I don’t expect much from it in terms of any kind of sensible, relevant reply, but here’s my two eurocents’ worth, as loaded at :-
The BBC are undergoing a review on balance in Science reporting. They need to get Climate Change right, and that could start by one of their programme editors actually trying to understand what programmes like this do to an unprepared or semi-prepared audience.
The Newsnight audience have been left with the view that “maybe Climate Change is not so bad after all”, which is the worst take-home message they could be given.
See further down the post for e-mail traffic related to the Newsnight broadcast of 23rd August 2010.
I wish to point out to you that certain comments made by Andrew Montford on BBC Newsnight on 23rd August 2010 were inaccurate. I viewed the part of the programme where he was interviewd on iPlayer, but this now appears to have been cut from the online show for that date :-
One comment in particular will, I believe, require an apology from BBC Newsnight. The segment of the show in which Andrew Montford appeared closed with a question directed to him specifically from the presenter Kirsty Wark, on the subject of Climate Change evidence, to which Andrew Montford replied “we just don’t know”.
This is inaccurate. We have report after report on the clear incontrovertible evidence of Climate Change and its significant impact on the Earth’s biosphere.
The question is not “does Climate Change have any impact or does it have some impact ?” The Science has moved beyond that kind of question, as Kirsty Wark should know and should have reflected in her presentation of the show.
The question is not even, “is Climate Change going to affect us all somewhat or is it going to affect a lot of people quite badly (while the rest of us will be OK) ?”
The real question at the frontline of Science about Climate Change should be “is Climate Change bad or is it really serious ?”, the answer to which is “it’s probably going to get really quite bad indeed”.
I would also like to complain about Kirsty Wark’s introduction to the segment on Climate Change when she smirked at the camera and said “but is is true ?”
Is Kirsty Wark a Climate Change Scientist ? Does she know anything about Climate Change Science ? Can she possibly dare to offer an opinion about it or question what the Scientists have said ?
I think BBC Newsnight was irresponsible in broadcasting this interview without caveats. The last word should have been given to the Science, not the denier Andrew Montford who has no credentials, and now, no credibility whatsoever.
My opinion is that denying the clear, well-documented evidence of significantly damaging changes in the Earth system is as bad as denying the Holocaust, or that HIV infections lead to AIDS, or that smoking gives people cancer.
Climate Change and its damages are not somewhere off in the future, as Andrew Montford asserts. Climate Change is real and it’s happening now, and the overwhelming majority of the world’s Science academics and institutions have produced reports and research articles detailing this fact.
Why Newsnight thought they should invite somebody with views so completely opposed to the facts on to the show to pronounce on Climate Change is beyond my understanding.
There is no debate in Climate Change. There is only one position, and that position is that it’s serious and getting worse, although at the moment we just don’t know whether that’s going to turn out as “horribly bad” or “incredibly dangerous”.
Andrew Montford’s view simply does not count and he should not have been invited, not even in the name of so-called “balance”. The “balance” you should have sought would lie between those Scientists who feel that Climate Change is “abrupt and dangerous” and those who feel that it is “catastrophic”.
I demand an apology from BBC Newsnight and from Kirsty Wark for their biased, inaccurate reporting on Climate Change.
Look, it’s not a brilliant, erudite complaint. There’s no room for citations, references and discussion of the actual Science.
Kirsty Wark messed up. It’s time for her to admit that she now seems a lot like the “Bridget Jones” of Science reporting – embarrassed and embarrassing.
You won’t catch me talking to BBC Newsnight, ever. Such mistreatment of the Science deserves being given a very wide berth.
Here follows some e-mail traffic related to the broadcast.
Here’s what Bob Ward, Policy and Communications Director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science had to say about the Newsnight programme :-
“Subject: ‘Newsnight’ losing the plot? : Andrew Montford has pointed out on his blog that he is due to appear on ‘Newsnight’ this evening about the link between the floods in Pakistan and climate change. I had heard rumours that the Newsnight editor now thinks all climate change coverage should include a ‘sceptic’ and this seems to be confirmation. I’ve left the comment below on the ‘Newsnight’ blog. I see that Andrew Montford is bragging on his Bishop Hill blog that he is an interviewee on this evening’s programme about the link between the floods in Pakistan. His only contribution to the climate change debate so far has been a controversial book about palaeoclimatology, so it is not clear what his expertise on climate change and extreme weather is meant to be. Or perhaps he will be representing Lord Lawson’s group, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which now regularly provides the ‘balancing’ voice of dissent every time a scientist is interviewed about climate change on ‘Newsnight’. If so, this is presumably evidence of the commitment of ‘Newsnight’ to impartiality rather than accuracy? And can I look forward to further instances of this balance by for instance, including comments from a creationist every time there is a story about evolution?”
George Marshall of the Climate Outreach Information Network responded, “Dear Bob and all, I believe that it is entirely appropriate (and important) to call a news programme directly and complain about their coverage- all calls are logged and recognised (if not heeded) by editorial staff. Here are the numbers for standard complaints, though I find that it is usually much more effective to ask for the programme office and speak to the desk staff (or better still the editor involved with the problem piece) directly rather than being fobbed off with someone in a call centre. I have done this myself many times and enjoy putting them on the spot and I think a good grilling from you, Bob, would teach them a lesson!”
Channel Four and ITV News -0207 833 3000 and ask for liaison line (recorded messages checked hourly)
BBC TV and Radio Complaints Line-08700 100 222 (someone staffing the line 24 hours day)
Channel Five Complaints Line – 0845 7050505
“And if you want to be more personal, you can usually ask for any programme news editor or a specific journalist through the switchboard.”
BBC Radio Switchboard 0207 580 4468
ITN Switchboard 0207 833 3000
Channel Five Switchboard 0207 550 5555
BBC TV Switchboard 0208 743 8000
Chris Keene, green politician wrote in reaction, “I suspect that the editors genuinely believe there is scientific controversy, and thanks to the UEA email theft (I won’t dignify it with the term ‘climategate’ since it implies wrongdoing by UEA) they suspect there is a conspiracy by scientists to exaggerate climate change to get more money for research into it”
Christopher Shaw wrote, “Dear all, I have been following the work of Medialens (one of the editors being…David Cromwell) since the inception of that project. The work of Medialens has shown repeatedly that the BBC is the voice of the establishment on certain areas, such as economics, foreign policy, the wonders of Western democracy etc etc. However, I think the BBC has also tried to ensure that its coverage is accurate (I think a separate thing from bias). Thus I really struggle to make sense of why they insist on airing the opinions of contrarians as science, when of course they are simply value statements, grounded in particular attitudes to risk. What issues are deemed by the BBC to be in need of impartiality is very revealing of the BBC’s relationship to power – for example dead British soldiers are invariably described as heroes, with no perceived need to balance this opinion.”
A reply from John Nissen, “Hi Chris, I think you are dignifying the BBC editors! They really should know better. Any questioning around climate scientists would have put them right. The scientists are not exaggerating global warming or its affects. Indeed, in the program they asked whether the UEA business had made scientists more reticent. So the editors must realise that scientists are liable to understate the dangers, not overstate them. The program asked a simple question – about influence of AGW (anthropogenic global warming) on the floods – and managed to give credibility to the “don’t know” answer, thus giving the oxygen of publicity to climate sceptics. The program was a disgrace. But the BBC is not alone. It seems that, as the effects of global warming become more and more apparent, the media will more and more downplay them. Wishful thinking has become editorial policy. However, there is the occasional glimmer of reality breaking through, from none other than the normally sceptic Daily Mail