A damning indictment of BBC climate reporting alleging 20 years of endemic bias and the production of fake news, has been presented to the Government’s mid-term Charter review of the Corporation. Published by the Net Zero Watch and written by the long-time BBC observer Paul Homewood, it suggests that all the factual errors detailed in its submission “could easily have been avoided with a bit of basic research”. Citizen journalist Homewood doesn’t pull any punches: “This is journalism at its shoddy worst.”
It is argued that the “rot” set in after a seminar in 2006 – a meeting the BBC fought for many years to keep secret – shaped climate coverage. The seminar was attended by many green activists such as Greenpeace. “Since then, it has been the norm for BBC reports on climate change and energy policy to exclude or marginalise anybody who does not agree with the consensus view, while giving undue prominence to extreme green activist groups such as Greenpeace and WWF,” writes Homewood.
In a passage detailing how the BBC “neutralises” complaints, Homewood explains that the ‘scientists say’ defence is employed – the BBC is not broadcasting its own view, “merely relating what others are saying”. Homewood has pressed many cases against the BBC over the last decade, and had some success. No doubt from bitter experience, he relates what he calls the BBC’s most common defence, namely, ”simply to ignore the complaint, in the hope it will go away”.
In Homewood’s view, the most egregious example of this concerned Sir David Attenborough’s 2019 televised documentary “Climate Change – The Facts”. It made several highly questionable assertions that storms, floods, heatwaves and sea level rises are all rapidly getting worse as a result of climate change, none of which are backed by the IPCC. A complaint to the effect that there was no scientific evidence behind Attenborough’s claims, “was simply wafted away on the basis that some scientists disagreed with the official line”.
Despite the difficulties, Homewood lists 14 recent complaints upheld by the Corporation’s internal complaints procedure. These include the two recent complaints upheld against the Climate Editor Justin Rowlatt over his 2021 Panorama programme, “Wild Weather – Our World Under Threat”. Homewood notes that Rowlatt’s claim that the death toll from bad weather is rising was the opposite of the truth. His own complaint about the programme to the BBC was fobbed off with the “risible excuse” that Panorama was referring to the cumulative death toll. Rowlatt had been previously censured for claiming that the U.K. offshore wind industry was “virtually subsidy free”, at a time when subsidies were running at £3.5bn a year.
Later in his report, Homewood asks: “And who is editing this fake reporting? Why are they not insisting on accurate reporting? Where are the highly paid executives who let all of this continue?”
Other complaints upheld include:
“June 2020: BBC Radio 4’s Today programme claimed that 2020 saw the hottest May on record in the UK. In fact it was only the 15th warmest.”
“February 2019: Roger Harrabin covered a think-tank report, which made the patently absurd claim that, ‘Since 2005, the number of floods across the world has increased by 15 times, extreme temperature events by 20 times, and wildfires seven-fold’. The think-tank subsequently accepted that their claims were factually untrue, something that Harrabin should have challenged before simply repeating it.”
“In 2017, BBC Two broadcast “Russia With Simon Reeve”, which claimed that reindeer populations across Northern Russia were in ‘steep decline because of climate change’. In fact, a 2016 study proved that 17 out of 19 sub-populations of Eurasian reindeer were either increasing in number, or had a stable population.”
“In March 2017, The World At One made the plainly ridiculous claim that sea levels at Miami were rising at ten times the global rate. The BBC was subsequently forced to admit that sea levels there showed ‘little divergence from the global mean’. (The difference was due to sinking of the land, not sea rise).”
Homewood also identified a further 11 “neutralised” complaints. Among these were:
“April 2022: ‘BBC Weather Climate Check’ reports that the Antarctic is warming at up to three times the global average. Again, this is fake news, as studies show that most of the Antarctic has been getting colder in recent decades.”
“December 2021: BBC News reported that the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season was the third most active. In reality, since 1851, there have been 50 other years with as many or more than the seven hurricanes recorded in the Atlantic in 2021.”
“March 2021: BBC News covered the droughts in California in 2014, implying that global warming was a factor. Again, the actual data show that drought was not unusual, and that much more severe ‘megadroughts’ have happened regularly in the past.”
“May 2021: BBC Weather Climate Check claimed that global warming could be making tornadoes worse in the U.S. Official data show the opposite: that they are now much less severe than in the 1970s.”
Readers will probably recognise many of the above items since they, and many similar scares, have regularly appeared across mainstream media. Almost invariably, there is no questioning of underlying assumptions or source. The science has long been dismissed as ‘settled’, and in this polite journalistic society, impertinent questions are only asked by ‘deniers’. Seasoned atmospheric physicists like Professor Richard Lindzen of MIT can call the current climate change narrative “absurd”, all he likes. Nobody is reporting that, when agendas are being set by establishment elites to promote a command-and-control Net Zero agenda. Mainstream journalists seem incapable of asking basic questions when presented with often rather silly green activist scare stories. It is interesting to observe that some of the heavy lifting in this department over the last decade has been de facto outsourced to a retired accountant.
Homewood concludes that Net Zero, and the total transformation of society which is demanded to achieve it, is of “crucial importance” for the future of the country. The public deserve all of the facts on climate change and Net Zero, “not just the warped version offered by the BBC”.
Chris Morrison is the Daily Sceptic‘s Environment Editor.