Yes, John: Steve Jones Is Wrong And The BBC Totally Unbalanced On Climate Change

Plenty of…skepticism on the part of chairperson John Lloyd during my comment/question at Thursday night’s RISJ/British Council presentation of James Painter’s “Poles Apart”.

I intervened after Steve Jones of BBC science impartiality and accuracy report “fame” (or not), who’s still (and still angrily) repeating the fantasy allegation of the BBC being too keen on balance and thus providing too much space to skeptics. To that, I retorted that just a few days ago a WWF representative was given heavenly time during the BBC Radio4 Today programme to talk about climate change

UPDATE: transcript here thanks to alexjc38, including the BBC’s Evan Davis uttering a veritable gem “Do a little bit of the campaigning then, go on“).

As everybody can see there was (as usual) not a hint of any even remotely critical question on the part of the BBC journalist/interviewer (something that happens regularly instead when interviews are not with AGWers but with politicians or even with scientists in a different discipline).

And that’s where the chairperson’s face started making quite telling movements….well, I can now present to John Lloyd (whom I met at a debate in Oxford in 2009 on Italian politics, where I was in the panel) the most curious piece of evidence yet of BBC’s institutional bias in favor of AGW proponents and away from skepticism.

And yes, this evidence makes a mockery of Steve Jones’ allegations too. Introducing Spiked Online and Patrick West’s experience with various language courses in Italian, and in particular the words dedicated to the BBC (my emphasis):

I’m currently on the second volume of the BBC’s Active Talk Italian Course. The two books and CD companions contain some bizarre diversions, Talk Italian 2 (2007) especially so. This volume is rich fare for those convinced that the BBC is governed by a liberal-left cabal, aging hippies and proselytising environmentalists.

Much of Talk Italian 2 is concerned with asking for directions in the rustic campagna of Tuscany and Umbria, where one would expect BBC bigwigs and well-to-do liberal-left champions of the corporation to take their vacations. A chapter is devoted to renting and buying luxury property (In zona panoramica e comoda… quattro camere, due bagni, cantine di 50mq, garage e giardino… Prezzo: €840,000). This no doubt appeals to Italy-loving Islingtonians who think holidaying in Spain is for the ghastly hoi polloi and that the south of France is a repository for the vulgar bourgeoisie.

The section in Talk Italian 2 on telling the time casually envisages a scenario of ‘Jorge’ and ‘Alessandro’ co-ordinating a meeting at a climate-change conference: Il cambiamento climatico: rischio per la biodiversità marina. The reader is invited to insert the Italian for ‘we start’ in the following ominous sentence ‘_____ alle dieci e un quarto con il discorso del Ministro sul cambiamento climatico’ (answer: Cominciamo) (1). Whatever happened to time-keeping dialogues simply based on railway enquiries?

On visiting the doctor, a further chapter asks you how to recognise notices for ‘alternative solutions’: medicina olistica, agopuntura, omeopatia, meditazione. Would you like to mettere in armonia le dimensioni fisiche, emotive, spirituali e sociali della persona? When ‘Simona’ complains of having l’influenza and asks for some painkillers, you, her hypothetical friend, are inveigled to suggest a superior alternative: Io ho un prodotto omeopatico molto efficace (2). Simona ought to reply Che stronzata! (3)

Some translation to help:

(1) “We start at quarter past ten with a speech by the Secretary of State for Climate Change”

(2) “I’ve got a very effective homeopathic medicine”

(3) “What a load of bull!”

And as if demonstrating the BBC Italian language courses’ focus on climate change undermines their quality 8-) , Patrick West’s article title is not what an Italian would write. “Questo corso è molto prevenuto” meaning “This course is very biased” would sound much better as “Questo corso è pieno di pregiudizi“.

Fracking BBC

guest post by Rupert Wyndham -about the BBC World Service “On the Fracking Frontline“:

Amongst an infinity of others, this programme is just one more example of a policy of systemic bias within the BBC. It might be tempting to add ‘in relation to so-called environmental reportage’. Upon reflection, of course, that is not true. BBC partiality and prejudice is evident across the entire spectrum of its journalistic output. In fact, the notion that BBC ‘journalists’ should report in such a way as to avoid any suggestion of insinuating personal opinion is now as moribund as the Corporation’s founding father himself or, indeed, as the Corporation’s own notional Editorial Standards.

It is quite evident that news reporting/commentary is no longer a matter of providing dispassionate and, as far as possible, carefully verified, accounts of matters of current concern. Rather, BBC news coverage is effectively little different from any other form of ‘reality television’. ‘Journalists’, laughably so termed, are no longer content to provide principally facts for listeners/viewers to absorb and interpret for themselves. On the contrary, instead they consider it encumbent upon themselves to pontificate. They do so, moreover, often with an arrogant disregard for the basic courtesies of civilised exchange. Indeed, impertinent interruption of interviewees now constitutes a mark of supposed independent thought and a tough interrogatory style. Presentational techniques display a uniformity, which denote the hallmarks of institutional in-house training. With few exceptions – and they, by and large, from an older generation – exaggerated gesticulation and extravagant body language are deployed to convey an aura of authority for output that, in truth, is merely glib. Radio has its own counterpart techniques for achieving the same objectives – frequently repeated interruption being especially favoured. The adoption of an endemic ‘corporate speak’ reinforces the perception of shallowness, not to mention of professional indolence. Of course, we now know that much of this froth amounts to little more than rehashes of press releases issued by leftist pressure groups and vested interests – such as organs of pseudo-environmentalism, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Worldwide Fund for Nature, The National Trust, by way of example.

This programme was no exception. Thus, with excruciating inevitability, we had trotted out for the millionth time the fashionable mot juste of the moment, ‘iconic’, in this case to describe Woodstock. What, pray, is ‘iconic’ about Woodstock? How, might one now go on to ask, did the BBC ever survive the preceding eight or nine decades with only rare and selective recourse to what has now been rendered a facile and hackneyed choice of adjective?

But, though irritating, this type of derivative, copycat reporting is but a symptom of a far deeper and more insidious underlying malaise marked, in particular, by a wilful rejection of objectivity. Repudiation in favour of what? Why, to be sure, in favour of ‘emotional truth’, to borrow the specious and fatuous terminology offered by editors of The Times Comprehensive World Atlas. In short, mere assertion is no longer to be challenged. Demonstrable evidence of a contra-indicative character is to be simply ignored or wilfully misrepresented. Data are to be cynically manipulated within computers programmed to deliver predetermined outcomes. Such outcomes are to be so ordered that any and all observable phenomena in the real world are to be construed as confirmation of a contrived and perverted orthodoxy. Indeed, computer modelling is always to trump actual observation. And it is to this garbage that the BBC lends the weight of its authority – paid for, of course, by the license fee payer. Truth is to be the preserve of a consensus.

So it is with this programme. So-called ‘climate change’ attributable to CO2, human generated in particular, was not to be treated as an unproven assertion but as established fact, to be marshalled to inform programme content with as much certainty as blood circulation informs medical diagnosis. That scientific practitioners in thousands, many of immense achievement and distinction, regard climate change science as a fraudulent contrivance is a fact simply to be ignored, as is the associated chicanery attendant upon it.

Underlying institutional prejudice was carefully re-inforced by repeated references to ‘carbon’, notwithstanding its questionable contextual relevance. The shameless appeal to ‘emotional truth’ was also carefully structured in such a way as to create a putative link between emissions of CO2 (in the programme maker’s eyes, a pollutant) with other wholly unrelated – and, for a change, possibly even genuine instances of pollution as, for example, in China and Hungary. It is noteable that One Planet made (and, one suspects, makes) little of massive pollution created in China, but brought about solely as a consequence of shrill Western pseudo-environmentalist demand of battery operated vehicles. But then, of course, the welfare of third world citizens and their living environments are to be regarded as expendable on the altar of AGW religiosity.

Like most BBC science/eco coverage, this programme was/is meretricious and hypocritical.

BBC Science Coverage: It's Worse The We Thought

BBC News’s “Science & Environment” pages have seldom been a paradigm of in-depth, unbiased, trustworthy coverage. Yet, they’re now sinking to new, sensationalistic lows. And it’s not just climate change.

Latest offerings: Richard Black on absurdist claims that million-year-long processes are changing right now; Black again telling the world that coal is now good (and reporting the energy policy ideas of a Professor of Ecology & Environmental Biology); Mark Kinver crying that penguins are “suffering” (whilst whales and seals are thriving, as reported well hidden in the same article); Pallab Ghosh fantasizing about Soviets getting the Moon before the Americans (forgetting that the key technological factor was the development by the US of combustion chambers able to withstand enormous pressures, so the Saturn-V could do with 5 engines on the first stage instead of 30).

Expect soon articles on how people feel about string theory, and the dangers to the fabric of the Universe caused by pesky European particle accelerators (oh…nevermind)

Royal Society Inspires Numerically-Proven Self-Debasement At Shameful BBC News Website

I know it’s hopeless, but today I have sent a complaint to the BBC for the shameful, biased coverage of the Royal Society’s “new short guide to the science of climate change”.

For unfathomable (ahr ahr!) reasons, much is made of the association between two Fellows of the Royal Society and the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF). One is left to wonder if the remaining 41 Fellows “who called for” the new Royal Society pronouncement, are just stooges of the GWPF. Who knows, perhaps Pallab Ghosh believes the whole Society including Lord Rees are zombies manipulated by Lord Lawson?

Actually, it’s not just a matter of opinion. Keep in mind that the article is titled “Royal Society launches new climate change guide“. Therefore one would expect it to be dedicated to the Royal Society and its stance on climate change. Keep also in mind that journalists are painfully aware of the importance of dedicating the right number of words to the right topic.

Now, there are 419 words in Mr Ghosh’s piece. Of those, 83 are dedicated to Bob Ward’s likely slanderous innuendos against the GWPF, a topic that is removed as far as it gets from the Royal Society and its stance on climate change:

…Lord Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Foundation [...] campaigns against climate researchers and promotes inaccurate and misleading information about climate change

That’s 83/419=19.81% of the total. Now add the words in the previous paragraph in the article, just as well irrelevant to what the article was supposed to be about, and you get 125/419=29.83%.

In other words, 30% of Mr Ghosh’s writing has little to do with the Royal Society and its stance on climate change. Can anybody imagine what would happen at the BBC if, say, 30% of any political article were blatantly irrelevant?

Funny to see such a shameful behaviour in their “science” section of all places.

Richard Black Sees The Light

Rejoice all ye faithful! Warmist Extraordinaire, BBC News environmental expert journalist Mr Richard Black has started to grasp all that is wrong with AGW messages such “the planet is burning”, “humanity is in peril”, “climate change is a bigger threat than nuclear war”.

I would have never expected to read Mr Black (with whom I have a long list of past disagreements) write statements such as

Climate change is projected to become a major driver of biodiversity decline [...] but at the moment, the major factor is habitat loss as the human footprint expands. When it comes to fisheries [...] the single biggest driver is undoubtedly over-consumption [...] And underlying it all is the growth in the human species

[...] if climate impacts are at present largely reversible but the loss of a species self-evidently isn’t, does that make biodiversity loss more important than climate change?

[...] if the fundamental drivers of all the trends are the swelling in the human population and our expanding thirst for raw materials, why aren’t these the things that politicians and environmental groups are shouting about and trying to change?

The blog in question is titled “Does climate cloud the bigger picture?“.

Mr Black goes as far as to admit that

some of the policies being considered as a response to climate change [...] could exacerbate other environmental problems

Perhaps he (and some among my twelve readers) will now understand why I simply cannot bear the constant barrage of absurdist climate change claims (shrinking sheep included). AND the BBC’s own fixation with all things global warming.

IMNSHO, anybody that cares about the environment should be wary of overshooting remarks about any particular environmental issue: those will not help solve anything, and likely will make things worse overall.

Explanation For BBC Science News Webpage's Climate Change Policy

Having carefully watched the BBC “Science & Environment” news web page for several weeks now, I am inclined to identify the following as their underlying “Climate Change” reporting policy:

  1. No day shall pass without at least one climate-change-related link somewhere on that page
  2. Reporting on scientific articles supporting AGW will be strictly confined to a slight change of the original press release with the smallest and most inconsequential of doubt and criticism in the results
  3. Whatever Prince Charles or any other environmental celebrity has to say will be considered worthy of publication
  4. No such luck for anything not supporting AGW, however authoritative the source.
  5. Point 4 will not apply once a quarter or so, in order to demonstrate “balanced reporting”
  6. No climate change link will be considered too trivial to report
  7. There will be links to Richard Black’s blog
  8. There will be no link to the BBC’s own “Climate Change – The Blog of Bloom” blog. After all, it does make fun of AGW

And so there goes my licence money at work supporting the fight against the destruction of the world by evil SUV drivers…

Either The Best BBC Climate Blog…

…or their way of “showing impartiality”?

In any case, the BBC’s “Climate Change – The Blog of Bloom” is well worth an entry in one’s RSS feeds list.

And the authors there are quite humorous and far, far less the self-conscious, bordering-on-pompous, depressive types like Roger Harrabin and Richard Black.

For a couple of suggestions, start from these:

Carbon-neutral adventurers find reason to love oil tanker

Giant trees decline in Yosemite: climate change may, or equally may not be to blame

Sacked climate minister reveals somewhat unsurprising support for state aid

——–

Now…can “The Blog of Bloom” really be used to demonstrate the impartiality of the BBC in the climate debate? I am afraid it cannot. See, there is no link to it, and there has never been, into the “Science and Environment” section of the BBC News website.

Climate Expertise Inflation By The BBC

Richard Black’s desire to defend the BBC is natural and even commendable. Still, his or any defence of the (unsigned) Feb 15 “Global warming ‘underestimated’” article is untenable.

That article is clearly misleading.

Black tries to make a point about Field’s political weight and the breadth of the IPCC “Impacts” Working Group remit:

As the new co-chair of the IPCC working group on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability, he now has a leadership role in the periodic assessments of global climate change that are the most politically significant documents in the field; so his views on the subject will presumably carry some political weight, and are therefore worth reporting.

As to how well qualified someone who started life as a biologist is to pronounce on climate change; well, if you look at the scope of that IPCC working group, it’s extremely broad, and I suggest it would be impossible to find anyone who has formally studied all of the relevant disciplines.

That situation, though, is hardly unknown in science. Even within universities, a dean of science could hardly be expert in every subject in his or her faculty; yet many intelligent and able people seem to make a decent fist of it, and it’s highly unlikely, I would suggest, that Chris Field would have got the job if his peers didn’t think him qualified.

But that’s not the issue with the Feb 15 article. The problem is that the BBC chose to describe Field as a “leading climate scientist“. And whilst Black is right in stating that Field is a leader, and a scientist, and a biologist with experience in the potential impacts of climate change, by all means Field is no “climate scientist“.

Why couldn’t the BBC write of Field as a “leading biologist in the field of climate change“? As things stand instead, casual readers of that article will have no clue of the fact that Chris Field’s take on future temperatures is not a climatologist’s.

A quick search in past BBC news reports reveals how Brian Austin for example, Dean of Science at Heriot Watt University, was characterised first and foremost as the exact kind of expert he was (microbiologist) (“Sponge puzzles superbug experts“, 26/12/2005).

The BBC faux-pas about Field is perhaps telling of a mindset that conflates all kinds of experts under the all-encompassing umbrella of “climate”, whenever anybody mentions climate change/global warming within the IPCC orthodoxy.

And that mindset can only succeed in cheapening up the very concept of “climatologist”.

So What has the BBC's Roger Harrabin Actually Done?

There is considerable buzz about reports that “the BBC has changed the news to accommodate an activist“.

The BBC journalist involved is environmental correspondent Roger Harrabin, with whom I must say I have privately exchanged views in the past (wrong…it was Richard Black).

And the BBC article is “Global temperatures ‘to decrease‘”, Friday April 4, 2008.

The “accusation” regards the contents (and title) of the article having been changed to please an environmental activist, allegedly called “Jo Abbess”.

This being the internet, with Fool’s Day not that much in the past, there is not much one can be sure of. So I have compared the three available version of Mr Harrabin’s article. Versions (1) and (2) as per Jennifer Marohasy’s blog. Version (3) as currently on the BBC web site (I am sorry but I have to take (1) and (2) at face value, hoping they are not the product of fakery).

My conclusions are: Mr Harrabin’s article is clearly biased in favour of AGW but not more than other articles in the past by Harrabin and others (see here for more about BBC’s biased reporting); and the whole evolution of the article’s text is compatible with the story of “Jo Abbess” being true. Despite of that, there is still hope.

=================================

a. Differences between (1) and (2)

Version (1) starts with:

Global temperatures this year will be lower than in 2007 due to the cooling effect of the La Nina current in the Pacific, UN meteorologists have said. [...] But experts have also forecast a record high temperature within five years.

Version (2) instead:

Global temperatures will drop slightly this year as a result of the cooling effect of the La Nina current in the Pacific, UN meteorologists have said. [...] But experts say we are still clearly in a long-term warming trend – and they forecast a new record high temperature within five years. The WMO points out that the decade from 1998 to 2007 was the warmest on record. Since the beginning of the 20th Century, the global average surface temperature has risen by 0.74C. While Nasa, the US space agency, cites 2005 as the warmest year, the UK’s Hadley Centre lists it as second to 1998. Researchers say the uncertainty in the observed value for any particular year is larger than these small temperature differences. What matters, they say, is the long-term upward trend.

There is a slight “style” change from “lower” to “drop slightly”. Not sure one can make much of a fuss about that. More important, there is a whole new section reiterating that there is a “long-term warming trend”.

This doesn’t appear much of a “scandal” to yell about, even if it clearly shows the BBC party-line of driving home the “world is warming” message no matter what, perhaps even no matter where.

b. Differences between (2) and (3)

Version (2) starts with:

Global temperatures will drop slightly this year as a result of the cooling effect of the La Nina current in the Pacific, UN meteorologists have said. [...] This would mean global temperatures have not risen since 1998, prompting some to question climate change theory. But experts say we are still clearly in a long-term warming trend – and they forecast a new record high temperature within five years.

Version (3) starts with:

Global temperatures for 2008 will be slightly cooler than last year as a result of the cold La Nina current in the Pacific, UN meteorologists have said. [...] But this year’s temperatures would still be way above the average – and we would soon exceed the record year of 1998 because of global warming induced by greenhouse gases.

So we are back to “slightly cooler” instead of “drop slightly”, some sort of “middle way” as AGWers won’t like the use of “cooler” and skeptics will object to “slightly”.

Another change is that there is no more mention, at least at the beginning of the article, of those “questioning climate change theory”. AGWer Ms or Mr “Jo Abbess” will be surely happier.

Furthermore, in the latest version Mr Harrabin has added yet another mention of “greenhouse gases”, in what looks like a clarification: a clarification, that is, that Mr Harrabin’s article really does follow the aforementioned BBC “party-line”.

Conclusions

The BBC article is clearly biased in favour of AGW but no more than previous pieces (see here for more about BBC’s biased reporting). The whole evolution of the text is actually compatible with the story of “Jo Abbess” being true.

There is hope though: Mr Harrabin’s “initial forgetfulness” allegedly corrected after exchanging e-mails with “Jo Abbess” might be a sign that, when free to think, even BBC journalists are not fixated with accusing mankind of burning up the planet.

Former BBC science correspondent David Whitehouse, in fact…

UPDATE: The Register’s Andrew Orlowski has something to say about “blog bully” Jo Abbess