BBC blows climate coverage, again

This is dispiriting. Why the BBC, of all media, continues to do this defies reason—although there probably is a reason for it, just a really stupid one. As we all know, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) started releasing its next round of reports last week. And as we all know, the global warming deniers—those that are left, anyway—are all set to denounce it. Except the BBC apparently couldn’t find any scientist in the UK who was prepared to do this. The Guardian’s John Ashton takes it from here, reporting that when the IPCC Summary came along last Friday:

At breakfast time, Radio 4’s Today programme informed listeners that despite extensive efforts, the BBC had been unable to find a single British scientist willing to challenge the IPCC’s findings. At that point the BBC might have concluded that the IPCC’s views represent an overwhelming consensus and left it at that.

So then what happened?

Instead, BBC news editors evidently cast their net wider. By lunchtime World at One was introducing Prof Carter as an Australian geologist, speaking for the “Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change”, or NIPCC. Someone who is not a climate scientist, in other words, representing a Not-The-IPCC body. Indeed, it turns out that the NIPCC is backed by the Heartland Institute, a US-based free-market thinktank that opposes urgent action on climate change.

Ah, those guys. So, how’d that work out?

In a remarkable interview that dominated the entire World at One coverage, Carter poured scorn on the IPCC’s findings. He drew on his geological expertise to argue that there was no more point in trying to mitigate climate change than in trying to prevent earthquakes. He claimed that, unlike the intensively peer-reviewed findings of more than 800 IPCC researchers, the NIPCC’s work was truly independent, while cheerfully admitting that family foundations in America paid for it. He implied that it represented a widely held scholarly view, pointing to “around 47” scientific collaborators. He did not specify how many of these were climate scientists.

Some hilarity, and considerable outrage, ensued. This is not, sadly, the BBC’s first miscue on the climate front—there have certainly been others. Wait, this is the BBC—the best broadcaster in the world. Right? What’s going on here? Ashton has a theory:

In 2011 the BBC Trust invited Prof Steve Jones of University College London to review the impartiality and accuracy of the BBC’s science coverage. In the case of climate change, Jones found that there had indeed been a tendency towards “false impartiality … too often, bodies it turns to in such discussions have a social and political rather than a scientific agenda”.

With one purely organisational exception, the BBC at the time accepted Jones’s recommendations. It is therefore puzzling that David Jordan, the BBC’s head of editorial standards, should this year have gone out of his way, when giving evidence to MPs, to say that Jones had “made one recommendation that we did not take on board. He said we should regard climate science as settled … we should not hear from dissenting voices on the science of climate change.”

In fact, Jones made no such recommendation. He had, in effect, merely urged the BBC not to give an undeserved appearance of scientific authority to those with no supporting credentials. So why did Jordan go to the trouble of repudiating him? Could it have anything to do with the “long meetings” about climate change he revealed he had recently conducted with Lord Lawson and Peter Lilley, both well known for their lack of scientific credentials and their robust critiques of the views the IPCC has now endorsed?

So the head of editorial standards at the BBC takes his tips on science reporting from known climate change deniers?


10 replies »

  1. It’s mostly the determination of the BBC to be “impartial”, which – as far as I can tell – means finding someone (anyone) who can be contrarian about a particular point. So innocuous government statements always end with someone commenting that this will bring about hell on earth.

    I’ve given up worrying about it and just stop reading when I get to that point.

  2. The NIPCC, or “Nincompoops Injecting Propaganda to Confuse the Citizenry.” The only reason anyone pays this collection of snake-oil salesmen any mind is that the fossil fuel industry uses its clout to demand that it be given attention. “These are OUR experts. Try to be fair and balanced, will you?”

  3. Gavin–it’s much worse than that. On the radio show last Friday, Carter was given more air time than the IPCC. It would be laughable if it weren’t so dangerous.

    • Same sort of thing happened on “PBS Newshour” a year or so ago. A story on global warming gave as much or more air time to denialist dimwit Anthony Watt as it did to actual climate scientists — all in the name of fair play, I guess. The PBS ombud eventually admitted this was wrongheaded and apologized.

  4. There are a Very Few Obvious Things with regards to the Global Environment that are Known to Everyone, Especially by the Experts.

    I Deny that Carbon Dioxide is the cause of Climate Change, and I do believe in Natural Causes for Climate Change and I believe in Manmade Causes of Climate Change, and that Deforestation is the Manmade Cause of Climate Change.

    These things are Deliberately Obfuscated with the Topic of Global Climate Change, but there are a Few Obvious Things that Humans need to survive on this Planet.

    One of them is Water, because with No Water, there will be no Food, and Humans can survive in Vastly Different Climates if they have Food, Water, and Shelter.

    There Could be Some People who think that Scientists of Tremendous Learning, Tremendous Intelligence, and of Tremendous Integrity have just Discovered that Forests produce Rain, Rivers, and Lakes, and Deserts are Dry, and that Water is Needed to produce Food for Humans, Plants, Animals, and Insects.

    However, the Facts are that the Most Stupidest People on this Earth, and the Most Evil People on this Earth, All Know These Long Established Basic Facts.

    One Website that Knows the Indisputable Scientific Facts concerning Forests says: “Forests are complex ecosystems that are important to the carbon and water cycles that sustain life on earth. When they are degraded, it can set off a devastating chain of events both locally and around the world. Seventy percent of the world’s plants and animals live in forests and are losing their habitats to deforestation. Loss of habitat can lead to species extinction. This is not only a biodiversity tragedy but also has negative consequences for medicinal research and local populations who rely on the animals and plants in the forests for hunting and medicine. Healthy forests help absorb greenhouse gasses and carbon dioxide emissions that are caused by human civilization. Without trees, more carbon dioxide and greenhouse gasses enter the atmosphere. To make matters worse, trees actually become carbon sources when they are cut, burned, or otherwise removed. “Tropical forests hold more than 210 gigatons of carbon, and deforestation represents around 15 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the WWF. Trees play an important part in the water cycle, grounding the water in their roots and releasing it into the atmosphere. In the Amazon, more than half the water in the ecosystem is held within the plants. Without the plants, the climate may become dryer. Without tree roots to anchor the soil and with increased exposure to sun, the soil can dry out, leading to problems like increased flooding and inability to farm. The WWF states that scientists estimate that a third of the world’s arable land has been lost to deforestation since 1960. Cash crops planted after clear cutting or burning like soy, coffee, and palm oil can actually exacerbate soil erosion because their roots cannot hold onto the soil the way trees can. Soil erosion can also lead to silt entering the lakes, streams, and other water sources. This can decrease local water quality, contributing to poor health in the local population. All of these factors can have adverse effects on local economies. Increased flooding, lack of quality water, and inability to produce their own food causes many locals migrate to cities that lack infrastructure for them. Or, they work on plantations, worsening the deforestation problem and at times being subjected to inhumane working conditions.”

    This Proves that the Planet needs a Correct Amount of Trees in the Correct Locations and Configurations on All Continents, except Antarctica.

    This will include Areas of Wilderness for the Reasons that have been Mentioned.

    We know that Forests create Clouds, and that Clouds Reflect the sun’s heat back into space, and this cools the Planet, and Desertification is Harmful to the Earth and to its Inhabitants at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desertification , and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deforestation .

    The Only Thing to Consider for those who do not have Ulterior Motives is that it is not good for the Entire Planet be Desert Regions, because Forests produce Rain, and Water is needed for Food.

    Forests are the way to store Carbon, even though Innocent Carbon Dioxide does not cause Climate Change, but Deforestation will cause Climate Change, and it will Ruin the Earth.

    The Science on these Facts and the Common Sense on these Facts have been Settled Long Ago, but Liars with Ulterior Motives Persist to be Liars with Ulterior Motives.

    What this means is that if the Human Race is not to be Liars with Ulterior Motives, then we do not even want to Know what the Climate will be like on a Reforested Earth, because Humans cannot survive on a Desert Earth, and so a Desert Earth is not an Option under Any Circumstances.

    We have Historical Evidence and we have Scientific Evidence that a Reforested Earth has Excellent Weather and Climate at http://www.globalchange.umich.edu/globalchange2/current/lectures/deforest/deforest.html , and what the Earth and its Inhabitants need is Afforestation at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afforestation , and Reforestation at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reforestation .

    Scientists and Many Ordinary People know that Technology Advance with Time, and that Scientists have been Working a Long Time on Genetically Engineered Lethal Viruses, and on Vaccines against those Genetically Engineered Lethal Viruses.

    Scientists with Sufficient Intelligence and Learning, and we will not mention what Level of Integrity, should do Research on whether Some People would Lie to be Vaccinated against Genetically Engineered Lethal Viruses, and while they are at that, they can do Research on whether Some People would Lie to make Money.

    They can use the Resources of Courts around the World to Discover if Some People will Lie to make Money or to prolong their Global Hegemony over their Non Anglo-American Colonies, but I am Sure they Knew the Answers to these things before they were Selected to Maliciously Slander Carbon Dioxide as being the Cause of Climate Change, because we All Know that it is Deforestation that Causes Climate Change.

    These People could Include Some Western Politicians, Some Crony Capitalists, Some Scientists (SS), and Some People Associated with the Western Main Stream Media, and Some Scientists who are ‘Researching’ these Things.

    The Science on these Things is SETTLED, because the Common Sense and the Truthfulness of these Things was SETTLED long ago.

    Rich Countries including the Rich Oil Producing Desert Countries should have already Reforested their Countries, and the Science of Reforestation is what Rich Countries should Fund in their Universities with University Courses, and share their Research with others.

    There is more of my research on this matter with the Moniker of Journalist at the Euractiv Website News Item which is Titled: IPCC Scientist: Climate change will hit Europe’s competitiveness at http://www.euractiv.com/science-policymaking/ipcc-scientist-climate-change-hi-news-530759 , and at the Euractiv Website News Item which is Titled: Poland on collision course with Brussels over ‘illegal’ coal plant at http://www.euractiv.com/energy/poland-collision-course-brussels-news-529895 .

  5. Kelly–I hadn’t heard that about PBS, but I guess it doesn’t surprise me a whole lot. Journalist–I need some time to ponder this. I have a feeling, though, that deforestation and the CO2 issue go together.