Fresh insights into the techniques used by the BBC to catastrophise climate change are revealed in an exchange of letters with the producer of Justin Rowlatt’s “Wild Weather” Panorama and a former producer of Top Gear. Justifying the Rowlatt suggestion that global weather is getting warmer and more unpredictable and the death toll is rising, the programme’s producer Leo Telling said the latter figure was “cumulative”. In reply, Ken Pollock called the explanation “asinine”, and suggested Telling recognised that: “The death toll in the U.K. is cumulative. It is difficult to imagine it not increasing, if you quote cumulative figures,” he explained.
The “Wild Weather” programme, broadcast in December 2020, was an emotion-charged rant that tried to show that human-caused climate change was behind a series of recent bad weather events. It led to two internal complaints being upheld against Rowlatt. On the death toll claim, the BBC accepted that deaths from natural disasters have actually been falling for many years.
Telling then went on to argue that heatwaves will lead to excess deaths in vulnerable groups with a lower tolerance to extreme temperatures. In addition, he stated that the heatwaves will lead to avoidable deaths through wildfires.
“How can you write with a straight face that heatwaves will kill more and more people,” replied Pollock, “without also accepting that cold kills 10 times as many people every year and extra heat may save far more people?”
How do you reconcile the fact that Singapore and Helsinki have average temperatures differing by 22°C, and yet you accept that a further 1°C could spell disaster, he went on to ask.
Pollock then wondered what the Panorama producer really meant by the suggestion that avoidable wildfire deaths would increase. “You surely know that most of the Australian wildfires and those in the West of the USA were started by arson. Surely you know that the recent wildfires were nowhere near as bad as those in the West of the USA in the 30s and 40s and in Australia in the 80s, when I filmed them for the BBC, and in earlier decades,” he wrote.
In Pollock’s view, much of what Telling produced was drawn from the World Health Organisation and “highly questionable” IPCC predictions. One might expect you to challenge some of them, or at least refer to the source and the speculative nature of the predictions, he contended. Pollock concluded by noting that in his 22 years as a BBC producer, he became alarmed at the inadequate use of statistics by the Corporation in current affairs and elsewhere: “Many BBC people repeated statistics without understanding them”.
On the BBC climate desk, repeating, seemingly without question, the catastrophe claims from third party sources is a normal method of operation. In February 2019, the BBC environment analyst Roger Harrabin reported the view of Left wing think tank IPPR that “human impacts had reached a critical stage and threaten to destabilise society and the global economy”. No attempt was made to examine these extravagant opinions. It later transpired that the report, which contained numerous false extreme weather claims, was part written by a young woman whose previous employment had been working as a volunteer for an Edinburgh ‘equality’ charity. Meanwhile, Matt McGrath, the first winner of the BBVA Foundation €100,000 award for climate journalism, wrote an article in July 2019 titled “Climate change: 12 years to save the planet? Make that 18 months”. Accepting his award from BBVA, a Spanish bank with large green investments, McGrath defended the primacy of specialist journalism “that draws on sound scientific sources” in an era of fake news.
Barely a week goes by without the Net Zero-inspired fantasies of climate Armageddon being publicised from the work of academics, think tanks, meteorological operations like the Met Office and the IPCC. This latter body, heavily dependent on climate models and their to-date wildly inaccurate forecasts, is held in particularly high esteem. Writing in July last year, Harrabin looked forward to a new edition by stating, “computing will underpin the new climate science ‘Bible’ from the Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change (IPCC) next month”.
It might be suggested that an editorial emergency is awaiting the BBC in the near future. Most of its climate reporting seems to be little more than repeating bad (“extreme”) weather events, and claiming the climate is, somehow, breaking down. In reality, global warming has run out of steam with pauses and dips common in the record over the last two decades. The accurate temperature news from satellites is largely ignored, and there is little appetite for investigating how the major global surface datasets have quietly adjusted their records to add an extra 30% of heating over the last 20 years. Most of the bad weather claims are easily debunked, and are unlikely to be so well tolerated by the wider public if Net Zero leads to substantial reductions in personal freedoms, income and diet.
Writing an excoriating report on the “Wild Weather” programme, Ross Clark noted recently in the Daily Mail that there was a time when the BBC was committed to presenting both sides of the argument. He noted a 2018 instruction sent by the former BBC director of news and current affairs Fran Unsworth, demanding that “interviewees who were sceptical about man-made climate change were no longer to be invited regularly”. He concluded: “Unsworth’s instructions had clearly become the status quo.”
Last September, Insulate Britain activist Zoe Cohen told the BBC that climate change would lead to “the loss of all we cherish, our society, our way of life, law and order”. Ross noted that it was a hysterical claim that had no foundation in science, yet she remained unchallenged. Some at the BBC, he went on to suggest, were losing patience with their climate editor. “The Justin Rowlatt stuff is grim,” an unnamed BBC source is reported to have told another newspaper. “These are not mistakes; he’s a campaigner.”
Matt McGrath is another who might care to look into some of the sources that feed his doomsday copy. Around the time of receiving his BBVA present, he published a story claiming that over 11,000 scientists were predicting “untold suffering” from the forthcoming climate emergency. Among those signatories promoting a “clear and unequivocal emergency” were Professor Mickey Mouse and Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore.
The perfect BBC climate breakdown story. Making it up, in a world of make believe.
Chris Morrison is the Daily Sceptic’s Environment Editor