Posted by Co2sceptic on Feb 1st 2011
views 13,353
There is only one climate sceptic in the world. His name is Christopher Monckton. This is the only conclusion you could draw from Rupert Murray’s film, Meet the Climate Sceptics, broadcast on BBC4 tonight.

The film portrays Monckton single-handedly attacking the entire global scientific establishment, sabotaging any possibility of climate legislation in the USA, and thereby demolishing any possible global deal on emissions-reduction through the UNFCCC process. Along the way he destroys Kevin Rudd’s administration and the Australian ETS… In Murray’s fantasy, Christopher Monckton is to climate scepticism what James Bond is to the UK.

The film belongs to a strand on BBC TV, called Storyville. But Rupert Murray doesn’t just tell a story, he constructs a mythology. Says Murray, introducing his film:

I don’t know about you, but over the past few years, I’ve been quite frightened by all the media stories about global warming. Even the British government mounted an ad campaign to try and scare us and our children into acting on CO2.

I thought like quite a few people, that we humans were heading for disaster. I was scared we were going to lose our freedoms, because our free-wheeling lifestyle was going to have an impact.

I was worried for my children. What kind of world were they going to grow up into?

Then one day I came across this film, and the more I watched, the better I felt. my guilt for being human began to evaporate as leading sceptic, Lord Christopher Monckton seemed to demolish many of the key predictions of doom.

If the sceptics were right, we could all celebrate. But what if they were wrong, and by listening to them, we were gambling with millions of peoples’ lives and our future?

I set aside my own green beliefs and any preconceived ideas I might have had. I wanted to hear their side of the story, to find out if they had the answers we’re all looking for.


But Murray doesn’t meet them. He doesn’t hear their side of the story. And he doesn’t set aside his green beliefs and preconceptions; he brings them with him on his journey following Mockton across Australia, the USA. With the footage, he weaves a story that is transparently intended as some kind of moral pornography for liberals.

This journey shows Monckton at the same time affable and charismatic in bed with a nasty, reactionary audience: elderly and religious conservatives, the Tea Party movement; Glen Beck; Fox News; bizarre conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones; the Republican Party; and a bigoted homophobe who claims to agree with what he imagines as Monckton’s attitude to gays:

I endorse your stand on homosexuals and Aids {sic}… They should be locked up they should be exterminated.

This is all Murray wants to say about Monckton — he’s in bed with the baddies. We learn almost nothing about Monckton’s argument. This demonstrates that as hard as Murray pretends he aimed to understand the sceptics, and to have put his prejudices to one side, he couldn’t create a film which accurately portrayed the thesis of just one of them, in spite of spending a great deal of time with him. All we see is small, disconnected fragments of argument, devoid of any context. The superficial attempts to portray Monckton’s ideas are counterposed by much longer expositions of strong and at times shrill, opinion from the likes of Kevin Trenberth, Andy Pitman, and David Griggs, to which Monckton is denied the opportunity to answer.

This is a pity, because it precludes proper criticism of the argument Monckton actually makes. It instead takes issue with the image of Monckton that Murray invents.

I’ve seem Monckton’s presentation, and I do not find it convincing. At the risk of annoying visitors here, my criticism of sceptics in general is that the dependence on scientific arguments fails to challenge the eco-centric politics that precedes it in the environmentalists case. Thus, scepticism makes a concession to environmentalism: all you need is the right science, and then you’ll know what to do. Scepticism almost accepts environmentalism’s premises, and so fails to criticise it, leaving the debate to oscillate according to the latest scientific discovery. All it would take to make climate alarmism and the political changes it demands legitimate, then, would be for some new scientific discovery.

However, a film which made a serious attempt to understand Monckton’s argument would be interesting, and likely would reveal weaknesses in the alarmist’s case, even if it wouldn’t be conclusive. Many films are made about scientific controversies, featuring strong personalities, outlining their thesis, allowing critics to give their perspective. Such a film could be made in a matter of days, with a fraction of the carbon budget…

But Murray, the film-maker, prefers cheap shots and expense accounts that take him across the globe. Instead of giving us Monckton’s own account of his argument, he has created a snide character assassination, taking advantage of unguarded moments, and moments from the fringes of Australian and US politics. Murray wraps them all up so that the viewer can have a good old titter to himself about what fools the rest of the world are. And he does it for a transparent purpose: to maintain the perception of the debate as one divided into scientists on the one side, and foolish ‘deniers’ on the other.

This is reflected in a short review of the film on the Guardian’s TV page:

Storyville: Meet the Climate Sceptics
10pm, BBC4
Despite – or because of – the scientific consensus that man-made global warming is a tangible hazard, a fringe of vociferous opinion holds that the danger has been massively overstated; that global warming is an environmental equivalent of the millennium bug. Rupert Murray’s film introduces leading climate change sceptics, attempting to understand their arguments and motivations – are they misguided, are they opportunists, or do they have a point? Their cause is possibly not aided by having as spokesman the hereditary peer Christopher Monckton, who recently needed to be told to stop referring to himself as a member of the House of Lords.


The film really does not feature ‘leading climate sceptics’; it features only Monckton. And Monckton is not the spokesman for climate scepticism.

Yet again, it is the reaction to climate scepticism which tells us much more about political environmentalists than scepticism. There is a need to explain the failures at COP15 and 16, there is a need to explain the failure of the Kyoto Protocol, there is a need to explain the failure of the green movement. Thus the myth of Lord Monckton, attacker of science, destroyer of progressive climate policies… Because that, fundamentally is the only way the failure to turn climate alarm into political authority can be explained. It is only by creating what appears to be a whole, powerful, enemy — an other — can the likes of Murray begin to explain environmentalism’s discombobulation, so as to start to give it identity as an alternative to the sheer nastiness depicted by the myth.

There are many climate sceptics Murray could have chosen to interview. But none that lend themselves so easily to creating this picture of the debate. There are climate sceptics from across the political spectrum in both houses of Parliament. There are climate sceptics in other public and civil institutions, think tanks, campaigning organisations, and universities. An interesting film that sought to make sense of climate scepticism could be made, even by a critic of environmentalism. Murray is not that film-maker, and now, after two cheap, partial and crass films in the space of just one week, it’s probably time to ask if the BBC is even capable of commissioning a film that gives a sobre, honest account of the debate.

The BBC now has to cope with the fact that an editorial agenda appears to be at work more than ever, long after it has been accused of this, and long after it made statements that it would behave otherwise. The BBC gives succour to Monckton at the expense of its own credibility, just as it did a week earlier. By making a caricature of Monckton, Delingpole, and climate scepticism, the BBC reveals itself as the same kind of beast it attempted to slay: given to dogma, unwilling to countenance either debate or dissent, and failing to reflect on its function as an impartial broadcaster. It could be all the things it mocks in Murray’s film. It could be Fox News. It could be the homophobic bigot. It could be the religious zealot.