BBC Apology – Lord Lawson’s unchallenged climate denial



Back last August Al Gore was interviewed by the BBC during his visit to the UK when he was here to promote his new movie “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power”. For the sake of “balance” the BBC also decided to invite well-known climate denialist Lord Lawson to say a few words afterwards, and that response quite rightly caused rather a lot of fuss.

The Same Old BS

Those listening in to this now infamous interview on 10th Aug, and who were familiar with the real facts, no doubt ended up spluttering over their coffee and cereal in response to stuff such as this …

he [Al Gore] said that, er, there had been a growing increase, which had been continuing, in the extreme weather events. There hasn’t been. All the experts say there haven’t been. The IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is sort of the voice of the consensus, concedes that there has been no increase in extreme weather events.

All the experts” … seriously, he really claimed this.

no increase in extreme weather events” …and yet even between then and now we have all seen something quite different play out.

If he modified his claim to read “Most of the experts” or even “Some of the experts”, it would still be grade 1 gold plated BS.

He went on to say …

as I’ve said, the IPCC, has confirmed that there has been no increase in extreme weather events. 

In its latest assessment report (pdf) (AR5), published in 2013, the IPCC’s Working Group I makes clear that many types of weather extreme have increased in frequency since 1950. He might indeed have a different opinion, but it is what can perhaps be best described as an “alternative fact”.

It continued with more of the same …

And as for the temperature itself, it is striking, he made his previous film 10 years ago, and according – again – to the official figures, during this past 10 years, if anything, mean global temperature, average world temperature, has slightly declined.

Exactly whose “official” figures does he cite?

Seriously no, this was pure fantasy and contradicts the actual factual measurements.

I blogged about it at the time, as did others with the actual facts. The Lawson interview might have been appropriate if he had a credible argument, or at least some facts to underpinning his denialist position, but he has nothing except hot air and bluster. It leads one to wonder why a 1980s politician was being given air time to replay a long dead 1980s argument.

BBC Balance

The BBC does generally strive to be impartial and to present the details of the full conversation on any and every topic.

At the time I pondered over how this this new variation “balance” would play out. If indeed this new pattern for “balance” was to be maintained then we should perhaps have anticipated the following …

  • A flat earth believer as a rebuttal for every reference to the globe
  • A Creationist perhaps every time a biologist is also interviewed
  • How about an astrologer to balance out any astronomer
  • Perhaps the satanic temple should be granted a 5 min slot right after prayer for the day

I do truly get the concept of balance in the media. It is important to strive to present the full conversation. However, in this case their “balance” consisted of reaching out to an eccentric retired 85 year old who expresses opinions that are not science based. This was not the granting of a view of the full conversation, but instead was giving air time to a fringe belief by a climate change crank, and was not evidence-based.

Latest Update: The BBC Apologises

Formal complaints were made at the time and have been slowly wending their way through the system. A conclusion was finally reached and so the BBC have now formally issued an apology yesterday and admitted that they were wrong to permit this to happen …

The BBC should have challenged the views of climate sceptic Lord Lawson in an interview in August, the complaints unit for the corporation has ruled.

The ex-chancellor claimed in an interview with the Today programme that “official figures” showed average world temperatures had “slightly declined”.

This view, shown to be false by the Met Office, was not challenged on air.

The BBC admitted it had breached its “guidelines on accuracy and impartiality”.

Conservative peer Lord Lawson’s appearance on Radio 4’s flagship Today programme sparked a number of complaints from listeners.

What is also interesting within that BBC article is this gem …

The Global Warming Policy Foundation, a campaign group chaired by Lord Lawson, later confirmed his statistics were “erroneous”.

So I checked, and yes, it really is true, they did exactly that about three days after the BBC interview…

Hopefully that’s it and the BBC can now put the long settled “Is it really happening?” question away, and instead focus on the far more important conversation regarding what we need to do while we still can.

Further Reading

The UK’s Guardian also reports on this latest Apology – BBC apologises over interview with climate denier Lord Lawson

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