‘BBC’s Biased Climate Science Reporting Isn’t Biased Enough’ claims Report

July 21st, 2011

Before commenting on the BBC Trust’s report into the BBC’s science coverage, I thought I’d take the trouble of reading the actual document rather than the press previews. I’m very glad I waited because the finished product is an absolute corker. Let me take you through some of my favourite moments.

The report, as you may be aware, was written by my fellow Telegraph columnist Steve Jones. Besides being a fine and engaging writer, Dr Jones is a geneticist of  distinction and I would certainly never dream of questioning his judgement in his fields of expertise (notably Drosophila and snails). Fortunately, as becomes quite clear reading the report, climate science isn’t one of them.
Dr Jones sets out his ideological position fairly early on when he strives to bracket global warming “denialism” with a range of other syndromes: believing that “AIDS has nothing to do with viruses, the MMR vaccine is unsafe, complex organs could never evolve, or even that the 9/11 disaster was a US government plot.” I’d love to see his evidence for this casual slur-by-association.
The distinction he tries to make between “scepticism” (good, up to a point, he thinks) and “denialism” (bad, obviously) is in any case a straw man argument. Of all the sceptics I’ve ever met or read, not a single one has ever striven to deny that climate changes nor that modest global warming has been taking place since 1850 (when we began emerging from the Little Ice Age).
What many of these sceptics – or deniers, if you must – do question is
a) whether – and if so by how much – this warming is anthropogenic (ie human-caused)
b) whether the warming constitutes a threat – or whether its benefits might in fact far outweigh its drawbacks
c) whether this warming likely to continue or whether – as happened without human influence at the end of the Roman warm period and the Medieval warm period – it will be followed by a period of natural cooling
d) whether the drastic policy measures (tax, regulation, “decarbonisation”, the drive for renewables) being enacted to ‘combat climate change’ will not end up doing far more harm than good.
Jones concedes at one point that “A debate remains, and it deserves to be reported with as much objectivity as would any other unresolved issue.” But the apparent reasonableness here is certainly not borne out by the rest of his screed against sceptics, whom he caricatures as “proponents of the idea that global warming is a myth” – while neglecting to engage with the subtleties of the arguments mentioned above.
Sometimes, in his enthusiasm to put all these evil “deniers” in their place, Dr Jones appears to forget the basic rules of science altogether. For example, he describes how measured levels of atmospheric C02 have increased since 1959, and how “basic physics show that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas” and how “three independent sets of records of global temperature agree that 2010 was one of the three hottest years since figures were first collected.” Dr Jones might be surprised to learn the “deniers” agree with him on this. Where they differ is over a fundamental scientific concept: “Correlation is not causation.” We are, remember, emerging from the Little Ice Age. So the rise in global temperatures is perfectly explicable in terms of natural climatic cycles. Furthermore, you could reasonably argue that the theory of anthropogenic CO2 as a driver of catastrophic global warming has already been “falsified” (or, as I prefer to think of it, torpedoed below the waterline, hit in the magazine and blown out of the sea). That’s because, as even the great Dr Phil Jones of the CRU has acknowledged, “global warming” stopped in 1998 (even as anthropogenic CO2 levels, notably in China) continued to rise.
Another category error Dr Jones falls into is in his use of the Argumentum ad Verecundiam, the appeal to authority. He tells us:
The IPCC concluded that it is beyond doubt that the climate is warming and more than 90% likely that this has been driven by human activity.
And he cites an open letter to the journal Science by two hundred and fifty members of the US National Academy of Sciences:
“(T)here is compelling, comprehensive, and consistent objective evidence that humans are changing the climate in ways that threaten our societies and the ecosystems on which we depend.”
But as both Karl Popper and Thomas Kuhn could have explained to Dr Jones, science does not advance through “consensus”; and as Einstein could have told him, science is not a numbers game. When Hitler commissioned the book 100 Authors Against Einstein, Einstein coolly replied that if he were wrong, one author would have been enough.
If Dr Jones would like to learn more about these complexities, I would be more than happy to send him a free copy of my book Watermelons. One gets the impression that he hasn’t yet had much opportunity to find out what climate realists (as we prefer to style ourselves, “deniers” being – you know – a touch Holocaust-y) actually think or properly to familiarise himself with the terms of the debate. Also, the book’s quite well-researched so it might help him avoid repeating any of those embarrassing errors he makes in the report.
Still, as I suggested at the beginning, I’m extremely grateful to Dr Jones for writing his report because it offers such a sustained and brilliant rebuttal to the threadbare notion that our state broadcaster is in any way capable of being fair and balanced.
As Biased BBC notes, it has been five years since the BBC officially abandoned all pretence that it was adopting a neutral position on “Climate Change”. In a 2007 BBC Trust policy report, it wrote:
The BBC has held a high level seminar with some of the best scientific experts (on whose and what measurement) and has come to the view that the weight of evidence no longer justifies equal space being given to the opponents of consensus.
This anti-heretic policy it has been pursuing with Torquemada-like fervour ever since. Though Dr Jones’s report argues that the BBC should from henceforward give less space to sceptics, it’s difficult to imagine quite how it could possibly do so. About the only occasion on which they have been given any air space has been on hatchet-jobs like the BBC’s feature-length assault on Lord Monckton, “Meet The Climate Sceptics”.
Dr Jones notes with concern Britain’s growing scepticism:
A poll carried out by the Cardiff University Understanding Risk Group in early 2010 showed in contrast that one in seven among the British public said that the climate is not changing and one in five that any climate change was not due to human activity. Fewer than half considered that scientists agree that humans are causing climate change.
The conclusion, however, he draws from this is not that this is a fair reflection of the lack of evidence to support CAGW theory – but that media organisations like the BBC aren’t doing enough to promote the “correct” version of reality. “The divergence between the views of professionals versus the public may be seen as evidence of a failure by the media to balance views of very different credibility. The BBC is just one voice but so many in Britain gain their understanding of science from its output that its approach to this question must be considered.”
In other words, Dr Jones thinks that the growing numbers of people in Britain (and around the world) who are sceptical of man-made global warming are victims of “false consciousness.” There speaks the authentic voice of the left-leaning cultural establishment. The BBC must be very proud: they chose the right man for the job.

(to read more, click here)

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13 Responses to “‘BBC’s biased climate science reporting isn’t biased enough’ claims report”

  1. Nige Cook says:July 22, 2011 at 6:56 am“Professor Steve Jones, the author of a report on behalf of the BBC Trust, says the Corporation should not go out of its way to challenge ‘consensus’ views among the elite. That is a dangerous argument … the BBCTrust is exactly wrong. Good journalism should be about testing and scrutinising elites, not uncritically peddling their propaganda to the masses.”

    – Daily Express editorial, 21 July 2011, p12.

    This climate change “debate” and bogus “science has settled” consensus is partly the fault of the critics for not winning the debate hands down, but flunking repeatedly with different quick-fix arguments like speculation about sunspot variations causing global warming, which act as strawmen for the mainstream to attack.

    Note that Professor Steve Jones likes courting controversy in his own subject area, genetics: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1392217/Muslim-outrage-professor-Steve-Jones-warns-inbreeding-risks.html

    Unsurprisingly, the BBC pick-and-mix politically correct “ethics” censors led them to ignore Professor Steve Jones’ informed and qualified genetics advice on inbreeding risks among first cousin marriages in outraged ethnic communities, while listening to his advice on global warming, a physical sciences subject he is unqualified in. :-)

  2. Nige Cook says:July 22, 2011 at 7:49 amThe so-called “evidence” for the causal link between CO2 and temperature is a huge pile of pick-and-mix indirect proxy observations: tree growth rings and satellite “clear sky” area temperature proxies that ignore the rise of atmospheric cloud cover causing negative feedback, by ignoring the tree ring data after 1960 which indicate increased cloud cover, and also ignoring the fact that satellite surface temperature data is restricted to cloud-free areas, not the increasing areas under cloud cover which are precisely the areas where the cloud cover negative-feedback is occurring!

    If they had any solid evidence, they could state the evidence, rather than merely stating they have formed a dogmatic consensus like a political party; in science the numbers of brainwashed followers are irrelevant, the facts are relevant instead. In politics, consensus vote size is what counts. This is politics. The only reliable evidence is the CO2 rise, and it’s trivial compared to evidence for natural CO2 variations in the past, as shown by GEOCARB models. All the temperature data was fiddled for the politically correct hockey stick curve by using tree-ring proxies to suppress temperature variability up to 1960 (tree rings are insensitive since hotter ocean increases evaporation and cloud cover, thus trees get less sunlight and this offsets the growth effect from natural air temperature variations).

    From 1960-80 they rely on weather stations, affected by local hot air emissions from growing cities and industry. After 1980 they rely on satellite data, which implicitly ignores negative feedback because you can’t measure Planck spectrum surface temperature through cloud cover, so you’re measuring surface temperatures for cloud free areas, which is another way of saying that you’re biased against negative feedback from increased cloud cover. Microwave temperature determinations of air temperature by satellites don’t discriminate the altitude of the air whose temperature is being measured, and you’re then biased in favour of measuring contributions from warmed air above clouds, not surface air temperatures under clouds which is affected by negative feedback from increased cloud cover.

  3. EyeSee says:July 22, 2011 at 9:58 amDelingpole, let me help you understand why Global Warming is man made. During the winter it is cold and people turn on their boilers and drive around in cars more. All this extra use of fossil fuels causes more CO2 to be produced, which the consensus knows causes temperatures to rise at any concentration. And what happens after a few months of this increased output? It gets warmer. Even you, surely cannot deny that it is not warmer today than on January 22nd. It is idiotic also, to believe that the Sun goes around the Earth; I mean what would it look like if it did? Evidence leads to consensus. The consensus is never wrong, because a group of people deciding on something are bound to be more right than one or two people. The Catholic church for instance and Galileo. You think one person challenges a long held consensus belief and it is changed, just because this one man proves he is right? No, ideas always come from large groups of people coming to the same conclusion at the same time.
  4. Nige Cook says:July 22, 2011 at 1:08 pmEyeSee: the objections against Galileo included his rudeness:

    “Volo, mi Keplere, ut rideamus insignem vulgi stultitiam. Quid dices de primariis huius Gimnasii philosophis, qui, aspidis pertinacia repleti, nunquam, licet me ultro dedita opera millies offerente, nec Planetas, nec , nec perspicillum, videre voluerunt? Verum ut ille aures, sic isti oculos, contra veritatis lucem obturarunt.”

    – Letter from Galileo to Kepler, 19 August 1610; http://moro.imss.fi.it/lettura/LetturaWEB.DLL?MODO=PAGINA&VOLPAG=10-423

    (“I want, my Kepler, that we laugh at the enormous stupidity of people. What do you say about the main philosophers of this Gymnasium, who, full of the obstinacy of the serpent, never wanted to see the Planets, the Moon, the telescope, although I was offering facts, expressly for them, for a thousand times. Really, they closed their eyes against the truth in the same way as that one closed his ears.”)

    “Oh, my dear Kepler, how I wish that we could have one hearty laugh together! Here, at Padua, is the principal professor of philosophy whom I have repeatedly and urgently requested to look at the moon and planets through my glass, which he pertinaciously refuses to do. Why are you not here? What shouts of laughter we should have at this glorious folly! And to hear the professor of philosophy at Pisa laboring before the Grand Duke with logical arguments, as if with magical incantations, to charm the new planets out of the sky.”

    – Galileo’s letter to Kepler, quoted by Sir Oliver Lodge, Pioneers of Science, page 106.

  5. colin powis says:July 22, 2011 at 9:19 pmIt’s about time that some one had the courage to say the obvious ; that the king is wearing no clothes and that GW is an obvious hysterical fraud …it is the return of LYSENKOISM ;science corrupted by politics and is all part of the Leftist political agenda
    hmmm….have you noticed how many of the GW promoters happen to be ”gay” ?

    This hysteria over GW , like any other fadd or fashion ,has it’s own momentum and shelf life and has clearly ”peaked” in the UK…the mainsteam public has become skeptical and tired of the hysteria and bogus predictions of the ECO-TWITS…we can expect these drama queens to become increasing shrill and deranged as they become sidelined and ignored…rather like an aging french actress who cannot accept that she’s not wanted anymore
    HA HA …the Bridget Bardot of climate change !

  6. Velocity says:July 23, 2011 at 1:01 pmPathetic isn’t it James
    As you say how could the BBC be any more biased, and it wants to get even more biased?!!!
    In the past 5 years I’ve never heard a single News report or staged cackle of invited crones on the BBC ever report a sceptic view. Think the first I saw was in Jan this year ob BBC World News (what a pile of propagandised crap that ’service’ is!)
    In stark contrast i remember being livid just watching the BBC Sat morning shows which ran no less than 4 news articles on pushing the hysterics agenda
    Dr Jones Report should have detailed in fact how the State and EC funded monopolist broadcaster, with 70% of the media market, despite over a decade of its pumping hysteria and crony science across the airwaves 25/7 has been such a remarkable failure in convincing the public of its message
    Clearly the BBC is failing miserably in its own agenda to convince people to think like it
    Group-think BBC.
    Maybe if the BBC was 100% bias rather than 99.9999% bias it’ll really swing that more than half the British public to the hysterical science agenda? Shit, they were only 0.0001% away from us all finding the truth!
    The ‘public service’ broadcaster is not a public service, more a corrupt tired zombie State monopoly with an agenda to grind and as Dr Jones reveals unconcsciously mighty disappointed at its own crap results
    Boo hoo ;”’((
  7. Velocity says:July 23, 2011 at 1:07 pmEyesee – go and see a Doctor, soon!!
  8. Andrew Ryan says:July 23, 2011 at 2:10 pmColin Powis: “hmmm….have you noticed how many of the GW promoters happen to be ”gay” ?”

    Fantastic level of debate. The true colours of the deniers show through in all its illiterate glory. On a par with the Nazi’s conviction that Einstein must be wrong because he’s Jewish. Why don’t you campaign to have pink triangles stamped on scientific papers written by gay scientists? That way you know you can ignore them.

  9. colin powis says:July 24, 2011 at 1:04 pmThe FACT is that many , if not most folk who are ”gay” tend to be on the Left ; and GW is classic Leftist ideology

    I don’t want to sideline this debate from GW into a hysterical diatribe on ”gay rights” with some drama queens

  10. Andrew Ryan says:July 24, 2011 at 6:55 pmThen why bring it up? And the large number of gays among Tory politicians is a simple matter of fact. Who cares? This says nothing about the veracity of the science either way, and one certainly doesn’t need to be a queen, a Queen, a lefty or a drama anything to point this out.
  11. Andrew Ryan says:July 24, 2011 at 9:52 pmOh yeah, and if you’re going to go for that argument, the vast majority of Young Earth Creationists – those who believe the earth is less than 10,000 years old – are right wingers.
  12. EyeSee says:July 25, 2011 at 8:16 amAh, irony! How much better if I didn’t make a mistake! Of course I meant that you cannot deny that it is hotter now than on January 22nd. Still, it is valid I think to point out that ‘the crowd’ may observe the Sun moving across the sky and conclude that it circles the Earth because, look it clearly does. Hardly a strange belief, just not based on any proof of that belief. If of course, you could make money from saying the Sun circled the Earth then I guess we would still ‘believe’ that today.
  13. Nige Cook says:July 25, 2011 at 9:13 am“Oh yeah, and if you’re going to go for that argument, the vast majority of Young Earth Creationists – those who believe the earth is less than 10,000 years old – are right wingers.”

    Newton was a “young earth creationist”, estimating from biblical chronology that the earth was created around 4000 BC. “All my discoveries have been made in answer to prayer.” – Newton (quoted in J. Perloff, Tornado in a Junkyard, Refuge Books, 2003, p 241). In fact, of course, Newton’s “discoveries” were made up in answer to letters announcing discoveries from people like Hooke (inverse square law of gravitation) and Liebniz (calculus); Newton had the habit of publishing only after others had “rediscovered” the same thing. One exception is his isothermal “law” of sound speed, which is false and is defended with falsified data analysis. Sound waves are adiabatic, so they compress and heat the air as they go, increasing their speed beyond that of an isothermal gas. Newton lacked the ideal gas equation of state, so it’s hardly surprising his theory was wrong. What’s more interesting is that he fiddled his selection of experimental data to “fit” his false theory, just like the temperature record has been fiddled to fit the AGW positive cloud cover feedback falsehood today.

    What Delingpole should do soon is to investigate and publish the fiddling of the temperature record, ignoring and pressing past the mainstream superficial “we need more research before we can comment” stone-walling obfuscation.

    Tree ring proxies rely on correlating air temperature to photosynthesis rates. Sunshine variation effects on photosynthesis due to cloud cover variations are ignored completely. This is a fraud because an effect of the negative feedback from water evaporation is increased cloud cover, which reduces sunshine and hence photosynthesis. Hence, there is a factual mechanism at play which ensures that tree ring proxies will suppress large swings in estimated air temperatures. As the air temperature goes up, more water is evaporated and carried aloft to form clouds, which suppress sunshine. So the enhancement of tree ring growth from increased air temperature is offset by the increased cloud cover, giving a tree ring growth record which – analyzed using the false assumption of constant cloud cover – gives a misrepresentative air temperature record with smaller fluctuations.

    This is an obvious explanation of why tree ring growth records show smaller swings in apparent air temperature in the 1960s-present than direct temperature measurements, or satellite data.

    Next we have the systematic errors in weather station data, which are used for the period 1960-80. Industrial growth and growing cities in this period produced direct local warm air emissions which affected the data. This 2C “urban heat island” effect has been proved experimentally; cities are a warmer than the unpopulated areas at similar latitude and with similar average weather, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_heat_island It has nothing to do with alleged CO2 global warming, but it contaminates early direct temperature measurements, in cities or downwind of industrial factories, power stations, steel mills, etc.

    Then after 1980, we have satellite data. You can’t measure air temperature in space, because there’s no air. So it’s down to indirect sensors of temperature, which again introduce bias into the data. If you rely on microwave radiation by air molecules, the satellite is measuring an integrated average temperature of the entire vertical depth of the atmosphere, not the sea level air. This is biased against negative feedback, which only occurs in low level air below clouds. The air near the tops of clouds is warmed by sunlight, so the microwave air temperature data excludes negative the feedback from cloud cover. It gives a misrepresentative air temperature, excluding the effect of low altitude air cooling from increased cloud cover.

    Finally, Planck thermal spectral emission temperature data for the earth’s surface gives a reliable surface temperature reading by satellite, but only for surface areas not covered by clouds. So it is biased in favour of clear sky areas, precisely “greenhouse effect” with no negative feedback. It automatically excludes the surface temperature contributions from the 62% of earth’s surface which is under clouds, and it is this area which suffers negative feedback (cooling), not the clear sky areas. So all satellite temperature data implicitly excludes negative feedback effects on surface air temperature.

    To my mind, this systematic “temperature record” fiddling is the key problem in the AGW debate. Since cloud cover has been increasing as CO2 increased, the effects of the increasing shadowed surface area is excluded from estimates of temperature. When you include these effects, there the overall temperature rise as a function of CO2 emission falls by as much as a factor of ten; negative feedback from a small increase in cloud cover cancels out the CO2 “greenhouse effect”.

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