June 23rd 2007

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Foiled terror attack on New York's JFK airport

EDITORIAL: Making sense of carbon-trading

GOVERNMENT: Political appointments: the unseen costs

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Keating rains on Kevin Rudd's parade

ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Realistic emissions policy torpedoed by ideology

GLOBAL TRADE: Leading Americans force a rethink on globalism

STRAWS IN THE WIND: More backseat driving / Scenes from the rustic bootlickery / Who will rid us of this troublesome priest! / A hot time in the old town that night / The media slave market: American democracy at work

SPECIAL FEATURE: Personal web pages - the dark side of the internet

BIOTECHNOLOGY: Children's rights trampled by medical Dr Strangeloves

MEDICAL SCIENCE: 'Scientific' spin on cloning unravels

RUSSIA: Russia's slide back into tyranny

Danger of downplaying climate change (letter)

Undermining scientific truth (letter)

Housing prices - don't blame property investors (letter)

BOOKS: MODERN SEX: Liberation and Its Discontents, edited by Myron Magnet

BOOKS: A VERY RUDE AWAKENING: The night the Japanese midget subs came to Sydney Harbour

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Danger of downplaying climate change (letter)

by Tim Wallace

News Weekly, June 23, 2007

While anything that promotes serious discussion of climate change is to be encouraged, people looking for facts in the recent British documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle, due to be screened soon on ABC television, will be sorely disappointed.

As a documentary, it's a sensational work of propaganda. It certainly makes a compelling argument, but only if you don't bother to check out most of the claims it presents.

The film makes great hay in exposing flaws In Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth, yet has far too many factual problems of its own to be taken seriously.

Consider, for starters, the curious misattribution of the Canadian sceptic Tim Ball, described as a professor with the University of Winnipeg's department of climatology - even though there is no such department and Ball retired from the university's department of geography a decade ago.

Ball could have easily been described as a former professor and the current chairman of the Natural Resources Stewardship Project - though seeing that's a group with strong ties to the energy industry lobby, critics might well argue that this omission was more than accidental.

But there are even more serious criticisms. Eigil Friis-Christensen, the director of the Danish National Space Centre, whose research is used in the program to support the claim that solar activity is the cause of global warming, says his work was misrepresented and that the film "incorrectly rules out a contribution by anthropogenic greenhouse gases to 20th-century global warming".

Carl Wunsch, professor of physical oceanography at MIT, says he was "completely misrepresented" in the film, with his interview edited and presented in a way to support a claim "diametrically opposite to the point I was making - which is that global warming is both real and threatening". He calls the film "grossly distorted".

There are, of course, some scientists unconvinced that global warming is happening - or, if it is happening, that this is necessarily due to human activity or, if it is so due, that this is necessarily a bad thing. Some, not many.

Climate science is complex, and there are many uncertainties, but to argue there is not a consensus of scientific opinion, or that evidence of human-caused climate change is not growing stronger, is to let a good conspiracy theory get in the way of the facts.

By all means, take issue with the exaggerations of those who don't seem to think the real dangers of climate change are cataclysmic enough to convince most people of the need for more sustainable development.

But if that is your worthy aim, propagating the exaggerations inherent in The Great Global Warming Swindle is not the way to go about it.

Tim Wallace,
Surry Hills, NSW

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