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.