Well, I have after trial and tribulation managed to watch all of “The Age of Stupid”. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a free download site that offered the entire movie in one chunk, so ultimately I resorted to YouTube and watched it in 9 episodes. Given the emotional style of the production, which requires uninterrupted flow to carry the feelings in the intended way, this was not ideal, but perhaps, in a way, it gives me an objective advantage – the fragmentation breaks the subjective grip, and lets one more freely examine the facts without syrupy emotional overhead. The Great Global Warming Swindle is by contrast produced entirely differently, and is much more satisfying to the objective investigator, regardless of ideological persuasion. Of course, both movies strongly express a particular point of view, that’s given, but by and large, one of them relies on tears and the other on data.
Honestly, I had mixed feelings about this production. There is no question that it is technically excellent as a movie, and makes its point with both vigour and subtlety, but as a scientist seeking the truth, I don’t like the style of presentation at all – “Methinks they protesteth too much!” It definitely doesn’t let the facts stand in the way of a good cry.
Right at the beginning, we meet the alpine climber who, in his 80s, laments global warming. Pretty soon his eyes glisten with tears, and the scene of barren rock where the Chamonix ski slope should have been is overlaid with “Here at Chamonix, it’s December and there’s no snow at all. It’s a glimpse into the future.” I don’t know when that scene was shot, but in 2008 and 2009 there was record snowfall at Chamonix, so heavy in fact that for most of December both years skiing was considered dangerous. The bias is painful.
Then we have the chap who was overwhelmed by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. He too had tears in his eyes as he told of rescuing a baby from the rising waters. Then we have a TV presenter laying the blame: “Intensity of hurricanes is related to surface sea temperatures. So increased intensity of hurricanes is associated with global warming.” What utter nonsense! There is no connection whatsoever. Hurricane intensity as far as we know is most likely related to polarity, both of the electromagnetic sheath vortex, and of the differential in temperature between the basin beneath the axis of spin (warm) and surrounding water (cold). Another factor is wind shear above warm spots, which actually weakens hurricanes. It has nothing to do with global warming. Also, the catastrophe in New Orleans was not the result of an abnormally fierce hurricane, but because of that city’s below-sea-level vulnerability and dependence on poorly constructed and maintained levees. The incidence and strength of hurricanes in 2006, as well as their landfall percentage, were well below average. The figures are freely available. Was that caused by global warming?
So I didn’t get off to a good start with this movie, but heck, I stuck it out. Well, it didn’t get better. The images of poverty and disease, corruption and barbarism, of millions struggling for food are emotionally deeply compelling. It certainly makes me sad to see evidence of the human and environmental conditions that result from the greed and megalomania of individuals who exert physical dominance over their tribes. But how on Earth is human nature a consequence of man-made climate change? Where does global warming fit in? And how will carbon caps alleviate mass hunger and endemic disease; how could massive industrial rollbacks possibly increase production so the hungry can eat? The Niger Delta scenes are such a mixed message. Corrupt, power-mad people will opportunistically use whatever currency is to hand—witness Gore’s use of AGW—whether it is opium poppies in Afghanistan or oil in Nigeria, it’s just what the Earth offers up in a particular region. We have to deal with human population pressure. We can’t just say “It’s their fault for having children so let them suffer.” It’s energy consumption versus output productivity. The granaries of the world use more energy and produce more food. It seems to me the Age of Stupid belongs to a school of thought and an ideology that is really just anti-capitalist when you boil it down, and we’ve seen how well those schemes have worked in the past. What we really need to do is let pragmatism rein in this rampant idealism. We have a job to do.
The aim of this movie as I understand it, its central message, is that we are corrupting the environment by our misuse of resources. I am wholeheartedly in support of that ethic. What I cannot tolerate is that blatantly false evidence is raised to create the popular impression that human activities control global temperatures, and that all environmental (and even many sociological) evils stem from this. The entire moral effort of a generation has been cunningly steered in a particular direction, and it has been infused with a self-satisfying moralistic anger that defies logic. While this is going on, Gore, Pachauri, and their henchmen are pocketing personal profits amounting to many millions of dollars. Our environmental conscience has been hijacked by greed of another persuasion, but greed it certainly is. This has been achieved by superbly crafted propaganda, and The Age of Stupid is perhaps the best of the lot.
By the time I reached the credits at the end of The Age of Stupid, I was as despondent as I would imagine most people are who are exposed to this sort of message. In my case though, I was most saddened by the power and effect of carefully constructed propaganda in determining, or at least reinforcing what people want to believe. It has nothing to do with the data or the measurements. An Inconvenient Truth presents 35 main scientific arguments to support Anthropogenic Global Warming. Guess how many were falsified by comparison with the measurements? 35! But pathetically few people who carry Gore’s banner ever bother to check his facts, and indeed, when faced with them, simply write them off as “denialism”. If we create a human desert in years to come—and we might—it will be because we put all our ecological effort into uselessly fighting carbon when all the while the real environmental issues, the ones that can really make a difference, are ignored. With our conscience appeased, we will go to sleep thinking we have done the right thing, and we may never wake up.
So I guess we are both depressed by what is going on. I just don’t see the moral justification in lying about it. I look forward to hearing your reaction to The Great Global Warming Swindle. I have the DVD if you’d like to organise a viewing.