A story of hysterical warmistry
When the history of the greatest pseudoscience fraud in history – aka “Climate Change” – comes to be written, no media organisation, not even the Guardian or the New York Times, will deserve greater censure than the steaming cess pit of ecofascist bias that is the BBC. That’s because, of all the numerous MSM outlets which have been acting as the green movement’s useful idiots, the BBC is the only one which is taxpayer-funded and which is required by its charter to adopt an ideologically neutral position.
How then has it managed to breach its social responsibility so frequently and flagrantly?
Thanks to the combined efforts of the great Bishop Hill and the similarly wondrous Tony Newbery at the Harmless Sky blog, we now have the most comprehensive and thoroughly damning account yet of how the BBC became such an important part of a sinister political campaign to promote climate change alarmism. I recommend reading their report in full at either of their sites linked above. But here below are some of the highlights.
The story begins in autumn 2004 when the government’s hysterically warmist chief scientific adviser Sir David King successfully persuaded the then Prime Minister Tony Blair to put action on global warming at the heart of UK government policy. This resulted in the creation of a propaganda body called The Climate Change Working Group which in turn sought PR advice from a company called Futerra communications.
Futerra – Britain’s answer to Fenton communications in the US – recommended the following policy:
Many of the existing approaches to climate change communications clearly seem unproductive. And it is not enough simply to produce yet more messages, based on rational argument and top-down persuasion, aimed at convincing people of the reality of climate change and urging them to act. Instead, we need to work in a more shrewd and contemporary way, using subtle techniques of engagement.
To help address the chaotic nature of the climate change discourse in the UK today, interested agencies now need to treat the argument as having been won, at least for popular communications. This means simply behaving as if climate change exists and is real, and that individual actions are effective. The ‘facts’ need to be treated as being so taken-for-granted that they need not be spoken [emphasis added].
Government policy soon became BBC policy too. In Feb 2007, Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman had this to say about BBC “impartiality” on Climate Change:
I have neither the learning nor the experience to know whether the doomsayers are right about the human causes of climate change. But I am willing to acknowledge that people who know a lot more than I do may be right when they claim that it is the consequence of our own behaviour.
I assume that this is why the BBC’s coverage of the issue abandoned the pretence of impartiality long ago.
So when did naked bias on AGW become official BBC policy? Newbery and the Bishop trace to the notorious seminar mentioned before in this blog. (Can anyone find the link? I can’t yet….)
This was the one where the keynote speaker was Lord May, whose warmist bias is elegantly encapsulated in this paragraph of the Bishop/Newbery report.
Although Lord May is unquestionably a distinguished scientist, he is not a climate scientist, and he has been a dedicated and vociferous environmental activist throughout his career. In recent years he has expressed strong opinions on global warming. He has been a trustee of the World Wildlife Fund a leading environmental pressure group and during his presidency of the Royal Society an attempt was made to disrupt funding to climate sceptics. It would not be reasonable to suppose that Lord May could provide the seminar with either an authoritative or impartial assessment of the current state of the scientific evidence supporting the AGW hypothesis.
The BBC has done its level best to keep the details of the seminar under wraps. But we know that “30 key BBC staff” attended; that it was hosted by Jana Bennett and Helen Boaden and chaired by Fergal Keane. We also know that the seminar effected a distinct shift in BBC policy, because the BBC admitted as much in its June 2007 report From Seesaw to Wagon Wheel, Safeguarding Impartiality in the 21st Century.
The BBC has held a high-level seminar with some of the best scientific experts, and has come to the view that the weight of evidence no longer justifies equal space being given to the opponents of the consensus.
As the Newbery/Bishop report drily notes:
There is abundant evidence that this is not an accurate description of the seminar.
No indeed. But this hasn’t stopped the BBC going ahead as if it were. The report details just a few of the more notable examples of the BBC’s flagrant pursuit of the Warmist political agenda:
(a) Climate Wars was a four part television programme which purported to describe sceptic arguments. It could best be described as a four-part ‘hit piece’, with sceptic arguments caricatured by a confirmed ‘warmist’ presenter and in one case, some serious misrepresentation of widely agreed scientific evidence. Despite this, a member of the BBC Trust has described this programme to one of us as representing coverage that balanced the more normal mainstream coverage of global warming, suggesting that the BBC Trust have been misled about how unbalanced the corporation’s coverage has been. We are unaware of any BBC programme that has allowed sceptics to present their own arguments without being filtered through a ‘green’ presenter or being subject to immediate rebuttal.
(b) David Attenborough’s two part series The Truth about Climate Change was broadcast in May and June 2006 as part of the Climate Chaos season. At no point in the series was there any suggestion that there are scientists, albeit a minority, who do not support the majority view on this subject, or that scientific understanding of the climate system remains very limited with major uncertainties still unresolved. Therefore the use of the term ‘Truth’ in the title of the series suggests an exercise in indoctrination rather than education. No claim could reasonably be made that this series was impartial about the science of climate change, but the DVD of this series is still being offered for sale on the BBC Shop website.
(c) The BBC’s partisan coverage of the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) was particularly egregious.
When the Summary for Policy Makers of the Working Group 1 (The Physical Science Basis) was launched on 2 February 2007, the 10pm News devoted most of the programme to this story. At no point was there any suggestion that anthropogenic C02 emissions may not be entirely responsible for climate change, a claim that the IPCC report did not make. All those interviewed on the subject, as ‘experts’, expressed complete certainty about this.
On the same evening, Newsnight went much further, with an assertion by Susan Watts that scientists were being offered thousands of pounds to challenge the IPCC report, and this claim was reiterated by the presenter, Martha Kearney. This was based on a report that had appeared in The Guardian on the same day. It later emerged that the story had no basis in fact and had probably originated from an environmental advocacy group in the US. The BBC would have discovered this if it checked out the story before using it; an example of very sloppy and inaccurate reporting or worse, a willingness to use a third party report because it appeared to confirm the BBC’s position on climate change. During the programme Richard Lindzen, a professor of meteorology at MIT, and an authority on the physics of clouds, was introduced as a climate sceptic. He was then shown smoking a cigarette while a voice over explained that he had a lot of contrarian beliefs including on smoking. It is most unusual for anyone to be shown smoking on BBC programmes now and the sequence was clearly intended to discredit his sceptical views on climate change.
(d) It is also worth noting that the BBC website has a dedicated area for environmentalists: The Green Room. Searching its archives papers related to climate change gives the following list of contributors: Prof Mike Hulme (Tyndall Centre), Bryony Worthington (from an NGO involved in emissions trading, ‘EU is not doing enough to deliver meaningful cuts’), Chris Smith ‘Climate change is very real’, Sir David King (green activist), Malini Mehra (green NGO), Andrew Simms (‘economic growth cannot continue’), Richard Betts (Met Office), Greig Whitehead (NGO, ‘For millions of people in Africa, climate change is a reality’), Tim Aldred (NGO. World leaders must listen to the people who put them in power and quickly make amends for failing to deliver a binding climate deal’). We have been unable to identify any sceptics invited to contradict mainstream environmentalist views on this site. The Green Room appears to exist only as an outlet for propaganda pieces by environmentalists.
Apologies that this post is so long. And there’s plenty more where this came, not least on the key role played by the BBC’s Chief Guardian of the Warmist Flame Roger Harrabin, which surely deserves a post of its own.
In the meantime, I would appeal to the wisdom and scientific integrity of the geneticist Steve Jones who besides being one of this newspaper’s most distinguished and readable science columnists happens to be chairing the official investigation into bias within BBC’s science covering.
It is to Professor Jones that Newbery and the Bishop have addressed their submission.
It would appear that, through the activities of CMEP [Cambridge Media and Environment Programme – the Harrabin outfit which deserves a blog of its own…] BBC Newsgathering has got very much too close to government, environmental activism, and the climate research community for its reputation for impartiality and accuracy to be preserved with regard to the science of climate change.
I don’t believe any responsible scientist, journalist or indeed human being could read this detailed, thorough report and conclude otherwise. Over to you, Professor Jones. We shall all be awaiting your verdict – in Spring 2011 – with keen interest.
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