Wednesday, October 24, 2012

PBS Frontline: Climate of Doubt

PBS, a major U.S. Public TV station, has aired this 54-minute documentary, The Climate of Doubt:

See also additional PBS material on the program.

The program – starting with some video sequences from the latest Heartland Climate Skeptics Conference in Chicago – was largely criticized by Joe Bast of Heartland, Tom Harris of Canada, and some pre-program comments were mentioned by Chris Horner and The Heartland Institute. Gavin Schmidt posted the video on Real Climate, mostly to boast that he has appeared for a few seconds, too.

I think that a viewer will have no doubts that the creators of the program are hostile towards the skeptics – due to the constant usage of offensive words such as "contrarians" and due to the hostile faces of the host (especially John Hockenberry), among a few other reasons. On the other hand, I think that this program has done a relatively fair and open job when it comes to the revelation of the information for the viewers, especially the information about the changes of the debate in recent years.


It seems to me that most of the viewers understood that the climate skeptics are damn reasonable, educated, and kind of nice people. There are many of them – the number of "visible" climate skeptics among scientists isn't really lower than the number of "visible" climate alarmists.

While the program tried to claim otherwise, I guess that an intelligent viewer will understand that using a World War II analogy, the climate change controversy is like the war and the alarmists resemble the Axis powers while the skeptics are like the Allied forces. The Axis powers may be more tightly packed, they may demand a stricter discipline from themselves and from everyone else, and they may be spending more time by spreading the idea that their ultimate victory is inevitable. But even from their programs, an intelligent viewer must understand that the Allied forces are at least comparably powerful, they may be right, they seem to offer observations and arguments that are almost certainly right even now, they may already be winning battles, and they may soon celebrate the final victory in the war.

The idea that the Axis powers have some unbreakable superiority is a meme that just the most intellectually limited viewers may be eager to buy – at least I hope so – and I am kind of not afraid of it. I don't think it's too important what the people who can easily be brainwashed by a transparent propaganda think. What matters are the skeptical people who began to be somewhat interested in the issue, who understand other things, and who won't be fooled easily. And I am confident that this PBS program only helped those people to fall in love with the climate skeptics.

But the hostile tone towards climate skepticism notwithstanding, the program acknowledged that the bulk of America went pretty much skeptical in recent years. Surprisingly, it also acknowledged that Al Gore is a divisive asshole who helped the skeptics to strengthen even more. The viewers could hear some short "excerpts" from the skeptics who speak about the actual science – although the scientific "technicality" were not the main focus of the documentary.

At some points, both alarmists and skeptics are saying things. And such segments often reminded me of the first Obama-Romney debate. For example, around 10:30, you may compare John Kerry and Myron Ebell. Kerry is subdued and seems to have developed bad conscience. He seems to admit a sequence of recent defeats and the non-existence of the actual consensus. Ebell speaks confidently, as a person whose words have already been pretty much established.

So I believe that this program, a mixture of an apparently prejudiced tone against the climate skeptics and some facts about the skeptics' victories, their decency, education, arguments, upward trend of their influence, and their rather large number as well as the subtle hints about the alarmists' dishonesty that may be seen in the program, despite the clear attempt to create a pro-alarmist program, will help America to become one additional little bit more skeptical again.

I would grade this program on the recent years in the climate debate: B. The biased language and the narrator's apparent bias penetrating the program is my only complaint.

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