Complaint to Ofcom Regarding “The Great Global Warming Swindle”
Appendix H: The Misquoting and Distortion of David King’s “Antarctica” Comment
The Great Global Warming Swindle ended with Dr Frederick Singer saying: “There will still be people who believe that this is the end of the world – particularly when you have, for example, the chief scientist of the UK telling people that by the end of the century, the only inhabitable place on the earth will be the Antarctic; and it may, humanity may survive, thanks to some breeding couples who moved to the Antarctic –I mean this is hilarious. It would be hilarious, actually, if it weren’t so sad.”
This is a serious distortion of the 2004 testimony of Professor Sir David King, the Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government, to a House of Commons Select Committee. In fact, he said (http://tinyurl.com/2j2yt7 [British Parliament website, Publications and Records])
Fifty-five million years ago was a time when there was no ice on the earth; the Antarctic was the most habitable place for mammals, because it was the coolest place, and the rest of the earth was rather inhabitable because it was so hot. It is estimated that it was roughly 1,000 parts per million then, and the important thing is that if we carry on business as usual we will hit 1,000 parts per million around the end of this century.
First of all, King said nothing about the survival of the humanity depending on breeding couples moving to the Antarctic. This is a complete fabrication.
Secondly, King was not predicting that Antarctica would be the only habitable place on Earth. He said that, if we continue emitting carbon dioxide under a business as usual scenario, then by the end of the century atmospheric levels would reach levels not seen for 55 million years. Extending the analogy, he then noted that the most habitable place for mammals at the time was Antarctica. Hence, Singer exaggerates by changing the “most habitable” to “the only inhabitable” place on Earth. Furthermore, King’s “prediction” was contingent on a particular scenario, and appears to have been meant to draw attention to the seriousness of the problem by analogy to the past, rather than a precise prediction of the future consequences of climate change.
Nevertheless, one could criticise King for not making it sufficiently clear that 1,000 ppm is a worst case scenario (see http://tinyurl.com/3xuqxy for the SRES scenarios used by the IPCC); or question the accuracy of an analogy to such ancient conditions, when, for example, the positions of the continents were rather different to today. Whilst King’s statement may be open to criticism, responsible journalism and responsible scientists would criticise what he actually said, rather than ridiculing an exaggerated caricature – especially when he was not given the opportunity to defend himself.
For a more detailed discussion of the origin of this oft-quoted myth about Sir David King, see http://tinyurl.com/2unkmr.
[Bookmarks on this page:
Click the following link to go to that bookmark. You can then copy and paste
the bookmark’s url from your address bar, and send it to someone as a link
straight to that bookmark:
Last updated: 11 Jun 2007