@BBCr4Today replies to my complaint about Lawson

Ceri Thomas is the august Head of Programmes at BBC News.  He has said, in reply to my letter:

_64087826_cerithomas1_bodybbcThe BBC is committed to impartial and balanced coverage of climate change. Furthermore we accept that there is broad scientific agreement on the issue and reflect this accordingly. Across our programmes the number of scientists and academics who support the mainstream view far outweighs those who disagree with it. We do however on occasion, offer space to dissenting voices where appropriate as part of the BBC’s overall commitment to impartiality. The BBC Trust, which oversees our work on behalf of licence fee payers, has explicitly urged programme makers not to exclude critical opinion from policy debates involving scientists.

As was clear from the discussion, there is no conclusive proof as yet of a direct link between the storms hitting the UK this year and climate change. It was therefore reasonable for Justin Webb to ask Sir Brian Hoskins about the limits of scientific knowledge, in particular how the lay person should judge the evidence. But he also rigorously challenged Lord Lawson – in particular on his assertion that focusing efforts on developing green energy sources was a waste of money and that resources would be better spent on improving our defences against bad weather. Both lines of questioning were designed to help listeners judge how to assess the recent bad weather in the context of climate change.

Scientists do have a crucial role to play in this debate. ‘Today’ has a track record of interviewing distinguished experts on climate change such as Lord Krebs, Sir John Beddington and Sir Mark Walport; all three have appeared on the programme in single interviews in recent months. But politicians and pressure groups also have their place and in six weeks of flooding, this was the first interview on ‘Today’ with a climate change ‘sceptic.’

Whilst there may be a scientific consensus about global warming – that it is happening and largely man-made – there is no similar agreement about what should be done to tackle it; whether money should be spent, for example, on cutting carbon emissions or would be better used adapting our defences to the changing climate. Lord Lawson is not a scientist, but as a former Chancellor of the Exchequer is well qualified to comment on the economic arguments, which are a legitimate area for debate.

We believe there has to be space in the BBC’s coverage where scientific consensus meets reasonable argument about the policy implications of that consensus view. That said we do accept that we could have offered a clearer description of the sceptical position taken by Lord Lawson and the Global Warming Policy Foundation in the introduction. That would have clarified in the audience’s minds the ideological background to the arguments.

I hope this helps explain our thinking.

Well, I’m not sure that Justin Webb rigorously challenged Nigel Lawson:  I think the ex-Chancellor rode over him trying to make his point with petulant name-calling. I accept his point that there has to be a debate about what we do about climate change and in this context we have to ask how much we have spent and are prepared to spend on both resilience and defence. I definitely agree that a clearer description of the GWF’s position would have been appropriate, including commenting on its funding.

I wonder how many complaints they got about this, because considerable thought has obviously gone into this letter.  All the same, two cheers for a prompt and full reply.Thank you Mr Thomas.

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About Sarah Tanburn

I'm a writer, a sailor and a strategic adviser to public organisations. Visit my websites to find out more.
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3 Responses to @BBCr4Today replies to my complaint about Lawson

  1. I think we’d see stronger action from the EU, America and the UK if some of their real estate wasn’t already submerging! Indonesia and other Asian nations have already put official action into their laws, as they are currently — maybe with the exception of Greenland and the lower islands of Oceania — the only places where people have been driven from their homes by a rising sea. It’s so frustrating that having plenty of warning seems to be going wasted. My home is on high ground, but it will probably be waterfront property if a hurricane doesn’t take it, in fifty years. Thanks for the posts, Sarah. You keep on keepin’ on when so many have shrugged off tyhe good fight!

    • Hi Fichard and thanks. My novel (and the other two in the trilogy) are all about what we should do about climate change. The way I’ve set it up is on another planet and it is not human caused (ie take that distraction away) but is human destructive. V topical and now working on the cover letters.

  2. jhuwevans says:

    Lawson is a Tory. They learn this shit from an early age. If you can’t refute an argument fling shit wherever you can and hope it distracts people. And of course it works.
    Humanity is stuffed.
    I think it all too likely that this country might boil up like The Ukraine, and the Arab nations.
    It’s obvious that regardless of their futile ideologies our leaders of whatever party are quite obviously incompetent and corrupt. However because of their incompetence they probably aren’t getting the going rate for selling the rest of us down the flooded river.
    Isn’t it the height of hypocrisy to complain about a Nanny State while off-shoring one’s tax liabilities, and taking huge handouts for failed banks.
    So it’s no nannies for the poor, the disadvantaged , the flooded, the people, but free government sponsored nannies for entrepreneurs, banks, big business and Dave’s faves.

    Sorry to digress. I find that I’m a little bit incensed.

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