Last Sunday evening, two consecutive programmes on Radio 4 emphasised the point. In Westminster Hour, presenter Carolyn Quinn was mediating between various politicians on the subject of the recent floods when she came out with the extroaordinary statement “And we know that there is a difference of opinion among scientific experts and among politicians over this”.
There may well be varying views among politicians, but not among scientists.
Perhaps the most authoritative scientific source is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to which 195 member countries of the United Nations have signed up. The organisation ‘considers new evidence of climate change based on many independent scientific analyses from observations of the climate system, paleoclimate archives, theoretical studies of climate processes and simulations using climate models’.
In its latest report – Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis – the Summary for Policymakers says that:
Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased.
Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident from the increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, positive radiative forcing, observed warming, and understanding of the climate system.
There have been a number of studies into the extent of agreement among scientists. For example, back in 2010 a group of academics researched and reported on the issue:
Here, we use an extensive dataset of 1,372 climate researchers and their publication and citation data to show that 97–98% of the climate researchers most actively publishing in the field support the tenets of ACC (anthropogenic climate change) outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the relative climate expertise and scientific prominence of the researchers unconvinced of ACC are substantially below that of the convinced researchers.
And if you still don’t believe it, check out this list of 197 scientific organisations world wide that hold the position that climate change has been caused by human action. A list that NASA quotes on its web site.
I could go on, but you get the point.
So why did Carolyn Quinn say there is a difference of opinion among scientific experts when there clearly isn’t? The usual reason given is that the corporation needs to present both sites of any argument, but in this case there isn’t one. In any case, using the BBC’s logic, the Corporation should be interviewing someone from the Flat Earth Society whenever any discussion suggests the world is a globe. The Society is alive and kicking with it’s own minority views. It’s only a matter of degree between the number denying climate change is happening and those maintaining the Earth is flat, so where’s the tipping point? When will the BBC accept climate change without argument? Clearly 97% of the views of the scientific community is not enough.
But, getting back to last Sunday night, that wasn’t the end of it. What the Papers Say swiftly followed up with the press coverage of the floods and the climate change implications, or not.
It started with a comment from Nicholas Stern, who’s 2006 report first brought climate change to wider attention in the UK. But the longest quote in the whole piece came from car comic Clarkson, who’s scepticism established that climate change was a subject for anyone to get their point across on the BBC. Fortunately a real comedian, Mark Steel, helped to set the record straight. This was a report on what the press were saying, so didn’t pretend to be fair, but the way the content was selected added weight to the non-scientific view.
I don’t understand why the BBC, with such a wealth of scientific content in its broadcasts, won’t take climate change seriously. If it did, it’s coverage of the deniers might at least distinguish between those who deny climate change is happening and those who deny it’s man-made. Of course, science shows that both are true.