Who’s swindling whom?

MIT-based oceanographer Carl Wunsch, who appeared in the recent Channel 4 documentary, The Great Global Warming Swindle (online here), is complaining that the filmmaker Martin Durkin misrepresented his views, and made him out to be a climate change denier, which he most certainly is not.

I sympathise with Wunsch, but wonder how he allowed himself to be swindled. All it takes is a cursory google search to realise that Durkin has form, and those who have followed the career of this Frank Furedi cultist know that the man is a brazen liar.

And yet Channel 4 executives, despite knowing all about Durkin’s past, continue to commission him to make documentary films. The reason for this is that controversialism sells, and many people these days appear to have very short memories. It’s all about viewing figures and advertising revenue, stupid!

Durkin and his comrades in the organisation formerly known as the Revolutionary Communist Party (which was neither revolutionary nor communist) are attempting to control the science outreach market in the UK, and have brought on-side some pretty senior figures within the research community. Thinktanks such as Sense about Science and the Science Media Centre are viewed as respectable media outfits by many jobbing scientists and media workers, and even the veritable old Royal Institution is falling prey to Furedi’s followers.

Scientists dealing with the media really should know better, and not be so naive as to believe that they can express a ‘nuanced’ view in a documentary film made by hacks as thoroughly amoral as Martin Durkin. The alternative is for scientists to cultivate working relationships with writers and broadcasters they can trust. And demand from their employers more media training workshops and suchlike. Scientists are creative people, quite capable of getting together to make their own films and sell them to the networks. They should also work preferentially with journalists who have a science background.

If Wunsch is unhappy about the over-dramatisation of climate change science – as I believe he should be – then he needs to be a lot more proactive, and not merely give a few soundbites to experienced journalists with heavy-duty political agendas. There’s little room left for nuance and subtlety in public discourse, and we are left with no choice but to put up or shut up. So which is it to be?