“The public has been swindled” - former chair of IPCC

21/7/2008 Guardian  Ofcom’s censure of Channel 4 is flawed:  The Great Global Warming Swindle clearly misled viewers about climate change.    Robert Watson the former chair of the IPCC, I welcome Ofcom’s ruling today, which states that The Great Global Warming Swindle was unfair in its treatment of the IPCC and leading scientists such as Sir David King and Professor Carl Wunsch, and that it was in breach of due impartiality on matters of major political and industrial controversy and major matters relating to current public policy.
However, I am very disappointed that Ofcom did not find that the programme materially misled the audience as to cause harm or offence.  In my opinion, The Great Global Warming Swindle did a major disservice to the public at large and tried to undermine the scientific basis which governments and the private sector are using to address cost effectively one of the greatest challenges the human race has ever faced. I believe it inaccurately portrayed the scientific evidence, was not impartial – which, in my view, a documentary should be – and was unbalanced and totally misrepresented the scientific consensus on the role of human activities in causing global warming. Therefore the program should have emphasized far more than it did that it was portraying a minority opinion.
Human-induced climate change is an environmental, development and security issue, hence a major current national and global public policy issue. Attempts to undermine the strong scientific consensus on this issue detract from the urgent challenge that the world is facing – namely, to reduce greenhouse gas
emissions sufficiently and rapidly enough to avoid dangerous levels of climate change in the future. In many parts of the world, human-induced climate change can adversely affect agricultural production, water quantity and quality, human health, ecological systems such as coral reefs and moist tropical forests, and
displace tens of millions of people due to sea level rise. While the risks apply throughout the world, it is the poor and developing countries that are most endangered.
The IPCC, which was established by the United Nations in the late 1980s, is the world’s most authoritative voice on the scientific and technical knowledge regarding climate change. The IPCC engages thousands of the world’s best experts from universities, national and international governmental organisations,
including our own, world-leading Met Office Hadley Centre, non-governmental organisations, the private sector and thinktanks to prepare and critically peer-review the scientific and technical evidence. The IPCC is a non-political body addressing a very political issue. It is used by governments to inform policy and by the private sector to inform investment decisions.
The bottom line is that there is little doubt (greater than 90% certainty) that human activities are responsible for most of the observed changes in climate change over the past 50 years, and that we need to act urgently to avoid dangerous human-induced climate change in the future. We must reduce the
emissions of greenhouse gases and adapt to the changing climate. Sceptics who disseminate misinformation and argue that there is no need to address this urgent issue are placing the planet at risk, threatening the livelihoods of not only the present generation, but even more future generations – our children and grandchildren.

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