Tuesday, 25 May 2010

BBC reporters implying manmade climate change is a scientific debate is irresponsible

Last Saturday the From Our Own Correspondent programme on BBC Radio Four broadcast a report by Roger Harrabin about a gathering of climate change sceptics in the US. He mentioned the University of East Anglia researchers implicated in the so-called "climategate" scandal again and again, but completely failed to point out that they had been completely exonerated of any wrongdoing by an independent Royal Society inquiry.

Last night an Analysis programme by Justin Rowlatt, also on Radio Four, repeatedly tried to suggest that there was still some debate about the basic science of climate change.

These two journalists in particular spend their time making it seem like the jury is still out on manmade climate change in the scientific community when it patently isn't.

Every major institute that deals with climate-related science is saying manmade climate change is here and real and dangerous. The translation of what the science is saying into the language of the public is this: global warming is definitely happening; it is happening because of human activities and it will ontinue as long as CO2 and other greenhouse gases (like water vapour trails from jet planes!) keep increasing in the atmosphere. (For more on how to answer the climate sceptics see here.)

It is utterly irresponsible of the BBC to run stories that suggest that there is some sort of debate about this. We can have a debate about how high temperatures will go, about the possible consequences of climate change, about how fast we might get to mass extinction of species (which is of course already happening), but not about the basic science.

As an ex-BBC journalist I perfectly well understand the need for a "good story" or a "controversial debate". But the BBC is supposed to be a public broadcaster with duty to inform and educate as well as entertain. On climate change it is failing to do that. Indeed, as I've said before, I think the BBC bears much of the responsibility for the confusion about climate change in the minds of so many.

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