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Climate Change: An inconvenient truth... for Channel 4

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Source: The Independent.

Climate change: An inconvenient truth... for C4
This expert in oceanography quoted in last week's debunking of the Gore green theory says he was 'seriously misrepresented'
By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor
Published: 11 March 2007

It was the television programme that set out to show that most of the world's climate scientists are misleading us when they say humanity is heating up the Earth by emitting carbon dioxide. And The Great Global Warming Swindle, screened by Channel 4 on Thursday night, convinced many viewers that it is indeed untrue that the gas is to blame for global warming.

But now the programme - and the channel - is facing a serious challenge to its own credibility after one of the most distinguished scientists that it featured said his views had been "grossly distorted" by the film, and made it clear that he believed human pollution did warm the climate.

Professor Carl Wunsch, professor of physical oceanography at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said he had been "completely misrepresented" by the programme, and "totally misled" on its content. He added that he is considering making a formal complaint.

A Channel 4 spokesman said: "The film was a polemic that drew together the well-documented views of a number of respected scientists to reach the same conclusions. This is a controversial film but we feel that it is important that all sides of the debate are aired. If one of the contributors has concerns about his contribution we will look into that."

Any complaint would provoke a crisis at Channel 4, now recovering from the Jade Goody Big Brother storm. It had to make a rare public apology after the Independent Television Commission convicted previous programmes on environmental issues by the same film-maker, Martin Durkin, of similar offences - and is already facing questions on why it accepted another programme from him.

The commission found that the editing of interviews with four contributors to a series called Against Nature had "distorted or misrepresented their known views".

Professor Wunsch said: "I am angry because they completely misrepresented me. My views were distorted by the context in which they placed them. I was misled as to what it was going to be about. I was told about six months ago that this was to be a programme about how complicated it is to understand what is going on. If they had told me even the title of the programme, I would have absolutely refused to be on it. I am the one who has been swindled."

When told what the commission had found, he said: "That is what happened to me." He said he believes it is "an almost inescapable conclusion" that "if man adds excess CO2 to the atmosphere, the climate will warm".

He went on: "The movie was terrible propaganda. It is characteristic of propaganda that you take an area where there is legitimate dispute and you claim straight out that people who disagree with you are swindlers. That is what the film does in any area where some things are subject to argument."

Mr Durkin last night said that Professor Wunsch was "most certainly not duped into appearing into the programme" and that it "had not in any way misrepresented what he said".

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Before the programme was shown, the IoS asked Channel 4 why it had commissioned another film from Mr Durkin and, further, whether it was making any special checks on its accuracy.

A spokesman said the programme made by Mr Durkin for which it had had to apologise was a decade old, adding: "We treat Martin as any other film-maker."

* David Cameron will tomorrow unveil three schemes to tax air travel in order to combat global warming. He is to consult on whether to impose VAT or fuel duty on domestic flights, institute a flight tax targeted at the most polluting engines, or to set up a "green miles scheme" to tax frequent flyers at a higher rate. The revenue raised would be used for tax cuts to help families.

The cold, hard facts about global warming

What do most scientists believe caused global warming?

The vast majority are convinced it is human emissions of carbon dioxide. It was established scientifically 180 years ago - and has never been seriously disputed - that natural levels of the gas given off by decaying vegetation and the oceans help to keep the Earth warm; without it, and other natural greenhouse gases, the planet would be some 20C colder and we would freeze. Adding even the so far relatively small amounts from human activities makes us warmer.

Has the world warmed before?

Yes, and big warmings over prehistoric times were not started by increasing CO2 levels; changes in solar activity are more likely. Levels of the gas started rising some 800 years into the warming, but then probably reinforced it, making it bigger and longer. Temperature and CO2 are interdependent; when one goes up the other follows. This time it is different because vast amounts of the gas are being artificially put into the atmosphere by humans.

What about more recent history?

There was a warm period in Europe in the Middle Ages, again probably caused by solar activity, but it does not seem to have been a worldwide phenomenon, although records are scanty.

So is the sun responsible now?

Some sceptics say so and probably it played the major role until quite recently. But over the past three decades, solar activity has scarcely risen, while temperatures have shot up - a fact disguised in the film. What has gone up is CO2 and even top sceptic Nigel Lawson admits it is "highly likely" that the gas has "played a significant part" in global warming this century.

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