Editor’s note: this article was originally published by the National Review on May 7, 2016.
Last year Sony Pictures Classics released Merchants of Doubt, a documentary alleging that paid hucksters peddle climate denialism. Marc Morano, who founded and runs the website Climate Depot, was featured prominently as huckster-in-chief. This week Morano struck back with Climate Hustle, a 90-minute film released by the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) and CDR Communications. Climate Hustle exposes the industry of climate alarmism through an impressive sequence of interviews and news clips revealing the politicized narrative pushed onto the public. It’s a film with an important message. Unfortunately, its reach will be limited by its low budget and a few missteps in narrative development. But anyone interested in the politicization of contemporary science must see it. It showed in theaters only on May 2 but is set for release on DVD later this spring.
Climate Hustle unveils seven “hustles” perpetrated by climate con artists. These include the sleight of hand (patching together data sets into misleading temperature records) and the “ol’ switcheroo” (the pivot from global cooling to global warming and then again to “climate change” and “extreme weather”). Damning sequences show original clips of news anchors and scientists changing their tune as doom-predicting climate models fail to match the facts.
More often — and this is the key point of Climate Hustle – the hustlers stick to their talking points long after the facts have left them behind. We see climate scientists fumbling to explain the 18-year pause in global warming. We also see the precarious positions of celebrity global-warming apologists stuck on repeat, unsure which island of pseudo-scientific messaging to leap onto next. The most hilarious of these (filed under “The limited time offer,” one of the seven hustles) is Prince Charles, who in five nicely timed clips declares that nations will be under water in ten years (that was in 1999); then in 100 months (2008), seven years (2009), 86 months (2010). Finally, in 2014, he enunciates the worn-out warning that we are once again “running out of time.”
We hear Paul Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb (1968), tittering in 1995 that rising seas would soon flood the Supreme Court and enable tourists to tie their boats to the Washington Monument. We see a nice montage of James Hansen, the NASA scientist who testified to the U.S. Senate in 1988 that he had detected the greenhouse effect, repeating warnings about “tipping points” and “irreversible” changes. One such “irreversible” change, of course, was to be the end of snow, predicted by scientists and proclaimed boldly by the New York Times in 2014. But then heavy winter snows hit, but, that’s right, they too were the product of global warming.
Climate Hustle is at its best when juxtaposing contradictory claims. And they are everywhere: Global warming causes heavy rain but also drought; carbon dioxide and temperature are closely correlated, yet rises in temperature tend to precede, not lag, CO2 increases; icecaps are supposedly melting, yet the Arctic sea ice is growing; the polar bear is supposed to be dying, yet its population has quintupled since the 1960s.
Can this dizzying array of contradiction and illogic be scientific? Morano shows scientists walking back some of their bizarre predictions, and he also shows mainstream climate scientists admitting they’re not on board with the headline-grabbing acts. We meet Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace. After he realized the evidence simply wasn’t there, Moore abandoned the alarmist trend he helped start.
The alarmist Left likes to paint global-warming skeptics as right-wing deniers. Morano shows climatologists who voted for President Obama but privately deplore alarm-mongering. The phony “97 percent” statistic that is constantly paraded as evidence of scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming gets a thorough debunking. Climate Hustle shows innumerable climate scientists — including U.N. and NASA scientists, Nobel laureates, and chaired professors at elite universities — reject the so-called settled science. According to the hustlers, carbon dioxide is a “poison” responsible for cooking our planet. Morano shows scientist after scientist affirming the life-giving importance of CO2 and testifying that Earth is actually in a “CO2 famine.” Hustlers in the media claim that only recently has the climate so dangerously yo-yoed. In old letters that Climate Hustle digs up, Thomas Jefferson and the first president of the British Royal Society worried about infrequent winter snow and shrinking Greenland ice in the early 19th century.
At times Morano tries too hard for “gotcha” moments. In one of several acted sketches, we see the Energy Police banging down the door to confiscate microwaves and table lamps from a private residence. It’s reminiscent of an Audi commercial from the 2010 Super Bowl, in which Green Police arrest the owner of an incandescent light bulb and accost teenagers drinking the banned beverage of bottled water. Meanwhile, the owner of an Audi A3 TDI, named “green car of the year” by Green Car Journal, gets to skip a highway eco-checkpoint and leave the Green Police behind. Too much? Perhaps, though there are real Green Police units in Israel, the U.K., and New York State.
Climate Hustle has other weaknesses. The film never references Merchants of Doubt. Presumably Morano saw no need to draw attention to the hustlers’ slickest pitch. But Climate Hustle is pretty clearly a response. It follows the same narrative — wealthy elites withheld information in order to manipulate you — but swaps the villain and victim. Much of the structure carries over, down to the repeated card-shark motif. In some ways Morano’s film feels like a spoof, which is a shame, because Climate Hustle has the better evidence.
Morano appears prominently in Climate Hustle, which he co-wrote and narrates. He is an intelligent, witty man who’s followed climate science closely for years, but by the end of the first hour his smart-aleck style gets in the way. And while the line-up of seven “hustles” gives the film a sense of order, the structure is superficial. Most of the hustles are indistinguishable from one another. They don’t build, and most of the clips aren’t uniquely or even especially well described by the labels they’re wedged under.
Whereas Merchants enjoyed an ample professional budget for production and distribution, Climate Hustle relies on re-used footage and a patchwork of poorly lit though nicely edited interviews. In many shots we see Morano holding his mic. He’s frequently in front of a green screen, with stock-footage grass waving stiffly behind him. The special effects are amateur. At one point, when Morano runs through the list of potential non-human causes for global warming, we see a giant flaming sun (out come his sunglasses), then a raging wind storm (back blows his hat), and finally — I put this more delicately than the film does — cows releasing green gaseous clouds of methane, with Morano holding his nose and shooing them with a pitchfork.
Climate Hustle ends with previews. Morano has in mind a film zeroing in on the wealthy solar- and wind-energy investors who stand to profit from the alarmist activism they fund. He also signals a future project on the privacy invasions that climate alarmism prompts, including population control and the terrifying proposal by a New York University scientist to biologically engineer a shorter, smaller human who needs fewer resources. These are topics ripe for exploring in film — and worthy of support. Here’s hoping that Morano and CFACT can raise the production budget to do them justice.