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Climate sceptics in focus at the Canberra International Film Festival

Al Gore's award-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth has ''kicked off a whole new style of environmental story telling".
Al Gore's award-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth has ''kicked off a whole new style of environmental story telling".  Photo: Ken Irwin

The Canberra International Film Festival will turn the spotlight on professional climate sceptics on Monday night with the screening of the controversial documentary Merchants of Doubt followed by a public discussion forum. 

The film, which was directed by American screenwriter Robert Kenner, is an adaption of Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway's 2010 title by the same name.

Both the book and the film investigate the tactics used by some special interest groups to create doubt or confusion regarding scientific research in relation to climate change and tobacco reform.

The event, which will held at the Dendy Cinema in Civic, is expected to prompt a discussion of the media's role in reporting scientific research and ongoing debate about the federal government's response to climate change. 

Dr Matthew Rimmer, an associate professor with the ANU College of Law, said Canberra was the perfect location to screen the documentary given the political turmoil caused by climate change policy in recent years. 

"In Australia, you can see how certain tactics have been adapted in terms of the battles over climate pricing and the mining tax although it also relates to the representation of climate science in the media," he said. 

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"There has been a lot of distortions of climate science in the Australian media and that's quite significant given Australian politics has had such a tumultuous time in relation to climate change."

Dr Rimmer, who will be one of three panelists at the event, said Merchants of Doubt had become an "instant classic" after its publication in 2010 and the film adaption was indicative of the popularity of environmental documentaries. 

"There has been a great growth of documentaries about climate change with Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth kicking off a whole new style of environmental story telling," he said. 

Dr Rimmer will be joined by Dr Will Grant from the ANU Centre for Public Awareness and Science and David Pembroke, the founder of Canberra based public relations firm The Content Group.

"A larger discussion will also be about the implications of climate scientists' work abnd how we can better to protect them in terms against the fog machine of fossil fuel propaganda," Dr Rimmer said. 

"That's been a big struggle and some scientists have been subject to some very personal attacks over the years." 

The screening begins at 6.45pm and discussion will moderated by ABC Radio presenter Adam Shirley.