20 November, 2011

What a Shame; What a Price

Christopher Booker, of The Sunday Telegraph, explains, in “The BBC’s hidden ‘warmist’ agenda is rapidly unravelling”, that the biassed BBC still sticks with its awarmist agenda even when slightly more honest proselytisers of AGW are conceding that they have insufficient data to support their psuedo-scientific beliefs:
Since 2006, the BBC has relentlessly promoted the global warming orthodoxy as a pressure group in its own right.  In covering the latest twists of this story on his blog, Montford cites another odd BBC programme, Earth Reporters: Sea Change, funded by Unesco, which was like an adulatory commercial for the scientists who push alarm about the impact of global warming on the oceans, via the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  The scientific adviser for the programme was the same Dr Smith who organised that 2006 seminar, and whose website lists a string of other BBC programmes he has worked on.
The irony is, however, that just as the BBC adopted its new hard line on climate change, in the real world the story was beginning to shift.  Ever more searching questions have come to be asked about the supposed “consensus” on man-made warming, and the BBC’s coverage has come to look ever more one-sidedly absurd.
Last week, even Richard Black, another BBC proselytiser for man-made warming, was gloomily having to reveal the conclusion of a new IPCC report: that, over the next few decades, “climate change signals are expected to be relatively small compared to natural climate variabilty”.  In plain English, that means the great scare story is over.  What a shame.  But at what a price.
UPDATE I (21 November):  see also Bishop Hill’s “Mail on Sunday on the Beeb”; UPDATE II (22 November), but the article (linked therein) by David Rose has been removed.  UPDATE III (22 November):  the article has been restored—but, just in case, here it is:
BBC’s Mr Climate Change accepted £15,000 in grants from university rocked by global warming scandal

A senior BBC journalist accepted £15,000 in grants from the university at the heart of the ‘Climategate’ scandal—and later went on to cover the story without declaring an interest to viewers.
Roger Harrabin, the BBC’s ‘environment analyst’, used the money from the University of East Anglia’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research to fund an ‘ad hoc’ partnership he ran with a friend.
Mr Harrabin, an influential figure who both broadcasts and advises other BBC journalists, later reported extensively about Climategate.  The scandal erupted two years ago when emails were leaked from the Tyndall Centre’s sister department, the Climatic Research Unit at the same university.
The leaks left the scientific community in disarray after claims that key data was manipulated in the run-up to a major climate change summit.
An [incompetent, biassed, inadequate] official inquiry later found that although there had been no scientific fraud [based on insufficient evidence and a lack of investigative thoroughness], there was “a consistent pattern of failing to display the proper degree of openness, both on the part of CRU scientists and on the part of the UEA.”
In none of Mr Harrabin’s reports on the subject were the grants that he and his friend Dr Joe Smith had received from UEA ever mentioned.  However, BBC insiders claim that the use to which the money was put—annual Real World seminars for top BBC executives on issues including climate change—had a significant impact on the Corporation’s output.
“The seminars organised by Roger and his friend were part of a process which has effectively stifled all debate within the BBC about man-made global warming,” said one senior journalist.  “As far as the high-ups are concerned, the science is settled.”
Last night, Mr Harrabin insisted he does not derive any personal financial benefit from the grants and that far from making him more sympathetic to UEA, the sponsorship—of which the BBC had been aware—“made me doubly determined to investigate Climategate.  If I had been misled by UEA I wanted to be among the first to know.”
In none of Mr Harrabin’s reports on the subject were the grants that he and his friend Dr Joe Smith had received from UEA ever mentioned.
He added:  “The funding from the Tyndall Centre came long before Climategate.  And I was forensic in exposing it.  So any suggestion that I was biassed or soft on Climategate in any way is completely untrue as demonstrated by my reporting.
“I was praised by the world’s leading climate sceptics for my reporting.  Those seminars—for which I received no personal gain—included contributions from sceptics.”
He said his report into the subsequent inquiry into Climategate, led by Lord Oxburgh, was praised for its “forensic impartiality”.
Disclosure of the payments to Mr Harrabin’s private partnership comes in the wake of a damning report last week by the BBC Trust Editorial Standards Committee.
It revealed ‘sponsored’ documentaries on environmental issues, whose production costs had been met by ‘non-commercial’ bodies such as the UN Environmental Programme, have been shown frequently on the BBC World news channel without viewers being made properly aware of their funding.
Trust investigators discovered that of a sample of sixty sponsored programmes broadcast between February and July this year, a total of fifteen breached the BBC’s editorial guidelines.
The investigators said some of the breaches involved direct conflicts of interests—with the funders being the subjects of the programmes they were paying for—and that others failed to observe BBC rules on telling viewers where the programme budget had come from.
Two films in the latter category, part of BBC World’s Earth Reporters series, had Dr Smith as their chief scientific adviser.  He is a climate change specialist at the Open University.
He said yesterday that the Open University sought to ensure that the programmes they co-produced were factually accurate, but beyond the usual formally agreed acknowledgement of the university, programme credits were the “concern of the BBC”.  Dr Smith agreed with the Trust’s conclusions on the matter.
However, it is clear that sponsored programmes about the environment of the type the Trust now deplores have been made on a huge scale for years.
Almost all the £1.4 million annual income of TVE, the production company behind the Earth Reporters series, comes from non-commercial bodies, including the EU, UN agencies and campaign groups such as WWF, which co-founded the company twenty-seven years ago.  Jenny Richards, TVE’s deputy chief executive, said the firm had made “hundreds” of programmes for the BBC, and described the Trust’s criticisms as a “slap on the wrist”.
The Trust has demanded sweeping changes to the BBC’s commissioning process, and the Corporation has agreed that from now on programmes sponsored by non-commercial bodies will be forbidden.  Those from independent production companies will be scrutinised for possible conflicts of interest.
A Trust spokeswoman said:  “Anything that affects the trust of viewers is a serious matter and the steps we are taking to prevent it from happening in future are very clear.”
Mr Harrabin’s partnership with Dr Smith—the Cambridge Media Environment Programme (CMEP)—began in 1996.  That was when Mr Harrabin spent a sabbatical at Cambridge University, where Dr Smith was working at the time.
From then until 2009 they organised their seminars, which Dr Smith described as an ‘ad hoc’ arrangement.  “It was just a light touch thing.  These were occasional seminars held in an academic environment that brought a diverse mix of research, business and policy people together with media people,” he said.
While Dr Smith was paid less than £5,000 for organising each conference, Mr Harrabin did not benefit financially. Dr Smith added that people with dissenting views on climate change were represented, and the purpose of the events was to encourage reflective thinking away from the pressure of deadlines.
His own opinion, which he sets out on his website, is that “everyday human activity—moving, eating, keeping warm or cool —is gently stoking a slow-boil apocalypse”. He calls climate change “one of the challenges of the age” and urges the world to take radical action.  A Freedom of Information Act disclosure obtained by Andrew Montford, who writes the climate-change blog Bishop Hill, reveals that the Tyndall Centre provided £5,000 a year for three years from 2002.
The centre’s newsletter said then it was giving CMEP the money“ because we share its commitment to the effective communication of climate change information to increase knowledge and inspire discussion and debate in society”.
In addition to the Tyndall Centre, the CMEP received funding from energy giant BG, HSBC, Vivendi, the Bowring Trust and the WWF.
Dr Smith has acted as a scientific consultant to dozens of other BBC programmes, including high-profile documentaries about climate change fronted by Sir David Attenborough.
He was also involved in the BBC2 drama series Burn Up, in which a central character argued that the world had only five years to save itself before global warming became irreversible.
A BBC spokeswoman said: “The BBC is aware of the funding arrangements for the Real World seminars.  They have been considered against our editorial guidelines and raised no issues about impartiality for the BBC or its output.”

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