Today, Radio 4, 13 February 2014: Finding by the Editorial Complaints Unit


The programme included an item in which Lord Lawson of Blaby and Sir Brian Hoskins, Professor of Meteorology at Reading University and Director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College, London were invited to discuss the relationship between global warming and the recent severe flooding in parts of the UK.  Three listeners complained that the item had given undue weight to Lord Lawson’s views, and had conveyed a misleading impression of the scientific evidence on the matter.



The BBC’s position (as formulated by the BBC Trust in 2011) is that there is general agreement among climate scientists that the evidence is in favour of anthropogenic global warming, that the BBC’s coverage should reflect this, and that opinion and evidence should not be treated as if they were on the same footing.  That does not mean scientific research should not be properly scrutinised through scientific debate. Nor does it mean that sceptical views should be excluded from BBC programmes.  Inviting Lord Lawson (who chairs a climate policy campaign group) to appear on the Today programme was entirely consistent with that position, but the handling of the item gave the impression that his views on the science of climate change stood on the same footing as those of Sir Brian, and introducing him as “the founding chairman of the Global Warming Policy Foundation which is an all-party think tank” did not make sufficiently clear that he represented a particular viewpoint.



Further action

The Editor of Today has reminded producers of the BBC's agreed appropach to covering climate science.  Senior journalists will also be offered an opportunity to attend the College of Journalism training course established after the Trust's impartiality review of science coverage, if they have not already done so.