Sunday, October 28, 2012

BBC Earth The Climate Wars - Dr. Iain Stewart, in 3 parts

I want to share a great series by Professor Iain Steward a man who has previously produced quite a number of excellent documentaries focused on our planet.  The man has a wonderful talent for presenting the state of the science to a lay audience.  In this series he reviews how climatology became the politicized hot potato that it is. 

BBC Earth The Climate Wars - Episode 1
Duration: 59 minutes
Published on Apr 29, 2012 by oita06

In the 1970s the world seemed to be falling apart. From acid rain to overpopulation, ecological concerns were at the fore. And it was at this time that climate change first became a hot political issue. But it wasn't global warming that frightened scientists, it was the complete opposite: a new ice age.

Dr Iain Stewart traces the history of climate change from its very beginning and examines just how the scientific community managed to get it so very wrong back in the Seventies. Along the way he uncovers some of the great unsung heroes of climate change science, and introduces us to a secret organisation of American government scientists, known as Jason, who wrote the first official report on global warming as far back as 1979.

He shows how - by the late 1980s - global warming had already become a serious political issue. It looked as if the world was uniting to take action. But it turned out to be a false dawn - in the 1990s global warming would be transformed into one of the biggest scientific controversies of our age.


BBC Earth The Climate Wars 2 of 3 Fight Back
Duration: 59 Minutes
Published on Apr 29, 2012 by oita06

Dr Iain Stewart investigates the counter-attack launched by global warming sceptics in the 1990s.
At the start of the 1990s it seemed the world was united. At the Rio Earth Summit the world signed up to a programme of action to start tackling climate change. Even George Bush was there. But the consensus didn't last.
Iain examines the scientific arguments that developed as the global warming sceptics took on the climate change consensus. The sceptics attacked almost everything that scientists held to be true. They argued that the planet wasn't warming up, that even if it was it was nothing unusual, and certainly whatever was happening to the climate was nothing to do with human emissions of greenhouse gases.
Iain interviews some of the key global warming sceptics, and discovers how their positions have changed over time.


BBC Earth The Climate Wars 3 of 3 Fight for the Future
Duration: 59 minutes
Published on Apr 29, 2012 by oita06

Having explained the science behind global warming, and addressed the arguments of the climate change sceptics earlier in the series, in this third and final part Dr Iain Stewart looks at the biggest challenge now facing climate scientists. Just how can they predict exactly what changes global warming will bring?

It's a journey that takes him from early attempts to model the climate system with dishpans, to supercomputers, and to the frontline of climate research today: Greenland. Most worryingly, he discovers that scientists are becoming increasingly concerned that their models are actually underestimating the speed of changes already under way.


Pete Ridley said...

Hi Pete,

I came to your blog via the link on your comment at

Because you " .. do like hearing both sides of a story .. " perhaps you'd like to see the other side of the Dr. Iain Stewart's campaign to support the Catastrophic Anthropogenic Climate Change (CACC) hypothesis and its impact on BBC "impartiality".

You should appreciate my comments about that subject, starting with my 9th May 2011 comment on Andrew Montford's "Paul Dennis on Iain Stewart" thread ( My commwent startes " .. The following comments in the article rang a bell with me QUOTE: .. The Iain Stewart article .. is both misleading, highly selective and largely in error in its presentation of data. Misleading in the presentation .. Stewart is writing from a pre-determined position .. UNQUOTE.

There are two main aspects of my comments on Iain Stewart that should interest you, his:
- misleading claims about what his Climate Wars "demonstration" set-up actually demonstrated and how that set-up was rigged in order to create a false impression,
- motivation, hinted at in his "Green-it-as-you-mean-it" presentation.

The first aspect is kicked off in Climate Wars Part 1 "The Battle Begins" at 21mins when he claims "I can show you how carbon dioxide affects earth's climate .. " (

The second is illustrated in his short presentation "The Problem" only a few months before Climate Wars was released by the BBC at the Green-it-as-you-mean-it gathering (!).

Best regards, Pete Ridley

Peter said...

I looked at that the nakedscientists link
~ ~ ~
You sure do go on about that candle through the tube experiment... actually, demonstration. I think
Rosy at 15/04/2011 17:04:31 answered your complaint quite well - it was a demonstration of the basic fact of CO2 absorption - to try to huff it into something more is disingenuous.
~ ~ ~

ROSY writes:
A lot of energy reaches the earth from the sun. Much of it is re-radiated into space. Some of it isn't, because once it's been absorbed and re-radiated by the earth's surface it's absorbed by the atmosphere. That's the "greenhouse effect" and the earth is only habitable because it.. otherwise it would be far too cold here for human habitation. The existence of the greenhouse effect is simply not subject to debate by any serious scientists I've ever heard of (want to cite any?)

So far as I can see, this experiment is intended, simply and solely, to illustrate how the greenhouse effect works. Infra-red radiation is absorbed by CO2. So far, so uncontroversial. It uses a (false-colour) thermal imaging camera... well, er, yes. You can't see IR with a standard camera. I would have thought that thermal imaging technology was well understood by most "lay" TV viewers, after all they are extensively used by (for example) nature documentaries, we all know what they are and (roughly) how they work, don't we? Or do you not? Do I overestimate the tech-savviness of the average TV viewer, or are you being disingenuous? It's hard to tell. The camera is set up to illustrate the effect, of course it looks at a wavelength range where this is pronounced. You know that CO2 doesn't absorb significantly in the visible range, right? So clearly there's a band at which the absorption happens, and a range of wavelengths at which it doesn't (if all the radiation reaching the earth from the sun were absorbed we'd be in real trouble...).

There are perhaps still open questions about global warming/climate change, and about how much of it is anthropogenic, although the weight of opinion amongst those who actually research the subject is not encouraging to those hoping it's all going to turn out to be a false alarm. I certainly am not an expert (tho' I think the potential harm of carrying on as if nothing were wrong is much, much worse than the potential harm of acting to mitigate what might if we're really lucky turn out to be a nonexistent problem). But your thrashing about in response to this video makes you look like a zealot and damages what appears to be your cause, certainly in my eyes and I suspect in those of undecided observers.


PR writes: The second is illustrated in his short presentation "The Problem" only a few months before Climate Wars was released by the BBC at the Green-it-as-you-mean-it gathering

. . . OK watched it. ...aand what's your complain with those 6 minutes of interspection?

Pete Ridley said...

Hi Pete,

Maybe 'tis you who is being disingenuous?!

Without that 4micron filter the demonstration would demonstrate NOTHING, as acknowledged by the designer of the set-up. Even if any absorption of CO2 could be observed without that filter the demo would not do as Stewart claimed.

There is no convincing evidence that CO2 in the atmosphere affects the different global climates.

The Catastrophic Anthropogenic Climate Change (CACC) hypothesis is speculation gone wild.

On the other hand, BBC bias in the support of CACC is evident.

Best regards, Pete Ridley

Peter said...

For those interested in learning why scientists know what they know about the physics of atmospheric "greenhouse" gases here's some expert information:

Here Professor Steve Easterbrook talks about Richard Alley's lecture:

"I’d strongly recommended it to anybody who wants to understand why scientists are so certain that CO2 is such a big driver of our climate. It is for an audience of geophysicist types, but is probably the most understandable science lecture on the subject you are likely to watch...


"The Biggest Control Knob"


Further insightful reading can be found with a simple search:

Pete Ridley said...

Hi Pete,

alley's "control knob" nonsense was years ago - been there done that t Chris Colose's blog.

Best regards, Pete Ridley

Peter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter said...

Oh those dastardly typos, let me try that again

PR says: "Alley's 'Control Knob' nonsensus"

Why would you call Alley's lecture and it's information about how CO2 interacts with our lithosphere over geologic time scales and during periods of radical plate tectonic activity "nonsense"?

That's so typical of denialists - toss out an insult and everyone is supposed to take it seriously.

How about offering some specific objective complaints that we can examine? >> Got any of that?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

As for bringing up Chris Colose's blog, your point is? . . . Oh, but thanks for introducing him to me. Looks like a serious fella, actually scientist.

Incidentally, Chris seems to endorse Dr. Richard Alley's lecture...

"... This forcing-feedback distinction also makes CO2 the fundamental driver of global climate change (at least insofar as alterations to the optical characteristics of the atmosphere are concerned).

See for example, Richard Alley’s AGU talk which focuses on CO2 as the largest control knob of climate change over geologic timescales.

The water vapor is just dragged along with the temperature change, but then substantially amplifies any forcing to help provide the full magnitude of the temperature fluctuations; this is also a reason cold climates tend to be much drier than warmer ones.."

Among his interesting posts I found this:
Judith Curry on ‘dogma’ and ideology
Posted on November 9, 2010 |

PS. Richard Alley "CO2 The Biggest Control Knob"