Countless mainstream media programmes now incorporate extremist green climate propaganda into their output, seemingly without any desire to question the most outlandish and improbable statements. Last Monday’s Start the Week on BBC Radio 4 provides a case study in how fiction is mixed with cherry-picked fact, doused in error-ridden political Net Zero propaganda and presented as a learned contribution to our understanding of how the climate is breaking down. Not to put too fine a point on it, the whole affair was a one-sided, misinformed muddle.
As extreme weather becomes more frequent, are we out of kilter with nature, asked presenter Kirsty Wark. The question was rhetorical since in the same sentence she adds, “How and why did it happen and could we humans drive a climate catastrophe?” But extreme weather is not becoming more frequent. All that seems to have happened is that the BBC, like most mainstream media, has started catastrophising every bad weather event. Last year, four leading Italian scientists published a joint review of historical climate trends and concluded that declaring a ‘climate emergency’ was not supported by the data.
During the course of their work, the scientists found that rainfall intensity and frequency is stationary in many parts of the world. Tropical hurricanes and cyclones show little change over the long term, and the same is true of U.S. tornadoes. Other meteorological categories including natural disasters, floods, droughts and ecosystem productivity show no “clear positive trend of extreme events”.
The BBC programme featured three guests to help Wark “convey the story and impact of climate”. They were the Oxford historian Professor Peter Frankopan, Professor Dame Jane Francis, Director of the British Antarctic Survey, and climate fiction author Jessie Greengrass.
Frankopan noted that we were living in a world of “cascading effects”, asked how we have reached a point of “existential threat” and suggested we are living through an ongoing “mass extinction”. One can’t help wondering if students in a Frankopan history tutorial would be welcome to ask questions along the lines, what cascading effects and what existential threats? This fear-mongering is just repeating activist opinions, and there is little in the scientific evidence to back it up. As to the ‘mass extinction’ trope, trotted out constantly on the mainstream media, the evidence suggests something completely different. The bedrock extinction scare comes from the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London, who made the improbable claim that vertebrates across the planet have declined by 69% since 1970. But a group of Canadian biologists recently showed that the figure was a statistical freak. They revealed that the estimate is driven by 2.4% of wildlife populations, adding, “If these extremely declining populations are excluded, the global trend switches to an increase.”
Antarctica scientist Jane Francis said the climate was changing fast and we needed to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. To back up her observations, she referred to the Antarctica ice core explorations, noting correctly that air bubbles gave an accurate indication of the past atmosphere. From this and other elements present in the ice can be deduced both temperature and the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere going back 800,000 years. But Francis gave no further details, possibly because the ice core drilled at Vostok suggests that temperatures often rise ahead of CO2 levels.
A seminal science paper in 1999 (Petit et al.) concluded that CO2 lagged temperature during the onset of glaciation by several thousands of years. The above graph shows that over many periods, particularly during the current Holocene, temperature and CO2 levels are not in general lockstep. A more plausible observation might be that naturally rising temperatures lead to higher levels of CO2 as gas is released from across the Earth’s surface.
There were a number of contributions correctly billed as fiction from the author Jessie Greengrass, who invoked Noah’s Ark in a new book called The High House. It features the heroine who leaves her family because she is so worried about the climate that she wants to make a difference on a global scale. There were no further details about making this global difference, although it might not be a surprise if it included shouting very loudly and gluing herself to stuff. Like Noah, Greengrass is also worried about floods and is concerned about Pacific islands (most of them increasing in size at last looking) and England, which she suggested could be a “spine’”in future.
But enough fiction, back to the fiction. Professor Francis was worried about extreme weather “which we have created”, referencing the recent hurricane in Mississippi with the suggestion that such events have become “more frequent and worse”. Regrettably, a couple of small errors crept into these statements, namely that it was a tornado that hit Mississippi, not a hurricane, and far from getting worse, the recent record has got better.
Of course Francis is in good company in claiming black is white so far as U.S. tornadoes are concerned. Penn State meteorologist Michael Mann claims that the latest science “indicates that we can expect more of these huge (tornado) outbreaks because of human-caused climate change”, while Jennifer Francis, a scientist at Woodwell Climate Research Center, told the Guardian that climate change was “making some of the ingredients needed to create an outbreak like this more likely”.
Author Greengrass concluded that we needed to communicate about climate change “in every way we can to every possible audience about what is happening”. There is nothing wrong with the BBC trying to make interesting programmes with interesting people having a lively debate about newsworthy topics. But on climate change, the appalling decision made years ago to avoid debating the so-called ‘settled’ but unproven science narrative means that almost any crackpot green opinion and agitprop can be broadcast without any attempt made to inquire into its validity. This sterile approach should be left to the wilder reaches of social media, and cannot justify imposing a hefty licence charge on everyone in the U.K. owning a terrestrial TV receiver.
Chris Morrison is the Daily Sceptic’s Environment Editor.