John Houghton’s response to the documentary “The Great Global Warming Swindle”

March 19, 2007 at 4:17 am | Posted in Answer, Britain, Climate change, Climate science, Environment, IPCC, Science, Science Education, Unequivocal | 6 Comments

Sir John Houghton was co-chair of IPCC Scientific Assessment working group 1988-2002, and Director General of the UK Meteorological Office.

The IPCC was one of the main targets of the polemic that aired recently on Channel 4, so Sir John Houghton has written a comprehensive response to the programme, giving his assessment of some of the main assertions and conclusions in “The Great Global Warming Swindle”. He begins by pointing out:

1. First, it is important to note that the main lines of evidence for human-induced climate change not addressed in the programme were:

  • * growth of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere mainly due to fossil fuel burning to a level greater than for at least 600,000 years;
  • * observations of global warming at the earth’s surface (in magnitude and pattern) consistent with the increase in greenhouse gases, the basic science of which has been known and understood for over 200 years.

This is crucial. These main lines of evidence for anthropogenic global warming (AGW) were omitted!

(At this point, I should ask the kids who watched Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles with me recently: what would the ace detective make of that?! He would be excruciatingly scathing of anyone who came up with a rebuttal while ignoring the main evidence in a case as serious as this, no doubt 😎 )

Then Sir John continues to unravel the truths from the half-truths and lies, as in:

2. Climate is always changing – TRUE. However, the programme also argued that changes in global average temperature over the last 50 years and as projected for the 21st century are within the range of natural climate variability as observed over the last few millennia – NOT TRUE.

Many of the prominent climate changes over past centuries have been regional … (more)

Please read his assessment in full on his website here, or view/download Sir John’s PDF here.

Another senior authority on climate science has written his own response in NewScientist this week. He is Professor Alan Thorpe, chief executive of the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and Director of the NERC Centres for Atmospheric Science (NCAS). His response is here, and I have requested permission to publish it in full.

I shall try to summarise both responses in a form that is easily digestible by school students later this week 😎

There is also a wonderful ensemble of claims, reactions and references to “The Great Global Warming Swindle” at Wikipedia, including this summary of Sir John’s assessment:

According to Houghton, three of these were true, seven were not true, and one was possibly true.

He flatly contradicted two of the programme’s statements, that “The troposphere is warming less than the surface” and that “Volcanic eruptions emit more carbon dioxide than fossil fuel burning”.

Overall he described the programme as “a mixture of truth, half truths and falsehood”.



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  1. […] 1988-2002. Surprisingly, Houghton’s response, while very critical of the film, did contain a few agreements: The IPCC was one of the main targets of the […]

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’ve been exchanging views with a very intelligent, very well-educated, very kind friend who thinks the “Swindle” movie is the last word in truth. It is so frustrating when the disinformation is so powerfully presented and consistently promoted that even well-meaning people can be taken in. Thank you, again!

  3. It’s worth noting that “a mixture of truth, half truths and falsehood” is a description that scrupulously tries to present the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, even about opposing views. Unlike the media, responsible scientists always act as though under oath when discussing their chosen field of expertise.

    never trust an editor.”

  4. The ratings grabbing by a desperately broke Channel4 is appalling. Their producer has since been discredited anyway. So, nice try but game over!

  5. It’s funny… you hear so much about the affects of man-made global warming but you don’t hear the other side in the media. It always seems to be that way. I think in any free society you should be able to decide for yourself which you believe.
    I am not saying that humans don’t pollute. I am saying that both sides should be available for debate and questions. But that is not happening in the media at all. All you hear is that humans are going to be the downfall of this planet unless… . And now we are told that it will take 1 Trillion dollars to fix.
    I must agree with some when they say the global movement is big money. I think we should let people decide for themselves and not condemn or chastise them for believing one way or another….

  6. Hi Corey,

    Big money? I am not being paid by anyone to promote my own ideas. Are you?

    Which continent’s media are you referring to, and are you referring to mainstream or blogs? US vs. EU and MSM vs. blogs deal with the causes and responses to anthropogenic global warming very differently. Please clarify with respect to your statement:

    you hear so much about the affects of man-made global warming but you don’t hear the other side in the media.

    I agree that people everywhere (not just in free societies) should be able to decide for themselves what they believe.

    However, there are a few problems with people making up their own minds:

    education (or lack of it amongst certain populations)
    culture (and lack of respect for experts in certain populations)
    special interests (and their unwarranted influence on certain sectors of the population in certain countries)

    Unfortunately, for some strange reason, many people who promote pseudo-scientific arguments aggressively are the same who distrust experts in the field of science. They favour conspiracy theories and gossip over scientific evidence. Why? I have no idea.

    Yes, anyone can hold their own opinion. However, unfounded opinions are not sufficient for voters to use to try to influence politicians to determine correct policy on as serious an issue as climate change. We all need to improve our own education in this area, so we can all help to combat climate change effectively and as soon as possible.

    Climate change debates are fine when based on legitimate science, but there are a lot of pseudo-scientific theories that are being proposed by denialists and promoted by sceptics to prevent action being taken on climate change. That is not good practice, and needs to be highlighted for people who are unaware of the influence of special interest groups. I was unaware of the persuasive power of such anti-AGW forces until I began reading what they have to say …

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