27 November, 2011

Climategate II: Awarmists Advised Biassed BBC

The Daily Mail’s David Rose again describes the BBC’s awarmist bias, in “BBC sought advice from global warming scientists on economy, drama, music ... and even game shows”; and, since his last article was withdrawn (at least temporarily—see “What a Shame; What a Price”), we provide a copy here:
Britain’s leading green activist research centre spent £15,000 on seminars for top BBC executives in an apparent bid to block climate change sceptics from the airwaves, a vast new cache of leaked ‘Climategate’ emails has revealed.
The emails—part of a trove of more than 5,200 messages that appear to have been stolen [or leaked] from computers at the University of East Anglia—shed light for the first time on an incestuous web of interlocking relationships between BBC journalists and the university’s scientists, which goes back more than a decade.
They show that University staff vetted BBC scripts, used their contacts at the Corporation to stop sceptics being interviewed, and were consulted about how the broadcaster should alter its programme output.
Like the first ‘Climategate’ leaks two years ago, they were placed last week on a Russian server by an anonymous source.
Again like their predecessors, they have emerged just before a United Nations climate summit, which is to start this week in Durban.
BBC insiders say the close links between the Corporation and the UEA’s two climate science departments, the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research, have had a significant impact on its coverage.
“Following their lead has meant the whole thrust and tone of BBC reporting has been that the science is  settled, and that there is no need for debate,” one journalist said.  “If you disagree, you’re branded a loony.”
In 2007, the BBC issued a formal editorial policy document, stating that “the weight of evidence no longer justifies equal space being given to the opponents of the consensus”—the view that the world faces catastrophe because of man-made carbon dioxide emissions. 
The document says the policy was decided after “a high-level seminar with some of the best scientific experts”—including those from UEA.
The ‘Climategate 2’ emails disclose that in private some of those same scientists have had doubts about aspects of the global warming case.
For example, Professor Phil Jones, the head of the CRU, admitted there was no evidence that the snows of Kilimanjaro were melting because of climate change, and he and his colleagues agreed there were serious problems with the famous ‘hockey stick’ graph—the depiction of global temperatures that suggests they were broadly level for 1,000 years until they started to rise with industrialisation.
But although there is now more scientific debate than ever about influences on climate other than CO2, prompted by the fact that the world has not warmed for fifteen years, a report from the BBC Trust this year compared climate change sceptics to the conspiracy theorists who blame America for 9/11, and said Britain’s main sceptic think-tank, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, should be given no air time.
The man at the centre of the BBC-UEA web is Roger Harrabin, the Corporation’s ‘environment analyst’, who reports for a range of programmes on radio and TV.
Last week The Mail on Sunday revealed that in 1996, he and his friend, Professor Joe Smith of the Open University, set up an informal two-man band to organise environment seminars for BBC executives.
Known as the Cambridge Media Environment Programme (CMEP), it operated until 2009, and over three years (2002 to 2005) received £15,000 from the Tyndall Centre.  Mr Harrabin did not derive personal financial benefit, although Prof Smith was paid.
Yesterday Mike Hulme, UEA’s Professor of Climate Change, who set up the centre in 2000 and was its director until 2007, said he planned to fund CMEP from Tyndall’s outset, as an “integral part of our outreach and communication strategy”. 
Mr Harrabin was also appointed to the Tyndall advisory board—an unpaid position he held for five years until 2005.
The Climategate 2 emails suggest Prof Hulme expected something in return—the slanting of BBC coverage to exclude global warming sceptics.
On February 25, 2002, the climate change sceptic Philip Stott, a London University professor, debated the subject with John Houghton of the Met Office on the Today programme.
This prompted an angry email to colleagues from Prof Hulme.  “Did anyone hear Stott vs Houghton on Today, Radio 4, this morning?” he wrote.
“Woeful stuff really.  This is one reason why Tyndall is sponsoring the Cambridge Media Environment Programme, to starve this type of reporting at source.”
Last night Prof Hulme denied he was trying to deny space to sceptics, saying: “What I wanted to ‘starve’ at source was ‘this type of reporting’—in which the important and complex issues raised by climate change are reduced to an argument between two voices representing different positions on climate science, as though there is one right and one wrong answer to climate change.” 
Far from wanting to narrow it, he said, he had tried to widen debate about the issue for years.
This was not the only time there was talk of sceptics being shut out.  On December 7, 2004, the BBC’s then-environment correspondent Alex Kirby wrote to Prof Jones.
He had, he said, succeeded in blocking one sceptic from the BBC, claiming his work was “pure stream of consciousness rubbish”.  But to his regret, he had been unable to stop a group of scientists who said there were flaws in the hockey-stick graph being featured.
“I can well understand your unhappiness at our running the other piece,” he wrote.
“But we are constantly being savaged by the loonies for not giving them any coverage at all ... and being the objective impartial (ho ho) BBC that we are, there is an expectation in some quarters that we will every now and then let them say something.  I hope though that the weight of our coverage makes it clear that we think they are talking through their hats.”
Prof Jones commented:  “I thought you exercised some caution with crackpots.”
Mr Kirby replied:  “Oh Phil, what can I say ... I hope you’ll still talk to me despite this.”
Yesterday Mr Kirby explained his joke, saying that editors often asked him to include sceptic views in his stories, in order to provide balance.
“I felt then and I feel now that it’s not our job to inject artificial balance into an unbalanced reality,” he said.
He believed scientists such as Prof Jones had got the subject “mainly right”, while those who rejected their conclusions were often not worth hearing.
In November 2008, in an email to his UEA colleague Claire Reeves, Prof Jones expressed his satisfaction that “the reporting of climate stories within the media (especially the BBC) is generally one-sided, i.e., the counter argument is rarely made”.
But alas, there was “still a vociferous and small majority [sic] of climate change sceptics ... who engage the public/govt/media through web sites”.
He suggested UEA should set up a project to curb their influence, writing:  “Issues to be addressed include:  should a vociferous minority be able to bully mainstream scientists?  Should mainstream climate scientists have to change the way they have worked for generations?”
Mr Harrabin shared his UEA contacts throughout the BBC.
For example, in October 2003 Vicki Barker, a presenter on the World Service, wrote asking to visit Prof Hulme, saying:  “My colleague Roger Harrabin suggested I contact you.  I am about to spend several months attempting to answer the following question for senior BBC managers:  If we were to reinvent economics coverage from scratch, TODAY, incorporating what we now know (or think we know) about global environmental and economic trends, what would it look like?”
She said she had noticed “environmental undertow” that was “beginning to tug at economies around the world ... I have wondered if current newsgathering practices and priorities are conveying these phenomena as effectively as they could be.  Is this a question you and some of your colleagues feel like pondering?”
The same year, BBC1 broadcast a series on the British countryside presented by Alan Titchmarsh.  The last programme presented a deeply pessimistic view of future global warming and before it was transmitted its producer, Dan Tapster, asked Prof Hulme to vet the script.
“I’d be grateful if you could send me your hourly/daily rate as a script consultant so that I can budget your time,” he wrote.  Prof Hulme said he remembered going through the script, adding that he was not being paid, and was  “certainly not an official adviser”.
Mr Harrabin knew that if he was seen to be too closely associated with green campaigners—in earlier years CMEP had accepted funding from activist organisation WWF—the impartiality he was supposed to demonstrate as a BBC reporter could be jeopardised.
In July 2004, in an email to Prof Hulme that asked him to continue funding CMEP seminars, Prof Smith explained:  “The only change I anticipate is that we won’t be asking WWF to support the seminars:  Roger particularly feels the association could be compromising to the ‘neutral’ reputation should anyone look at it closely.”
Prof Smith told Prof Hulme that the seminars’ purpose was to influence BBC output.
He spoke of finding ways of getting environmental issues into ‘mainstream’ stories “by stealth”, adding:  “‘It’s very important in my view that research feeds directly back into decision-maker conversations (policy and above all media).  I hope and think that the seminars have laid the ground for this within the BBC.  ...  There is senior BBC buy in-for the approach I want to pursue.”
Yesterday he said he had always ensured there was a range of views at the seminar, while by using the phrase “by stealth” he simply meant that “sustainability stories are elements of mainstream stories, but the complexity and uncertainty inherent in them make them difficult to report in isolation”.
In September 2001, another email reveals, Mr Harrabin and Prof Smith wrote to Prof Hulme, asking what the BBC should do  to mark a climate summit the following year.
They said his suggestions would be “circulated among relevant BBC decision-makers”, while instead of confining himself to news and current affairs, he should also feel free to recommend ideas for “drama, music, game shows”. 
Labour MP Graham Stringer last night said he would be writing this week to BBC director-general Mark Thompson to demand an investigation into the Corporation’s relationship with UEA.  “The new leaked emails show that the UEA scientists at the Tyndall Centre and the CRU acted more like campaigners than academics, and that they succeeded in an attempt to influence the output of the BBC,” Mr Stringer said.
Conservative MP David Davis said:  “Using research money to evangelise one point of view and suppress another defies everything I ever learnt about the scientific method.  These emails go to the heart of the BBC’s professed impartiality ... its actions must be investigated.”
But the BBC insisted its relationship with UEA had never been “unhealthily close”, saying it was always impartial.  A BBC spokesman said:  “We would reject the claim that the Tyndall Centre influenced BBC editorial policy.”
As for Mr Harrabin’s place on the Tyndall board and the advice he gave, he said:  “The idea was for him to look out for potential stories for the BBC and to offer academics a media perspective on climate change and policy. We do not believe that compromised impartiality.”
Mr Harrabin added:  “It was right that the BBC decided not to give sceptics parity on climate change,” saying there was a “cross-party consensus.”  But he said he had maintained they should still be given some air time.
Prof Jones was not available for comment last night.
See also Another Gem from ClimateGate II, which shews collusion between Jonathan Renouf (a BBC Series Producer) and Keith Briffa (a corrupt climatologist from the University of East Anglia’s discredited Climatic Research Unit).

One of its key supporters headed the official investigation into the so-called “Climategate emails”, producing a report which cleared experts of deliberately attempting to skew scientific results to confirm that global warming was a real threat.
Another scientific expert linked to the group came forward to praise a second independent investigation into the Climategate affair which also exonerated researchers.
Set up with the backing of Tony Blair, then the Prime Minister, and run by a group of British MPs and peers the organisation, Globe International, started life as an All Party Group based in the House of Commons.
It is now run as an international climate change lobbying group flying its supporters and experts club class to international summits to push its agenda.  Last year, it said, it spent around £500,000 flying its supporters to these meetings.
Back in February, in “The BBC became a propaganda machine for climate change zealots, says Peter Sissons ... and I was treated as a lunatic for daring to dissent”, Peter Sissons described the bias of the BBC and its increasing political correctness:
the most worrying aspect of political correctness was over the story that recurred with increasing frequency during my last ten years at the BBC—global warming (or ‘climate change’, as it became known when temperatures appeared to level off or fall slightly after 1998). 
From the beginning I was unhappy at how one-sided the BBC’s coverage of the issue was, and how much more complicated the climate system was than the over-simplified two-minute reports that were the stock-in-trade of the BBC’s environment correspondents. 
These, without exception, accepted the UN’s assurance that “the science is settled” and that human emissions of carbon dioxide threatened the world with catastrophic climate change. Environmental pressure groups could be guaranteed that their press releases, usually beginning with the words “scientists say ... ” would get on air unchallenged.
On one occasion, after the inauguration of Barack Obama as president in 2009, the science correspondent of Newsnight actually informed viewers “scientists calculate that he has just four years to save the world”.  What she didn’t tell viewers was that only one alarmist scientist, NASA’s James Hansen, had said that.
My interest in climate change grew out of my concern for the failings of BBC journalism in reporting it.  In my early and formative days at ITN, I learned that we have an obligation to report both sides of a story.  It is not journalism if you don’t.  It is close to propaganda. 
The BBC’s editorial policy on ­climate change, however, was spelled out in a report by the BBC Trust—whose job is to oversee the workings of the BBC in the interests of the public—in 2007. This disclosed that the BBC had held “a high-level seminar with some of the best scientific experts and has come to the view that the weight of evidence no longer justifies equal space being given to the opponents of the consensus”.
The error here, of course, was that the BBC never at any stage gave equal space to the opponents of the consensus.
But the Trust continued its ­pretence that climate change ­dissenters had been, and still would be, heard on its airwaves.  “Impartiality,” it said, “always requires a breadth of view, for as long as minority ­opinions are coherently and honestly expressed, the BBC must give them appropriate space.”
In reality, the “appropriate space” given to minority views on climate change was practically zero.Moreover, we were allowed to know practically nothing about that top-level seminar mentioned by the BBC Trust at which such momentous conclusions were reached.  Despite a Freedom of Information request, they wouldn’t even make the guest list public.  [...]
It’s the lack of simple curiosity about one of the great issues of our time that I find so puzzling about the BBC.  When the topic first came to ­prominence, the first thing I did was trawl the internet to find out as much as possible about it. 
Anyone who does this with a mind not closed by religious fervour will find a mass of material by respectable scientists who question the orthodoxy.  Admittedly, they are in the minority, but scepticism should be the natural instinct of scientists—and the default setting of journalists.
Yet the cream of the BBC’s inquisitors during my time there never laid a glove on those who repeated the ­mantra that “the science is settled”. On one occasion, an MP used BBC airtime to link climate change ­doubters with perverts and holocaust deniers, and his famous interviewer didn’t bat an eyelid.
Meanwhile, Al Gore, the former U.S. Vice-President and climate change campaigner, entertained the BBC’s editorial elite in his suite at the Dorchester and was given a free run to make his case to an admiring internal audience at Television Centre. 
His views were never subjected to journalistic scrutiny, even when a British High Court judge ruled that his film, An Inconvenient Truth, ­contained at least nine scientific errors, and that ministers must send new guidance to teachers before it was screened in schools.  From the BBC’s standpoint, the judgment was the real inconvenience, and its ­environment correspondents downplayed its significance.  [...]
A damaging episode illustrating the BBC’s supine attitude came in 2008, when the BBC’s ‘environment ­analyst’, Roger Harrabin, wrote a piece on the BBC website reporting some work by the World ­Meteorological Organization that questioned whether global ­warming was going to continue at the rate ­projected by the UN panel.
A green activist emailed him to complain.  Harrabin at first resisted.  Then she berated him:  “It would be better if you did not quote the sceptics”—something Harrabin had not actually done—“‘Please reserve the main BBC online channel for emerging truth.  Otherwise I would have to conclude that you are insufficiently educated to be able to know when you have been psychologically manipulated.”  [...]
Did Harrabin tell her to get lost?  He tweaked the story—albeit not as radically as she demanded—and emailed back:  “Have a look and tell me you are happier.”
This exchange went round the world in no time, spread by the ­jubilant activist.  Later, Harrabin defended himself, saying they were only minor changes—but the sense of the changes, as specifically sought by the activist, was plainly to harden the piece against the sceptics.  
Many people wouldn’t call that minor, but Harrabin’s BBC bosses accepted his explanation.
UPDATE II (8 December)see also Christopher Booker’s “BBC’s bias on global warming: An inconvenient truth on climate change:
In 2009, the BBC’s journalists could scarcely hide their dismay at the collapse of the UN’s great Copenhagen climate conference, which planned to cut the world’s ‘carbon emissions’ to such an extent it would have landed mankind with the biggest bill in history, at an estimated cost of hundreds of trillions of pounds.
They tried to brush aside the huge embarrassment of the so-called ‘Climategate’ row in 2009 when hundreds of emails from the Climate Research Unit in Norwich were posted online and which revealed how some of the top scientists had been fiddling their data.
They downplayed scandals erupting round the IPCC when it was revealed that many of its more alarming predictions had not been based on proper science at all, but only on scare stories dreamed up by environmental lobby groups.
Then, last summer, in a bid to justify its conduct, the BBC Trust commissioned one of the Corporation’s regular contributors, the geneticist Professor Steve Jones, to review its science coverage, notably on climate change.
Professor Jones made the astonishing claim that the only problem with the coverage of climate change was not that it was too biased, but that it wasn’t biased enough.
All this is why I am far from alone in concluding that the BBC’s coverage has, on this key issue of our time, gone hopelessly off the rails.  The Corporation has been guilty of three separate betrayals.
By making its coverage so flagrantly one-sided on the environment issue, it has betrayed its statutory duty to report on world events impartially.
Second, it has betrayed the basic principles of science by giving such unquestioning support to a theory which the evidence has increasingly called into doubt.
Above all, however, the BBC has betrayed the trust of its audience, by failing to give a fair and balanced picture. 
UPDATE III (9 December):  Booker’s full report, The BBC and Climate Change: A Triple Betrayal (published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation), is available hence.

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