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Michigander's YouTube climate fight draws an online crowd

Peter Sinclair's "Climate Crocks" dismantle climate change myths
Peter Sinclair doesn’t suffer climate change skeptics gladly.

So the Midland resident has taken to blasting fact-sized holes in their arguments through a series of innovative, caustic and educational YouTube videos that have gained a national following this year.

Sinclair’s “Climate Crock of the Week” series uses video stunts and graphics laced with layers of sarcasm and wit to devastate popular arguments of the skeptics (“deniers” is his preferred term).

The videos provide a layperson’s translation of climate change science. They typically involve a systematic dismantling of popular but flawed attacks on climate science, engaging viewers with irreverent ripostes comparing climate skeptics to idiot TV characters Beavis and Butthead, and baiting opponents with lines like, “…now I’m going to do something that many deniers believe is unfair. I’m actually going to read the text.”

It’s a sharp stick to the eye—turning the tables on those of the Glenn Beck/Rush Limbaugh mold who regularly belittle and taunt environmentalists, scientists and public policy proponents of climate solutions.

“Like PT Barnum said, ‘if you want to draw a crowd, start a fight’” Sinclair said. “If it’s going to be on YouTube, it’s got to have an edge.”

Sinclair—who was trained and certified as a presenter of Al Gore’s Climate Project program in 2007—claims no academic expertise in climate theory.

“The first thing you have to understand is that I have no qualifications whatsoever,” said Sinclair, who works two jobs, as an orthopedic nurse as well as a graphic designer and animator. “I will refer you to the National Academies of Sciences, to NASA, to the IPCC, to the experts. I’m just trying to explain what they are telling us.”

Sinclair has followed the climate change issue since reading James Lovelock’s “Gaia” theories in the 1980s. He grew increasingly frustrated with dishonest and disingenuous arguments, perpetuated by political and industrial interests, which seem plausible enough at first glance, but crumble under modest scrutiny.

In 2007, he applied, and was accepted, as a trainee at Al Gore’s “Climate Project” in Nashville. “I had been doing a lot of reading around the issue, and I had a long background in energy and environment. This was a chance to meet and question some top flight climate experts.”

“Following the training, I started giving talks around the area, and taped a show for a cable station where people saw it and commented. It occurred to me that the largest, most accessible audience was on You Tube—why not try something there? Using the graphics I had been developing for my PowerPoints, I came up with a catchy title, added some background music, and launched the series.”

The Crocks run four to eight minutes each. They attracted a sparse audience that gradually grew by word of mouth. Viewership remained in the hundreds, until an unlikely source created a firestorm that propelled Climate Crock of the Week into national prominence.

Watt a crock!
Sinclair posted a video dismantling the arguments of Anthony Watts, a retired television weather forecaster who has gained a cult following on his climate denial blog.

Watts filed a copyright infringement claim against Sinclair’s video, which was then pulled by YouTube—standard procedure for such a complaint. The video was reinstated after YouTube found no validity to Watts’ complaint.

The dustup was reported across the nation in progressive and science blogs, many of which linked to Sinclair’s videos. The exposure launched Climate Crock viewership into overdrive, prompting Sinclair to thank Watts for “providing invaluable exposure to my video series, and greatly increasing my traffic and visibility.”

“It’s great that thousands of people are now watching,” said Sinclair. But he strives to keep his notoriety in perspective: “I mean, a good-looking girl reading her shopping list on YouTube is always going to beat my counts.”

“What’s encouraging is that I am getting feedback from working climate scientists all over the world who like what I am doing, and want me to keep it up.”

Sinclair weaves his climate work around his work and family—a wife who is an educator and two children in college. He travels the state giving Climate Project presentations and speaking to civic and business groups. Recently, more of his presentations have been to conservative groups whose members don’t always agree with him.

“Midland is a conservative area with a highly educated population, so I knew I would get a lot of good questions here,” he said of his hometown. “But the reception has been more hospitable than I would have believed. I’ve been invited into high schools and to more conservative civic groups, and the local papers generally will print my submissions.”

Where to see Sinclair and his crock of...stuff

Peter Sinclair’s Climate Crocks of the Week can be seen at the following site:

There, you’ll be treated to videos, including:
  • “Mars Attacks” features ominous bass-heavy music and B-movie flying saucers exploring and destroying the fallacy that Mars and “all the other planets are warming.” The argument is a wild-eyed falsehood and is exposed as such. There’s a short appearance by animated TV idiots Beavis and Butthead.
  • “That 1500 Year Thing” shreds the oft-repeated theory that we’re in the warming phase of a regular 1,500-year cycle. Sinclair exposes the truth about the data, which shows that previous warming cycles were regional, not planet-wide.
  • “Deniers Love the 70s” takes to task the belief that science predicted global cooling in the 1970s. With a backdrop of John Travolta dancing in “Saturday Night Fever,” Sinclair walks viewers through the origin of climate change theory in the early 1900s, its adoption as a credible theory by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965 and the 1977 Global 2000 report to President Jimmy Carter, calling manmade global warming a threat. The infamous 1975 Newsweek story suggesting a cooling trend is put in proper context—the conditional speculation of a handful of scientists who considered it a remote possibility.
  • “The Medieval Warming Crock” makes wreckage of the pet theory that a warming period from 1,000 to 1,400 AD proves that huge warming trends happen independently of human greenhouse gas emissions. The video, with a B-movie clip of happy frolicking Vikings, notes that the warming statistics used by skeptics are confined to temperatures in Northern Europe. More comprehensive data shows that there was no planet-wide warming during that period.
-Hugh McDiarmid, Jr.
RELATED TOPICS: climate change
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