The BBC has a track record on global-warming reporting that combines ignorance, fanaticism and outright villainy. Last week it issued instructions to its editorial team aimed at further suppressing the sceptic case. By contrast, the ABC has no guidelines specific to global-warming reporting, though management has certainly toyed with the idea.
The ABC advises Quadrant,
“With regard to editorial guidelines, the ABC has no specific editorial policies, standards or guidance notes that relate specifically to reporting climate change issues. Our Editorial Policies and Associated Guidance notes cover all of our content, and journalists are expected to abide by them when covering any and all issues.”
The issue is topical. This week in San Francisco there has been a “Global Climate Action Summit” of true-believer multitudes who want governments to “decarbonize the global economy”, whatever that means or entails. On October 8 in Seoul, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will release its special report on impacts of 1.5degC warming (its next major Assessment Report is not due for a couple of years).
First, I’ll cover the BBC scene, then the ABC’s.
The BBC “villainy” I mention dates back to 2006, when the- head of news Tony Hall (now BBC director-general and Baron Hall of Birkenhead) authorised a seminar to determine how global warming should be reported. The BBC described 28 outside advisers as “the best scientific experts”, and they briefed about 30 BBC officials. It was a major event. The BBC adopted the “science experts” case — ie., that the science was settled and dissenters were not entitled to equal treatment. The seminar was one of a series that led to green views being incorporated in the gamut of BBC programming – even including entertainment and comedy.
A lone pensioner in rural West Wales called Tony Newbery asked for the names of the 28 “science experts”. The BBC refused. Then, to fight Newbery’s freedom-of-information filings, the BBC at enormous public cost deployed two barristers and four lawyers for years to stall and keep the names concealed. In 2012, a blogger discovered the list of names on an obscure internet file. Of the 28, only three were scientists, of whom only two were in climate. The rest were mainly green activists (including two from Greenpeace), plus vested business leaders, and miscellaneous odd bods, such as someone from the US Embassy, of all places. In one of a number of further scandals, the BBC was caught running films made and supplied by green groups.
Turning now to last week’s BBC edict, it’s in a leaked four-page ‘crib sheet’ to staff by Fran Unsworth, the BBC’s director of news and current affairs. She writes, “To achieve impartiality you do not need to include outright deniers of climate change in BBC coverage, in the same way you would not have someone denying that Manchester United won 2-0 last Saturday. The referee has spoken.” Thus she delivers a knockout blow to her straw man. (But whoops, Manchester actually won on Sunday not Saturday).
No serious sceptic denies “climate change”: the argument is about whether human effect on climate in the past half-century has been little or large, and whether future warming will be mild or dire, net-beneficial or catastrophic.
Unsworth begins her missive by noting recent UK heatwaves, floods and “extreme weather”. This has heightened audience interest, she says. Therefore all staff are offered a one-hour course on “climate change”, covering science, policy, research and “misconceptions to challenge”, thus (in one hour) “giving you confidence to cover the topic accurately and knowledgeably”. Unsworth is oblivious to the difference between weather and climate – climate being the average of at least 30 years’ weather.[i] Nor has she read the latest IPCC report dismissing most claimed links between warming and extreme weather events. (A 2012 IPCC special report said warming could even reduce extreme weather, but it would take 20-30 years to detect the signal).
A section entitled “What’s the BBC’s position” says that “man-made climate change exists: if the science proves it we should report it.” Again, sceptics don’t dispute man-made climate change, only the horror forecasts of the warmists’ flawed models.
The crib sheet instructs staff: “Be aware of ‘false balance’: as climate change is accepted as happening, you do not need a ‘denier’ to balance the debate.” Straw man again…
The policy adds that “there may be occasions to hear from a denier” but only “with appropriate challenge from a knowledgeable interviewer”.
Unsworth says reporters should be careful even when interviewing people who accept that climate change is happening but believe that it is occurring much more slowly than many scientists state. (Finally, a nod to the real sceptic claim).
BBC journalists “need to be aware of the guest’s viewpoint and how to challenge it effectively” and should also say which organisation he or she represents and “potentially how that group is funded”. Fair enough, except such standards are never applied to warmists, such as green investor Al Gore (net worth about $US200m). Mainstream climate academics wallow in billions in grant funding; leading sceptic bloggers, like Paul Homewood (UK) and Joanne Nova (Perth), rely on tip jars. Unsworth continues,
“Climate change has been a difficult subject for the BBC, and we get coverage of it wrong too often. The climate science community is clear that humans have changed the climate, but specifically how is more difficult to evidence.”
In a nod to rationality, Unsworth concedes that it is invalid to claim a particular flood or heatwave is “caused” by climate change, but she says it is quite OK to say climate change makes such events more probable and more severe — claims are based on the usual dodgy computer modeling.[ii] She also suggests “deniers” might get rare inclusion on programs, provided the interviewer gives them a hard time and exposes their qualifications and funding. Her abuse term “denier” makes her concession hypocritical.
Meanwhile preposterous alarm stories are spread night and day by BBC on-air people and interviewees. Among BBC claims which it has now officially retracted, as noted by blogger Paul Homewood:
- Sea levels at Miami are rising at ten times the global rate
- Tens of thousands of reindeer are dying because of climate change in Siberia
- A warmer world is bringing us a greater number of hurricanes and a greater risk of a hurricane becoming the most powerful category 5 .
Turning now to the ABC, in June, 2013, the ABC’s then-chair Jim Spigelman ordered a quality audit of the ABC’s science and climate change coverage. Surprisingly, the former NSW Chief Justice seemed just as concerned about the ABC’s parroting warmist press releases, as about giving time to sceptics’ minority views. Spigelman said that it was time to put ABC science coverage to the test, as per the ABC Charter for accurate and impartial journalistic presentation. He said he was not a climate sceptic (interesting that he would feel a need to say that: in ABC Land it’s like declaring, “I am not a cannibal”). But ABC journalists needed “to hold scientists and technologists to account for their claims and conduct”. He continued,
“What I believe needs most work, is to develop our capacity to appropriately challenge scientists, not least those whose work is distributed by press release from organizations with a vested interest in favorable publicity. I would hope we can further develop the scientific literacy of our news and current affairs staff. In this… we must go beyond PR handouts, or what has been called ‘churnalism’.”
I may be wrong, but since 99% of climate media handouts are from academia, government and green groups, he must have had those in mind.
Whatever people may have assumed, the audit was neither independent nor public, and it had zero impact or (apparently) interest in ABC climate reporting. ABC board member and bumbling eco-warrior Professor Fiona Stanley was chair. Stanley was the lead signatory to the greenies’ “Monster Climate Petition” of 2014 beginning, “My great great grandchildren ask me in dreams, what did you do while the planet was plundered? What did you do when the earth was unravelling?” Another panel member was Media Watch’s Jonathan Holmes, an outspoken warmist.
The panel reported in August 2015, and in April 2016 management published its responses. These were bland, e.g,: “The Panel found that the ABC performs very well in science content across all genres. It fulfills its Charter obligations to educate and inform a number of large audiences including children, students, scientists and the general public.” Climate coverage got no mention at all.
Spigelman had prescribed a symposium between ABC and science people in the wake of the report, but the ABC concedes that did not occur.[iii]
Shortly before the management response, managing director Mark Scott on February 25, 2016, was questioned on climate coverage by a Senate estimates committee. He set up and demolished the ABC’s usual straw man that the ABC should give exactly equal time to each viewpoint. (Just a fair sampling of sceptic science points would make us happy). Instead, Scott said the ABC should “follow the weight of evidence” or “consensus”. If sceptics were to be broadcast, “they should be robustly questioned, just as the climate scientists are robustly questioned”.
What? As if the ABC’s climate-ignorant green reporters have ever robustly challenged a warmist? Here’s a contrary example. The ABC’s science guru Robyn Williams on August 16, 2014 had Yale climate fabulist Naomi Oreskes as his Science Show guest.[iv] She had written a futurist book from the year 2414 about climate dooms, including the total wiping out of the Australian population. She arranged the climate deaths of pet pups and kittens in 2023 as a wake-up call to today’s climate-apathetic families. Williams didn’t just fawn over Oreskes and her idiotic propaganda. His “robust questioning” involved enthusiastically endorsing her dead kittens scenario:
“Yes, not only because it’s an animal but it’s local. You see, one criticism of the scientists is they’re always talking about global things … And so if you are looking at your village, your animals, your fields, your park, your kids, and the scientists are talking about a small world that you know, than it makes a greater impact, doesn’t it?”
“Well, exactly. It was about bringing it literally home, literally into your home, your family, your pet, the dog or cat that you love who is your faithful and trusted companion.”
Believe it or not, all this reeking nonsense went to air on the so-called science Show, compered by a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science. He certainly has form, having equated skepticism with paedophilia, and accused ABC ex-chair Maurice Newman of talking “drivel” by comparing warmism with religiosity.
It’s said that the exception proves the rule, and on June 24 last year Williams gave his Science Show the faux heading “Has ‘denying’ won?” With the ABC’s Sharon Carleton, he interviewed five sceptics, including famed physicist Freeman Dyson, Judith Curry (nearly 200 climate papers), and Garth Paltridge (ex-CSIRO). Terrified that his guests might be persuasive, Williams pre-edited their voice clips and drowned them with contrary views from three warmists Andy Pitman, Steve Sherwood and Tom Griffiths. On my rough word count of the relative arguments, the sceptics got 3100 words and Williams’ team 4400.
Among Williams’ facile framing statements
- how one can maintain rejection of one of the greatest bodies of evidence ever assembled by modern research?
- Whatever the gold-star scientific evidence, however responsible the enquiry and reports by chief scientists, some people still say no.
To sum up, climate science’s alarmism is costing the West trillions, purporting to challenge capitalism and destroying Australian prime ministers and national energy security. But to the national broadcasters in the UK and Australia, there’s no controversy about alarmism that’s worth exploring.
Tony Thomas has a new book of essays next month, “The West: An Insiders’ Tales. A romping reporter in Perth’s innocent ’60s.” It can be pre-ordered here
[i] The Science of Climate Change, Feb 2015. Australian Academy of Science, p6
[ii] The 2013 IPCC report found 111 of 114 model runs exaggerated the actual warming
[iii] ABC spokesperson: “No formal symposium took place. Our reporters, producers and researchers continually engage with the science community, and more broadly across Australia as part of their daily work.”
[iv] Williams also had Oreskes as star guest on his 8/1/11 and 1/7/17 Science Shows