With the US and EU reportedly at odds over securing a climate deal at Copenhagen, and doctors warning of a "global health catastrophe" if we don’t get one, you might think we need less confusion about climate change in the media, not more. Why then does the Today programme continue to give air-time to people who have no credentials to talk about climate change?
With the US and EU reportedly at odds over securing a climate deal at Copenhagen, and doctors warning of a “global health catastrophe” if we don’t get one, you might think we need less confusion about climate change in the media, not more. Why then does the Today programme continue to give air-time to people who have no credentials to talk about climate change?
While climatologists know that the planet is warming and has been for the last 150 years, predicting what the temperature will do in the short term – next year for example – is a tricky problem. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in their most recent 2007 report say:
- “On scales [smaller than 50 years], natural climate variability is relatively larger [than human influences], making it harder to distinguish changes expected due to external [e.g.man-made] forcings.”
Respected climate scientist Mojib Latif made a similar point in a presentation recently. The Today programme discussed this in a segment with Vicky Pope, the head of climate predictions at the Hadley Centre, and Philip Stott of London University.
Quite rightly, given the level of scientific consensus on the issue, just coming out and saying that climate change is not happening is seen as beyond the bounds of acceptable debate. So Stott is a bit more sophisticated than that. His argument is that because the science is very uncertain we should be wary of acting when we don’t need to.
The trouble is the science is not uncertain about the central conclusion that we are causing continued global warming, so Stott tries to spin the aforementioned difficulty of making short term predictions into full-blown uncertainty about whether we can really know anything about how the climate behaves. In using the word ‘hype,’ he compares climate change to non-existent WMDs. It’s a subtle form of deception.
But then the mask slips. John Humphries asks:
- “But you accept the world is getting hotter? There’s no question about that? Global warming is happening?”
- “Absolute… well, it’s interesting you use the phrase global warming there. There has been a rise in temperature over the last 100 or so years, with a decline again in the 1940s and now possibly another decline since 2001 … Whether that will entirely continue to be the case I think the jury is still out on that.”
This is a classic bait and switch – shifting from discussing the difficulties of making short-term predictions to questioning the basically bullet-proof scientific consensus that the planet will continue to warm due to human activity unless we change our behaviour. Same old climate denial.
Indeed, it turns out that Stott’s website pedals the same old denier lines, including rather desperately:
- The conservationist and Green guru, Professor David Bellamy, has recently called ‘global warming’ “poppycock”.
Vicky Pope, who is a peer-reviewed climatologist, did not really engage with this rather tawdry piece of political theatre, other than to directly disagree with Stott: “Our predictions suggest it’s going to get warmer … The long term rise we’ve seen over the past 150 years and the predictions we’re making of the future we feel are very robust.”
Elsewhere, Stott has said “This central truth must be stated without equivocation: control of the emission of human-induced greenhouse gases will not halt climate change.”
Why is the BBC’s approach to climate change pieces to book someone whose views stand in direct opposition to what is probably the strongest scientific consensus on any current issue? Is the Beeb, like the recently departed Spectator editor, more interested in making ‘mischief’ than informing the public?