke holes in scientific evidence for climate change while illustrating the political and ideological motivations that fuel the myth of its existence. In the wake of the convincing nature of the recently released An Inconvenient Truth it provoked diverse reactions as being a strong alternative argument. Much critique of the soundness of its scientific claims has arisen since its release, as has backlash from people interviewed for the film.

The film was made by British television producer Martin Durkin for Channel 4 Television Corporation. Durkin has produced several anti-environmental documentaries in the past for Channel 4 including Against Nature and The Rise and Fall of GM, both with anti-environmental themes. After the release of both films interviewees came out complaining that they had been misinformed on the approach of the documentaries and that their statements had been taken out of context by only showing snippets of their full interviews. There were some 151 complaints filed about Against Nature with 4 of these upheld, and Channel 4 was ordered to issue an apology for taking the interviewees statements out of context and not informing them of the nature of the program they would be featured in (Programme Complaints & Interventions Report). A geneticist featured in The Rise and Fall of GM later said, “I feel completely betrayed and misled. They did not tell me it was going to be an attack on my position.” (Monbiot)

The style of the documentary can be compelling, but is also worthy of criticism. The use of clips with a variety of scientists and opinionated intellectuals aids to build the argument by relying on varied sources. The use of corny childish animations when explaining scientific processes can be called helpful or annoying. The sound snippets from interviews are laid over clips of people sunning on the beach, as if to suggest that warming really wouldn’t be so bad. Throughout the documentary there is a lingering narrative voice, of whom we really don’t know, but it does much of the explanation which the interviewees back up with one-liners. The line of argument is rather poorly organized, jumping from scientific to political critique, and back and forth in a nature that’s seems purposefully confusing.

After an initial introduction the film’s first argument is for the natural variation of climate. It claims that the medieval warming period and little ice age are signs of a climate that has always shifted, and not necessarily with any correlation to CO2 emissions. Economic development and industrialization are said to cause a rise in CO2 emissions, but periods over the past 100 years of the strongest development haven’t correlated with periods of temperature rise. If greenhouse gases are causing the rising temperatures then the greatest increase in temperature should be occurring in the atmosphere rather than at the earth’s surface where it’s actually occurring. It’s claimed that the warming is currently not greater towards the polls than towards the equator. Al Gore’s misrepresentation of the Vostok data is pointed out. It’s also noted that CO2 is abundant, found in all living things, and is produced in greater quantity by nature than by anthropogenic sources.

It is argued that the rises in temperature are more closely correlated to solar activity. Piers Corbyn is featured as a climatologist who previously gained fame by predicting the weather using solar activity. In 1991 scientists of the Danish Meteorological Institute found a strong correlation between solar activity and temperature rise. It’s explained that when there are sun spots, the sun blocks subatomic particles which form clouds. The resulting lack of cloud cover leads to higher temperatures. A correlation was also found when Nir Shaviv compared his own record of cloud-forming cosmic rays with the temperature record created by geologist Professor Jan Veizer, going back 600 million years. When cosmic rays increased, temperature decreased and vice versa. We are then shown a graph depicting rise and temperature and rise in solar activity as measured by NASA and American's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The two seem to fit much more closely than CO2 levels do.

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The next part of the argument shows what political motivations are behind the ‘myth’ that climate change is driven by anthropogenic CO2 emissions. It’s implied that it began with Margaret Thatcher’s desire to phase out fossil fuels and promote nuclear power. It’s suggested she paid the Royal Society to find anthropogenic sources of climate change, and the IPCC was thus set up in the UK Met Office. Climate change then supposedly became the best funded area of science. It was picked up by environmental activists who saw it as an argument against industrialism and corporate bullies. They romanticized the primitive ...

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