Green Ink : The BBC and the IPCC

People who work for broadcasting organisations and in the media more generally need to understand that their “presiding pronouncements” about climate change science should be based on climate change science, and informed by climate change scientists, rather than the contrarianism, scepticism, denial and doubts expressed by non-scientists.

There is no remaining “debate”. There is only one valid “side” to the climate change narrative, and that is with the science. The time for personal “gut feelings” of uncertainty is over, and the time for clear plans of action on greenhouse gas emissions, based on the evidence, is here.

Here is another letter penned to the BBC about their treatment of the IPCC report below.


TO BBC COMPLAINTS

3rd April 2014

Dear Sir or Madam,

BBC 24 HOUR NEWS REPORTING OF THE IPCC REPORT ON CLIMATE CHANGE ON 31st March 2014

When the first part of the IPCC report was published in September 2013, it made two matters crystal-clear: one is that Global Warming is already happening with serious consequences world-wide; the other that it is caused primarily by human actions. Although the vast majority of scientists accepted its findings, the BBC gave space for climate-change deniers like Lord Lawson to challenge the Report’s conclusions.

The latest Report of the IPCC reiterates its previous findings and predicts likely environmental and social outcomes. I write to express my concern at the biased way in which some of the reporting on 31st March was made in BBC 24 hour News. In the first report I saw, a member of the IPCC Panel who decided not to sign the Report was interviewed [Richard Tol]. In introducing him, the reporter said that a number of people were regarding the report as ‘alarmist’. In popular language, that word gives the impression of indicating that the report is inaccurate and misleading. No-one else was present in the studio to respond to this person’s comments. We were not told if the speaker was a lone non-signatory or one of many, nor was information given about the ratio of non-signatories to signatories of the Report. (Both pieces of information are crucial with regard to the subject of balanced reporting).

In the second News item, Bjorn Lomborg was interviewed (or more accurately, given free rein). Again, when the interviewer introduced him, he used the word ‘alarmist’ to describe the responses of ‘some’. And again, no-one was present to respond to Mr Lomberg’s views.

As a grandparent I am very concerned about the future for all of our descendents. We have only one Earth. We are using it as though we have one and a half (Evidence from WWF); and we are continuing to emit CO2 as though the dangers outlined in the Report hardly exist. There is a very important principle which it is essential to keep in mind when considering these dangers. It is called the Precautionary Principle: that is, even if there are doubts of any kind about the range and level of the dangers, the safety and security of future generations must be our primary focus.

When introducing the Report, Rajendra Pachauri, who has headed the IPCC for 12 years, said he hoped it would push government leaders to deal with climate change before it is too late. He outlined two main areas of focus for policy makers, namely a) systematic and rapid reduction of CO2 emissions in order to mitigate (prevent) global warming, and b) adaptation to the warming which is already inevitable.

A crucial statement about the relationship between these two dimensions is on page 24 of the Report’s Summary for Policymakers:

‘Prospects for climate-resilient pathways for sustainable development are related fundamentally to what the world accomplishes with climate-change mitigation (high confidence in this prediction). Since mitigation reduces the rate as well as the magnitude of warming, it also increases the time available for adaptation to a particular level of climate change, potentially by several decades. Delaying mitigation actions may reduce options for climate-resilient pathways in the future.’

The above makes clear that the debate is no longer about whether Climate Change is occurring and whether it is caused by human agency, but about what needs to be done to prevent further Climate Change and what needs to be done to adapt to the changes which are already inevitable. Below are just two of the many statements which give support to this:-

The UK Foreign Secretary’s Special Representative for Climate Change, Sir David King:

“We must avoid the impacts of dangerous climate change. The results of a failure to take action will be widespread, with serious consequences for human health, global food and resource security and economic prosperity. There are limits to how much we can adapt to these impacts and only by working together to secure an international agreement to successfully lower carbon emissions can we hope to meet the climate challenge.”

Professor Nicholas Stern: ‘This report presents a stark case for sharply reducing emissions of greenhouse gases to avoid potentially catastrophic impacts…’

I ask if you will send me a copy of the BBC’s policy advice to News Editors and Reporters with regard to the following areas:

1. The relationships between CO2 emissions and Global Warming.

2. The relationship between UK Government’s energy/economic policy and CO2 emissions.

3. The two areas which the IPCC Report regards as essential, namely the reduction of CO2 emissions and adaptation to the warming which is already occurring or ‘in the pipeline’. Also whether the BBC guidelines accept the conclusion about the relative importance of prevention and adaptation which is stated in p25 of the Report’s Summary for Policymakers?

4. Whether the BBC’s policies regarding the inclusiveness of people by gender, race, nationality, sexual orientation etc also extends to future generations of human beings, especially by leaving behind us an Earth which gives them well-being and security?

Yours sincerely

Philip Kingston

Posted in Climate Change

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