Panorama: Gives us an interesting discussion of climate change disagreements

This week’s BBC Panorama, (or its online summary) on climategate and disgreements on climate change was well worth a look for those following these debates.

The main appeal for me was the interviews with big names in climate change debates, who so often appear in books that push an agenda on each of them. Where divides on this issue often seem vicious and blood-spitting, this documentary took care to show everywhere people agree (on basic science, on increasing CO2 concentrations) in a powerful act of clarification. These are obvious to anyone reading the literature, but perhaps not to the general public with other priorities.

We had Michael Mann, the author of the Hockey Stick, and his view on his critics, John Christy, the leading sceptic who played a lead role in polemic film The Great Global Warming Swindle but who gives a much fuller account of his position here. Christy says, for example, that he believes man is responsible for about a quarter of current warming but that he recognsies he’s in a minority, a more nuanced opinion than the soundbyte-heavy style of The Great Global Warming Swindle. He also stresses uncertainty rather than disagreement. He’s, well, sceptical, rather than in rabid disagreement.

Bjørn Lomborg also appears prominently, though is bizarrely treated as a “sceptic” despite agreeing with the consensus position on the science. In some ways what is remarkable in this programme is how little the interviewees disagree on, important as their disagreements are, and how willing to explain their uncertainties they are.

As a half-hour programme it is clearly limited in its scope, and is full of interviews with members of the public and slightly bizarre episodes like measuring the the measuring of CO2 from things and people around a house. These distracted from the thrust of the discussion and explained very little. It would have nice to see dicussion of how much different speakers think temperatures have risen already compared to earlier periods, a source of disagreement between many, and some explanation of what the cost of mitigation means for the country. Oh well. Good effort Panorama.