Skating on Thin Ice: the climate documentary that isn't

BY IAN WISHART, author of Totalitaria and Air Con

It’s touted as an award-winning documentary on climate change, but if that’s true I’d like to know whether the judges were the three wise monkeys. Here’s why: the Thin Ice documentary made by Victoria University of Wellington and Oxford University in the UK is littered with factual errors and misleading statements.

The documentary is being toured around New Zealand high schools in a bid to drum up support for the upcoming climate treaty negotiations in Paris this December. I don’t know who’s paying for it but they must have deep pockets – barely 50 people ‘crowded’ into an 800 seat Auckland school hall, each paying a gold coin donation to see the film. But it wasn’t just the movie screening – it had an entourage. Vic University documentary maker Simon “I’m not a climate scientist” Lamb was joined by geologist and film producer Peter Barrett at the school, along with a Vic Uni undergraduate in a supporting role.

The gold coin donations were unlikely to even cover their airfares from Wellington, let alone accommodation, unless they managed to score $35 return flights each. Perhaps they pedalled the 700 km: “I hope you are cycling home tonight,” the cheery undergraduate told the scattered audience members.

“Come closer,” Barrett urged the people dotted around the hall. Few did.

The screening began with a message from “Xena the Warrior Princess”, explained Barrett, quickly realising that Lucy Lawless had starred in that role long before most of the students in the audience were born. “Maybe that’s before your time,” he added, “but anyway here she is”.

Lawless gave her ‘best supporting actress in a fictional documentary speech’, urging viewers to trust the authority of the team who made the movie and to do their part for climate justice.

I was prepared to give the film a chance, on the basis that I like to see my opponent’s arguments before critiquing them. But let’s cut to the chase.

The film begins with Simon Lamb mocking sceptics of climate change by suggesting they are alleging a grand “conspiracy” of “dishonest climate scientists”. His documentary, he said, was intended to be a neutral revelation of what the climate scientists were doing so people could make up their own minds about whether they were being honest or dishonest about climate. Within a few minutes I felt they were being dishonest, but no one in the audience would have known unless they were well briefed on the facts.

MISLEADING CLAIM #1: Antarctic ice cores show CO2 causing temperature increases over the aeons

Victoria University scientist Tim Naish made the claim in the doco while Lamb and producer Barrett imposed an ice core graph over thousands of years showing CO2 and temperature moving in “lockstep”. What they failed to tell viewers is that a 2003 study by Caillon et al and published in the journal Science looked at 40,000 years of ice core history from the Vostok site, and found that the reverse was true, that in fact temperatures rose first and CO2 levels started to rise 800 years later.

As I explained in my book Air Con, this makes sense: the rising temperatures warmed oceans and released trapped CO2 bubbles as the water warmed. The CO2 did not “cause” the temperature increases – the temp increases caused the release of more CO2. The documentary Thin Ice is highly misleading in this respect.

MISLEADING CLAIM #2: You can trust the computer models, and they show a three degree increase in temperature but it could be double

Again, Lamb plays the ingénue in this part of the documentary, going to great pains to tell viewers how clever the computer modelling is and how the models are actually understating the probable warming that’s coming.

In reality, the computer models have been rubbished by peer reviewed climate journals, as I wrote in Totalitaria:

“The UN IPCC’s fifth assessment report, AR5, based its climate projections on computer models, and in particular a series of models known as CMIP5 which was described by its designers in 2012 as “a state-of-the- art multimodel dataset designed to advance our knowledge of climate variability and climate change. Researchers worldwide are analyzing the model output and will produce results likely to underlie the forthcoming Fifth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”[i]

The most embarrassing aspect for the UN IPCC AR5 report is that CMIP5, the so-called “state of the art” simulation system anchoring the UN’s climate projections, has failed epically to account for the massive slowdown in warming over the past 15 years. In fact, the computer projections ran four times hotter for the period than the actual real observed temperature readings, as a just published report in the journal Nature Climate Change notes:

The inconsistency between observed and simulated global warming is even more striking for temperature trends computed over the past fifteen years (1998–2012). For this period, the observed trend of 0.05 ± 0.08 °C per decade is more than four times smaller than the average simulated trend of 0.21 ± 0.03 °C per decade. The divergence between observed and CMIP5- simulated global warming begins in the early 1990s.”[ii]

The UN’s AR5 report was out of date even before it hit the newsstands. AR5 claims a consensus higher than “95% certainty” that human-caused CO2 emissions are predominantly driving global warming, but critics and even many scientists are now asking, “based on what evidence?”

The assumptions the scientific “consensus” was supposedly built on are crumbling in the face of new evidence.

Confidence in the latest UN projections and journalistic fawning over them has not been enhanced by another new report in Nature suggesting the IPCC scientists are using statistical research techniques more than ten years out of date…”

So much for the accuracy of the computer models then. They’ve been found in peer reviewed studies to have overestimated actual global warming by around 400 percent, yet not a word of that inconvenient truth was revealed by Lamb and Barrett in their “award-winning” documentary. Again, grossly misleading, especially when this material is being used to con schoolchildren into thinking the science is settled.

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September 22, 2015 6:21 pm

The saddest part is after all this time and all this money…
..we still don’t know if it’s a pause, hiatus, plateau, peak…or even if they whole thing was made up

Reply to  Latitude
September 22, 2015 6:31 pm

Looking at the ” Unadjusted ” historical data, I’d say we’re about to dive head first off the plateau into the next LIA !!!!

Reply to  Latitude
September 22, 2015 6:41 pm

There is no pause that is statistically significant

Ian H
Reply to  Aran
September 22, 2015 6:56 pm

There is no statistically significant rise to have a statistically significant pause in. The null hypothesis that temperature changes observed in the last 50 years are purely due to natural variability has not been rejected.

Evan Jones
Reply to  Aran
September 22, 2015 8:19 pm

The difference between the models and satellites is.

Michael 2
Reply to  Aran
September 22, 2015 9:12 pm

“There is no pause that is statistically significant”
Maybe; but it is certainly politically significant! As to what exactly you mean by “statistically significant” that’s a gnat for your straining.

Scottish Sceptic
Reply to  Aran
September 23, 2015 12:26 am

The pause is the discrepancy between what was predicted and what occurred. As such the test is whether the predictions of warming occurred. Not one of the datasets predicted to warm by at least 0.14C/decade warmed at even this lowest level. Therefore 100% of the sample shows the pause exists. It is therefore highly statistically significant as it shows a complete failure of the forecasts.
But in terms of general statistical significance … what is the normal variation we expect over 100 years of climate? The answer is we don’t know, because we only have 150 years of pseudo global data and so we only have basically one full century of data.
We cannot use the same single time period to both decide what is “normal” and what is “abnormal”.
It is like taking a plant out the ground and finding the roots have red spots. If this is the first time the plant has been seen, we cannot know whether this is a one of case for that plant or something that is general to the species.
So, it would be false to say “it is not statistically significant” over a century. So, what about part of the century? From 1970-2000 it warmed by 0.48C. Is this abnormal? That’s 1/5 of the data. Well, if we look we find that from 1910-1940 it also warmed by 0.48C. So, such warming is far from abnormal. Indeed, if we look at the longest temperature series in central England we find the 1970-2000 rise in temperature is dwarfed by the 1690-1730 temperature rise.

Paul Martin
Reply to  Aran
September 23, 2015 2:03 am

We are approaching the point where the rise of the 80s and early 90s will be shorter in length than the flattish bit since 1998. Which then will be the outlier and which the norm?

Reply to  Aran
September 23, 2015 5:58 am

There is no increase that is statistically significant either.

Reply to  Aran
September 23, 2015 6:01 am

Back in the 90’s, we were told that the pause had to be 7 years long before it became statistically significant.
When the pause started to approach 7 years, they shifted the goal posts and declared that 15 years would make it statistically significant. Now that the pause has broken through 15 years, the new gold standard for statistical significance is 30 years.

Tom O
Reply to  Aran
September 24, 2015 6:18 am

Ah, back again. It is always nice to watch an expert take the subject off topic and turn it into a massive haranguing session. Sadly, you add nothing and take away much from the comments.

Reply to  Latitude
September 22, 2015 6:46 pm

One day a few years into the future I can imagine there will be plenty of studies into the cost of the the great climate swindle. Not just in terms of money, but also the knock on effects of not having that money to spend in a time of global recession on growth/inequality/social/health areas and subsequent loss of life this caused.
Possibly even further into the future studies on the impacts of delaying action on future scientific discoveries based on sound scientific principles due to the damage done to the scientific community in general after the collapse of AGW theory(counting chickens perhaps).
I can’t help but think also if less time had been spent in the political sphere on global warming what effect that might have had on the current instabilities in the middle east that we seemed so ill prepared for(tenuous i know).

Reply to  Tim
September 23, 2015 1:14 am

Sadly there won’t be plenty of such studies.
AGW is analogous to Eugenics.
-It’s based on a correct piece of science about one factor that is limited in Scope.
-It s extrapolated to the general.
-It is assumed that the one factor will dominate all others for simplicity.
-The poor and weak are made to suffer now because of fear of that one factor in the future.
This has all happened before. But it isn’t studied. Because it is embarrassing to acknowledge that your own institution was so terribly wrong.
It casts doubt over all current expertise.

George E. Smith
Reply to  Latitude
September 22, 2015 7:23 pm

It ‘s stopped. What it does next we don’t know.
I had forgotten that the Wellington University of New Zealand (used to be) was called Victoria University.
I was once President of the Auckland Branch of the U of NZ ski club, and it was our turn to host the intercollege Ski Tournament on Mt Ruapehu and it was mostly Auckland and Victoria competitors as I recall.
I was actually able to enlist the help of a chap by the name of Stein Ericson to lay out the ski courses for us, on the available slopes.
For some of the races, the starting point was out of sight of the finish, which had never been the case before for the U tournament. so I introduced some portable ex military portable radios (about a cubic foot) and had to lug a bunch of 12 volt car batteries up to the main lodge. So the starts were called out on the radio, and the time keepers were all at the finish line. Didn’t know if the setup was going to work before the fact, and my a*** would have been in the ringer if it didn’t .
Stein Ericson was the head ski instructor on Ruapehu during the NZ ski season. This was circa 1959-60.
So you might say that I was skating on thin ice long before these newbies.
After the tournament, the place got hit by a monster ice storm and the brand new ski lift got all discombobulated. It was designed to stand 40 tons of ice distributed along its one mile length. We knocked 200 tons of ice off just the top 1/3rd of the lift, during the blizzard; which involved climbing the towers while holding a sledge hammer in one hand, and whacking at the ice till it fell off in huge chunks.
We did get a free ski lift ticket out of it once the storm was over, but that fancy lift was shattered. They ended up breaking it in half, so they could shut down the top half during the ice season (take the cable down).
Takes me back a bit in nostalgia land.

Reply to  Latitude
September 23, 2015 1:45 am

>>..we still don’t know if …. the whole thing was made up
I think they ran out of adjustments. The following graph comes from Steven Goddard’s site, in an article entitled: “CO2 Drives NCDC Data Tampering.”
You can only adjust the data so much, before it becomes so obvious everyone can see it. Its a bit like a woman saying she is 30 years old, for 20 years or more…. 😉comment image

September 22, 2015 6:27 pm

Eco-terrorism is taking it’s last few dying breaths…finally !!! Next up, jail time for these frauds !!!

Reply to  Marcus
September 22, 2015 6:38 pm

I wish I could feel as optimistic as you, Marcus. They spend a lot of money covering up the truth. It’s a multi-trillion dollar business.

Reply to  1957chev
September 22, 2015 7:28 pm

More and more of us ” little people ” are waking up !!!

Evan Jones
Reply to  Marcus
September 22, 2015 8:21 pm

Let’s not go there. The idea is to be correct, not to toss the other poor bum in the clink.

Reply to  Evan Jones
September 23, 2015 3:35 am

Evan – ‘poor’ isn’t the first adjective that comes to mind.

Reply to  Evan Jones
September 23, 2015 6:05 am

These people have caused hundreds, if not thousands of deaths. The aren’t poor little dears.

Reply to  Evan Jones
September 23, 2015 10:00 am

Poor? As in ‘without cash’? The only things they’re lacking is honesty and integrity.
Bum? As in ‘poor’? See the first line…
Dishonest thieving elitists deserve their just rewards, which are not positions of authority and respect.

September 22, 2015 6:36 pm

Always curious how often a headline statement such as ‘Thin Ice’ reflects the substance of the underlying material within climate research contexts. I think they are getting their ‘modeled evidence’ confused with language.

Reply to  thingadonta
September 22, 2015 6:40 pm

Just a scare tactic. The image makes it real, for many people. Scammers.

Reply to  thingadonta
September 22, 2015 6:56 pm

The way this thing has taken on a life of it’s own, The facts don’t matter as much as the rhetoric. That’s what makes it so suspected of being a pseudo-science cloaked agenda of socio-economic takedown.

September 22, 2015 7:00 pm

“rising temperatures warmed oceans and released trapped CO2”
Empirical evidence in the post industrial era data that surface temperature explains changes in atmospheric CO2 (Figure 10) much better than human emissions do (Figure 6).

John of Cloverdale, WA, Australia.
September 22, 2015 7:08 pm

“Award winning”. What award did they win and who was on the panel? Could be Carbon Cate (Blancette), jet setting actor Di Caprio and another award winner, Al Gore. As Katie Pavlich said on the website: “As always with these people, less energy for thee but not for me”.

Richard of NZ
Reply to  John of Cloverdale, WA, Australia.
September 23, 2015 1:39 pm

When lawless Lucy was convicted of trespass and malicious damage, the first question she asked was whether the conviction would interfere with her frequent flights between N.Z. and the U.S. This indicates, at least to me, that her priorities are purely selfish “Do as I say not what I do”.
There is no way I can take any of these people seriously until their “carbon footprint” is reduced to less than mine.

September 22, 2015 7:17 pm

A warming earth raises global co2. That seems pretty clear. So humans raising co2 anthropogenicaly will warm the earth? What if humans lower co2 slightly? Will we all freeze to death in 50 years flat? This alone doesn’t smell right even to a scientific illiterate.

September 22, 2015 7:30 pm

That only 50 turned up in that big hall is encouraging.

September 22, 2015 7:37 pm

All quite interesting, beside the point, and so what. The points that matter:
1) IPCC AR5 (Table 6.1) has no idea how much of the CO2 increase between 1750 and 2011 is due to industrialized man because the contributions of the natural sources and sinks are a massive WAG. Hard to say whether the sudden appearance of 2.6 trillion trees helps or hinders.
2) The 2 W/m^2 RF that IPCC AR5 attributes to that CO2 increase between 1750 & 2011 (SPM C) and that “unbalances” the global heat balance is lost in the magnitudes and uncertainties of the major factors in the global heat balance, i.e. ToA (340 W/m^2 +/- 10 W/m^2), clouds (-20 W/m^2 +/-?), reflection, absorption, +/-, etc. CO2’s a third or fourth decimal point bee fart in a hurricane. Are they as far off with the heat balance as with the trees?
3) IPCC AR5 admits in text box 9.2 that their GCM’s cannot explain the pause/hiatus/lull/stasis probably because their climate sensitivity is incorrect (Google “Climate Change in 12 Minutes”), as acknowledged in TS.6, and their GCMs & RCPs 3.0, 4.5, 6.0, 8.5 are consequentially useless. The oceans didn’t eat the heat, it was the water absorbed by 2.6 trillion trees.

Reply to  Nicholas Schroeder
September 22, 2015 7:44 pm

Bees fart ?? Have we measured it yet ???? Does it smell like honey ???? Can I get some grant money if I do a study to show that bee farts are good for the climate and are cancelling all the non-existent AGW ????

Reply to  Marcus
September 22, 2015 8:41 pm


Ian H
Reply to  Marcus
September 22, 2015 9:00 pm

Such research would be a strong contender for the Ignobel prize.

September 22, 2015 7:59 pm

Hay! The Pope landed, successfully, at Joint Base Andrews AFB east of DC. Glad for that. [Lots of ground-to-air batteries at JBA-AFB to shoot down lots of “stuff” in the air at any moment.]
China President XI and wife are in Seattle [relatively safe for Chinese], Washington, and meandering Westward Ho (no bang ding Ow), “coincidence?”, nudge nudge wink wink.
HillyBilly places her right-hand thumb upon her right-side nostril and BLOWS. She explains that she is not in favor of Keystone XL. Jeeze Louizee as IF the pipeline matters any more with the mega-surpulas [Thank you Saudi! Wink Wink] for half a decade to come! because it does not!., err does snot.
Ha ha

Scott M
September 22, 2015 8:19 pm

The sad thing, half or more of these naive students believe every word…..and will for the next 20+ years

Brent Hargreaves
September 22, 2015 8:47 pm

When I read about the CMIP5 climate model, why does the mental image of row upon row of chimps frantically typing away on typewriters flash into my mind?

Stuart Jones
Reply to  Brent Hargreaves
September 23, 2015 4:56 pm

chimps would randomly get the right data…. eventually CMIP5 never will.

September 22, 2015 8:47 pm

The really funny thing is IPCC AR5 acknowledges that the climate models are erroneous, at least in the graphs of the Technical Summary. See here:
AR5 Technical Summary, Box TS.3, pg. 64:
AR5 Technical Summary Figure TS.14, pg. 87:comment image
You can read the Technical Summary yourself here:

September 22, 2015 9:11 pm

“Come closer,” Barrett urged the people dotted around the hall. Few did.
It seems the few that did show up weren’t ready to be spellbound.
Not a good sign for the documentarians.

September 23, 2015 12:03 am

Perhaps the best reply to this video would be to re edit it , pointing out where it dverges from reality.
Then retitle it “Skating on thin ice, bad science and those who promote it. “

September 23, 2015 12:11 am

There is increasing evidence that these sort of people are receiving cash. Cash also comes to “scientists” via “grants”. Many green foundations including the Rockefeller groups award finance to Universities for “research”. Even a story on WUWT featured a financier offering politicians campaign funds – provided their agenda was green. gets finance from such foundations. and of course there is this report.

Ivor Ward
September 23, 2015 1:08 am

They do the “come closer” trick in the House of Commons. The few MP’s who bother to turn up crowd around the back of the Party speaker for the day and make a lot of noise for the close-up BBC camera. I imagine these Climate Warriors wanted a crowd to photograph for the publicity. A few scattered drunks and homeless people looking for a warm does not make for a good publicity shot.

Reply to  Ivor Ward
September 23, 2015 9:00 am

Have you ever noticed demonstrators in far away places with unusual local languages always carry signs and banners writ large in perfect English? Wonder what audience they are trying to influence?

Reply to  fossilsage
September 24, 2015 10:32 am

More curious in this instance is, who is preparing the signs?

Blair Macdonald
September 23, 2015 1:51 am

It is worse than this, there is direct fraud in this documentary at a fundamental level, if not incompetency, definitely a misattribution of fundamental physics knowledge to express and idea or to mislead.
May I draw your attention to clip ‘How CO2 Traps Sun’s Warmth’ ( here Dr’s Mortimer and Bowies us a spectrometer to demonstrate the ‘heat trapping CO2’.
Here they have reversed the data plot – the wavenumber is decreasing from the origin when it should be increasing – and I do not think this is a mistake, no expert would make this mistake. All spectrographs show left skewed intensity curve, they’ve switched the data, and have gone on to use the now right skewed curve to prove their point. This is not even wrong.
If you are not with me, search for images of atmospheric spectra for yourself and then see what they have done, and how they use it. (
This is a crime.
There is more to this than what I can write now, but be assured, this is the crux of the problem, and it is where they have it wrong, and where we will get them.
John Tyndall’s apparatus and modern spectrometers only measure electricity production from the thermopile and not at all what they think. It is the Seebeek effect and thermoelectrics. With knowledge of this physics there are no special GHGs only some that generate electricity, and some (N2 and O2) don’t.
Check out my work:
Blair Macdonald

September 23, 2015 2:11 am

.. come closer my little oysters… a grand conspiracy indeed. When I get hooted down at a major university for merely asking about the LIA or MWP, called all kinds of names, whether I have mental problems or causing the deaths of billions of people, yeah, there is something wrong. Outside of denying that either event took place or ignoring it altogether, nobody in the AGW has answered with any scientific thought. Since then the list of .. doubts… has grown. Till now I am firmly convinced they are wrong.
On the one hand, a witch hunt for communist harkins back to McCarthy days in the 1950s, but then on the other AGW sure bears the hallmarks of a concerted effort… as in praise for China and condemning the west. I have to get out my little red book to see what the chairman says. We have to save the world now! Come on over to the dark side, we will not hurt you. …

September 23, 2015 3:30 am

“A few scattered drunks and homeless people looking for a warm…”
You are still talking about MPs, right?

September 23, 2015 5:05 am

What is the best sceptic documentary?

Reply to  Mark
September 23, 2015 6:09 am

The nightly news?

Reply to  Mark
September 23, 2015 9:15 am

good point…How come those evil Koch brothers don’t fund up a star studded cast to do a classy documentary on the actual state of climate science? Or Bill Gates, he’s been known to make sensible observations about the “practicality” of “sustainable renewables”

Reply to  fossilsage
September 23, 2015 9:22 am

Heck a good program might be able to get Tom Selleck to narrate and transform the political punch of “skepticism” overnight.

Reply to  Mark
September 23, 2015 10:11 am

That’s an easy one! All of those over the top blatantly wrong alarmist disaster flicks, starting with that expensive mass of falsehoods called ‘inconvenient truth’.

Bruce Cobb
September 23, 2015 6:26 am

“Come closer” – said the spider to the fly. This crockumentary has the trappings of a search for the truth and of actual science, but is meant to ensnare the naieve and feeble-minded.

September 23, 2015 7:18 am

May Paris become the ice capital this December.
Visualize the whiteness of being.

Brian R
September 23, 2015 1:31 pm

This guys videos seem to do about as wells as the Goracle’s. The trailer, which is linked above on Vimeo, has the most views at about 24,500 since it was posted about 2 years ago. The actual “movie” has been available for about 2 months and has less and 30 views. Most of his other videos have well under 500 views, with a few over 500 but less than 1500.
Those true believers sure do watch a lot about global warming. /sarc

Reply to  Brian R
September 23, 2015 3:11 pm

They don’t have to know anything else or watch… and certainly not anything that disproves their holy religion…. they are true believers.. or in true communist fashion, 1500 people out of billion is an overwhelming majority.

Rick K
September 23, 2015 4:07 pm

One could tell the filmmaker’s bias was on thin ice simply by the title of his ‘documentary.’

September 24, 2015 12:31 pm

These guys are both great scientists do not question that. However as far back as 1986 I remember Barrett getting hot under the colour at a fellow student questioning the role of C O 2 in a sedimentology lecture. Barrett said we know climate has changed in the past and we know sea level has changed by a hundred odd meters…it’s our responsibility to do something about it. there was a religious zeal that struck me as odd…..many years later still singing from the same hymn sheet.
I had no interest in climate change until,working for Shell, they made us all watch the Al Gore movie – which they accept as fact – I was horrified by the inaccuracies and set out to find out why the questions unanswered in 1986 were still not answered. An unknown mechanism warms planet,,,,CO2 steps in warms it more and rises…..the planet cools….CO2 stys high THEN slowly drops……Please explain why the tail wags the dog and what we know about the primary diver for the interglacial warming and cooling…..
Barrett ran the Antarctic research centre I recall one honours project showed stream flows increased when the sun shone ( an experiment that could have been run on the cotton building window sills with ice cubes). There could be a clue in that ground breaking research….big shiny up in the sky. Barrett taught me much about Milankovitch…did the movie mention Milankovitch or Roe (in defence of Milankovitch)

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