Over the last several years, Andrew Montford (Bishop Hill) and I have taken a great deal of interest in the BBC’s coverage of the climate debate, and this has involved a good deal of behind-the-scenes research. So we were obviously interested when the BBC Trust announced in early January this year that they were to conduct a review of the impartiality of their science coverage.

Our first reaction was to write to Professor Richard Tait, the Trustee who was fronting this project, requesting that we should make a submission to the review and pointing out that the main critics of the BBC coverage of AGW were in the blogoshpere. Not only were we unable to get a reply form Professor Tait, but we were unable even to get confirmation from the secretary of the Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee that he had been given the letter. This will be the subject of another post.

Fortunately, in April,  Andrew’s remarkably well-developed antenna picked up a request for comments from the general public on an obscure BBC web page. He contacted Professor Steve Jones, the person commissioned by the BBC Trust to conduct the review, who proved to be rather more approachable than Professor Tait. It was quickly arranged that we should make a submission before the end of October. His report is due to be published in the Spring of 2011.

The document that we finally sent to Professor Jones can be found here and it will be interesting to see whether anyone takes notice of what we have said.

See the thread about this at Bishop Hill too.


Read James Delingpole’s typically enthusiastic take on this post at the Daily Telegraph

And JoNova’s perspective from down under here

John A is sensibly cautious about the  BBC listening at WUWT

91 Responses to “Bloggers’ submission to the BBC Trust review of the impartiality of science coverage”

  1. PeterM

    If I interpreted your #73 correctly, it was a response to the question you first asked Maurizio (69) and I then asked you:

    How much climate science do you understand?

    From your answer, I conclude you have chosen c)

    a fair grasp of the theoretical bases of GH science and the extent of actually observed climate changes, with some knowledge of natural and anthropogenic forcing factors

    So it looks like we (believe we) have about the same level of knowledge, along with basic scientific and technical understanding, which should actually give us a “level playing field” for debating the many open scientific issues, based on existing and new data that are reported. You appear to give a lot of credence to IPCC assessment summaries, which you accept at face value, whereas I tend to be rationally skeptical, preferring to look at the scientific studies behind these summaries.

    From what I have seen, I’d say that TonyB most likely has a higher level of knowledge of climate science in general (and, more specifically, of climate history) than either of us, since he has devoted considerable time researching and writing about historical climate developments.

    We three may have different opinions on politics (as do many other bloggers here), but for me these are of secondary importance compared to the scientific or technical issues supporting “climate science”.

    No doubt, Peter, that climate science has become overly “politicized” (as Judith Curry has lamented).

    But is this any surprise?

    Any time you are dealing with a multi-billion dollar big business, the prospect of trillions of dollars of tax revenues and a “convenient network” of powerful interests as described by TonyN, you will have “politics” involved – and this is no different.

    The “political” debate on “climate” certainly needs to take place, but, for me, it is secondary to the “scientific” debate.

    If there is no sound scientific evidence, based on empirical data derived from actual physical observations or reproducible experimentation, to support the “dangerous AGW” hypothesis, then there is no logical need for political action to mitigate against this potential danger.

    And, Peter, whether you like it or not, that is precisely where the current debate on “dangerous AGW” stands today.

    That is why I have concluded that the debate on the “science” has to come before the debate on the “politics”.


  2. PeterM and Maurizio Morabito

    Maurazio is right. This thread relates to the credibility and impartiality of BBC reporting on climate science in general, to the internal BBC review on impartiality, more specifically, and to the “Submission to the Review of Impartiality and Accuracy of the BBC’s Coverage of Science” by Andrew Montford and Tony N.

    While it may be indirectly related, I believe that TonyN would agree that we should move our more general discussion on the scientific validity of the “dangerous AGW” premise as promoted by IPCC to the more general “NS thread”.

    Would you both agree?


  3. tonyb (68 and 72): actually, going back to the issue with the BBC, there is a political aspect, albeit not a party political aspect to the whole AGW saga. IMNSHO one cannot simply stick to the science or simply discuss the politics. There is no AGW without the IPCC and there is no IPCC without the governments and the scientists working together.

    AGW is not just a “silly cosmologists play with the reifications called Dark Matter and Dark Energy” issue about lowering standards in the scientific arena.

    ps As a side note, I am myself one of the authors of a climate paper submitted to Nature, approved by both (!) peer reviewers and then refused publication (!!) by the editors (this was before the Climategate scandal).

    I guess that makes me a peer-reviewed unpublished climatologist. 8-P

  4. Maurizio

    I would agree with you that there definitely is a “political aspect, albeit not a party political aspect to the whole AGW saga” (including the manner in which BBC reports “climate related” issues as well as the approach the BBC Trust used to “investigate impartiality” in this reporting).

    I think that a major element is that of “political correctness” (or PC).

    BBC (and other similar organizations) want to make absolutely sure that their reporting is “PC”.

    And, due to very clever manipulations by IPCC and its political supporters, the concept of “alarming AGW” (requiring immediate action, of course) has become “PC”.

    Speaking out against the “PC” IPCC AGW mantra has become very “non-PC”. Those who risk doing this are branded as “deniers”, “blockers”, “big oil stooges”, etc.

    “Climategate” and other revelations may be gradually eroding the IPCC reputation (and the blogosphere may be accelerating this process), but until the IPCC message on AGW can be divested of its “PC” mantle, it will be difficult for organizations like BBC to report climate issues impartially.


  5. Maurizio,

    I not sure that BSc (failed) or Article to Nature (rejected) are any sort of qualifications to boast about. I’m sure Nature reject all sort of articles, some that are even quite good. So, maybe you needn’t feel too bad. Have you tried Energy and Environment? You can really start to worry if you get rejected from that.

    You’re comment “There is no AGW without the IPCC” is a bit odd. So we just close down the IPCC and world temperatures will fall? Then you say “there is no IPCC without the governments and the scientists working together” Yes that sounds fair enough. But, your whole sentence means that Governments and Scientists are working together to create AGW. This sounds like a a conspiracy to me but you’ve previously said:
    “I have repeatedly stated that I do not believe that AGW is a left-wing hoax or conspiracy of any sort.”

    OK Maybe I see now. It is a conspiracy but just not a left – wing one. Is that what you mean?


    You’ve written articles on climate science too? Blimey I’m impressed. Have you tried submitting yours to Nature too? You should. Just think how your credibility would soar if it were accepted. No-one could accuse you of not knowing what you were talking about ever again.

  6. Maurizio

    Blimey, a peer-reviewed unpublished climatologist, I’m impressed :)

    Yes, I have thought about submitting several of my items as there is lots of original research plus numerous scientific references.

    My latest is on sea levels through the ages and you will see from my introduction to part 1 that it’s not actually in the style of Nature!

    “Due to a printing error the information that puts modern sea level rise into its historic context was omitted from Chapter Five of AR4. The missing section-reproduced below- should have been included in appendix 5a here;


    Alright a confession. This is the section that SHOULD have been there but wasn’t, so I have helpfully written it on the IPCC’s behalf.

    ‘Historic variations in sea levels’ is in three parts. Part 1 covers the Holocene to Roman times. Part 2 traces sea level changes to the Medieval Warm Period. Part 3-the modern age from 1700 to today.

    Those familiar with my articles know I like the journey with all its byways as much as the destination, so don’t expect the short sharp prose of the IPCC. But would they have brought you legends of drowned lands, King Arthur, Hitler’s Foreign minister and poetry from Tennyson amidst the numerous tedious-but robust- scientific references? No of course not. This first part covers a lot of years to set the scene and when I say it’s a bit of an epic, think Ben Hur.

    There will however in due course be a summary of all three parts for those with limited attention spans- like policy makers. Sit back and enjoy the ride.’

    In all seriousness, I write for the electronic market so links can be followed, like this article on the the Great Arctic warming in the 19th Century.

    It examines the little known period 1815-60 when the Arctic ice melted and the Royal Society mounted an expedition to investigate the causes.



  7. Tonyb #81 Anyone who hasn’t got the time to read and thoroughly enjoy your epic clearly hasn’t got the time to save the world, and should be barred from any decision-making position with respect to climate policy.

  8. Maurizio #78 Max #79
    on the devious way the “catastrophe” in CAGW gets shuffled between the politics and the science, see this exchange which a colleague of mine had at
    ScepticMike: the ‘state of the science’ is a range of uncertainty from bad to catastrophic.
    Sisterdingo: Actually, you won’t find the words “bad” or “catastrophic” anywhere in the science. They’re only in the minds of warmists like ScepticMike.
    AnotherBee: Science will tell you how much warming has happened to date, and (within a spread of probabilities) how much is likely to happen. It is then up to the political domain to decide at what level a change becomes a catastrophe. (SkepticMike was making that political judgement, entirely reasonably.)
    Sisterdingo: So why is it, every time we deniers give our political judgement that we are not facing a catastrophe … we are told that the science says we are?

  9. tempterrain (80)

    I not sure that BSc (failed) or Article to Nature (rejected) are any sort of qualifications to boast about

    On the other hand, scientifically speaking the only thing I should care about is the opinion of my peers, not yours or Nature editors’. And my peers did approve my article. 8-)

    your whole sentence means that Governments and Scientists are working together to create AGW

    Yes, in the sense that the IPCC doesn’t produce a climate change encyclopedia, but what scientists and Governments believe is needed to know about climate change. There is no need for a conspiracy for this to come about, just the interchange between politicians looking for answers from scientists, and scientists trying to be useful.

    ps As I said, I do not believe in a conspiracy of any sort. Enough with this nonsense.

  10. PeterM

    You asked Maurizio (80):

    So we just close down the IPCC and world temperatures will fall?

    Hey, Peter, we don’t even have to “close down the IPCC”.

    Check all those thermometers out there (even the ones next to AC exhausts and asphalt parking lots).

    Temperatures have been falling (0.07C) since the end of 2000 despite the IPCC forecasts of significant 21st century GH warming (0.2C per decade).


    PS But closing down IPCC may not be that bad an idea, Peter. In view of what’s happening out there in the real world, it appears that they have become redundant.

  11. Maurizio,

    You’re thinking still seems a little muddled.

    If what “scientists and Governments believe is needed to know about climate change” is a known falsehood then surely this is a conspiracy? ( A cospirazione ?)

    Yes everyone has peers. Unfortunately people like yourself aren’t “one of a kind” :-) Have you tried this learned site as an outlet for your article?

  12. Dream on…what would happen if the IPCC were closed down? Climatology will be freed from the need of being:

    1. Always right and consensual
    2. Useful to policymakers
    3. Usable by policymakers
    4. Fixated on climate changes due to human activities
    5. Fixated on CO2
    6. More?

    Now, what would the BBC do? Would the Science editors get the upper hand, seeing the whole richness of climatology reported to viewers and listeners; or would the politics remain in charge anyway, with the masses constantly educated about the “right” science and the “wrong” one cast aside?

    I would expect things to vary along the license renewal cycle…

  13. temperature (86): your comment falls under one of the categories I will not reply about (attributing to me what I have never said or written). it’s boring indeed.

  14. Maurizio,

    OK the. Just show me where you’ve ” repeatedly stated that I do not believe that AGW is a left-wing hoax or conspiracy of any sort.”

    What you’ve described is a conspiracy. Its like saying you don’t believe in Santa Claus, but yet you are quite sure there is a fat guy, who dresses in a big red coat, and who delivers presents every Christmas, with the aid of his reindeer and a sleigh!

  15. PeterM

    Let’s talk about the “conspiracy” sidetrack.

    You write to Maurizio

    What you’ve described is a conspiracy.

    This is not exactly correct.

    What you should have written to be more correct is:

    What you’ve described appears to me, personally, to constitute a conspiracy.

    That would be a more accurate statement, which would leave it open whether Maurizio really meant a conspiracy or whether you just assumed that this is what he meant, in which case you would, of course, have to ask him whether or not your assumption was correct, in order to be sure.

    Should he then deny having meant that (as it appears he did in #88), you would obviously have to revise your assumption, since it had been proven to be false.

    Can you follow the logic here, Peter?


  16. […] not lost unless they appear near the top of the heap. One example is the following extract from note #16 written by commenter Max (“manacker”) at Harmless Sky’s BBC impartiality review […]

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