Duane Gish, a leading critic of evolution, was such a prolific debater that, like Dr. Henry Heimlich, a maneuver named after him. (Using either maneuver at a party, by the way, indicates that things have gotten decidedly unpleasant.) As he argued, Gish made a rapid stream of claims—most of them untrue—on so many different subjects that it was confusing for his opponent. would be impossible to answer them all. This quantity over quality tactic became known as a “Gish Gallop.”
Monday night I took in a new movie called Climate pressure. The title is meant to reflect the central premise: climate change is a scientific scam. But I quickly realized that it was also quite synonymous with the Gish Gallop style of the film. Climate Hustle(n): A rapid, uninterrupted delivery of superficial and false claims about climate science.
Do the Hustle
Climate pressure is the product of Marc Morano and the conservative Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT). Morano, who worked for Rush Limbaugh and Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), now runs a blog on climate skeptics, supported by CFACT, and appears regularly on TV news shows. His shift to movies has been quite limited so far; the film appeared in select theaters in the US (and one in Canada) for one night only. The audience for this unique event numbered about 15 in my (admittedly quiet) local theater.
Morano serves as the film’s host, bridging segments of interviews and video clips with sometimes corny monologues delivered in front of a green screen and into a correspondent’s microphone.
The film opens with a demonstration of three-card Monte, a rigged card game designed to lighten the wallets of unsuspecting brands. You are the target, you see, and “climate activists” are trying to get you. The rest of the film is divided into sections intended to extend the metaphor: ‘Stacking the Deck’, ‘The Ol’ Switcheroo’, and so on. However, the attempt to structure usually fails. The sections all run together, with topics appearing multiple times and with no real thread to follow. It’s really just an 80-minute list of all the blogosphere’s climate ‘skeptic’ favorite claims – a Gish Gallop, the eponymous climate buzz.
The real purpose of the film is to present a series of speakers as authoritative climate experts, allowing them to deny that humans have any significant influence on the climate. Many are college professors –just not in climate science. I counted six who could rightfully call themselves climate scientists, all drawn from the small stable of well-known contrarians who cycle through congressional hearings when contrarian witnesses are called for.
We have an expert for that
The rest of the faces came straight from the Heartland Institute’s Rolodex, the conservative “think tank” that pays deniers to hold an annual climate conference. The key is to dress up people who have no idea what they are talking about as experts in the field. For example, an adjunct professor who teaches an international policy course becomes “climate statistician at American University.” Nobel Prize-winning physicist Ivar Giaever’s 1973 facepalm-worthy remarks provide a sufficient refutation of decades of scientific research. A man who used to be with Greenpeace tells you that CO2 is good for the planet and disproves what all those stupid scientists say.
The parade of claims within Climate pressure is not supported by anything other than the fact that a person says them. Most are childish not prosecute: CO2 is “just one variable” in the climate system, so it can’t change anything. Since the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere was higher 70 million years ago than it is now, there is nothing remarkable about the current increase. Few hurricanes have made landfall in the US in recent years, so global warming clearly has no effect on hurricanes anywhere in the world.
And then there are the statements that clearly run counter to reality: there was less Arctic sea ice in the 1930s than there is today. The polar bear population is booming. The consensus in the 1970s was global cooling. Sea level rise is slowing down. Climate models have failed. Ice cores show that temperature controls CO2 instead of the other way around. It goes on and on.
If you didn’t know that the climate skeptic movement disagrees with absolutely every conclusion of climate science, Climate pressure is here to inform you. And to bring up Al Gore 10 or 20 times.
You can see the climate from Alaska
At the end of the film, viewers were treated to about 40 minutes of video from a panel discussion at the screening in Washington, D.C. a few weeks ago. The panel included Morano, contrarian scientist David Legates and…former Alaska governor Sarah Palin. Morano repeated lines we had just heard in the film while Legates made his usual complaints about oppression by the rest of the scientific community.
In her signature style, Palin strung together partially cohesive talking points that were largely based on statements that preceded hers. She also warned that parents should protect their children from indoctrination in their public school science classes. She concluded that the climate science community needs to be “less political” and then expanded her goal to science in general, reflecting on what else scientists are wrong about.
Nearly half of the panel discussion involved Bill Nye, who had briefly interviewed Morano prior to the event. Palin caused a bit of a stir when she opened up about her rejection of Nye’s views on climate change by saying, “I’m just as much of a scientist as he is.” David Legates, for his part, called him “Bill Nye, Anti-Science Guy.”
Both the film and the panel discussion attempted to reject the idea that 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate change is man-made. They argued that this particular number is based on flawed studies and that a scientific consensus won’t tell you anything anyway. If messaging campaigns with the “97 percent” statistic haven’t done anything else, they’ve given these people something to do.
Climate pressure is ultimately a film made by a small group of activists, for that small group of activists. It’s hard to imagine anyone picking it up out of curiosity – unless they’re the kind of person who genuinely wonders if the next Michael Bay movie will feature an explosion. While long on supposed concerns about the integrity of the scientific method, it is strikingly short on factual scientific information.
All the filmmakers really think you need to know is that you can’t trust climate science. And you’ll just have to take them at their word.