BBC in deep water over climate change censorship row

09 Jul 2014  |  Raymond Snoddy 
BBC in deep water over climate change censorship row

As Nigel Lawson, the former chancellor, accuses the BBC of banning him from debating climate change at the Corporation, Raymond Snoddy warns that the reputation of BBC News would be seriously compromised if journalists were found to be censoring.

The BBC is getting itself in a huge hole over its coverage of climate change - and it does not seem to see the need to stop digging.

The controversy is best highlighted by the BBC's decision to uphold a complaint against the Today programme for the appearance of climate change sceptic Lord Lawson to discuss the impact of climate on the recent floods.

A complaint against the World at One has also been partially upheld after an interview with a sceptical scientist Professor Bob Carter, head of the department of earth science at James Cook University.

Even though the former Chancellor was more than balanced by his co-guest the scientist Sir Brian Hoskins, chairman of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change, the BBC apologised to complainant Chit Chung, a Green Party activist who has a draught proofing and insulation business in Dorset.

In part it was a technical judgement - that listeners had not properly been informed that Lord Lawson held a minority view, though perhaps such a finding is unnecessarily insulting to the intelligence of the average Today programme listener.

In his letter, head of the BBC Complaints Unit, Fraser Steel, made two important statements which give an insight into the BBC approach to one of the most important long-term stories the Corporation has to cover.

Steel said that "minority opinions and sceptical views should not be treated on an equal footing with the scientific consensus."

So far so good - probably.

He added, much more contentiously, that Lord Lawson's views on climate change: "are not supported by the evidence from computer modelling and scientific research and I don't believe this was made sufficiently clear to the audience."

Up to a point. As the science writer and Conservative peer Matt Ridley made clear this week in The Times, linking the words "evidence" and "computer-modelling" in the same sentence is an oxymoron. Computer models try to predict the future and can only be tested as potential evidence when they are proved to be correct.

As many newspapers - but probably not the BBC - have pointed out, such computer models have not exactly been covering themselves with glory in recent years.

By 2014 computer models were predicting there would have been a significant rise in temperature of 0.3 degrees compared with 2004. Despite the fact that the world has been pumping ever-increasing amounts of carbon into the atmosphere during the period there has, in fact, been a slight cooling of global surface temperatures over the past decade.

The computer models also predicted a serious shrinking of Antarctic ice when in fact it has expanded to near record levels.

In a complex subject difficult for non-scientific laymen to penetrate, there could well be perfectly decent explanations within the man-made global warming consensus for such phenomena. The sea may be capable of absorbing more heat, for example.

At the very least there are questions to be answered about computer models and no justification for those who raise them to be effectively censored by the BBC.

In another alarming development this week it was alleged that research questioning the accuracy of such computer models had been censored by climate scientists.

Academic reviewers - the much lauded peer-review process - attacked a paper that suggested that the human influence in climate was being exaggerated and the influence of natural variability downplayed.

One said publication would lead to unnecessary confusion in the climate science community. Another that "the entire discussion has to disappear."

In such a maelstrom somehow non-scientists and policy makers have to have a voice because of the huge economic decisions that rest on the outcome.

If the natural variability of extreme events is more at the heart of the matter than CO2 creation, then more money has to be deployed to strengthening sea defences, for instance, than covering hills in windmills.

There is still an important debate to be had but not it seems on the BBC.

The position of the BBC Trust, as shown again this week, is at face value eminently reasonable. It reiterated the views of Professor Steve Jones, the geneticist, in his report into BBC science coverage that there should not be "an over-rigid" attachment to balance which gives "undue attention to marginal opinion."

And so was born the BBC concept of "due impartiality," as imposed to impartiality. This means that when reporting on contentious scientific issues the BBC should be guided by where "the scientific consensus might be found on any given topic, if in fact it can be determined."

Making such a determination is where the problem lies; a problem exacerbated by the fact that the entire history of science is littered by examples of the consensus being proved wrong by stubborn individuals.

Neither the BBC Trust, nor even the issuing of apologies to Dorset draught proofers, represents the most direct threat going forward.

The danger comes instead from self-censorship. Which editor now is going to invite Lord Lawson or even Prof Bob Carter from New Zealand on to their programmes in the certain knowledge that they are likely to be criticised and perhaps have time-consuming complaints upheld against them?

As Lord Lawson argues, surely correctly, he has, in effect, been banned by the BBC. It is an easy thing to judge. Let's see when he next appears in the climate change context.

There will, of course, be no edict. He will just never ever be invited to take part in any BBC programme on an issue that he has put considerable effort into learning about, and one where he has published a best-selling book.

On the BBC internal contacts list producers add advisory notes against names and you can be sure the former Chancellor will get one.

One of the key components of the case for a new licence fee is the integrity of BBC News. The case for man-made global warming may indeed be the right one, but the reputation of BBC News would be seriously compromised if journalists were found to be censoring, if not inconvenient truths then troubling anomalies.

It would also be better if the BBC stopped activities such as spending hundreds of thousands of licence payers' money trying to protect the identity of the participants in a 2006 climate change seminar - when all the names turned up on the Internet anyway.


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Jarek Luberek, N/A, N/A on 14 Jul 2014
“Please repeat, "theory is not evidence", "models are theory", "theory is not evidence", "models are theory". This has to be one of the deepest tenets of science. Anybody in position of authority that utters the sentence " "are not supported by the evidence from computer modelling" should be rolled in tar and feathers, notwithstanding the fact that we are referring to models who's predictions have no support in real world data. The inadequacy of climate models is bordering on pure propaganda. Just look at those who's use of Navier-Stokes comes with accountability, those in the aviation industry. They study a structure in a volume of 50x50x50 meters. Yet, when they are done, do you think they trust the result. No, they build and they experiment and they measure. And the only parameters they predict is pressure and velocity and sometimes temperature and they create minutes worth of virtual reality. But somehow, we are to believe that the geniuses in climate science can put a structure of 509 600 000 000 000 x 30 000 m^3, unknown boundaries, mixed fluids, aerosols, chemistry and biology and produce a prediction centuries into the future with 3 digits of precision. How stupid do they think we are! The scientific method was to a large extent born in western Europe and England had a big part in it. It is too sad to see that voice of sanity has become the voice of madness when we need all the sanity we can find nowadays.”
Kevin Benn, retired teacher, Playmate (private company) on 13 Jul 2014
“In Sweden where I live there are no school books, no materials supplied by government or NGO organisations or political parties and no mainstream media articles or programmes that offer any alternatives to the so-called consensus views on AGW.
Frustrated at never being able to get anything published in the local paper, I wrote this poem:
LIFE IS A GAS!
Life is a gas – CO2 – (And oxygen, of course) But to say that it drives the climate Puts proverbial cart before horse.

What Al Gore said in his lecture, Unbacked by observable proof, Turned out to be pure conjecture – An inconvenient truth...

The ice-core samples from Vostok Plotting temperature change over time Revealed that in fact CO2 change Lags hundreds of years behind.

Greenland was green when the Vikings Settled a millennium ago; While Frost Fairs were held on the Thames Six centuries later, or so.

The IPCC used a Mann-made stick To flatten this bumpy graph To prove to us all – Q.E.D. – That this life-giving gas 'ain't no larf!'

They say, thanks to human endeavour, Our carbon footprints expand Playing all hell with the weather And flooding both ocean and land.

Once upon a time, CO2 Was a colourless, non-toxic gas; Now: ”an anthropogenic emission” On a mission to fry us, en masse.

The bottom line is that this substance, In solid or gaseous form, Will turn the world into a greenhouse Globally warmer than warm!

Mass production and consumption Took off at the end of the war. Despite Kyoto, COPs and Cap'n trade CO2 levels continue to soar.

Fossil fuels, factories and flying machines All add their bit to a graph That rises each year exponentially When it ought to be falling by half.

The temperature curve, however, Just will not play the game: Rise, fall, rise for a century Then 17 years the same!

Elaborate computer models Are the IPCC's crystal ball None of which have predicted The recent no-warming-at-all!

Climate Science is now a religion Where AGW is PC And the MSM censure everything Bar the Gospel of IPCC.

So worship the great god Consensus, Believe what it tells you is Truth; Or else you'll be branded Denier And your views will be taken as proof!

High Priest Strong said at Rio – Leaving Greens to fill in the gaps – ”Isn't the only hope for the planet That the industrialised nations collapse?”

Now that's hardly a secret agenda; The Club of Rome endorsed it too: ”All we need is the right major crisis...” And the scapegoat is – you know who!

So now parties of all creeds and colours Profess to this climate-smart code: Nature should be a museum Back in pre-industrial mode.

The Germans have 'Energiewende', Swopping nuclear power for coal; The Brits import timber from Canada To spruce up their CO2 goal.

The rest of the Greens look to EU To tax us all off the map. Survivors will catch the Royal Virus, Prince Philip – jolly old chap!

Meanwhile, in the real world, the future Has billions of new mouths to feed. So 'power plants' must be provided To supply them with all that they need.

Electricity and food for all Means carbon dioxide, you see, In South America, Africa, Asia... Rather than just you and me.

Now 120 parts per million – The parts that we’ve added, let’s say – Plus a period of gentle warming Have made the Earth greener today

Yet ask any market gardener What the Greenhouse Effect means to them And they'll tell you that king-sized veggies Crave 1200 ppm.

The more CO2, then, the better; Photosynthesis thrives on the stuff. So frack up both shale gas and oil; Of which there is more than enough.

And let us pray Global Warming Doesn't take a turn for the worse As its cousin, Global Cooling, Is definitely more of a curse.

For Climate Change is the default – The null-hypothetical state. On those that say Man overrides this The burden of proof is great.

For the climate has always been changing; Change is here to stay. As King Canute showed on the seashore, Man cannot keep Nature at bay!

So, historians, when you review our time And our hysterical CO2 Show, Remember that Mankind can't be blamed For your landscape of ice and snow.

* * * * *”
Mike O'Ceirin, Retired, None on 12 Jul 2014
“I am Australian and known of Bob Carter for some time. I hold him and Nigel Lawson in high regard even though his daughter encourages my addiction to sweet food. I think Bob Carter has lived in Australia very long time and has not been the Head of Earth Sciences for a long time. For more information see http://members.iinet.net.au/~glrmc/”
Graham White, Conservation author, Real Conservation on 11 Jul 2014
“There is a decades-long tradition of political/ environmental censorship at the BBC which would be decried if were seen in North Korea or Cuba. More than a decade ago, Professor David Bellamy was invited onto a BBC children's programme -( Newsround or Blue Peter I think) - he was there in his capacity as a world renowned botanist and conservation activist - arguably more of an activist than David Attenborough at the time. During the lightweight discussion with the children, he as asked what he thought of the new wind turbines which were just beginning to appear at that time.
In reply he said that, in his considered scientific opinion, that (irrespective of the global warming argument) wind turbines were a very flawed technology; they were only effective for about 30% of the time - and they were vastly more expensive than conventional power plants. Moreover, for every thousand turbines built, we had to build a parallel gas or coal fired generator plant - to power the system when the wind did not blow. So his observation was that we were about to spend £billions building TWO energy systems, neither of which would work for more than about half the time. He also said - 'in passing' that the evidence for 'Global Warming' was almost entirely based on 'computer models' - and computer models are at best predictive guesses - they are not empirical science. So, faved with covering our entire countryside, national parks and coastline with tens of thousands of incredibly expensive windmills - or pursuing better insulation and conventional power stations - he said he would favour the latter - at least until our empirical knowledge of 'global warming' was far clearer.
Bellamy had said this on a children's BBC programme - I think it was around 1998 - and he has NEVER BEEN ALLOWED ONTO BBC TELEVISION OR RADIO SINCE.
Shortly afterwards, a Greenpeace activist wrote an article in which he said Bellamy was far worse than any 'pedophile' - because his scepticism on Global Warming would result in the deaths of tens of thousands of African children, whereas - child rapists only killed one or two. This was an insane argument, but it passed into the 'activist' sphere and thereafter, Bellamy was regularly spat upon by complete strangers when he was using public transport in London.
The Climate Change Cult has all the characteristics of a religion: it has a belief system that is not based on empirical observation but on 'electronic forecasts of the future'. it has a Priesthood; it has many Prophets - and now - in the BBC it has its own inquisition.
Anyone who dares to express 'unbelief' becomes an 'UN-PERSON' as described by George Orwell in 1984. Bellamy has largely been expunged from the BBC - even from archival film - his thirty year contribution to global conservation - particularly to rainforest conservation - has been erased from the record - and all because of a single remark made on a BBC children's television programme.”
John Benton, engineer, Self employed on 10 Jul 2014
“People like Robert Riversong demonstrate very clearly what is wrong with the climate Taliban. His ignorance of the subject matter is on full display in his ill informed comment, and his need to resort to ad hominem attacks demonstrates an intolerance common amongst his kind.”
Man Bearpig, Layabout, Big oil on 10 Jul 2014
“So the Green party person complains about a minority viewpoint? Is he for real? isn't the green party a minority party ?”
Bill Butler, Retired, Retired on 10 Jul 2014
“The reason that the phrase “Global Warming Deniers” is used is that the “Deniers” ignore demonstrable evidence, and fabricate stories and “facts” that are not true.
For example, the statement
“there has, in fact, been a slight cooling of global surface temperatures over the past decade” is NOT true.
Despite the fantasies of Global Warming Deniers, the earth continues to warm at the rate of 4 Hiroshima atomic bombs per second – running 24/7 - including the years from 1998 to present. http://www.skepticalscience.com/4-Hiroshima-bombs-worth-of-heat-per-second.html
Earth’s Rate Of Global Warming Is 400,000 Hiroshima Bombs A Day
http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/12/22/3089711/global-warming-hiroshima-bombs/# Four Hiroshima bombs a second: How we imagine climate change
http://phys.org/news/2013-08-hiroshima-climate.html
This measured/observed warming rate is via the Argo buoy system. http://www.argo.ucsd.edu/About_Argo.html

2005 was warmer than any previous year. Then 2010 broke the 2005 record. Data at: NOAA/National Climate Data Center https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/monitoring-references/faq/anomalies.php
2012 was the warmest year on record for the United States. http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/news/ncdc-announces-warmest-year-record-contiguous-us
Sea level continues to rise due to thermal expansion and glacial melting. The rate of sea level rise has quadrupled since the 1870 to 1924 period. Columbia University http://www.columbia.edu/~mhs119/SeaLevel/
Glaciers continue to melt, and the rate of melting has accelerated since 1998. World Glacier Monitoring Service http://www.wgms.ch/mbb/sum12.html
Ocean heating has accelerated sharply since 1998. (Note: Over 90% of Global Warming ends up heating the oceans.) Graph at: http://www.durangobill.com/GwdLiars/GwdOceanHeat.jpg Full peer reviewed paper at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/grl.50382/full Up to date info at: NOAA/National Oceanographic Data Center http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/OC5/3M_HEAT_CONTENT/ (click on “2”)
Finally, The 12 month period ending in May 2014 was warmer than any previous calendar year – including the prior record set in 2010. NOAA/National Climate Data Center https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/monitoring-references/faq/anomalies.php

More at: http://www.durangobill.com/GwdLiars/GwdGlobalWarmingStoppedIn1998.html”
Tony Newbery, Blogger, Harmless Sky on 9 Jul 2014
“Over a period of seven years I pursued the Freedom of Information request that has eventually led to the names of those people who attended the 2006 BBC climate change seminar mentioned by Raymond Snoddy coming to light. The discovery of the list of names on the internet was a major step forward, but this was only a provisional list of attendees and neither accurate nor complete. At the end of last year the BBC finally caved in and provided all the information I had asked for, including the genuine participants list. One might wonder why it took so long and cost so much. At present I am preparing to publish an account of these events that should go some way towards answering these questions. Although so much time has passed since it the seminar took place it is likely that, given the BBC personnel who were present, this event established the climate change narrative that the BBC has adhered to ever since and which is now causing the possibly terminal problems that Raymond Snoddy and others are at last beginning to identify. Senior management, and their protégées, who led the charge for human caused climate change after that seminar, are unlikely to be able to resile from their blind commitment now without risking loss of credibility or even becoming a laughing stock. The outlook for the reputation of BBC journalism is bleak.”
John Carter, Director, Ruby Red on 9 Jul 2014
“Predictably Robert Riversong here follows the usual form for the climate gangsters.
He distorts the article, spreads false information, confuses the issue and of course gets to use the denier word.
Why not read the article and comment on the content rather than spout lies and insults, or is that too much to ask?”
Robert Riversong, none, none on 9 Jul 2014
“Computer models don't make "predictions", but projections, and the mistake of this writer and the so-called "skeptics" (really denialists) is confusing short-term weather noise with long-term climate data. Every IPCC projection has understated the actual changes we've experienced, as any consensus document is, by definition, conservative.”
Adrian Mack, New Media Manager, Freeview on 9 Jul 2014
“Isn't there a further distinction to be made? When an individual scientist or small group makes a claim then this should quite rightly be subject to scrutiny. See any number of 'cancer cure' stories in the papers that are 10 years ahead of the real outcome. But when a meta-analysis is performed across the work of hundreds or thousands of scientists and a consensus seems to be forming then it needs a similarly thorough effort to challenge it, not the opinion of a media-friendly contrarian or some vested interests.”
John Carter, Director, Ruby Red Ltd on 9 Jul 2014
“The problem goes much deeper than described.
Lord Lawson has considerable knowledge of climate, rather more than the fanatics supposedly running government departments dealing with policies of environment and energy, yet he is being effectively silenced for no reason other than he asks inconvenient questions which the climate conformists cannot answer.
Time and time again, the inconvenient truth about climate is suppressed and hidden and distorted so as to perpetuate the alarmist message.
Anyone daring to suggest that there may be a problem with the alarmist view will find their career and livelihood threatened by McCarthy like campaigns.
Dissent, and with it freedom of opinion and freedom of speech, is being crushed out of existence by the climate police, yet very few see just how serious and how dangerous this is.
Science has reached a low point with many honest scientists simply too scared to say what they really think. It needs some very strong and honest people to turn things around.”
Mike, Sainsbury, asi Ltd on 9 Jul 2014
“I understood the BBC had been defending themselves against complaints that they seemed to be contorting themselves from time to time to present balanced debate. As a consequence such attempts result in a 'false' sense of balance when two opposing views are given equal weight - even though one is the opinion of a world-renowned scientist whilst the other is the unscientific opinion of a layman and lobbyist. I often question BBC impartiality in news reporting, but find it difficult to do so on this subject. Andrew Neil after all is given plenty of airtime by the BBC and he regularly articulates his doubts about climate change.”
mike, none, none on 9 Jul 2014
“If the News albeit TV, Newspapers, or the Internet were to REPORT the ACTUAL NEWS and facts, in the UK and in the U.S., then let the people decide, BOTH countries would be better off. Right now, MOST media has their own agenda, and are passing it onto their consumers, THIS IS WRONG”
peter rose, retired, Shiatsu International on 9 Jul 2014
“As a believer in self sufficiency and sustainable agriculture since the 1960's I have been both alarmed and saddened by the present state of the debates about climate change - basically pollution, how ever you choose to define it - is a bad thing
Climate change is part of planet earth it occurred before humans evolved and will probably continue after we have died out
What matters is preparing to cope with inevitable climate change
Pretending that this tax or that policy will prevent climate change is an insult to every person alive
The sooner the policy makers advise the politicos that we have to have a flexible coping strategy the better
forecasts are simply slightly more logical guesses that usual any and all decision she be on the basis of flexibility. The certainties in life are death and taxation and even taxation could be eliminated by an enlightened government. Long term Climate change forecasts are not and never will be accurate enough to be a base for long term policy One volcanic eruption, one new invention and all predicted data is changed.”

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