Saturday, March 10, 2007

Carl Wunch is an unhappy camper

The recent exxonian agitprop generated by Channel 4 in England is causing china to rattle in Massachusetts. Carl Wunsch, Professor at MIT, who was enticed to sit for an interview by the producers is as unhappy about what they left on the cutting room floor as what they included and letting it be known everywhere, including Stoat

I've not seen it and the context was not at all what we had agreed on. Was billed as a balanced discussion of the threat of global warming As I began to see ads for the program, I realized I'd been duped.
He went public (Stoat being only read by fuzzy bloggers) to British papers including the Independent:
Professor Wunsch said: "I am angry because they completely misrepresented me. My views were distorted by the context in which they placed them. I was misled as to what it was going to be about. I was told about six months ago that this was to be a programme about how complicated it is to understand what is going on. If they had told me even the title of the programme, I would have absolutely refused to be on it. I am the one who has been swindled."
Channel 4, of course, is circling the horses

A Channel 4 spokesman said: "The film was a polemic that drew together the well-documented views of a number of respected scientists to reach the same conclusions. This is a controversial film but we feel that it is important that all sides of the debate are aired. If one of the contributors has concerns about his contribution we will look into that."

Any complaint would provoke a crisis at Channel 4, now recovering from the Jade Goody Big Brother storm. It had to make a rare public apology after the Independent Television Commission convicted previous programmes on environmental issues by the same film-maker, Martin Durkin, of similar offences - and is already facing questions on why it accepted another programme from him.

The commission found that the editing of interviews with four contributors to a series called Against Nature had "distorted or misrepresented their known views".

and the Observer
Carl Wunsch, professor of physical oceanography at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said the film, The Great Global Warming Swindle, was 'grossly distorted' and 'as close to pure propaganda as anything since World War Two'.
Frankly red flags should have been flying. It should have been perfectly clear that the producers did not accept the idea that green house gases were responsible for climate change. Allow the silly Wabbit a bit of cover about how he knows this, (well basically the anonymice dragged it into the burrow to use as nesting material) but on next week's carrot ration, it is so. Due diligence should have led the good Prof to Google and beyond, but he certainly has a point, which given English regulation of TV might be driven through the chests of Channel 4 and the producer, Martin Durkin.

UPDATE: David Kidd in the comments at Real Climate quotes an article from the Guardian with more information about Durkin and his ilk. The movement to haul Ch4 in front of the British broadcasting authorities appears to be accelerating, and there is some interesting information on where the odd temperature graph claiming to be from NASA/GISS came from (see 88, 92 and 101).

The Telegraph, Lord Monckton's writing pad, rather liked the program. And oh yes, the Tories are going to introduce a swinging new tax on air travel including personal allowances
The Conservatives will also suggest - most controversially of all - rationing individuals to as little as a single short-haul flight each year; any further journeys would attract progressively higher taxes, a leaked document entitled Greener Skies suggests.
Now Wunsch is doing the right thing, although considerable damage has been done by his naivety.

UPDATE: Wunch has written a letter to Channel 4, but, being a bit wiser from the experience, he has also released the text of the letter to the public as well as letting his original letter of protest out. You can teach an old oceanographer new tricks. Real Climate has the inside track on this story.

He is letting it be known that his views were misrepresented and distorted. We can reduce this to four rules:
  1. When you speak to the media, know whom you are speaking to.
  2. Know what your message is. Make clear, simple statements.
  3. Record the interview yourself.
  4. If you are misrepresented say so as loudly and often as you can


Steve Bloom said...

To be fair, it probably undersells Big Carl somewhat to be referred to as a mere "expert in oceanography." He certainly has the ego to go with the rep, though, and I can easily imagine him convincing himself that his brilliance would shine through any editing tricks.

While we're on the subject, I have a strong suspicion that Carl was reviewer #2 referred to here (follow the link to the review and then note Hansen's characterization in the last paragraph of his letter to RP Sr.). Few would be so bold as to attack Hansen in such an offhand manner, even anonymously. I think Carl resents Jim's public profile, and somehow feels that he should get the same treatment in the media and public policy arenas that Jim does but not have to work for it.

EliRabett said...

Thanks for posting that Steve, I had either missed it or forgotten. The entire exchange is illuminating wrt the many things you point out and others. That includes the more recent highlighting of(one is strongly tempted to say obsessing) fluctuation in ocean heat temperature by RP Sr. His refusal to acknowledge that ocean heat content has significant variability which could accomodate the observed variation is perplexing (one is tempted to say evidence of a closed mind).

Anonymous said...

"I was told about six months ago that this was to be a programme about how complicated it is to understand what is going on."

With code words like "how complicated it is" being bandied about, I don't know how he could not have seen what was coming.

Somehow, I would expect more good sense from someone at MIT.

But at least he is now objecting vehemently and loudly to being "used" by the denialist side, which is more than some other prominent people in this debate do.

David Penington said...

I think Carl Wunch has done us a favor: I can debunk The Great Global Warming Swindle in a single reference to him, instead of having to debunk the alleged science. Having a scientist they quote saying they are reversing the meaning of his statements and global warming is a serious problem is a gift.