The ABC’s screening and treatment of The Great Global Warming Swindle documentary would be funny if it wasn’t so serious.

Since when has ANY documentary on the ABC received such an extensive promotion and thoroughgoing coverage? A special Tony Jones interview – recorded in London; a live studio panel discussion; endless advertising; news radio etc etc.

All this would be funny except that the effect of Swindle is serious. Deadly so. The aim of the program and its lackeys is to create doubt, any doubt, about climate change.

Because even a little amount of doubt helps persuade the public and politicians that the really substantial action needed to address climate change should be put off until we are more certain about the science.

This is the strategy so helpfully exposed in 2003 through a famous memo from US communications guru and advisor to US Republicans, Frank Luntz, who wrote:

The scientific debate remains open. Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community. Should the public come to believe the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate…

“Doubt is our product,” stated the legendary tobacco industry memo from 1969. So it is again today with the climate skeptic industry. And it is an industry – an industry funded clique of self promoters.

Those interviewed in Swindle are portrayed as “leading climate scientists” when in fact they are far from it. They are part of the skeptic network working with organisations funded by the fossil fuel industry.

This best way to demonstrate this is to use the superb Exxon Secrets website. Here you can put in an individual’s name and see which think tanks they are connected to and which of those receive funding from Exxon.

Incredibly eight people who appear in Swindle are connected to 26 separate think tanks, policy centers and organisations that receive funding from Exxon. You can see in this map (to access it, click launch and then skip intro) the people who appear in Swindle and the grey lines show which organisations they are connected to. Those institutions with the dollar signs are those that have received money from Exxon.  

Click for a larger image

Unfortunately the right wing climate change deniers within the ABC and the nation’s opinion pages have successfully convinced some that the debate about Swindle is a debate about free speech and the suppression of dissent and ideas. But the real issues not being discussed are the links of those in this film to the fossil fuel industry. To talk of such things is to risk being labelled “extreme” and a “conspiracy theorist”.

But perhaps the best guide is film maker Martin Durkin’s previous film efforts. In 1999, Channel 4 in the UK broadcast in its Equinox series (which claimed to be a series of science documentaries) a film produced by Durkin called “Storm in a D Cup”, which argued that silicone breast implants were beneficial to a woman’s health.

The Swindle documentary does contain a great story. But it is a story that hasn’t yet been told.