Tradecraft of propaganda



Climate Change: News and Comments

The tradecraft of propaganda

Ritchie Calder. Photo: National Library of Scotland.

Hearing about a story concerning my father  in The Independent, London (2 June), I’ve now seen that the professor of journalism at the University of Kent, Tim Luckhurst, describes him as a “war hero”. That’s for Ritchie Calder’s candid newspaper reports of the chaotic responses to the bombing blitz on London, 1940-41. The article is here:

As Luckhurst says, he faced accusations of “giving comfort to the enemy”. Yes, as a child I heard him telling my mother at the door that he’d be “home by eight if I’m not in Brixton Prison”. But although Luckhurst mentions a later involvement in propaganda, he doesn’t explain that the government silenced Calder’s troublesome reportage of the air raids by shanghai-ing him into the top-secret Political Warfare Executive, formed in August 1941.


A pass giving Ritchie Calder access to the plans for the D-Day landings. (P.I.D., Political Intelligence Department, was a cover-name for the Political Warfare Executive.) National Library of Scotland.

My aim in this blog is to stick to science and shun the politics. My Dad was more politically minded and finished up as a Labour peer. But I share his readiness to defy officialdom and, when the facts serve, to cock a snook at bigwigs of any kind.

What Ritchie Calder told me about wartime propaganda against the Nazis has helped me to understand how a few scientists and politicians have persuaded governments and the docile media about a danger from man-made global warming that goes far beyond the real facts.

While not exactly scientific, the tradecraft of propaganda can be considered technical, so I’ve decided to post here the text of a talk I gave on the subject in London 18 months ago. It’s lightly edited to remove one comment about an individual and to correct one historical over-simplification, but I’ve not bothered to update remarks corresponding to the time of delivery of the talk. [On 8 June, I’ve added some pictures, which I didn’t use in the talk, to break up the long-winded text.]


Global warming is just propaganda

Talk by Nigel Calder, Savile Club, London, 9 Dec. 2008

© Nigel Calder 2008

Let me start by mentioning two members of your club, my brother Allan here tonight, and our late father, Ritchie Calder. When Allan was six weeks old a damaged German bomber was about to crash in Surrey. It jettisoned its bombs and one hit our family home. There was a kerfuffle in London when it turned out that the German pilot had in his pocket a British propaganda leaflet produced by our Dad. Had there been a breach of security? Had his house been targeted? No, of course not. It was just a grisly coincidence.

Ritchie Calder was an ace science reporter, whose scoops included the splitting of the atom and the structure of DNA. But during the Second World War he was director of plans and campaigns in the Political Warfare Executive of the Foreign Office. In plain words, he was making propaganda. He later told me quite a lot about the wartime tradecraft. And now it dismays me to see the very same techniques being used to propagate the myth that we are in the grip of relentless global warming driven by manmade emissions of carbon dioxide.

Read the rest of this entry »

Climate Change intro


CLIMATE CHANGE – Introduction

This section of Calder’s Updates is unavoidably a battleground, but within reason it will stick to the physics and dodge the propaganda that surrounds climate research.

Headings in this section

  • News and Comments watching developments
  • The Svensmark Hypothesis outlining the science
  • Falsification Tests digging deeper into the physics
  • Updating The Chilling Stars with evolving stories

In 1997 The Manic Sun by Nigel Calder was the first book to describe a new wonder of Nature – namely Henrik Svensmark’s discovery that the effect of cosmic rays on clouds amplifies the influence of the Sun on the Earth’s climate. Ten years of progress with the physics led to a second book The Chilling Stars in 2007, co-authored with Svensmark.I was also a script consultant to Mortensen Film for the TV programme about Svensmark’s work, “The Cloud Mystery”.

Despite plenty of time to re-consider the story, if it had turned out to be foolish, the evidence looks better and better as the years pass. Yet most climate scientists still ignore or reject Svensmark’s findings from observations of the real world, physics experiments, and theoretical analyses. Scoffing or vehement objections come from supporters of the man-made global warming hypothesis, who realise that the Svensmark hypothesis offers the strongest challenge to the assumptions in their climate models that predict climatic catastrophe.

The customary give-and-take arguments among experts, about which scientific theory fits the facts better, would be fair enough. But since climate physics became a political issue, the involvement of governments, funding agencies, scientific journals and the media in propagating a particular view of climate change has made rational debate difficult. Here’s a comment from Svensmark in an interview by Discover magazine, July 2007.

Question: In 1996, when you reported that changes in the Sun’s activity could explain most or all of the recent rise in Earth’s temperature, the chairman of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel [on Climate Change] called your announcement “extremely naive and irresponsible”. How did you react?

Svensmark: I was just stunned. I remember being shocked by how many thought what I was doing was terrible. I couldn’t understand it because when you are a physicist, you are trained that when you find something that cannot be explained, something that doesn’t fit, that is what you are excited about. If there is a possibility that you might have an explanation, that is something that everybody thinks is what you should pursue. Here was exactly the opposite reaction. It was as though people were saying to me, “This is something that you should not have done.” That was very strange for me, and it has been more or less like that ever since.

To me (Calder) as a reporter of major discoveries that went on to win Nobel prizes in several different fields, the contrast between flimsy conjecture and creative brainpower backed by real evidence is fairly obvious. Being a generalist, rather than a specialist reporter of climate science, also helps to keep me objective, but I’m not inexperienced or ignorant in this field. It can be irritating when “warmist” journalists and campaigners with no relevant training of their own try to question my competence. Hey, I’ve even published a couple of formal scientific papers of my own.

Calder’s writing and editing on climate-related subjects

2007 (updated 2008) book: The Chilling Stars: A New Theory of Climate Change. Joint author with Henrik Svensmark

2003 book: Magic Universe: The Oxford Guide to Modern Science. Topics Include Biosphere from space, Carbon cycle, Climate change, Cosmic rays, Cryosphere, Earthshine, Earth system, El Niño, Ocean currents, Solar wind, and Volcanic explosions

1999 scientific paper: ‘The Carbon Dioxide Thermometer’, Energy & Environment, 1999, Vol. 10, pp. 1-18, on how CO2 seems to respond to climate change rather than the other way around.

1997 book: The Manic Sun: Weather Theories Confounded about the Sun & climate, including Svensmark’s initial discovery about cosmic rays and clouds

1991 book and related TV series: Spaceship Earth about Earth observation, Including space observations of clouds, storms, temperatures, ice, oceans, bioproductivity, land use, and deforestation.

1990 book: Scientific Europe (editor, for Foundation Scientific Europe). It includes climate articles by Hermann Flohn, Bert Bolin, Paul Crutzen, and Lennart Bengtsson.

1983 book: Timescale: An Atlas of the Fourth Dimension. Among many other topics it traces climate change from the first ice ages 2300 million years ago to the Little Ice Age ending in 1850.

1974 book and related 2-hour TV programme: The Weather Machine. These included the first public reports of the confirmation of the Milankovitch ice-age hypothesis. Participants on TV include Hubert Lamb, Nicholas Shackleton, John Imbrie, Willi Dansgaard, George Kukla, Syukuro Manabe and Bert Bolin.

1974 scientific paper: ‘The Arithmetic of Ice Ages’, Nature, Vol. 252, pp. 216-18, with the first formal confirmation of the Milankovitch Effect. (Done with a pocket calculator, to legitimize what we were saying in The Weather Machine.)

1973 book: Nature in the Round: A Guide to Environmental Science (editor). Includes articles on climate change by L.P. Smith and Grahame Clark.

1968 book: Unless Peace Comes (editor). Includes Gordon MacDonald on weather and climate modification as weapons of war

1965 book: The World in 1984 (editor, for New Scientist). Among about 100 commissioned 20-yr forecasts, contributions on weather & climate came from Graham Sutton, Fred Singer, D.A. Davies & Roger Revelle

Calder has often spoken about climate change in lectures and on TV and radio, including an interview (2007) for The Great Global Warming Swindle, WagTV’s production for Channel 4. He has published articles on the subject since 1961.