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How green should we be?

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Peter Barron | 14:30 UK time, Friday, 2 February 2007

One of the consequences of 'Paxman slams the BBC on climate hyprocrisy' has been a prominent posting on Biased BBC, a website devoted to pointing out what it sees as the politically-correct institutional group-think of much of the corporation's output.

Newsnight logoThis time they weren't accusing Jeremy of bias - they've elevated him to their roll of honour for his honesty in saying: "People who know a lot more than I do may be right when they claim that [global warming] 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" (more here).

So, what constitutes impartiality on this issue? Should we, every time the issue of climate change is raised, include someone like Myron Ebell from the US Competitive Enterprise Institute, who argues that while climate change may be happening there's no evidence that it's caused by human activity and absolutely no need to reduce carbon emissions?

Some members of our team hold more or less that view and indeed we had Mr Ebell on the programme only last week, but we don't put such figures on every time. To do that would be a massive distortion of the scientific opinion which is overwhelmingly of the view that climate change is being influenced by human activity.

But if Newsnight stands for anything it should certainly stand against group-think, so while the broad thrust of our coverage accepts the orthodox view, we are also open to dissenting opinions. Indeed, Justin Rowlatt's latest film looks at how the production of food may be doing more damage to the environment than burning fossil fuels.

Talking of Ethical Man, is it our job to encourage people to be greener? I don't think so. There's currently huge interest among the public in leading more sustainable lifestyles and we should reflect and explore that. Jeremy may well be right that the BBC as an organisation should do more to get its house in order. But I don't think it's the BBC's job to try to save the planet. Do you?

Comments

Two sides of an argument should always be presented by the BBC. What would it have done if it had been around when the church was burning "heretics" for going against the mass opinion that the earth was at the centre of the universe?

Just because most people believe something (i.e. climate change is caused by humans) does not automatically make their argument right and every alternative deserves to be aired and explored.

  • 2.
  • At 04:29 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

Surely the BBC could be accused of partiality in deed, if not in word? If you continue to fly quite so many people quite so far in the cause of journalism, then either you don't support the case for human-influenced climate change (and are therefore partial on this issue) or you do (and are therefore hypocritical).

  • 3.
  • At 04:29 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Emma Cadman wrote:

Is the BBC itself doing its bit to save the planet? How good are the BBC offices on energy efficiency and recycling? Those are certainly things that the BBC can and should be doing to help save the planet, along with (as was mentioned on Breakfast today) carbon offsetting emissions when it sends its staff places on business. Personally, I think all businesses should be doing a lot more to help the planet. So many are working out of buildings with single glazed windows, half of which don't shut properly, not enough insulation, with lights and computers that are left on all night, and poor to non-existent recycling policies. My partner and I both work at places like that. Householders are increasingly doing their bit, but it's much more difficult at work, especially if the management are unenthusiastic and even obstructive. The government should really be cracking down on businesses about this.

  • 4.
  • At 04:30 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • James Lavan wrote:

I'm fascinated that Peter Barron doesn't "think it's the BBC's job to try to save the planet".

Perhaps the BBC plans to broadcast on another planet?

Those of us who live on this one(and even those who broadcast on it) have a vested interest in saving the planet, so its obviously "our job" to do so.

The BBC also has a public service remit. If the planet is not saved, the public is not served .

  • 5.
  • At 04:35 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Nigel West wrote:

I'm yet to be convinced that climate change is due to mankind's increased emmission of carbon dioxide, there are too many other factors that don't appear to have been ruled out. Too often we have complete U turns by the scientific community and your reference to "scientific opinion" rather than scientific fact enforces my view that we are experiencing views not fact.

However, I strongly believe in conserving and recycling wherever possible, provided the act of recycling doesn't produce more pollution than creating the product in the first place. I would like manufacturers to produce products in less packaging, partly to reduce land fill, partly to reduce the pollution generated in producing a throw away item, but also to reduce the cost of the item.

It's not the sole responsibility of the BBC to "save the planet", but given the number of programmes shown that present the subject and put mankind in the driving seat of climate change, why is it necessary for a presenter and camera crew to drive to a location for a news item where it serves no purpose other than show a presence at the location. With today's communication infrastructure this isn't required and just adds to pollution, congestion and cost for the licence payer.

  • 6.
  • At 04:41 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Anthony Ward wrote:

Yes I do think it is the BBC's job to save the planet. Of course it is. The BBC's job is to try to help make the world a better place. Remember when Michael Buerk's report from Ethiopia made such an impact and inspired Live Aid ? What kind of famine and misery will we see in the future because of global warming?

  • 7.
  • At 05:03 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Charlie wrote:

The fact that the BBC is publicly-funded does suggest that it ought to act in the public interest, so yes, actually, it kind of is your job to save the planet if that means being Greener. If it means campaigning, then no, not really. But then who thought the BBC could 'save' anything?

Personally, I think the BBC is right to pay little attention to climate sceptics.

It would be similar to getting on a racist everytime you did a story referencing race. Tiresome, unnecessary, nothing to do with unbiased journalism.

In fact, it would be biased to insist on the inclusion of sceptics, because, as you point out, they are in a tiny, tiny minority.

US media still regularly refers to climate change as a theory supported by most scientists. This is akin to questioning gravity every time it's mentioned: or the fact that smoking causes cancer.

  • 9.
  • At 05:11 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Martyn wrote:

Decisions to include sceptics on the programme or not are difficult. It is undoubtably true that their representation in our media is many thousands of times greater than their presence in our scientific journals. But it is also true that they use exclusion from any programme as proof of bias and repression of thier views.

As for whether the BBC should save the planet - no. But it should do its bit - and the 3% cuts each year in carbon emissions Jeremy suggested would show you were. But its not specifically the BBC's responsibility - its just that ultimately if the BBC (or any other corporation) won't do this voluntarily, then Government will have to regulate to require them to.

Its not the BBC's job to save the planet by itself, but it is the BBC's job to save the taxpayer money. Its been quite clear that recent advances in solar cell technology, or in lighting for example, could cut or stablise the BBC's energy bill.

Instead of having a green guru, have an energy/cost efficent guru. The BBC could show how much money it could save by trying scheme's such as banning standard light bulbs or by putting solar cells on the roof.

That would be a good example to other companies, as well as to the government that the BBC is trying to save money through sound investment (Walmart and Whole Foods are trying the same thing in the US).

I find it astounding that Newsnight's coverage of these issues has dropped in priority as the urgency of the issues and the strength of and interest in the story gets stronger. At one point Susan Watts coverage was second to none - now she has been downgraded to stem cell research and poisoned Russian spy intrigue.

I think I'm right in saying that Newsnight's coverage of the UN Climate Talks in Nairobi amounted pretty much to zero. That's incredible at this point in history.

Ethical Man on the other hand is a great mould-breaking feature. All power to Justin and his producer!

Myron Ebell is fine as an example of the flaks fronting for Exxon Mobil. I'm amazed to hear that any of your staff actually take him seriously. What planet are they on? What dubious sources do they rely on to support their world view? Let's be told so that we can all move forward!

  • 12.
  • At 05:23 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Rebecca Harris wrote:

"But I don't think it's the BBC's job to try to save the planet. Do you?" Of course I do. It's everyone's job. If everyone doesn't make the effort we will all perish.

  • 13.
  • At 05:27 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Dee Branigan wrote:

As a British citizen resident in the US for 24 years I am appalled at the US's stand on global warming. It is becoming increasingly obvious that major changes are taking place with our climate that are worldwide. Britain is experiencing weather the like of which has never been seen before. The US has just experienced freak weather and unbelieveable snow and ice across the mid-West and even places like Palm Springs, CA (a desert town) and Arizona and New Mexico recently experienced snow storms that no one in living momeory can remember happening before. Global action needs to be taken now to prevent a cataclysmic disaster otherwise we will be know as the generation that killed the planet.

  • 14.
  • At 05:28 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Stephen wrote:

What's all the fuss about global warming? Like most natural disasters the Earth will recover on its own. Arguably, the human race is the natural disaster. Ultimately, the human race will die off (much like the dinosaur did), and in a few million years the Earth will recover all by itself.

So I don't see what the issue is?

  • 15.
  • At 05:29 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Andrew Myers wrote:

Many people think God created humans. There are no doubt some people who think the Earth is flat. There may even be some people who think the Sun is the center of the universe. But when science has proven something beyond reasonable doubt, is it not fair to take it as fact and then perhaps the argument should be not if, but by how much?

  • 16.
  • At 05:30 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Stephen wrote:

What's all the fuss about global warming? Like most natural disasters the Earth will recover on its own. Arguably, the human race is the natural disaster. Ultimately, the human race will die off (much like the dinosaur did), and in a few million years the Earth will recover all by itself.

So I don't see what the issue is?

  • 17.
  • At 05:31 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Ruari McCallion wrote:

The quest for 'balance' can lead to some pretty weird reporting. Imagine if, during WW2, it was felt to be unbalanced if one didn't have prominent Nazis, either denying the concentration camps or justifying their existence on the grounds of their well-publicised view of Jews, Gyspies, Slavs, etc as untermensch?
In the case of global warming, the people saying it has nothing to do with human activity are in a tiny minority. OK, give them airtime - but only in proportion to their minority status. AND -this is very important - make sure that their contributions are begun and ended with a list of their major funders. These guys are funded by oil companies, who have a particular vested interest. Make sure it's known. And, indeed, while you have them in the chair, why not challenge them about their funding, and the distorting effect it may have on their research?

  • 18.
  • At 05:36 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Herman De Wulf wrote:

So the earth is warming up. But how to exlain that last winter was the coldest ever with hundreds of people frozen to death in Siberia and Poland? Why did Austria suffer the heaviest snowfall ever winter? Why has it been freezing all November in Belgium Not very cold but still freezing one whole month with fuel bills rising ? Why did the Southern Hemisphere experience its coldest winter ever last year with icebergs spotted near New Zealand for the first time and tourists (for the first time in history) taking helicopte rides to see them ? How do you explain that?

  • 19.
  • At 05:41 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Steve wrote:

It is everybody's job to save the planet, and that includes the BBC. The BBC's role should be (1) to inform and educate to help make people aware of the issues, the facts and the arguments (including conflicting opinions) so that they can make informed choices, and (2) to be 'green' itself, reviewing all its operations to assess their environmental impact and taking action to reduce that impact. Any chance of a carbon-neutral BBC?

  • 20.
  • At 05:44 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • David Stockdale wrote:

The mountain that we have to clime is in pursuading and getting America and China to come onboard the CO2 reduction wagon. Without them there is very little influence that the rest of us can have upon the problem.
Our only hope is that they will accept the reality of the situation or that the rest of the world can make pariahs of them and bring them into the club that way.
George Bush, (not exactly the brightest kid on the block!), always asserts that the problem can be solved technically thus eliminating the need to reduce or slow down industrial output with the conventional means available to us at present.
The rate of progress of any technical advances cannot be guaranteed and action is needed immediately.

  • 21.
  • At 05:53 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Will Harris wrote:

It is not the BBC's responsibility to save the planet alone, it is every company's responsibility. It is not the responsibility of an individual to save the planet, it is beyond the scope of an individual to have an impact on it. This brings us to the government.

It IS the government's responsibility to force us all, companies and individuals, to protect the planet. Only the government can pass laws to affect specific behavior. But not just our government, all governments!

So, I hope you can see, that it is the actions of our leaders that will dictate the fate of the planet. They are the only ones with the scope of influence to have a real impact.

Regards,

Will

  • 22.
  • At 05:57 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • PottedMeat wrote:

I read the BBC website on a daily basis and have never seen anything to support your assertion that you do address the issues presented by the demonised "other side". I am one of those people who wants to hear both sides of an argument before forming an opinion and I believe the BBC has failed in its duty to give me those two sides.

  • 23.
  • At 05:57 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • David Stockdale wrote:

The mountain that we have to clime is in pursuading and getting America and China to come onboard the CO2 reduction wagon. Without them there is very little influence that the rest of us can have upon the problem.
Our only hope is that they will accept the reality of the situation or that the rest of the world can make pariahs of them and bring them into the club that way.
George Bush, (not exactly the brightest kid on the block!), always asserts that the problem can be solved technically thus eliminating the need to reduce or slow down industrial output with the conventional means available to us at present.
The rate of progress of any technical advances cannot be guaranteed and action is needed immediately.

  • 24.
  • At 05:59 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • ken maidens wrote:

Jeremy Paxman is correct in his view of the BBC behaviour reference Climate change.It desperately needs to get it's house in order very quickly.
We really are desperate in this country for some basic common sense thinking politicians. And the ludicrous media industry are acting as if the 'lunatics have overtaken the asylum'. I suggest the Private Eye paper may be a realistic place for them to get the odd decent story to report on.
I get the impression there's so much money spent on salaries and pensions there's none left for basic factual reporting.
Regards Ken Maidens.(Grumpy old man)

  • 25.
  • At 06:02 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Will Harris wrote:

It is not the BBC's responsibility to save the planet alone, it is every company's responsibility. It is not the responsibility of an individual to save the planet, it is beyond the scope of an individual to have an impact on it. This brings us to the government.

It IS the government's responsibility to force us all, companies and individuals, to protect the planet. Only the government can pass laws to affect specific behavior. But not just our government, all governments!

So, I hope you can see, that it is the actions of our leaders that will dictate the fate of the planet. They are the only ones with the scope of influence to have a real impact.

Regards,

Will

  • 26.
  • At 06:04 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Paul Daniel wrote:

First of all, the planet does not need saving, it is in no danger, only the mixed bunch of human and animal inhabitants that live on it.
Secondly, it is everyone's job to try and save humanity and our animal friends from extinction and that includes the BBC.
Thirdly, I think that the BBC does have to maintain a balance and an obvious impartiality and should try to not only explain what all parties think on the issue but also try to put things as a whole in perspective.

By the last point, I mean not taking as an absolute truth some glib comments put out by scientists regarding the consequences of Mrs Smith driving her kids to school in a 4x4, throwing a bottle in the bin, etc.

For example, I heard on a recent BBC radio programme that one massive coal mine fire in China (one of many such fires), contributes as much carbon dioxide to the atmosphere each year as all of the vehicles in the USA and that the total of all human CO2 emissions is less than 5% of the whole generated each year by everything on the planet. So, if all of your viewers were to start riding bikes and stop driving cars it would be of minimal benefit to the World's environment compared to sorting out a few big problems in China. Would we not therefore be better off challenging the Chinese to act rather than swapping the 4x4 for a bus that kicks out filthy diesel?
Also, what real effect does all of the recycling we are being encouraged to do potentially have on climate change? I suspect that the net effect of all the recycling is very little once the energy costs of collection and handling are taken into account, including taking loads of the stuff to China to dump it in a big hole there instead of in Kent or Essex. I understand that the EU has imposed recycling quotas on Councils that stupidly designate by volume, and so lots of paper and bottles are collected to meet them. However, there is a very modest net benefit to recycling these items when one considers their weight and bulk and it would be much more sensible to concentrate on recycling cans and other metals that it takes a lot of energy and CO2 release to produce. And what if the paper were not recycled? Then new trees would be required to replace it and they would absorb CO2 to the benefit of global warming. Its all more complicated than just downsizing the car or taking the bus and I would like you to do a proper job of researching all of this stuff, so that you can give us all an unbiased view of what we can each sensibly do to help save the BBC along with the rest of humanity. Oh, and if I am right about the stupidity of EU regulations on this issue, let's hear it for once, for if the BBC is biased in favour of any organisation, it is our unelected would be lords and masters in Brussels.

  • 27.
  • At 06:06 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Nick Alcock wrote:

Nigel West doesn't understand how science is done. Science is a process of discovery: except in mathematics there is no such thing as 'scientific fact', 'scientific proof' or received truths which do not allow for the possibility of future disproof. The only 'facts' in science are the things we see: nature, observed. You can't disprove such things: they *happened*.

But equally science is not a matter of opinion or of 'differing views'. For something to attain the status of a scientific theory, it must explain the observed facts better than contending theories do.

It's also not a matter of 'balance', or whenever the BBC mentions space travel or satellite launches, it should get an opinion from a flat-earther. Sometimes there is some sort of conspiracy to cover up the truth, but more often the prevailing view is hugely dominant because the other views are simply *wrong*, or don't explain observed results well. (For instance, the sphericity of the Earth has been observed, so flat-earthers are simply wrong.)

(I'm surprised that nobody's mentioned great big scientific conspiracies yet, a-la Crichton's _State of Fear_. Before anyone gets the urge to suggest such a thing, they should probably meet some actual scientists. Most of them are perhaps the least conspiratorial people you could possibly find anywhere, and most are constantly searching for ways they can disprove some established theory. There's nothing like disproving someone's work to get you published!)


And, yes, the scientific consensus on medium-term climate has changed in the last few decades --- not that 'the earth is cooling' was a consensus for very long. That's because the climate is a viciously complex and hard-to-understand system, best understood by modelling. The quality of climate models has improved vastly in the last few decades, helped by improved theoretical understanding and by immense increases in the sizes of simulations that can be run thanks to the availability of faster computers. Oddly enough, earlier coarse-grained models that didn't model little things like the movement of water in the oceans or the existence of clouds sometimes gave different results to more recent models! Also, this isn't politics: a change in results doesn't indicate some sort of hypocrisy, merely improvement.)

  • 28.
  • At 06:10 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Vivian Perkins wrote:

Think we should all do our bit and that includes the BBC.

  • 29.
  • At 06:11 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Mrs Susan C Carson wrote:

It would be an excellent idea if Newsnight is seen to be leading the discussion in promoting the agenda. You have a powerful voice and people listen to you

  • 30.
  • At 06:23 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • chris wrote:

Everyone playing pass the buck till mother nature floods us all with our own irresponsible behaviour and the great grand children damn our selfishness to hell.

So many things could have been done.

  • 31.
  • At 06:25 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Ceri wrote:

Actually, I do think it's the BBC's job to try and save the planet. I think it's everybody's job - especially high profile and well respected organisations like the BBC.
Imagine the concept of 'every little bit helps' on the scale of the BBC. What a difference it would make. What a motor for change it could be.

  • 32.
  • At 06:26 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • fiona foster wrote:

It is everyone's job to try to save the planet.......(duh....).....

  • 33.
  • At 06:27 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • fiona foster wrote:

It is everyone's job to try to save the planet.......(duh....).....

  • 34.
  • At 06:31 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Steve wrote:

It is everybody's job to save the planet, and that includes the BBC. The BBC's role should be (1) to inform and educate to help make people aware of the issues, the facts and the arguments (including conflicting opinions) so that they can make informed choices, and (2) to be 'green' itself, reviewing all its operations to assess their environmental impact and taking action to reduce that impact. Any chance of a carbon-neutral BBC?

  • 35.
  • At 06:37 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • james randall wrote:

The report by "Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change" should be read along with "Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1500 Years" by physicist Fred Singer and economist Dennis Avery. Also see "The Chilling Stars: A New Theory of Climate Change" by Danish physicist Henrik Svensmark and former BBC science writer Nigel Calder, due out in March.

1. The planet does not need to be saved. It will endure. It is the human race in an era of modern civilization that is facing a bleak future. We might all want to explore how we can leave a planet for our children and grandchildren that is habitable and bearable.

2. I am not concerned with what 'most people' think about global warming and climate change. But I do pay attention to what the majority of scientists think. Science has come a long way from the Middle Ages. When almost all scientists are in agreement, it is probably wise to pay attention.

3. Remember...it's global warming AND climate change. As the planet in general warms, some parts will get cooler as ocean currents shift the patterns to which we've become accustomed. Whether it's colder in your village or not, it is beyond question that the AVERAGE temp is rising worldwide. The melting icecaps and glaciers worldwide are as good evidence as is needed.

4. It is probable that no one thing is responsible, but it is certain that human presence and activity (whether from food production or automobiles or whatever) is playing a part. We are in a race to accommodate our species...AND other species... to the coming inevitable changes. We can't affect the Sun, or El Nino, or some of the causes. So all the more need to affect the causes we CAN affect.

It is not the BBC's responsibilty to save the planet. The last time I looked they were a broadcaster, not and environmentalist channel! Most of my friends/colleagues etc are more in the Boris Johnson line of thought: "I must atone! I must make a sacrifice! I must offset my emissions and appease the great irascible Sun-god as he prepares to griddle us all. I had heard somewhere that you could be "carbon-neutral" by planting trees before you fly. That's right. Shove in a few poplars, I was told, and bingo, you can feel all good about your skiing holiday or your winter break in Tunisia. So I dialled up the eco-websites and — what's this? It turns out they have got it all wrong! Guilt-stricken Western holidaymakers and others have so far paid £300 million to have trees planted in their name by carbon offset companies, and the whole thing turns out to be a complete nonsense.
It now appears the scientists think the trees just make things worse. Far from soaking up your share of CO2, most trees in non-tropical areas are thought to trap heat and thereby increase global warming."source:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?
xml=/opinion/2007/01/11/do1101.xml
So much for carbon offsetting!

  • 38.
  • At 06:59 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Iarla Kilbane-Dawe wrote:

For how long are journalists going to continue with this "well some people say that the Earth is flat" nonsense?

It is not the role of Newsnight to contribute to or arbitrate over a scientific debate, which is what the determination of the scientific basis of climate change is. That is the role of scientific researchers and the scientific community who, in obedience to the international political community, have agreed a process by which that scientific debate can proceed, the IPCC.

Newsnight is a television programme, not a scientific research institute. By choosing to claim some kind of "impartiality" in this matter, Newsnights editors are effectively proclaiming that their ability to arbitrate truth is superior to that of the IPCC, the consensus of some 2500 scientists from 134 nations. I'd be very interested to hear your qualifications in this matter.

Similar self-aggrandisement, ignorance and ill-judgement by the media, including Newsnight and the BBC in general, has left children in the UK dead from measles after the disgraceful MMR debacle. I don't hear many journalists apologising for that.

Anyway, I firmly expect to soon see a Newsnight special on the continuing controversy over the notion that the Earth is round, which continues to cost the global economy untold billions of dollars, when it's perfectly obvious to anyone that it's flat and held up by giant turtles. I hope to be interviewed as an expert on the alternative viewpoint.

  • 39.
  • At 07:17 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Anne wrote:

The context matters. I've just listened to Philip Stott on BBC London's drivetime show. This is the day that the IPCC report is out. So what you've got is Stott (talking about myths and uncertainties) on one side, some guy from friends of the earth (for the IPCC report) on the other and two talkshow presenters who don't seem to know anything about climate change.
He stated his case without questions, the guy from FOE did the same. Who would you rather listen to?

  • 40.
  • At 07:19 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Philip wrote:

Sorry, Peter, but I think it is part of everyone's job to save the planet.

I admire Jeremy as a journalist, and welcome him not wishing to kow-tow to 'groupthink' and have an independent mind. I also think he makes a very important point that 'warm words' mean nothing if the action doesn't involve taking action to reduce one's carbon footprint.

But the fact is that in the paper today I am reading about a 'coalition' funded by Exxon Mobil, called [in alarmingly Orwellian newspeak] the American Enterprise Institute, is offering $10,000 to scientists to dispute climate change.

Exxon Mobil and Shell have this week announced bumper profits. Does the BBC have the responsibility to give a rebuttal to all their 'greenwash' ?

Possibly not - that may allow it to fall into the trap which the right wing bloggers have set of being a 'Guardian of the airwaves'. Does it have a responsibility to report the balanced argument put forward by a coalition of respected scientists in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that it is 90% certain that there is man-made global warming ?

You bet it does. Does it have to hold back from reporting that until it has a zero carbon footprint ? Nope.

But does Paxo have the right to point out where the BBC may not be making enough progress to becoming a part of the solution instead of part of the problem ?

Of course he does - and even if he didn't he would do it anyway, so get to used to it. Paxo is an 'attack dog' - if you don't like the sound of barking, you should have bought a cat.

  • 41.
  • At 07:19 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Andrew Myers wrote:

Many people think God created humans. There are no doubt some people who think the Earth is flat. There may even be some people who think the Sun is the center of the universe. But when science has proven something beyond reasonable doubt, is it not fair to take it as fact and then perhaps the argument should be not if, but by how much?

  • 42.
  • At 07:20 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Chris Walker wrote:

Re: Herman De Wulf
Don't confuse the scientific reality of anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change with the punchy media title "Global Warming". An increase in the amount of solar energy trapped in the atmosphere by the Carbon Dioxide and other greenhouse gasses doesn't necessarily mean that everywhere on the earth will warm up equally. Rather the average temperature will go up, but the distribution of temperatures and the "natural" atmospheric patterns may be disrupted. This is why some scientists think their models show that global warming will in fact lead to a colder climate across the British Isles. I think the main point should be that the increase in trapped heat energy is upsetting the natural weather patterns and we can't be exactly sure how that will manifest itself across the globe, but it probably won't be fun finding out... My feeling from following the debate is that we should expect more of these extreme weather events, more droughts, perhaps more severe winters, more hurricanes etc.
Also, I'd point out that snowfall doesn't necessarily relate to temperature, hence the old phrase "Too cold to snow". Rather, snowfall reflects cold air meeting moist air. Where does extra moist air come from? From increased evaporation over warmer seas, perhaps driven unusually far north by these mdified weather patterns.
By similar logic I'd also point out that extra icebergs also relate to extra warmth. If glaciers get colder they stick to the bottom more and move more slowly. If temperatures rise the rock/ice interface gets lubricated, the glacier moves faster and more icebergs are dumped into the sea. I encourage everyone to read further into the Earth Climate systems to understand how much we know about the earth and it's interrelated systems, and messing with them might not be the smartest idea.
Finally, as an Oil Industry employee I'd like to point out that amost all the major companies recognize the challenges posed by our carbon-based economy and are investing large amounts of money into Alternative energy sources. I think last week ExxonMobil actually stopped funding the climate change deniers at the AIE, not a moment too soon! The equal time argument really doesn't apply in a rare situation like this where 99% of scientists actually agree on something... You might as well have someone arguing for spontaneous generation on T.V. after any mention of diesase.

  • 43.
  • At 07:41 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • anon wrote:

"These guys are funded by oil companies, who have a particular vested interest. Make sure it's known."

Oil companies have no more of a vested interest than scientists who want money and resources for their research and see global warming scaremongering as the quickest way to get it. Make sure it's known.

  • 44.
  • At 07:45 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

How green should we be? It seems to me BBC is already as green as it can get...with envy for the US. Every third story is about the US, criticizes the US, or in some way involves America or Americans. Considering we are only talking about 5% of the world's population, that's more than envy, it's an obsession. BBC is also green about the US as in green as a tinhorn. Despite its sometimes seemingly encyclopedic knowlegde of superficial aspects of American history and culture, when it comes down to the crux of it, it's a complete mystery to them. If there was any doubt of it, BBC's series "America Age of Empire" proved it. Those Americans who weren't offended by its basic premise just laughed it off as another BBC inanity.

  • 45.
  • At 07:48 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Hilda Meers wrote:

It's everybody's job to try to save the planet.Obvious. Is the editor just being provocative, then?

  • 46.
  • At 08:24 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Mike Stallings wrote:

Jeremy Paxman fails to realise that global warming is science, not politics. The BBC can only report on the prevailing view of science, and on what the majority of scientists believe.

Should the BBC, for the sake of impartiality, refuse to talk about evolution as if it's true? Should the BBC CONSTANTLY point out that there MAY actually be a creator, for scientists have no evidence that there is no creator, only a hypothesis. And should the BBC also CONSTANTLY point out that some believe the fossil record was placed there by "God" to test "His" followers' faith?

Science should not be confused with politics; there should be a clear separation between the two. Jeremy Paxman debates politics, which is about as far away from science as you can get.

What the BBC ought to do is NOT present other views and opinions from non-scientists - as this isn't politics! - but clearly explain the science behind global warming, which is extensive, so people can understand why the majority of scientists hold the view that they do.

And by doing this, the BBC would be dealing with the issue of impartiality - albeit implicitly, and in a rather more intelligent and scientific way than merely juxtaposing opposing views.

  • 47.
  • At 08:40 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • katherine wrote:

Its not just the BBC's job to persuade us but EVERYONE needs to think more responsibly. Its the current and upcoming generations that are going to pay for our lifestyle -we all should aim for a more sustainable way of living as in using what we need and no more to safeguard the needs of future generations and people. If you look at the issue globally the 1st to be affected will always the poorest; based on location and life chances.
The USA, China and India need to step up as well -who will move first?

Does Global Warming include both pollution and climate-change? Aren't they entirely different - one is caused by the continued use of fossil-fuels, thus changing the chemical content of the air that we breathe as well as the prospective elimination of any natural daylight* and the other is caused by (1) 'massaging' weather patterns (or cloud-seeding, etc.) causing changed weather patterns and (2) artificially initiating earth movements, tsunamis, (et cetera, et cetera, et cetera) using NUCLEAR ..... technology. Plus (as a sideline) GM plants/flowers means they can last longer, or even all year, if the 'pharmers' programme them to.

And despite what Mr Paxman said in his co-broadcast with Kirsty Wark in 1989, there IS, in fact, plenty of evidence to suggest that deriving energy from fusion is economically viable contrary to what we're told by the oil producers, oil 'barons' and industry-financed scientists.

Maybe all this 'global warming' is just an excuse to allow for the mass migration of the poverty-stricken to the credit-rich (not 'cash'-rich) countries of the world ........ instead of tackling the problem at source.

* I can't be the only one who's seen for many years the lack of sunsets in any country (especially mediterranean/ equatorial)- the sun just disappears 2 hours earlier into a 'bank' .... of dirty, smoggy, thick pollution.

  • 49.
  • At 08:58 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Jo-An M Partridge wrote:

As an expat I enjoy the daily news from Newsnight.

To me the BBC's obligation to the listening and viewing public is to present facts as available at the time of going to air.

It is not the BBC's role to tell it s audience what they should or should not do.

We have been given minds to make choices and it is up to us to make the right decisions when it comes to lifestyle. Unfortunately, we do not live in an ideal world, so the smokers, drinkers, our gas guzzling machines, etc. will continue to pollute the air and reduce the chances of maintaining a sustainable environment. It is a case of "I'm OK Jack." and to hell to the future.

  • 50.
  • At 09:05 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • lesley thompson wrote:

I think the BBC does have a responsibility to educate people not only on the scientific facts of Global Warming but on the Political tampering of scientific evidence that is going on. Scientists are not in dispute about the accelorating rate of Climate Change, only politicians and those with short term vested interests in 'business as usual'
As to impartiality, we are not here discussing the relative merits of one scientific school of thought over another. The issue is how the BBC decides to present the undeniable facts of Climate Change. It must take its lead from the foremost scientific experts in the field, not politicians or industrialists. In this week's Wednesday issue of the Guardian (p14) a report released by the Union of Concerned Scientists and the American Government Accountability Project reveals the way in which the Bush administration has for many years sought to discourage free academic enquiry and to systematically doctor the reports of American scientists concerning climate change.
In the survey of 1600 scientists at 7 governmental agencies 46% had received 'political warnings' to ammend the wording of their work in ways that altered the meaning of scientific findings. Drew Shindell, a scientist at Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies described how officials had repeatedly objected to the title of a report which measured rapid warming in Antarctica. The only report that was acceptable to The White House was so watered down its significance was lost. Moreover the testimony in Congress heard how Mr Cooney, a former lobbyist for the petroleum industry and now employee of Exxon Mobil, personally edited out a key section of an Environmental Protection agency report to Congress on the dangers of climate change. Since the Democrats took control of Congress this month already five bills proposing mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions have been proposed in the House and Senate.
The BBC has an ethical responsibility to the people of the world to demystify the obfuscation and spin surrounding the reporting of Global Warming. It must seriously engage the scientific community of experts and warn people of the dangers of doing nothing. As far as is possible the BBC should be engaging us in all in a process of scientific discovery of what is really happening to the world around us.
Writing in the New Statesman last week, Josh Arnold-Forster (special adviser to John Reid at the MOD from 2005-2006) raises the question of what happens if, or when, sea levels rise and force millions from their homes in Bangladesh, the Nile Delta and coastal regions of China? What happens when floods, landslides and storms regularly leave millions unemployed and homeless?
The security implications for all of us are highly significant. Few of us have yet grasped the urgency and scale of the looming crises and the carbon clock is ticking. Take the initiative BBC! You have global reporting power - dont be timid! Dont shy away from the motoring and fossil fuel lobby and their poodle politicians ....its time to follow the more visionary initiatives of communities across the land...

I feel the point is that every single human being has to take responsibility for the creation of what we have today. It is our duty of care toward the planet to improve its stability, to provide beneficial results for those who come after us.

Those who want to bury their heads and say climate changes is not our fault and point to past explanations of the cyclical nature of the planets heritage have a point. Yes, it is obvious that some effects are within the nature of our world. But I feel this view can become stuck in this mode of thought, and industrialized communities will readily point to it so they don’t have to take responsibility for anything and eat into each other’s profits.

I feel the facts of global warming will only be available and taken on if we can perceive it in the face of evidence. But, if we wait on science to bring solutions we could be limiting our ability to alter the events because it will be too late. Many people feel powerless because of the scale of what faces us, but by changing our behavior, and if necessary, each other’s, we at least have a chance to unravel the last 300 years of degradation.

The BBC has a part to play not in being biased irrationally, but in allowing the voice of humanity to speak for itself and report upon those voices; inspiring others to do something positive for everyone’s mutual benefit. You, and other media outlets, television stations, newspapers, radio, etc, are the voice of the people. You would tell us if there was going to be world war three wouldn’t you? Well, this is far worse than that!

If at the exit of the next 100 years from now it turns out to be untrue and global warming was a sop; we will have at least pushed the attitude and behavior as well as science of some of the industrialized nations into acts which will benefit us all, rather than the selfish traits they now exhibit. Having a cleaner environment will at least be something your children will thank you for. However, if is true and we don’t do anything, there will be no history.

Every minute we delay is another year to pay. Pay for this now and we will at least begin the road to recover and return an environment of health and stability for all beings living here.

Of course it's not the BBC's job to 'try to save the planet'. But impartial news coverage means not taking a side on issues on which there is more than one tenable position, not seeking a non-existent middle ground on questions about which there is a general consensus. Thus most viewers don't expect the views of the Flat Earth Society to be represented in a discussion on scientific matters, let alone self-interested industry figures trying to save the short-term prosperity of their employers at the expense of the planet and future generations.

Since Lord Reith's time, the BBC's remit has been to educate, inform and entertain. If the BBC works to educate and inform audience members about climate change and the impact that human behaviour is having, that may lead some (hopefully many) members of that audience to the inescapable conclusion that it is THEIR resposibility to 'try to save the planet'. The BBC's job is to facilitate this.

  • 53.
  • At 10:11 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Steve wrote:

It is everybody's job to save the planet, and that includes the BBC. The BBC's role should be (1) to inform and educate to help make people aware of the issues, the facts and the arguments (including conflicting opinions) so that they can make informed choices, and (2) to be 'green' itself, reviewing all its operations to assess their environmental impact and taking action to reduce that impact. Any chance of a carbon-neutral BBC?

  • 54.
  • At 10:28 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Eddie Ward wrote:

It is now reaching hysterical behaviour the way people are talking about so called climate change and global warming.Why do the BBC insist on pushing it's own opinions on the said spurious subjects.We knew 50 yrs ago that the seasons would change.You can find all the answers in the Bible,but sadly people don't want answers,they only want non existent problems to promote that generate good incomes and power to a section of the population.Education is not wisdom.Regards.Flatroofer.

  • 55.
  • At 10:45 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • anon wrote:

Accepting the arguments of a group of people without question is bad science, and bad journalism. It is the same behaviour that gets criticised by scientists when discussing religion.

  • 56.
  • At 11:26 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Allie wrote:

I think the BBC has it exactly right on climate change ... but I think it should take notice of what Paxman has to say, too.

But why do you bother taking any notice of whiny websites like the one you mention? Who cares what they think?!

  • 57.
  • At 12:11 AM on 03 Feb 2007,
  • Hassan Asmal wrote:

Jeremy is right.

  • 58.
  • At 12:41 AM on 03 Feb 2007,
  • Debbie wrote:

I think more thought needs to go into the consequences of jumping on *all* of the green bandwagons. Sure there needs to be some common sense applied but when we start thinking about restricting the capacities for our news providers to freely gather news and information about our world then we have a real problem. I also think that we need to think more about the consequences of things such as not using air-conditioning or lighting in buildings at night (and reducing our use during the day). These things are essential to the comfort of the workers (a lot of people work at night as well ). To cut back on these things will certainly be beneficial - to business corporations – it’ll save them a lot of money at the worker’s expense. There are a lot of ordinary people who are being persuaded to give up a lot of their most basic comforts such as an air-conditioned office for what they are told is the greater good. I appreciate everyone’s concern and caring and I think it shows a positive human side but I think we also need to think about the consequences of a lot of the things we demand in terms of Green.

  • 59.
  • At 01:56 AM on 03 Feb 2007,
  • Debbie wrote:

I don’t believe that BBC crews should pay their own “offset” fees. Travel is a necessary part of their job. To require individual staff members to pay the “offset” tax suggests that “offset” is a different running cost from office space, equipment, desk space, airline tickets and so on. If the BBC is committed to the idea that the people don’t pay their license fees to be spent on “offset” arrangements then they should take it up with those powers that require “offset” and it’s probably in the best interest of the public to get behind them.

At every turn there are companies demanding monetary concessions from their staff supposedly in the interest of the greater good.

  • 60.
  • At 02:09 AM on 03 Feb 2007,
  • Debbie wrote:

“At every turn there are companies demanding monetary concessions from their staff supposedly in the interest of the greater good.”

Where are these issues debated – where do we get our say? In the media – that includes the BBC.

  • 61.
  • At 02:52 AM on 03 Feb 2007,
  • nigel perry wrote:

The BBC's job is to provide us with information. That includes letting us know about contrarian views and what proportion of scientists holds them.
But what I can not understand is why the BBC's interviewers have allowed the issue of population to be ignored in the climate / pollution debate.
By all means change your light bulbs and take your TV off standby, but remember that if you have three children then you have set consumtion to increase by 50% for the long term.
In addition to all other measures - and to prevent them from being futile - we need immediate action to reduce our numbers.

  • 62.
  • At 04:00 AM on 03 Feb 2007,
  • henry cossey wrote:

If the BBC can only get the morons to realise that we should be practicing"Survival of the fittest",and not as at present "Survival of the unfit".The drug companies have a field day every day,with their hundreds of pills and potions forced onto unsuspecting human guinea pigs.,at great expense. Here in australia the "oldies" can visit six doctors a day,if they so wish.,and at no charge if they find bulk billers,and have a pension card.So you can imagine the waste of pills etc.The chemist shops love it!So I think the BBC should get involved,but not if they are going to upset the multi-national money makers. Regards Henry

  • 63.
  • At 06:20 AM on 03 Feb 2007,
  • k.k.chandran wrote:

Dear Sir
The planet Earth is not only belonged to the ruling class and the military,but it is also belonged to all peace loving living beings already here and also to all the generations to come.I dont know for whom the the bell of mass destruction of entire eco-bio-system tolls.I really wonder what does edcation mean to those who plan to destroy the Growth !
k.k.chandran, film maker.

I think yes, Peter. It's also the BBC's job to try to save the Earth.

And not only the BBC, but CNN, and other big "Medias", since the "heart" of their missions is "enlightening" the news.

There're whole sections on those houses which are working on this field, and I don't think their jobs are to only broadcast weather news daily. They should whip it too through so many concerned bodies to influence what's necessary to be done when climate's risks arise from some human behaviour, or big multi-nations companies' behaviours.

Yes, those media houses are not the Green Peace Corp., but one target for the news to be done is prophylactic. Those "Medias" are not supposed to tell the news just for the sake of the news. They need to prophesy some times, as they need to make sure their planet is OK, so as to keep on doing their jobs. It makes sense for the Media to go Green more than any other intellectual field.

Yes, this should happen since the Media is a "Belief".

I think those who produce dangerous products in this field should be prosecuted.

The BBC is a great educational tool for people around the world.

As English is such a powerful language, the BBC is accessed globally, so can have a huge impact on education for change. Green house gases belong to every country, so the BBC has a huge responsibility to be part of the solution.

Sometimes you have licence problems when accessing the website abroad.

Some great links are:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/sci_tech/2006/energy/default.stm

http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/specials/1349_energy/

Please add the www.thewatt.com to you podcast feeder or visit the website.

Interviews with experts regarding global warming, the stern report, peak oil will be conducted soon.

theWatt is news, views, discussion, ideas and learning about all energy topics.You can submit energy news or start your own discussions in theWatt Forums.

  • 66.
  • At 01:23 PM on 03 Feb 2007,
  • Kathleen McMullen wrote:

We've only got one planet! It's amazing how people write as though they are apart or separate from it's well-being. The facts are these, we are going to have to breed less, consume less and be caretakers of the planet.

Thats means a re-definition of our role on earth seeing our planet as an equal active participant in our lives, rather than a passive recipient of our amibitions, and fantasies. The BBC should make sure its archives are preserved for future generations, in case they do end up living in sizzling deserted wastelands.

  • 67.
  • At 02:07 PM on 03 Feb 2007,
  • Malcolm wrote:

Why the assumption every argument has exactly 2 sides who all agree, I think you need to show the range of opinion but that does not mean equal time to 2 specific opinions.

How would you cover parliament if you tried to claim only the opinions of labour and the conservatives [to my mind the current major 2 opinions there] matter.

A big thank you to Mssrs Paxman and Barron for opening up the question of what it means to be impartial in such a highly charged and specialist area.

I'll comment if I may on three paragraphs in turn, finishing with a specific suggestion for a story of global importance that, happily, can be brought to light with scarcely a small toe's worth of impact to Newsnight's carbon footprint.


> So, what constitutes impartiality on this issue? Should we, every time the issue of climate change is raised, include someone like Myron Ebell from the US Competitive Enterprise Institute, who argues that while climate change may be happening there's no evidence that it's caused by human activity and absolutely no need to reduce carbon emissions?

The simple answer is no, in my view it's not reasonable to expect someone like Myron Ebell to be included every time.

> Some members of our team hold more or less that view and indeed we had Mr Ebell on the programme only last week, but we don't put such figures on every time. To do that would be a massive distortion of the scientific opinion which is overwhelmingly of the view that climate change is being influenced by human activity.

There is clearly now a strong consensus not just among prominent scientists but among activists, legislators and the media. It is entirely right that this is often reflected.


> But if Newsnight stands for anything it should certainly stand against group-think, so while the broad thrust of our coverage accepts the orthodox view, we are also open to dissenting opinions.

Very good. But the idea that Newsnight can possibly make a fundamental difference to the joint and ever-growing scientific, economic and political consensus, directly, is surely vain. It's just too big a subject for that.

What you can do, very legitimately, is to highlight certain dangers that may arise once such a strong consensus holds sway.

For example, the danger that some ambitious but incompetent or unscrupulous scientist might be drawn to offer flawed research to a respected publication solely because it seems to give strong support to the reality and imminent dangers of anthropogenic global warming (AGW).

Of course, we would all assume that such a publication would spot the errors in such research through peer review and decline to publish the paper in question.

But if one finds that the most prestigious scientific publication of all, Nature, has in fact published such a paper, in 2003, and that the gross errors in it, that even a child could understand, have only been brought to light by the work of a newcomer to the climate change scene, a lone statistician with a stubborn streak, living in Docklands, in a peer-reviewed paper published this month in "Theoretical and Applied Climatology" ...

then I suggest you have a story that even Paxman can get his teeth into, without fear of being bamboozled by faux complexity.

The statistician in question, Douglas Keenan, points out in some recent, hard-hitting web pages that this disturbing individual case points to grave systemic issues. The pages to read, in order of size and scientific sophistication, are:

http://www.informath.org/apprise/a3600.htm
http://www.informath.org/apprise/a3200.htm
http://www.informath.org/apprise/a3200/b2.htm

I can only stress again that it's vain for any of the Newsnight team to feel that they can overturn the juggernaught of climate change consensus (though it's encouraging, purely from due regard to the scientific method itself, to hear that some sceptical voices are still heard among you).

A report on what Douglas has uncovered should not in any way be positioned as a refutation of all the myriad evidences (or otherwise) for the consensus view. It simply won't remotely stretch that far.

But it may go a long way towards keeping the process truly honest. For that, as great scientists and humanitarians, I'm sure that the elite of the AGW world will be only too eager to thank you.

  • 69.
  • At 05:53 PM on 03 Feb 2007,
  • tom cantwell wrote:

A look through the various postings on this topic across the BBC website will show that sceptics are in the majority, not the minority. This is because anyone able to use their own brain realises that we are being sold a lie. Shame on the BBC for perpetuating this myth day in and day out on the news with virtually no comment from an intelligent person. The 'news' items always mention Global Warming then Human carbon emissions. The two items are not linked, despite huge efforts to prove a link for those with vested interests in having us believe this garbage.
Global Warming has been happening since the last ice age and will continue until the next one, with or without humans.
Human activity that contributes to global warming is due to the world's population explosion - billions of people more than just a few hundred years ago, all converting food into heat, as well as methane!
All of the world's fossil fuels are going to be burned until they run out. Taxing this won't stop it all being burned.
Mt St Helens put more CO2 into the atmosphere than all humans.
Humans contribute 3% of current CO2 emissions.
People queing on congested roads while grant-maintained empty buses have their own lanes does not save fuel, it wastes it.
30 years ago scientists were supposedly saying we were headed for an ice age.
Thousands of years ago you could walk across the English Channel, it filled with water long before people started driving 4X4s.
The BBC should present a less biased view, read the many posts on its own website and stop spouting this delusional new religion.

  • 70.
  • At 07:54 PM on 03 Feb 2007,
  • Rich wrote:

The BBC has become all too keen on accepting the orthodox view on just about every major scare story that finds its way onto the news agenda these days. These are often issues where there is no scientific, medical or theoretical consensus and where the prevailing wisdom we all accept has only been established by through saturation media coverage which is heavily skewed to reflect one particular body of thought.

This may be partly understandable, if not forgivable, where the commercial media are concerned, as ultimately they exist to maximise viewer / reader figures and hence advertising profits, and if the Chicken Little 'sky is falling' moral panic approach achieves that, they've no qualms in resorting to it. However, as a public service broadcaster you have a duty to at least present the divergent opinion even if the emphasis given to it may vary.

Instead of series such as 'Fat Nation' and various propaganda articles on recycling, reducing travel etc. which don't even bother to unpick the underlying way in which an issue may be socially constructed before proceeding to advance all manner of solutions, it would be refreshing to maybe see a series of in-depth programmes on issues such as climate change, obesity, crime and disorder, binge drinking, which would include input from experts with opposing viewpoints and ALL the relevant facts. There is much 'expert' analysis that never really reaches the general public precisely because it contradicts the accepted media / establisment view on the matter.

Give us the facts and the comments of everyone with a knowledge of a subject and let us make our own minds up instead of assuming (or ensuring?) that we all buy into Government groupthink on the big issues of the day. Whether it's the BBC's job to save the planet is one thing, but your remit certainly doesn't include softening up the populace and promoting the current agenda of punitive taxation as a check on behaviour.

  • 71.
  • At 08:57 PM on 03 Feb 2007,
  • Jonathan Carroll wrote:

I think it is up to the BBC to tell people they must think 'green' and 'responsability'. The sheeple are in need of moral guidance on these issues. If their leaders show ambiguity or ambivalence, they will not do their best about the issue. Would "Dig For Victory" have been successfull in any significant way without the prevailing propaganda? We can't stop GW, but every degree by which it's effects can be reduced is a direct reduction in suffering to follow. We, you, everyone is morally obliged to lessen the suffering of their neighbour, which, as we live under the same atmospheric roof, means everyone on Earth.

  • 72.
  • At 12:05 AM on 04 Feb 2007,
  • James Bernard wrote:

After reading the last paragraph i was reminded of a story of an old man walking along the beach when he came across hundreds of starfish washed ashore. In the middle of the starfish was a small boy throwing them back into the sea one by one. "Thats not going to make much of a difference" said the old man. As the boy threw another into the sea he replied "It did to that one"!
I think that if we each do a little, then as a whole we will do a lot. Like a motorcycle, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We each have a part to play, and if we don't, then things will go wrong. Which makes me think of what ever happened to community... but thats another story... alas

  • 73.
  • At 12:10 AM on 04 Feb 2007,
  • John Wilson wrote:

I do admire the BBC on much of its work to inform and educate us,however, the shine in enthusiasm wains a little when the issue of Global warming is thrust at us with ever increasing tones of crisis. Gordon Brown is grossly out of order in doubling the tax on air travel
on back of advanced media softening up of the warming crisis. If this very small island gave up all their cars, shut down all its Industrial production and stopped all flying it would make no difference to the onset of the event. I am all for reducing costs and pollution as many other sensible citizens but stop this stupid tax ethos and allow industry and individuals to use their own money to adjust to the change. How about the BBC pushing this concept in balance.

You ask about impartiality.

I think one way the BBC is handicapped in addressing impartiality in connection with scientific and technical questions is CP Snow's 'two cultures.' There are other ways to test the claims of an Ebell or a Lindzen than just to count the number of scientists who disagree with them, but, culturally, the BBC finds it hard to apply them.

Blunt version: if someone's talking scientific baloney, you seem to need a pukka scientist to tell you that when, really, you should have the education and confidence to work it out for yourselves.

Your interviewers turn to Nick Robinson for the final summary on politics, but they are perfectly capable of holding their end up without him when inteviewing politicians. It should be the same for dealing with scientists with a political agenda.

It is not the BBC’s right to take a position on anything. It has no right to have its coverage accept any view, orthodox or otherwise. This kind of position taking, this meddling in political affairs – and this is a political issue – is wholly wrong and immoral. Should it not simply report events and have the protagonists on tv & radio to explain their actions and elected UK politicians on the airwaves to comment on them? At what point in all this does the BBC feel it has the right to play judge and jury in public affairs?

The BBC makes statements day in and day out. Most of us are aware of the BBC’s standpoint on most issues. The problem is, it shouldn’t hold views on anything. Typical of the many opinionated statements the BBC issues every day was this BBC statement broadcast on Saturday 3rd Feb 2007 on BBC Radio 4 at around 7:45pm “the Western world certainly needs insight into the Arab world right now”. This may be an orthodox view, but it is a view all the same. Why can’t the BBC keep its views to itself and let us decide?

I have no idea about the existence (and if so) cause and solution to climate change. Why? Because the one media outlet I would have looked to for impartial information on the subject gave up being impartial long ago. Of course, the BBC may be right about its fears for climate change and the future of the planet. The trouble is, due to its history of bias, how can we believe it?

For what it’s worth, I reckon this position-taking by the BBC will be its downfall. It will find itself increasingly muzzled. The World Service may be the first casualty as it pumps out its new liberal agenda to world. It is surely only a matter of time before the pressure of many governments and peoples around the world to reign in this opinionated upstart may force our government to act. Taming of the domestic service may follow. If this happens it will be a sad day for our democracy, but I think the BBC is asking for trouble – but perhaps, in its arrogance, it doesn’t realize it. Now how green is that?

  • 76.
  • At 09:40 AM on 05 Feb 2007,
  • Sam wrote:

Whilst i can accept to a certain point the BBC's bias on the climate issue given the weight of scientific opinion i cannot understand the level of hypocrisy.

As stated the BBC believes climate change is a problem and constantly pontificates about it to us.

And yet every day at 6.55am when the BBC news switches to Central news for my local broadcast i see a woman sat in front of a office with dozens of PC's blazing away with there monitors on and nobody using them.

How can anyone take the beeb seriously on climate change when they see this every day. Also i hear the way the new BBC television centre was designed was far from green, i heard somthing about having to have the air conditioning on constantly even in the winter. Thats disgrqaceful.

Maybe its a case of the BBC saying 'do as i say not as i do'.

  • 77.
  • At 10:40 AM on 05 Feb 2007,
  • John Knight wrote:

I fear people who think there are 'two sides' to every argument. Often there are many more than two. Sometimes there is only one. Sometimes the 'sides' are so grossly disproportionate in terms of the credibility of those arguing that there is no point in examining their arguments. With Global Warming we have a case in point. The IPCC takes evidence from about 2,500 independent academics, and is itself not funded by any single government or indstrial body. On the other 'side' there are people who almost always have clear financial and ideological links to organisations who are at the root of the problem; to wit big oil, US heavy industry, the motor industry and so on. At the same time there is a real debate, which is ignored by the media, which is around relative merits of models, predictive success and failure, and the relative probabilities of all the outcomes.

It really isn't possible to deny the basic physics of anthropogenic climate change, it is possible to argue about exactly what might happen as a result.

Oh, and by the way, while the plaent is warming there is absolutely no reason why some areas should not experience extremely cold temperatures; that kind of thing is weather not climate.

John

  • 78.
  • At 11:23 AM on 05 Feb 2007,
  • TIMOTHY AYUBA wrote:

WE SHOULD GREEN CONCIOUS SO AS TO PRESERVE THE PLANET FOR OUR FUTURE GENERATIONS

  • 79.
  • At 11:37 AM on 05 Feb 2007,
  • Donald wrote:

This is not a matter of being impartial it is a matter of education which is one of the BBC's main purposes. The BBC should be reflecting the weight of scientific opinion and should certainly not be giving equal prominence to fringe opinions. In fact to slavishly report every opinion on the matter without considering what the vast majority of expert analysis tells us would be political correctness taken to an extreme.

Whether the BBC is doing enough itself to reduce its energy usage and, of course, the cost to us of all the power it uses is a completely different matter.

  • 80.
  • At 02:32 PM on 05 Feb 2007,
  • Bill Ickes wrote:

Fifteen or twenty years ago BBC WorldService (shortwave) had a series of programs about "Children of the Ice" (the book) telling how the world was warmer about a Thousand years ago. They told how grapes were grown farther North or higher in altitude, and many similar facts. Also RCI, Canada had on their Science show an item about Axel Heiberg Island, above the Arctic Circle, where ancient tree remains are found. The area was warm 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. The past two years have been so warm here in the mountains of Pennsylvania that we have ripe tomatoes in October! Eating so many more tomatoes has put lots more vitamins into people. Warmer September and October will mean enormous increases in fresh vegetables and healthier people.
Thank You.

  • 81.
  • At 02:45 PM on 05 Feb 2007,
  • Sam wrote:

Donald #79

First you say you think the BBC is right to take a side on the issue then you say the BBC's own flagerant waste of energy is a 'completely different matter'?

How is that exactly? If a politician wanted for instance to ban all cars over 1500cc but made it so government ministers would be exempt and would be allowed to drive V8 Jaguars would you say that was a 'completely different matter'.

Get real.

  • 82.
  • At 02:48 PM on 05 Feb 2007,
  • Sam wrote:

Donald #79

First you say you think the BBC is right to take a side on the issue then you say the BBC's own flagerant waste of energy is a 'completely different matter'?

How is that exactly? If a politician wanted for instance to ban all cars over 1500cc but made it so government ministers would be exempt and would be allowed to drive V8 Jaguars would you say that was a 'completely different matter'.

Get real.

  • 83.
  • At 03:17 PM on 05 Feb 2007,
  • Manda Brookman wrote:

So what's your plan B, then, when there isn't an inhabitable planet to broadcast on? Astonishing logic. This isn't about tragic-minded "environmentalists" anymore - an easy tag to attach to someone who has grim news. This is it. This is what we live on. We haven't found an alternative yet. And the combined impact of climate change and peak oil will have unimaginable effects within the next ten years. Wake up, get a grip, acknowldge you're part of this just like all of us, and if the BBC does nothing else, it has a duty to inform and engage. And those two issues are THE mother issues from now on, from which all other issues will increasingly stem - without oil, we will see a profoundly different place within the decade, and if we ignore that, any hope we had of building any sort of resilience to or engagement with climate change will also trickle through our fingers. We are 6 billion Neros fiddling while our world burns around us. What a shameful waste of so much; what a selfish party we have had for the last 150 years of civilisation. If our grandchildren actually survive in the world we leave them they will look back in wonder and despair. I am ashamed; but will do everything I can to make it a little less awful for them, regardless of the flat-earthers, who appear to thrive on a diet of self-serving ignorance. Truly a civilisation worth saving? I wonder.

Just noticed my post to this didn't make it. Dodgy system or not your job to include my opinon... who's to say? Anyways, second time lucky?

"I always have trouble with these blogs because there are the questions asked in the headline. Then those asked in the body. And then those answered and asked in post replies that can be arriving in a moderated scenario out of sequence, if at all (system permitting)

So on the day of the ICCP report, in answer to the headline at the top, I’d say ‘as green as you can be, realistically!’.

That last word immediately sets up a whole can of worms. What is realistically? You are a public broadcaster. How do you best serve the public? With information and facts? But whose? Offer both sides and if you err on a view then you can be accused of bias.

And then there is the sheer volume of fact AND opinion, multiplied by blogs. I have almost given up trying to cope with all just on the Newsnight one alone about this issue, much less the BBC and then on to the major media. My blog (accessed via my site above) has tried to list all the competing majors, with more to be added.

And it can all get sidelined by trivia.. if with
some validity. Jeremy makes a pretty gutsy stand, with fair points, and then we have by way of response that he may have not switched his monitor off, so who’s he to talk? Helpful?

I’d agree with the poster who is a tad surprised that you don’t feel its your job to save the planet you are standing on.

Just make sure that if you do it, you do it for the right reasons and in the right ways..

That’s an even bigger can of worms I’m debating with some sincere, smart cookies on my site now.

I hope I’ve offered enough to fulfill your needs here for now."

  • 85.
  • At 07:04 PM on 05 Feb 2007,
  • Victoria Stiles wrote:

In order to convey any kind of information , some things have to treated as facts. Otherwise the BBC would have to start from "I think therefore I am" and prove the existence of themselves, their viewers and the rest of the world during every single report.

Journalists expect that their viewers can form their own opinions, based on past reports and other sources of information. Ridiculous levels of spoonfeeding and endless qualification of statements and motives shouldn't be necessary.

  • 86.
  • At 07:11 PM on 05 Feb 2007,
  • Victoria Stiles wrote:

In order to convey any kind of information , some things have to treated as facts. Otherwise the BBC would have to start from "I think therefore I am" and prove the existence of themselves, their viewers and the rest of the world during every single report.

Journalists expect that their viewers can form their own opinions, based on past reports and other sources of information. Ridiculous levels of spoonfeeding and endless qualification of statements and motives shouldn't be necessary.

  • 87.
  • At 07:52 PM on 05 Feb 2007,
  • Martin wrote:

Can anyone tell me the relationship between the harm done by CO2 emmissions and the good done by planting deciduous trees? How many acres of trees does it take to nullify the effect of one ton of CO2?

  • 88.
  • At 10:36 AM on 06 Feb 2007,
  • Dottie wrote:

I would really like to know the answer to Martin's question. I hope someone can answer(post 87).

The problem with newsnight is it is so bias in its own views that it can only see extremists on its opposite flank to compare with.
I've read through the IPCC report and found that, read properly (small print and all), it could easily be a different report to the one the BBC's being going on about.

The BBC is being very alarmist on the whole issue of Climate Change, and that is where it is wrong. Its helping to create an atmosphere of fear and helplessness among people who don't do critical thinking (which is most of society!)
It would be nice to see someone like Bjorn Lomborg being interviewed to give the case for the defence of science. He's not American, doesn't work for any time of big business, doesn't claim daft things, and had nothing to do with Iraq - there is no circumstantial mud the BBC could tar him with to stop people listening to a sensible argument to do with climate change - would you do it? - Nah - to many hidden agendas in Broadcasting house!

  • 90.
  • At 11:09 AM on 07 Feb 2007,
  • chris wrote:

I am very grateful for this blog. The bubble of group-think is at least pricked if not burst. If global warming is a moral issue, let’s debate morality. Ideology is carried by discourses so let’s start by looking at those:

Consensus decision making (at least in a democracy the minority is a recognised voice and isn’t bound to agree with the majority in order to keep their jobs);
Citizen responsibility (or communist obligation? - see also relocalisation Tsars below, perhaps we are heading into feudal communism?);
Moral equivalence (with WWII whether citing unanimous opposition to fascism or unanimous support for dig for victory – what is the comparison based on, the similarity between Gaia and Hitler?);
Science-based policy (academics are currently petitioning for academic freedom);
Academia (who decides who is and who isn’t a legitimised scientist and on what basis?);
Green industry (not only corporate vested interests now);
Food / air miles (reductionism vs. systems-thinking i.e. the real value of 'ecology' is to see the need to look at indirect impacts on the environment, e.g. poverty);
Save the planet (or ourselves, but which of us?);
Future generations (of who? Slum / ghetto / rubbish tip / shanty town dwellers?);
Future floods (Bangladesh already lives under floods, why no bandwagon to stop those?);
Losing the coastline (do we want complete stasis?);
Sheeple (insults never won an argument – conformity to norms is the trademark of polite society not of the voice of reason);
Risk aversion (another inherent trait of polite society);
Relocalisation (did market liberalisation release too many ‘ordinary’ people from the watchful eye of the public sector – should we round them up again - with 'Tsars'?);
Reason (or rationalisation – i.e. hidden agendas?);
Greater good (or political viewpoint?);
Green guru (do we need 'gurus'?);
Concerned (playing the moral high ground – who is to say dissenters are not equally ‘concerned’?);
Ethical (see future generations above);
Chickens and starfish (take your pick, there’s an animal analogy for everyone);
Flat Earthers (the entire solar system, excluding Pluto, lies in a Frisbee-shaped disc);
Mobile phones (environmental and health hazard or the liberation of an entire continent of people oppressed by dictators – where ‘Aid’ failed?);
Green capitalism (“carbon trading has so far been the domain of big power companies and heavy industry; in future we may see schemes involving supermarkets, local government and even individual citizens. Yet economists aside, most people have little interest in carbon markets” – perhaps they’re saving up for the Manchester casino instead.)

The greatest benefit of this debate (and blogs in general) is being able to access the blogs of independent thinkers / scholars and to realise that one is not as deluded as the political class - vive la liberte de l’internet!

  • 91.
  • At 05:00 PM on 07 Feb 2007,
  • JR wrote:

It seems illogical for Newsnight to accept that the overwhelming body of scientific opinion is convinced climate change is caused by human activity and then argue it is not the programme's responsibility to do something about it. The BBC is not responsible for saving the world, but as a responsible organistion does have an obligation to help.

  • 92.
  • At 09:55 AM on 08 Feb 2007,
  • Dottie wrote:

Chris, (post 90) I agree with the first part of your last point -“The greatest benefit of this debate (and blogs in general) is being able to access the blogs of independent thinkers / scholars” - but I would add traditional news sites to the independent thinkers/scholars. I think we need them all. On a couple of your other points,

Chris said: “Green guru (do we need 'gurus'?);”

I think we need to be wide awake… and if you call well informed people gurus then yes we need gurus.

Chris: “Concerned (playing the moral high ground – who is to say dissenters are not equally ‘concerned’?);”

I believe dissenters are most certainly *equally* concerned (or worried if you prefer). We dissent when we are concerned – we are not “playing the moral high ground” – we’re just making sure everyone is playing fair and on *level* ground. Dissenters take the initiative to challenge the status quo. I believe we need more of it so that we can learn more. I hope that dissenters will never be intimidated into silence by the idea that they are taking the “moral high ground”.

Chris: “Sheeple (insults never won an argument…)”

True, that.

I enjoyed your questions.

  • 93.
  • At 02:46 PM on 09 Feb 2007,
  • godwin edet wrote:


BBC is doing a god work to inform and educate people on "how green we should be". For instance there are many ways of getting rid of waste products, but not all of them constitute good practice interms of making the environment clean,safe and friendly. Since people still need to taught or convince about what they might not know or appreciate, then I consider BBC to act with good intention to make the world a beeter place for us all - including the unborn.

  • 94.
  • At 11:11 AM on 10 Feb 2007,
  • ERIC ROBIN wrote:

Isn't global warming just the Chinese getting their own back at us for dumping our rubbish on them while still buying even more of their rubbish - what a viscious circle!
By the way global warming is a natural phenomenom for this earth, as we are in an interglacial period where temps rise and ice melts , currents and winds change, rain increases and 'freak' storms occur more - thats natural and happened a few trimes before .
Undoubtedly, we are making it worse
our Industrial Revolution did more damage than we are doing now the impact from China's Industrial Revolution will be a 10 thousand times worse -
So yes, we in UK can do our own little bit - dont squander power as we have been brought up to do lately
but we are NOT green -if we were fully Green it would only represent 2 % impact swing world wide .
Stop flying and stop supporting the Chinese - Indian machine that will help
Lets see the BBC report that !!

  • 95.
  • At 07:56 PM on 12 Feb 2007,
  • Thomas Morgan wrote:

When you talk of people recycling their waste via local councils, shouldn't you ask the question, are the local authorities doing enough to enable person's to recycle their entire house hold waste?? I know at least two authorities in South Wales who only allow a small amount of recycling, due to their lorries only being able to carry small amounts of recycling, they won't take the thin cardboard from frozen foods etc. Plus all the plastic bags, which contain foods such as salad and veg etc?? Only just 500m away from where I live, the local authority doesn't even offer a recycling system! So I think more onus should be put on these authorities to get their act together!!

  • 96.
  • At 02:54 PM on 14 Feb 2007,
  • Brian Fitzell wrote:


Let's hear from Lomberg and Svensmark on this;Whilst I must still remain in the not proven camp for now it does not mean that I am not taking action to reduce my effect on resources. We changed our household boiler 2 years ago and in that time have saved enough energy that could propel my small 44Kw van through 30,000 miles of mid-range usage (about 3 times its usual). I am fed up with constant harping about more visible energy usage that appears to smell of envy or previously held predjudice and becomes a mechanism to raise connected taxes on that activity. All behind a moralistic cloud (sic).
The continuing levels of innumerate ignorant hyperbolic nonsense spouted by Greens(our new Saints)is just pounding down many UK folk into poor or nearly ineffective early action
Regards Brian Fitzell
Near Sittingbourne Kent

  • 97.
  • At 09:42 AM on 06 Aug 2007,
  • Maya wrote:

"But I don't think it's the BBC's job to try to save the planet. Do you?"

It's everyone's job to try and save the planet. If publically funded bodies like the BBC aren't doing their bit, why should anyone else have to?

  • 98.
  • At 05:37 PM on 06 Aug 2007,
  • grania davy wrote:

The BBC is a service that we pay for and as such I expect news, information, and documentary programmes to be delivered and constructed in a non-biased, factual and informative manner. This it fails to do across the board. Climate change is here, but as to what is causing it we do not have definitive conclusions. It behoves all of us to recycle and save energy at every level. Government and the supermarkets are getting a free ride though by not doing their bit.

  • 99.
  • At 08:59 PM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • Bill Mudd wrote:

You commented, "It is absolutely not the BBC's job to save the planet."
True but isn't it your job to inform it ?

You are thinking of yourself as some kind of moral arbitrator instead of as
an editor journalist. Just stick to reporting. We'll decide what to believe and what to agree with or not.

By choosing not to inform at all, you've used the same cop-out rational
American media uses to avoid this topic. It just cowardice in disguise.

Where are we suppose to go if all you guys are too afraid to report the
"uncomfortable" news ?

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