Today give platform to climate denier

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.

Stott is a climate denier who appeared in the widely ridiculed and debunked ‘Great Global Warming Swindle’ documentary, and has written for Spiked, the mouthpiece of the Living Marxism Network.

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?”

Stott replies:

    “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?

8 Responses to “Today give platform to climate denier”

  1. Greenpeace UK

    thanks for all the retweets. check out climate supremo joss garman over on left foot forward here: http://bit.ly/1SfNkH as your reward.

  2. Klem

    “basically bullet-proof scientific consensus that the planet will continue to warm due to human activity”

    This has been the basis of the debate. Climate change is happening, that is the bullet proof consensus. Climate variability is part of life on earth. But humanities contribution to climate change, that is not bullet proof consensus. That’s why Vicky Pope can say that the earth will continue to warm, and predictions are quite robust. Well that’s not saying anything at all really, the earth has been warming at a relatively steady pace since around 13,000 years ago (Younger Dryas event). And with a fair amount of confidence it will continue to warm until the next cooling event (another Younger Dryas perhaps). Implying that humans have caused it over the past 150 years is a large leap of faith. The time period is too short, and thermometers were hardly reliable 150 years ago. A leap of faith too far for many people, including Stott.

  3. Casper ter Kuile

    There is nothing more frustrating when the person who faces these untruths doesn’t engage with the lies and spin from the deniers. Why are we so afraid of clashing sabers?! Surely they can prepare some smack-down soundbites which blow this ancient viewpoint out of the water?

  4. Shamik Das

    RT @leftfootfwd: Joss Garman asks why the BBC gave airtime this morning to climate denier Philip Stott http://bit.ly/e7tJx

  5. Luke

    Anyone who has half a brain as to what ‘Spiked’ stands for i.e. corporate-sponsored entryism into the scientific and media mainstream, should not be too startled by Philip Stott. The problem with most ‘Spiked’ contributors is that they have alot of libertarian talent who often have a really advanced perspective on civil liberties. Take Frank Furedi, a sociology lecturer at my former university, his book, ‘Therapy Culture’, was a really engaging and intelligent read, and I agreed with the majority of what he said. However, because he has written books on a range of subjects he has been invited to many conference and panel events. It is then by using the networks ‘Spiked’ intellectuals have previously created that they then get the opportunity to ramble on about the ‘fear culture’ of climate change, as Frank Furedi calls it.

    Whenever watching the right, as I know some bloggers do, always keep one eye on ‘Spiked.’ You never know if Brendan O’Neill or Mick Hume is lurking under your bed.

  6. Roger McCarthy

    The former Revolutionary Communist Tendency and its current fronts Spiked and the Institute of Ideas are to my mind somewhat more complex than ‘corporate-sponsored entryism into the scientific and media mainstream’ – and actually represent the most advanced form of the late C20 trahison de clercs: the adoption by much of the left of neoliberal economics while retaining libertarian social attitudes and anti-imperialist international politics.

    While for individuals like Christopher Hitchens this has led them into a more or less consistent embrace of neoconservatism, for a cult-like post-Trotskyist sect like the RCT it has produced an often interesting if toxic intellectual cocktail.

    Re the ‘therapy culture’ strand of the RCT’s thinking it is not anywhere near as original as it has been presented and IMO Furedi, Fitzpatrick et al add little fundamental to the insights published by Christopher Lasch and Philip Rieff nearly half a century ago.

  7. sunny hundal

    BBC Today programme gives airtime to climate-change denier Philip Stott http://bit.ly/e7tJx

  8. Word Choice Sceptic

    A Holocaust denier is someone who denies proven historical facts. A “climate denier” is someone who disagrees with the scientific consensus that you happen to support – as I do too, but it *is* only a consensus on theory. Can you not see how distasteful and potentially offensive it is to use the word “denier” in this context, as if climate change is a proven historical fact?

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