TVNZ’s Close Up show last night reverted to the reliable old Wishart vs Morgan set-up to frame a piece about Copenhagen and whether humans are contributing to climate change.

You may recall a similar match-up on climate sceptic Leighton Smith’s Newstalk ZB show around the time Morgan launched his book Poles Apart.

Only this one had a bit of a twist – a text-in poll allowing viewers to weigh in after the ten minute segment with their own verdict on climate change – and pay 75c per text for the privilege.

The sequence of events was rather predictable – Ian Wishart, drawing on all the training from his TV days rattled through a well-rehearsed catalogue of sceptics’ arguments focusing particularly on climategate and the leaked CRU emails. Gareth Morgan sat in the studio in Wellington unwilling to engage Wishart and address his conspiracy theory that climate change is just a carefully manufactured scam to line the pockets of scientists all over the world.

“I’m not going to die in the ditch fighting on that stuff, because I see it on both sides frankly,” said Morgan.

“I’m only interested in the science and what the balance of evidence says,” he added.

However the science didn’t really get much of a look-in and Morgan’s pragmatic approach, however rational, didn’t convince Close Up viewers asked who they believed. When the poll result came in later in the show the results were:

close up

Wishart: 77%

Morgan: 23%

A not altogether surprising result. You have Morgan, fairly laid-back  and non-confrontational, a disconnected image appearing via telelink talking about the “balance of evidence” and the science – fairly dry stuff. You have Wishart sitting next to host Mark Sainsbury in the studio – forceful, choosing his soundbites carefully, stoking up his theory of corruption and subterfuge in the science system – fairly intriguing and emotive stuff. No contest really, which is why the Wishart vs Morgan set-up is a waste of valuable prime time real estate. No one really learns anything, existing beliefs are just reinforced.

However, Wishart did let something slip on Close Up last night, something quite revealing:

Mark Sainsbury: If we do nothing there’s a hell of a lot at stake.

Ian Wishart: The same can be said for belief in God.

Wishart usually keeps his religious views out of his climate sceptic campaign, but he couldn’t resist here. Why does it matter? Because anyone who really does believe in the Creator and that the world is going to end with the Last Judgement would find it difficult to believe that human beings can steer their own destiny with the aid of science…