Is UK’s Channel 4 the latest ‘Fossil Fool’?

Even as climate change gathers momentum as a worldwide concern, more media organisations are ending up with egg on their face about their coverage of the issue.

Last month, I quoted British environmentalist George Monbiot about the BBC’s appalling track record on this: see ‘The BBC as a Fossil Fool’, 7 April 2007.

And now, UK’s Channel Four can make its own claims to be a Fossil Fool.

The Independent on 8 May 2007 reported that the makers of a Channel 4 documentary which claimed that global warming is a swindle have been accused of fabricating data by one of the scientists who participated in the film.

The Great Global Warming Swindle was broadcast on 8 March and has been criticised by leading scientists for errors, distortions and misrepresentations.

Image courtesy Channel 4

The article reads:

The film has also been referred to the UK regulatory watchdog OFCOM which is considering a complaint from 37 senior scientists that the programme breached the broadcasting code on the misrepresentation of views and facts.

Now even a climate sceptic whose dissenting views were used by the film-makers to bolster their claims about the “lies” and “swindles” of global warming has accused the documentary of promulgating falsehoods.

Eigil Friis-Christensen, director of the Danish National Space Centre, has issued a statement accusing the film-makers of fabricating data based on his work looking at the links between solar activity and global temperatures.

The scientists who have written to Ofcom include Sir John Houghton, the former chief executive of the Met Office, Lord May of Oxford, a former government chief scientist and past-president of the Royal Society, and Professor Chris Rapley, director of the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge. In a letter to Mr Durkin they call for changes to the programme before the DVD version is released, even though DVDs are not covered by the Ofcom Broadcasting Code.

“So serious and fundamental are the misrepresentations that the distribution of the DVD without their removal amounts to nothing more than an exercise in misleading the public,” they say.

Image courtesy the film's website

Commenting on the documentary on 13 March 2007, George Monbiot wrote in The Guardian:

The problem with The Great Global Warming Swindle…is that to make its case it relies not on future visionaries, but on people whose findings have already been proved wrong. The implications could not be graver. Just as the government launches its climate change bill and Gordon Brown and David Cameron start jostling to establish their green credentials, thousands have been misled into believing there is no problem to address.

The film’s main contention is that the current increase in global temperatures is caused not by rising greenhouse gases, but by changes in the activity of the sun. It is built around the discovery in 1991 by the Danish atmospheric physicist Dr Eigil Friis-Christensen that recent temperature variations on Earth are in “strikingly good agreement” with the length of the cycle of sunspots. Unfortunately, he found nothing of the kind.

Read full commentary by George Monbiot in The Guardian 13 March 2007

Read the full article by Steve Connor in The Independent online on 8 May 2007

The Great Global Warming Swindle website

Profile of film’s director, Martin Durkin