Cassandra has moved. Ugo Bardi publishes now on a new site called "The Seneca Effect."

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Burning the skeptics: a false flag campaign against the concept of man made global warming

You may have seen the disgusting "no-pressure" video of last year, where global warming skeptics were made to explode in a burst of blood. Now, there comes a new one, similar. It is "Combustible," where we see a climate skeptic catching fire, turning into ashes, and leaving only his eyeballs on the sidewalk. "Combustible" is just slightly less disgusting than "No Pressure" was and perhaps a bit more subtle. Here, the hapless skeptic burns by itself, whereas in the earlier movie we actually see environmentalists pushing the kill button. But the message of both movies is exactly the same: environmentalists are murderers who enjoy seeing people suffering. Indeed, "Combustible" was understood in this way in the comments to it at the WUWT site

Who made this crap? Apparently, it was created by a professional advertising agency, "Realm." But there is a problem here: even if it does it "pro bono", an advertising agency acts on the basis of a request from a customer. An agency, in itself, doesn't have the competency to devise a campaign from scratch. Indeed, when Realm created an environmental ad in 2009 it was for a real and traceable environmental association, Earthshare of Georgia. But for the "Combustible" video there is no such traceable sponsor. At the end of the movie, you can read "" But, at present, there doesn't exist a site with that name and the link only leads you to Bill Clinton's climate initiative, where (obviously) you find no trace of this video. WUWT suggests that the video originates from WWF, but, again, the the link provided only leads to an announcement of an open position and there no trace of this video in the whole WWF site. Another link  supposed to identify the sponsors leads only to a speech  of President Obama on climate change. It is a game of mirrors: there is no way to know who is behind this video.

So, how come that this video is "orphan" in the sense that it cannot be linked to any known (or even newly born) environmental organization? I think the most obvious explanation is that "Combustible" is a fake environmental movie. It is, actually, a false flag video designed to smear the environmental movement, depicting its members as murderers. Of course, if we reason in scientific terms, there is no way to prove this statement. In scientific terms, whatever cannot be proven must be considered dubious. However, there is a old rule which may not be scientific but which I think applies to the present case (and to "No Preessure" as well). It says that when you start feeling that you are being cheated, most likely you are.

In a previous post of mine, I was noting how the skeptic position on climate change is based mainly on narrative: fancy stories designed to distract people from the reality of the scientific results. I argued that the main narrative behind skepticism is that global warming does not exist; it is only a hoax created by a group of evil scientists who manipulated the data in order to keep money flowing into their fat research grants, as demonstrated by the Climategate mails. But that is not the only story told by skeptics (charitably defined in this way). Videos such as "Combustible" and "No pressure" are part of another narrative created with the purpose of painting environmentalists as a group of monsters who want to destroy most of humankind in order to create their green utopia. It is nothing new; the same lie was used against the 1972 study "The Limits to Growth" whose authors and sponsors were presented as planning to exterminate most of humankind. It is pure fiction, of course, but it is an effective weapon to undermine the credibility of the environmental movement and of climate science.

The people who conceived these videos, whoever they are, are clearly willing to use any means available for their purpose. They are obviously adept at the task and well financed, too. Against this kind of attacks, we are facing a difficult battle: it is hard to fight comfortable narratives with inconvenient truths. But it is also true that these spin campaigns can backfire. The minimum we can do is to expose these tricks when we see them appearing. Eventually, truth will win.


  1. On what basis do you describe either of these ads as 'false flag'? To the best of my knowledge, the 'No pressure' one was a genuine ad for the 10:10 campaign, made by Richard Curtis, Gillian Anderson, and others with good intentions.

    You evidently find them unpleasant. I found them both quite funny. We might agree that they are unpersuasive, or counterproductive. But it seems very likely to me that this 'Combustible' ad is exactly what it purports to be. Do you have any evidence at all that any of these are 'false flag', rather than simply misjudged? If you do, you should present it. If you don't, then you are making strong accusations with no evidence - the favourite tactic used by the enemies of truth.

    See also the 'Polar Bear' ad for the Plane Stupid campaign.

  2. Well, of course there is no evidence that "Combustible" was conceived with the specific aim of disparaging the environmental movement. But there is no evidence of the opposite, either - that is that it was commissioned by caring, if misguided, environmentalists. We just don't know: the video is "orphan", that is doesn't come from any known environmental organization. And that should be considered suspicious, to say the least.

  3. And, excuse me, Nick, but I can't understand how you can find "funny" seeing people exploding in great gusts of blood.

  4. It's absurdist humour. People aren't really exploding in gouts of blood, or catching fire, and the audience knows that. It's an English thing, I think (compare with much of Monty Python, such as the Mr Creosote sketch from 'The Meaning of Life').
    Compare also with the cartoon violence of Tom and Jerry, or Itchy and Scratchy for that matter - far more extreme than 'No Pressure'.

  5. (and note that adweek's describe the 'Combustible' ad as 'amusing')

  6. Yes, I understand your point. But the cases you cite; Itchy and Scratchy, for instance, are completely removed from reality. They are not trying to demonstrate anything. They are just so absurd that you can only laugh. Instead, "No pressure" bothered me deeply. I mean, look at it: you see real schoolboys exploding in great bursts of blood. And it happens in a real classroom. Ow..... that doesn't make me laugh and I can only wonder how the director thought it could bring people to laugh (if he did!).

    Even Mr. Creosote of "The meaning of life", he is not a realistic character in a realistic situation. It is just a gag with absurdly deformed characters. You can laugh about that because you understand it belongs to the pure fantasy realm.

  7. Yeah... I noticed the way Adweek describes "Combustible". Who was who said "We are not amused"? Queen Elizabeth?

  8. Well, we can debate that until the cows come home, but the fact is that 'No Pressure' was really made by the real Richard Curtis, for the real 10:10 campaign, and was really meant to help persuade people to reduce their carbon footprints, and was really meant to be funny, and for some people, it really was funny.

    It may have been badly misjudged (although I think a lot of the outrage, particularly of the "typical environmentalists, it's the New World Order, they want to kill us all" was blatantly manufactured), but it was not a 'false flag' campaign. It just wasn't.

  9. Yes, we can debate until pigs fly. Just as a last note; the fact that we know the authors of "No pressure" doesn't mean that the film is not a false flag. We know the authors of "Combustible", too and they are just as real. It depends on who was paying them.

    By the way, are you Nick Barnes of the climate code foundation?

  10. Anyway, I modified the text a little to take into account your comments. Thanks!

  11. Yes, I am that Nick Barnes. The authors of 'No Pressure' were paid by the 10:10 campaign, which is a genuine (and effective) carbon reduction campaign in the UK.

  12. At the risk of sounding like a tone troll, I think this is an irresponsible accusation. It's possible that you're correct but you present no evidence. I have supported your blog (linked it from mine, suggested it to others, etc.), read and enjoyed your book, and taken value from from your writing. But "I can't determine who funded this from the environmental side so it must be a false flag propaganda item" is overreaching. I'd have been more comfortable with "the possibility should be considered that..."

  13. I think the video lost its credibility when I realized it had comments disabled. I know Youtube comment debates are rarely formal but there's not better way of supporting your opposition than not giving them a voice.

  14. All right, all right.... I understand that not everybody agrees with me. I agree that it is a controversial interpretation, indeed! But let me say that it doesn't come from the blue.

    I think we are often locked into thinking that all "conspiracy theories" are wrong. Most of them are, of course, but conspiracies do exist. Read the book by Naomi Oreskes, "Merchants of doubt": it is eye opening, ears un-deafening. There has existed a well financed, hidden network dedicated to pushing the proposition that smoking was not harmful and now that network is being used in order to disparage climate science and climate scientists. And I am convinced that cases such as "No Pressure" and "Combustible" are manifestations of this network.

    Of course, if we keep our attitude as scientists, we'll never perceive the existence of this hidden network. We are not trained to fight that kind of attacks; and it shows.

    Long story, anyway.....

  15. links, at the moment, to a WaPo article describing the findings of a study sponsored by climate sceptics, which found in favour of the likelihood that climate change is real.

  16. There is definitely something fishy about redirecting to so many different links. Somebody is controlling what that URL does and not being upfront about their intentions.

    1. Just a note: the site "climatechangeinitiative" is listed as "forbidden" right now.



Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)