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The “Ethical Man”, Newsnight, Mobile Phones And Ludicrous Science

December 16, 2009

The “ethical man” Justin Rowlatt tonight tried to convince “the public” that co2 is a greenhouse gas (we all know that, but to what degree is the bigger question) and that it is causing the current alleged warming of the earth.

Admittedly it seemed well-meaning, unfortunately the naivety exposed the utter pointlessness of it as an experiment.

He unbelievably trotted out the same scientist with the same “experiment” as she did on the BBC website last week (I cannot locate it despite searching, perhaps it was torn down through embarrassment).

Basically, in front of the “public” in Richard’s kitchen (yes his kitchen) she generated co2 and funneled it into a 3 litre water container, while heating the container with a lamp and monitoring the temperature. An identical container was next to it and was being heated, but without the co2 being pumped into it.

Unsurprisingly the temperature eventually rose a few degrees.  What was so disappointing was that the “experiment” proved why average joe is a sheep and does not engage his or her brain enough.  Despite the ex-government advisor, David King, telling them that the current co2 density was 389 parts per million, the people watching the “experiment” still did not engage their brains.

(On a side note I loved the way David King tried to tell them (and us) that the leak was a horrid thing done by nasty hackers, requiring organisation beyond the average, implying that it was an energy company or power opposed to Copenhagen.  He even asked them who else could hack into mobile phone records in that way.  Erm, what mobile phone records would they be then…?)

They  had just watched someone pump an unknown quantity of co2 into a bottle and then heat it with a lamp, giving off an unknown quantity of heat, for an unknown length of time.

I gave up science aged 15 but even I can see that the “experiment” was completely pointless other than to say what we already know, that co2 is a greenhouse gas.

But the “experiment” and indeed the whole piece failed to ask the question “are co2 levels at a level that would account for the warming?”.

The bottle held 3000 ml.  Current co2 ppm is 389.  Therefore the percentage of co2 in the atmosphere is roughly 0.038% of total atmospheric volume.

That means that for the co2 ratio to have been relevant to our climate, just 1.14ml of that bottles space should have been filled with co2.  This was clearly not the case.

So it proved co2 is a greenhouse gas, it did not prove that the current volumes in our atmosphere are having any effect whatsoever.

The only thing the “experiment” proved was that people will believe any old horse shit you feed them if it comes from someone they perceive as being an authority.

My challenge to Justin, and the BBC Science Editor, Susan Watts (yes her involved in the Hutton enquiry and “that” interview that got cut off…),  is simple.

Run the experiment again, using the correct ratio of co2 in one container, and the ratio of co2 from 1900 (around 290 ppm) in a second bottle.  Then lets see if we get the dramatic 4 degree leap shown in the TV clip in anything less than several hours (thousands of years in real time).

If you fancy asking him yourself his twitter is:

I would complain, but I complained about Richard black the other day via the official “complain to the BBC” page, and basically it was just forwarded to the environment department, who fobbed me off and ignored my reply.

Hmm, forward the complaint to the people you are complaining about.





From → BBC Climate Bias

  1. Pingo permalink

    They weren’t even proper sceptics – I’ve no doubt that true sceptics would have been kept well away from a programme like that. They clearly spent a long time seeking out the most unconfident, impressionable sceptics they could find.

    King should have been asked how many variables he thought were missing from the plastic bottles to make the experiment alike the earth’s climate system, and pulled up on “hacking” comment regarding Climategate as there is no evidence it was hacked – an honorable whistleblower is more likely, probably from their IT department.

  2. confirmation bias permalink


    The argument from authority is astonishingly effective.

    David King is a disgrace – I mean that most sincerely. For what it’s worth (and here comes the argument from authority again) I’m an environmental scientist with a several decades worth of research behind me. I regard the likes of King and his ilk as as far from science as one can get. He dissembled in response to the question of how long would it take for Greenland to melt – even the most fervent believing AGM scientists think this impossible on a less than centennial scale. It is the worst kind of scaremongering – loathsome, putting people in fear for their children’s lives.

    The so called CO2 experiment is utter tosh, and even if performed properly in the lab is no more relevant to our understanding of climate with all the intricacies of atmospheric physics and chaotic dynamics with complex feedbacks from all the earth’s systems than a glass of water is to oceanography.

    We live in the new dark ages.

    Good article, thanks for writing.

  3. Phillip Bratby permalink

    I think science education has been so dumbed-down and most people are so illiterate when it comes to science that they will believe this heap of bovine scatology that was passed off as a scientific experiment.

  4. Paul LeGrys permalink

    Very pleased to see other grown-ups were as incredulous as me watching this travesty of a programme. I agree with everything others have said about Sir David King’s unbelievable contribution and the ludicrous “experiment ” ! But for me, the most ridiculous element was the instant conversion of a “sceptic ” and his fervent avowal that he was now happy to pay all the extra taxes that would be such a feature of mankind’s attempt to save the world. What a COMPLETE FARCE.

  5. Pingo permalink

    The problem is they seem to have gatekeepers everywhere. The BBC, scientific bodies, journals, MSM, everywhere you look you are up against Richard Black types who have been brainwashed by the appeal to authority fallacy. Too many vested interests now, the apathy of the British mean we will get what is coming to us and it’ll be the financial crisis round 2 when all this comes out in the wash.

    There is no organisation amongst sceptics, winning the scientific argument doesn’t seem to be enough.

  6. Santa permalink

    That was not science. It was not news. It was an infomercial

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