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PBS Frontline: Climate of Doubt

PBS, a major U.S. Public TV station, has aired this 54-minute documentary, The Climate of Doubt:



See also additional PBS material on the program.

The program – starting with some video sequences from the latest Heartland Climate Skeptics Conference in Chicago – was largely criticized by Joe Bast of Heartland, Tom Harris of Canada, and some pre-program comments were mentioned by Chris Horner and The Heartland Institute. Gavin Schmidt posted the video on Real Climate, mostly to boast that he has appeared for a few seconds, too.

I think that a viewer will have no doubts that the creators of the program are hostile towards the skeptics – due to the constant usage of offensive words such as "contrarians" and due to the hostile faces of the host (especially John Hockenberry), among a few other reasons. On the other hand, I think that this program has done a relatively fair and open job when it comes to the revelation of the information for the viewers, especially the information about the changes of the debate in recent years.


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It seems to me that most of the viewers understood that the climate skeptics are damn reasonable, educated, and kind of nice people. There are many of them – the number of "visible" climate skeptics among scientists isn't really lower than the number of "visible" climate alarmists.

While the program tried to claim otherwise, I guess that an intelligent viewer will understand that using a World War II analogy, the climate change controversy is like the war and the alarmists resemble the Axis powers while the skeptics are like the Allied forces. The Axis powers may be more tightly packed, they may demand a stricter discipline from themselves and from everyone else, and they may be spending more time by spreading the idea that their ultimate victory is inevitable. But even from their programs, an intelligent viewer must understand that the Allied forces are at least comparably powerful, they may be right, they seem to offer observations and arguments that are almost certainly right even now, they may already be winning battles, and they may soon celebrate the final victory in the war.

The idea that the Axis powers have some unbreakable superiority is a meme that just the most intellectually limited viewers may be eager to buy – at least I hope so – and I am kind of not afraid of it. I don't think it's too important what the people who can easily be brainwashed by a transparent propaganda think. What matters are the skeptical people who began to be somewhat interested in the issue, who understand other things, and who won't be fooled easily. And I am confident that this PBS program only helped those people to fall in love with the climate skeptics.

But the hostile tone towards climate skepticism notwithstanding, the program acknowledged that the bulk of America went pretty much skeptical in recent years. Surprisingly, it also acknowledged that Al Gore is a divisive asshole who helped the skeptics to strengthen even more. The viewers could hear some short "excerpts" from the skeptics who speak about the actual science – although the scientific "technicality" were not the main focus of the documentary.

At some points, both alarmists and skeptics are saying things. And such segments often reminded me of the first Obama-Romney debate. For example, around 10:30, you may compare John Kerry and Myron Ebell. Kerry is subdued and seems to have developed bad conscience. He seems to admit a sequence of recent defeats and the non-existence of the actual consensus. Ebell speaks confidently, as a person whose words have already been pretty much established.

So I believe that this program, a mixture of an apparently prejudiced tone against the climate skeptics and some facts about the skeptics' victories, their decency, education, arguments, upward trend of their influence, and their rather large number as well as the subtle hints about the alarmists' dishonesty that may be seen in the program, despite the clear attempt to create a pro-alarmist program, will help America to become one additional little bit more skeptical again.

I would grade this program on the recent years in the climate debate: B. The biased language and the narrator's apparent bias penetrating the program is my only complaint.

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reader Ehab said...

Speaking of climate change, Noam Chmosky gave a political lecture a few days ago in Egypt. In his lecture, he mentioned that according to data 100 million people will die because of climate change. Are these data true? In all cases, here is the video of the lecture sent my a friend of mine, very worth watching. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C2P6HSRLZgQ


reader Luboš Motl said...

No, this data is definitely false. It's complete nonsense.


reader MimiReed1234 said...

I disproved climate change in approximately half an hour of thinking and some simple computations. I will grant that if CO2 concentrations rise by a give amount, there will be more energy per square meter of the Earth's surface. And I will accept their calculations as correct.

After this, it falls apart. You may not have noticed, but one basic assumption behind climate modeling is that the Earth will radiates a constant amount of heat. But the Earth should be idealized as a black body--radiation is enormously dependent on temperature! If not, then the wood stove in my living room should produce the same heat whether or not I have a fire in it! That was my first read flag that the insolation that they calculate probably does not correspond to the warming they predict.



So I did my own calculation, using the entire world's annual energy use and figuring out how much energy in the form of heat that released into the environment. Then I realized that the additional heat dumped into the environment by actual combustion and electrical usage and production is many times higher than the highest possible level of heat you can obtain from adding CO2! If global warming theory's insolation-to-temperature-rise calculations are correct, we should have already seen something like a 4-8C rise in temperatures from our energy usage alone!


This, of course, is idiocy. There has been no such thing. To the Earth as a system, heat is heat. It doesn't discriminate between heat caused by decomposition, by sunlight, or by combustion. No temperature rise corresponding to their theory for combustion? Then no temperature rise possible due to CO2.


reader MimiReed1234 said...

I would also mention that it is wise to be skeptical of any scientific claims that seem to immediately birth a political agenda. Almost all of these movements were, over time, proven to be corrupt, if not simply evil. Real science rarely creates a neat political package.


reader Smoking Frog said...

MimiReed1234 - If you "accept their calculations as correct," you're accepting something like a present-day 2.4 watts/m^2 from radiative forcing due to GHGs. In artificial energy consumption, the world runs at about 15 terawatts on average, and not all of that immediately goes to heat. The land area of the earth (neglecting the ocean) is about 150 trillion m^2, so we're talking about 1/10 watt/m^2 due to artificial energy consumption, but that's too large because we're neglecting the ocean and because not all of it immediately goes to heat (and I don't know how to figure for that). Therefore, at the very most, heating due to artificial energy consumption is less than 5 percent of the radiative forcing that you accept.

God forgive me for posting anything technical on this blog, but I couldn't resist. :-)


reader papertiger0 said...

at least we are spared the tedious spectacle of Republican Presidential candidates lining up to "kiss the ring" so to speak, to prove their fealty to the Democrat's Trojan Horse.


reader papertiger0 said...

Aw. Wrong thread. Sorry.


reader MimiReed1234 said...

The energy used on the Earth by humans is 142.300 terawatt hours per year. This yields 27898 Wh/(m2·y), using the whole of the earth's surface.

Currently, there is supposed to be 1.6 watts per meter squared from * ****anthropogenic radiative forcing. The conversion factor to kWh/(m2·y) is 8.765813, so that is 14025 Wh/(m2·y). This is only partly from CO2 and also from other compounds in the atmosphere and other human-induced conditions.


BTW, I did this calculation several years ago, so you are right that it is not SEVERAL times greater, but it is still substantially greater than the MAXIMUM possible forcing that can be caused by CO2.

The vast majority of our energy of it DOES, eventually, end up as heat, either through inefficiency or through friction. The radiative-forcing-to-temperature-increase is badly, badly broken because we would have had to have seen something between twice and three times the amount predicted, when we haven't really seen any global warming at ALL over the past 10 years...oh, yes, at least, not until the data was "corrected."

This doesn't mean there cannot be any anthropogenic global warming. It just means that the temperature model is wrong. There is good reason to believe that we should be scared pantsless about OTHER chemicals becoming abundant in our atmosphere, specifically those with abilities many, many times that of CO2 to cause radiative forcing. But the idea that CO2 will have any appreciable impact on future temperature--pppffffttthh. We are near that top of the logarithmic curve. There just isn't enough radiative forcing potential left in CO2.


Give up demonizing CO2, or no one will believe pro-warmers about any other of the way, way, WAY more dangerous chemicals that we are releasing into the atmosphere, though for the moment, at relatively low quantities.


reader Smoking Frog said...

The energy used on the Earth by humans is 142.300 terawatt hours per year. This yields 27898 Wh/(m2·y), using the whole of the earth's surface.

You must mean 142,300. At least that's in the right ballpark, so I'll accept it. Well, that's 142,300E12 watts, and the surface area is 510E12 square meters, so we have each square meter "receiving" 279 watt-hours per year, not 27898.


reader Robert Austin said...

Gnome Chimpsky says so, must be true. Ehab, do some critical thinking before guzzling the Kool-aid.