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Row over climate change TV

Cross posted from The Great Beyond

boredtvgetty.jpgThe BBC, it seems, is damned if it does and damned if it don’t. Having abandoned plans for a day long global warming special “which would have involved viewers in a mass ‘switch-off’ to save energy” it has taken fire from all sides (BBC News). As its own reporting notes it has been accused of “cowardice” by environmentalists. However, critics including some senior voices within the corporation had previously slammed the planned ‘Planet Relief’ programme as a violation of the commitment to impartiality enshrined in the BBC’s charter. The BBC claims the show was scrapped not due to impartiality concerns but because audiences “are most receptive to documentary or factual-style programming as a means of learning about the issues surrounding this subject”. So maybe they’ll just be showing ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ on loop?

For those not based in the UK it is probably worth noting that the BBC is funded by a ‘licence fee’ levied on every television owner. It is “forbidden from expressing an opinion on current affairs or matters of public policy other than broadcasting” (BBC guidelines). The scrapping of the show follows heated debate within the BBC over its stance on climate change. One of the BBC’s own editors earlier this month said it was “not the corporation’s job to save the planet” (Daily Mail). The blogosphere has gone into pretty predictable overdrive.

Another employee, the BBC’s Head of News Peter Horrocks, wrote a blog entry on the topic in which he said “It is not the BBC’s job to lead opinion or proselytise on this or any other subject.” However Horrocks also says “there is an increasingly strong (although not overwhelming) weight of scientific opinion in favour of the proposition that climate change is happening and is being largely caused by man”. I’m not sure many climate scientists would agree that the weight of opinion was “not overwhelming”. Opposition politician Chris Huhne, environment spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, certainly wouldn’t. “The consensus about global warming in the science community is now overwhelming,” he says (Independent), “so accusing the BBC of campaigning on such an undisputed threat is like suggesting it should be even-handed between criminals and their victims.”

Image: Getty

— Daniel Cressey


  1. Report this comment

    Steve Bloom said:

    We may recall the glory days of the BBC during the Battle of Britain, when despite all pressures they maintained an objective posture. Their fair-minded presentation of the Nazi perspective on the Blitz (who can forget those informative interviews of Reichsmarshall Goering?) remains a shining example for journalists today. Everyone understood that it was not then the corporation’s job to help save Britain, so why should it be now?


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    Government Accountability Project said:

    Talk live with Rick Piltz about the Censorship of Climate Science

    Free Conference Call and Q&A

    Wednesday, September 12th, 6:00 – 7:00 PM eastern

    Killing the Messenger –

    The Bush Administration and the Global Warming Disinformation Campaign

    Featuring Rick Piltz, Director of Climate Science Watch and federal climate science whistleblower

    and Tarek Maassarani, GAP staff Attorney, co-author of Atmosphere of Pressure and Redacting the Science of Climate Change.

    To register for this call, email Richard Kim-Solloway

    To listen to our previous calls, visit


    For 14 years, Rick Piltz held positions in Washington that allowed a first-hand observation of how the science of climate change and related research is used and misused by public officials and special interest groups. From 1995 until resigning in March 2005 he served in senior positions in the office of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP), the program that coordinates support for climate and global change research by 13 federal agencies.

    In 2005, GAP helped Rick blow the whistle on how a former oil industry lobbyist in the White House Council on Environmental Quality had improperly edited climate science program reports intended for the public and Congress and acted to suppress a major study on climate change impacts on the United States..

    GAP helped Rick release inside information to The New York Times that documented the actual hand-editing by Chief of Staff Philip Cooney – a lawyer and former climate team leader with the American Petroleum Institute – thereby launching a media frenzy that resulted in the resignation of the “former” lobbyist, who left to work for ExxonMobil.

    With Piltz’ leadership GAP launched Climate Science Watch, a GAP program that works to hold public officials accountable for using climate science with integrity in dealing with global climate change. Piltz has been interviewed on CBS 60 Minutes, PBS Frontline, PBS NOW, BBC, and other electronic and print media nationwide and internationally, as well as for major articles in Newsweek, Rolling Stone, and the Associated Press wire service. He has testified at two Congressional hearings on political interference with federal climate scientists and is featured as one of the “global warming messengers” in the new independent documentary film, Everything’s Cool.

    GAP also represented Dr. James Hansen, one of the world’s top climate scientists, who blew the whistle on NASA’s attempts to silence him. Hansen’s disclosures led GAP Staff Attorney, Tarek Maassarani, to conduct a year-long investigation on the gagging of federal climate scientists.

    His investigation found objectionable and possibly illegal restrictions on the communication of scientific information to the media including the delaying, monitoring, screening, and denying of interviews, as well as the delay, denial, and inappropriate editing of press releases.

    Tarek prepared a report, Redacting the Science of Climate Change, summarizing his findings, as well as a joint Atmosphere of Pressure report with the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) that combined GAP’s investigative reporting and legal analysis with the results of a UCS survey of federal climate scientists. The reports received broad national attention and have already been presented in testimony at two congressional oversight hearings.

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    Bishop Hill said:

    So the consensus is now “not overwhelming” is it? The BBC has previously reported ad nauseam that it is. I wonder why they have downgraded their assessment.

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    JSleeper said:

    I would like to refer back to Dr. Mike Hulme of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research:

    He says:

    I have found myself increasingly chastised by climate change campaigners when my public statements and lectures on climate change have not satisfied their thirst for environmental drama and exaggerated rhetoric.

    It seems that it is we, the professional climate scientists, who are now the (catastrophe) sceptics. How the wheel turns.

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    JamesG said:

    People are just playing with words to find the consensus statement they want. That climate change is happening is an easy pick – overwhelming. That it is due to man – well not really overwhelming. That most of it is likely due to man – yes, overwhelming because the weasel words provide a lovely escape. How bad will it get? Let’s be honest – it is extremely doubtful there is any consensus on that one, except by modelers who are selling their wares.

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    Per Olaussen said:

    i agree abouth the climate change, but not that its due to man.

    Let’s keep cool and don’t make hysteri.

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    David B. said:

    Is Peter Horrocks similarly against proselytising for causes such as Children in Need and Comic Relief, which the BBC regularly give over air-time to?

    Or is it just subjects that he, personally, doesn’t believe that he considers not in the BBC remit?

  8. Report this comment

    Z. Bishrey said:

    Global warming, or global hot air?

    The major contributor to global warming is water vapour which is responsible for 95% of the greenhouse effect. Only 0.001% of this total is due to human activity, the rest is dependent on the heat output from the sun, on the earth’s orbit and inclination to the ecliptic, on the earth’s tectonic and volcanic activities, etc. The contribution of carbon dioxide to the greenhouse effect is 3.618%; Out of which the human contribution is 0.117%. Methane contributes 0.36%; Out of which the human contribution is 0.066%. Nitrous oxide contributes 0.95%; Out of which the human contribution is 0.047%. Other greenhouse gases (CFCs etc.) contribute 0.072%; Out of which the human contribution is 0.047%. The sum total of all human contributions to the greenhouse effect, therefore, is 0.278%, whereas the natural phenomena, upon which humans have no influence whatsoever, contribute 99.722%

    The mean global temperatures and carbon dioxide levels have been going up and down like a crazy yoyo (between about 12 deg. C and about 23 deg. C) for hundreds of millions of years before this wonder of creation, the human being, used fossil fuels to fire his factories and propel his 4×4s. The subject of global warming has lately become a religion in which we must all have “faith” without letting the facts get in the way of a deceitful argument, or else we would be stigmatised as heretics fit only for burning at the stake of pseudo-science and political correctness. Let us, once and for all, stop fooling ourselves that we have any noticeable influence on the planet’s meteorology, and let us get on with what we do best, namely killing each other and stealing each other’s land, milk and honey!

    Z. Bishrey


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