Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The great RCP swindle

UPDATE: Brendan O’Neill, has criticised this post in Spiked, I reply to him here.

UPDATE - to complain AFTER the programme has been transmitted, you should send the complaints to OFCOM here. Please do complain, and please do publicise this link and ask others to complain.

I was going to write something about the film Channel 4 are showing on Thursday called “The Great Climate Warming Swindle”, because this is made by Martin Durkin, who was behind the critically and scientifically mauled series “Against Nature”, also shown on Channel 4. Not only is Durkin's point of view totally unrepresentative of any serious scientific opinion, but his previous programmes have been manipulative, and distorted the views of eminent scientists.

You can complain to Channel 4 by filling in this form, it is well worth doing so if they get a number of complaints then they will find it harder to commission future programmes from Durkin.

When I started to write I found that the topic had already been covered brilliantly over at the Irish blog, Cedar Lounge. So I will just quote from them!

In particular Cedar Lounge highlights the link with the secret British libertarian sect, the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP). The story has also been picked up by Green blogger, Paul Kingsnorth, who amusingly imagines what the Channel 4 commissioning meeting was like.

As Cedar Lounge reports:

“Martin Durkin has quite a track record in this kind of programme. George Monbiot writes about him here, pointing to his some of his previous output including a report on how silicone implants reduce the risk of breast cancer (initially proposed to the BBC’s Horizon but dropped when the commissioned researcher contradicted the claims, then shown by Channel 4), a series (again for Channel 4) called Against Nature, which essentially argued that environmentalists were proto-Nazis out to control the world (which misrepresented the views of many of those interviewed, for which Channel 4 was forced to apologise) and a programme (once again, Channel 4) on genetically-modified foodstuffs which one of the participants described as having “rendered great disservice to science generally and to the scientific debate on GM-food particularly“. For someone with no scientific background, one has to wonder how Martin Durkin keeps being commissioned for programmes like these. Or, as Private Eye wrote at the time “What does Channel 4 do with programme makers condemned by the TV watchdog,the Independent Television Commission (ITC), for using underhand editing techniques? The answer is, er, hire them to make another programme.”

“One intriguing element to the whole affair is the link to the Revolutionary Communist Party, also known as the Living Marxism group, also known as the Institute of Ideas, also known as Spiked Online, also known as Sense About Science. Phew! It’s hard to keep up, even for an ex-DL member, so for an introduction to the bizarre and murky world of this sect which went so far left it came out the other side, check out George Monbiot’s pieces and ‘The Revolution has been Televised‘ and ‘Invasion of the Entryists‘, as well as Nick Cohen’s ‘The rebels who changd their tune to be pundits‘. All of these pieces highlight the role played by RCP members and friends in Durkin’s films and, while it isn’t claimed that Durkin is a member of the RCP, an article on the group by What Next states that “The day after (a piece on Against Nature appeared in The Guardian), the paper reported Martin Durkin, the Against Nature producer, saying that the RCP had been dissolved a year previously. Not known as an RCP member or supporter, it’s not clear how he was privy to such information”.

“It’s hard to do justice to the sheer strangeness of the ideology behind this group in its various guises. Essentially, it presents an uber-libertarian view of the world, where everything suggestive of state intervention in private lives, or which might limit scientific exploration or experimentation to any degree is charged with being ‘politically-correct’ or totalitarian, part of a creeping statism which aims to control the actions of everyone on the planet. Whatever you’re for, these professional controversialists will be against it.”

The most worrying thing for me is how the now underground RCP have managed to insinuate themselves into the establishment scientific debates, promoting an entirely ideologically driven agenda overriding the scientific evidence, like modern day Lysenkoists. There is an expose of their methods on the GM watch site. They have even received funds from the ESPRC government research funding body, and RCP idealogist Frank Furedi, allegedly advertised for funding from supermarkets so that he could promote Genetically Modified products to their customers!

As I have argued before, there is a warning for the left here. We must of course accept that our current scientific understanding is incomplete and only an approximation to truth-likeness, but we must also have a philosophical acceptance that the actually existing physical world has its dynamic independent of our understanding of it. We must not impose our ideologiocal preferences onto what truth we will and will not accept. The RCP, as modern day Lysenkoists, are the worst culprits, however I have met comrades from many traditions who for example rule out a priori any evidence of genetic infleunce on human behaviour - whereas while socialists are correctly predisposed towards social explanations we can accept that both biological and social factors are at play - let's see what the evidence tells us.


WorldbyStorm said...

Couldn't agree more with your last paragraph. But that's the RCP, and now Spiked all over.

Anyhow, one gets the distinct impression they make a lot of it up as they go along, which is entertaining, but no way to run a railroad, or a political party or group...

Anonymous said...

Wow! It looks like the greenies are starting to panic. God bless Channel 4!

tudnogent said...

Whats wrong with questioning the consensus?What are you so scared of?
"We must not impose our ideological preferences onto what truth we will and will not accept." But thats exactly what you do!Trying to prevent an alternative viewpoint from getting any airtime.
Socialist Unity? Theres nothing socialist about you idiots unless its the " socialism of fools"

Anonymous said...

You can't take it when the 'Heretics' diss your new religion eh?. You are scum

AN said...

How bizarre. Well to my anonymous frinds and tudnogent. the issue here is not a willingness to debate, but Channel 4 presenting a programme made by a non-scientist which deibertaly misrepresents the argumnent by presenting opinions which are at the very finge as if they were mianstream.

I would be like making a programme about the "Great scherical earth swindle", and letting the flat earthers have equal time. yes it is a debate, bit noone seriously beleives that the Eeesth oios flat excelt eccentrics.

Frankly the body of opinion has so conclusively come down in favour of the idea that human agency is behind global warmoing that those who deny it are flat earthers, or more often oil indutsry spokespeople!

Anonymous said...

Does that mean that there will never be any other opinion about the causes of global warming, ever, for the whole of history from now on, because 'the body of opinion has so conclusively come down in favour etc'?

What about AN's earlier statement of a sort of intellectual principle (if that was what it was) that 'We must of course accept that our current scientific understanding is incomplete and only an approximation to truth-likeness'?

What exactly is AN arguing? That we now know everything that we can or need to know about global warming, or that we don't? Please explain AN.
JJ Charlesworth

AN said...

Ok JJ Charlesworth

Scientific theories are of course open to criticism and review, I deal with the question in more depth here:

But Durkin approaches this in a slack lazy and journalistic way, and does not actualy deal with this as a scientific debate

Anonymous said...

What on earth are you doing campaigning for a journalist to be silenced? If Durkin's views are wrong, you have ample opportunity to express the contrary point of view. In any case, several eminent climatologists told their stories, not Durkin's. In case it escaped you they did not present a heterogeneous view. Michaels and Balling are no advocates of solar forcing being predominant. Corbyn won't present his system to peer review (or at least last time I looked that was the case), much to the chagrin of the mainstream geophysical communite. Wunsch is a leading oceanographer at MIT, and is mainly sceptical of the value of present numerical models which assume that co2 forces climate change, rather than demonstrate that it does.

As science is epistemology, any claims can be examined on their merits, regardless of their proponent. Can you address why the CO2 time series lags the global temperature record, or demonstrate that it doesn't? Can you explain why our <<1% of all greenhouse emissions is so much more important than the other 99.5% of emissions by all of nature minus us?

Can you explain why you reserve your attack for Durkin, when arch-environmentalists with no background in science rampage with their views: Monbiot (another journalist), Porritt (a barrister), Al Gore, Ken Livingstone (politicians), Prince Charles (non-expert in anything), etc etc.

Anonymous (with a PhD in atmosphere and ocean physics).

Louisefeminista said...

But anon why do you persist in keeping it anon? You have a PhD but you don't say from where and when and what have you done in approaching the scientific community explaining the error of their ways over global warming? And have you submitted peer reviewed articles? And what has been said about these articles?

"Can you explain why you reserve your attack for Durkin, when arch-environmentalists with no background in science rampage with their views: Monbiot (another journalist), Porritt (a barrister), Al Gore, Ken Livingstone (politicians), Prince Charles (non-expert in anything), etc etc."

But it is fair enough for non-scientists to say things which reflect the views of the scientists they have spoken to and seem to reflect the scientific consensus.

AN said...

Exactly Loiuse - THAT is the issue.

Anonymous said...

My PhD is from University College London, 1999, in mathematical oceanography. I have a publication list of several peer-reviewed articles, none of which are related to global warming, but are to do with oceanographic fluid dynamics and turbulence. I now work in a completely different field. As far as I can see everyone here is anonymous.

The point is that the scientific consensus is a myth, and Durkin simply gave air time to some of the contrary points of view (Michaels, Ball, Balling, Clarke, Wunsch, Calder, Corbyn etc are NOT Durkin, and they are leading climatologists. Have any of them complained that their views were misrepresented? In any case, what if you disagree with them all - why, why, why would you try to get them censured?

The essential dishonesty is asserting a consensus, and then using it to pursue an anti-development agenda.

Care to tackle the question as to why the co2 time series is out of phase with the temperature time series?

AN said...

Are the people you list really leading climatologists???

Let us look at the examples in your list.

Nigel Calder is a journalist and film maker who is well past retirement age.

Piers Corbyn explicitly is not a scientist interested in participating in the shared human endeavour of developing knowledge, as he refuses to share his methods or theories, and instead places bets on the weather. Very few would regard him as a leading climatologist.

Wunsch is a serious scientist, but read what he himself says; "Thus at bottom, it is very difficult to separate human induced change from natural change, certainly not with the confidence we all seek. In these circumstances, it is essential to remember that the inability to prove human-induced change is not the same thing as a demonstration of its absence. It is probably true that most scientists would assign a very high probability that human-induced change is already strongly present in the climate system, while at the same time agreeing that clear-cut proof is not now available and may not be available for a long-time to come, if ever. Public policy has to be made on the basis of probabilities, not firm proof."

That is Wunsch himself argues against your claim that there is no consensus on this issue.

Patrick Michaels and Robert Balling admitted in a court case in Minnesota in 1995 that their work os paid for by the fissil fuel industry, though they had previoulsy denied this. and Balling is notorious for repating arguments in the popular press that have long been discredited in the specilaist technicall literature.

With regard to the argument about phase lags, this issue is about the long term (heundreds of thousands of years) historical tempertaure cycles of the planet. No ine is seriously disputing that the Earth has been both warmer and cooler in the past. nor is it denied that the interaction between tempertarue and CO2 levels is a complex and interrelated one. Increased temperature can increase Co2 levels, and increased Co2 levels can increase tempertaure.
the relevence of this to the moderen case is laregley irrelevent as we know that rising CO2 levels are preceding tempertaure rise. the argument is literaly being put forward to "blind with science". i am quite confident of my argument here, as i used to be a sceptic myself and have become converted.

I note that some of the people you quote as distinguished climatoligsts used to deny that the earth was getting warmer, and used to deny that CO2 levels were rising. Both of these facts are now accepted even by the sceptics, and they have started to find other eccentric arguments.

bTW - i am not anonymous, as you would find my name easily by reafding through the blog. I am andy newman, and I sign comments and posts with my initials AN

AN said...

By the way, i have not tried to get the views of these people censored, I am arguing that chanel 4 should not promote a documentary that misreprestents the balance of scientific opinion, and which claims, in Channel 4's own words that the arguments that human activity is responsible for rising temperature are LIES.

the fact that Durkin is associated with the RCP, who have chosen to reject the theory of global warming a priori on ideological grounds before hearing the evidence is also relevent of why he should not be given money to sell his snake oil.
rememebr the scandal abot the durkin film claiming that breat implants were linked with lower cancer rates, which his own researcher showed contradicted the evidence, and then the bBC pulled the plug, but then Channle 4 took the film and showed it anyway! even though the films own resercher disowned it!

Anonymous said...

So you've got a Blog called sociality unity with which you seek to defame other leftists. You then try to get a film censored you haven't even seen yet.

What a censorious prick you are!

Louisefeminista said...

Anon: But nowhere has AN tried to get the documentary censored. He has instead criticised the piss-poor judgement of Channel 4 for showing this programme.

And that is a strange accusation Anon you make when you accuse the blog of defaming other leftists. How has the blog "defamed" other leftists? It seems like a robust debate to me without anyone being slandered....

Why you choose the word "defame" to describe the criticism is rather strange.

"What a censorious prick you are"!

When people like you Anon resort to lazy apolitical insults it exposes your own lack of argument and debate.

Anonymous said...

Seeing as your main gripe appears to be that the film was made by a non-scientist, do I take it that you also plan to protest against Al Gore's "film"?

AN said...

My "main gripe" is that the film misrepresented the scientific consensus.

the issue here about Durkin being a non-scientist is that he has an axe to frind about the science for ideological reasons - lysenkoism.

I will post some more about this tomorrow.

BTW - quite contrary to the ewarleier claim byu one of our visitors who have come here via spiked, i note that Wunsch has indeed now complained that he was mistrepresented, and is considering a fomral complaint.

Loisue is also rigt, i ave not called upn the film to be banned, but argue that it should not have been commissioned - that is not censorship, but asking for better editorial judgement.

Anonymous said...

I have to laugh my arse off, for year i ahve been debating the dodgy science that politically motivated scientists have been using to now force everyone to accept that global warming has been caused by humans, if it was so serious this would be completely and utterley laughable, FACT CO2 is not the main cause of global warming, accept it you stupid fucking morons, this is another disgusting socialist piece of shit to be forced down everyones throats because they said so. Its a pity that socialists on the whole seem to be a bit thick when it comes to science and fact, usually because people of your ilk ie communist dont like to be completely out of control of everything, it will be a great day when you socialist scum are all dead and buried.

Louisefeminista said...

Firstly, Anon, you are resorting to abuse and insults. I don't take people that seriously when they do that as they are kinda losing the argument..

Secondly, Anon, you state, "FACT CO2 is not the main cause of global warming, accept it you stupid fucking morons, this is another disgusting socialist piece of shit to be forced down everyones throats because they said so".

Well Anon, with your astounding knowledge, why don't you tell this to the Met Office that they are "stupid fucking morons" ( as funnily enough, they aren't commies in the least. The Met Office is an executive agency of the Ministry of Defence.....

AN said...

I wonder if that last anonymous comment was really from Brendan o'Neill?

MerryPhil said...

All this effort to stifle comment. Sad really, I disagree totally with what Durkin had to say but defend his absolute right to say it. Somebody else said something along those lines in the 18th century. Science allows for contradictory views, only religions deny the beliefs of other.

Anonymous said...

Typical leftist rhetoric and character assasination - minmal application of intellect and analysis. 0/10

Anonymous said...

AN, please note that there are clearly several anonymous's here, and those that left the insults were not me.

Anon (the earlier one with with the PhD in oceanography).

AN said...

Thanks for the clarifictaion - this does show the advantages of using a pseudonym rather than beinf anonymous.

n the bizarro ettiquette of blogland, giving yourself a ludicrous alias becomes an relativley traceable identity!

Anonymous said...

"Let's see what the evidence tells us."

Well, I don't actually see any real evidence that Martin Durkin is, or was a member/supporter of the RCP.

The truth is, he wasn't - yet AN titles this post 'The great RCP swindle'.

Where is your evidence that Durkin was actually a member or supporter of the RCP then? Of course AN has no evidence. Just because Durkin was interviewed by Spiked Online the day after the film was broadcast, is this suppose to be the proof of Durkin's membership of the RCP?

Can we have some real evidence please, and less of all this verbal rhubarb?

AN said...

in fat the post says that durkin was noot a known member of the RCP.

He is however clearly linked in some way with the RCP/lM/ioi project, based on the evidence of his work.

If the RCPp weren't so secretive we wouldn't have to speculate. And given their agenda is so thoroughly anti-working class we have an obligation to expose what we can.

AP said...

AN (with support from Louisefeminista) - are you seriously denying trying to censor Durkin????

at the top of the page you provide a link for people to complain and say "please do complain... it is well worth doing as if they get a number of complaints then they will find it harder to commission future programmes from Durkin."

what on earth is this if not attempted censorship? this approach does nothing for the credibility of your argument. It just confirms the view of those who see environmentalism as an authoritarian dogma. well played!

AN said...

AP - do you serioulsy not understand the distinction between censorshiop and editorial discretion.

Durkin has a right to write what he wants, and for exmpleSpiked can publish it, but that does not mean that it is reasonable or responsible for channel 4 to give a woder audeince to his snake oil.

AP said...

Sure I understand that difference. But I don't really see how editorial discretion is enhanced by you coordinating complaints against Durkin explicitly with the aim of discouraging C4 from commissioning further programmes from him. who are you (or indeed I) to decide what is "reasonable or responsible" for C4 to broadcast? Good grief, it's not as if there aren't enough programmes on that DO conform to the mainstream view of climate change.

And on another point, to those talking about the "secretive" RCP. As I understand it, the RCP no longer exists as an organisation, though clearly many of its former members (no I'm not one) are still engaged in politics one way or another. so it's not surprising you don't hear much about it these days...

AN said...


A serious program explaining some of the difficulties of the science and putting the sceptics in their proper context would have been one thing, .

or of you wanted to pick a subject where the scientific consensus is actualy and genuinley opposed to the common sense of activists how about a programme explaining that mobile phone or TETRA masts are safe.

Instead we knew - becasue of durkin's previous work - that this woud not be a serious contribution to the debate, we had a reasonable prior expectation that he would distort serious scientiects - which he did in the case of Wunsch; and would present eccentrics as mainstream, as he did with corbyn; or present paid for aplogists of the fossil fuel indistry as impartial as he did with Michaels and Balling.

it was not in the intersts of informed democratic debate for such a programme to be shown, as it was anti-science. as such channel 4 should not have commissioned it, and it was perfectly aceptable for democrats and those intersted in informed debate to complain about channel 4;s irresponsible sensationalisting of a serious issue.

i am not arguing durkin should not have programs commissioned, i am sure he could make episodes of tikkibila or ballamory on Ceebeebies without causing too much mischief. however he should not be commissioned to make progs on sciecne, due to his past manipulation of the debate.

With regard to the rCP.apparently the RCP qua RCP is disbanded, but there is clearly both organisational and ideological continuity with Ioi and spiked. As such my conclusion is that the core leadership of the old rCP have repositioned themselves as a covert organisation.

I am happy to be corrected and hear an alternative explanation from them of what they really are up to if i am wrong.

A key precept of libertarianism is that individuals should be empowered to make informed choices, yet their secrecy and manipulative use of infomeation is actually disempowering and not libertatirial at all.

AP said...

Someone above made the 'flat earth' comparison. would it be unreasonable or irresponsible to commission a programme that argued the Earth was indeed flat? No, because it would be seen as a parody and/or simply ridiculed.

It seems that critics of Durkin see him as a threat to be squashed precisely because there is still a debate to be had (otherwise he could simply be ridiculed with the flat earthers). Even if 95% are in agreement, it has to be in the interest of democratic debate that the viewpoint of the 5% be aired rather than banned.

I couldn't tell you whether Durkin is the best person to put across the minority viewpoint but I have a feeling that a similar reaction would greet anyone who challenged the current orthodoxy.

AN said...

well AP the fact that durkin has a specific track record of misrepresenting the debate is the issue for me about why he shouldn't have been commissioned by C4.

You need to seprate out the issue of what is in scientific dispute, and what is in popluar dispute.

In the case of the flat earthers there is both scientofic and popular disavoawl of their point of view.

in the case of those denying human agency is causing global warming there is no significant debate amomg scientists over this now, the theory is regarded as mature and established. However there is a popular misconception that there is more disagreemtn among serious climate scienticts than there really is.

Durkin's programme delibertaly sought to mislead the public debate by presenting a series of marginal figures as if they were maintsream, or misreprestented mainstream people to be saying something other than their real opinion. This was delibertaly designed to mislead the popular debate by arguing something at variance with the scientific consensus.

And it has been noticeable this week that so many media columnists have said they are doubtful about climate change, people like Janet Daley and Virginia Ironside - thier ignorance bolstered by the misinformation from the film.

Now you may argue that it is responsible public broadcasting to misinform the public debate, I disagree.

MH said...

Whatever the limitations of Durkin's film he did make a good fist. In these days of consensus it's easy to capitulate and his film was a welcome breath of fresh air.

There is a unity of opinion seemingly including everyone from the BNP to SWP, chav to royalty, pop stars, academics, scientists, Honda and now even good ol' Dubya all waking up to the menace that is humanity's footprint.

Given that everything now dances to this tune and hand in hand with it's insidious pernickety encroachment into more aspects of our lives just to make sure we're doing the right thing then perhaps we should pay it more attention.

It would appear that that what considers itself to be the left is guilty of lazy thinking and cannot challenge the orthodoxy or, as I've witnessed in discussion, often an anti-development agenda as a proxy bash-the-rich battle. This is infantile socialism - it knows what it doesn't like but not what it's for.

Whatever reason, it is dangerous because if that argument is accepted then the solution put forward is to slow down, go without and accept less. Which slaps of austerity to me, bizarrely, at a time when we've never had it so good.

I hate noting Lenin but comfortable western radicals should note that he was desperate for revolution to erupt in an advanced economy. Trouble was the poor cultural state and outlook of those who wore enamel badges and their caps at jaunty angles.

However do you expect to find a way forward if you cannot or dare not challenge consensus?

AN said...


he may have made a fist of it, but more in the julian Clary/Norman lamont way.

You seem to be arguing that there is always value on challenging consensus, even when you are wrong?

there is nothing wrong with a scientific debate that challenges consensus, but Durkin engaged in a different exercise - to misrepresent the degree that there is scientific dispute, in order to mislead the public debate.

With regard to poverty, the mian arument anyway is about changing the emissions of the developed world, but the poverty of the developing world needs to be addressed by political solutions aimed at opposing power imabalnaces and inequality, not thinking it is virtuous for them to be as poluted as possible, so you can buy cheap NIKEs, on the back of their misery.

Mark Harrop said...

Give me Julian Clary's fist rather than the sanctimonious claptrap coming from an exhausted political class, treehuggers and lazy socialists.

The point of the matter is that human beings have built upon just some 2% of the World's landmass, this given that 70% is ocean, then it would seem to me that we've barely scratched the surface.
Taking a step back it may just seem that there are other things that effect the planet and perhaps to a greater degree than our impact.
Wherever did we get the idea that the planet is in harmony?

It will change as it always has. Todays thinking seems to lock us in an ever-presentism and change always considered disastrous and the fault of humans. Without wishing to sound too alarmist I think these ideas are dangerous as they deny human agency as a force for good.

Which kind of undermines your programme, assuming you have one and are not busy tail ending.

Sticking my neck out, I seem to recall that when western consumers boycotted Nike that the newly created and relatively well paid factory workers risked losing their jobs. I could be wrong but such is the Internationalism of fools, incapable of mounting a challenge at home and unaware of the challenges ahead.

Give me anyone that proposes human solutions as that is a better debate, Shirley?

AN said...


No one has argued that the planet is in harmony, it is a complex system and human agency has a big impact upon that system.

Your argument seems teleological, why should human agency always be a foce for good, perhaps it may be complpex and sometimes good and sometime bad, and perhaps good things may have bad consequences.

It is preceisley becasue we want to have a debate about human solutions that we want the argument to be informed by the best human understanding of the actually existig phsical world.

Whereas you seem ideologically predisposed to beleive that human activity is inherently incapable of generating environmental damage.

I don't know whether on 2% of the land mass is built on, but you can go and live on Franz Josef land or the middle of the sahara if you want.

Sctualy even quite modest rises in sea level would dramatically decrease te land area that we currently live on

Anonymous said...

AN,if you mean by teleological that 'it just is' then you have me wrong. If that is your definition then it also seems to be your criticism of spiked's roots and justification for authority in this discussion ie, 'I am a scientist so I'm right", but I could be wrong.

I certainly don't think phenomena always have determination.

Haven't great scientific breakthroughs or leaps in knowledge come about through challenging consensus?

Would you agree with the statement that there is no consensus for socialism?


AN said...

No teleological means driven towards some goal or purpose - it was lazy of me to use a technicall term, i should have used plain English.

It seesm that the driving ideology behind Spiked's position on scinece is that technological advance is progressive and that humanity is losing its gaith in our capacity to handle progress, and therefore that the clitate change and GM controverises are sysmptoms of a collective loss of nerve.

Great scientific breakthroughs have come through both rupture and contiunity with consensus. i could give examples from the natural sciences, but perhasp a better known one would be that marx's theory of value was a continuation of David Ricardo's theory.

In any event scientific breakthroughs have not come through jurnalists miesrepresetnint the weight of consensus. Durkin's programme was not aimed at scintific debate, but at the public policy deabte.

Anonymous said...

Getting back to this blog after a week doing other things, I'm sad to see that it's drifted into the kind of name-calling, hysterics and pontificating that blog discussions have a tendency of falling into. That's just what happens with people on blogs, don't ask me why! But more seriously it would be good to get away from the heated but relatively uninformed bickering about the nature of the ex-RCP, as well as the discussion about AN's sense of political principle in encouraging readers to complain to the regulator, as if this was a major blow for free speech!

I would be interested, funnily enough, to reprise the discussion on what was presented in Durkin's programme, as opposed to the tedious chest-beating and cod-philosophising which everyone's now settled into. I would be interested in a discussion of the material Durkin presented, rather than the odd assumption that somehow 'it was Durkin that said it'. As far as I know there haven't been any complaints from those who were represented on the programme. I'd be interested in a discussion of Svensmark's work on cosmic ray influence on cloud formation, which amazingly hasn't yet turned up anywhere in this discussion, which was an important passage in Durkin's film, and which seems to provide a more complex understanding of how heat input from the sun is modulated by external (ie cosmic) factors. I am not a scientist, so would be interested in what scientists have to say.

I'd also like to point out that you could all happily sign your names at the bottom of your 'anonymous' posts; honestly, none of you are that important, nor your opinions so threatening, that anonymity should serve as some indespensable protection of your identities!

all best,

JJ Charlesworth

AN said...


There has in fact been some discussion of the science on the spin off thread on this topic:

And actually there ahs been a major complaint by one of the scientists in Durkin's programme. The ost eminent person on the programme, Prof Carl Wunsh, has claimed he was tricked as to the nature of the programme, and specifically was quoted out of context to make it sound like he was arguing the exact opposite of the point he was trying to make..

The issue of the sun heating the earth is based upon old reserach that has been discredited as the data the threory drew upon was incorrect.

Mark Harrop said...

Even modest yet 'onside' scientists do not claim 100% surety that man's contribution to climate change is definite, lasting or even a bad thing. Carl Munsch does not endorse the hysteria whipped up around this even if he neither endorses Durkin. And Bjorn Lomborg accepts the likelihood of man affecting climate.

As much as science attempts to be neutral (see Woudhuysen/Kaplinsky 'A man made morality tale') it seems that alarm runs well before it. Alarm which seems to have eased into a sanctimonious 'told you so' coupled with rafts of legislation and behaviour police.

What is happening is that anyone and everyone can now ram the green message down our throats as proxy argument for what they really mean. The left can blame big business for pollution and scarring the planet; grungies can aim their gripes at the ignorant masses and our consumerism and the government can get away with further attacks on our lifestyles.

Of course our activities effect the environment - it's what we've always done. But even taking humanity at its 'worst' - hiroshima, chernobyl, pollution; whatever - it's nothing to what nature can do.
The Big bang trumps everything, thus far.

The real problem is measures taken to accommodate to this 'perilous view'. In essence it seems to mean that we give up on our comforts and put a lot more effort into mundane and backward steps that will make no difference to the bigger picture other than piss us off. Worse, it effects a mindset where we consider our daily actions to be counterproductive and maybe asking what is the point of it all?

And now carbon credit trading? I don't know who makes this stuff up.

The reason we can have this debate in the first place is due to our development of complex machinery . . . to make ever finer observations and communicate. What seems to be lost in the debate is man's unique ability to thrive and indeed flourish. What's wrong with incineration, nuclear energy, dams and bridges? Look at what the Dutch have done (it could be argued that rising sea levels are all their fault ) or the mines of Mirna in Siberia and Kennecott, Utah and the Suez canal. Such things should be seen as chickenfeed.

So what if the seas rise, as they have in the past? Hoping it will all go away and relying on going green seems a bit like a head in the sand approach to me.

What about dropping all the borders and allowing the free movement of people? Given that we have urbanised/built just 2% of it that suggests that we occupy precious little and could accomodate the doomsday rise of 70 metre sea level rise. Of course no one is suggesting these things.

We also learn that our accidental pollution has interesting effects that give rise to the idea that we can influence the weather in a positive way . . .

Scientists merely interpret the world, the point is to change it.

AN said...

Well I am more in sympathy with the way you have put that argument here Mark.

The differecne is between what we know and there is scientific consensus over, and what we don't really know but are specualting about.

Certainly some of the arguments relating to what the effects of human activity on climate would be put forward hypothesis as fact - for example the question of the diverting the gulf stream. Othwr such as the increase in hurricanes with increasing ocean temperatures are better established science.

There are of course other issues such as the limited amount of evidence that we are drawing our conculsions on.

A proper infoemed debate about the values of technological advance, and do we want economic growth or not would be useful.

But that is not the film Durkin made, and his film did not inform debate by mystified it.

MH said...

Are you lot up for challenging consensus?

Best wishes,

Mark Harrop

CW said...

I was at UCL in the mid-late 1980s and Martin Durkin (if it's the same guy) was a student there and certainly was involved with the RCP student association.
Re the debate on climate change: even if global warming is a scare story, that changes nothing. Resources are finite, therefore we need to find sensible and intelligent ways of living on this planet. We have to think about it and act on our convictions, not get bogged down in some fruitless debate. Fine, show the other point of view - the trouble is, the other point of view has already had air-time for about the last 40 years.