Economist Oliver McAninch finds out why the BBC could be responsible for global destruction.
‘Global warming is a load of old rubbish’ is something you’ve probably heard more than once in your local boozer. ‘Climate has been changing for millions of years – it’s no different now’ was dismissively barked at me by Dave over a beer.
Is my mate down the pub correct?
When the world’s leading meteorological and environmental scientists, commissioned by the governments of 195 countries (essentially the entire world), issued a report this month detailing the catastrophic and irreversible effects of climate change – it does seem strange that there are still so many naysayers. It’s no wonder though, when you start looking into the way climate change is reported.
Today MPs told the BBC to adopt “clear editorial guidelines” for its reporting on the issue of climate change. The Science and Technology Committee said some editors were “poor” at determining viewers’ and listeners’ level of expertise and sometimes pitted lobbyists against “top scientists” as if their views had “equal weight”.
So, let’s get this straight: the guy on the radio who informed Dave down the pub, who told me that climate change isn’t happening, isn’t a scientist; he’s just a lobbyist?
In 2013 the Guardian reported that Conservative billionaires have been using a secretive funding route to channel nearly $120 million (£77 million) to more than 100 groups of climate-change sceptics, whose aim is to rubbish the science.
This set-up also exists in the UK, where wealthy rightwing donors secretly finance a highly professional campaign against policies to reduce greenhouse gases. The main anti-climate change lobby group in the UK is the Global Warming Policy Foundation (established by Lord Lawson, a Conservative peer).
Why would anyone want to lobby against impartial scientists?
Unsurprisingly Lord Lawson is not forthcoming about who funds the organisation. Common sense would suggest that it is those with the most to lose. Think large corporations, high polluters and high energy users, requiring short-term profits to be protected at any cost.
Why do media agencies such as the Beeb take the lobbyists (or Jeremy Clarkson) seriously?
Perhaps they are giving us what we want. It’s much easier to dismiss climate change as a myth and carry on living our convenience lifestyles in ignorance. Jetting all over the world, drinking from plastic bottles and demanding cheap fuel. We can keep popping out our kids (the single biggest impact on resources we’ll ever have) guilt free.
But doesn’t the media have an obligation to report the truth?
Despite the obvious imbalance of reporting IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) findings along side a lobbyist’s views, the BBC said it did “not believe in erasing wider viewpoints”.
In fairness to the BBC, at least it does present two views, even if they do seem imbalanced. At least four of the biggest selling newspapers in the UK are known for predominantly putting forward the views of the ‘this isn’t happening’ camp. Although most of our top selling papers openly lean towards conservative values, perhaps it has more to do with selling newspapers. Do most of us want to believe it’s a load of rubbish?
It’s a dangerous situation when opinions are presented as fact, but maybe we hear what we want to hear.
If media organisations won’t do it, who will stand up to wealthy lobbyists and report unbiased findings?
In report, MPs said BBC news teams had committed the mistake of attributing the same weight to both opinions and scientific fact, and it’s worth reminding ourselves that other publishers and broadcasters are doing the same or worse.
Prince Charles highlighted the issue by dismissing climate change “deniers” as the “headless chicken brigade” and said that green campaigners face a “barrage of sheer intimidation” from the powerful anti-climate change lobby.
The Prince called on politicians to face down “sceptics and… corporate lobbyists”. Charles said it was “baffling” that people’s “blind trust in science and technology” did not extent to climate science. “All of a sudden, and with a barrage of sheer intimidation, we are told by powerful groups of deniers that the scientists are wrong and we must abandon all our faith in so much overwhelming scientific evidence.”
OK, so now I know not to believe anything I ever read or hear… tell me what the hell is going on with our climate (so I can tell Dave down the pub)?
In this week’s UN climate change report, the IPCC have provided overwhelming evidence of the scale of impacts on natural systems, such as water resources, sea levels and biodiversity as well as changes to human systems such as food production.
The recent report on global warming highlights altering patterns of rainfall, melting snow and ice that is affecting water resources in terms of both quality and quantity. Wildlife (both land and water) have shifted their geographic ranges, migration patterns and seasonal behaviour.
The committee of expert panels of scientists from 195 countries share the view that unless serious action is taken, it is likely to get worse, with growing risks of floods, food shortages, and threats to human health.
I told Dave down the pub, but he still said it’s a load of bull s**t.
If you still don’t ‘believe’ the IPCC, have a browse of Google Earth and consider the sheer scale of human coverage on the Earth. Global population has risen from 2.5 billion in 1950 to 7.2 billion today. UN Population forecasters predict global population will be 11 billion by the end of the century. There are more humans alive today than have ever lived.
Now consider the wealthiest one per cent of humans are the largest polluters in a world where the other 99 per cent aspire to have more wealth. You only need to travel to Asia or Africa to witness the air pollution and litter in the water and on land that has accumulated in the past 20 years.
Scientific evidence, common sense, and our own eyes should be enough to rubbish the lobbyists.