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Blackening the name of the BBC

Richard Black briefs colleagues on covering climate change.

He is quite a piece of work isn't he?

A green organisation was also invited to speak at the same event.

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Reader Comments (96)

I think this is reason enough to refuse to pay our license fees.

Isn't the BBC pension fund heavily invested in 'green' technologies and renewables?

Nov 3, 2011 at 8:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterGZoinker

What a window on how the BBC works...

Propaganda within a propaganda machine... closed cycle engine.

Nov 3, 2011 at 8:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

He is quite a piece of work isn't he?

Quite unbelievable that we are the goons forced to pay his wages.

Nov 3, 2011 at 8:33 PM | Unregistered Commenter3x2

It's galling my license fee is wasted on people like this.

Nov 3, 2011 at 8:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Cowper

Impartiality is no longer a requirement to be a reporter or journalist.

Mr. Black has embraced that concept wholeheartedly.

Nov 3, 2011 at 8:44 PM | Unregistered Commentertimg56

The second presentation? What of load of ...

Civil war increase of course had nothing to do with the pull out of the Imperial powers? Or with certain countries flexing their muscles as they become more prosperous than their neighbours. Or with parcelling up of the world after WWI and WWII borders forming across non-homogeneous peoples?

And this was to the BBC Colllege of Journalism?

Is our national reporting really in such a poor state?

Nov 3, 2011 at 8:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

Just for arguments sake ignore WHAT Black was talking about.

What is clear is that he is not a correspondent but an advocate. A clear advocate.

If the Chief Political Correspondent had got up in front of them and said "actually Marx had a point, sod these Public school types", how would they have reacted to such open advocacy?

Is advocacy compatible with being a correspondent of a national broadcaster?

Apparently so... for me it would not matter what he was saying, I would ask questions as to why a correspondent is promoting in such a manner. Something smells.

Nov 3, 2011 at 9:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

"It's astonishing isn't it, that having written a blog post, a correction to the blog post and having given a course to BBC colleagues, he still hasn't managed to tell anyone that the hiding the decline was declared to be "misleading" by the Russell panel."

Must be an oversight. Not.

Nov 3, 2011 at 9:09 PM | Unregistered Commenterpokerguy

In the video it is clear that Black emphasizes the graph showing decadal rates of change (1990-2000, 1991-2001, etc), which are still increasing, albeit not by much, for most of the 2000s, due to the phenomenon called "statistical inertia" or "statistical drag": the curve flatted out only around 2000, and therefore most of the subsequent years were still higher than ten years before, even if no new increase registered. This does not refute the fact that temperatures have gone mostly trendless during the latest decade or that the linear trend 1995-2011 (16 years) is nearly flat (although the period includes the 1998 El Niño spike). Trenberth's rule requires 17 years of no-increase to compromise model predictions. The end is nigh.

Nov 3, 2011 at 9:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterHector M.

"Is our national reporting really in such a poor state?"
The British instinct for unbiassed observation and independent reasoning survives in the blogosphere. The 'professionals' were sucked into the lotus gardens that 'contacts in the corridors of powers' created for them.

Nov 3, 2011 at 9:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandy

Do you actually have anything to say apart from simply insulting Black? What does he actually say that is wrong?

An objective reader (if such a person exists) might conclude that it is you who is the 'piece of work'.

Nov 3, 2011 at 9:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrank

Um, I've said that he has discussed a serious allegation without telling his readers (or his students) that the accused were found guilty. In fact he leaves both with the impression that they were found innocent.

Isn't that enough for you?

Nov 3, 2011 at 9:17 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill


So it is ok for the BBC Sports Correspondent to openly support ManU is it?
Or the Home Affairs Correspondent to openly support repatriation of immigrants?
Or the Foreign Affairs Correspondent to insult the French at every opportunity?

So you happy for any amount of advocacy to appear in all areas of the BBC?

Why are the Environmental Correspondents givin a free ride?

Nov 3, 2011 at 9:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

Black writes: "A number of comments have quite rightly pointed out that the "hide the decline" email was also critiqued at the time of "ClimateGate" in its proper context - ie, reconciling a tree-ring dataset with an instrumental dataset."

He adds, as a kind of sour quarter-apology: "This wasn't the sense in which I dealt with it in this post, obviously"

Well, no, 'obviously' it wasn't. I think we've all twigged that, Roger. But as, no less 'obviously', the original meaning and context of Jones's 'hide the decline' comment were crystal clear, to impose any other 'sense' on it is akin to claiming that lying is just another way of telling the truth.

I honestly never thought that the BBC would be reduced to this level of transparent tosh.

If Black had any shame, he would resign now. If his editors had any, they would sack him.

Nov 3, 2011 at 9:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterAgouts

[Raise the tone please]

Nov 3, 2011 at 9:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrank

hold on a moment folks.

Did not Black write a story earlier this year when he said that 1995 - 2009 showed no statistical rise in temperature, but with the addition of 2010 (slightly warmer than 2009) it did - he quoted prof Jones.

So doesn't that make a mockery of his presentation.

The chap is all over the place - incompetent.

Nov 3, 2011 at 9:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterJEdwards

I don't think I've ever heard of journalists being told what to think about issues by colleagues - except perhaps in totalitarian controlled-media situations like the good old USSR.

Quite extraordinary.

This video deserves wide circulation so that all the BBC's licence payers can understand that everything they see or hear is a carefully constructed version of "the current truth".

George Orwell where art thou now in our hour of need?

Nov 3, 2011 at 9:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterFoxgoose

Did anyone expect anything else from the BBC?
It has a large number of science journalists but very little qualifications in science. Richard Black is hardly a person with any understanding of science.
It is so sad that the BBC has become a mouth piece of the anti-scientist!

Nov 3, 2011 at 9:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterCinbadtheSailor

How fascinating. I always wondered how the BBC managed to create and enforce such monolithic groupthink on this issue. Now I know. One of them tells the others what to think.

Nov 3, 2011 at 9:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterMatt Ridley

Richard Black shows a shockingly skimpy grasp of the science. He's not even consistent. he says global warming hasn't stopped but then says the temperature has shown a "relative plateauing."

Scientifically, he is all over the place, cherry picking snippets of science to support his case with his sub-O level grasp of statistics.

Why doesn't the GWPF ask Richard Black to debate David Whitehouse on climate change?

But he wouldn't.

Nov 3, 2011 at 9:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterBen D

Black clearly joined the choir .......................... what a bugger!

Nov 3, 2011 at 9:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobert Thomson

There is some 'pea and thimble' stuff going on here. The trendline on the satellite data for the decade Jan 2000 to Dec 2009 was +0.07 degree on the UAH analysis and negative on the RSS analaysis, but Black claims a figure of +0.30.

The satellite data 10-year warming trend has not been at 0.3 since 2003, and the rate of warming has been declining almost continually since then. It has recently gone negative (i.e., cooling), and indications are that it will keep dropping for some time yet.

Nov 3, 2011 at 9:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterBraddles

Black has made the well known and now classic mistake of starting with the super el nino year of 1998 as his start point - it is all cooler than that. Then he goes to 1999 and 200 and says hey presto the warming trend is back!

However 1999 and 2000 were La Nina years, cooler and related to the El Nino of 1998 - so he's cherry picking cool years for a start date.

Now if he started after the La Nina years he would get a different result.

As other have said - he incompetent.

Nov 3, 2011 at 10:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterNottehlaNinaeffectagain

Hmmm --- His slides show the House of Commons Sci Tech Comm hearing as March 2009
and, the Oxburgh effort, in April of 2009. There would seem to be a conflict; as, Climategate didn't emerge until Nov. 2009.

Fact checking.

Nov 3, 2011 at 10:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterJon von Briesen

Essentials of Ethical Journalism

Truth and Accuracy - A guide to the importance of truth and accuracy - and how to apply the value in practice.



Nov 3, 2011 at 10:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterGreen Sand

Wow just wow.

Eh! did he just go through an excersise in listing 10 year periods and just subtracting single data point values from each to show 1998 is "cherry picked" as a decline!? I mean who has done that with a straight face? He admits he bases this on a "very simple non-statistical excersise" but this is gibberish.

And he then later admits there is a "plateau-ing" in the last 10 years! Yee Gods! set up the straw man and then move quickly on. He seems to have form.

Also liked the admission you could make a case it has plateaued recently but not to worry it has in the past too. Er, yes Richard you can also see from your pretty graph that early 20 th Century temperatures rose in a simlar way to today as well, what are we to make of that? he was silent there. :)

The more I see the more the man smells of cargo cult through and through he puffs his chest out and talks about "demolishing" argument later on.

I love his self appraisal of his own selections and summation of the investigations with a conclusory smug "something of a pattern emerging there", couldn't help being reminded of Al Gore with another bit of of a rhetorical flourish about the ice core record "do they ever match" ;)

Another clincher for me of his bogosity, was this bit of chinstroking puffery:

"David Shukman as often made the point that there is a qualitative difference between eveidence between observation and eveidence from models." "No sh*t sherlock!

Nov 3, 2011 at 10:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

The one thing that stands out is that Black shows a complete lack of any scientific understanding. It's incredible that a non-scientist BBC employee is lecturing to his fellow non-scientists in he BBC so that they can spread the non-scientific propaganda to the BBC licence-fee payers.

With any other audience, his words would be greeted with hoots of derision.

Nov 3, 2011 at 10:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby


"Isn't the BBC pension fund heavily invested in 'green' technologies and renewables?"

Their pension investments are shown on their website and no they are not heavily invested in 'green' but yes they do hold 'green' investments.

The bigger question, much bigger than the reach of Black, is in the data quality: is the rise an artefact of the data handling? In other words, is the rise anthropogenic or is the data itself anthropogenic? I believe he is missing a monumental scoop. But with the attitude he shows, well, he would, wouldn't he.

Nov 3, 2011 at 10:21 PM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth

Got to be more accurate with his Shukman quote:

"David Shukman's often made the point, and I completely agree with him, that there's a qualitative difference between evidence from observation and eveidence from models."

Nov 3, 2011 at 10:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement


Black uses what he says is a "very simple non-statistical exercise" and expects the results to be meaningful!!!!

He just doesn't understand science or statistics.

Just compare the level of scientific knowledge and sophistication between his blog on Best data;

and this

No comparison.

Nov 3, 2011 at 10:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterScientist

Black talks about science with the certainty of someone with no scientific background. Anyone who has undergone even the most basic scientific training avoids forthright statements whenever possible. Notice how dismissive Black is about anything that might challenge his cherished AGW viewpoint. The true scientist considers all possible faults with a theory and proceeds cautiously.
As has been said previously, the man is an advocate and a propaganda device for the green movement.

Nov 3, 2011 at 10:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Jones

OK, I'm a newbie to the junior job that I got at the BBC after replying to that advert in the Guardian.
I'd believe every word he said and would leave that session with three main points.
One, wow he's good. Maybe, one day, I'll get to where he is.
Two, the science is indeed settled and
Three, anyone that says otherwise will get short thrift from me!

Nov 3, 2011 at 10:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

The test for Black is this

the addition of 2010 data made the period 1995 - 2010 show warming at the 95% level, whereas 1995 -2009 did not show any warming at that level of confidence.

2011 is now almost certainly going to be cooler than any of the last ten years. This will lower the rate of warming seen between 1995 and 2011 to below the 95% of significance.

So will Richard Black run a headline correcting his previous story along the lines of;

"new global temperature data shows no significant warming since 1995"

Wait and see if he does....

Nov 3, 2011 at 10:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterDismayed in BBC

It has to be remembered that the BBC has gradually been downgrading its science coverage by linking it with the environment and nature (go follow the links at the BBC). The environmental aspects have taken front stage and science has taken a back stage. The environmental reporters have dominated any science coverage and there is no true independent scientific coverage anymore. Black, Shukman and Harrabin dominate the field and none of them has any scientific background.

Nov 3, 2011 at 10:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Phillip Bratby is correct.

The BBC's science coverage has been v poor since David Whitehouse left, who was the only one there I took any notice of. he knew what he was talking about and when he didn't he said so.

Looking on his website he has won many awards for his journalism. How many awards have harrabin, Shukman, Black, Ghosh, McGourty won?

Nov 3, 2011 at 10:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterP Dickey

Here's part of a message from George Monbiot today in the BBC situations-vacant newsletter.
"I engaged in what psychologists call protective cognition. I started scouring his findings for reasons to reject them. It took an effort of will to shake myself out of it and remember that the intellectually honest response to new information is to adjust our beliefs to the evidence, rather than adjust the evidence to our beliefs. We must question and test new findings of course, but we must do so as dispassionately as possible. Otherwise we are in danger of doing more harm than good"
Mr Black will never suffer from this type of introspection. His beliefs are unshakeable and no amount of adverse evidence will get past his Chobham-armoured defences.
The better the Preacher, the worse the Teacher.

Nov 3, 2011 at 10:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

Simply jaw-hanging. What an incoherent shambles of misrepresentation, fabrication and bluster - the man *should* be an embarrassment to the BBC. If they tolerate this cr*p then they're not worth a light. I used to hold this institution in the highest regard, but since they're intent on apeing Pravda from the 1970s, stuff the lot of them.

Blackwhite. Orwell saw him coming.

Nov 3, 2011 at 10:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterSayNoToFearmongers

One word 'wicked' - Black should be booted out of the BBC pronto. If he had spent five minutes and actually fact checked what he presented with someone who actually knew what they were talking about - he would have to revise almost every side.

Errors in logic, errors in statistical analysis and significance, errors by omission...

Also the fact he can present something like this and not have _any_ questions on the basic errors as given is highly indicative of how incompetent the rest of them are as well; "In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king" - unfortunately the king is missing a few marbles as well...

Can we have Lord Monckton do a talk to the BBC on the other side of the debate? Go on Richard Black - give him a call!

Nov 3, 2011 at 10:41 PM | Unregistered Commenterkeith

My search for a decent, honourable, admirable person in a prominent position pushing alarm over climate trends has been so fruitless that I am in danger of becoming a dyed-in-wool cynic. Mr Black does not help me in any way whatsoever.

Nov 3, 2011 at 10:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

The Jones report described (page 69) hiding the deadline as “a simplification of an image for the cover of a report”, so the significance was apparently lost on Prof Jones too. You can speculate about the reason for both Messrs Black and Jones wishing to play down that particular device for hiding uncertainties, but it does leave you wondering whether either of them is genuinely interested in getting at the truth.

As for Richard Black’s temperature versus time graph starting at about 1850, you don’t need any scientific training to point out the weakness in the argument he puts forward. If that represents the standard of BBC science journalism, then it’s time the BBC hired some proper scientists.

Nov 3, 2011 at 11:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterIsis

There seems to be s trend..." Black says of the post-climategate reports.

He doesn't ask the obvious question: if the scientists are somehow "vindicated", then why do they also say "more transparency is needed"? If indeed the pattern of reports calls for more transparency, what was the harm in lacking it? What were the damages to scientific information? Who did it? And why?

Nov 3, 2011 at 11:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterOrson

He gets more insane by the day!

Nov 3, 2011 at 11:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterPete H

From the current BBC Royal Charter Agreement:-

44. Accuracy and impartiality

(1) The BBC must do all it can to ensure that controversial subjects are treated with due
accuracy and impartiality in all relevant output.

(3) The UK Public Services must not contain any output which expresses the opinion of the
BBC or of its Trust or Executive Board on current affairs or matters of public policy...

Has anybody at the BBC ever read it?

Nov 3, 2011 at 11:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterFoxgoose

He does not understand "hide the decline" to this day. He thinks it was a matter of "reconciling" [his word] tree ring records and thermometer records. No, Black, it was replacing tree ring records with thermometer records to hide the decline in the tree ring records, a key piece of evidence for the hockey stick graph. As I explained at the time on the Guardian site, the act was based on a conscious and deliberate choice to hide the fact that, for the last forty years, the tree ring evidence no longer showed increasing temperatures but decreasing temperatures. Climategaters simply tossed evidence that ran against them.

Nov 3, 2011 at 11:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

I am afraid after doing some digging that I cannot take that CRU graph seriously anymore.

Some time ago when Warwick Hughes finally got his hands on the list of Stations Phil Jones used I compared the CRU figures to the BOM figures here

As that good old lefty John Pilger once said, "It is not the news you hear that you have to worry about , it is the news that you don't hear" could be changed to "It is not the data you use that you have to worry about , it is the data that you don't use"

Here is what happened to Halls Creek (which by my calculations is extrapolated over at least 15% of Australia's land mass) in 1999 '

Similar treatment for

Note the changes to the 1961 - 1990 baseline.

Nov 3, 2011 at 11:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterRipper

Eh! did he just go through an excersise in listing 10 year periods and just subtracting single data point values from each to show 1998 is "cherry picked" as a decline!? I mean who has done that with a straight face?

Nov 3, 2011 at 11:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

I know people who have done that.

PS: It is an 'oops' double-post.

Nov 3, 2011 at 11:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

a true believer at work. Chilling. Truly chilling.

Nov 4, 2011 at 12:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterDolphinhead

I know people who have done that.

Fair enough. I can see why Black went for those people then, not the most impressive choice of leviathan to demolish;) Also I can hardly be impressed by Black painfully enumerating the fact that subtracting the previous 10 figures from the upward slope to to the 10 figures in a plateau yields mostly upward 2 point trends ;)

Nov 4, 2011 at 12:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

nice to see how the convinced pass on their beliefs to the next generation at the Beeb, explains a lot.

would be nice to see the MET equivalent, notice how it's all "mad weather, ouch this looks bad, never seen this before from forcasters" slight change of tact, but make sure you still you scare the sh*t of your audience.

Nov 4, 2011 at 12:15 AM | Unregistered Commenterdougieh

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