The BBC has announced a series of measures to make it more difficult to challenge green narratives on the BBC, and this is obviously going to lead to new waves of ecodrivel on the national broadcaster's output. Surprisingly, or perhaps not, the Guardian's Catherine Bennett is exuding a certain cheeriness and general satisfaction with this state of affairs.
Following successful complaints, we should soon be hearing much less – on the BBC at least – from the climate change hobbyist Lord Lawson. An edition of the Today programme that treated the former chancellor's outlandish hunches to the same sober consideration as the evidence-based conclusions of Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, of Imperial College London, has led to an apology – and a further reconsideration of editorial balance. Having assessed the Lawson v the Academic Mainstream dialogue, in which the former remarked that 2013 had been "unusually quiet" for tropical storms, the head of the BBC's Complaints Unit said: "Minority opinions and sceptical views should not be treated as if it were on an equal footing with the scientific consensus."
For the avoidance of doubt, tropical storms were indeed unusually low in 2013, so let I will just say charitably that Ms Bennett's insinuation that it was otherwise suggests she may not be the sharpest tool in the box. But she wouldn't be the first Guardian journalist to suffer from learning difficulties.
Ms Bennett is also turning her grey matter to the juicy question of who else might be excluded from the airwaves and concludes that religious people should be next.
But proponents of the slippery slope argument must be asking: where will it all end? Is irrationality itself at risk? If a man of Lord Lawson's stature can be marginalised simply for promulgating obviously fanatical rubbish supported only by anecdote and untested assertions, what could this mean for, say, religious authorities who are deferred to far more regularly than he ever was? Must they, too, be denied their traditional platform, condemning the fashionable consensus on anything from gay marriage and abortion to Sunday trading and the right to die, for no better reason than these activities contravene some personal take on holy writ?
It does seem a little unfair, for example, that while Lawson is discouraged from airing opinions that occasionally had to do with actual weather conditions, a religious campaigner such as Andrea Williams, a member of the General Synod and chief spokesperson for her own pressure group, Christian Concern, should continue to be accepted as a respectable pundit......
Such liberal spirits! Couldn't they just shortcut the process and silence everyone except the BBC and the Guardian?
Meanwhile, it's interesting to observe in action the BBC's new policy of sidelining views outwith the scientific consensus (H/T to and transcript by Alex Cull). On the World at One the other day we had a piece on fracking from David Shukman. This was moderately balanced, although not so balanced that Shukman didn't bring up the old "taps on fire" story (which might be better renamed as the "pants on fire" story - it's almost as if it's simply too good a story for the "science" corps at the BBC to let go of). Nevertheless it's interesting to see it given a completely uncritical airing by Shukman. I had thought that the BBC said that fringe views on science would be announced as such.
But perhaps there's a get-out for BBC journalists.
In the same show we had an interview with Charles Perry, a former director of BP's renewables business.
Shaun Ley: Well, Charles Perry was Director of BP Green Energy, the division of that major energy company which looked at future investment options outside of traditional oil and gas - he went on to co-found a consultancy called SecondNature. Charles Perry, what do you make of this?
Charles Perry: Yes, it's unconventional for a reason, which means it's difficult to extract. And fracking is not just about gas, it's also about oil. So as Rob says, you know, 650 metres or 800 metres - is that close enough for comfort, when Britain's aquifers provide 70% of the drinking water in the southeast? So if we were to poison our drinking water - I mean, clearly, being an island, um, we would, you know, have a huge risk on our hands.
Shaun Ley: Indeed, I mean, the use of the word "poisoned" is quite loaded - I mean, talking to David, he was saying that for example, with gas, the big concern is about methane. Methane isn't poisonous per se, but there could be a - what's regarded as a risk from - a potential risk from explosions.
Charles Perry: Well, we know from what's going on in America that I don't think "poison" is too strong a word, because in some cases you can actually light the water. Now I don't think you would want to drink water which you can actually set alight.
Shaun Ley: Those are big, big operations. Do you think - are you concerned, then, that there isn't, in your judgement, a safe way of extracting this gas? Given the argument that was being advanced, that actually the gaps are quite wide in quite large parts of the area, particularly in the north of England, where the aquifer - the gap between the aquifer and the rock that the companies might want to get to, is at least 800 metres.
Charles Perry: Yes, I mean, well, this is the thing about the government subsidisation for fracking all across the country, regardless of what the risks are and what the aquifer landscape looks like. So I think, you know, the government's taken some bad advice on just carte-blanche subsidising the fossil fuel industry. And - as you know Lord Browne, my old boss at BP, would say - they don't need subsidies in the fossil fuel industry, they've been subsidised for hundreds of years, and in fact the G20 is committed to abolishing fossil-fuel subsidies. And the other point is: Britain's engineering and innovation talent is highly valued but it's in short supply. So should we absorb Britain's engineering talent in trying to get our difficult oil and gas from shale, or should we be incentivising the low-carbon economy and, you know, clean energy?
Shaun Ley: Charles Perry, thank you very much.
The false to true ratio is rather amazing there wouldn't you say?
Interestingly, the fact that Perry is one of Al Gore's trained climate activists was not mentioned. Nor was the fact that his views on fracking are very far from the scientific consensus on the issue. Which is really strange because I am absolutely sure that the BBC has just issued a number of statements that suggest that this kind of thing shouldn't happen. Why, we wonder, is Mr Perry given this apparently favourable treatment?
Is it 'cos he's a green?
Over at Salon, they are salivating at the prospect of a complete black out for dissenting views on climate.
Were every network to start doing what the BBC is, their unfounded opinions would cease to be heard, Bill Nye wouldn’t have to keep debating them, and maybe, just maybe, they’d all just go away.
While we're about it, how about a one-stop shop for "sound" views on climate change?
The BBC is going in for some naked propagandising on behalf of the green movement this morning.