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Climate change coverage

Alistair Burnett Alistair Burnett | 16:12 UK time, Thursday, 8 March 2007

We're doing a lot on climate change this week on The World Tonight with the EU summit over the next couple of days expected to come up with ambitious targets to cut emissions from industry, transport and households.

The World TonightEarlier in the week, the British environment secretary, David Miliband was on the programme arguing for an end to dependence on oil (listen here). That interview sparked a lively debate in our editorial meeting about whether we - BBC journalists - are too ready to pose the question to government ministers that they regulate in order to solve problems like climate change.

On Monday, Mr Miliband had made a speech arguing we end our dependence on oil, but was reluctant to commit to - for example - making energy-saving light bulbs compulsory - he argued that such action has to be EU-wide because of the single market.

We also pressed him on whether the new building regulations to ensure new homes are carbon neutral are being enforced.

The question we discussed the next morning was whether there should be a default expectation that governments regulate to solve problems.

miliband_d_203pa.jpgThere is a body of opinion that argues the market and consumer pressure will drive the economic and environmental policy changes that most scientists agree are needed to arrest climate change and global warming. Others argue that the urgency of the situation is such that governments must regulate - as they did when CFCs were phased out to stop the erosion of the ozone layer.

The question we discussed was whether we - BBC journalists - give too much prominence to the regulatory argument and not enough to the market argument.

And before people say we don't give enough coverage to the argument that climate change is a myth and is not man-made, I can say we do give airtime to people who argue this, despite the fact that the overwhelming consensus of scientific opinion is that climate change is happening and human activity is a major cause - even if it is not the only one.

This raises another issue we are grappling with at the BBC. Namely, that our commitment to air all sides of a debate can sometimes challenge our commitment to accuracy and impartiality. Put crudely, if the overwhelming majority of climatologists believe that climate change is happening and is largely driven by human activity, do we distort the picture of the scientific debate by airing the views of the small number of dissenting scientists too often?

This is not to suggest we stop interviewing people who deny climate change is happening or that it is happening but is a natural phenomenon, but it is to ask whether we interview them too often and our audience can be given a distorted impression of the balance of opinion in the scientific community.

And if that is so are we doing our audience disservice?


  • 1.
  • At 01:36 AM on 09 Mar 2007,
  • Mike Turner wrote:

The majority of people in the UK were in favour of hanging for many years. Did the BBC reflect their opinions in its reporting? I think not.

  • 2.
  • At 07:14 AM on 09 Mar 2007,
  • Donald W wrote:

It’s all very well and nice to wax prose about climate hypotheticals. The reality is it will not a affect the people making the decisions during their lifetime. It has affected the people dieing today due to the effects of our historic lack of action. It is affecting the children who will die of hunger as we turn food crops into ethanol. It will affect our children who will suffer the consequences of our inaction long after our death and the death of our planet. Perhaps that is whose opinion we should be asking and who should have the right to mandate our actions in relation to climate change.

  • 3.
  • At 08:33 AM on 09 Mar 2007,
  • Richard wrote:

I was trained in Environmental Chemistry. I believe that man's actions do contribute to an extent to a greenhouse effect. I also am aware that the Earth's surface temperature has risen by 0.7C over the last 120 years; I would expect that man's activity is responsible for some of this, but by no means all. What I totally disagree with is the "skies going to fall in" type of militant drivel.
What I am totally certain of is that the media are collectively promoting an extreme, totally unscientic and biased point-of-view. For example, the active 2005 hurricane season was universally blamed on "global warming" with endless media coverage and an attitude that "the USA was getting what it deserved". 2006 was a quiet hurricane season...not a single one made landfall at hurricane strength on the mainland USA (which is the only country that seems to count in the media). How much reporting was there of this?, none.
Frankly most scientists expect the media to be totally gullible; what it more insideous is the effects scientific and business community. I would not want my name published as the organisation for which I work uses fear of "global warming" as a marketing tool. I am sure a lot of other scientists feel the same. I cannot remember a time when there was such pressure on the scientific community to tow a line; I suppose the time when Creationism was taught and accepted might be an example.

  • 4.
  • At 09:04 AM on 09 Mar 2007,
  • Frank Hornby wrote:

I watched the Channel 4 programme last night which posed the view that climate change is not being caused by mankind.

Emminent scientists posed some serious challenges to the current consensus and I believe that any responsible organisation should air these views until they have been explained (or dismissed) by the current global warming model.

The views expressed may only be a minority view but the weight of their scientific argument should not be ignored. The majority of scientists and climatologists who subscribe to the current global warming model should be asked how it accomodates the anomalies aired in last night's Channel 4 programme or have they been 'cherry picking' circumstances to fit their model.

Otherwise one can only assume that the 'man made global warming crisis' is being politically driven.

PS Until now, I believed the current consensus but now I'm not so sure.

  • 5.
  • At 09:59 AM on 09 Mar 2007,
  • David wrote:

Alistair, I think it would be interesting to know how many people (in total) the BBC is sending to the summit and how many of them will be travelling there by train. It's not just about what the BBC says, but also what the BBC does, that is important.

  • 6.
  • At 10:09 AM on 09 Mar 2007,
  • Bill May wrote:

Dear sir,
Re your 'climate change'item.
Did you see Ch.4, 9.00pm on Thursday eve?[Global warming swindle]
In your item you state 'the overwhelming majority of climatologists believe..ETC.'
According to Prof.Richard Lindzen this is a lie![Check it out?]I feel that there is a sheep-like mentality in the media's reaction to the claims of the doom-mongers.
If you look impartially at the factual that prog.I'm sure you will,at least, think again about blaming mankind for what appears to be a naturally occurring situation.Please let me know your views if poss.Thanks.

  • 7.
  • At 10:30 AM on 09 Mar 2007,
  • Rupert RG wrote:

Put crudely, if the overwhelming majority of climatologists believe that climate change is happening and is largely driven by human activity, do we distort the picture of the scientific debate by airing the views of the small number of dissenting scientists too often?

This is pretty facile. The overwhelming majority of physicists in the early 20th century believed it was impossible to split the atom. The overwhelming majority of scientists and, indeed, everyone else, thought the world was flat in the 15th century. The overwhelming majority of rocket scientists in the 1930s thought it was impossible to escape the pull of the earth’s gravity. In each case, they were irretrievably proved wrong a few decades later.

You also seem to believe that there is a case for saying that the BBC should ensure that the public is not "given a distorted impression of the balance of opinion in the scientific community", as through this was either a known commodity – many scientists who dispute the cause-and-effect argument of man-made global warming say that they are not allowed to publish in academic journals – or a more than just an opinion but more of a fact. If you are to base the amount of air time given to opinions on the number of people who hold those opinions, then in any debate on hanging you will have to give 70 per cent of air time to those in favour of capital punishment. Currently, you would also have to give 41 per cent of air time on political programmes to the Conservatives.

Time will tell if the man-made climate change believers are correct but you might like to bear in mind that from the late 60s to the early 80s, the scientific climate change orthodoxy was that we were heading for a man-made ice age.

  • 8.
  • At 11:06 AM on 09 Mar 2007,
  • Simon Still wrote:

Frank Hornby - I think the C4 show is a case in point. I missed it but based on a bit of research the "eminent scientists" you mention were:

Philip Stott. A biogeographer (deals with geographic patterns of species distribution). Has written a book on climate change but no published scientific papers.

Patrick Moore. Left Greenpeace 20 years ago. Astronomer. Campaigns on behalf of biotech firms in favour of GM crops.

Nigel Calder. Author, scriptwriter and documentary maker. Editor of New Scientist magazine at it's 40 years ago when it .

None of them have any published scientific papers relating to the climate or the environment. None are climate scientists. To paraphrase Zoe Williams in the Guardian today, if all other scientists say you're talking rubbish, that doesn't necessarily turn you into the brave, lone voice of truth.

  • 9.
  • At 12:58 PM on 09 Mar 2007,
  • Guy Barnard wrote:

The Channel 4 programme last night was presented in a logical and (for the lay person) understandable way, and put some facts on the table which appear to have been missing - for whatever reason - from the debate so far. Here are two (of many) examples cited in last night's programme:

(1) That oh-so-wicked greenhouse gas carbon dioxide makes up about 0.05% of our atmosphere, and man's contribution to this already small figure is minor compared to that emitted by volcanoes, animals, plants and decaying vegetation.

(2) There is a direct correlation between the amount of solar activity and rises/falls in temperature on the earth, whereas increases/decreases in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have followed, rather than preceded, increases/decreases in the earth's temperature.

Before the policitians rush off and makes more bad legislation for us all, we must have an open and unemotional discussion either to sustain or to debunk the science.

It is clear that the earth has experienced up- and down-swings in temperature over the millenia which have nothing to do with man, and that we are currently in an upswing which will have consequences for all living things - and we've got to endeavour to deal with those. But to try to arrest an inevitable change such as this is akin to trying to stop a supertanker with a length of cotton.

  • 10.
  • At 01:57 PM on 09 Mar 2007,
  • Richard Jackson wrote:

I read the article on the BBC web site yesterday about climate change in Northen Spain, lack of rain frost high winds etc & how it was affecting a farmer in that region. You gave a balanced approach saying that in the 17th Century many people had left that region because of almost identical climatic conditions. So the reader could make their own mind as to this being caused by global warming or a weather cycle repeating. But unfortunately this same item appeared on the BBC news last night without the information about previous climatic conditions we had enjoyed on the web site giving viewers an unbalanced view and encouraging the Global Warming bandwagon. The BBC & other media outlets should not follow this bandwagon without putting forward other possibilities for climate change.

  • 11.
  • At 02:03 PM on 09 Mar 2007,
  • David Francis wrote:

Having watched last night's Dispatches programme on C4, I am more concerned than ever, with regard to the one-sided, smug, self-righteous and near-hysterical "reporting" on the subject of Global Warming/Climate Change.
It was like a breath of fresh air, to have this complex and serious subject explained in terms that the man/woman on the street can understand, rather than the hyped gobbledegook of the "scientific community".
The contributors to the "Swindle" programme seemed knowledgable and eminent in their fields and the evidence, as presented, appeared logical and convincing.
The conclusion, that the warming/cooling cycles of this planet have virtually nothing to do with the human species or its' pollutants, are striking and must be explored further in the main-stream media. If this conclusion is misplaced, then prove it so, in a totally open public debate.
As has been previously stated elsewhere in this forum, I too recall when the accepted scientific wisdom, a few decades ago, was that we were heading for another ice-age. How time -and government cash funding- can alter scientific certainties !!
This whole area of debate reminds me of the Race/Immigration Question a few years ago, when to even raise the subject, let alone have a cogent counter argument, was seen as heresy and I don't remember the BBC, or any other mass media organisation, being too keen to buck the "accepted wisdom" on this subject either!

  • 12.
  • At 02:10 PM on 09 Mar 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

It's just another EU farce. Manditory reductions? Who will do what? What will the penalties be if they don't? Anyone remember the growth and stability pact in the Maastrict treaty? Who insisted on it? What the penalties for violating it would be? Who violated it repeatedly year after year but never paid one Euro of the billions they owed? And then who rationalized their evasion of their own laws by saying it was no longer a valid concern? Why it was the axis of weasel, France and Germany, who else? So having made a lot of noise about Kyoto and interminable ranting about the US not signing up to it, the EU failed miserably to meet its 8% reduction targets for the very same reasons the US wouldn't join, reasons of economic penalties and competitiveness. And did Europe throw the full weight of its technological and financial might against the problem by developing alternative energy sources which could supply electricity on a massive scale cheaply without generating CO2? No, it invented a Eurosaurus Wrecks of an airplane which won't fly, a space program which is desperately trying to catch up to Amrican and Russian space technology...of forty years ago, and a giant atom smasher. Has the EU talked to China or India about their compliance? BBC reported that China is concerned while India is forthcoming saying it has other priorities such as economic growth, so they are satisfied that the issue of Eastern and Southern Asia is resolved (bet they don't do even half as much as the EU will) so now Europe can feel smug and free to bash America about CO2 again. And after all, wasn't that the real point of this all along?

  • 13.
  • At 01:12 AM on 10 Mar 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

From BBC;

"The president of the European Commission has defended himself from criticism over his choice of a petrol-guzzling family car. Jose Manuel Barroso's four-wheel drive emits far more carbon dioxide than the EU's own targets for vehicles."

"But Mr Barroso says comments about his environmentally damaging car smack of "overzealous moralism"."

Do as I say, not as I do. That's the noise which always comes out of Brussels, the noise which the world hears from Europe. It's a din powerful nations on other continents no longer pay any heed to. Background chatter as usual.

  • 14.
  • At 08:03 AM on 10 Mar 2007,
  • Roger Westerbeek wrote:

Given the extensive coverage this week on the BBC News around climate change and our impending doom due to supposed human pollution, I would like to ask when the BBC are planning to present the other side of the story and have a scientific, balanced, non media hyped view as it is supposed to do. Given the BBC charter of impartial news reporting, I am very concerned that they are fueling the hysteria further when there is little scientific evidence to show this is the case simply aiding the government to invent new ways to tax the UK population.

It is worth remembering Jeremy Paxman's now legendary quote on the BBC's attitude to the climate change debate.

"People who know a lot more than I do may be right when they claim that [global warming] is the consequence of our own behaviour. I assume that this is why the BBC's coverage of the issue abandoned the pretence of impartiality long ago"

The BBC is an environmentalist campaigning organisation. Full stop.

  • 16.
  • At 03:16 PM on 11 Mar 2007,
  • Pablo Kelly wrote:

The Ch4 programme (Global warming Swindle) the other night was so gripping. Yes Global warming is happening but not due to Man's efforts or carbon dioxide. The PC greens are in charge and you shall wear a hair shirt.

I thought we would get an avalanche of arguement and denial the next day.

But nothing - except that it felt like business as usual listening to the news this Sunday morning.

Without really (and non lazy) balanced arguement how can we decide and if we make the decisions to turn off the lights and stop flying. On the basis of what we are presently told we could be very wrong. Doing the wrong thing would not be a very scientific way of dealing with a problem. Perhaps as global warming is happening we should concentrate on sorting out our list of priorities and in my book that includes not punishing or hampering ourselves or others unnecessarily.

Anyone got the courage?

  • 17.
  • At 10:44 PM on 11 Mar 2007,
  • Chris Reed wrote:

Those watching Thursday's supposed science documentary's have been subjected to an appaling abuse of the actual science. Indeed one of the most prominent contributors Professor Carl Wunsch (an extensively published ocean physics specialist) has already angrily complained about being misrepresented.

I agree with Richard about some of the incorrect linkages and media driven scares. But that's the media, not the real up-to-date peer reviewed science. Science gives virtually no hope that we are not changing the climate. There remains more doubt about the actual outcome.

Since the 70s the planet has warmed 0.6degrees C(NASA GISS). During this time the most recent research (Frohlich of PMOD in 2006) shows that there has been no extra energy from the Sun since the start of the satellite record, 1976.

Svensmark was quoted in the program and his theory does look interesting. However neutron counts have not shown a trend since 1953 that could explain the temperature since then. (Climax Neutron Monitor). For his theory to work he needs a trend in neutron counts, and because the mechanism is immediate, not delayed like CO2, it has to be a close correlation. It is not there.

Studies like Meehl's Additivity Attribution study, 2004, continue to show that since 1970 the warming has been due to carbon dioxide. In 1998 Jim Hansen of NASA modelled a projection of the temperature increase from 1998 into the 21st century. His model projection is still on track.

The BBC should be very careful over who it picks for interviews. If anyone denies the reality, they should not be given airtime - they have no real evidence. It is important people not be allowed the fantasy of denial. Draconian responses may well not work, they're like crash diets, in any case would they realisically be voted for? What we need is a gradual change of lifestyle. Not to stop climate change, we're too far into the process for that, but to aim to take the edge off it.

Detailed impacts, that is where the real doubts lie now. It's time to get real and for the debate to move on.

A number of your posters have referrred to the recent Channel 4 programme which tried to debunk the theory of man made climate change. I followed this one up and discovered that one of the more significant of the scientists on that programme has actually claimed that his comments were taken out of context and he has described that program as " as close to pure propaganda as anything since world war two."
The program was a disgraceful distortion of the evidence.,,2031455,00.html

  • 19.
  • At 09:44 AM on 12 Mar 2007,
  • Hugh wrote:

Global Warming is happening and it is because of man. If you maintain any doubt of that then you do not understand basic Geography or Science. Please go to an adult education facility and take some courses on these subjects.

The debate is over - the causes do not matter, it is happening and in two centuries the Earth may well no longer be Human congruous.

As such, the BBC should not devote airtime to skeptics any more. Crackpots and fake scientists in the pocket of the oil supermajors don't deserve precious minutes of airtime when the rest of the world has moved past this stage of skepticism.

  • 20.
  • At 12:50 PM on 12 Mar 2007,
  • Nietzscheskloset wrote:

Why doesn't the BBC report that the man-made climate change argument has severe contradictions and inconsistencies. More CO2 is expelled from a volcano eruption - a relatively frequent event - than 200 years of industrial activity. There is also climactic change reported on several planets in our solar system including Jupiter and Neptune. There is of course no indication that these planets have factories and SUVs on their surfaces, and no legislation on carbon emmissions forthcoming/ This would coincide with the regular solar activity that is producing inordinate amounts of solar spots and cosmic flares, affecting all known planets in proximity. With this information available and espoused by the mean of the scientific community, why isn't the BBC doing more to cover this deconstruction of the flawed and politically motivated man-made climate change argument?

  • 21.
  • At 02:00 PM on 12 Mar 2007,
  • Pat wrote:

I have recently watched the Great Global Warming Swindle on channel 4 a few times now. I am writing this letter to understand better who is correct on this matter. The show brings up a number of points and claims that would certainly not agree with current expertise on the matter of global warming.

How do you respond to the claims of this show? If you have not seen it I do suggest you get a copy of it. I would be sad to think that countries are spending billions of dollars on global warming programs and jobs each year on what could be incorrect data. It would be criminal to think of all the money that could have be better spend on health care, education and nutrition programs both locally and internationally

If it were found that carbon emission does not result in climate change, as the documentary suggests, and this theory is found to be true would an organization like yours actually support it?

It frustrates me to hear scientist from all over the world make a claim that a theory is put forward as a truth when, at the exact same time, scientist from all over the world say it to be false. It frustrates me ever further that intellectuals, media and governments seem to follow claims of scientist that may soon prove to be false. Why was this information not questioned before? I couldn’t imagine the potential embarrassment that people will feel if these claims from the Channel 4 Documentary are in fact true. It is concerning that something with this much potential embarrassment will be swept under the rug with the hope that it is not brought up again. The fact that relatively intellectual people followed such claims without actually being an expert is something I can’t quite understand. Facts that were presented on the Great Global Warming Swindle have never been presented previously. This truth is concerning because when someone tries to hide something it makes me skeptical of motives. I don’t want to be a sheep following the heard and would rather understand than take opinions as truth.

Can you suggest a good way to prove these theories? I need to see someone respond to a scientist that says “anyone who claims that carbon emission causes climate changes has not looked at the data” (quote of one of the scientist from the documentary) Maybe a live televised debate? Can you help me find the truth.

  • 22.
  • At 06:41 PM on 12 Mar 2007,
  • Philip Croft wrote:

Pat (18) you have my sympathy--WHO the hell can the average person trust on this issue? I am always highly sceptical when politics and big business raises it's ugly head. How often do we witness, what is happening now--with experts/scientists making claims counterclaims and denials. As always the data can say what you WANT it to say. How often have 'experts' protested that they were misquoted, usually 'out of contex' whatever that meens. Then theres the charactor assassination job--'his qualifications are questionable' he's in the pay of so & so. Having read that all this kind of strange weather happend in the 1660's ( Samuel Pepsy's Diary) I'm inclined to believe this is all cyclical, and there's nothing we can do to avoid it----Just not make it worse than it need be.

  • 23.
  • At 07:12 PM on 12 Mar 2007,
  • Brian V peck wrote:

If I had arrived from the Andromeda Galaxy this week and had read 'The Road to Serfdom', 'Wher'e there is Greed' and 'Gangster Capitalism' - had read the articles in the Guardian on page, 4 today (12th March 2007) about climate change and Phantom empty planes and watched 'the Great Global Warming Swindle' last thursday night on Channel 4...conclusion, I have visited the most surreal Planet in the Universe.

Brian V Peck

Published Author and Political Dissident.

  • 24.
  • At 07:15 PM on 12 Mar 2007,
  • Simon wrote:

The BBC is the worst offender of all international news agencies in its reporting of global warming being caused by humans as undisputed fact. There is clearly a debate to be had on the subject yet we are subjected to daily barrages of "facts" saying that global warming is caused by human activity. I don't know the reason for this but I do know that it is causing damage to the credibility of the BBC as an impartial and trusted reporter of the facts. Some of the near hysterical articles we see on our daily bulletins are serving to make the BBC a much less trusted source of information both at home and abroad. Why the powers that be at the BBC are choosing to take this course is both mystifying and worrying.

  • 25.
  • At 07:52 PM on 12 Mar 2007,
  • Lossaversion wrote:

The above link relates to a programme broadcast on channel 4 last night which was heavy in the use of evidence (from leading scientists in the fields of climate science, oceanography and the leading Arctic Research centre) to undermine the theory of human made climate change -

I found it very illuminating especially given that

- CO2 lags temperature rises ie temperature rises cause non-human CO2 production mainly as a result of warmer oceans)
- the biggest cause of climate change is the sun and cosmic activity (which is unsurprising)
- there is no correlation between CO2 and climate change (Gore's movie left out a key piece of evidence)
- changes in the polar ice caps is part of the natural expansion and contraction of these caps
- UN's climate change group IPCC seems to have overlooked the more significant causes of climate with scientists asking for the names to be removd from the key IPCC reports

- The most abundant greenhouse gas is water vapour not CO2 and that non-human CO2 emission exceeds human generated CO2 by 3 to 1

All of the above highlights to me the following behavioural issues

- Groupthink - the herding about man made cliamte change looks to be unsupported despite the assertions of the UN panel on climate change (IPCC) is the main

- Cognitive dissonance - any persuasive counter evidence is dismissed and those that produce are vilified (these scientists are not ion the pay of the large multinationals) - or a case of dissonance

- Research funding in this area is being misallocated ie models with the central assumption of man made climate change dominate when in fact CO2 is not a factor - such "evidence" then perpetuates the myth of the man made climate change at the expense of potential research that provides contrarian but compelling evidence.

- In addition the deep vested interests with man made climate change are also unlikely to take a balanceds view - this is somewhat reminiscent of the tech bubble in the late 1990s where it was in the interests of many to perpetuate the new economy notion and protect carreers.

- Developing nations in Africa are being hindered as they are deterred from using their fossil fuels in favour of expensive and unrelaible solar and wind power - irony the poorest countries are using the most expensive technologies based on the man made climate change notion.

We all have a responsibility to make the most efficient use of our resources although we should have access to all the available evidence, not to data that "supports" one point of view. I realise this submission may create discomfort but we have a responsbility to make sure we have all the facts available and then decide.

Gore and UN has a lot of explaining to do as it may look like that C4's programme may be he inconvenient truth

So, you think that giving too much air time to one side of an argument gives a distorted impression of the balance of opinion.

I agree with that. I suppose it is an obvious statement. Why have we therefore been served a diet of mainly liberal/left views on the BBC over the last countless years? Why has the BBC been pro-European, and, as Peter Horrocks said, interviewed anti-EU spokesmen “insufficiently often?”

We are all affected by what we see and hear on the media. We must be, otherwise advertisers would not spend £millions on advertising. Don’t you think that there is a danger that giving too much air time to one side of a debate would become a self-fulfilling prophecy? My worry is that if one view was promoted over another, then public opinion may be swayed thus giving you licence to lean even further in that direction?

I agree with your worries that the BBC is too ready to call for regulation when interviewing government ministers. I have long had an issue with the BBC’s interviewing style. Why should the BBC be calling for anything at all? Why do we want to hear an elected politician debating with a nobody? If you want confrontation, perhaps two opposing views from the actual newsmakers can be put up against each other so a proper debate can be heard. OK, so I know that not all politicians agree to go head-to-head. In that case there is no problem for the BBC to put points verbatim from opposing voices.

If the BBC insists on continuing with the current style of interviewing, then I doubt that the calls for more regulation will be reduced. The idea that market forces has a role to play rarely comes into the head of the interviewer or editor. It simply wouldn’t occur to them. The BBC is a left wing organisation. I cannot see how its culture can suddenly change to allow the type of questioning you and your colleagues have been talking about.

  • 27.
  • At 10:50 PM on 12 Mar 2007,
  • Keith Thomas wrote:

I have just been watching the 10 pm news on BBC1 on which there was an item on the errosion of the East coast. This was being blamed on rising sea levels due to global warming. The fact that the East coast of England has been falling into the sea for hundreds of years seems to have been forgotten in the headlong rush to blame global warming for all our ills. If you look at the history of the town of Dunwich for example you will see that in the 13th century it was a thriving seaport but over the centuries, long before air travel and the automobile, coastal errosion has resulted in the town gradually sliding into the sea. By contrast, anyone familiar with the West coast of England will know that the exact opposite is happening, Southport, once a seaside town is now miles from the sea. So much so that the city fathers have moved the shore line further and further out. Where 60 years ago the tide lapped the seafront there is now a retail shopping centre. Why do we continue to be told that man-made carbon dioxide is the cause of all our ills?!

  • 28.
  • At 10:56 PM on 12 Mar 2007,
  • karen wrote:

The BBC appears to have become an anacronym better associated with the Bold British Climate Change Consensus (ok that's two extra c's)- then any attempt to give air to alternative theories and opinions on the environment.

Nicholas Witchell is quickly pulled out of the royal cupboard when a direct challenge to the standing of the Heir to the Throne is made in a documentary on another channel.

But challenge a BBC consensus - go against the line that the BBC has 'authoratatively' decided to present as 'truth' - present an alternative perspective on global warming steeped in scientific breadth (Global Warming Swindle on Channel 4) - and not one mention is made by any correspondent from the BBC - Why not?

Is the BBC now engineering our reality as well as our fears? Should we know how to feel about this - surely you'll let us know on Breakfast news!

The time has come for a real debate - not a staged one involving celebrities and politicians - but between the Co2ers and the Co2nots - surely even the BBC could withstand Tony Juniper vs the Greenpeace founder?

  • 29.
  • At 09:43 AM on 13 Mar 2007,
  • Paul Sullivan wrote:

Why did the BBC link climate change to coastal erosion on its news programme last night??? Coastal erosion has been around since the beginning of the planet!!! Please stop scaring us, BBC (a trend started with your 'global cooling' hypothesis in the seventies). Yes, its exciting for you to do it but it could be more exciting to host real debate-for starters by engaging seriously with the Channel four documentary. Please stop your silence on this.

  • 30.
  • At 12:21 PM on 13 Mar 2007,
  • CobblyWorlds wrote:

This is not an ideal medium in which to debate such complex science. But I will try to address some points.

Carl Wunsch, professor of Ocean Physics has provided his attack on the programme and the misrepresentation of his views in "The Great Global Warming Swindle" on his homepage here.

I quote:
"The science of climate change remains incomplete. Some elements
are so firmly based on well-understood principles, or for
which the observational record is so clear, that most
scientists would agree that they are almost surely true
(adding CO2 to the atmosphere is dangerous; sea level will continue
to rise,...).

Other elements remain more uncertain, but
we as scientists in our roles as informed citizens believe society
should be deeply concerned about their possibility: failure of US
midwestern precipitation in 100 years in a mega-drought; melting
of a large part of the Greenland ice sheet, among many other examples."

In plain English Prof Wunsch is saying that some things like the planet warming as we increase CO2 are pretty certain. However doubts remain about impacts in a practical day to day sense.

With regards the oceans and CO2. They are becoming more acidic because they are taking up much of our emissions. If I can quote again from Prof Wunsch:

"An example where my own discussion was grossly distorted by context:
I am shown explaining that a warming ocean could expel more
carbon dioxide than it absorbs -- thus exacerbating the greenhouse
gas buildup in the atmosphere and hence worrisome. It
was used in the film, through its context, to imply
that CO2 is all natural, coming from the ocean, and that
therefore the human element is irrelevant. This use of my remarks, which
are literally what I said, comes close to fraud."

See here an elegant summary of why we know ALL of the increase in CO2 is due to humans.

The Sun is almost certainly not involved in the current warming. This is known because of the work at the Climax neutron monitor and a paper last year by Frohlich of the Davos solar observatory. Svensmark's work requires a trend in neutron counts to explain the last 30 years, that trend remains elusive.

So we have warming of 0.6 deg C over the last 30 years, a period in which the Sun has not played a role, and the models suggest that warming is due to CO2.

To say that we are heading into a catastrophe is not the consensus of science. You'll get a lot of scientists disagreeing with catastrophe claims and 'climate porn'.

The consensus is that humans are increasing global average temperature by CO2 emissions. And the reality is that there are but a tiny minority of scientists who stand against that, the real consensus. For those of us following this issue their names are familiar. Channel 4's programme carried virtually the whole of the world's complement.

But Carl is not one of them.

  • 31.
  • At 01:49 PM on 13 Mar 2007,
  • Doogie Lanbank wrote:

Alistair is absolutely right to suppress the views of renegade scientists. Man-made Climate Change Denial should be made a criminal offence like Holocaust Denial is in some European counties.

But could the BBC find space on the website for some right-thinking scientist to give a detailed response to one pernicious point made in ‘Global Warming Swindle’? This is the assertion that, although the record shows CO2 and temperature have been linked over millennia, CO2 is the effect, not the cause, since the major temperature rises have begun on average 800 years before the CO2 rises?

  • 32.
  • At 01:54 PM on 13 Mar 2007,
  • Neil Gunn wrote:

I watched the Ch4 programme (Swindle) and as a non-scientist I am now confused. Where does C02 come from? Is climate change caused by C02? If (some or all of it) is, can we (humans) do anything about it?
If so, what and what impact will that have? How about a debate on the matter?

Climate Change would be a great topic for an in-depth Newsnight debate along the lines of one done previously covering animal rights/vivisection chaired by Jeremy Paxman which was excellent.

I'd like to see more qualified scientists (and less 'campaigners' who's views tend to be polarised at either end of the debate) put their case as to what they see as:

1. The possible cause(s) of changes to our climate
2. The implication(s) of 1
3. Action we can take (if any) to prevent 2.

  • 33.
  • At 06:07 PM on 13 Mar 2007,
  • Katherine wrote:

I was slightly puzzled why the coverage of the erroding coastling segment did not mention WHY it was connected to global warming. Surely just a few sentencing saying that the rise in sealevel increases the rate of errosion would be enough...

Perhaps people would prefer the BBC to present both sides of the argument equally even though they are not equally balanced in number-of-scientists. If the arguement is so overwhelming, the viewer can see this for themselves.

  • 34.
  • At 07:12 PM on 13 Mar 2007,
  • Mr S Dawson wrote:

Having read most of the comments regarding so called Global Warming, I consider that it is almost beyond belief that anyone can believe the misinformation regarding mans effect on the climate.
I cannot understand that anyone in possesion of a globe or an atlas can believe that the dot called England can have any effect upon the planet, even if the so called effects can be linked to mans activities rather than natural changes which are well proven, try reading your history books.
Be careful people this is a heaven sent story to cover up the disasters this present government has created all on its own without any help from nature.

  • 35.
  • At 08:34 PM on 13 Mar 2007,
  • Iain wrote:

I have read some of the comments in respect of the Channel 4's "documentary" the "Great Global Warming Swindle". If I had no previous knowledge of this subject I may have been convinced too.

The fact is that the program mixed truths, half truths and lies to try to undermine the scientific consensus about climate change. I have spent some time reading comments on the program from respected scientists and every one of the arguments presented in the program can be debunked using up-todate science.

Before scientists can publish their work in respected scientific journals it is reviewed by other scientists in the relevant field to ensure that the science conforms with good scientific principals. It appears that none of the contributors to the Channel 4 program have published any work that substantiates their claims. On the contrary their is plenty of work published which confirms the current scientific consensus on climate change.

To put the point another way. The scientific system that has alerted us to the dangers of climate change is also the same system that underpins the science and engineering behind aeroplanes, computers, nuclear power stations, advanced medical devices, etc. Are we fightened to trust these miracles of the modern world too?

I think not. When thousands of climate scientists from all around the world tell us that we have a problem and we need to do something about it, who do you want to believe? The thousands of climate scientists or a few individuals with dubious scientific backgounds who appear to have an axe to grind.

To make my mind up, I just need to pop outside and take a look at what is happening to our weather.

  • 36.
  • At 08:39 PM on 13 Mar 2007,
  • Philip Croft wrote:

I see Chief scoutmaster Blair has announced yet Another--Legacy chasing first. YEP--we the usual idiots of Europe ( THE WORLD this time ) are going it alone. Don't bother to look over your shoulder Blair, 'cause no one else will be following. Time and time again , our friends accross to channel have played only lip-service to binding 'agreements'. Like some latter-day Dads Army Corporal Jones, ''We'd like to be the one to volunteer sir''. This has been said so often before but---China's annual growth ALONE, will produce a greater carbon footprint than the UK's annual total. So a total shutdown of UK plc won't make a scrap of difference. OFFICIAL !!

"do we distort the picture of the scientific debate by airing the views of the small number of dissenting scientists too often?"

I think that, by itself, does not distort the picture.

What I think does cause problems is that too often these sorts of interviews are left hanging: we are just left with contradictory assertions. In a non-technical area, the interviewer would then move things along, usually by asking one side to address the points made by the other. It's this process that the BBC's technical and scientific interviews tend to lack. The interviewer metaphorically throws up his hands and moves on to the next topic.

Speaking bluntly, I think this is unacceptable in an age where all our lives are affected by scientific issues. We all nod along when Jeremy Paxman says "people who know a lot more than I do..." We should not. We should rebel against this mediocrity. It would be outrageous if BBC interviewers did not have a grasp of the minutiae of politics, say, when interviewing politicians. It ought to be just as outrageous to the public when a BBC interviewer whose job includes interviewing scientists dismisses their own ignorance in this fashion.

Anyone who listens to Today knows that Jim Naughtie has an extensive knowledge of opera. Why are there no Today - or wato, or PM, or whatever - presenters who can talk about climate forcings or stratospheric cooling and keep pace with the interviewees?

  • 38.
  • At 12:21 PM on 14 Mar 2007,
  • Phil Claughton wrote:

Do our Armed Forces have to buy carbon credits? I am sure the wars of recent years contributed lots of greenhouse gases!

Since the BBC have previously said that they officially do not report the warming debate with "due scepticism & balance" I don't think you can be accused of interviewing sceptical scientists "to often". Oerhaps you would care to remind us when a main BBC programme last had an interview on climate with a sceptic who was given more than seconds to put his case. By comparison when did you last interview a Greenpeace, FoI or similar representative? I would also be interested in your proving your claim that there is a "scientific consensus" (as opposed to political & journalistic consensus) on catastrophic warming. The BBC has given an enormous amount of coverage to Al Gore (though none to the Czech president who said Gore is insane) - can you name 2 climate scientists anywhere in the world who say that Gore's claim of 20 foot sea levels coming & that Pacific islands have already been evacuated are in any way whatsoever true. If the BBC is behaving at all honestly in giving more coverage to him than to genuine scientists who are sceptical then the BBC can claim to be honest. If not then not.

  • 40.
  • At 04:53 PM on 14 Mar 2007,
  • Anthony wrote:

As soon as we see the BBC singing the same tune as Mr Blair,look to the opposite for the truth! Every controversial topic is the same.

  • 41.
  • At 07:38 AM on 15 Mar 2007,
  • Craig Semple wrote:

One of the news stories this morning on BBC World concerned the lighting up of Paris at night. In view of the current highlighting of global warming, surely it is inappropriate to be spending so much money and generating so much in the way of emissions. It was interesting to note that no comment was made by the reporter about this "side effect". Maybe the issue of global warming has not sunk in yet !

  • 42.
  • At 01:30 PM on 15 Mar 2007,
  • mazza wrote:

So the item for discussion is climate change coverage. OK, but the BBC still insists on sending its journalists and film/sound teams outside the studio for relevant backdrops. For example the piece about cutting CO2 by 60% this week was underlined by standing in front of the Thames barrier. Since the only action was the occasional boat, why do the editors not lead the nation by example and use a library photo on a backdrop in the studio? AND EXPLAIN WHY THEY ARE DOING IT. I'm sure that this would convince more people that it's a good idea to cut down on non-essential travel, even if climate change is not down to man.

  • 43.
  • At 11:38 AM on 16 Mar 2007,
  • Richard wrote:

WHile running a story claiming that a new study of winter temperatures in the U.S. showed clear eveidence of global warming, and snidely suggesting that perhaps Americans were finally waking up to the falling sky, this could be found on the BBC's own web site regarding the study:
"The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said El Nino, a seasonal warming of parts of the Pacific Ocean, had also contributed to the warmth.

But it did not see the high temperature as evidence of man-made global warming."

And this is objective journalism? Outrageous!

  • 44.
  • At 03:39 PM on 17 Mar 2007,
  • David Carr wrote:

The most interesting fact about the climate debate is that those for pro-man-made global warming seem to be critising who are making the comments rather than listening to their comments.

The facts are:
1. Sun spots do effect temperature on earth
2. Global gases (including water vapour) do effect temperature on earth
3. Humans add a small (in contrast to nature) amount of global gases into the atmosphere.
4. The average global temperature is very difficult to calculate and particually hasn't been calculated very accurately in the past (i.e. measuring temperatures has been calculated within the generally warmer city environments - heat islands)

The questions are:
1. What percentage do the above have on the average global temperature?
2. Can average global temperature be accurately calculated from one or 2 locations within the Antarctic through ice cores to accurately measure changes of average temperature now?
3. If CO2 really does effect the climate as much as the pro-man-made global warmers would have us believe, why don't the bbc weather men forget cold fronts, atmospheric pressure and concentrate on reading CO2 in the atmosphere?

  • 45.
  • At 01:22 PM on 18 Mar 2007,
  • Adrienne wrote:

Rather than repeat comments made earlier in the week, especially after the Newsnight broadcast on Monday night, I'll just provide links for anyone interested:
(Comment 49):

as there are one or two links there which cover a slow burner which *is* worth worrying/doing something about.

Suffice it to say that a fair number of catastrophic issues have been aired in recent times (from bird flu to terrorism). Yet over the past 30 years or so, we have consistently voted for parties which have had one thing in common - the abrogation of political responsibility in deference to the anarchism of the free-market.

Why does anyone think such politicians are anything more than fear mongering opportunists who egregiously assert that they can protect, serve, and most cynically of all, save, us?

(Comment 13)

(See "Firestarter" comments on the same theme)

  • 46.
  • At 08:46 PM on 19 Mar 2007,
  • Dwayne Chastain wrote:

The BBC devotes a lot of space to Climate change reporting and propaganda. My question is, how has the climate changed in the UK? Can someone their provide any detailed information about 1 change in your climate?

  • 47.
  • At 11:46 AM on 20 Mar 2007,
  • David wrote:

The world scientific community and the band wagon jumping politicians have invested a monumental amount of credibility in the both the existence of climate change and the human contribution. Any suggestions that they are actually wrong are simply untenable. Yet both scientists and politicians have a very poor track record when it comes to predicting Armageddon. From the likely nuclear holocausts of the 1950s and 1960s through AIDs, SARS and now Bird Flue. But perhaps the most worrying aspect is the total reliance on computer modelling both forwards to predict future temperature and backwards to determine temperature 200 years ago. These models are held up as highly complex and sophisticated and for this very reason are exceeding sensitive to small variations in the parameters used. Yet with all this predictive computing power no scientist would put a single penny on his ability to predict the temperature in my back garden 24 hrs from now.

  • 48.
  • At 05:28 PM on 20 Mar 2007,
  • Paul Sullivan wrote:

There have been a number of comments that have attacked the reputation of the scientists who appeared on the Channel four documentary-without engaging at all with their compelling arguments. This is a shame when they have established and recognised credentials and reputations. Moreoever, apart from these scientists' research, there is much scientific research that has appeared in peer-review, reputable journals. ( This does not get reported by the BBC as it upsets the apocalyptic but sadly comic vision they have of our responsibility for the massive forces around climate change.

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