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Climate sceptics

Steve Herrmann Steve Herrmann | 12:00 UK time, Thursday, 15 November 2007

Richard Black, our website environment correspondent, has been tackling an ambitious challenge he set himself earlier this year. He wanted to get a better understanding of what so-called "climate sceptics" think, what arguments or evidence they have to counter the view that human activities such as industrial emissions of greenhouse gases and deforestation are bringing potentially dangerous changes to the Earth's climate.

A graphic of the BBC News websiteHe sent a set of questions to a group of signatories of an open letter which had urged the Canadian government to hold hearings on the scientific foundations of the nation's climate change plan.

He also asked website readers to email him with any research or data they had which supported the view that the scientific establishment is itself biased against climate sceptics.

He got a lot of feedback (though not as much as he expected) and it’s taken him more or less until now to sort through it. You can see the results here and in a series of articles this week by Richard and others on the website science pages.

They do a great deal to shed light on the arguments and investigate the evidence behind them. We wanted to give them proper consideration, in part to counter accusations that we simply ignore the sceptics’ views. But this also raises issues about how much weight, over time, we should give to their views, and what impartiality means on an issue like this. Richard and his colleague Roger Harrabin (BBC News' environment analyst) have written a thoughtful piece in the BBC’s in-house magazine, Ariel, explaining what they think. You can read it below.

---

By Richard Black and Roger Harrabin.

    Two significant climate conferences in the next few weeks offer the BBC a huge opportunity to improve our audiences’ understanding of this fraught and complex issue but they also present a challenge to the BBC to ensure that we report impartially. Because if we do not have a strong grasp of the fundamentals of the climate debate we risk presenting our audiences with a set of opinions which is out-dated, driven by spin or simply wrong.

Global warming cartoon from the BBC's in-house magazine

    Back in the 1980s the battleground was defined in caricature as bi-polar, with naive lentil-eaters on one side and ruthless big business on the other. But in the new reality the centre ground in climate science, economics, politics and business has shifted seismically, leaving us struggling sometimes to locate a new core of impartiality. We are still living with criticism over our coverage of MMR when we gave the impression that each side was underpinned by science of approximately equal weight. We must get it right on climate.
    In the new reality, there is all-party agreement in Westminster for the UK to cut CO2 emissions by at least 60 percent; climate change has become a dominant theme at the Davos business forum; people round the world are expressing alarm about the climate; a recent survey showed a majority in Britain now regard being concerned about the environment as a social norm.
    A main reason for the shift in global opinion is the resolution of the most fundamental questions in climate science by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Earlier this year the IPCC concluded that it is beyond doubt that the climate is warming and more than 90 percent likely that human activities have driven most of the recent change. These findings will probably be underlined at this week’s meeting of the IPCC in Valencia and should feature prominently in our reporting.
    The IPCC is the world’s official climate change assessment forum. It relies on published research and peer-reviewed so its prognoses are inherently conservative. Its reports are by acknowledged leaders in their fields surveying thousands of pieces of evidence and employing the scientific method of sceptically testing hypotheses to reduce uncertainty.
    The IPCC process is bloody, and some scientists are upset if they believe their work to be under-represented in the policymakers’ summaries that are vetted by the world's major governments. Sometimes politicians do try to sway IPCC conclusions but their endorsement of the final report means that all governments involved, including the US and Australia, agree that greenhouse gases should be cut. The disagreement is over how much emissions should be cut, how soon, and by whom.
    In a recent survey of 140 climate scientists, 18 percent found the IPCC too alarming but 82 percent either thought the IPCC represented a reasonable consensus – or said it was not alarming enough. No one agreed with the statement that global warming is a fabrication and that human activity is not having a significant effect. All the world’s major scientific bodies have endorsed the IPCC concerns about the risk of increasing greenhouse gases.
    Given the weight of opinion building up around the IPCC it makes sense for us to focus our coverage on the consensus that climate change is happening, is serious, but is manageable if tackled urgently.
    We do not need consistently to ‘balance’ the reports of the IPCC. When we broadcast outlying views we should make sure we do not over represent them and we should keep a rough balance of views from either side of the IPCC. If we do not, we will distort the issue and risk misleading or confusing our audience.
    We must also be more savvy about the way we treat outlying views – and we should make it clear to our audience when an interviewee holds a minority position.
    On one side of the IPCC are some knowledgeable, sceptical climate scientists. They mostly agree that the Earth is heating, and agree that greenhouse gases are probably contributing. But they think future temperatures will be determined much more by solar changes than atmospheric changes – and they do not think IPCC computer models are smart enough to forecast the climate accurately. They mostly think the economic benefit of using fossil fuels outweighs the risk of increasing CO2 levels.
    A more extreme position is taken by some libertarian commentators who distrust government and big institutions and who characterise climate change as a swindle. Their views appear to be supported by hardly any climate scientists.
    Then there are the ‘sceptics’ (particularly in the US) funded by big business to run ‘think tanks’ spreading uncertainty and thus delaying action. We need to think hard about how and when we invite these various groups to contribute to the debate. Would we, for instance, serve our audiences by inviting lobbyists for tobacco firms to challenge the scientific links between smoking and lung cancer?
    To the other side, the scientific outliers (17 percent of the survey above) fear that the IPCC’s statement of alarm is not expressed loud and hard enough. They think the IPCC’s need to proceed with governmental consensus forces it to suppress the most worrying science.
    At the extreme of this group is James Lovelock who forecasts that the temperature will not rise steadily as the IPCC graphs suggest, but will suddenly jump 6C to a new (and catastrophic) stable state in a matter of decades, eventually leaving the earth unable to support more than a billion people. It’s too late to stop the process, he says.
    No member of an independent expert panel on Lovelock run by the Today programme last year was prepared to say he was definitely wrong. But if we over report the Lovelock view we will be accused of fostering alarmism and despair.
    If an individual approaches the climate issue with a distinct ideological position from the left or the right it makes sense for us to explain their political position to the audience. We should avoid all the jargon hurled by some of those at the extremes of the debate – such as climate change deniers, climate believers, doomsters or warmers.
    We must be smarter, too, with the language and labels that we use when describing groups. The Scientific Alliance, for instance, is run by a scientist but was set up by a businessman to counter green fears and campaign against green taxes. Friends of the Earth’s views on climate science are close to the IPCC consensus. But our recent broadcasts referred to Friends of the Earth as a ‘green group’ and The Scientific Alliance as a ‘group formed to promote rational debate about science’.
    We must also be smarter in the way we interpret the often vociferous views expressed on climate in our vibrant inter-active space. While welcoming a diversity of voices, we must make sure that we do not conflate self-selecting audience responses with a broad audience opinion.
    Where then should our priorities lie? Well, some important scientific debates on climate are still running – but most governments have taken a position based on risk analysis that they cannot wait for 100 percent certainty on the science because that will be far too late to act. Based on the broad IPCC consensus governments are developing policies to cut emissions and adapt to changes that are projected to happen, so it is surely in this area of policy that the BBC should expend most of its effort. That means keeping more extreme views from either side in proportion and when we do report them, giving them similar space.
    That does not mean we need soft consensual journalism – because as many nations attempt to make the leap to low-carbon economies the policy cauldron contains a rich mix of controversial ingredients: how to save rainforests (the most efficient way of protecting the climate), biofuels, equity between rich and poor, the deal to tie in big developing nations, the response of the United States, how to force clean technology on to the market, fair eco-taxation, how to finance adaptation, carbon pricing, the most economic ways of saving emissions, political leadership, public ambivalence, population, consumption, off-setting, nuclear and many more...
    We should confidently take these debates forward, with a modern, accurate sense of impartiality in mind. This will help us to follow the BBC Trust’s goal of engaging people as citizens as well as audiences, and it will maximise the BBC’s unique contribution to an informed democracy.

Comments

  • 1.
  • At 02:06 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • John Muir wrote:

The simplest way to be impartial is just to report the facts. If two 'experts' disagree then simply state that they disagree, but do not try to judge the matter yourself - that way lies ruin. And, at the risk of being realistic, be slightly more suspicious of those who have vested interests, i.e. not only oil company spokesmen but also climate scientists who have a job and a reputation to protect. Just report the facts from all viewpoints. Thank you.

  • 2.
  • At 02:09 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • PT wrote:

Would we, for instance, serve our audiences by inviting lobbyists for tobacco firms to challenge the scientific links between smoking and lung cancer?"

YES - why not? Once the evidence is strong enough, then "sceptic" opinion challenging it will inevitably fall apart. Let the sceptics have their say and let the debate progress in a frank and open manner, the scientific evidence is not yet anywhere near strong enough to make scepticism an offence, or to stifle its expression.

  • 3.
  • At 02:10 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Nick Smith wrote:

Whilst I am not a scientist and have no back ground in conservation I am aware that the resources of the planet are finite. As such, whether it is called Global Warming or not, provided we have a euphemism for considering the future of planet earth it can only be a win win situation.

  • 4.
  • At 02:26 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • John Birkin wrote:

I wish you would display the same detailed concern over your impartiality in your reporting of the issue of creationism vs the theory of evolution.

  • 5.
  • At 02:34 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Bob Eldridge wrote:

CO2 is 0.04%
Water Vapour is 1%
Both are greenhouse gasses but water is by far the biggest impacter. CO2 is to tiny to be a major contributer. Even doubled it will only be 0.08%.
Of course we should preserve our planet and we should reduce waste, I have no objection to that, but there are several different arguments that seem to become mixed up in these discussions.
Yes the planet is warming up.
Yes we should conserve hydrocarbons.
Yes we should stop waste.
But CO2 is not a primary cause of world warming. In fact the world is slightly cooler than ten years ago even though CO2 levels have risen sharply. Ref ..
SCARED TO DEATH: From BSE To Global Warming - Why Scares Are Costing Us The Earth by Christopher Booker and Richard North.
The carbon threat is just to keep the people scared just like BSE and samonella. Minority scares let the aurthoritarian elete create more and more rules, take more and more power.
We have 300 years of coal which we should be using to generate electricity.
Everything you buy is moved by road transport. We should remember that and help in developing hydrogen engines to maintain the lifeline of road transport.
If we don't wake up we will be back in the 1800's. But then we will start to use the coal I suppose.
Bob

  • 6.
  • At 02:36 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • jean pierre reynolds wrote:

This is in general a balanced piece of journalism. However, in common with much written on this subject, it confuses climate change with global warming. There is strong evidence that man is one of a number of contributors to global warming. There is also some evidence that the warming of the globe is causing climate change. There is no evidence that man is causing climate change. Climate change takes place cyclically over millenia and more and has a myriad of causes. We have to live or die with it. If the human race is wiped out in 5,000 or 10,000 years so what? It will be, eventually, and new life forms will be born and a new cycle will start - as has happened 3 or 4 times in the life of the earth. We should not become sentimental and proprietorial about our insignificant span here.

  • 7.
  • At 02:51 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • John Udberg wrote:

John Birkin;

Shouldn't the issue be either creationism vs evolution or the theory of creationism vs the theory of evolution?

Your comment shows impartiality of its own.

  • 8.
  • At 02:51 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • BH wrote:

Richard Black's set of questions were themselves biassed, containing no recognition of the hard reality that our species just happens to have evolved during an abnormally cold period of Earth history - the middle of an Ice Age, in fact. Even without anthropogenic factors, global warming was bound to happen. The challenge for our species is to find ways of adapting to climate change, but this is hardly ever presented as an option.

  • 9.
  • At 02:53 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Martin wrote:

Perhaps you could just stop BBC presenters using words like "fact" when discussing reports and theories and instead call them what they are?

  • 10.
  • At 02:54 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Robert wrote:

In the case of tobacco, the debate is relatively easy. Smoking leaves tar in the lungs and nicotine in the blood. This is unnatural, and the idea that it is unhealthy is fairly easy to grasp for any layperson.

When it comes to gases that are naturally in the atmosphere, computer models, oceanic currents and satellite analysis, is the layperson still in a position to evaluate the credibility of a viewpoint presented to them?

Reporting on climate scepticism is a bit like reporting on Holocaust denial. Both views are minority, often driven by non-scientific motives, and through that motivation, ugly. The difference is, Holocaust denial can't do any harm (after all, what does it matter if it's the past); climate change scepticism, on the other hand, is inherently harmful, as it influences the way we prepare for (and attempt to influence) our future.

  • 11.
  • At 02:56 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Craig wrote:

What I feel is greatly missing in the televisation of the Global Warming debate is a long and serious examination of the arguments and counter-arguments to global warming. One that tackles many of the issues brought up in the most widely viewed televised material (i.e. The channel 4's 'Great Global Warming Swindle' and Al Gore's 'An Inconvenient Truth')and debates them fully with a panel of people including scientists and members of the public. The panel members should, as much as possible, be neutral to the debate. They could then look at the evidence on each area of the debate and aim to come to conclusions based on this evidence. I'm sure this task wouldn't be easy but this open and clear debate may help clear the waters.

  • 12.
  • At 02:57 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Elliot Spencer wrote:

I found this section interesting/amusing;

'We must also be smarter in the way we interpret the often vociferous views expressed on climate in our vibrant inter-active space. While welcoming a diversity of voices, we must make sure that we do not conflate self-selecting audience responses with a broad audience opinion.'

If this were truly the case then why does the BBC genuflect before a self-selecting liberal-left agenda all of the time? On issues like the EU, immigration, internationalism, England, British values, the UN and many others - only a self-selecting audience of lefty-liberal viewpoints is represented despite the overwhelming majority of people in this country having an almost opposite view.

Trying to have your cake and eat it here.

  • 13.
  • At 02:57 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Joe Noory wrote:

Why not step back a moment and look at the lunacy of the counter-complaint: The Kyoto Treaty's most ardent proponents DON'T SEEM TO WANT people discussing the possibility that the hugely expensive, personally invasive, potentially economy killing and poverty causing measures to be discussed at all - not on the basis of adaptation or the long-term utility of radically altering the way life on this planet orders itself.

The scientific method REQUIRES the proving of things through experimentation and doing as much to fail to disprove the opposite of the dominant hypotheses as anything else - and yet the wing of the enviromental movement which appears to be more politically driven than consumed with concern for humanity.

For some among them this is just another new cause for them in a lifelong pursuit of adolescent activism, and not something they either have a deep understanding of, enough life experience to develop so perspective on, or a personal stake in the well being of populations in need of enough economic pace to provide dignified work, education (as opposed to collectivist doctrine),enlightenment, housing, and nourishment.

Nor does it help that the same people call continuously for urgency of action, since it isn't their well-being that they would like to see substantially committed to their "cure". For two decades we have been told that the next 5 or 10 years were either the tipping point or the moment they beleive the apocalypse was scheduled to take place.
In fact, many of them have a stake in the endless nagging of those who are productive and efficient in their output and use of resources, and are often foolish enough to advocate "low-intesity" practices that kept civilization poor and wasteful because they are unproductive.

So indeed - it IS time we paid some attention to what sceptics are saying, and not treat them as you do in your first paragraph as if they were an alien species that are so far outside the boundaries of what has mutated into the empty "right-think" of the globish world view.

  • 14.
  • At 03:00 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Jason Carpenter wrote:

This article, whilst interesting, is typical of how most people view decision making within the BBC. Why does the BBC need to have a policy on this issue at all. It really is simple, if both sides wish to put forward an argument let them and then, more importantly, let the viewer and listener make up their own mind. I've no doubt about the arguments made regarding climate change but I want to hear the other side of the argument too.

  • 15.
  • At 03:07 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Chris Newton wrote:

An interesting article that puts forward a case for both sides of the argument but doesn't convince me of anything. I am, and remain, a sceptic. To me, global warming is a natural phenomena and the only thing at question is whether man's activities have accelerated it, which I do accept is happening. Cries of "We must stop global warming", which I recently heard a BBC Radio 2 DJ spout, are misleading and just plain wrong. Global warming can't be stopped, it is inevitable and it's just a question of when its effects will come to pass, in 20 years, 200 years or 2000 years. This isn't ever discussed. Isn't it a case of accepting that, at best, we can do no more than delay the onset? We should be determining what the effects will be and what we can do to live with them. The figure of the world's sustainable population reducing to around 1 billion was given in the article. Where is the debate about how the world's population will shrink down to that sustainable level. What pressures will there be on the world, how many wars will be started as low-lying countries seek to mover higher. And anyway, what's wrong with the world's population shrinking down to a sixth of its current level? The same people that agree that global warming is a major problem probably also admit that the world is over-populated and that something should be done about it. With regard to government efforts to impose a less polluting lifestyle, what right-thinking person trusts governments these days? The government in the UK have only jumped on the bandwaggon to divert attention away from their other policies and to try and claim the credit for "Saving the planet"!! Instead of taking measures to actively develop non-polluting methods of maintaining a 21st Century lifestyle, they're only interested in stopping that lifestyle by imposing draconian taxes. This isn't, and never will be, a solution. Finding non-polluting means of car and air transport should be the priority, developing means of reducing waste should feature highly, not taxing everyone out of existence. Reducing both pollution and waste should be seen as improving people's lives, not reducing their standard of living.

  • 16.
  • At 03:13 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • David Wilkin wrote:

It seems there is a slight misconception about "the way things work". I am not a scientist but I remember from school that matter can neither be created nor destroyed. Although the form of matter may change, hydrocarbon to CO2 and H2O, it doesn't just go away never to be seen again. It is recycled naturally. We may not like it but I see things from the unpopular viewpoint that this earth was not made for us anyway. We just inhabit it.

  • 17.
  • At 03:23 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Nick P wrote:

For a long time now the way the BBC reports climate matter has annoyed me. The reporting style has definitely been reactionary and alarmist and in no way presented a balanced view. So it is good to hear that you are reviewing this.

However, even in the article above, taken from your internal magazine, you still stress more on the side of the climate activists - going into far more detail and including the example about James Lovelock, but with no counter example, beyond vague comments about there being an opposing side.

As for the IPCC, for a long time now its been a very politicised body. I may be wrong but don't individual Governments even have the last say on who their lead authors are? Even if that is not the case Scientific Peer Review has its own problems with scientists generally being unwilling to rock the boat for fear of losing funding. This is a major issue even with non-climate scientific issues.

Whilst I'm all for reducing waste and cutting emissions, the very fact that the climate is such a complicated system to model, and the fact that there are nature is also continually producing greenhouse gases, must mean the debate is far from over. Surely as part of any democratic debate air time also needs to be given to those who disagree. The BBC's place in this is to just report the facts, from both sides, not to comment or offer opinion on them.

  • 18.
  • At 03:24 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Nigel Heffernan wrote:

The BBC's duty of impartiality does not extend to endorsing deliberate misrepresentations of fact, nor to rebroadcasting attempts to distort and confuse scientific opinion.

Indeed, as a public service broadcaster, the BBC has a clear duty to present the facts and debunk the falsehhoods and manufactured doubts that surround all issues where commercial and political interests conspire to suppress or discredit or distort scientific evidence.

Imagine the BBC being 'impartial' in presenting the case against cigarettes causing cancer! Regrettably, that was then and this is now: the tobacco companies' publicists and lobbyists are far more skilful and far more pervasive, and could make a 'debate' and a 'controversy' out of the Earth revolving about the Sun if it suited them to do so, with both 'sides' demanding equal airtime.

The problem, here, is that mainstream political parties have become involved in the denial distortion and deliberate confusion. The BBC can and will be accused of 'taking sides' and may feel forced to be 'even-handed', rather than outspoken and forthright in the pursuit of the truth.

In this degenerate era of owned media and partisan science funding, it is now a political position to be 'pro-facts' and 'evidence-based'; like it or not, a commitment to the straightforward presentation of the truth is a political position. This means that the BBC is forced to 'take sides' in political issues.

Or so we are told. But by whom? In reality, there are no 'sides': there are merely those who seek the truth, and those who seek to suppress and distort it for their own ends. This is perfectly clear in the case of the heliocentric universe - and I hope that I never hear the BBC give equal airtime to politically-motivated character assassinations of Copernicus - and far, far harder to spot in the case of complex issues like Global Warming.

Harder, but not impossible. The question is: if it's been politicised, what kind of politicians are you going to be?

  • 19.
  • At 03:25 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Paul wrote:

I think you'll find it's not climate change that people are sceptical about - after all the climate has always and will continue to always change. Is is more the causes of recent climate change that I and others debate. We are sceptical of the motives of those that insist that recent climate change is soley caused by human activity and that this will inexorably lead us to a path of destruction.

For instance, if increases in atmospheric CO2 will cause the temperaure rises predicted by the IPCC then why is it that atmospheric CO2 concentration has undeniably risen by 30% since 2001 and yet the average global temperature since 2001 (as measured by the Hadley Center) remained untrending...i.e not risen? If the answer is that natural (solar?) forcings have overriden the anthropogenic warming during this period to prevent warming at all then how can the IPCC statement that human induced warming is the single overriding factor since the 1970's be accurate?

  • 20.
  • At 03:27 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • David Webb wrote:

If the IPCC is right in blaming CO2, then climate change is inevitable, given the activities of China, India and Brazil et al. China, for example, has tripled its CO2 output in the last 10 years and it is accellerating.
Nothing wrong with saving energy, it helps the balance of payments at least.
More significant to Britain is getting more electricity generation because either it will get hotter (more Air Con) or colder as the Gulf stream stops (more heating). Take your choice of experts on this.

The other scenario is that the climatologists are right and the warming will stop at the end of the current solar cycle. And it the Millenium bug again.

  • 21.
  • At 03:27 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Stuart wrote:

There are some huge issues here and the item shows that the BBC suggested approach is not impartial.

The IPCC is not seen as impartial because it is inter government sponsored.

Anything the IPCC says is stated as being fact when in essence it is a theory.

Computer models are just what they are but are often stated as fact by the BBC.

Nobody reports on historical trends. The largest El Nino, that I know of, which seems to have covered approximately 2/3 of Pacific, was circa 750AD. There were no CO2 emmissions of any size. There were no cars. Yet this El Nino caused more than 9 years of weather chage.

CO2 is deemed as fact in BBC reporting as being the cause of climate change. This is NOT a proven fact.

Politicians are falling over each other to be 'green'. This is what makes it look like a scam because most do not have any scientific qualification.

Al Gore's film is presented as fact by the BBC. His computer model is no better than anybody else's.

Nobody in the BBC is reporting that the North Atlantic drift which keeps Britain warm is slowing. However, this is widely reported in New Zealand as I found out on a recent visit.

The BBC does not report on the impact of solar activity. Why not?

The magazine article will do nothing to change my thinking that the BBC is reporting this impartially. Sorry but if you say the IPCC is the middle ground then I take the view it is government sponsored propaganda to get more taxation.

  • 22.
  • At 03:28 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Elliot Spencer wrote:

I found this section interesting/amusing;

'We must also be smarter in the way we interpret the often vociferous views expressed on climate in our vibrant inter-active space. While welcoming a diversity of voices, we must make sure that we do not conflate self-selecting audience responses with a broad audience opinion.'

If this were truly the case then why does the BBC genuflect before a self-selecting liberal-left agenda all of the time? On issues like the EU, immigration, internationalism, England, British values, the UN and many others - only a self-selecting audience of lefty-liberal viewpoints is represented despite the overwhelming majority of people in this country having an almost opposite view.

Trying to have your cake and eat it here.

  • 23.
  • At 03:30 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Ali wrote:

I simply can't understand why the majority of these comments are still sceptical. have they read the article? do they listen to the news? what makes people think that they know more than all the scientists on the IPCC from reading a couple of popular science books or watching the endlessly quoted, and completely discredited, channel 4 documentary about it? i think the BBC is doing its public duty well by reporting these views occasionally but stating clearly how irrational and destructive they are. climate change is killing people.

  • 24.
  • At 03:32 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Andrew Rowntree wrote:

I would like the BBC to show impartiality by asking the members of Green Peace that they interview why almost every single major figure in the organisation in the UK is in fact an American (only this morning on New24 you had another one complaining about power stations on flood plains). Surely to come over to this country to preach to us about CO2 they used a plane, or did they all come over on a reed raft (made using sustainable sources of reed).

  • 25.
  • At 03:32 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Phil wrote:

An excellent piece, though I might take issue with the view that the IPCC is "balanced". Personally I find I am in close agreement with the view here a few days ago by one IPCC scientist that "We can't make our models fit without assuming manmade warming" is far closer to the truth than "it's 90% likely man is causing it".

Balance is tricky. At one extreme you do have genuine "paid sceptics". Equally at the other you have scientific frauds like the Mann hockey-stick and its derivatives where being "on message" has taken priority over following the principles of science and peer-review has become a meaningless process of mutual sign-off. Problem is these latter are still "climate scientists" so their views, however unjustified, are harder to discount until they can be debunked - which takes time.

Be alert. Don't headline pieces "since records began" when this is less than 30 years! Never again publish the hockey-stick. Be aware there is bad science on both sides. And do your best!

  • 26.
  • At 03:34 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Neil McEvoy wrote:

Earlier this year the IPCC concluded that it is beyond doubt that the climate is warming and more than 90 percent likely that human activities have driven most of the recent change.
That really depends on the definitions of "is" and "recent". If we take them to refer to the last 5 or 6 years, then the Uni of E. Anglia Hadley Centre figures show that the climate is NOT warming, and the "90 percent likely" claim becomes entirely moot. Other time frames tell a different story, but it behoves journalists to look a little beyond the face value of statements, in science as much as politics.

  • 27.
  • At 03:39 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • James wrote:

With regards to John Muir's post above, I agree that the simplest way to be impartial is just to report the facts. But I think that more should be done that, if two 'experts' disagree, to simply report that they disagree. It is also important to report the scale of the disagreement. If viewers are informed that scientists disagree on a topic without that disagreement then being explored further, many people will assume that the scientific community is evenly split on the subject in question, where in fact it could be that the vast majority of scientists hold one view and only a very few hold the other. The reporting of the issues surrounding MMR is a case in point: many media outlets represented the 'controversy' as science being evenly divided between the two opposing views on the vaccine. In fact, the vast majority of scientists and the vast majority of evidence was in favour of the MMR vaccine, with only a few scientists and a very small amount of evidence being actually opposed to MMR. Reporting the facts is essential but the true scope of any scientific disagreement/ controversy/ call it what you will must also be explored, otherwise viewers can end up being misinformed. Thank you.

  • 28.
  • At 03:47 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Cobblyworlds wrote:

Richard Black should be congratulated for addressing this issue.

However the BBC fail overall by allowing a vociferous but demonstrably ill-informed minority to manipulate forums such as "Have your Say".

The best way to deal with the so-called sceptics is to draw them into the open where their arguments can be dissected in the cold hard light of evidence. For example BH in post 9 above claims we're naturally in a warming phase - whereas the evidence shows that until the last century the long term (millenial) trend throughout the holocene has been towards cooling since some 11,000 years ago. The reasons for past warmings/coolings do not apply now.

Without the increase in CO2 there is absolutely no reason to anticipate an increase in global average temperature, a cooling of the stratosphere, or a change of diurnal temperature range. Yet we observe these phenomena.

What the politicians do with the science is a side issue from the basic robust message of the science: We are causing global warming due to CO2 emissions.

  • 29.
  • At 03:51 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Iain George wrote:

"CO2 is 0.04%
Water Vapour is 1%
Both are greenhouse gasses but water is by far the biggest impacter. CO2 is to tiny to be a major contributer. Even doubled it will only be 0.08%."

The basic intent of some in the 'sceptic' community is to confuse the public, the results of which can be seen in the quote above.

Many members of the public are not 'sceptical' at all, as evidenced by their credulous acceptance of any contrary evidence, including citing Crichton as an authority.

I for one am glad that the BBC is engaging in public soul soul searching over their editorial stance.

  • 30.
  • At 03:54 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Steve Bush wrote:

"In a recent survey of 140 climate scientists ...... No one agreed with the statement that global warming is a fabrication AND (my caps) that human activity is not having a significant effect."

This glosses over the possibility that any number of the 140 could have agreed with the statement "human activity is not having a significant effect".

What was the survey? Were they asked the two issues separately?

The willingness of BBC to draw conclusions from such patently slippery logic calls into question the honesty of the whole article.

  • 31.
  • At 03:55 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • PC wrote:

Some comments on Bob Eldridges post:

The reasons why CO2 is a particularly effective greenhouse gas are as follows

1. The strength of absorption of IR radiation is dependent on the change in dipole moment during the vibration this means that small concentrations of a given gas can have a disproportionately large effect. Vibrations in N2 (80%) and O2 (19%) still occur, but because the molecules are symmetrical, the vibration do not absorb IR radiation.

2. The symmetric bend vibration of CO2 falls at maximum output of Earths emitting radiation. In contrast, H20 biggest vibration occurs at frequencies that the earth does not output so much of, nevertheles H2O does contribute some effect to the greenhouse effect.

3. Water vapour concentrations in a atmosphere are controlled by one thing - temperature. Thus water vapour cannot cause warming of the atmosphere. What it does mean is that it provides a positive feedback mechanism. So as the atmospheric temperature rises, from some other cause, then the atmosphere can hold more water vapour, and so that further warms the atmosphere - which in turn causes further warming ! Because H2O's effect is limited (see above) this cycle does not explode.

Don't forget that the greenhouse effect is, in general, beneficial. Without it the Earth mean temperature would be about -15C instead of +15C. The concern is that we are changing it, and changing it quickly.

  • 32.
  • At 03:57 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Jonathan Haslam wrote:


I too question why the BBC has to take a view on global warming or any other green issue. The BBC's job is to get behind the glib soundbites from both sides of the argument and let us reach a reasoned conclusion. Take two recent examples. What was the basis for the news story that said that in the next 30 years the planet would have to produce as much food a it has in the last 10,000? Second, Jonathon Porrit's line is that to meet current consumption we need three planet earths. That was dutifully trotted out by Hilary Benn and the riposte should have been ' Says who?' These apocolyptic soundbites don't aid understanding. Bjorn Lomborg may go too far in the other direction but he is absolutely right in getting behind the statistics. Tougher questioning of all positions is required from the corporation.

  • 33.
  • At 04:01 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Worried scientist wrote:

John Muir: "The simplest way to be impartial is just to report the facts"

To report only the facts in such a way as to give the audience a full and balanced picture of the situation would require them to do a lot of reading. What are scientists for? Not just to do experiments and collate data, but also to use their knowledge and experience to make conclusions from it. You cannot ignore those conclusions, even if they are not all the same. It is clear now that there is a balance of evidence pointing towards climate change (forget "global warming" - the effects of climate change will not be that simple or that benign) and it is the responsibility of the media to convey that.

Another bugbear of the scientist is the incorrect use of the word "theory", as demonstrated above by John Udberg and John Birkin. "Theory" is a word which can be applied to a body of knowledge which has been tested rigorously and been accepted by the scientific community. The idea that because a "theory" is falsifiable by experiment, it must be shaky or unprovable, is ridiculous. We could prove "the theory of evolution" wrong by finding one tiny fossil out of place in a layer of rock - and yet that has not happened.

Chris Newton, the sceptic - thank you for some rational comments, which in the main I agree with. My only comment would be that if the world's population does shrink to 1/6 of its current level, as is possible, we will see human tragedy on a quite unprecedented scale. It may occur within my lifetime - I do not look forward to that.

Lastly, I must protest Bob Eldridge's view that just 0.04% CO2 in the atmosphere cannot be a problem. How would he react to 0.04% cyanide in his morning coffee? Even doubled, it would only be 0.08%!

  • 34.
  • At 04:03 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Tony Volpe wrote:

If mankind is responsible for the recent warming, I'd like someone to explain to me how it is that the Vikings were able to farm in Greenland in the tenth century and how the Romans grew grapes in Northern England during their time here. Nether of these activities can be engaged in today, it's still too cold, so since we know that the climate warms and cools without human intervention, how come we all seemingly accept the thesis that we are responsible for the current climate state?

Apart from problems like these, I am a little troubled by the fact that it is now almost impossible to express scepticism about human induced warming without being looked upon as some kind of deviant.

  • 35.
  • At 04:07 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Michael Guest wrote:

The problem with handling the reporting of this matter and the difficulty of it being reported is that the BBC, in its duty to be impartial, can represent two sides of an argument as if they are equal based on scientific research and opinion. The fact is that there is overwhelming scientific evidence and support for the threat of climate change. Indeed it is necessary to report the argument against it but the emphasis must always be on representing the actual balance of evidence behind the issue. The fact is that around about 95% of environmental scientists support the climate change theory and with it hold a wealth of research. Yet these 5% that are 'sceptics', have an almost equal representation in the media. This is when impartiality can lead to misrepresentation.

  • 36.
  • At 04:10 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • James Rigby wrote:

News reporting should report news. In the relatively brief time alloted for news, it's impossible to cover the complexities of the arguments on both sides. News is things like: The government has announced..., A treaty was signed...., there was a flood... etc. Save the discussion of the accuracy or otherwise of the science for programs like Horizon where there is time to give it sufficient airing.

  • 37.
  • At 04:12 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Ben Beazley wrote:

‘We must also be smarter in the way we interpret the often vociferous views expressed on climate in our vibrant inter-active space. While welcoming a diversity of voices, we must make sure that we do not conflate self-selecting audience responses with a broad audience opinion.’

Therefore removing all passion!

We need our broadcasters to let ‘vociferous views’ be shouted from it’s ‘vibrant inter-active space(s)’ you aren’t dealing with people who can understand the complex science of climate change. If no feeling is injected into your reporting how can you convey the urgency with which change needs to happen? I really wish the BBC as a broadcaster would relax just a pinch, take a deep breath think and about what it wants to say.

  • 38.
  • At 04:14 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Mark Williams wrote:

Given you are reporting on theories, impartiality can only be achieved to the extent that they reflect the consensus of opinion.
Anyone outside the consensus is always regarded with scepticism. Eventually the consensus may shift, this may be a positive or negative change. minority views are always viewed as sceptics.

On the subject itself. Whether Climate Change / Global Warming is human induced or not, it is surely only a narrow focus on what is a greater issue. That of finite resources. Measures need to be taken to reduce consumption, and if it takes global warming to wake the population up to that then, it may not matter who is right. It is the wake up we humans need before we over-abuse our home.

  • 39.
  • At 04:42 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • PaulMcC wrote:

I think when it comes to climate change there needs to be a greater realisation of just how complex the subject is. There are many, many processes, some of which are easy to explain (the greenhouse effect), and some which arn't (the role of ozone). Then most of these processes interact with each other to create feedbacks, making the whole process even more complex.
Climate scientists are usually specialists in one small area and only have a broad knowledge of the rest of climate science (it is way too big for anyone to know everything about everything).
The scientific process manages this through peer reviewed publications. specialist publish their results and conclusions in their narrow specialty. These are reviewed by other specialists in that narrow area and, if accepted, get published. Other scientists read the conclusions and use them, knowing they don't need to investigate the specialist science because someone already has.


So where does that leave the rest of us...
Basically you need to decide who you have the most faith in. On one side, the IPCC (over 3000 scientists from all over the globe) and most other climate scientists. They have a potential vested interest in terms of wanting to defend their research grants.
On the other side, the sceptics who tend to be individuals or much smaller groups and have much more direct vested interests - in a lot of cases they are paid to be sceptics (via publicity etc)!
So who do you trust? The government have decided which group they trust and I think they've made the right decision.

So my view is it's best to be sceptical of anyone or any program that claims to be able to present the full picture. Instead look at where the concensus is, look at the independance and vested interests of the people giving the view and form your opinion based on the human aspect rather than hoping you will understand all the scientific complexities.

  • 40.
  • At 04:42 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Nick Roberts wrote:

Bob has read one book on the subject and suddenly knows more than most of the 140 climate change scientists mentioned.

Jean Pierre has contradicted himself and obviously has no grasp of pre-GCSE Boolean Algebra.

Whilst it may be true that governments would like to jump on this subject and use it to spread Orwellian fear about, as our's does with the 'terror' subject, I think (despite what Robert thinks) that this issue, like the smoking debate, really is a no-brainer.

The world has a limited ability to sustain the consumption levels of a ridiculously burgeoning population. What are we trying to do to ourselves?!? Only humans could possibly be so lazy/selfish/obsessed with having so much more than we need from the only planet which sustains life to even get this close to bringing to its knees. To me, this is obvious. To have caused the extinction of even a single species (which has taken millions of years to evolve) is enough for the human race to hang its head in shame, yet we're causing this to happen almost daily.

You'd have thought the Stern report would have made the politicians wake up and yet, even with the financial incentive to change tack it all seems to be lip service, almost certainly due to the influencee of the oil industry.

Where's the justice in it all?

  • 41.
  • At 04:45 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • ian hunter wrote:

IF long term climate change is occuring and IF the IPCC's predicted effects are accurate, the entire capitalist global economic and business model will need to change before any concerted international action to overcome or even mitigate these effects can hope to succeed. Due to the politics of the main global players, such a change is a remote possibility. In that case, eco-taxing the poor Brits till the pips squeak will do nothing to help at all. Our only real hope is as always through technological changes that will be needed in any case as the Earth's natural resources begin to expire.

  • 42.
  • At 04:46 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Paul Michael Anthony wrote:

"Then there are the ‘sceptics’ (particularly in the US) funded by big business to run ‘think tanks’ spreading uncertainty and thus delaying action."


So those questioning alarmist global warming are motivated by funding and money.

Why does the BBC then assume that environmental NGOs are also not motivated by money and fund raising concerns?

NGOs need to raise money and sometimes do so by exagerating and misleading. If bibg business did this they would be rightly out under the microscope and put out of business and maybe the owners put in jail but NGOs claims and motives are never put under the microscope

  • 43.
  • At 04:50 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • markb wrote:

Climate change has become a religion and anybody expressing any doubts is a heretic - what would happen if members of the IPCC ever expressed a view that they were less certain in their views or published contrary research evidence - they would never get funding again and would be totally ostracised by their colleagues. This is a major industry and they are not going to allow any real debate - where is the challenge to the science and its modelling - its certainly not coming from the BBC or any British newspapers.
To compare sceptics as holocaust deniers (see above) simply sums it all up

  • 44.
  • At 04:51 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • John Gallagher wrote:

John Birkin wrote a comment on Creationism v The Theory of Evolution.

Two problems, firstly the bias he has built in by his wording makes it clear which side of the divide that he is on.

The second, which is likely to give him a problem, is that one is demonstrably proveable, while under scrutiny the other has all the resilience of the tooth fairy.

  • 45.
  • At 04:55 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Catherine wrote:

I would like to say I really enjoyed reading this editorial. I often wonder how a hugely influential media organisation like the BBC represents the information they receive, and was really pleased to be reassured that it is well researched.

The point I would like to make is against all of those commenting here that it is not for the BBC to judge the issue, only to report what viewpoints there are. Surely the BBC's responsibility is to present the prevailing view, and what is happening as a result of that view? From the updates that I see on BBC that is what they have been doing.

No one wants to know all the sides to every issue - the issues that are important to you, you are free to investigate the matter more fully yourself. Some issues I get annoyed hearing that someone said this but so and so argues the opposite, because all I really want to know is which argument is the prevailing view - the view that will ultimately affect me if most people believe in it. That doesn't mean to say that the view is the only one, or even the right one, but if it's the one the government is going to adopt in policy, then that's the one I want to know about!

For instance at one point I started getting worried about the actual danger of Bird Flu: as a New Zealander I was worried that at some point I might not be allowed to go home if it had spread to the UK, because New Zealand might impose a qurantine, which they considered during the SARS scare. So I got myself onto the WHO website. I discovered that, while Bird Flu was being treated as a potentially serious threat (as the BBC had reported it), the actual threat to me at the time was virtually nil, especially compared with other diseases.

Yes I agree it is not the BBC's place to offer opinions (except in editorials of course) but whne they have a limited amount of space in which to "report the facts" they must go with the most relevant ones.

  • 46.
  • At 04:57 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Tom Mashey wrote:

Two points:

The BBC has, for a long time, espoused the cause of Global Warming. It never mentions any contary view except to state that holding such a view is tantamount to idiocy. This has been deeply insulting for those of us who were trying to form a balanced view.

Global Warming may or may not be happening, but the evidence for it is slim. This has prompted some of its believers to produce fraudulent inputs into the IPCC. These have been accepted without checking, and have effectively led to the collapse of proper science in this area. This should have been your real story, and yet we have heard nothing from you about this scandal, which will proably be more damaging to mankind than any credible level of climate change.

  • 47.
  • At 05:01 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • George Robinson wrote:

Whatever one says, or thinks, the biggest threat to mankind is fossil fuels. Countries that use fossil fuels for energy production are not taking the GW threat serious. There are too many politicians still sitting on their hands waiting, waiting and waiting to see what everybody else is going to do. Its all very well to come out with wonderful plans for the future, 2040, 2050, 2060. Reductions in CO2 emissions have to be made now, not in 30 or 50 yrs time, because in 30 yrs time the planned reductions of 60% will not be enough. Even today 2007, reductions of at least 80% by the year 2020 must be made. BUT, there is no major country willing to take that step. The USA plans to invest heavily in coal fired power stations, 150 new ones I believe. the UK plan to build several huge coal powered power stations, China is building at least ONE every week, and has publicly stated that they will continue to emit CO2 whatever the cost, India will most surely follow suit. We emit approx 28bt now, the forecast is 40bt+ by 2020. Should this continue, as it most likely will, then the cost will be something like $4tr a year.
The Greenland icecap is melting at the rate of 500 billion tons every year. Glaciers are receding right across the planet. Temperatures in the very high latitudes are several degrees above the average, this is where the main concerns are, not only with the ice melt, but the permafrost is also thawing in Norway and Sweden.

  • 48.
  • At 05:02 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Paul wrote:

Cant wait until someone does a scientific study of religion and posts their findings.

  • 49.
  • At 05:03 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • James wrote:

The key take-away from this article is that when reporting on a contentious subject (not just climate change) care must be taken to balance the views expressed against the wider body of research and opinion.

In most cases highly paid and politically motivated lobbyists can out-debate a shy and retiring scientist. It is the job of the reporter to strip away this imbalance and spin.

As an aside and in response to a poorly argued posting, David Wilkin should have listened more closely at school: Matter can be created and destroyed - it happens all the time in the quantum froth of the universe. In fact we all owe our existence to a single creation of matter event - the big bang!

How should the BBC treat climate change "skeptics" and climate change as a whole?

Firstly provide as much supporting background information as possible. On air clearly time will be limited so you cannot provide all the material but the BBC has an excellent website and it should be prominently noted on air that supporting links, further information etc. are available at the appropriate page. Particularly in the case of edited interviews this should have the full interview as recorded or as a transcript because otherwise it is hard to prove (or disprove) whether people are being quoted out of context in the broadcast edited part.

Secondly a primer on statistics and statistical analysis methods is absolutely key for reporters and for the wider public. This is critical because with climate change people on all sides frequently use statistics the way a drunk uses a lampost - not for illumination but for support. And in doing so they frequently abuse the statistics they are quoting. I find it noteworthy that many of the more credible skeptics come from a statistics background and tend to base their skepticism on the abuse of statistics / data analysis by the climate change groups they disagree with.

  • 51.
  • At 05:05 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Sukumaran S.Nair wrote:

Dear Sir,
Global Warming issues are really creating a major awareness to all strata of societies everywhere. Earth summit in Rheo where all leaders of nations agreed and signed up documents must be summoned to report to the UN of their undertaken commitments.
Statements after statements The Universal House of Justice issued on this for consultation by the leaders of Religions and nations.we must heed the warnings of 'The Redeemer of Mankind' Baha'u'llah and Sir Abdul Baha the knight of British Empire in the 20th century on these pitiful conditions and for a world commonwealth tribunals to deal with these issues. Scientists and religionists as well heads of states must be called to attend this vital summit at the UN immediately. then and only then,The United Nations could take up resolutions and expect conditions to improve and transformed.

  • 52.
  • At 05:09 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • David Parker wrote:

This whole thing is a big paradox and should be ignored. It is generally unwise to look at one subject in isolation. If you include the possible Peak Oil meltdown into the argument, by saving power to reduce Co2 emissions, thereby reducing energy use, we save money. however, our total committment to consumerism will spend that saving on more oil sapping products, so bringing a Peak Oil financial meltdown that much closer. Saving us inone way kills us in another! And even if you are lucky enough to be able to save it, the banks will lend out 6 times what you invest, so fueling more spending!
I am not normally the head burying type, but I am firmly up to my neck on this one!

  • 53.
  • At 05:10 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • zoraker wrote:

The best thing to do is keep in mind that no scientist is working for free. Some are paid by their governments, some are paid by corporations, some by universities, and some are paid by environmental groups or think tanks.

No scientist wants to lose their funding and most don't want to switch careers or research topics every five years. If a scientist can keep their funding coming by selectively releasing certain data or by not publicizing data that go against their hypothesis, they will. These people are human and are no different from politicians, celebrities, and athletes when it comes to doing what it takes, ethical or not, to expand their influence and extend their careers.

Don't imply that we should trust someone because they are a "scientist", regardless of what their opinion is.

  • 54.
  • At 05:14 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • john westwood wrote:

I am a firm beleiver that global warming is being used as a mechanism for control by Governments of all types. According to "experts" the CO2 emmissions are heating the planet,therefore these emmissions must be reduced most particularly by imposing swingeing taxes. The basis of their mantra is that we must reduce the increase of emmissions substantially over the next 10/20/30 years etc to get back to levels last seen 10/20 years ago.
Hasn`t anybody pointed out that if emmissions of CO2 are responsible for global warming to date, then the reduction over decades of the increase is surely a complete waste of time. If the gases have caused the problem at the present and previously lower levels then it must be too late to arrest that problem which will of course feed off itself.Misery is optional, global warming caused by CO2 is either nonsense or irreversable, personally I think nonsense, either way is a winner

  • 55.
  • At 05:21 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Ted Yeoman wrote:

John Muir wrote:
“The simplest way to be impartial is just to report the facts. If two 'experts' disagree then simply state that they disagree”
Up to a point, but who is to say A is an expert and B is not and should C who is a crackpot with extreme views be given the same weight as the other two. Science unlike politics is in the end absolute, the earth is flat or it isn’t, so balance is not an issue and attempts to give balance doomed to failure.
All “experts” who are prepared to stick their heads over the top are to a certain extent self publicists and to be treated with suspicion. Lay experts and commentators, along with politicians have little place in the debate and should be ignored.
Creationism Phah!

  • 56.
  • At 05:27 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Richard wrote:

According to NASA figures the world's temperature this year is the same as it was in 1984. Temperature peaked in 1998 and has fallen since. The 4 hottest years in the last 100 were in the 1930's. What global warming?????

The IPCC is made-up of economists and historians- hardly qualified to examine the supposed science of Global Warming (Oh, yes, there is one scientist on the panel- well HE won't have a vested interest, will he???).

The IPCC is heaviy influenced by politicians and actually published their summary of the much vaunted report mentioned above, before the report itsel was made pubic. Why? Because the report is now being re-written to fall-in with the conclusions of the summary!!

If climate change sceptics gave so little shrift to the authors challenge, it is probaby because they already consider him a total loss to the cause of impatiality.

As a journalist myself I understand the difficulties of Messrs Black and Harrabin. And yes, there has to be a BBC policy on how to report this and other topics, because the BBC is a news publisher and not an anarchic collection of journalists.

What I do not understand (and I have made this point clear to Mr Black via e-mail, and in my blog (click on my name below)) is why would a journalist set about to "show" one side of the debate (the "sceptics") as loud-mouthed people with nothing solid to back their strong opinions.

Even in the article from Ariel there is a heavy-handed, absolutely unwarranted attempt to describe "sceptics" as mercenaries of "big business".

Scepticism has a proud philosophical tradition and it has been the basis of Science since the time when Galileo decided not to accept Aristotle's writing at face value.

=====

Mr Black, Mr Harrabin and Mr Herrmann, the whole of the BBC can report Climate Change any way they please...but I will not stop pointing out the fallacy of trying to belittle a whole way of thinking

  • 58.
  • At 10:33 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Pyers Symon wrote:

This debate is at its heart not about global warming nor about its reporting: it is about the scientfic method. Science isn't a democracy; just having numbers on your side doesn't automatically mean that you are right. There have been many many scientific advances that have been made in the teeth of contemporary orthodoxy. One recent example was the discovery the gastric ulcers were caused not by stress or diet but by a bacterial infection. This was strenuously opposed by the medical profession at the time. As the Nobel citation said the discovers had “tenacity and a prepared mind [to challenge] prevailing dogmas”.

As long as the objections are based on a valid scientific arguement, the sceptics should not be ignored just because they are in a minority. They might, just might, be right.

  • 59.
  • At 10:40 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • D. L Stephens wrote:

The BBC bias in reporting of this issue may well produce as many sceptics as converts. It is so very obvious and treats the population as idiots. With this as with anything to do with "the wonder that is the EU" regretably the BBC has traded for too long on it's once deserved reputation, and has become a transparent organ of state propaganda. This needs to be repaired before the underestimated majority of the audience will accept any argument as lacking in bias. To fool us, be a lot cleverer. Despite two generations at least of dumbing down we are not yet quite the sheep you think.

  • 60.
  • At 10:41 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • John M wrote:

Why is it that you insist that sceptics should prove their case rather than the alarmists?

Why do you so readily accept the IPCC's evidence for man-made global warming when it is so very easily demolished?

Why do you accept the IPCC's reports when they are written and reviewed by scientists who are funded for research projects that assume a human influence, or at least have to claim a human influence in order to obtain research funding?

  • 61.
  • At 10:42 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • JP wrote:

I think David Wilkin meant to say that ENERGY can neither be created, nor destroyed.

  • 62.
  • At 10:47 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

I agree strongly with Francis Turner's point re: statistics and their use and abuse. I read the IPCC report (about which I had no particular methodological qualms), and then the media coverage. The kindest thing I can say is that maybe the journalists were reading a different report altogether.

Frankly, I think the best thing the media can do is present us with scientific analysis - preferably from the horses' mouths - rather than bombard us with the opinions of voluble celebrities.

  • 63.
  • At 10:52 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Peter B wrote:

The thing is this : the media (and most certainly the BBC) start from a zero point that GW exists and its for the 'skeptics' to prove otherwise. They jump all over evidence that support GW but not on items such as this :

http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Newsroom/NasaNews/2007/2007111325923.html


Why?


Richard Black had somewhat of a condesending tone over why he hadn't recieved lots of anti-GW emails. The ones he says he had got he dismissed pretty much out of hand. This is indictive of the arguement at play here - why engage in a debate that only gets you labelled as a 'wacko'? I am not a skeptic, but am considered one by others. My true feeling is that we know so very little about whats going on - lets try and get some meaningful data before istead of a rush to judgement. Could we be the cause of GW? Absolutely. Could none of what we do have any significant effect? Absolutely. But if the reporting is lopsided and biased don't expect me to keenly take much note of it.

  • 64.
  • At 11:07 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • David wrote:

I am in the agnostic camp when it comes to climate change, because I think we have been priveleged to live in a geologically unusually cold period - that is, an interglacial period of an ice age. The norm is smaller or no ice-caps. So one day or another we will see warming, whether natural or man-made.

Climate scientist is a widely used phrase - but are climate scientists naturally biased because they have chosen their discipline because of a belief that the environment is being threatened by climate change?

John Muir (no.1) has got it spot on: “report the facts”. That said, John didn’t tackle the issue of how much time to allocate to each view. This is the “weighting” argument. One idea the BBC has put forward is to air views that differ from the consensus but warn when it is a minority viewpoint.

This is a very bad idea and surely typifies the kind of discussions that must go on at the BBC. How does the BBC decide that one opinion is marginal and that another is mainstream? Does it conduct regular polls?

I agree with James (29) that we should know the extent of opinion on all sides of an argument. If the MMR argument boiled down to a count of scientists in favour versus those against, then the BBC should have reported this (?and perhaps did?). If, however, you are asking the BBC to wade into the debate by trying to assign “weighting” and perhaps credence to opinions then what qualifies it to do so? Surely parliament should have grabbed hold of this issue, listened to the views, studied the facts, and delivered the clarity we needed. This should not have been the role of the BBC or any other quango.

Unfortunately, I do not trust the BBC to report the subject of climate change for two reasons. (i) In the past this subject has been used as a stick for the BBC to bash U.S. Republicans (from a distance); (ii) whether it is man-made or otherwise, the BBC/liberals see social re-engineering as the solution. It is assumed that the answer is to change things through left-wing command and control techniques and prohibition.

This stance is understandable as the BBC is a left-wing institution. You only need to look at those organisations and people they are most associated with to understand this e.g. NGOs, trade unions, the U.N., the eu quango and other left-leaning pressure groups.

However, even if the BBC was more balanced, the idea that it could act as an honest broker scares me. Rather than agonizing about who is right and who is wrong, or who holds the balance of public opinion or even the opinion of scientists, the BBC should be reporting events. It is not the business of the BBC to make judgements. It certainly is not the job of the BBC to attempt to provide a spin on current affairs (something that it does many times each day).

No other UK institution – with the exception of Parliament (and occasionally the monarchy) and the judiciary – takes it upon itself to make these judgements. We do not see statements from the National Health Service pontificating over President Bush’s environmental policy or for that matter, the Metropolitan Police providing their spin on the latest events in Pakistan.

The BBC needs to come back down to earth. Yes, we need to hear the debates. As far as who is right and who is wrong, well that is up to the People to decide and not the BBC.

So who decides who gets the “weighting”? For one I am certain that it should not be the BBC. The problem is that the debates are held in tv and radio studios, giving the BBC powers to invite who they want to the debate and, of course, to chair it. If the scientists need to hold a debate then they should organise it themselves and the BBC could report on it. No spin – just old fashioned reporting. Weighting/editing? Simple: most gatherings will issue a communiqué at the end of the debate. That should be your steer. If the debate is of national importance then parliament should host the discussion. Parliament could draw its own conclusions from the debate – “weighting” problem solved.

I have an MP who I can write to. My MP is rarely given the platform that BBC journos have. My MP cannot give left wing lectures such as those heard on the unfunny “Now Show”. My MP cannot commission a left wing playwright to air a tv play on the eve of an election about the miner’s strike.

Although most MPs belong to a political party, in my experience, they do what they can to represent the views being expressed to them by their constituents – their jobs depend on it. MPs get thousands of letters a year and (most of them) sit in regular surgeries where they have to put up with bores like me. They also need to gauge opinion as well as the views of scientists and other experts. They must give weighting to local opinion, party opinion, national sentiment and their own views. The difference is that MPs are elected. The BBC is not.

A practical step the BBC could take is to close down most of the studios, just leaving some for anchors, and get out more. Instead of chairing debates, go and see those organised by others. Report from the minutes and communiqués. Go to MPs and let them air their views. A second step is to cut down on the BBC news correspondents and increase the amount of reporters. Less commentary and more facts. Less BBC opinion and more from those we elect. If you could cut Nick Robinson out of the 10’Clock News, straight away there would be 2 minutes more news (I mean facts) per night.

The thought of a journalist inviting submissions from the great and the good and sitting on a throne of judgement fills me with dread. That somebody outside of our parliamentary democracy, monarchy or judiciary has the arrogance to assume this authority is breathtaking.

Did it ever occur to you that the lack of submissions was due to the fact that many people decided to stick their two fingers up to your one-person board of enquiry?

  • 66.
  • At 11:14 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Charles Savage wrote:

May I suggest that you seek to distinguish between climate change and global warming. I have found very few people who deny or cannot believe in climate change - it has been happening for millennia, and all the pictures that you bring to us indicate that it is happening now. In contrast virtually no-one to whom I have spoken believes in global warming - thanks to your previous over-use of the phrase, read "man-made global warming". There has been no published scientific proof of global warming induced by increases in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air; perhaps you should search for some, for at the moment "the emperor has no clothes". In consequence we - you - risk promoting a form of modern day McCarthyism. Perhaps "the man who was known as the next President of the United States" should better be referred to as Mr Al "Canute" Gore!

  • 67.
  • At 11:19 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Robin Fisher wrote:

I can't believe someone actually brought up, yet again, English vineyards in history, as some sort of proof against anthropogenic global warming.

Please, Google 'British vineyards'.

  • 68.
  • At 11:28 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Richard Thanki wrote:

I'm impressed by the speed at which disinformation seems to have swamped this board from around 2pm onwards. Good show guys! It's almost as if you organise these things...

Almost every single argument is of a certain stock type. There's the 'Greenland was farmed a thousand years ago' argument, the 'The BBC must report both sides' argument and 'The IPCC is a conspiracy' argument and my favourite which is the 'It's all too complicated to understand so let's do nothing" argument.

These arguments have been painstakingly addressed by scientists who have spent lifetimes understanding the complex mechanisms that are at work in our climate and have distilled much of that knowledge into the models that are today used around the world. By debate, discussion and argument they have in an expert and mostly dispassionate way reached a broad consensus. This is that human beings are changing the earth's climate by radically altering the concentrations of the most important gases for heat absorbption and that mean surface temperatures are likely to change by a certain amount in the coming decades.

Some scientists may go further, and some less far, but there is very very broad consensus. Now if I were to wake up one morning and all the world's engineers were standing outside my house, with 95% saying that my house is likely to fall down in 2 to 3 hours, 2.5% saying I've got less than 2 hours and 2.5% saying not to worry, you've got at least a day, I wouldn't start cooking a roast dinner.

Skeptics are people who form balanced opinions or justifiable conclusions based on the best, particularly scientific, evidence available.

So I must question why it is that people who disbelieve or deny global warming (or AGM) in spite of the evidence are being labelled as “sceptics”. They actually hold the opposite position to what most skeptics actually hold!

Such people may be sceptical but they are NOT Skeptics (!) so let’s call them disbelievers/deniers as that is what they are.

Now I have that off my chest… ;-)

I have always found that the BBC has taken a 50:50 approach in its reporting for ‘balance’. This ends up in issues that have overwhelming evidence in their favour being countered by highly dubious arguments simply for the sake of providing an impartial balance: the MMR debacle of a few years back springs to mind.

So, if the vast majority of scientists, and yes, Skeptics, concur that global warming is occurring and that at least a proportion of it is man-made (thus potentially controllable to some extent) then that’s how it should be reported. If 5% disagree then it should be made clear that they are in a small minority.

In short, I’d like to see the BBC stick to reporting facts so the public will get a better understanding of the issue.

Oh yes, it would help if they looked up what modern skepticism is all about too. :-)

The IPCC and the CO2 lobby have relied too heavily on computer models, that are built on the assumption that CO2 causes global warming. They have also used selective analysis of data, that excludes or dismisses inconvenient trends, and have relied on faulty statistical methods. A classic example is the so-called 'hockey stick chart' produced by Michael Mann of the University of Massachusetts. This chart was seized upon by the AGW lobbyists as fundamental proof of the man made cause of global warming. Unfortunately for Mann, his methods were later found to be fatally flawed and his results comprehensively demolished by independent scientists, who fought a long battle with Mann before he would release his data or methodology for review. Dr Edward Wegmann, Chair of the National Science Foundations Statistical Sciences Committee, led a team of statisticians who reviewed Mann's work at the request of a Congressional Committee. Wegmann was highly critical of both Mann's methods and of the peer review process within the climate community. Here's an extract from his report:

"It is important to note the isolation of the paleoclimate community; even though they rely heavily on statistical methods they do not seem to be interacting with the statistical community. Additionally, we judge that the sharing of research materials, data and results was haphazardly and grudgingly done. In this case we judge that there was too much reliance on peer review, which was not necessarily independent. Moreover, the work has been sufficiently politicized that this community can hardly reassess their public positions without losing credibility. Overall, our committee believes that Dr. Mann’s assessments that the decade of the 1990s was the hottest decade of the millennium and that 1998 was the hottest year of the millennium cannot be supported by his analysis."

The above is hardly a ringing endorsement of the objectivity of the proponents of man-made gobal warming. By implication it casts serious doubt on the credibility of the IPCC, who gave great prominence to Mann's work and cannot have seriously reviewed it before doing so.

If you want to see a sceptical, but rational, criticism of the evidence
for AGW, checkout this : http://www.coyoteblog.com/coyote_blog/2007/07/table-of-conten.html

  • 71.
  • At 11:49 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Greg Mehle wrote:

Climate change is not intuitively obvious, but for me it is intuitive. No one should be left from this debate- including the skeptic. However, I do not believe that opportunities should be provided within such a respected forum that the BBC provides unless the skeptical have the credentials which provide some level substantiation to their position. This will allow people like me to weigh facts, and not opinions.

Thank you for my opportunity

This debate about impartiality in the context of climate change suggests to me that the BBC is more interested in what organisations on either side think than the ordinary people. The news is out of touch, because most ordinary people aren't interested in what organisations they couldn't name five members of think, and are more interested in what other people like them think. Obviously the people want to know what politicians think, and if the BBC wants to get more angles and be really impartial, it could give more publicity to political parties other than those in parliament and the Greens. Also, the views of experts shouldn't be given more publicity than the views of the ordinary people in news bulletins, if the BBC wishes to be impartial and make the news relevant to everybody rather than just the political class, the politically active, and academia.

  • 73.
  • At 12:02 AM on 16 Nov 2007,
  • simon lund wrote:

I think a point is being missed, the sceptics are not saying climate change is not occurring, it always has occurred, its a question of the outcome of this change, and you really do have to question the global warming theory, especially if you have studied glaciology. We cannot accurately predict the long term weather forecast past two weeks never mind 50 years, also feedbacks is a key word, that never seems to rear its head very often. I am no expert but I know enough to know that the sceptics make some very valid points and we should listen, to start trying to belittle them because there ideas are not mainstream is against the very nature of science and discovery.

  • 74.
  • At 12:17 AM on 16 Nov 2007,
  • jim coan wrote:

Just come in from fishing all day, Burr darned nippy out there! glad to report not attacked by sabre toothed tiger or harrased by wooly mammouth,
guess the earth continues to warm following the last ice age, as it it did previously, strange the scientists find dinosaur fossils but no evidence of 4x4 usage by our friend t-rex I wonder what started the warm up last time maybe a burst of tea and biccies from the early mammals, or could this be another cycle in the heating-cooling way of the world. Never mind off to see Harlich castle tomorrow cant wait to see the back door which ensured it could be resupplied by sea in case of siege, oops its now 14 miles away due to the drop in sea level since 1300AD!

  • 75.
  • At 12:24 AM on 16 Nov 2007,
  • Joseph Elkhorne wrote:

Henry David Thoreau said, "Any man more right than his neighbors is a majority of one."

He'd never get a consensus and he was talking about politics -- but you get the idea.

Albert Einstein was rubbished by 800 good German scientists. His reaction, "All it takes is one to prove me wrong."

Conclusion: forget about consensus. That's not science.

As far as I know, Edward Lorentz was the first to work with a computer model of the weather. He found some unexpected results. He also found difficulty in getting a paper published "because he was just a meteorologist" -- even though he was trained as a mathematician.

Jacques Hadamard, in 1898, did the first study in what eventually became 'chaos theory'. Lorenz had been joined by a handful of others who ignored 'the conventional wisdom' and eventually chaos/complexity was established.

This area alone suggests peer review is not all it's cracked up to be.

Facts are slippery things. For instance, if you believe US government statistics, unemployment is low, CPI indicates no problem with inflation (fine if you don't eat or use energy!) and Paulson says a strong dollar policy is good ...

Similarly, a 'fact' based on assumptions supported by a computer model is a very rubbery fact.

Finally, I see no logic in some commenters rubishing others over 'irrationality' and because they're not scientists when the initiator is not a scientist either.

P.S. I accept climate change; I don't know anyone who doesn't.

  • 76.
  • At 12:56 AM on 16 Nov 2007,
  • Peter Brooks wrote:

The climate is changing, and the evidence says that the average temperature of the earth is increasing, thought the exact rate is questioned.

The cause is on balance of the evidence due to CO2 content in the atmosphere. What is not commonly reported is the amount nature produces, which is far more than mankind does, the last major eruption by Krakatoa is estimaed to have produced more CO2 than man-kinds industrial activities to date. This is not to say that our contribution is not accelerating the affects or has upset an existing ballance. However there is no conclusive evidence to say we have, and the problem is that it is unlikely that if we are the main cause that we will find this out till to late.

This means that we should try to reduce CO2 emmisions on the basis that doing so will not do any harm and may save the planet.

The way to do this is not taxing things. Research into low greenhouse gas producing energy sources and transport is the way to go. Nuclear power is one way to go here especially if fusion power which has no unpleasant waste is invented. In areas that can geothermal power provides an excellent way to heat homes and provide hot water (conversly in the uk it provides an intially expensive but far more efficient way to provide aircon).

  • 77.
  • At 01:00 AM on 16 Nov 2007,
  • Ian Bourne wrote:

The BBC's attempts to be 'balanced' have for many years led it to massively over-report the 'sceptics' case. The tobacco comparison is correct. The BBC needs to realise that just because someone says they are a 'scientist' it does not mean they have a valid scientific view on climate change. If the BBC wants to speak to a politician about, let's say, the health service, it does not simply take any politician. It makes sure the person in question has a track record in health service debates. The scientific community uses a peer review system to make sure that its debates are not warped by ill-informed pseudo-science. The BBC's task is simple. Before speaking to any sceptics, ask them for peer reviewed papers. The IPCC is all peer review-based. Most sceptics are not peer reviewed. Do not interview mavericks as if they are serious players. The consensus is clear. Go with the IPCC, the Stern review, BP, Shell, the Royal Society, and everyone else who agrees that the costs of tackling climate change would be far outweighed by the cost of doing nothing and suffering its consequences. Ignore the flat earth brigade who deny this, just as you ignore tobacco companies who say smoking is risk free. If you give them air time, you feed the prejudices of the many ‘sceptics’ who have sent in comments. They are a vociferous, but misguided, group whose voice is given far to much time on the BBC. Cut them out, as you would a canker.

  • 78.
  • At 01:20 AM on 16 Nov 2007,
  • shawshank wrote:

To me this depressing topic represents a big problem - our lives are becoming increasingly dependent upon more and more scientific and technological sophistication. Yet there is a widespread distrust of a so called "authoritarian elite" taking over (see e.g post by Bob, number 6). But at some point you have to find some experts to trust - you can't be an expert on avian flu, cancer, global warming, nuclear power, aids, smoking, and everything else. The only way to have a fully empowered democracy is to have everyone highly educated in everything. But this is just impossible. People have to stop believing what they want to hear, and start trying to analyse the arguments as best they can - and that goes for all sides of the argument.

  • 79.
  • At 01:50 AM on 16 Nov 2007,
  • M Dermis wrote:

Only report peer reviewed science both in support of and against man made global warming.
Ignoring non peer reviewed work will eliminate many of the vested interesteds and climate scams like offsetting.

  • 80.
  • At 01:51 AM on 16 Nov 2007,
  • Jeff Gale wrote:

It seems to me that popular opinion rules...no matter what the facts are.

In my opinion, the earth is warming up due to a natural cycle, possibly with a little help from pollution.

We all know that the earth rotates around the sun, the sun being the source of the earths temperature. I theorise that the earths projectory around the sun has an element of natural randomness which affects temperature here on earth (distance between earth and sun increasing/decreasing)?

I also theorise that the earth, being a squashed ball shape, would be more effected by natural temperature increases at the poles rather than the equator.

Am I being skeptical? Or am I being logical and not just believing ppopular opinion.

PS I planted over 200 trees in the last two months to help save the environment but don't believe in Global warming. Pollution is just as bad as bad science.

  • 81.
  • At 01:55 AM on 16 Nov 2007,
  • Simon wrote:

The reporting of climate change on the BBC has been so biased thus far that it has led many to lose faith in the impartiality of the organisation, myself included. You could try going back to the fundamental principle of just reporting the facts. It will take a while to get out of the habit of reporting every hysterical prediction about climate change as the undisputed truth but you should give it a try.

  • 82.
  • At 03:19 AM on 16 Nov 2007,
  • Clive Robinson wrote:

What I find slightly irksome is that some people seem to regard some of the ill-informed and misleading "facts" quoted by various eccentrics in the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and the like, as somehow having equal authority to, say, what appears in Nature or the Proceedings of The Royal Society. The level of scientific literacy in this country is scarcely above zero, yet all these folk seem to feel that they know best. So who's your money on - Melanie Philips and her chums or, for example, James Hansen (look him up, go on, you might learn something)?

  • 83.
  • At 03:29 AM on 16 Nov 2007,
  • Larry Kealey wrote:

What is science without skepticism? A return to the Dark Ages? I very much dislike words like "consensus" related to science - its too "political" or "religious". I have a question for those who belive that "the science is all settled" - that is: if the science is all settled - why do we need to spend additional billions on research? Why? The only reason I can think of is that the science is not all settled - or it is - and we need a jobs program for climate scientists...which is it?

The problem with "Global Warming" or "Climate Change" is that it has become a religion. The tone of the BBC is clear: the consensus is...skeptics are heratics. Does no one study history anymore? It is the heratics who are remembered...I'm not saying that I have all the answers - I am saying, the answers are not all in. What is wrong with being skeptical? I'll tell you what - it doesn't make for good news. Being Alarmist does make for good news, but bad science - being skeptical makes for good science but bad news...so where does the BBC sit in this equation? Biased by staff, I would say.

I would also be so bold to suggest that it is a very arrogant man who believes he can control the climate...to believe that one knows enough to really understand the climate is incredibly arrogant - Who shall make that claim? I want to meet him or her.

  • 84.
  • At 07:17 AM on 16 Nov 2007,
  • Michael wrote:

Global warming is just a front for the environmental movement as a whole. If we rally behind the issue , it will lead to more intelligent uses of natural resources , which we all know are finite. Bob poses the question as to why we shouldn't use coal for the next 300 years. Well here's a novel thought , maybe its because coal is detrimental to the environment in the sense that is causes air pollution, is dangerous to mine, and destroys ecosystems. Why not use the sun genius? That has enough energy to power the planet for oh , a billion years or so. Well the Bob's of the world will now say "What happens when there's a solar eclipse" , well then we can use wind energy , which has been shown is capable of powering the world 6 times over. Anyway , my point is that there is really no good counter argument to not be a greener society as a whole. (Don't play the economics card because "green" is one of the fastest growing sectors )

  • 85.
  • At 09:06 AM on 16 Nov 2007,
  • John wrote:

Why is it that you insist that sceptics should prove their case rather than the alarmists?

Why do you so readily accept the IPCC's evidence for man-made global warming when it is so very easily demolished?

Why do you accept the IPCC's reports when they are written and reviewed by scientists who are funded for research projects that assume a human influence, or at least have to claim a human influence in order to obtain research funding?

See "Why the IPCC should be disbanded" at http://mclean.ch/climate/SPPI-disband_the_IPCC.pdf if you want further information.

  • 86.
  • At 09:15 AM on 16 Nov 2007,
  • Ben wrote:

Regarding comment 36

>I'd like someone to explain to me how it is that the Vikings were able to
farm in Greenland in the tenth century
>how the Romans grew grapes in Northern England during their time here.
Nether of these activities can be engaged in today,

Well there are 362 vineyards in the UK including Vineyards in Yorkshire
and Lancashire (http://www.englishwineproducers.com/) compared to none being present in 1085 north of Ely (http://www.domesdaybook.co.uk/) - so I am afraid you are wrong on that front. To be honest though this is the problem with people not considering the issues, even if vineyards have
decreased this may have been due to different grape varieties, irrigation,
farming practises etc, so as a temperature proxy it is pretty loose.

Regarding Greenland, it has been suggested by several authors that it was
actually a publicity con to get immigrants to sail to the new settlement
(e.g for want of a better example to hand. Diamond, J, 2004, Collapse,
Penguin), however, again it's a loose proxy - if you go by a peer reviewed
journal like Dahl-Jensen et al., 1998, Science 282 (5387) p268, their
borehole measurements from the GRIP core show a warmer middle Holocene - a
much better claim than Vikings -, thing is, you can't then go saying
Greenland was warmer previously therefore AGW is not happening - all it
means is that Greenland was warmer previously, you need to consider why,
what mechanisms were involved, and why was the globe itself cooler during
this period?

  • 87.
  • At 11:50 AM on 16 Nov 2007,
  • Peter Ward wrote:

The trouble with climate "science" is that it has become politicised. Governments see MMGW as the golden goose for carbon- and emissions-based taxes of many kinds, both personal and on businesses. At a time of increasing healthcare costs and pensions payouts, anything that can generate more tax income is extremely welcome.

Therefore, governments have a vested interest in seeing MMGW hyped and spun into a big issue, the solution to which can be found in increased taxation. This needs to be the basis of the BBC's reporting -- the non-impartial stance of governments and therefore the IPCC which is funded by them.

In the light of the funding for the funding of the IPCC and its supporters, plus the "mutual sign-off" that has taken the place of peer reviews, it's no surprise that so-called "contrarians" can't get funding and don't get heard. They are seldom heard on the BBC, giving the impression that the BBC is a pro-MMGW organisation (whether it is or not).

What this means, however, is that you cannot judge the accuracy of the science by the loudness of its voice or the number of its adherents. It therefore behoves the BBC reporters who report on MMGW to:

1. have an in-depth understanding of the science on both sides

2. report on the science and not the spin

3. give a voice to all who have something meaningful to say based on science performed honestly and without bias, independent of their funding level.

Those BBC reporters who choose to report on MMGW should have a knowledge of scientific method, and understanding of computer modelling, and a knowledge of statistics. Only by being able to talk to interviewees from a position of strength can you do what we need you to do, and that's get to the facts. We don't need soundbites and a regurgitation of press releases; we need someone to ask the questions we're shouting at the radio/TV: "says who?" "is that statistically significant?", "where's the proof?", "what other explanations could there be?".

Come to think of this, this applies to almost all the BBC's reporting on epidemiology as well (the latest cancer scare, the latest data dredge).

  • 88.
  • At 12:38 PM on 16 Nov 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

* Joseph Elkhorne wrote:
Albert Einstein was rubbished by 800 good German scientists. His reaction, "All it takes is one to prove me wrong."

Conclusion: forget about consensus. That's not science.
+++++++++

OK, so prove the IPCC wrong.

Is there any evidence that Vikings in Greenland decided to bury their dead inside the permafrost?

Wouldn't it be rather more realistic to think it was much warmer at the time, so the settlers didn't have to deal with any permafrost at all?

  • 90.
  • At 01:57 PM on 16 Nov 2007,
  • Brian Abbott wrote:

Hopefully this gets posted. (LOTS of problems last night and today with this website ;-)

Although he terms himself a sceptic, Chris Newton's comments are particularly to the point.

Even if we're not yet past the tipping point, the chances of humanity collectively taking decisive action to reverse the climate change trend are , to say the least, slim. We can only hope that, as the sceptics assert, the change will be relatively benign.

If, as the 'alarmists' assert, we are likely to lose a substantial proportion of the world's population over the next century, we need to halt all of the wasteful 'sticking plaster' measures so beloved of politicians and face up to the fact that some extremely brutal triage - on a global scale - will be unavoidable. We in the UK need to put our efforts into security of supply of energy, food and other resources before the stable door shuts.

Given that the concequences for being wrong are so much greater if you go with the sceptic view than if you go with the 'alarmists' view, surely common sense dictates that we (including the BBC) should be giving more weight to the 'alarmists'?

  • 91.
  • At 03:04 PM on 16 Nov 2007,
  • Julie wrote:

This may be a slightly radical suggestion but i would recommed that sceptics, believers or even undecided might read some sections of the IPCC report. It is easily accessible on the internet and i found it incredibly useful in helping me understand some of the basic science and the sources of evidence which the scientists have used. People
can then make their own more informed
decisions about the issues involved without having to rely as much on relatively short news reports. I am carrying out research into what our past climate was like but whenever i try to debate this issue with friends i spend most of my time correcting misinformation and so little time talking about the scientific debate over uncertainties and limitations.

I also suggest that interested people might like to read the blog at realclimate which contains more scientific discussion on the areas of uncertainty in the field. I welcome the article by Richard Black and Roger Harribin. I admit to my bias since i am involved in climate research myself but i have often been frustrated with the so-called experts taking part in debates on climate science who are more often lobbyists or politicians than scientists. The reality is that many climate scientists are somewhat wary of speaking to the media due to the controversial nature of the issue and how comments can be taken out of context by both sides of the debate. Comments made on the board here show that people are genuinely interested in the evidence and have made significant efforts to understand climate science. I would like to see the media continue to move towards reporting more of the facts and evidence produced by both sides of the debate. I feel that there is an important role for the media in helping the scientists themselves who have more limited opportunities and experience in communicating with the public.

  • 92.
  • At 03:04 PM on 16 Nov 2007,
  • Kelvin Walker wrote:

Why is it that the climate skeptics have to prove their case? Because the climate change experts have already presented a very convincing argument. They have facts and figures (the majority of the warmest years for the last few century have occurred in the last decade, for example) that are verifiable. As demonstrated by the article and many of the comments above, those attacking climate change are like those that attack evolution, or the idea that cigarettes are bad for you: they misquote facts, rely on outdated evidence (usually anecdotal), repeat claims already dismissed by experts (and often since retracted by those that initially made them) and it usually transpires that they have no scientific credentials themselves.

Like those that promote the 'controversy of evolution' they seek to actually create a controversy out of smoke and mirrors where there is in fact no controversy at all - but by talking about it they create the impression that there is one in the public mind.

I'm seeing a great deal of educated-sounding waffle here, otherwise called 'being objective'. With the IPCC's report, the debate on whether Global Warming is man-made or not is over, it is closed. The verdict is clear: IT IS INDEED MAN-MADE. Why let some half-educated sceptics debate it further, and find layman-type arguments to refute scientific conclusions arrived at after a great deal of discussion?

HUMBLE SUGGESTION: Why don't you learned folks at BBC just say it up front, plainly, and close the debate? Because it would help a lot of us activists out here to get our not-so-learned bureaucrats and ministers in India to stop treating Global Warming like some kind of urban myth, and just TAKE ACTION!

btw, administrators in India are so utterly sceptical that they will not factor in climate change to any extent while planning new thermal power capacities, airports etc. The only thing they want to do is maintain a high rate of GDP.

I think your concern over balanced coverage is a valid one. Anomolies & controversy draw more attention than more settled issues. You'll find that a google search on Global Warming at www.google.com differs considerably in its mix of sceptics from a google search at scholar.google.com.

To be fair, the climate change discussion is about science and particular care should be paid to whether a position is directly supported by peer reviewed findings. Much of the debate is driven by assertions made by non-scientists, scientist whose discipline is far from climate science and climate scientists who are no longer active in the field. The distance (or proximity) of a critic or supporter from the core scientific disciplines and current flow of data is noteworthy. Just because the US congress chose Michael Crichton as an expert witness doesn't mean he actually is. The same goes for Al Gore.

Also, while it certainly sells more papers to lead with headlines that play up controversy, please hold to the position you state in this article and avoid adding fuel to the fire.

Thanks.

This is absurd. Just like the hoax it's trying to push.

When will you people understand that there is no such thing as consensus in science? And when will you understand that science relies verifiable and reproducible data? You cannot have this with computer climate models.

  • 96.
  • At 01:32 AM on 17 Nov 2007,
  • Mike Hall wrote:

Although I suspect the depressingly numerous 'deniers' in the above posts are likely to be too closed-minded to actually think beyond their own limited horizons, I would offer the following (simple) facts:
1. The 'greenhouse' effects of the gases humans are significantly adding to the atmosphere are basic science FACT - reproducible in any lab.
2. We have hugely altered the delicate balance of these gases in an (geological) unprecedented short time.
3. The effects of this are completely dominated by 'positive feedback' mechanisms which will be unstoppable once they begin to accelerate. (Think how quickly the loudspeakers screech when microphones 'feedback'.)
4. It is virtually impossible to accurately assess how much time the transition to the next stable state will take before the (multiple, complex) mechanisms begin to accelerate & can be measured.
5. In the last 1 to 2 years especially, virtually all these positive feedback mechanisms have been seen to accelerate significantly.
6. It is not even clear that the 2 deg C rise limit (proposed by EU etc) can either be definitely achieved or even prevent 'runaway' warming to + 6 deg C.
7. It has been reasonably estimated that + 6 deg C will cause the extinction of 95 % of all life on Earth, including (particularly) primates (humans).
8. In light of the above, the 'precautionary' principle screams.
9. Unfortunately, human 'higher' (thinking) brain function evolution required to get us past our short-termist selfish greed, & out of this mess, seems not to be functioning in most people.

  • 97.
  • At 04:37 AM on 17 Nov 2007,
  • Simon wrote:

The reporting of climate change on the BBC has been so biased thus far that it has led many to lose faith in the impartiality of the organisation, myself included. You could try going back to the fundamental principle of just reporting the facts. It will take a while to get out of the habit of reporting every hysterical prediction about climate change as the undisputed truth but you should give it a try.

  • 98.
  • At 06:53 AM on 17 Nov 2007,
  • David Easterling wrote:

The majority of posts here take the view that those who believe in the more severe predictions of man-made climate change have the best interests of the planet at heart. While often acknowledging that uncertainty over the models is still considerable, they invoke their safety net, which is "OK, so there is still a lot of uncertainty, but its best to be on the safe side."
This type of cautious response seems good (and at worst harmless) but it isn't.
Much the same argument was used against nuclear power in the seventies, when the slogan was "Any risk is too much risk". The problem then was that the environmental lobby made the obvious mistake of comparing the risks of nuclear power with nothing at all. Those who pointed this out and attempted to compare various power sources based on a proper understanding of ALL the facts (as opposed to a highly biased selection of the facts) were labeled enemies of the planet, the mouthpiece of "big business" (sounds familiar, doesn't it ....)
The result is that for the last 30 years we have been spewing out far more CO2 than we would have done had their been less hysteria and more rational debate.

Do I believe that human activities can cause climate change? Yes. Are CO2 emmissions causing climate change? Probably. Should CO2 emmissions be controlled while the potential problem is investigate. Yes. Should the conclusions of the "responsible majority" be questioned. As long as the questions have a proper scientific basis, defintely. Let the debate continue. We should not burn people at the stake just because they have the nerve to suggest that the world may be round.

  • 99.
  • At 06:57 AM on 17 Nov 2007,
  • Derek wrote:

1,2,3 of hottest years 1998, 1934, 1921....

outdated evidence, - Polar bears are endangered, since hunting controls were introduced there are approximately 2.5 to 5 times more polar bears on this planet in the wild, and healthy, than there were in the 1960s, latest studies have shown.
The Antarctic is melting..Well the little bit with volcanoes under it is (Larrsson B ice shelf), the rest of the continent is getting colder. 2007 record Antarctic sea ice. According to the satelites, oh, and Greenland is melting a bit at the edges, and gaining more in the interior, satelite evidence again.

One public mind, well, most believe in natural variation, the sun, oceans, water vapour, both a positive and negative feedback, hence the climate has never run away.
And it will not now. Not by man's relatively small "contribution", although we do have an effect.
(Might help explain why fewer and fewer are voting [more did not vote, than did vote for Labour at the last election], or don't trust politicians any longer....They are always lying for their own gain, as is so patently demonstrated by this Green Tax fiasco they are all committed to at present.

CO2 effect is logarithmic, (that is proved) it's all exaggeration for political purposes from there, mainly by the use of water vapour as only a positive feedback in models. The "bastardization of a young science for political gain".

The BBC with it's present stance of not considering seriously anything other than the minority of scientists views expressed by the IPCC, is a minority view in itself, trying to masquerade as a majority view.

Politics, pure politics, backed by flawed, biased, untested, unverified, mniority, science.

  • 100.
  • At 07:06 AM on 17 Nov 2007,
  • Derek wrote:

BTW,
Here is an interesting pdf,

http://icecap.us/images/uploads/THE_GREAT_PACIFIC_CLIMATE_SHIFT_II.pdf

A sort of "test" if you like, not exactly scientific, but is it going to be a cold winter this year in dear old Blighty..
Do ocean currents and the sun effect climate more than man....
Well if it's a warm winter you'd have to suspect CO2,
if it's a cold winter this year you'd be "allowed" to think it might just be the sun and oceans afterall...

Not exactly conclusive, but I think it'll be a cold one this winter.
We'll "know" by spring. ;-)


  • 101.
  • At 10:29 AM on 17 Nov 2007,
  • Tim dennell wrote:

‘…strange the scientists find dinosaur fossils but no evidence of 4x4 usage by our friend t-rex I wonder what started the warm up last time?’ Jim coan (Comment 74)

We have had an overall cooler global climate regime develop over the past 60 million years following the break-up of a southern supercontinent [Gondwana]. Earth used to have a circumequatorial ocean current circulation pattern, this was shut off by South America separating from Antarctica together with South America and Africa’s collision with other land masses; this forced the ocean currents to then circulate in a north/south Interpolar pattern between the northern and southern hemispheres.
A second reason is that the collision of landmasses produced new mountain chains. In particular the collision of India with Asia at around 50 mya began the uplift process that resulted in the Himalayan Mountains and the massive Tibetan Plateau; these are so extensive and high they disrupted atmospheric circulation patterns.
Both these reorganisations resulted in a much cooler global climate since the Eocene; at around 45 mya ice sheets at both poles began to grow. Though astronomical (Milankovitch) cycles had caused the amount of solar energy to vary over the eras, (These cycles show clearly in the sediment cores covering the Cenozoic era.) the first of the present series of ice ages, where ice sheets advanced and retreated across the northern hemisphere, only began three million years ago. Any rise in temperature today, comparable to that of the Paleocene, wouldn’t lead to a simple reprise of the Paleocene’s climate regime, simply because today’s ocean current and atmospheric circulation patterns are now so very different.
Two additional explanations have been proposed as to why we now have a cooler global climate. Firstly, atmospheric CO2 concentrations have slowly fallen as both volcanic activity and the rate of seafloor spreading has declined over the past 100 million years. The planet is now much less volcanically active and more geologically stable than it has been in the deep past. Secondly, the formation of the Himalayan Mountains and Tibetan Plateau both increased regional rainfall and exposed great amounts of freshly shattered rock; this increased the rate of chemical weathering by which CO2 is precipitated from the atmosphere and absorbed into the land and oceans. (The carbon dioxide dissolved in rainwater helps decompose rock minerals, especially silicates, and forms bicarbonates - HCO3- - a form of inorganic carbon. These bicarbonates are soluble and are transported by rivers downstream to the coasts where they are deposited on ocean floors as sediment.) The rate of volcanic CO2 emissions declined at the same time as the rate of its absorption into the ground was increased. All this has substantially changed Earth’s climate since the Cretaceous when T Rex lived.

  • 102.
  • At 10:37 AM on 17 Nov 2007,
  • V.V.Sundar wrote:

Hi Roger & Steve,

Brilliant analysis on how to impartially cover climate change communication.

I hope Roger remebers me; his India visit and the gangotri glaciers trip, while i was part of an environmental agency, handling this issue.

Keep up the coverage!

Good Luck
Sundar

  • 103.
  • At 10:58 AM on 17 Nov 2007,
  • charles wrote:

This article is typical of the distorted nonsense produced by the BBC on the global warming bandwagon. In every sentence where they are mentioned, skeptics are disparaged, referred to as "so called climate sceptics" or with the implication that they are all funded by the oil industry.
Almost every sentence of the article is completely wrong or distorted. Just to pick on one - climate change is associated with concern for the environment, with the implication that anyone who doesnt believe the GW hype is a environment vandal. I am an environmentalist - I recycle and compost almost everything and I am very concerned about pollution and destruction of habitat. I just dont believe we are on the brink of imminent climate catastrophe.
It is just astonishing that Black claims to have studied the sceptic argument and yet can continue to write such garbage.

86: Ben is wrong about English vineyards - there were far more vineyards in the medieval period than there are now.

  • 104.
  • At 11:02 AM on 17 Nov 2007,
  • David Easterling wrote:

The majority of posts here take the view that those who believe in the mean-to-worst-case predictions of man-made climate change have the best interests of the planet at heart, and that those who choose to question the results are wicked planet wreckers. While often acknowledging that uncertainty over the models is still considerable, the believers invoke a convenient safety net, which is "OK, so there is still a lot of uncertainty, but its best to be on the safe side."
This approach appears wise, and at worst harmless, but may not be.

Much the same argument was used against nuclear power in the seventies and eighties, when the "correct" view on nuclear power was that "any risk is too much risk". The problem then was that the environmental lobby made the fundamental blunder of comparing the risks of nuclear power with the risks of nothing at all. Those who pointed this out and attempted to compare the effects of various power sources based on a proper understanding of ALL the facts (as opposed to a highly biased selection of the facts) were branded "Mouthpieces of the nuclear industry".

The result is that for the last 30 years we have been spewing out far more CO2 than we would have done had their been less hysteria about nuclear power and more rational deliberation. Or to put it another way, while the environmentalists of that time undoubtedly had the best interest of the planet at heart, by exagerating the risks and selecting only those facts that supported their point of view, they inadvertently caused a lot of the CO2 polution that their descendents are so worried about today!

Few would dispute the idea that human activities can influence the climate, and there is no doubt that mean temperatures have increased significantly over the past few decades. But a good scientific theory must not only explain the past - it must make accurate predictions concerning the future, and to date the models put forward have been very poor at predicting future warming. The point that the dissenters make is that the fact that the planet is warming faster than earlier models projected does not necessarily mean that the earlier models were too conservative - it could mean that the whole concept is totally wrong.

Should CO2 emmissions (and polution in general) be controlled? In my opinion, yes - for many reasons and not just because of their possible effect on the global climate. But we should aIso keep an open mind and avoid the tendency to ostracise those whos opinions do not conform to the latest version of political correctness.

  • 105.
  • At 11:15 AM on 17 Nov 2007,
  • Chris Ward wrote:

This supposed to be unbiased? Who are the 140 'scientists' who were questioned? How were they chosen, and by whom? The IPCC is a politically corrupt organization, not a scientific one. This article does nothing other than to underline that the BBC is as neutral on man made global warming as the catholic church is on the bible.

  • 106.
  • At 11:46 AM on 17 Nov 2007,
  • santa clara wrote:

OK I have Googled British Vineyards and here is one result ...
http://www.safaroff.info/article57.html

It seems to be a pretty solid description of the discovery of the first Romano British vineyard

so your point is that the article is a spoof or that it prooves nothing?

really powerful discussion here (what does that proove?)

  • 107.
  • At 12:08 PM on 17 Nov 2007,
  • Mike Hall wrote:

Although I suspect the depressingly numerous 'deniers' in the above posts are likely to be too closed-minded to actually think beyond their own limited horizons, I would offer the following (simple) facts:
1. The 'greenhouse' effects of the gases humans are significantly adding to the atmosphere are basic science FACT - reproducible in any lab.
2. We have hugely altered the delicate balance of these gases in an (geological) unprecedented short time.
3. The effects of this are completely dominated by 'positive feedback' mechanisms which will be unstoppable once they begin to accelerate. (Think how quickly the loudspeakers screech when microphones 'feedback'.)
4. It is virtually impossible to accurately assess how much time the transition to the next stable state will take before the (multiple, complex) mechanisms begin to accelerate & can be measured.
5. In the last 1 to 2 years especially, virtually all these positive feedback mechanisms have been seen to accelerate significantly.
6. It is not even clear that the 2 deg C rise limit (proposed by EU etc) can either be definitely achieved or even prevent 'runaway' warming to + 6 deg C.
7. It has been reasonably estimated that + 6 deg C will cause the extinction of 95 % of all life on Earth, including (particularly) primates (humans).
8. In light of the above, the 'precautionary' principle screams.
9. Unfortunately, the human 'higher' (thinking) brain function evolution required to get us past our short-termist selfish greed, & out of this mess, seems not to be functioning in most people.

  • 108.
  • At 12:59 PM on 17 Nov 2007,
  • James Pickett wrote:

"We are still living with criticism over our coverage of MMR when we gave the impression that each side was underpinned by science of approximately equal weight"

This was covered perfectly well, but was condemned by those who sought to suppress a perfectly valid point of view (and who now want to give your children a vaccination for the deadly chickenpox). The point is that the BBC exists to report opinions, but this inevitably irritates those who think that only they have access to the truth.

Prior to Blair and Campbell, the BBC was good at resisting this, but since the grubby, over-promoted tabloid hack got his way, the Beeb has been cowed and defensive.

Governments always accuse the BBC of bias, but that is simply because they don't like fair reporting. The fact that they all complain suggests the BBC is even-handed.

Climate change has now become an industry, and will be self-perpetuating until somebody succeeds in pointing out that models are not reality, that CO2 promotes plant growth (and has little effect on warming), and that the climate has always changed.

Greenland is so called for a rather simple reason...

I think your concern over balanced coverage is a valid one. Anomolies & controversy draw more attention than more settled issues. You'll find that a google search on Global Warming at www.google.com differs considerably in its mix of sceptics from a google search at scholar.google.com.

To be fair, the climate change discussion is about science and particular care should be paid to whether a position is directly supported by peer reviewed findings. Much of the debate is driven by assertions made by non-scientists, scientist whose discipline is far from climate science and climate scientists who are no longer active in the field. The distance (or proximity) of a critic or supporter from the core scientific disciplines and current flow of data is noteworthy. Just because the US congress chose Michael Crichton as an expert witness doesn't mean he actually is. The same goes for Al Gore.

Also, while it certainly sells more papers to lead with headlines that play up controversy, please hold to the position you state in this article and avoid adding fuel to the fire.

Thanks.

  • 110.
  • At 02:44 PM on 17 Nov 2007,
  • ROBERT wrote:

how can we trusts any humans on
climate change....these creatures
are fifty years behind the curve.
it is way too late to change there
destrucktive behaviour toward
mother nature..WITNESS..school
bus...movie houses...concert halls
gambling towns...golf ..baseball
football...mac donalds..fitness
centers...malls...trains planes
child giant play house...roller
coaster...n.a.s.a computers..gum
speed boats..hairspray..gold rings
mansion..porn films..beer..bars
dec25th trees..bonfires..fire arms
ME&YOU


The inherent bias in this article, even when trying to appear balanced is shown by the comparison with the Scientific Alliance mentioned as "founded by a businessman" & Friends of the Earth which it is not mentioned, is largely funded by government, EU & UN grants.

In fact if the BBC was remotely interested in balanced reporting all they need to do is give over a couple of hours (far less than given to Gore & Madonna) for a genuine debate. They won't because, as they must know such debates, like the one in New York, invariably result in success for the sceptics.

A couple of days ago I asked the BBC to justify a news item they produced stating as fact that current sea level rise in the Mediterranean had done specific & visible damage at a particular site. Since they have not retracted the claim it must be accepted as representing the highest standard of honesty to which the BBC aspire. On the other hand it is a complete lie - sea level rise is 1.3mm a year, as it has been for the last 10,000 years, which will destroy nothing. The BBC deliberately lied & worse, are maintaining this lie.

  • 112.
  • At 04:41 PM on 17 Nov 2007,
  • Karl Zimmerman wrote:

A very insightful essay by Messrs. Black & Harrabin. If the BBC can succeed in following these guidelines, they will be worthy of my continuing trust. It is especially encouraging that they are willing to admit to past failures.

I was struck in parrticular by the recognition that reporters often present groups the way they present themselves (e.g. The Scientific Alliance), without verification. We must all be sceptics today.

Thank you!

  • 113.
  • At 04:51 PM on 17 Nov 2007,
  • Rene Descartes wrote:

What the sceptics consistently fail to recognise is that if they put forward another explanation for the observed rapid climate change over the last 100 years or so, they must also explain why the 30% rise in CO2 levels since 1750, largely attributed to burning of fossil fuels and change in land use, hasn't retained heat as basic physics says it must. Greenhouse gas physics has been well understood for over 100 years and if sceptic scientists have discovered some new properties of greenhouse gases that have eluded other scientists then they must present the evidence and present it for the scrutiny of the scientific method, which includes a rigorous peer review process. At the moment we have a well documented rise in CO2 levels that can be shown to be from burning fossil fuels; we have a proven rise in temperatures globally; we have an agent (CO2), a mechanism (greenhouse effect) so it hangs together scientifically. CO2 absorbs and emits infrared radiation. This can be measured in the laboratory. It can be measured by pointing instruments at the sky. And the emission, and effects of its absorption, is measured continuously by weather satellites orbiting the Earth.

You don't need a computer model to show this - Arrhenius showed the link and predicted what would happen by adding more CO2 over 100 years ago. Models simply apply the laws of physics and allow climatologists to apply and investigate more sophisticated climate mechanisms, especially feedback from such factors as more H2O leading to more clouds, ice melting reducing sunlight reflecting etc. Sceptics need to be very careful in disparaging computer models: if alternative hypotheses are proposed, computer models will be needed to demonstrate their validity. Why should computer models be unsafe in one application, but acceptable in another?

Saying it's "just a theory" shows lack of knowledge of the scientific method. A theory is not synonymous with "conjecture" or "hypothesis". Relativity, Quantum Mechanics and Evolution are all "theories" but all explain the empirical evidence extremely well, make testable predictions and provide technology (eg satellites, computers and genetic based techniques respectively) that the general public just take for granted. Science works by evaluating facts derived from empirical evidence, postulating hypotheses to explain the evidence, testing the hypotheses and the predictions they make against new evidence and the hypothesis that scientists accept as the best explanation of the facts becomes a "theory". A theory can never be proven absolutely but can be disproved. Thus far, the Greenhouse gas theory is the best explanation of the observed evidence and, thus far, has not been disproved and, as per para 1, must be if sceptics want alternatives to be taken seriously. The public is very happy to take the word of scientists when it has provided the standard of living we now enjoy. Breakthroughs in quantum mechanics, biochemistry, physics, chemistry etc have made the modern world, yet "the public" wouldn't have the foggiest idea about the quantum mechanics that enables their computer and the internet to function. Yet when they find scientists say something inconvenient, time to ignore them! The oft cited examples of Galileo and Einstein to show scientists being opposed by “the mainstream” are historically and scientifically inaccurate: in both cases they were opposed by political and religious forces, not scientific ones. Indeed, their correctness was demonstrated by use of the scientific method, not by rejecting it. Moreover both (and Newton, Maxwell, Darwin etc) took science off in a non-intuitive, non-common sense direction and this is true of most science. The scientific method was established because the senses and human prejudices are inadequate to investigate the way the world works. Consequently, to cite Galileo and Einstein as heros of the sceptics is high irony!

Saying scientists are biased to get funding ignores how funding works. If you want to be a physics professor, you won't get a position if you don't understand and accept relativity and quantum mechanics; if you want to be a biology professor, you accept evolution. Same with climatology: you have to accept well understood thermodynamics and statistical mechanics and many other basics of physics and chemistry. None of these fields is intuitive to the public. Why should the BBC (or the media generally) be "balanced" in presenting both sides of the argument with equal weight? Should a 1 hour Horizon programme on (say) "The Big Bang" spend half the programme giving Creationists their side? Of course not and I would expect only Creationists to disagree with that point of view! The Big Bang is also "just a theory", relies on computer models and "unproven" science and huge amounts of money is spent each year researching it further. Yet the Big Bang theory is the best scientific explanation we have for the beginning and evolution of the Universe and few cosmologists debate the core principles, even if they do on the details. I don't hear anyone accusing cosmologists, particle physicists etc being biased and desperate for funding because they accept the basic tenets of their discipline. Certainly, if the science does turn out to be wrong, it will be the scientific method that shows it, not rhetoric and polemics! At this time, well established principles of physics and chemistry are sufficient enough and robust enough to explain what's going on - applying them to a highly complex, chaotic system is the challenge. There are no modern equivalents of the Michelson-Morley experiment, a photographic plate darkened by uranium salts or even a "missing neutrino" problem that contemporary science couldn't explain and caused major rethinks in the science of the time.

Hence, the IPCC bases its report (which covers all the standard sceptic soundbites: ice ages, the socalled "lag", the Sun, the mini ice ages, the medieval warming period - all the natural causes of climate change) on well understood science. Sceptics should read it before criticising it. Instead, I see claims that lots of (never named) scientists disagree with the IPCC, that the CO2 theory is wrong (but no credible, peer reviewed, scientific alternative explanations provided) and that politics is driving the science (despite the fact the scientific evidence was becoming clear a generation ago, well before politicians got involved).

The sceptics I do hear about actually aren't debating the premise that manmade CO2 is changing the climate. What they are debating is whether we should do anything about it and what the effective mitigation strategies should be if we do. What is clear is that demand for fossil fuels is going to continue to increase this century, leading to insecurity of supply. If we are to maintain our standards of living, then alternatives must be found and those alternatives need to be low CO2 sources. Rather than debate the science that most of us are not actually qualified to do, we should debate the correction, mitigation and adaptation strategies that affect us all, recognising we are mere custodians of the planet, not its owners.

Lastly, I would far rather be taken for a fool by future generations because we acted and the science was wrong, than be vilified by them for not acting when we manifestly should have.

  • 114.
  • At 05:44 PM on 17 Nov 2007,
  • Ynda wrote:

What I find slightly dreadful is the Bush Administration claiming that the Global Warming is not proven scientifically (despite the overwhelming consensus by scientists) and then failing to provide any science, air crash investigation reports, or criminal investigations surrounding 9/11. So on the one hand, wanting more rigor where there already is some and providing no rigor on all the loose ends on 9/11 where it suits him.

Hmm, I guess its all politics! Shame it is our future he is being so awkward about.

  • 115.
  • At 06:23 PM on 17 Nov 2007,
  • Patrick Walsh wrote:

All this debate on how to debate the climate change will likely go on for years. It is time that the individual takes action in what ever way they see fit.

We have changed to the new low power lights, upgraded our insulation and furnace, and plan to exchange our van for a more fuel efficient car as soon we can afford it.

But being 71, and living in the Snow Belt here in Ontario, Canada, we are enjoying the earlier Springs, warmer Summers, shorter winters, and fine wines from Niagara region.

Not much more we can do about things.

  • 116.
  • At 06:42 PM on 17 Nov 2007,
  • PT wrote:

Please, please, readers, read "Cool It" a recent book by Bjorn Lomborg. I know there are many out on the web who seek to villify him as a "CC Denier". But read the book. Come to your own intelligent conclusion.

Lomborg accepts unequivocally that climate is changing, and that man probably has some role in that change.

But he sets out very clearly the alternatives to irrational spending and CO2 controls, when there are many, many better thiings we could do with the resources thereby used.

Has no one on this little planet ever asked the question "Does climate change cause ANY good things to happen?? Or is it all 100% bad?

Climate change is killing people - yes, that's almost certainly true. But is it concurrently saving or extending lives by reducing cold, or by increasing rainfall in dry areas? Remember nature does not just do hurricanes, she does big and little rains too, which surely are having a desirable effect in some areas. No?

  • 117.
  • At 06:46 PM on 17 Nov 2007,
  • James Pickett wrote:

"just because someone says they are a 'scientist' it does not mean they have a valid scientific view on climate change" (post 77)

But that is exactly the problem with the IPCC's famous list of 2000 supporting scientists, most of whom are not climatologists. Some have even tried to get their names removed and failed!

The jury is still out on this, and it is perfectly reasonable for the BBC to report the opinions of those who oppose the conventional wisdom. The volume of protest from some quarters suggests that their arguments are not as robust as they pretend.

"All great truths begin as blasphemies" (GBS)

  • 118.
  • At 08:57 PM on 17 Nov 2007,
  • Dennis Boland wrote:

Mr. Herrmann's article has brought forth a great number of responses and a number of them from various perspectives are quite thoughtful. Overall, I find most responses more thoughtful than the article that evoked them.

Perhaps one of the problems the media have to grapple with is that, while books can develop nuance and variation, a few hundred words at a time cannot. Thus issues are portrayed as a line and one must stand on either side. Closer, of course, is that issues not subject to laboratory experiment are more like a semi-circle. At the vertices are people with extreme views but most folks lie along the paths in between. You might even say that someone on the straight side could agree with someone on the opposite curved side except that vocabulary and ideology get in the way. Over time people may tend towards a single vertex, but that is over time and time runs on its own schedule.

All of the above is perfectly general, I think. Re the BBC in particular is another matter. I find BBC trying to be less biased than in the past, particularly since that damning report that shook them up. I’ve even written to congratulate them. However, sometimes it’s like expecting the Chinese to give up rice. When I opened BBC’s homepage a few minutes ago, the lead story was about the IPCC report, and the graphic was that of the polar bear. Aaaaaarrrrrgggghhhh!! How long ago was Al Gore’s pitiful bear story debunked? For example Bjorn Lomborg, a Dane, in Cool It (Knopf, New York, 2007, pp 4-8) goes to the data on which the myth was based and explains that there are 25% more bears today than 40 years ago. Two subspecies are indeed declining, but they live in areas where it is getting colder, while two subspecies are increasing and they live in areas where it is getting warmer. The main point is that the decline of the bear from its once greater levels was due to hunting and the bears’ resurgence is due to government controls on hunting.

While this example might be applauded by those opposed to the greens, others could be found to the opposite. Nevertheless, BBC (like many media outlets) seems to lean only one way. I realize their money is tight, but there are only a dozen or so serious continuing issues that require monitoring.

  • 119.
  • At 01:13 AM on 18 Nov 2007,
  • Andrew Osborn wrote:

OK, so we have the IPCC saying they're pretty sure now that that there is some global warming and it *could well* be due to humans. That's a definite maybe!

On that basis we're about to launch into a massive corruption of the free market system (the Kyoto Accord) which even the optimists say will achieve pretty much nothing.

Why aren't we tackling the population explosion or soil erosion or depleting fish stocks with the same vigour? These are far more important issues with solid facts to back them up. Not maybes.

  • 120.
  • At 01:49 AM on 18 Nov 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

I was so happy to see another clip of the 11 kilowatt solar boiler in Spain on BBC's November 16 broadcast of "BBC World" aired on PBS in the USA. 11 kilowatts from hundreds of mirrors on what, an acre or more scaled up to be meaningful would require millions of mirros on half the Sahara desert and transmission of many tens of millions of kilowatts a third of the way across Africa and then across the Mediteranian Sea. What a fantastic concept, it's so....so very European in its basic nature. Impractical, impossible, naive, in short utterly stupid just like the EU itself. What next, a solar generator in stationary geo-synchronous earth orbit 25,000 miles above Europe with wires tethered to earth? The world's longest extenion cord? "London, this is the Beagle II we have landed safely...but this doesn't look like Mars, it looks like....Brighton."

  • 121.
  • At 11:42 AM on 18 Nov 2007,
  • Andrew Johnson, Glasgow wrote:

For me climate change, as it is being reported in the media and referred to by politicians, is a disingenuous presentation of some rather serious facts. Firstly -Climate change is happening, whether that be man made or natural. Secondly - the world has a finite resource in mineral oils.
So while the world is being diverted by the presentation that if we stopped burning carbon fuels tomorrow, global warming would be stopped, no one seems to be looking at the problems we know about. The world is pinning its hopes man made climate change as the answer. Man made or not, we will run out of oil and the ice caps may very well melt anyway due to natrual causes. So what is the world doing to do to prepare and mitigate for both of these problems? A lot of money is being exchanged on the back of the term Climate Change but that isnt going to help anyone if we find out in ten years we have sea levels covering half the country no matter what we do and no oil to get us about is it? The climate scientists may be right and they may be wrong but is mankind going to slip into oblivion because it wasnt bright enough to look at the problems objectively?

  • 122.
  • At 12:13 PM on 18 Nov 2007,
  • ABrown wrote:

Re: the comment about "impartiality."

I think the BBC and its editors are total hypocrites.
Here we have a nanny state organ that should have gone out of business long ago under Thatchers rule,.. and is being propped up by milking the taxpayer via TV License money in my opinion akin to the Mafia demanding protection money

LOL,..just look at the differing morality

One basic example:--On the one hand any comments made by people such as Mr McCann (whose daughter sadly recently abducted)
He is afforded the title "Mr." ,..or "Mr. Blair" ,......and the like

But when it comes to Muslims or Bin Laden, or an Iranian President they are classed as not being worthy of giving them a greeting title

Why is that?

  • 123.
  • At 12:58 PM on 18 Nov 2007,
  • Ronald Gardner wrote:

Science is about egos, money, politics and hubris as much as any other profession. If you want a realistic and fair representation you have to be skeptical about everything. You check the facts, the methods and make sure those reporting understand what they are reading. The problem is journalists don't understand what they are reporting.

If you want fair and balanced look at the statistics like Bjorn Lundberg did. Look at the professional journal articles and find out the methods, parameterizations and assumptions. See if the models work between 1650 and 1900. Do a report like national post did on the scientific deniers and why they deny it. That is good journalism.

Computer models are best guesses. They are not facts. You wouldn't trust the meteorologist to give you the report of christmas in Texas or Northern Florida. Does anyone have a model to accurately predict the shifting of barrier islands over the last 100 years or between 1800 and 1900 if you want to remove human activity?

Yet, we take it as a matter of faith about climate modeling. I am still waiting for their models to accurately tell me what kind of season to expect (dry, rainy, etc). They can't so why should I believe something 100 years in the future if it can't predict 6 months from now.

  • 124.
  • At 06:50 PM on 18 Nov 2007,
  • GUY FOX wrote:

The earth is flat! There is no climate change. Now go back to sleep! You are ewe... and ewe are getting very sleepy... sleepy... sleepy...

  • 125.
  • At 09:31 PM on 18 Nov 2007,
  • Bernard wrote:

How will sea levels rise if the ice around the Arctic melts?

The ice is in the sea. Water expands on freezing, so if it melts, maybe sea levels will drop a tad.

Also there is drought all over the planet. Surely if it is getting warmer there should be more rain, because more sea would evaporate.

Scam?

  • 126.
  • At 05:19 AM on 19 Nov 2007,
  • John Muir wrote:

The BBC seems to be trying to engender a view of this debate by presenting the IPCC as an august body of impeccable scientists and label anyone who does not believe their line as uninformed 'skeptics'.

In reality there is a much more diffuse debate going on. Most of the 'skeptics' do actually agree that there is ongoing climate change, after all the climate has always been changing (see WikiPedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_change) for a balanced introduction to this topic.

No, the real debate is whether there is any point in causing economic upheaval by trying to stop it. It's happening and we'll just have to accept it and adjust to it.

  • 127.
  • At 07:44 AM on 19 Nov 2007,
  • Peter wrote:

What worries me is that a generation of school kids are growing up thinking that every extreme weather event is caused by global warming.

  • 128.
  • At 11:04 AM on 19 Nov 2007,
  • Ben wrote:

Re 95

Mind saying where you get the evidence that there were more Vinyards from?

Anyhow, what I was trying to get across in my post was more that it is bad to make claims based on a single source of proxy data that is not purely based on temperature. I.e even if there were more Vinyards, this may have been due to different grape varieties, due to people not trusting water so wanting to grow alternatives, more farm labourer availability, differences in seasonality, differences in insects present, variations in trade routes etc etc.

Personally, I think there was a medievil warm period in the UK (1), but not because of a single claim I read in the Daily Mail or the Telegraph, but by looking in academic journals at published temperature proxies (speleotherm isotopes, lacustrine records, pollen, diatoms, dendrochronology, chironomids, etc)

Cheers,

(1) Just don't confuse local warming with global warming - being warmer in the UK does not imply that the globe was warmer at this period

  • 129.
  • At 11:47 AM on 19 Nov 2007,
  • Phil wrote:

One thing that increasingly annoys me is the reliance for the pro 'global warming' people on what they call scientific evidence. In the vast majority of cases there is no 'evidence' in respect of global warming. There is historical data which shows fluctuation over both short and long term periods. The projections of this data into the future are almost all based on computer models - which is NOT evidence. It's someone's best guess. And it can only be a guess because I guarantee that not one of those models, however good it is, will have taken into account ALL possible factors.

If climate prediction was as accurate as these people say it is then why did 'climatologists' predict a long, hot, dry, summer for the UK this year? The answer is that they used a defective computer model - as do all the long range forecasters.

  • 130.
  • At 12:52 PM on 19 Nov 2007,
  • corkynibblett wrote:

To quote the famous philosopher Bartholomew Simpson: the Earths sun will burn out in 4 billion years so why spend these last few years using inferior recycled products?

  • 131.
  • At 12:52 PM on 19 Nov 2007,
  • John R wrote:

Bernard (#117) - the ice is not all in the sea. In the Arctic there is a substantial amount of land-based ice in Greenland and northern Canada, and of course in the south Antarctica holds a huge amount of ice.

Also: the problem with climate change is that weather is an extremely complex system. A rise in global temperature could (according to one theory) slow the Gulf Stream, resulting in *lower* temperatures in the UK. Climactic change can mean more droughts in some places and more flooding in others. It won't mean the same change happening everywhere.

On another topic I just want to ask: we know who profits from not reducing oil and gas usage, but who profits if we do? If this is all a scam, where's the money in it?

John Udberg at 7:
Creationism is a dogma, evolution is a theory thoroughly and repeatedly supprted by scientific evidence.

  • 133.
  • At 01:59 PM on 19 Nov 2007,
  • Phil wrote:

One thing that increasingly annoys me is the reliance for the pro 'global warming' people on what they call scientific evidence. In the vast majority of cases there is no 'evidence' in respect of global warming. There is historical data which shows fluctuation over both short and long term periods. The projections of this data into the future are almost all based on computer models - which is NOT evidence. It's someone's best guess. And it can only be a guess because I guarantee that not one of those models, however good it is, will have taken into account ALL possible factors.

If climate prediction was as accurate as these people say it is then why did 'climatologists' predict a long, hot, dry, summer for the UK this year? The answer is that they used a defective computer model - as do all the long range forecasters.

  • 134.
  • At 02:18 PM on 19 Nov 2007,
  • Rich wrote:

I fall very much between the two extremes of thought on climate change, and I welcome the BBC's increasing (albeit very late) acknowledgement of the alternate position on this topic as I believe that presenting both sides in full, however unpalatable one may seem to the other, is a fundamental of informed debate, especially when the solutions currently being proposed could have such enormous policy, lifestyle and economic ramifications for all of us.

I'd now like to see a similar approach on the BBC's other pet topic of the so-called obesity epidemic, as I'd argue that coverage of this has been similarly unbalanced in recent weeks despite the high-profile coverage afforded. Scientific studies have been reported as undisputed when in fact there their methodology is exposed and assertions debunked by various commentators. Just as with MMCC peer review ensures a cozy consensus is reached amongst prominent scientists and prevents anything which even hints at challenging from seeing the light of day, and this is not acceptable. Furthermore there has been no attempt to present alternate courses of official action other than the interventionist policies currently being favoured by Government officials and various single-interest groups. In fact the entire way in which the debate has been framed has been misleading, incomplete and reliant on exaggeration and hyperbole, and because the BBC is generally (falsely) regarded as the primary authority on this subject the entire tone of the debate in Britain has been increasingly distorted.

I'd like to see a separate 'Obesity' mini-site giving a single point of access to all of these stories, features and HYS (in the same vein as the Climate Change portal) since this would make comparison and reference much easier. Whilst we're at it some mention of last week's CDC study (which appears to demonstrate that the health risks of being moderately overweight or obese have been greatly overstated) would be nice. How about an assessment of the limitations of the BMI scale, which seems to be preferred by the BBC despite the increasing acknowledgement that it is heavily flawed even by obesity researchers themselves? Why not mention the so-called 'obesity paradox' of 'excess' weight actually being shown to be beneficial in some conditions, raise the profile of the emerging fat acceptance and civil rights movement, or examine the inherent conflicts between a supposedly liberal and democratic society and increasingly coercive tactics that attempt to influence personal lifestyle?

The much bigger question of what role the State should play in the life of the individual is not one which has been answered in any meaningful way by the BBC's coverage of this or other recent health topics, but a truly impartial organisation would be asking these questions and attempting to stimulate debate rather than trying to close it down as at present. That's the job of increasingly polarised extreme elements who rely on overstatement and doomsday exaggeration to create panic, justify their existence and secure additional funding. The BBC need do none of these things, and your recent attempts to set the agenda through the disproportionate emphasis you give to certain studies and statements, and to present the debate in your own terms concern me greatly.

  • 135.
  • At 02:19 PM on 19 Nov 2007,
  • Andy wrote:

It seems the debate is not yet over as many alarmists/politician desperately tried to make happen.

The articles by Richard Black clearly fails to recognise the significance of the poor quality of the 'concensus' science. The work by Steve McIntyre shows that important data underlying the research by many 'climate scientist' is wrong (see: http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=2371) this is further to serious criticisms made of the way certain key climate scientists conduct their peer-reviews, as a part of a close-knit social network that fails to properly scrutinise each others research.

Yet with all this uncertainty man-made global warming still remains a fact by alarmists and the IPCC, we are now once again debating the issue of global warming amidst an ongoing political propaganda campaign that is trying to brainwash our children to believing the Al Gore perspective of climate change in order to win the climate debate, a perspective I am sorry to say also shared by the BBC. This is not just scepticism of climate change theories it is scepticism of the politicised climate science - another 'fear' for the politicians to use in an attempt to get their draconian, tax greedy, policies accepted.

  • 136.
  • At 02:21 PM on 19 Nov 2007,
  • John wrote:

Pretty much confirms what I thought: the BBCs 'environment' correspondent does not believe in balance or impartiality. He is here to convince us of the 'truth.' Not a problem now he has been open about it and we know to take his reporting with a pinch of salt. Shame you can't be as honest about the editorial policy and partiality on other subjects such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Isreal, America etc. I don't have a problem with an editorial position, most newspapers have them, so long as you are not pretending to be impartial.

  • 137.
  • At 02:28 PM on 19 Nov 2007,
  • Andy wrote:

John R (#131)
'If this is all a scam, where's the money in it?'

The scam is government fund and control climate scientists and climate science research via the IPCC to provide them with the scare stories they need to introduce more taxes.

The IPCC is the political machinery that propagates the scam under a seemingly respectable façade.

  • 138.
  • At 02:30 PM on 19 Nov 2007,
  • James Pickett wrote:

"If this is all a scam, where's the money in it?" (post 131)

There's all the stuff designed to save energy, including light bulbs that don't (because of the extra energy and materials, some toxic, that are used to make them), stuff required to fulfill all the new regulations imposed to make us save energy, and all the bureaucrats and quangos whose job it is to create more regulations to make us save energy and to police those of us who might be tempted not to comply.

It has become a both a self-sustaining business and a political bandwagon, which is why the BBC gets so much flak whenever it gives airtime to anyone who expresses a contrary view.

Peter (no.127) is right. Just check out CBeebies BBC digital channel and it won’t be long before you see plenty of eco-propaganda (hey, the rest isn’t that bad, have a look at the Night Garden)

  • 140.
  • At 06:18 PM on 19 Nov 2007,
  • Tom wrote:

Worried scientist wrote:

"I must protest Bob Eldridge's view that just 0.04% CO2 in the atmosphere cannot be a problem. How would he react to 0.04% cyanide in his morning coffee? Even doubled, it would only be 0.08%!"

Your analogy is specious. Unlike cyanide, carbon dioxide is non-toxic. While doubling the dose of cyanide in a cup of coffee will almost certainly lead to a fatal outcome for the hapless victim, the same cannot be said for a doubling of carbon dioxide. CO2 is not detrimental or poisonous to life because it lacks the properties of cyanide to kill living cells by altering their structure or physiology.

CO2 levels reached 4000 ppmv or more in some geological eras, for example, during the Permian Period. When CO has reached densities this high in the past, life flourished abundantly. Consequently, we cannot consider such a high concentration of atmospheric CO2 as either poisonous or "pollution".

One searches the IPCC reports in vain for anything resembling a basic exposition of the underlying physics of the alleged CO2 warming mechanism from first principles, but a careful reading of the specialist scientific literature explains that the thermal effect of an increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration diminishes logarithmically due to the saturation of the relevant IR absorption bands. In other words, carbon dioxide lacks the thermodynamic properties seemingly attributed to it by the IPCC.

  • 141.
  • At 07:02 PM on 19 Nov 2007,
  • Isabel Witty wrote:


From Isabel Witty NZ Downunder (ESP)

AS the flea upon a camel is global warming.......as opposed to Mother Nature with climate change.
The specie Homo sapien will need to adapt as it has through many ages with intelligence and intellect and advanced technologies.
It is for certain we as human-beings
have no desire to be "The Flint-
Stones" in thought/word/ or deed/ of
a challenging future in survival.
Have a Happy Day...Think......

  • 142.
  • At 10:26 PM on 19 Nov 2007,
  • Ian wrote:

The BBC's impartiality on climate change reporting is best summed up by a report I heard on Radio 2. The female "science correspondent", talking about climate change, grudgingly said "...... it HAS (my capitals) to be admitted that there is a "tiny minority" of sceptics". What really showed her, and the BBC's, neutrality, though, was that the above statement was prefixed by the word "unfortunately".

  • 143.
  • At 09:16 AM on 20 Nov 2007,
  • George Robinson wrote:

Tuesday morning, and still a lot of twaddle and disbelief about climate change. Well I suppose its not so surprising. Many whom are sceptics have probably never been further than Margate. To those who sit on their backsides, all I have to say to them, get up and travel to places where climate change is happening, and happening so quickly, it happens before your very eyes.
Travel to the Jakobshavn breen on the west coast of Greenland, and watch this mighty glacier more than 1 km thick, 15 kms wide travelling towards the sea at 15000 meters every year. Sit by the side of this glacier for an hour, and you can actually see it move This glacier is only approx 7% of the total ice melt from Greenland, yet this adds up to 35 billion tons every year, almost 500 billion tons total a year and increasing, This is enough ice to cover the British Isles with a layer 2000 meters thick, every year.
Travel to Norway and see all the maritime glaciers at their lowest since the last ice age. Most will have melted away within 50 yrs or less.
Travel to Spitzbergen, where the oceans have been ice free the past 2 winters, sea temperatures 5 degsC above average, and land temperatures 7 degs c above average.
Permafrost is thawing in Norway and Sweden for the first time since the last ice age.
Fossil fuels are the main cause of the global warming.
COAL. China consumes 1300 mtns, the USA 1060, and the EU 975 million tons a year. Many countries in Europe including the UK are dependent on Coal for producing energy, yet still seem bent on building more coal fired power stations in the coming years. When is this country going to stop using coal, and gas for its energy production. All very well for G Brown to say this that and the other, figures of reduction, yet at the same time investing further in fossil fuels.

Steve, thank you for publishing this - commend Richard Black and Roger Harrabin on doing their jobs so well.

I think the most telling thing here is that they wrote it for the in-house magazine. In other words, they think that some of their colleagues are suckers for the snake-oil salesmen and the do-nothing denialists.

In the end, the problem is not knowing who to disbelieve: disbelieving everybody is easy, and leads to he-said-she-said 'balance'; it's having the technical and scientific savvy to know who it's safe to believe, rather than just having to take the 'consensus' on trust.

The long term solution is to recruit more journalists who have scientific training; in the short term, Richard and Roger will have to soldier oin alone.

  • 145.
  • At 03:01 AM on 21 Nov 2007,
  • Jack Hughes wrote:

OK, climateers and non-deniers.

Please explain to the rest of us EXACTLY what we must all do. Can we have cars at all ? Fly on holidays ? Heat our houses ? Have jobs ?

And then explain how mankind is going to co-operate on this one - pull together. Past experience at working together to overcome wars, dictators, diseases, hunger, is a bit mixed.

  • 146.
  • At 12:07 PM on 21 Nov 2007,
  • Bill Duley wrote:

I believe there is a lack of focus in government-led initiatives to combat climate change. One day it seems best route is the use of bio-fuels for cars, another initiative stresses the importance of renewable energy, etc...

At the end of the day this is all about controlling carbon levels - some say if we can keep the CO2 ceiling below 450ppm then the climate situation will remain relatively stable. To do this systematically we should all be allocated sufficient carbon credits annually (global enforcement) to keep this level below 400 ppm. Every purchase we make would need to utilise this card. Once our credits run out, if before the end of the year, we could still purchase goods, etc... but there would be an additional charge. The level of this would have to determined in such a way as establish a discipline with the use of the card.

Obviously this all needs to be thoroughily thought through but I would be interested in comments and how we could move forward with the adoption of this or a similar initiative. To be effective I believe it needs to be in place within the next five years. Not much time is left.

  • 147.
  • At 07:04 PM on 21 Nov 2007,
  • George Robinson wrote:

Bill Dudley, interesting comment. There is of course absolutely no chance of keeping CO2 levels at 450ppm. Im afraid this is only wishfull thinking. IF?? it was only that easy.
Read on a very interesting site this morning, a single coal fired power plant in Georgia USA emits more CO2 gases than the whole of Brazil. This plant emits 25.3mtns and produces 23.2 mMwh. Brazil emits 24mtns of CO2 and produces 423 mMwh. The USA has some of the dirtiest power plants in the world, and these plants emit 9.3 tons CO2 for every American. The UKs plants emit 3.53 tons CO2 for every Brit, and Swedens power plants emit 388kgs for every Swede.
This very exciting website, well I must mention it here, as it is a gold mine of information, everybody must check it out, www.carma.org
One more item I must mention, is the CHP plants we have here in Sweden. Every city, town and almost every large village has a CHP plant. They are not new to us, they have been around for decades, and some of them are really awesome in size. Malmoe in the south of Sweden has one which is enough to produce heat and electricity for the city, with a population of 270 000. This plant is using forest byproducts, industrial waste, and household rubbish as fuel. The plants are basically the same design larger and smaller, but work on the same principle, providing hot water as distant heating, and also producing electricity. The CO2 emissions from these plants is approx 45 lbs per Mwh.
Compare these figures with for ex Glanford power station, there the CO2 emissions are a staggering 5558 lbs per Mwh, Ferrybridge, close to 1800 lbs, and Drax the largest of its kind has a whopping emission of 1731 lbs. Despite these figures, the UK still has plans to build even more "new" type coal fired power stations.

  • 148.
  • At 07:08 PM on 21 Nov 2007,
  • George Robinson wrote:

Bill Dudley, interesting comment. There is of course absolutely no chance of keeping CO2 levels at 450ppm. Im afraid this is only wishfull thinking. IF?? it was only that easy.
Read on a very interesting site this morning, a single coal fired power plant in Georgia USA emits more CO2 gases than the whole of Brazil. This plant emits 25.3mtns and produces 23.2 mMwh. Brazil emits 24mtns of CO2 and produces 423 mMwh. The USA has some of the dirtiest power plants in the world, and these plants emit 9.3 tons CO2 for every American. The UKs plants emit 3.53 tons CO2 for every Brit, and Swedens power plants emit 388kgs for every Swede.
This very exciting website, well I must mention it here, as it is a gold mine of information, everybody must check it out, www.carma.org
One more item I must mention, is the CHP plants we have here in Sweden. Every city, town and almost every large village has a CHP plant. They are not new to us, they have been around for decades, and some of them are really awesome in size. Malmoe in the south of Sweden has one which is enough to produce heat and electricity for the city, with a population of 270 000. This plant is using forest byproducts, industrial waste, and household rubbish as fuel. The plants are basically the same design larger and smaller, but work on the same principle, providing hot water as distant heating, and also producing electricity. The CO2 emissions from these plants is approx 45 lbs per Mwh.
Compare these figures with for ex Glanford power station, there the CO2 emissions are a staggering 5558 lbs per Mwh, Ferrybridge, close to 1800 lbs, and Drax the largest of its kind has a whopping emission of 1731 lbs. Despite these figures, the UK still has plans to build even more "new" type coal fired power stations.

  • 149.
  • At 12:30 PM on 22 Nov 2007,
  • John K wrote:

Let's be brutally honest here. Climate change doesn't threaten the planet.

It only threatens us - Homo Sapiens. We have an arrogant and ill-informed view of our own importance as animals.

We have been around for maybe 50,000 years (oldest reliably dated artistic works in caves etc.) In terms of the planet's lifetime of over 4,000,000,000 years that's not even a pinprick. The dinosaurs reigned for tens of millions of years.

If we kill ourselves by destroying the environment and / or blow ourselves up with nuclear weapons it will take Planet Earth a relatively tiny amount of time to recover (the half-life of Plutonium is 24,000 years and it would probably take less time for the effects of man-made CO2 to abate. Some new form of life would then evolve to "rule" the earth...

  • 150.
  • At 12:38 PM on 22 Nov 2007,
  • Rich wrote:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/7105630.stm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7106219.stm

Following my earlier comment (#134) I hope I'm not being premature in seeing this as a sign that the BBC is finally waking up to its investigative responsibilities!

Credit where credit's due, though you've a long way to go to undo the damage caused to public perception of this issue through previous one-sided reporting. I await the conclusions of the Radio 4 programme tonight with eager anticipation - can we have more of this sort of stuff please!?! You're so much more interesting when you don't take everything at face value.

  • 151.
  • At 05:35 PM on 22 Nov 2007,
  • john mccusker wrote:

Some of the posts here leave me totally bemused. I am neither a "convert" nor a sceptic-because like every single one of the 147 previous posters, I don't actually know whether human produced CO2 is causing climate change.The religious nature of this debate worries me profoundly.I heard more rational discussion between protestants and catholics in the Glasgow of my youth.And what is this tax obsession which a lot of the sceptics seem to suffer from? Apparently "bureaucrats" favour climate change theories because this allows them to raise new taxes. This ignores some very obvious points. There is no better way of raising tax than taxing fuel, and you can create a nice big bureaucracy collecting it.Bureaucrats resist change, and would much rather carry on as now rather than have to adapt to new ways of raising revenue from climate change.The total tax requirement of the Government is independent of the way it is raised. And are all, or nearly all scientists so corrupt that they will produce whatever results the payer requires? As for the other side, how can these people express such certainty on the causes of climate change? Somebody has been beyond Margate and has seen melting glaciers-therefore it is a fact that humans cause climate change? I don't think so, somehow. All the fact that temperatures are rising tells you is that, in fact, temperatures are rising. I have to agree with the sceptics here, that the BBC's coverage is naive in the extreme.How about some objectivity, folks, could those who have seen the light start a church, and could our neocon deniers get treatment for their delusional taxation obsessions.

  • 152.
  • At 01:41 AM on 01 Dec 2007,
  • Robert Sherpna wrote:

If there is such a large problem with the nuclear waste (although the pellets are a centimeter tall and a half centimeter in diameter, not to mention giving a power equivalent of 1 tonne of coal) then why dont people put the Uranium back where they got it?

  • 153.
  • At 02:02 AM on 03 Dec 2007,
  • M.A.Willcock wrote:

I am tired of continually hearing that we as humans are responsible for Global Warming.

We are not!

We may aggravate it, but we are not responsible for it. We are no more capable of controlling climate than we are of controlling tectonic plate movements.

20,000 years ago much of Britain and the Northern Hemisphere was covered with ice up to 1500 m. thick, which extended into the North Midlands, N. Europe and N.America.

There is no permanent ice at the present in Britain, It melted in the absence of human influence, as a result of a naturally warming climate, long before greenhouse gases.

We are in an interglacial phase of an Ice Age, and unless this naturally reverses, and we enter a glacial phase, then warming and sea level rise will continue.

We worry about a 1 - 2m. sea level rise.

Future generations are going to need to come to terms with far higher sea level rises. Rises that will take out coastal cities and major regions of food production.

No doubt critics will will question these statements.

To anyone, no matter what their credentials. I suggest they check, or face up the scientific literature and get away from the Ostrich Syndrome.

  • 154.
  • At 07:22 PM on 03 Dec 2007,
  • Paul Johannsen wrote:

Where is the skill of natural philosophy gone?
All the edges between disciplines are being fudged so that it is tricky for all to seperate ideas from opinions from postulation from causation to facts.

Whatever stall we set out there is ample proven evidence that things change and so does understanding.

Rather than constantly arguing about and pointing fingers isn't the real culprit our collective slow responses to mitigating risks of a global nature.
We barely cope with the basic crisis of food and water in many regions of the world and usually galvanise into action only when concensus is reached.

It is very likely that the existing wide ranging differences in opinions has created a log jam for the climate issues too.

I would like to urge all to look at how we can solve problems perhaps even a compendium of ideas is better than arguing. Has anyone collated all the proposed solutions yet?

As a starter for ten and with simplistic text in parenthesis and in no real order...

Add more oxygen and nitrogen to dilute the CO2 at the same time as reducing CO2 (by biological and technical means).

Bring back the basement for new houses on flood plains (thereby permitting them to float)

Increase the solar reflectivity of the atmosphere above the highest heat gain areas (by passenger & military flights creating vapour trails in these regions).

Promote field tests above rhetoric and bring back experimentation into the curriculum with a duty to report to the media.

The calorific value of the average weekly UK household waste stream is sufficient to part heat dwellings (we still prefer to chuck everything into the ground).

If the supermarkets can sell alchohol at low cost and it is very cheap to make (the original transport fuel was alchohol pre dating petrol by 50 years).

Community energy and sustainability schemes are so rare in the UK what ever happen to social cohesion and co-operation.


anyway

Heads up and shoulders back the solutions are all around us


Best regards

I read over at My blog that the BBC aren't at all bothered by this news - indeed they take glee form the guffaw.

I agree with Robert Sherpna. Every problem has a solution, its how we solve it.

  • 157.
  • At 02:43 PM on 06 Dec 2007,
  • Desmond FitzGerald wrote:

Why do BBC reporters bother having a comment section in their blogs if they don't work.

Why go through the charade of pretending you want feedback when it seems patently clear you don't.

It seems to me most BBC reporters end up as arrogant and out of touch as those they claim to be holding to account.

  • 158.
  • At 04:42 AM on 07 Dec 2007,
  • George Robinson wrote:

M A WILLCOCK.

Of course the UK has no ice fields, the altitude of the mountains and the nearness to the Gulf Stream sees to that, so making you a maritime state. Norway is also a maritime state, but because she has mountains almost twice the height of those in the UK, Norway does have ice fields and glaciers, for the the time being that is.
In 1896 a Swedish prof, Svante Arrhenius was the first person to make the connection between the quantities of carbonic acid in the atmosphere and global temperatures. In the early 40s Callendar continued this work to show that there was a connection. Industrialization, with its use of fossil fuels was beginning to have an effect on CO2 emissions.
In 1896, the CO2ppm figure was approx 280, and Arrhenius stated that should this figure double, then global temperatures could rise by 5.7C. Even today 2007, this figure of 5.7C rings a bell somewhere, strange it is almost the same as the figures present day scientists are issuing now. Even in 1960 some scientists were still not convinced about this. Then in 1988 Jim Hansen came forward saying exactly what Arrhenius had said over 90 years before, that CO2 emissions as a results of burning fossil fuels was the cause of global warming. It would appear that Jim gets all the glory now, even though he is only saying what Arrhenius had said in 1896.

  • 159.
  • At 01:34 AM on 24 Dec 2007,
  • greg wrote:

Vincent Gray of NZ has been an "Expert Reviewer of the drafts of every single one of the IPCC Reports for 17 years.". He attended the recent Bali conference and wrote a bit;

Quote:
At the UK Met Office Stand I met Richard Betts. The UK Met Office have a new pamphlet which has two interesting features. First they show officially, for the first time, that the globally averaged temperature of the earth has not only been almost constant for seven years, but that it has recently declined. Betts' explanation for this was "natural variability". It seems that this explanation applies only when the temperature goes down. When it goes up it is "global warming"

  • 160.
  • At 07:37 AM on 03 Jan 2008,
  • Don Becker wrote:

Hundreds of scientists refute the so called 'consensus' on global warming.

Why was this not reported by the BBC or most other mainstream European new media?

http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Files.View&FileStore_id=c5e16731-3c64-481c-9a36-d702baea2a42

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