British propagandist Martin Durkin is still trying to fool the world with bogus claims and fake graphs to say the most reputable scientific organisations, including NASA, the Met Office and Royal Society, are all wrong on anthropogenic climate change. Pallavi Sethi and Bob Ward pick apart his latest film, Climate: The Movie.

In Climate: The Movie, written and directed by Martin Durkin, the narrator describes climate change as “an eccentric environmental scare” that “grew into a powerful global industry”. He rejects the overwhelming scientific evidence that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted from human activities are driving a rise in global temperature. Instead, he suggests, global warming is due to cosmic rays from outer space.

The 80-minute film, released on 23 March, is almost a rerun of his discredited movie The Great Global Warming Swindle, which was broadcast in the UK on Channel 4 on 8 March 2007. That film falsely suggested that changes in solar activity, not greenhouse gases, are responsible for global warming.

Following the Channel 4 broadcast, Durkin, who studied economic history at LSE, was quickly engulfed in controversy as experts pointed out that his film was riddled with falsehoods and amounted to little more than propaganda. Complaints to the regulator Ofcom eventually resulted in a bizarre ruling a year later which found that the film had breached the Broadcasting Code in terms of “due impartiality”, but not in terms of “due accuracy” because it had not been proven to “materially mislead the audience so as to cause harm or offence”. Extraordinarily, Ofcom concluded that programmes that claim to be documentaries are not necessarily required to be factually accurate.

Climate: The Movie recycles many of the same falsehoods that featured in The Great Global Warming Swindle. But many independent organisations and fact-checkers have already debunked the many bogus claims that appear throughout the film. Meta’s third-party fact-checking partners Science Feedback and AFP, along with Skeptical Science, have all identified a long list of inaccurate and misleading arguments that lie at the heart of Durkin’s ridiculous rant.

Unlike The Great Global Warming Swindle, no reputable broadcaster has agreed to show Climate: The Movie, which instead has been circulated online by climate change deniers. The film’s producer is an obscure American climate change denier, Tom Nelson, whose profile on X states: “CO2 is vital plant food, but it is *not* the climate control knob.” Nelson has a YouTube podcast on which he interviews other climate change deniers and promotes climate misinformation. Durkin and most of the cast of Climate: The Movie have previously appeared on the podcast.

Fake graphs

One the most laughable parts of The Great Global Warming Swindle was the presentation of a fake graph of global temperature. In the film, the graph purported to show global temperature between 1880 and 2000, and was attributed to NASA (see below).

Source: The Great Global Warming Swindle

It soon became apparent that this is not a NASA graph. Durkin admitted that it had in fact been taken from a pamphlet created by a group of campaigners who opposed policies in the United States to cut carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. The pamphlet, titled ‘Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide’, was produced in January 1998 to support the so-called ‘Oregon Petition’ which attempted to rally opposition to climate policies but was undermined by its inclusion of fake signatures from TV characters and pop stars.

It was not only the graph’s attribution that was bogus. The makers of The Great Global Warming Swindle had also fiddled the graph. Figure 12 in the pamphlet (see below) ended at about 1988, but the version shown in the film carried on to 2000. Durkin was finally forced to admit that they had changed the year on the axis to make the graph seem more up-to-date. This meant the film-makers tried to hide the rise in temperature that occurred after 1988.

Source: Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide

It appears that Durkin did not learn anything from this humiliating episode, and his new film again relies on fake graphs of global temperature. For instance, during an early part of the film described as “The Science”, a graph appears that supposedly plots global temperature over the past 2,000 years, attributed to “Ljungqvist, 2000” (see below). The narrator refers to the “Medieval Warm Period” as “according to many studies as warm or warmer than today”. However, a search of the academic literature shows no papers by anyone named Ljungqvist on temperature change that were published in 2000. So the film’s reference is false.

Source: Climate: The Movie (Fast Car Films, via Vimeo)

There was a paper published in the journal Geografiska Annaler: Series A, Physical Geography in 2010 by Fredrik Charpentier Ljungqvist titled ‘A new reconstruction of temperature variability in the extra‐tropical northern hemisphere during the last two millennia’. The paper includes a graph as its Figure 3 (see below) that resembles the one in the film. However, it does not show global temperature. Instead, it represents estimates of decadal temperature over the past 2,000 years for the Northern Hemisphere between 30 and 90 degrees north. And there is one other important difference with the graph in the film. Ljungqvist’s Figure 3 includes the rise in temperature from the instrumental thermometer record, which shows a warming that exceeds the estimate for the Medieval Warm Period. The film-makers have removed the instrumental record from the graph in an attempt to hide the rise in temperature.

Source: A new reconstruction of temperature variability in the extra‐tropical northern hemisphere during the last two millennia

This is not the last misrepresentation of global temperature trends in the film. It also shows a graph under the title ‘Central England Temperature Record’ (see below), which it attributes to the Met Office. The narrator states: “Since the worst of the Little Ice Age, from 1650, the temperature has risen gently by little more than 1 degree Celsius.” This graph resembles the record of Central England Mean Temperature since 1659, which is maintained on the Met Office’s website, except the film’s graph shows a decline over the past few years.

Source: Climate: The Movie (Fast Car Films, via Vimeo)

In contrast, the Met Office’s graph shows a significant rise over recent years (see below). It appears that the film-makers decided to show the record only up to 2010 and left out the last 13 years, during which temperature has increased significantly. Indeed, the Met Office’s State of the UK Climate 2022, which was published in July 2023, indicates that the period 2001 to 2022 was about 1.7 Celsius degrees higher than the period 1659 to 1700. Once again, the film-makers have fiddled the graph to try to hide the rise in temperature.

Source: Met Office, Hadley Centre Central England Temperature (HadCET) dataset

A line-up of the usual suspects

Durkin tries to lend credibility to the arguments in his new film by depicting its cast as reliable experts. The narrator tells the audience that these individuals are “eminent and respected scientists”, but they are largely a collection of grumpy old men who are well-known for promoting climate change denial.

Most of Durkin’s supposed experts have no qualifications in climate science. For instance, the film relies heavily on comments from William Happer, an 84-year-old retired physicist at Princeton University whose profile describes him as “one of the pioneers in the field of optically polarized atoms”. Happer is also Chair and Co-founder of the CO2 Coalition, which was set up as the United States’ “leading organization providing facts, resources and information about the vital role carbon dioxide plays in our environment”. In Durkin’s film, Happer insists that “we should be grateful” for the increase in atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide. His vocal climate change denial previously attracted the attention of President Donald Trump, who briefly appointed him as an advisor to the National Security Council. However, he left the role after one year, his push to undermine the scientific consensus on climate change short-lived.

Among other prominent contributors to the film is 72-year-old Steve Koonin, a Professor of Information, Operations and Management Sciences at New York University, whose former roles include Chief Scientist at BP and Under Secretary of Science in the United States Department of Energy. Koonin wrote a book in 2021 that challenged the scientific consensus on climate change and was riddled with inaccurate and misleading claims.

There are contributions as well from 76-year-old Patrick Moore, a previous Chair of the CO2 Coalition who was formerly President of Greenpeace Canada but now promotes climate change denial, and 83-year-old Richard Lindzen, a retired atmospheric physicist whose attempts to undermine the consensus on climate change have been thoroughly debunked. And there are also comments from retired geologist Tony Heller, another member of the CO2 Coalition who for many years promoted climate change denial on Twitter under the false name of Steven Goddard.

Most of the interviewees in the film are American, but they also include London-based Benny Peiser of the Global Warming Policy Foundation and Stephen Davies of the Institute of Economic Affairs. Both lobby groups are part of Westminster’s network of free market fundamentalists which provides a platform for climate change denial.

Daft conspiracy

At the heart of Martin Durkin’s rage about climate change seems to be a daft conspiracy theory that the media, political and scientific establishment, sometimes described as ‘The Blob’, is all left-wing. In a rant on X in March 2023, Durkin wrote: “The Blob conspired to pass off Lockdown BS as science. Climate is a far worse example of the very same … at least there was a Red Commie lab virus – there really is nothing to the Climate claptrap other than anti-capitalist fresh air.”

This ridiculous conspiracy theory appears throughout Climate: The Movie, too. In the second half of the film, the narrator claims climate policies are a way to exert control and “reshape the lives and habits” of ordinary people. In one clip, Benny Peiser asserts that “authoritarian measures are being adopted in the name of saving the planet”.

Durkin’s paranoia about ‘the Establishment’ is very similar to the conspiracy that gained momentum in 2020 following the ‘Great Reset’ initiative by the World Economic Forum, which was launched by its Chair Klaus Schwab and the then Prince Charles. The conspiracy theory emerged after Schwab proposed that the response to the COVID-19 pandemic was an opportunity to create a fairer world. Baseless claims soon circulated that elites like the World Economic Forum had orchestrated the pandemic to enforce control over society.

The film’s producer, Tom Nelson, is a proponent of the Great Reset conspiracy, as is obvious from his X feed, and promoted Durkin’s work with the tweet “Elites tried for The Great Reset but got a Great Awakening.”

Durkin’s conspiracy narrative is obvious throughout the film, with claims that “punitive and restrictive policies” are being enforced “in the name of climate change”, and that climate change is an “invented scare” to justify an “assault on freedom”. The narrator states: “Everything has a climate narrative attached to it. How much you consume, where you spend your money, how much you travel, who you interact with, what types of food you eat, whether you eat meat. Everything has some kind of aspect to it that can be controlled with a climate lens.”

Misinformation or disinformation?

Given Durkin’s paranoia and his obvious immersion in a daft conspiracy yarn, it is hard to know if he really believes the nonsense in his film or if he is deliberately promoting disinformation about climate change. Either way, this propaganda film is pure misinformation that only the most gullible are likely to swallow.

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