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Climate Change Skeptics Dumped by BBC to Create 'Balance'

Jul 09, 2014 12:09 PM EDT
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Climate change skeptics are being banned from BBC News, according to a new report, for fear of misinforming people and to create more of a "balance" when discussing man-made climate change.

The latest casualty is Nigel Lawson, former London chancellor and climate change skeptic, who has just recently been barred from appearing on BBC. Lord Lawson, who has written about climate change, said the corporation is silencing the debate on global warming since he discussed the topic on its Radio 4 Today program in February.

This skeptic accuses "Stalinist" BBC of succumbing to pressure from those with renewable energy interests, like the Green Party, in an editorial for the Daily Mail.

He appeared on February 13 debating with scientist Sir Brian Hoskins, chairman of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College, London, to discuss recent flooding that supposedly was linked to man-made climate change.

(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)

Despite the fact that the two intellectuals had a "thoroughly civilized discussion," BBC was "overwhelmed by a well-organized deluge of complaints" following the program. Naysayers harped on the fact that Lawson was not a scientist and said he had no business voicing his opinion on the subject.

Though Lawson is not a scientist, he authored the popular book "An Appeal To Reason" about climate change and founded the think tank, Global Warming Policy Foundation, which he has said is advised by a number of "eminent scientists."

The head of BBC News Ceri Thomas backed up Lawson, and pointed out that as a former Chancellor of the Exchequer, he was well qualified to be a part of the discussion.

Still, Thomas was overruled and Fraser Steel, head of BBC's Editorial Complaints Unit, apologized for Lawson's appearance and vowed that it wouldn't happen again, according to Lawson.

Among the objections, including one from Green Party politician Chit Chong, were that Lawson's views were not supported by evidence from computer modeling.

In response, Lawson wrote: "However useful computer models may be, the one thing they cannot be is evidence. Computer climate models are simply conjectures."

In light of the slew of complaints, he also claimed that "at no time has either the head of the Editorial Complaints Unit or anyone else from the BBC sought to get in touch with me about this."

He also notes that Matt Ridley, a leading science writer who has extensively researched climate change and in fact reached a similar conclusion to that of Lawson's - that money should be spent on protecting the country from severe weather and that global temperature forecasts are highly uncertain - has never been asked to appear on the BBC program.

A BBC spokesperson has since said that Lawson was in fact not banned and that no such apology was issued for putting him on air.

It seems that media is quick to jump on climate change critics rather than supporters. In a BBC News article, it mentions Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, another climate change skeptic who had previously described the science behind human-induced global warming as "absolute crap." The comment followed talks about raging bushfires in Australia, and the fact that last year was its hottest on record - something others considered evidence of human-caused climate change.

The comment went viral and received tons of flack from those who believe in climate change's effects.

But BBC and others may be right to be wary of presenting the word of notable skeptics as fact. Republican Brandon Smith, Kentucky state senator, claimed that man-made climate change is scientifically implausible because Mars and Earth share "exactly" the same temperature, despite the fact that Mars is certainly not burning coal, the Huffington Post reported. According to NASA, the average temperature on Earth is 57 degrees Fahrenheit - a whopping 138 degrees above Mars' average of -81 degrees.

The BBC has been criticized in the past for creating a "false balance" in its reporting on climate change. The BBC Trust's latest report issued earlier this month said the corporation would give less time to climate change skeptics to create more of equilibrium.

However, a report by members of Parliament's science and technology select committee in April argued the BBC made "mistakes in their coverage of climate science by giving opinions and scientific fact the same weight."

Although Lawson did not agree with the ban on non-scientists, he argued it should be "even-handed."

The Trust, in its report, refers to the UN-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, which concluded in 2007 that the world is warming, and human activities are to blame.

(Photo : Reuters)

The Trust stated that a "body of evidence - like that assessed by the IPCC report - changes how the BBC's obligation to cover issues with 'due impartiality' is applied." The corporation even encouraged its journalists to attend a workshop where experts discussed a range of views on climate change in order to help them give more balanced coverage on the topic.

BBC is not the only one trying to make the climate change debate more fair. In May Nature World News reported on John Oliver's, host of HBO's Last Week Tonight, more comedic way of addressing the disparity that occurs in most climate change debates. With the help of Bill Nye "the Science Guy," the two defended climate change and panned all the non-believers out there by creating their own "statistically representative" debate. It was three climate deniers against 96 other scientists who had evidence that climate change indeed is a reality.

Despite the seeming abundance of evidence, four in 10 Americans believe that the media greatly exaggerates the seriousness of global warming, according to a Gallup poll conducted in March.

Oliver said of the poll, "Who gives a shit? You don't need people's opinion on a fact. You might as well have a poll asking: which number is bigger, 15 or 5? or do owls exist? or are there hats?"

There's no doubt that President Barack Obama is a believer in climate change. Just last month Obama unveiled his plan to slash carbon emissions from US power plants by 30 percent by 2030, NWN reported.

(Photo : Reuters)

Even NASA is on board, and launched a carbon-detecting spacecraft named the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) on July 2 - its mission is to find the Earth's sources and sinks for atmospheric carbon dioxide to find out its role in climate change.

This is not to say that critical opinions on the subject should be banished from science coverage. Even though BBC did ban Lawson in particular, the Trust recommends: "Audiences should be able to understand from the context and clarity of the BBC's output what weight to give to critical voices."

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