Film-makers taking on our 'global warming hysteria'

A new Irish film claims that climate change guru Al Gore is an alarmist and that those who think they are saving the planet are…

A new Irish film claims that climate change guru Al Gore is an alarmist and that those who think they are saving the planet are only hurting the poor

IF THE ADVANCE publicity is anything to go by, Not Evil Just Wrong will do for Al Gore what Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 did for George W Bush.

"This is the film Al Gore and Hollywood don't want you to see," declares the website for the latest work by film-makers Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer. The site even features a big picture of Gore, with his lips in the photograph seemingly digitally enhanced to make them look like Heath Ledger's Joker from the latest Batman film.

The website goes on to say that their latest film - which takes on what are described as global warming alarmists - is "the most controversial documentary of the year". Indeed, it could very well be the most controversial. And Al Gore and Hollywood may well not want you to see it. And in that respect, Gore and co are actually succeeding for the moment. Because there is no completed film. Not yet anyway.


McElhinney and McAleer have raised almost $1 million (€799,000) but need a total of $4.5m (€3.6m) to allow for a full cinema release. They say they were acutely disappointed at being turned down for funding by the Irish Film Board, especially its conclusion that it was "repetitive and creatively thin".

Instead, they have gone onto the internet hoping to solicit donations in the style of Barack Obama. The finished product will be around 90 minutes long. Both film-makers rebut the Film Board's criticism by pointing out that a near-complete version of the film has been chosen in the audience category at the Amsterdam Film Festival later this month.

However, for now, there is no finished product. And that creates a bit of a difficulty. The merits of the case put forward in the film can only be judged - for now - on a short trailer and on the spirited arguments put forward by its two creators, and not on the work itself.

McElhinney and McAleer, who are a married couple, are former journalists. McElhinney broke the Tristan Dowse story and the questionable money-making industry that had grown up around adoptions abroad. McAleer is a former journalist with the Sunday Times and the Financial Times, who worked as a correspondent in Bucharest for a number of years.

THIS IS NOT the first time they have courted controversy. An earlier documentary, Mine Your Own Business, contended that the actions of environmentalists were destroying communities and lives in developing countries. A screening in the US was picketed by environmental groups. And the documentary was also criticised because it was 70 per cent funded by Gabriel Resources, the Canadian mining company that wanted to develop an open pit gold mine in an impoverished village in Romania. This surely compromised the editorial objectivity of the film.

On the contrary, McAleer says. He points out that it is stated clearly in the first five minutes of the film where the funding came from. He also asserts that the funder had no editorial control and only saw the film after completion. But why fund it then?

"They saw what I had written [about the village] in the Financial Times and saw that I was representing it in a fair way. Also they had a good story to tell. They were the only people who could save this village from being destroyed by environmentalists."

The latest work, when it appears, will tackle the same subject but on a far more ambitious - and provocative - scale. They will set out to prove the true cost of what they call "global warming hysteria", which they claim damages the lives of vulnerable people. Shooting took place in Ireland, Uganda, China, England, France and the US.

The film, as outlined by both, explores three strands. The first looks at previous "scares", namely the widespread ban on the use of the anti-malaria pesticide DDT, because of its effect on the environment. The ban was highly controversial because there was evidence that its absence actually increased the incidence of malaria in poorer countries. Both describe the ban as appalling and a disgrace, putting the lives of birds and wildlife ahead of human beings who died from disease-carrying mosquitoes.

The second strand explores what they contend are "flaws" in the climate change argument. It is clear that the biggest "flaw" from their perspective has a name and it is Al Gore.

"We look at the bigger errors that are in An Inconvenient Truth," says McElhinney, who asserts that scientists are not settled on climate change, and there is not incontrovertible evidence that it is happening.

It's not possible to gainsay the film. But you wonder does the logic follow all the way through. Gore still believes in a ban on DDT, says McElhinney, arguing that this compromises his views on climate change. Not necessarily. They also explore nine "flaws" in Gore's film, established by the High Court in Britain during a civil case. Their major contentions include criticism of the famous inverted hockey stick graph which purported to show constant emissions for many centuries and big increases in CO2 emissions since 1900. That model completely neglected medieval warming (proven) and the little ice age from the 16th century to 1850 (also proven), they argue.

IN BRIEF, THEIR other main assertions are: there has been no global warming since 1995; the polar bear population is not under threat from climate change but from human hunters; they also say that the Arctic and Greenland glaciers have been receding since 1850, long before the invention of SUVs; and, finally, that the UN's International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) takes issue with Al Gore's contention that sea levels will rise by 20ft (more like 19 inches, says the IPCC).

None of these arguments are new. It is the view of critics of global warming that the Earth's climate is still recovering from the Little Ice Age after it ended around 1850. A quick Google of any of the above issues does point to potential flaws (ie too much reliance on modelling, projecting and extrapolation) but the problem is that the contrary argument often teeters on a rickety foundation.

The third strand is McAleer's argument that the measures proposed to tackle climate change will cause crisis and chaos. The world would collapse without fossil fuel, he says. "The cure could be worse than the disease." He is particularly scathing of Al Gore's call for a total ban on fossil fuels in a decade, which would be a disaster, leading to millions of people being driven into poverty.

The views are certainly contrarian. But there are some eminent scientists among the contributors, including Dr Syun-Ichi Akasofu, former director of the International Arctic Research Centre and Prof Richard Lindzen, an atmospheric physicist from MIT, both of whom are sceptics.

The authority of all the arguments will be severely tested. One is mindful of Martin Durkin's controversial The Great Global Warming Swindle for Channel 4 that set about debunking global warming as an overstated theory. The film was criticised by the UK TV regulator (Ofcom) for inaccuracies, and the Ofcom decision gave Durkin's critics a field day in attacking the credibility of his film.

Do McElhinney and McAleer themselves reject climate change, reject the need to cut down on our dependency on oil? "The idea that CO2 causes climate change or causes global warming - let's keep it clear - is not settled," says McElhinney. "The idea of dramatically altering the way we live would be a mistake until more information has been gathered." Both believe that there is no panic, and that the world has 300 years (until coal is exhausted) to come up with alternative sources of energy.

They are right about one thing - it will be very controversial. Their arguments will be unremittingly scrutinised, leaving only two possible outcomes: the film will debunk and expose, or be itself debunked and exposed.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times