A Channel 4 documentary to be broadcast in the UK this Thursday evening and entitled The Great Global Warming Swindle argues that global warming is real, but that it is caused by entirely natural cyclicity in solar insolation.
Predictably this sensationalist claim has already been seized upon by the media. It will doubtless be interpreted by many as proof of the hoary old chestnut that ‘the scientists are divided’ on global warming. Those same people will find easy and equally inaccurate confirmation that there is no need to muzzle their gas-guzzling SUVs or to take the slightest care of our energy resources.
Debate on such an important subject is surely healthy, but I wonder if this programme is really constructive since it appears to be built around little more than blithely damaging misrepresentations of scientific opinion (and fact).
It seems irresponsible that Channel 4 is determined to give peak airtime to this unfounded viewpoint when the arguments to be presented can be dismissed by any qualified scientist (or indeed the average A-level science student) within five minutes and with the aid of a couple of simple graphs.
Natural variation in global insolation does affect climate on a long-term and cyclical basis, and such changes may have been partly responsible for the cooling trend seen in the middle of the 20th Century. But of course this effect is merely superimposed upon (and is now more or less completely swamped by) the enormously larger anthropogenic effect on our climate of increased atmospheric CO2.
The blunt fact is that the sheer scale and rapidity of the global warming we are now experiencing is unparalleled in the history of this planet, and that global insolation is not the cause.
Sadly, many of our influential policy-makers and a majority of our journalists have a very limited background in or understanding of basic science, so that they are vulnerable to such misinformation presented from an apparently trustworthy source. As indeed is the wider public.
I’m not sure of the best way of addressing this – whether through letters or articles in the national press, or by writing to government or to Channel 4. But I’d be interested in any ideas about how to respond most effectively in this case.
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