Paradoxically, as I have stopped listening or watching the BBC because of their illegal coverage of climate , I can’t now comment about the BBC’s current output. But at least until I stopped watching this letter is entirely accurate. (Although I’d not have been so polite).
22nd April 2016
The Director General
180 Great Portland Street
Dear Director General,
Complaint of BBC prejudice in covering of climate change and warning of potential judicial review
We enclose a complaint from all of us about persistent partiality in the BBC’s coverage of climate change. From the outset, on the climate question the BBC has tended to reflect only one view – that of the climate science establishment who are promoting a view that man is causing significant global warming (which, with the plateau in temperature, has morphed into “climate change”, a term that is used to cover a wide range of weather events). It has excluded those whose opinions, though based on factual science and sound economics and logic, differ from the “official” position. The BBC has often promoted tendentious and scientifically illiterate but “politically-correct” opinions and has kept from the airwaves those who do not agree.
We and many others alongside us have come to the opinion that the BBC’s continuing bias on the climate question – its performance is too often like a scientifically illiterate, naïve, oft times emotive green activist organisation – is unacceptable and must now be brought to an end. In future, both sides in the climate debate must be fairly heard, whether BBC staff like it or not.
Accordingly, we make the following recommendations to ensure that in future the BBC adheres to its obligation of impartiality and of accuracy in its climate-change coverage –
1) To ensure balance, and to give senior executives at the BBC a proper understanding of the sceptical viewpoint, the Trust should arrange for Lord Monckton to co-ordinate a team of leading sceptical scientists and economists to give a day-long, high-level briefing for senior BBC executives in broadly the same job descriptions as those who attended the secret briefing in 2006. This meeting is a minimum requirement to restore even-handedness at the BBC on the climate issue by ensuring that all relevant senior BBC personnel are obliged, whether they like it or not, to respect the principle of natural justice as well as the BBC’s obligation of impartiality by hearing the other side of the case.
2) The Trust should circulate to all executives and programme-makers in the field, and to all news and current affairs personnel, a document to be prepared by us in consultation with leading scientists that will summarize in a dozen pages the sceptical side of the case. This is a minimum requirement to ensure that the BBC and all its senior personnel are made aware of the considerable body of scientific evidence, data and papers that cast doubt upon its chosen position in the climate debate, so that the BBC can find its way easily to these sources in future.
3) Prominent “sceptical” journalists and climate scientists from the UK and US should be invited to put together a series of TV programmes giving the other side of the story on the climate. The programmes should be broadcast on the BBC during prime time. This series is a minimum requirement if balance is to be restored to the BBC’s climate-science coverage as the law requires.
4) The Trust should require that the section on “Consensus” in the impartiality topic under the BBC’s Guidelines should be rewritten or deleted. The BBC should in future be obliged to adhere strictly to its editorial standards, particularly the obligation of impartiality, and should not be permitted to avoid doing so by distorting the usual meaning of language by “calibrating” its supposed impartiality. The BBC should be required to reflect all opinions, including those with which it disagrees, and to give a right of reply to sceptical scientists. Journalists’ own personal opinions should not be permitted to colour their reportage. This is a necessary minimum step to ensure that neither the Trust nor the BBC can in future evade the obligation of impartiality by rewriting the Guidelines to suit their political prejudices.
5) The BBC should employ at least one climate sceptic in a senior journalistic role. David Bellamy, for instance, was taken off the air after he let slip that he was querying the extent of Man’s influence on climate. The deliberate exclusion by the BBC of all sceptics from its environment and climate reporting team is unacceptable.
6) Messrs. Renouf, Harrabin, Shukman and Heap should be reassigned from climate programmes on grounds of prejudice; Harrabin’s close financial and political links with climate-extremist advocacy groups should be investigated independently and impartially; and the BBC should employ scientists who know something of the scientific method, have some knowledge of climate science and are not susceptible to vested interests.
7) The BBC should adopt a nuanced, mature, unprejudiced, non-alarmist approach to the climate question. It should accept that there is a growing body of research in the scientific literature that questions the extent of man’s likely future influence on climate, that there is near-unanimity in the economic journals that it would be cheaper to adapt to global warming later than to attempt to mitigate it now; and that, particularly on climate sensitivity, opinion in the literature is far less one-sided than the BBC has thus far let on.
8) The BBC should abide by the Singapore Statement on Scientific Integrity in selecting scientists to appear on programmes.
9) The BBC should eschew basing its stories on predictions whose medium-term versions have already proven to be wild exaggerations. Instead, it should base its stories on what is actually happening in the climate.
10) The Trust should forbid the BBC to ascribe individual extreme-weather events to manmade global warming, and should forbid it to allow scientists to make such allegations, unless scientists willing to support the IPCC’s position that individual extreme-weather events cannot be ascribed to global warming are also interviewed.
11) The Trust should require the BBC to disclose in each programme about the climate its own and its journalists’ financial or other conflicts of interest, such as the fraction of the journalistic and editorial pension funds that are invested in “green” energy.
12) The BBC’s website should contain regular updates on the actual climate data – e.g. practically no global warming over the past decade or two; Antarctic ice extent at or near its satellite-era maximum for many recent years; hurricane activity at or near a satellite-era low; land area under drought declining for 30 years.
13) The BBC should be required to provide meaningful rights of reply to well qualified persons who dissent from the agenda it now promotes.
14) The BBC should forthwith take active steps to give no further ground for the perception that it is institutionally wedded to manmade climate change as though it were canonical truth.
Our complaint should not have had to be made at all. It is an indication of the depth to which the BBC and the Trust have sunk that we have had to make it, and to put forward recommendations to ensure that the BBC’s bias on climate is ended.
The BBC has failed so far to respond to Henney’s complaint dated 15/2/2016 (and is just repeating the flawed programme by Attenborough in Australia). We should be grateful if the BBC would reply within 60 working days, failing which the matter will pass to the Trust for determination. To comply with the Civil Procedure Rules, we make it clear at the outset that unless our complaint is responded to in what we regard as a satisfactory and timely fashion, we may have to apply for judicial review of either the BBC or the Trust or both. However, we should rather resolve this matter without recourse to the courts. We hope, therefore, that the BBC and the Trust will take our complaint seriously and give us a reasonably prompt, full and considered reply. We would be pleased to discuss the matters with you.
David T C Davies MP
Roger Helmer MEP
Lord Christopher Monckton of Brenchley
Below is Chapter 1 of the complaint, which summarises each specific complaint.
The obligations of the BBC and of the Trust
Chapter 2 sets out the obligations enshrined in the BBC’s Charter to serve the public interest. Editorial Guidelines agreed with the BBC Trust oblige the BBC to be “impartial”, including in its treatment of “controversial subjects”. The Guidelines also say –
“Across our output as a whole, we must be inclusive, reflecting a breadth and diversity of opinion. We must be fair and open-minded when examining the evidence and weighing material facts. We must give due weight to the many and diverse areas of an argument.”
When dealing with ‘controversial subjects’, we must ensure a wide range of significant views and perspectives are given due weight and prominence, particularly when the controversy is active. Opinion should be clearly distinguished from fact
“Our audiences should not be able to tell from BBC output the personal prejudices of our journalists or news and current affairs presenters on matters of public policy, political or industrial controversy, or on ‘controversial subjects’ in any other area.”
A section Regarding Consensus says “There are some issues which may seem to be without controversy, appearing to be backed by a broad or even unanimous consensus of opinion. Nevertheless, they may present a significant risk to the BBC’s impartiality. In such cases, we should continue to report where the consensus lies and give it due weight. However, even if it may be neither necessary nor appropriate to seek out voices of opposition, our reporting should resist the temptation to use language and tone which appear to accept consensus or received wisdom as fact or self-evident.” The BBC too often uses this section as a reason for keeping off the air those who do not accept BBC’s views on the climate.
We will show that BBC producers and reporters repeatedly breach the Guidelines. It is frequently all too obvious what the personal views of BBC employees are, and, on the climate question, almost the only views the BBC allows on the air are on one side of the case.
The fallacious claim of “consensus”
Chapter 3 shows by reference to five surveys of scientists and the opinions of a number of knowledgeable scientists including a group of nearly 300 physicists opposing a warmist pronouncement by the American Physical Society, that the BBC’s assertion there is a “consensus” among scientists about anthropogenic global warming is fallacious. In particular a widely quoted study that 97% of climate scientists is a methodological abuse. The BBC’s reliance on the clause in the Editorial Guidelines permitting it to abandon impartiality on “consensus” topics as the basis for excluding sceptics from the airwaves is misplaced.
The BBC insists that a “consensus” exists where there is none. The Trust must now insist that the BBC, whatever the views of its environmental journalists and producers, should fairly reflect all sides of the climate debate, and not merely the usually ill-informed view point of BBC staff.
The good news about the climate that the BBC seldom if ever reports
Chapter 4 summarises key scientific facts about the climate that the BBC seldom mentions.
1) The atmosphere has scarcely warmed for almost two decades:
2) Changes in temperature precede changes in CO2 both over the long term of thousands of years and over the short term of months which raises the question whether CO2 can be the driver of climate change
3) Hot-running Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) models have produced flawed predictions of global warming –
4) The IPCC relies heavily on climate models both to assess the “attribution” of the anthropogenic effect (which is done by modelling the climate with and without additional CO2), and also to “predict” future temperature depending on the level of CO2. But in its Third Assessment Report (AR3) of 2002 the IPCC admitted that –
“Climate models cannot (and will never be able to) model the climate accurately because of the non-linear and chaotic nature of the physics of the climate.”
5) In reality the data are not available; we do not understand key elements of climate behaviour; and computers are not powerful enough. It is impossible to model the climate, the more so when the driver is taken incorrectly as CO2 and the sun is ignored as the IPCC does.
6) Warming of the oceans is negligible: the increase in temperature measured by ARGO buoys has been so slow that to warm 1C would take 430 years:
7) The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of 2013 concluded – “There is limited evidence of changes in extremes associated with other climate variables since the mid-20th century.” It also mentioned lack of evidence for extreme flooding, hail, thunderstones, hurricanes and drought.”
8) Sea level is barely rising, and is not rising at an accelerating rate.
9) Notwithstanding Al Gore’s predictions that the Arctic ice cap had a 75% chance of disappearing in the summertime of 2014, the sea ice is still there. In the Antarctic sea-ice extent has been at or near a satellite-era maximum, a fact to which the BBC has seldom if ever drawn attention.
10) In 2013 the IPCC retracted a number of its previous scare stories including those of increasing hurricanes, increasing malaria, and glaciers in the Himalayas melting by 2035.
In Chapter 5 we consider the forecast temperature rise. In choosing four scenarios for the future temperature, the IPCC chose one (RCP 8.5) that was impossibly high so acts as a scare scenario; two that were impossibly low; and one that was more or less business as usual (RCP 6.0) from an emissions perspective.
We then estimate climate sensitivity – the temperature increase from a doubling of CO2. There are two main estimates of climate sensitivity, Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity (ECS) which is the increase when the atmosphere and oceans have equilibriated after hundreds, if not thousands of years, and Transient Climate Sensitivity (TCS). This is the increase in temperature from raising the level of CO2 by 1% p.a. for 70 years when it will have doubled. In practical terms this is a more useful metric.
Traditionally the IPCC relied on estimates derived from computer models which assumed that there was significant positive feedback from water vapour, which is a much stronger greenhouse gas than CO2, and from clouds. Consequently, supposedly when the atmospheric temperature increased due to CO2, the atmosphere would then absorb more water which would further raise the temperature. This effect supposedly more or less tripled the increase in temperature from about 1Co to 3Co and was the basis for concern about global warming. But as more empirical results have been estimated, so the estimates of sensitivity have been declining. And empirical studies have not found an increase in water vapour, nor have they found evidence of positive feedback.
In AR5 the IPCC carefully avoids giving an estimate of climate sensitivity and “disguises” the empirical estimates by averaging them out with the higher modelled estimates. Also, while estimates of the cooling efficiency of aerosol pollution were cut, the new evidence was not incorporated in the climate models. Nicholas Lewis and Marcel Crok showed in “A sensitive Matter: How the IPCC buried evidence showing good news about global warming” how the IPCC disguised many factors pointing to low climate sensitivity hence low warming.
Then Lewis and Curry published “The implications for climate sensitivity of AR5 forcing and heat uptakes”2 which estimated the ECS and TCR as slightly lower than Lewis and Crok. The best estimates are medians (50% probability points) with ranges to the nearest 0.05C° were as follows –
Lewis and Crok estimate that for RCP 6.0 the likely increase in temperature from 2012 to 2081-2000 is 1.2 Co, which compares with the IPCC’s estimate of 2.0 Co. This means that on a business as usual basis, on balance the temperature should not in this century increase more than the 2 Co above pre-industrial levels which the IPCC sets as a target.
Michael Kelly, FRS, Prince Philip Professor of Technology at Cambridge University, has recently published “Trends in Extreme Weather Events since 1900 – An Enduring Conundrum for Wise Policy Advice”. The abstract to the paper comments “A survey of official weather sites and the scientific literature provides strong evidence that the first half of the 20th century had more extreme weather than the second half, when anthropogenic global warming is claimed to have been mainly responsible for observed climate change.”
If there were significant positive feedbacks and climate sensitivity were as high as the IPCC claims, then the atmosphere would long ago have become unstable – which did not happen.
The IPCC was dishonest in its latest assessment of possible temperature increase.
The BBC’s approach to climate issues
Chapter 6 gives an account of how BBC journalists uncritically accepted believing scientists’ opinions on climate, and developed unhealthily close and even financial relationships with the Tyndall Centre and the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.
DEFRA and the Tyndall Centre provided financial support for a briefing meeting organised by Roger Harrabin, a BBC environmental reporter who was on the Tyndall Centre Advisory Board, for 30 senior BBC executives in January 2006. The BBC lied in claiming that the meeting was to introduce to BBC people “some of the best scientific experts”. Only four or five could claim to be climate scientists; the remainder were climate activists; a few had green vested interests; and there were a miscellany of people from other organisations who had some peripheral interest in climate matters. The BBC made not the slightest attempt or even pretext at balance in organising this meeting. The BBC then spent considerable sums attempting to hide the attendance list. This meeting led to new Editorial Guidelines unlawfully permitting BBC journalists to circumvent its obligation of impartiality on the climate issue. Jeremy Paxman, Peter Sissons and Michael Buerk, all senior BBC reporters, objected to the BBC’s bias on climate matters.
Prejudiced and inaccurate programming
Chapter 7 provides evidence of a decade of biased and factually incorrect programmes based on analysis of 23 BBC programmes and responses to climate events:-
1) The BBC uncritically promoted An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore, summer 2006. BBC reporter Richard Black described it as “perhaps the most terrifying movie of all time”, and hailed Al Gore’s simulation of sea level rising by 20ft due to melting of the West Antarctic ice cap. A British judge found nine errors of fact; all of Gore’s scares had disappeared from IPCC AR5 in 2013.
2) The BBC’s coverage of the Stern Review of the economics of climate change launched in 2006 was misinformed. It was adulatory. If it had been doing its job it would have at least questioned the very low discount rate. There are many scientific and economic errors in what is in effect a political document
3) The BBC’s response to the publication of IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), 2007. On publication of the IPCC’s Summary for Policymakers BBC News intoned “No more doubt, climate change is happening and we are to blame”. When the IPCC published all 3000 pages the BBC published a summary highlighting the more alarming projections. When the climate establishment says “jump”, the BBC replies “how high?”. AR4 was subsequently heavily criticised and AR5 backed down from many of its claims. The BBC did not report these
4) David Shukman’s report on Tuvalu 2008 claimed that as a consequence of alleged sea level rise resulting from global warming there was a record of “king” tides; salt water was seeping into the interior; and the islanders were now building their houses on stilts. In fact there was no record of sea water rise around Tuvalu; seepage of sea water was due to excessive extraction of aggregates along the coast; the stilt building technique was a longstanding method of construction. “In short, the Shukman reports were a travesty of objective journalism”. (They were also expensive involving two trips)
5) Climate wars, September 2008. There were three programmes. The BBC endorsed the “hockey stick” which eliminated the Medieval Warming Period and showed a rapid rise in temperature in the 1980s and 1990s. By the time of the programme it had been thoroughly discredited, yet one of the presenters drove round London with a poster version of the hockey stick on the A-frame on the back of a glazier’s truck
6) Climategate, autumn 2009. The BBC’s response to the leaked e-mails was one of shocked denial. It leaped to the defence of the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia and the IPCC establishment, insisting that the emails had been ‘stolen’ or ‘hacked’ and that they revealed nothing of any importance. One or two programmes, such as Newsnight, allowed ‘sceptics’ to utter brief criticisms, but these were immediately ‘balanced’ – if not offset – by defenders of the Climatic Research Unit
7) Science under attack, January 2011 was fronted by Professor Paul Nurse, a Nobel prize winning geneticist, who set up sceptic Professor Fred Singer, and naively accepted incorrect figures for emissions. Although Nurse constantly posed through the programme as the champion of objective science, he all too frequently showed that he knew little about climate science and was signed up to the “consensus”
8) Meet the climate sceptics, February 2011. The BBC attempted to stitch up Monckton by misrepresenting him, but he stopped it by going to the High Court, where, in the judge’s words, he “substantially won” the action.
9) The Alaskan village set to disappear under water in a decade, July 2013. The programme claimed that the Alaskan village of Kivalina is likely to be under water in a decade because of “Retreating ice, slowly rising sea levels and increased coastal erosion…In reality in 2012 the National Snow and Ice Data Center reported: ‘Ice extent in the Bering Sea was much greater than average, reaching the second-highest levels for January in the satellite record.’ Furthermore, except for a brief surge for a few months in late 2013, sea level has been dropping in Prudhoe Bay as well as in Nome
10) The BBC’s response to the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report 2013 involved a pre-briefing for key editors with senior members of the IPCC. As usual there was no critical view of the IPCC’s report, which was naively accepted as though written on tablets of stone. Nor are we aware that there was a report of the good news resulting from the IPCC backing down from some of its alarmist claims of AR4
11) The wet winter of 2013/14. The BBC made much of the widespread and severe flooding in December and early January 2013 in Britain. It did not report, however, that the rainfall trend in England and Wales had shown an increase of just 2 inches per year, or 5%, in 247 years, nor that the period of November 1929 to January 1930 was wetter than the winter of 2013/14
12) A BBC interview with Lord Nigel Lawson, February 2014 invited him to discuss the wet weather with Professor Brian Hoskins of Imperial College. Subsequently “The BBC was overwhelmed by a well-organised deluge of complaints — many of them, inevitably, from those with a commercial interest in renewable energy, as well as from the Green Party — arguing that, since I was not myself a scientist, I should never have been allowed to appear.” Initially the BBC responded robustly but then caved in and the head of the Editorial Complaints Unit apologised to a Green party politician – craven behaviour
13) Climate Change: Inconvenient Facts, April 2015. The alleged purpose of this programme was to explain three “anomalies” which do not fit with the “consensus” CO2 story, viz the temperature plateau; the increase of Antarctic sea ice; and increased crop growth owing to increased CO2. The panel were all believers in the official story-line and their examination of these questions was scientifically superficial and prejudiced. For example, we were told there is “Not actually a huge amount to explain [about the temperature plateau] in the sense that global warming has continued beneath the surface of the oceans…”
In fact, the ARGO bathythermographs, which take temperature and salinity profiles of the upper mile and a quarter of the ocean, show a small warming from below that is not suggestive of warming from above. The warming rate is very small, equivalent to 1 degree every 430 years. And the surface of the ocean has not warmed throughout the 11 years of the ARGO record.
14) Radio 4 Climate Change series: this three part series put on by Roger Harrabin begins with a pretence of balance by interviewing luke-warmist science writer Matt Ridley, but then offsetting his views. Then follows interviews with five professors who variously argue for the high – and unrealistic – IPCC emission/temperature scenario (RCP 8.5); the collapse of the west Antarctic ice sheet; the permafrost melting; coral reefs disappearing; one professor claims “computer models are very confident in predicting warming”, yet another excuses the failure of models and claims that it is easier to forecast the distant future than the medium term future – which is counter intuitive! The professors perhaps illustrate the shortcomings of “post-modern” climate (so called) science. The second programme was an inept discussion of how to provide energy without adding to CO2 emissions. The third speculated on the possibility of a “deal” at the Paris conference. In the event there was no binding agreement on reducing CO2 emissions and they will increase as China, Japan, Poland and other countries continue to build coal plants.
Chapter 8 sets out David Attenborough’s serial errors about the climate over a decade –
1) The truth about climate change, May 2006. Attenborough reeled off a series of disasters (including reducing numbers of polar bears which were and are in fact increasing) alleged to result from climate change, but have no proven link. Hurricanes were supposedly increasing – they are not. Supposed record melting of the Antarctic ice cap, which has been increasing; and melting of the Greenland ice cap, which had actually thickened by 2 feet over the previous 12 years
2) The snows of Kilimanjaro. In 2013 the BBC was forced to admit that an assertion he made that some parts of Africa had warmed by 3.5oC in the last 20 years was false
3) Climate Change: A Horizon Guide, March 2015. The programme declared at the outset that “Today climate change seems to be everywhere”. The programme treated viewers to nine scares, none of which hold much water and some of which were factually incorrect (e.g. Attenborough stated that “The Southern Hemisphere’s most dramatic warming has happened in the Antarctic. Now warming temperatures mean less sea ice”. Neither of these claims is factually correct)
4) The third of the programmes which Attenborough presented about the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) on 13/1/2016 claimed “Around 30% of the CO2 we produce is absorbed by the ocean. As a result we are seeing an increase in the temperature and acidity of our seas. Both are killing the inhabitants of the reef.” There is absolutely no basis for these claims. The temperature trend of GBR over the period 1940-2012 is an increase of 0.12Co/century, which is negligible. The phrase “ocean acidity” is a term selected to scare. Oceans have a pH of 7.9-8.2 (i.e. they are alkaline) and because of the limestone in the seas there is no prospect that ocean pH could drop below 8 for any length of time. Records from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration over the last 100 years show no sign of reduced alkalinity
The programme interviewed an academic who has a record of failed predictions starting in 2000 of destruction of the Reef.
Chapter 9 discusses Climate change by numbers, March 2015.
Three people who were respectively a lecturer in the mathematics of cities, a professor of risk and information management, and a professor for the public understanding of risk were asked to discuss three numbers. They were (1) 0.85 degrees, the amount of warming the planet has undergone since 1880; (2) 95%, the degree of certainty climate scientists have that at least half the recent warming is man-made; and (3) one trillion tonnes, which is the amount of fossil fuel we can use before we (supposedly) warm the world by 2Co. The 0.85oC is far from unprecedented (in the 40 years 1693-1733 the temperature in central England, a reasonable proxy for global temperature, rose at a rate equivalent to well over 4 C° per century); the 95% is flagrantly inconsistent with the published papers on climate change in the reviewed journals. In any event there is no shred of a statistical basis on which anyone can claim “95% confidence” in this fashion; the 2oC-above-pre-industrial temperature target (in fact just 1 C° above today’s temperature) was plucked from the air by a member of an East German research institute, who has subsequently admitted it had no scientific justification or basis. Two of the mathematicians admitted in subsequent correspondence that they did not know much, if anything, about climate science, and that they had relied upon unnamed BBC advisers for the climate science they had used.
The BBC subsequently refused a freedom-of-information request for the identity of these climate advisers, on the ground that it was entitled to rely on an exemption for matters related to “journalism”.
Biased and inaccurate news reporting
In chapter 10 we have compiled a list of 13 news reports within the last year or so where the BBC has misled or misinformed people, because either its staff do not know their subject, or do not bother to check their facts and so bias their reports. Several of the claims breached BBC Guidelines.
The inaccuracies and bias range widely from straightforward inflation of the speed of a cyclone to exaggerating the risks of extreme weather; to several claims that episodes were due to “climate change” when there was no basis for such a claim; to using grossly misleading images of coal power plants to suggest black (insinuation “dirty”) smoke is coming from cooling towers when in fact they emit pure water droplets from condensing steam; to using misleading graphics about the impact of “global warming” on crop yields; and even to claiming that sea-level rise had uncovered Japanese war dead when in fact they had been uncovered by someone digging for coral.
Over the past decade the BBC has frequently and consistently reported in its news reporting propositions which have been factually wrong, and misrepresented, and spun the reality of the climate.
The BBC’s responses to complaints
Over the years, we have made a number of complaints to the BBC. They have been brushed off with a mixture of ignorance, superficial sophistry and disdain which we spell out in chapter 11. Complaining to the BBC and thereafter, if it gets that far, to the BBC Trust, is essentially an exercise in futility. The process is so laboured and dilatory that it is hard to avoid the conclusion that it has been deliberately and carefully structured to discourage questioning of either programme form or content. Furthermore, the BBC is not above playing bureaucratic games to avoid responding to complaints by timing them out (notwithstanding the inordinate time it can take the BBC to respond).
Groupthink on climate science
Chapter 12 points out that there are two main reasons why climate (so called) science is beset by groupthink in a way that say cosmology and biochemistry are not. First, the level of scientific rigour in climate “science” and the competence of those involved is unfortunately too often low. Second, climate studies are highly politicized with the consequence that money hangs on being politically correct and, as with many political issues, passions can run high and are too often vitriolic. Political discussion is not often known for its rigour. But a fundamental problem of the BBC that facilitates its endorsement of group think is that it is both scientifically amateur and prejudiced.
Because of the wide range of vested interests profiting by the climate scare, it is difficult to get facts and views aired that dissent from the consensus groupthink, which is where the BBC should come in. Given its charter and its resources, the BBC should do better – much better – than mere ill-informed scare-mongering. The BBC should not be promoting errors which a little research would easily reveal as such.
The Trust’s Review of the impartiality and accuracy of BBC science coverage
On 17 June 2007 the Sunday Times carried a piece “BBC report damns its ‘culture of bias’” based on a year-long investigation commissioned by the BBC. The study found that the BBC “was particularly partial in its treatment of single-issue politics such as climate change, poverty, race and religion.”
Chapter 13 analyses the Review undertaken for the Trust in 2011 which, as far as the section on climate science was concerned, was a biased and glib exercise. The Trust’s chosen whitewash merchant Professor Steve Jones, who is a geneticist, ignored dissenting submissions however soundly based, and concluded all was for the best in the best of all possible worlds. He revealed his own prejudice when he described people who did not sign up to the “consensus” with the term “deniers”, insinuating that climate sceptics were like Holocaust deniers, and concluding that they should not be given airtime. He wrote a worthless document as far as climate science was concerned; he was ignorant of basic facts about the climate. He should never have been chosen for the job; his choice breached the guidance of the Singapore Statement on Scientific Integrity, see below.
In Chapter 14 we argue that when it comes to the climate the BBC does not understand the meaning of the word “science”. Science is based on empirical evidence, evidence moreover that has been independently verified. The BBC furthermore does not understand the implications of politicised science such as that related to the climate, which is undertaken within a political framework – with all this implies. The BBC does not appear to understand that many of those promoting “climate change” have a direct financial interest in it whether as scientists seeking grants; politicians on the make; politicians pandering to the green voters; the Met Office wanting bigger computers and budgets and power; and renewables developers seeking subsidies. The BBC has naively lapped it up.
For a decade the BBC has promoted the extremist side of the climate story line in a most biased way, uncritically retailing – and subsequently not correcting – material that has shown to be false, omitting or at best dismissing contrary evidence; and minimising airtime for sceptics (and misrepresenting some of them). Its misfeasance is a continuing contravention of its obligation of impartiality. Notwithstanding the series of egregious errors which the IPCC has made over the past two decades or so, the BBC has never either corrected past errors or questioned current dubious propositions. Although many of the scares and exaggerations it has promoted have subsequently shown to be baseless, the BBC has 1) never come back and admitted “we made a mistake”, nor 2) has it learned from past mistakes to be more critical in evaluating current scares that are being promoted.
The BBC has been scientifically inept, uncritical and unquestioning of the alleged “consensus”. Much of what has been included in its programmes and news has been factually wrong. Errors could have been avoided or corrected if the BBC employed competent and knowledgeable researchers whose prime interest was truth and accuracy rather than warmist propaganda dressed up as science. Indeed the programmes Climate Change by Numbers and The Horizon Guide to Climate Change were both intellectually bankrupt, as have been many earlier programmes, such as Science under attack and Meet the sceptics. The BBC should not promote errors, nor refuse to correct those errors.
BBC and the Trust producers often invite scientists who know little or nothing about climate science to provide a gloss of credibility, regularly breaching Article 10 of the 2010 Singapore Declaration on Scientific Integrity –
“Researchers should limit professional comments
to their recognized expertise when engaged in public discussions about the application and importance of research findings and clearly distinguish professional comments from opinions based on personal views.”
These include Professor May PRS; Professor Nurse PRS; Dr. H. Czerski; Professor Stewart; David Attenborough; Ms. Fry, Professor Fenton; Professor Spielgelhalter; and Professor Jones.
The BBC has continuously breached its Charter and Guidelines for a decade in its handling of climate issues. The Trust has provided cover for the BBC, has tolerated these persistent breaches and has, in some identifiable instances, actively connived at them and glossed over them, which is contrary not only to its legal obligations but also, and even more fundamentally, to basic dictates of intellectual honesty and integrity.
The full complaint and annexes are available here:
BBC Trust-Complaint