Nov 122009

At a time when we are all meant to be good disciples of the new climate change orthodoxy you would think that a lecture by a leading sceptic filling a large lecture hall in London might be newsworthy. Well it certainly isn’t at the BBC.

I was doing he usual start-of-day things this morning, while listening with half an ear to the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme, when I heard something astonishing. Justin Webb, one of the presenters, introduced an interview with an eminent scientist who is also a leading climate change sceptic. Here’s what he said:

Luckily our next guest is here, because we are only days away from the Copenhagen environmental summit where we’ll hear a good deal about the way the world can and must combat carbon emissions in order to save the planet. There are some who say of course that the whole enterprise is crazy because the fundamental premise that global warming is caused, to a significant extent, by carbon emissions and that we can do something about it is wrong. Professor Ian Plimer of Adelaide University in Australia is one of the sceptics and he is here in the UK to persuade us that he is right and all those people gathering in Copenhagen are wrong. Good morning to you professor.

No mention of Plimer being the author of Heaven And Earth: Global Warming – The Missing Science.  No mention of his public lecture in London tonight.  Just a condescending intimation that he is ‘here to persuade us’, as  though he was a dodgy evangelist. That’s a bit strange really as there could be no other reason for having him on the programme this morning. Surely even the most inexperienced reporter would realise that it was an essential part of the story. And Justin Webb is a very experienced BBC journalist indeed.

It’s not even just a matter of competent reporting but a matter of courtesy too. The interviewee gives up his time to come to the studio and broadcasters reciprocate with a bit of free publicity. It happens all the time, but not on this occasion. The script usually goes something like this, ‘The eminent geologist and author Professor Ian Plimer will be giving a lecture in London this evening, and this morning he is with us in the studio. Good morning Professor Plimer. Now tell us Professor Plimer ……?’  But here was no mention of the lecture although Plimer did eventually manage to gabble out the title of his book in the face of interruptions from Webb, who made no secret of the fact that he wasn’t listening any more and wanted to wind up the interview.

I transcribed the introduction to the interview because this has been cut from the ‘Listen Again’ download on the Today website. You can find the rest of the interview here:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_8356000/8356114.stm item at 08:52

(I had to search the ‘Listen Now’ recording of the whole programme, which will only be available until tomorrow morning, in order to find the intro.)

According to the Spectator, the lecture is a sell-out at a ticket price o f £25 and the venue holds about 600 people. It would seem that whatever the BBC may think, and the government may tell us there are an awful lot of people who are prepared to dig their hands quite deep into their pockets to hear the other side of the global warming story; the one that none of us are suppose to even contemplate.

Many of you will remember that Plimer’s appearance in London  was not originally intended to be a lecture, but a debate. George Monbiot published a savage attack on Plimer in The Guardian and the then editor of The Spectator, Matthew d’Ancona, invited the fearless eco-warrior to debate with Plimer publicly. George’s response was to demand that Plimer should provide him with detailed written answers to a long series of complex scientific questions which sounded as though a committee had compiled them and it would need a research team to answer them before he would agree to appear. Not surprisingly, Plimer was not prepared to do this and Monbiot was able to chicken-out while assuring his devoted followers that his non-appearance was Plimer’s fault. It seems not to have occurred to them that a leading Aussie scientist might have had just a few reservations about using his time in this way so that he could have the honour of debating with an upper-class English hack who evidently didn’t dare pop the questions in front of an audience. Or then again, perhaps it did occur to them.

Several contributors to Harmless Sky will be going to the lecture tonight and I hope that there will be some first-hand accounts from them about what happens. The Spectator has talked about putting an empty chair on the stage to represent George Monbiot. I wonder if that will happen? Will the BBC be reporting this event? Who knows. They certainly sent Roger Harrabin lurk at the back of Piers Corbyn’s meeting of sceptics a couple of weeks ago, and he had great fun snearing about the proceedings afterwards.

Links:

James Delingpole’s interview with Professor Plimer in The Spectator

George Monbiot’s furious attack in The Guardian

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