Meet The Sceptics: another BBC stitch-up

Lots of people have been asking me about tonight’s BBC Four documentary, Meet the Sceptics.

Murray: I thought I could trust him....

Murray: I thought I could trust him….

Lots of people have been asking me about tonight’s BBC Four documentary Meet The Sceptics. Is it going to be fair and balanced? Or another hatchet job?

Ha ha ha ha ha ha. (*laughs darkly*)

Let me tell you the story so far:

Nine months ago, when I was at the Heartland conference in Chicago, I was approached by a  louche, affable, dark-haired, public school charmer called Rupert Murray. With his friend Callum he was making a documentary about climate sceptics for the BBC and wondered if I’d like to take part.

“The BBC? Not bloody likely. You’ve come to stitch us up, haven’t you?” I said.

“Not at all,” said Murray. “Look, there’s something you need to realise. I’m an independent filmmaker, I have no big budget for this, so I’m dependent on my work being original and interesting. The very last thing the BBC wants to commission is another hatchet job on sceptics. How boring and predictable would that be?”

Very true, I thought. It really is about time the BBC examined the issue from the other side. They are a public service broadcaster, after all, not a green investment fund. (Ho ho).

Over the next few months I came to like and trust Murray. He was there filming Lord Lawson, Lord Monckton, Lord Leach and me when we debated at the Oxford Union. And he was there to capture our joy and surprise when we won – and to hang out drinking with us, afterwards, like he was our mate. By this stage, we’d all come to accept that Murray was genuinely interested in presenting our case sympathetically. In fact, I must admit, I was really looking forward to seeing the finished product. “God this is going to be fantastic!” I thought. “At long bloody last, the BBC is going to do the right thing – and at feature length too.”

The only reason I had cause to suspect Murray’s real motives was that he had made a campaigning eco documentary called The End Of The Line and that having spent a lot of time with Charles Clover he might well be biased towards the warmist cause. But I put this worry aside because, as I told him, I too am deeply concerned by rampant overfishing. And this was one of the reasons I eventually agreed to be interviewed by him. I wanted to explain to Murray that those of us on the sceptical side of the argument care as passionately about the environment as warmists do. That’s why, for example, we get so very very upset at the destruction of the landscape through biofuels and wind farms. Because we love nature and can’t bear to see it ruined for the sake of what is essentially a political cause not an environmental one.

Murray and his colleague Callum came round to my house (just like a certain Sir Paul Nurse) and I gave a long,  interview about why it is that I’m a sceptic, what Climategate meant for the integrity of “climate science”, why there is now room for honest doubt, and what it is that the Green movement actually believes (as evidenced by the writings of The Club of Rome, Teddy Goldsmith, Maurice Strong, John Holdren et al). I was confident and pleased because, it seems to me at any rate, that the Climate Sceptics’ case is so watertight that once any reasonable person has been exposed to it he will be converted.

Murray asked me if he could film me some more, maybe with my children having a barbecue or driving a 4 x 4 in the country. But I was too busy.


Because, yes, you guessed it, Murray’s documentary is another hatchet job. This time the man designated for the chop is Lord Monckton. Except, knowing Monckton as I do, I don’t think he’s going to let this one lie. Sure he’ll probably be made to look a fool, but then as Richard North explains in this superb essay, this means nothing.

This is the practice of modern documentary makers, who can gather huge amounts of material and then edit and assemble the material in a way that they can present a message, the message the producer wishes to convey. This is irrespective of what is actually said, and what interviewees actually intended.

The process, North explains, works like this:

You write the script first, setting out what you want to say. Then you go out and find the talking heads that will say the words you need to fit the script. You (in this case I) interview them, collect up the words on the tape and then go back to the edit suite and pull out the words that fit.

Murray, it seems likely, had made up his mind what his angle was long, long before he inveigled his way into the sceptics’ circle and passed himself off as a decent fellow just trying to find out the truth. I’ll say one thing for him: he’s very plausible. I only twigged last week, when I rang him up to find out what his documentary would look like and how much I was in it.

“We’ve decided to concentrate on Monckton I’m afraid,” he said.

“Oh never mind,” I said. “I quite understand. Christopher is way more colourful and exciting than I am.”

We then had a chat about peer-to-peer review, in the course of which Murray quoted approvingly one “Dr Trenberth.” “Well Dr Trenberth says….” he began, in a way which suggested regular contact and great admiration.

Anyway, at least I’m not in it, I don’t think. When Callum asked me to sign the release form for my interview, I said that I would quite like to see the programme beforehand. Funny, I haven’t heard from them since.

Related posts:

  1. Meet the man who has exposed the great climate change con trick
  2. My moment of rock-star glory at a climate change sceptics’ conference in America
  3. Aussie sceptics destroy EU carbon commissioner
  4. ‘Climate change sceptics have smaller members, uglier wives, dumber kids’ says new study made up by warmists


  1. Mark says:3rd February 2011 at 11:51 amI read your posts on climate change, please don’t offer an uneducated opinion when you know nothing about science.


  2. Sebaneau says:4th February 2011 at 11:53 amPlease keep telling the truth against those organized liars.
  3. Mr Monzonite says:4th February 2011 at 5:32 pmI read your posts on climate change, please keep offering your extremely valid opinion on how we are being mis-led by activist scientists.


  4. Fearless Frank says:5th February 2011 at 4:37 amHey James, they never got in touch because they want informed sceptics, not mickey mouse denialists. Why don’t you make it easy on yourself and read a scientific paper on the subject before commenting, then perhaps you won’t be the laughing stock of the world.
  5. Nige Cook says:5th February 2011 at 12:01 pmFearless Frank: James was featured several times in BBC4 “Meet the Sceptics”, which was edited it seems to exclude the real facts. Lord Monckton was presented as a straw man sceptic to knock down, but it was classic dump BBC TV, with physics being ignored in favour of the “credentials” of the skeptics. Joule was a brewer, not a PhD. Faraday was a bookbinder, then a test-tube washer for Davy, and never had a PhD. Newton (BA 1665 and MA 1668) never got a PhD. James Clerk Maxwell (BSc 1854) never received a PhD. Charles Darwin had no PhD. Oliver Heaviside, who predicted the ionosphere and transformed Maxwell’s equations from long-hand differential equations into compressed vector calculus, had only school education.

    In fact, to get a PhD you need to work on a supervised groupthink project, which probably ensures that most people with PhD’s have originality sucked straight out of them (look up Orwell’s definition of “crimestop” in 1984). Einstein’s PhD is a case in point.

    Einstein in October 1895 failed his entrance exam to the Swiss Polytechnic (ETH), only passing the exam and entering a year later after further study. His first PhD thesis was rejected in 1901 and he was only awarded a PhD for estimating Avogardo’s number theoretically in 1905.Smolin’s criterion of a scientist is very convenient but one problem is, as in Einstein’s case, that the important innovations may occur prior to someone taking a PhD. The PhD system has also changed since Einstein’s time: he was free to decide what to do his thesis on and merely had to send a cheque for 230 Swiss francs with his thesis. Another problem is obviously that the percentage of the scientifically literate world’s population which has a PhD is small, so you are thus blacklisting as crackpots billions of people from being taken seriously if they should come up with a useful scientific idea while outside ivory towers.

  6. Fearless Frank says:6th February 2011 at 7:31 amWhat real facts can James present? He doesn’t even read scientific papers. I doubt he has even read the climategate emails in context preferring to be spoonfed by the likes of hate jockey Glenn Beck.

    Whereas Monckton is just a PR guru hired by the oil industry to distort scientific papers. Notable example is he can’t even get the gender of professor Pinker correct let alone present her work correctly. Here’s her response to Monckton’s testimony to Congress.

  7. Nige Cook says:6th February 2011 at 9:03 amFearless Frank, she just ignores the facts, using the sunspot myth as a “straw man” to attack. I don’t understand why anyone claims that the sun’s radiation output is having a significant effect on climate. It isn’t. We know everything we need to know, and she ignores all the important evidence, presumably for reasons of political correctness, just like Dr Phil Jones and Sir Paul Nurse in the Horizon documentary.

    An increase in temperature, for example, will generally cause an increase in the ratio of animal to plant biomass (since animals can adapt to temperature more easily by changing their location, than rainforests can, so the animals can migrate while the rainforests die off) which increases the level of CO2 in the atmosphere since animals emit CO2 while plants bind it up. Hence the assumption that CO2 is driving the temperature change in history is generally a mistake. The Quaternary ice age began a million years ago, during which there were half a dozen or so glacial periods during which the English Channel and most of the North Sea dried up as a result of an expansion of polar ice caps, and northern continents were covered by up to 1 km thick ice sheets. During some interglacial periods, the climate was warmer than it is today.

    Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels during the last 600 million years have been studied with the GEOCARB model, which combines data on CO2 emissions from volcanic activity, weathering of calcium carbonate rocks, burial of carbon in calcium carbonate rock and in fossil fuels, plant uptake of CO2 and solar radiation flux.

    The original version of GEOCARB suggested that the atmospheric CO2 abundance was over 15 times higher 460 million years ago than it is now, and at that time the mean global temperature was 7 C higher than now (22 C compared to an assumed global mean temperature now of 15 C). Some 210 million years ago, the CO2 level is estimated to have been 5 times the current level, and the mean global temperature was estimated to have been 5 C warmer than now (20 C compared to 15 C assumed as today’s global mean temperature). Even just 100 million years ago, there were no continuous ice caps at the poles (just winter snow): all the ice melted in the summer at the poles, and deciduous rain forests existed within 1,000 km of the poles.

    One example of a climatic change caused by normal geological processes is the formation of the Tibetian plateau which effectively cooled the whole planet by strengthening the monsoon system in southern Asia and forming the Himalayas. Beginning about 50 million years ago (and continuing to the present day), the drift of the continental plates has caused the continents of India and Eurasia to collide, pushing up oceanic crust from the bottom of the sea to form the Himalayan mountain chain and the Tibetian plateau. Similarly, the Alps are the result of a collision beginning 120 million years ago between Africa and Eurasia, and also had an effect on global climate.

    The temperature changes caused by such natural phenomena can cause CO2 levels to vary by killing off CO2-absorbing rainforests which can’t move, while CO2-emitting animals can migrate to compensate for the climatic change. Hence, there can be a true correlation between temperature and CO2 levels, even where there is no mechanism for CO2 levels to affect temperature: the opposite mechanism has occurred, in that a changing climatic temperature has resulted in a variation of CO2 levels!

    Yet another example of a mechanism for natural climatic change is the Earth’s orbit which undergoes three cycles named after Milutin Milankovich, the Serbian astronomer who in 1941 worked out how the planets perturb one another’s orbits:

    (1) the Earth’s tilt (which creates the opposite seasons in each hemisphere, and is currently 23.4 degrees and decreasing, so summers are becoming cooler and winters are becoming warmer) varies from 22.4 to 24.2 degrees over a 41,000 year cycle,

    (2) the precession of the equinoxes, a cycle lasting 22,000 years (in 11,000 years time, the timing of the winter and summer seasons will have exactly reversed in each hemisphere), and

    (3) the shape of the Earth’s orbit around the sun, i.e. the eccentricity, changes from a circle to a strong ellipse, over a combination of a very weak 400,000 year cycle and a stronger 100,000 year cycle that combine into an effective cycle lasting around 110,000 years.

    A maximum elliptical eccentricity of 0.05 occurred 200,000 years ago, when both the 400,000 and 100,000 year cycles were at a maximum. Some 100,000 years ago, the 400,000 year cycle was no longer at maximum, but the 100,000 year cycle was at maximum, and the resulting eccentricity was 0.04. The eccentricity of the Earth’s orbit varies from 0.0034-0.058 as a result of gravitational forces between the planets, and it is currently only 0.0167 (we are 147 million km from the sun on at the perihelion on 3 January, and are 152 million km from the sun on Independence Day, the aphelion). Greater eccentricity tends to wipe out the normal seasons (which are due to the earth’s tilt, and which are opposite in opposite hemispheres), so that the entire earth (both hemispheres) will begin to freeze in winter and thaw in summer, causing very severe extremes of temperatures during the year simultaneously over most of the planet and thus preventing effective migration, by confining many species to areas much closer to the equator than they can venture seasonally today.

    Again, the effect of the temperature variations caused naturally by the Milankovich cycles will be to vary CO2 levels: as eccentricity increases in the future, the Earth will cease orbiting in a nearly circular orbit and will orbit the sun more elliptically. This will cause the entire Earth to cool simultaneously to a significant extent when far from the sun each year (which doesn’t happen at present: we are nearest to the sun on 3 January and furthest from it on 4 July, but that distance effect is completely overwhelmed by the much larger effect of the 23.4 degree tilt of the earth’s spin to the plane of the its orbit around the sun, which seasonally varies the mean thickness of the atmosphere that sunlight must penetrate in each hemisphere). This change will affect vegetation, so that CO2 levels will vary. Over the past 18,000 years, the warming of the Earth and the expansion of the ocean water in consequence has increased sea levels by 120 metres, innundating low-lying vegetation and destroying it, while animals have migrated. This is a regular effect: over the past 400,000 years, there have been 4 peaks in sea level all within plus or minus about 10 metres of the current level, and four minimum sea levels of over 100 metres below the current level.

    A politician or pseudo-scientist could plot the varying temperature and the varying CO2 level, and falsely do a correlation significance test before falsely claiming that statistical significance proves that CO2 levels drive temperature, when in fact the temperature variation can drive the change in CO2 levels! This is the danger of statistical pseudo-science: it is no substitute for understanding the physical mechanism. The fact that data manipulation is required by IPCC researchers to fake evidence for extreme global warming by suppressing the natural background temperature variation data, shows that the subject has fallen prey to politicians’s (tax-payer filled) wallets, and has lost rigorous, honest objectivity, sinking into the depths of mere propaganda.

    Increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide cause a tiny temperature rise, increasing evaporation so there is more cloud cover, which in turn reflects more solar radiation back into space, nearly offsetting the “greenhouse” effect of the carbon dioxide so that global warming’s “extreme evidence” has to be manufactured by fudging the data. In short, the world is not like a greenhouse because of the evaporation of water which causes additional cloud cover which cools the earth by reflecting sunlight back into space. The evaporation of water was totally ignored altogether in the early IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) models that supported hyped disaster predictions from the “greenhouse” effect. Furthermore, they fiddled the historical data to make recent changes seem unprecedented using the false “hockey stick” diagram.

    (1) CO2 is not a pollutant but is the vital source of carbon for all plant growth on land and in the sea on this planet, and rising levels of CO2 therefore promote life rather than destroying it – it is an essential gas for the life on Earth. It doesn’t lead to rapid temperature rises on any planet with large quantities of water, since any initial slight temperature rise causes more water to evaporate forming clouds, thus increasing cloud cover and protecting the planet against further temperature rises from the increasing level of atmospheric CO2. As Dr Lubos Motl points out, CO2 only becomes unpleasant for humans at concentrations of around 10,000 ppm while the current one is 388 ppm and with the depletion of fossil fuel reserves it cannot ever exceed 1,000 ppm. CO2 has a net positive impact on life on Earth.

    (2) fossil fuels are not inexhaustible and are being depleted anyway, and as oil and coal supplies dwindle the remaining reserves are more expensive to tap and so the price rises, and people are pushed naturally away from using such fuels towards safe nuclear energy (which doesn’t produce collateral CO2 emissions if nuclear power is used to generate electricity to power the trains that deliver the fuel, etc.) and renewable biofuels (plants which lock up the same amount of CO2 while growing that they release on subsequent burning, so there is no net increase in global CO2), so global warming is not a long term doomsday problem anyway unless fossil fuels can be shown to be inexhaustible,

    (3) the immense expenditure on trying to reduce CO2 emissions from existing sources and building wind power stations doesn’t cause a significant reduction in global carbon dioxide. For example, if the total fossil fuel reserve (oil, coal, etc.) is X tons, then supplementing it with wind power will simply mean that the carbon in the X tons of fuel is given out over a longer period of time, say 120 years instead of 100 years. Once all of the fossil fuels have been used up, all of the CO2 will be released and the “countermeasures” which consist of reducing the rate at which the CO2 is released will not affect the ultimate level of CO2 in the atmosphere. So it is a confidence trick to waste taxpayers money under false pretenses.

    As I wrote in a comment on another post at this blog, the global atmosphere is not like a greenhouse, unless you have clouds in your greenhouse. Water evaporation forms warm moist air that rises to form clouds, which reduces the heating of biosphere air masses by direct shadowing. Thus, water evaporation has a negative feedback on increased CO2, reducing or eliminating future global warming, instead of amplifying it with the positive feedback assumed by IPCC. They ignore the proper buoyancy of warm moist air.

    The whole approach of Sir Paul Nurse and others, in assuming that “so many experts surely can’t all be wrong” is just like the fear-mongered groupthink of the 1930s, when a majority of “experts” supported appeasement of Hitler, allowing the Nazis to rearm, invade, and plunder enough to start WWII. They weren’t all stupid. What actually happens in groupthink is very simple. People think “if we stop Hitler now with a limited preventative war, we’ll go down in history as horrible warmongers, so we’d be safe and side with the pacifists”. It’s the same with the exaggeration of CO2 risks.

    Years ago, I started a wiki page about the New Scientist’s editor Jeremy Webb, a former BBC employee who led the liars on global warming, and also published non-ending anti-nuclear propaganda from Rob Edwards, ignoring the scientific facts of DNA repair enzymes on radiation damage, particularly at low dose rates, in favour of pseudoscientific propaganda. But it was deleted by wikipedia groupthink. There is no mechanism to answer him back, since editors to New Scientist aren’t published, and he is arrogant in meetings:

    “Jeremy Webb, editor of the New Scientist, started by emphasising that human beings have ‘as much destructive potential’ as that which brought about former mass extinctions … First, global warming … Webb asked – after the presentations – whether there was anybody who still was not worried about the future. …

    “When I pointed out that none of the speakers had presented any of the scientific evidence that challenged their doomsday scenarios, Webb just threw back at me, ‘But why take the risk?’ … You could equally say ‘… Why take the risk of not allowing optimum economic development?’”

    -Dr Helene Guldberg, “Ecoevangelism”, Spiked Science, 26 April 2001.

  8. Velocity says:8th February 2011 at 7:34 amFearless Frank

    There’s a chart from the Vostok ice-core data that even a retarded thinker like yourself can follow (and most 7 year olds). It shows Earths temperature rising and 800 years later CO2 follows. Namely temperature change causes CO2 to rise. Cause and effect.

    Effect (CO2 rise) has never caused temperature rise. The Vostok data also shows peak CO2 levels do not cause temperature to either rise or remain steady. Temperature falls right through peak CO2 levels.

    Strangely the AGW ‘experts’ all ignore this factual and actual data that blows a hole right through their theory. One wonders why they ignore this while being funded by Govts worldwide to ‘find’ research contrary to known actual science. Like their jobs depended on it eh?

  9. Velocity says:8th February 2011 at 8:20 amJames

    Rupert Muppet, sorry Murray, still remains a personable likeable chappy but what he did was his job, as a documentary maker. His documentary was a hatchet job and deserves all the criticism this ‘professional’ incompetence deserves.
    This is no different to the crony scientists, paid to play, who are probably (mostly) all very likeable (with the exceptions of Al Gore, Phil Jones, James Hansen, Dr Pachuari et al). Don’t descend into the bent AGW crews personal attacks on what is a professional topic under debate. Ignore any personal hurt or breach of trust, it has nothing to with it.
    The documentary was professionally inept, scientifically incompetent and time will prove it to be another nail in the coffin of this corrupt poliitcal-media cabal. That’s enough isn’t it?

  10. Fearless Frank says:8th February 2011 at 2:35 pmNige? Monckton incorrectly presents Pinker’s arguments and Pinker’s presenting strawman arguments??? Huh? Your argument makes no sense!! Then why did Monckton use Pinker’s work in the first place?? If Monckton had a brain he would have ignored her work and used someone else’s work to prove his point. Instead he made a hash of it to bolster his argument but wasn’t even able to get her gender correct.
  11. Fearless Frank says:8th February 2011 at 2:45 pmOh no, Velocity using the thoroughly misinterpresented 800 year lag argument. If you bothered understanding into the interglacial cycle. When the earth comes out of the interglacial cycle, temps drive CO2. But as the cycle goes on, CO2 begins to drive temps. In total, CO2 drives 90% of the interglacial cycle.
  12. Nige Cook says:8th February 2011 at 3:24 pmFearless Frank, CO2 only drives climate change in NASA and IPCC computer climate fantasies when positive-feedback from H2O water vapour is assumed. In the real world, there is negative feedback from H2O which cancels out the small effect of CO2 rises: the hot moist air rises to form clouds, so less sunlight gets through. Homeostasis! See:


    “Since the Earth’s atmosphere is not lacking in greenhouse gases, if the system could have increased its surface temperature it would have done so long before our emissions. It need not have waited for us to add CO2: another greenhouse gas, H2O, was already to hand in practically unlimited reservoirs in the oceans. … The Earth’s atmosphere maintains a constant effective greenhouse-gas content [although the percentage contributions to it from different greenhouse gases can vary greatly] and a constant, maximized, “saturated” greenhouse effect that cannot be increased further by CO2 emissions (or by any other emissions, for that matter). … During the 61-year period, in correspondence with the rise in CO2 concentration, the global average absolute humidity diminished about 1 per cent. This decrease in absolute humidity has exactly countered all of the warming effect that our CO2 emissions have had since 1948. … a hypothetical doubling of the carbon dioxide concentration in the air would cause a 3% decrease in the absolute humidity, keeping the total effective atmospheric greenhouse gas content constant, so that the greenhouse effect would merely continue to fluctuate around its equilibrium value. Therefore, a doubling of CO2 concentration would cause no net “global warming” at all.”

    Climate changes do occur, and variations in CO2 in the atmosphere do occur: but CO2 variations don’t affect temperature, only cloud cover. Homeostasis involves an anti-greenhouse effect due to cloud cover that is ignored by natural climate change deniers!

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