“The ice is melting. The sea is rising. Hurricanes are blowing. And it’s all your fault. Scared? Don’t be. It’s not true.”
You didn’t need to see Channel 4’s hatchet job on climate change to have an opinion on it. (David Miliband: “I didn’t see the programme, but I promise you I will do a blog demolishing its arguments.”) I hadn’t when I wrote my first review. But I have now…
First off, wasn’t it great? Fab music. Lovely graphs. Ravishing graphics. And the plot! Pacey. Strong messages (“you are being told lies”). A surprise villain (Margaret Thatcher, of all people, bribing the scientific community). And a plethora of victims (brave critics “censored and intimidated”, with a couple of billion of the poor tacked on for added emotional impact).
Above all the programme had a powerful story line. Politicians on the take… A media story that metastasized… An anti-growth, anti-car, anti-American gang of leftists trying to wrench us back to the stone age… Scientists as mere collaborators, ready to do any deed to protect precious research grants…
Of course, there was an advantage to sitting back and admiring the masterly presentation. It was much easier to see the the polemical tricks. Establishment science wasn’t flawed, it was utterly without foundation. Counter-arguments for why the world is getting warmer were incredibly easy to understand. The sun! (Cue shots of the sun looking very hot indeed.) Every talking head seemed to have won a prize from NASA (although NASA presumably is in on the global warming plot).
The drama has naturally continued beyond the screening. One of the talking heads has complained of being conned by the programme makers. A graph from the programme appears to have been distorted. And the producer – said by some to be a revolutionary communist – has described critics as “big daft cocks” and invited them to procreate with themselves.
Indeed, the programme seemed to hint at its duplicity in a cheeky post-modern way. We shouldn’t trust Al Gore because his arguments were ’emotional’. We were warned repeatedly against intolerance of dissent – in a programme that had not a single countervailing view. Even the title had a delicious double meaning.
But I’m most interested in the reaction from the global warming establishment. Because it seems to have been genuinely rattled. The programme was right to suggest that the theory of global warming has had oodles of sympathetic coverage. Why then should we worry about an hour and a half of counter-argument, when thousands of hours of broadcast have been dedicated to the mainstream story?
And are we really frightened of little old Nigel Calder, editor of the New Scientist about a thousand years ago, when his old magazine devotes about half of every issue to the latest proof of why climate is going to wipe us all from the face of the earth?
I suspect it’s because we are worried that David really will slay Goliath. We know that the programme speaks to people – or at least some people – on a very deep level. And we don’t like it. Don’t understand it. And don’t want to think about what it means.