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Climate - the Movie: a hot mess of (c)old myths!

Posted on 23 March 2024 by John Mason, BaerbelW

The Desmog Climate Disinformation Database documents, "individuals and organisations that have helped to delay and distract the public and our elected leaders from taking needed action to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and fight global warming." It's a who's who of the organised climate change denial movement, in other words.

In Martin Durkin's recently released film, entitled, 'Climate - the Movie', 17 academics, retired academics and bloggers were interviewed. How big a proportion of them have their own page in the DeSmog database? Go on, have a guess.

It's 76%.

Climate change denial is like a kind of flying circus. This same old carnival troupe is wheeled out time and again to spread doubt about climate science. Why? Because that's what they are good at doing, with decades of combined experience under their belts.

More than 2 dozen long-debunked myths

The first 42-odd minutes of this 80 minute long festival of misinformation, once the initial 'elevator-pitch' is done with, are dedicated to "The Science". But instead of that, what one is exposed to is a veritable Gish-gallop of climate myths, with the phrase, "we are told" liberally scattered among them. In order of appearance, with the myth's fixed number in our database, here they are - click the links for the details:




Quick rebuttal



Medieval Warm Period was warmer

Globally averaged temperature now is higher than global temperature in medieval times.



We're coming out of the Little Ice-age

Scientists have determined that the factors which caused the Little Ice Age cooling are not currently causing global warming.



It's freaking cold!

A local cold day has nothing to do with the long-term trend of increasing global temperatures.



Temp record is unreliable

The warming trend is the same in rural and urban areas, measured by thermometers and satellites.



It's Urban Heat Island effect

Urban and rural regions show the same warming trend.



Satellites show no warming in the troposphere

The most recent satellite data show that the earth as a whole is warming.



CO2 was higher in the past

Climate has changed along with CO2 levels through geological time.



CO2 is plant food

The effects of enhanced CO2 on terrestrial plants are variable and complex and dependent on numerous factors



CO2 is just a trace gas

Many substances are dangerous even in trace amounts; what really matters is the total amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.



CO2 lags temperature

CO2 didn't initiate warming from past ice ages but it did amplify the warming.



Increasing CO2 has little to no effect

The strong CO2 effect has been observed by many different measurements.



There's no correlation between CO2 and temperature

There is long-term correlation between CO2 and global temperature; other effects are short-term.



Ice age predicted in the 70s

The vast majority of climate papers in the 1970s predicted warming.



Models are unreliable

Models successfully reproduce temperatures since 1900 globally, by land, in the air and the ocean.



Climate's changed before

Climate reacts to whatever forces it to change at the time; humans are now the dominant forcing.



UAH atmospheric temperatures prove climate models are wrong

The most likely explanation for UAH data warming less than expected is that the UAH data set is biased low.



Clouds provide negative feedback

Evidence is building that net cloud feedback is likely positive and unlikely to be strongly negative.



It's cosmic rays

Cosmic rays show no trend over the last 30 years & have had little impact on recent global warming.



CERN CLOUD experiment proved cosmic rays are causing global warming

of one out of four requirements necessary to blame global warming on cosmic rays, and two of the other requirements have already failed.



It's the sun

In the last 35 years of global warming, sun and climate have been going in opposite directions



1934 - hottest year on record

1934 was one of the hottest years in the US, not globally.



Wildfires are not caused by global warming

Global warming worsens wildfires by creating drier conditions with more fuel for fires to spread further and faster.



Hurricanes aren't linked to global warming

There is increasing evidence that hurricanes are getting stronger due to global warming.



Polar bear numbers are increasing

Polar bears are in danger of extinction as well as many other species.



Great Barrier Reef is in good shape

Evidence clearly shows that both ocean warming and acidification due to human CO2 emissions are damaging the Great Barrier Reef

With 25 myths (and a few more - see below), the list is rather long, so here is a one image summary with the ones we spotted check-marked:

Myth Rebuttal Chart for Climate the Movie

Fig 1: most of the myths rehashed in the movie in one handy graphic (click for larger version)! To create your own “myth-bingo-card”, download it from here.

It would be fun to turn up at a Chinese takeaway with just the numbers, to see what you get. Mind you, it would be a pretty expensive surprise!

Additional myths and misdirections

There are a few claims that are not in our database. Did you know that at the height of the last glaciation, there was a "CO2 famine" that, had it gotten any worse, would have made life on Earth go extinct? No, neither did we. The claim may have originated from a post at the Wattsupwiththat? blog from June 2017, which doesn't present any actual evidence for it. 

After that, the movie drifts off into a mixture of stuff. Apparently, until the 1980s, climate change was just a scare caused by a few radical environmentalists. Then Al Gore came along, there was limitless government money all of a sudden for climate research (so long as you sang to the same hymn-sheet) and a Consensus was formed, with which "to bludgeon opponents". Etcetera etcetera etcetera. Never mind the likes of Foote, Tyndall and Arrhenius, who in the 19th Century had pretty much worked out the greenhouse gas properties of CO2.

 Fig 2: The History of Climate Science and how far back it goes. Image source

Next thing, we are subjected to 'Climate versus Freedom', which is a mishmash of populist conspiratorial themes that mention the World Economic Forum, the EU and various other perceived bogeymen. The BBC, who only recently stopped giving deniers equal exposure, are not spared. The environmental movement is, the movie mansplains, the “sworn enemy of free-market industrial capitalism”. Tired old cliches abound, for example the meme that workers, ”don’t attend climate protests because they’re too busy working". Meanwhile, "Big Government" wants nothing more than to control us, with comparisons made to Covid lockdowns. And on and on and on it goes. 

Finally, they insist that climate mitigation measures will hurt the poor. Erm, are they forgetting that adverse climate events are already impacting the poor disproportionately? In the final thrashings of the movie, Chinese coal-fired power stations get a mention (no surprises there). When, the film pleads with its viewers, will people realise that climate change is an "invented scare", an assault on, "freedom and prosperity"? If you can get through to the end of this 80-minute assault on reality, medals, or maybe replacement head-vices, should be awarded. Arrhenius must be turning in his grave…

Other debunkings….

For three other takes on this non-documentary, see the review at DeSmog here, the one by Dave Vetter at The Climate Laundry here and a short video by The Disproof here.

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Comments 101 to 116 out of 116:

  1. Well, I liked the music in the movie.

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  2. "Climate ~ The Movie" is still pinned at top of WUWT  articles.

    Number of comments there seems to have stopped at 433.

    No new comments for about 48 hours = death zone, for WUWT.

    ( Denialists have been mighty quiet at SkS also, for a day or two )

    Yeah , a slow news day !

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  3. I think it's bizarre, that Durkin has basically made the same movie again. This is "The Great Global Warming Swindle" made over with the same players. One of the oddest parts of BOTH films is the contention of the claim that warming comes first, followed by CO2 rise, 800 years later. They even use the graph (at least in TGGWS) from the paper from Caillon et al. The trouble is, that paper clearly states that CO2 rose first in the Northern Hemisphere followed by warming. Highly educated scientists, some with doctorates, can't read a simple scientific paper, it seems.

    They wouldn't be trying to put one over on us, would they?

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  4. I have hugely enjoyed following this "blog" and am gratful that I checked this site before I swallowed "Climate: The Movie" whole.  It is a very entertaining movie if over long.

    The problem, as I see it, is that the issue of "Climate Change" has 3 parts:

    1.  Is this latest episode of "global warming" unusual in such a way that it deserves close attention?

    (I think the answer to that is a resounding YES ~ depite what the "Movie" says.)

    2. Is this latest episode of "global warming" mostly caused by us humans?

    (I think the answer to that is also a resounding YES ~ depite what the "Movie" says.)

    3. What shall we humans do to prevent what appears to be the consequences for "the world"?

    (Am I correct in saying that the answer to that question will not be found on this site because this site is about science NOT politics?)

    Plymouth Sid


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  5. Plymouth Sid:

    The choices that humans make can be guided by science, but those choices also include values that are not really amenable to scientific examination. You can use science to study people's choices, and associate the choices they make with other measurable items, but values are hard to measure. (You can record what people say about their values, or you can assign "value" labels to their actions or words, but there is a degree of subjectivity about individual behaviour.)

    As for politics: that also can be guided by science - but often it is not. Here at Skeptical Science, we try to avoid purely political discussions - but there are times when political issues do connect with climate science. The Comments Policy states this as follows:

    No politics. Rants about politics, religion, faith, ideology or one world governments will be deleted. Occasional blogposts on Skeptical Science touch on issues intimately related to politics. For those posts this rule may be relaxed, but only if explicitly stated at the end of the blogpost.

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  6. Plymouth Sid @104 : you are certainly correct in your scientific assessment.

    IMHO, the "climate problem" is like a coin ~ one side is the mainstream science; the other side is the politics of How & When to take action against the problem.

    The science side is very straightforward ~ and only a handful of genuinely well-qualified scientists are nay-sayers or doubt-mongers (and even these, on closer examination, are often guilty of speaking out of both sides of their mouth).

    The politics side ~ is a hot mess of denial, sloth & inertia, and short-term self interest.  Of which we are all guilty to a greater or lesser extent.  Plus, we need better technology too, to fully replace fossil fuels.

    On SkS  here, I occasionally rant against the notorious WUWT  website (a website I view frequently, to experience some laughs . . . and some Schadenfreude).    WUWT  shows both sides of the coin continually ~ the participants there are largely in denial of the realities of climate science . . . and at the same time they exhibit a political extremism brimming with anger, selfishness, and uncharitableness.    WUWT  is a very toxic site : and the participants love "Climate - The Movie" and seem oblivious to its many severe flaws.

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  7. Bob Loblaw @105

    Thank you.  You are doubtless correct but the scientist in you should scream that what matters is what people actually do not what they say  (evidence not stated opinion). 

    At least one major branch of economics (which some would like to call a "science") would insist that the "price mechanism" in a free market economy cannot be bettered (that does not at all mean that it is error free!).    

    Re: This blog's policy on Politics would seem to allow some political/economic discourse on this thread's topic.  The "Movie" seems to me to be (unfortunately) very much about politics.

    Democracy, by which I mean one person one (SECRET) vote, can at times produce perverse outcomes as often as not as a result of campaigns of misinformation (such as "Climate: The Movie").  It behoves scientists (and the media) to produce effective counters.  This site goes a long way towards that but how far does it actually reach and can it be bettered? (Those last two questions are a cri de coeur and rhetorical.)  

    Plymouth Sid

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  8. Eclectic at 106.

    Thank you. 

    Some would say that the very essence of politics  ~ "is a hot mess of denial, sloth & inertia, and short-term self interest."  What scientists must try very hard to do is, somehow, to "enter the lists" and adjust the focus away from the short term.  (If I knew how to do that I would be "World President" ! )  

    Beware! ???? If you "rant" (no matter how justified, you will be moderated and chastised!  Notwithstanding, I thank you for the promt to look at WUWT ~ it, like the movie, is quite entertaining.

    Plymouth Sid



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  9. Plymouth Sid @ 107&108  :

    yes ~  "Sid for World Prez" sounds a good idea.

    And, my term "rant" was just a tad self-deprecating.  And, the definition of a Statesman : is a politician who rises above the usual hot mess of denial, sloth, etcetera.

    Sid, although the Venn Circle called politics does overlap with most aspects of everyday life, nevertheless SkS  does permit "political" discussion of actions & remedies ~ so long as the discussions keep away from partisan politics.

    And yes, the WUWT  blogsite does have its points : (a) It is very, very active as a website, both in articles per day, and in 100's of comments per day.   True, the articles are selective & slanted as outrage-stimulating propaganda . . . and the comments are highly repetitious venting.   But interspersed with a few useful comments (by a handful of real scientists who enjoy tweaking the Denialists' noses).   

    ~(b) WUWT  is a slanted mirror, enabling the viewer outside to gaze over the parapets of the Deniosphere ~ and into the Bedlam that lies within.   The denizens there are not insane [per legal definition] . . . but most are intellectually & morally insane.   Arguably, they are psychiatrically insane too.

    ~(c) Possibly . . . and arguably . . . WUWT  is a "good thing", for it acts as a flame to attract & amuse the climate nutter/moths of the Anglosphere, and give them a feeling that they are being "active" in their cause.


    Sid , the SkS  site is very much the opposite (of WUWT ) : it is a small site, run by volunteers, and provides only a few comments per day ~ but provides a wealth of easily-accessible climate science information for those who wish to educate themselves.   So the site cannot be expected to be the "mover & shaker" on the world scene (such as a President like yourself would desire).

    Sid, the SkS  site

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  10. One Planet Only Forever @27

    I am with you on this issue. I am currently trying to present such points in the best way to inspire deniers to change on a channel where somebody posted this film which garnered some positive resonance. As an environmentalist, vegan activist who studied ecology and human ecology in which, in 1992 we delved into the idea of man-made climate change at a time where it was generally seen as a laughing stock, I wanted to chime in with some relevant points:

    The channel I am referring to is actually more Covid centred. I find myself in the fairly unusual position of being very pro consensus science in the field of environment, whereas I find medical science is riddled with corruption, mistruths and effective lobbyism which came to a head with Covid together with coercion at a level where it is entirely rational to assume plausibility of at least some conspiratorial aspects. Plenty of evidence is there.

    I am mentioning this partly because you touched on the topic but more importantly because I believe it is important to understand the psychology of climate deniers in a more nuanced manner, i.e. in more depth. Unfortunately, as far as I understand it, many people with legitimate concerns regarding Covid measures, associated discrimination and other significant costs to society, got drawn in to certain (predictably) politically motivated groups and for whatever reason, emotional triggers, legitimate lack of trust in the system for some aspects, lack of time for the reviewing the details (big one) etc, have just fallen for climate denial propaganda.

    This is at least one part of the spectrum of the climate denial "group" which theoretically could be won back to rationality and trust in the areas of science where trust is actually deserved.

    It may be that more emotional people are attracted to these traps. The more we can refine our understanding of the psychology of transformation, the better chance we have of inspiring rationality and deserved trust. Unfortunately, simply facts normally doesn't do it very well. So we have to get creative as scientific mindsets who are characteristically not so emotional on average. It's very important for people to sense they have been heard and taken seriously, even if we strongly disagree with their perceptions and belief systems. 

    In short we need to apply kindness and compassion even when we feel like throwing that out of the window and slamming people for being ignorant et cetera. An invitation to follow the money could be useful, like you pointed to. Funding and wages in science it's a very variable thing depending upon the type of science. Environmental science is probably on average at the lowest end a financial return, compared with "science" that largely comes straight out of industries, wishing to make profits on their products.

    I'm not going to hammer out my evidence for the C topic because my comment will most likely be deleted. I am new here so don't know how this works yet but if you really are interested I will (somewhat begrudgingly) spend even more of my free time to lay it out in a private message ;) otherwise we may have to just agree to disagree.

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL] Welcome to Skeptical Science.

    Yes, let's please try to avoid any lengthy discussion of the C-word here (where C = Covid, not Climate). The comments sections here are intended for discussion of the topics presented in each Original Post. It is not a general forum for discussion of whatever pleases people.

    As a new user, the Comments Policy is your guide. (It is also the guide for the moderators.)

    Violations of the comments policy will see a gradual sequence of escalating actions by moderators:

    • Gentle reminders of the policy
    • More vehement warnings
    • "warning snips", where portions of a comment will be crossed through, but still visible.
    • Deletions of portions of comments
    • Deletions of entire comments
    • Blocking of accounts.

    It usually takes as while to reach the final stage. Rapid ascent (descent?) through the process requires really obnoxious behaviour. If you read all the comments on this thread, you can see the moderation comments (green box beneath the comment) that have been added previously. One individual chose to stop commenting here and go elsewhere to complain, rather than follow the simple advice to take the discussion to another thread where it would be on topic - but that was his choice to stop, not ours.


  11. Indeed, it would be inappropriate to launch the C subject here, although the conspiratorial thinking aspect is shared with many other efforts of organized denial found in other subjects. I personally have very little patience for it, after working in the ICU throughout a crisis that anyone who ever had a microbiology class knew was not a matter of if but a matter of when. It may be the only one I see in my lifetime but certainly won't be the last.

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  12. It would be interesting to see an intensive study of the overlap in mentality of Climate-Deniers and Anti-Vaxxers and Flat-Earthers.   All three groups show a rigid delusional thinking, which has (thus far) proved to be impervious to rational discussion/education.

    But delusions & other irrationality of thinking woud be a hard topic to study well ~ and possibly it would be somewhat unethical to spend the effort & money in studying such intransigent minds.

    # Note : The prominent psychologist, Prof. Daniel Kahneman (author of "Thinking, Fast and Slow") is known for his studies of the "kinks" in the human mind.   His death at age 90, was announced last month.

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  13. The similarities of climate and Covid (or other) denial psychology are indeed of interest, and sort of loosely on-topic, but let's try to not get into details Covid discussions.

    For the psychology aspect, I have several times referred to the web site The Authoritarians. There is a long ebook there, plus a few other blog posts as follow-ups. It discusses the learnings of a social psychology prof that spent a career looking at what he called "authoritarian followers". That is to say, he was more focused on the psychology and behaviour of the people that follow authoritarians - not the authority figures themselves (although that is also discussed).

    Sadly the most recent note on that web page is the announcement that the author - Bob Altemeyer - had passed away. Eclectic's note that Dan Kahneman had passed away was something I had read about in my local paper.

    As for the sequence of "denial" thought patterns, it has been long discussed that the sequence often goes along these lines:

    • It's not happening
    • It's not us
    • It's not bad
    • It's too late, and why didn't you warn us?

    Philippe's comment about "a matter of when, not if" regarding Covid extends to my experience. As a grade school student, I learned that the Spanish Flu had killed more people than the first world war, and there was concern it could happen again. Any post-Covid cries of "we never expected this" seemed rather hollow - given I learned about it in grade school.

    In a similar vein, on a weather-related topic, I remember watching a cable news channel reporter interviewing a local police official on the US east cost, a few days before a hurricane was expected to hit. (This was in the early days of TV sending reporters into the middle of disasters before they happened.)

    • The reporter asked "How long have you been preparing for this hurricane?"
    • The official said "25 years."
    • He continued by pointing out that they lived in an area prone to hurricanes. You don't wait until one is in the forecast before you decide how to deal with it. You know that you are eventually going to need those plans.

    We can see previous commenters on this thread that firmly believe that action is not warranted until after harm has happened.

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  14. One of the themes in the movie seems to be that co2 levels and temperatures have been higher before humans were around, i.e. when other animals roamed the earth...They also seems to claim that temperatures have risen shortly before co2 levels rise, rather than as a direct result of co2 levels (though co2 is undoubtedly has a greenhouse effect).

    Here's is "opposing side's" documenation for the statements made in the movie:

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  15. Re: janolsen #114:

    I said in the original post:

    "This same old carnival troupe is wheeled out time and again to spread doubt about climate science. Why? Because that's what they are good at doing, with decades of combined experience under their belts."

    Your link makes the same point but in greater detail.

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  16. janolsen @ 114:


    Yep. The same collection of "usual suspects". Soon. Tol. Lomborg. Koonin. Those names pop up in the first few pages.

    Didn't read any further.

    Let us know if you find an argument that has not previously been debunked. Don't forget to follow the links in the table in the OP if the "argument" you find convincing relates to one of those topics. You'll be expected to provide an argument as to why what you are pointing to represents something new - and not just a re-assertion of the myth listed on the relevant SkS page.

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