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The BBC's misinformation box

According to BBC News, the head of the engineering firm Weir Group has said that the nascent shale gas industry is on the back foot because of all the disinformation that is being put out:

Spin is "beating science" in the debate over fracking in Scotland, the head of the Weir Group has claimed.

Keith Cochrane, chief executive of the engineering firm, said that he feared Scotland would be left behind in the global market place.

You can see his point, particularly as the BBC has provided a perfect example of the spin Mr Cochrane was talking about, accompanying the story with a box that is indistinguishable from the worst kind of environmentalist disinformation. Has anyone else noticed that this same set of half-truths accompanies almost every BBC news story on unconventional oil and gas?

I have pointed this out to more than one senior journalist at the BBC and while they didn't dispute that it is misleading they don't seem to feel they have any responsibility to see it corrected because they were not personally responsible for authoring it. 

Your taxes at work.


The BBC: an advertising agency for greens

Once again demonstrating the curious ability of environmental NGOs to get their press releases reported by the BBC, the corporation has today decided that the big news on the science front are claims issued by a US green group called the World Resources Institute. According to the BBC:

The number of people affected by river flooding worldwide could nearly triple in the next 15 years, analysis shows.

Climate change and population growth are driving the increase, according to the World Resources Institute (WRI).

In the UK, about 76,000 people a year could be at risk of being affected by flooding if defences aren't improved, it says.

Click to read more ...


Quote of the day, witchhunt edition

Mr. Grijalva’s letters convey an unstated but perfectly clear threat: Research disputing alarm over the climate should cease lest universities that employ such individuals incur massive inconvenience and expense—and scientists holding such views should not offer testimony to Congress. After the Times article, Sens. Edward Markey (D., Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.) and Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.) also sent letters to numerous energy companies, industrial organizations and, strangely, many right-of-center think tanks (including the Cato Institute, with which I have an association) to unearth their alleged influence peddling.

Richard Lindzen in the Wall Street journal


Historical horizon

So, I have now managed to watch the BBC Horizon show looking back at the way the corporation has covered the climate change issue since its beginning.

The first thing to say is that it was clearly from the same propaganda-lite stable as Climate Change by Numbers, with official lines on the climate issue repeated dutifully and unquestioningly from beginning to end. The only point at which the litany was interrupted was a segment on the effect of clouds from Tomorrow's World which was interesting and scientific and - icing on the cake - was even rounded off with presenter Helen Czerski noting that the effect of clouds was still unsettled.

Click to read more ...


Horizon open thread

Here's an open thread for those who want to discuss the BBC Horizon show on climate change coverage.


Hunting the witchhunters

Shub Niggurath has been hard at work, following up some oddities in the disclosures Joe Romm and colleagues made in a journal article about their funding. It's fair to say that the chief witchhunter seems to have been well and truly hunted down himself:

Not only do Koomey and Romm fail to disclose funding, they expressly state the opposite trying to morally berate a fellow scientist.

Read the whole thing.


New Yorkers want to secede to ensure their homes are destroyed by earthquakes and their drinking water poisoned

“I HONESTLY thought it was a joke,” says Sandy Pinney. She means the threat that Windsor, her hometown, along with 14 other towns along New York’s border with Pennsylvania, may secede and join Pennsylvania. But it is deadly serious.

The towns are in New York’s Southern Tier. They sit on top of the Marcellus Shale, which is full of natural gas. New Yorkers, unlike their Pennsylvanian neighbours, are not allowed to tap the gas because of a state ban on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) announced by Andrew Cuomo, the governor, on December 17th.

It's remarkable that these people in New York State can look at their near-neighbours' homes being destroyed by earthquakes, their drinking water poisoned, their livestock killed, their domestic appliances turned into flamethrowers and they actually want to share in the carnage! And they are saying that if their political leaders prevent it then they are willing to jump ship and transfer their allegiance to Pennsylvania in order to ensure that they jolly well can have their lives ruined.

Some people eh?


Climate Change by Numbers

Updated on Mar 3, 2015 by Registered CommenterBishop Hill

I almost gave up on Climate Change by Numbers last night. By ten o'clock I was flagging fast and not really getting a lot from it which is a pity because it could have been brilliant.

The presentation was really well done. I thought the decision to have three different presenters paid off in spades and the producers did well to come up with three such engaging people - Norman Fenton, Hannah Fry and David Spiegelhalter - to front the show. I liked the style of having them completely separate and avoiding the cheesy infills that TV people seem to like so much. The decision to get just a little bit closer to the maths was a good one and the radical step of showing equations on screen seemed like a bit of a breakthrough.

Click to read more ...


Countdown to alarm - Josh 317

Posted by Josh

I thought the BBC 4 programme 'Climate change by numbers' started well (and I am a big fan of Hannah Fry). But sadly it descended into the usual climate change innuendo and alarm.

The first number was fine - 0.85˚C is not scary and not catastrophic. 

The second number, 95%, was, as ever, vague and hand wavy. So the 50% of the warming since 1950s we've caused amounts to... maybe 0.3˚C? So not that much after all. And the pause continues. And Arrhenius was wrong about the ice ages. And there's lots of uncertainty. How is Chelsea doing?

Worse was that by the third number the programme had left the planet and decided that the 0.3˚C warming had magically turned into 1˚C warming and we simply must do something about it. Or else.

Nice try BBC, great start by Hannah but it needed a medic by the end. At this rate I'm not sure the patient will make it all the way to Paris.

The number 63 comes from here.

Cartoons by Josh


By the numbers open thread

This is an open thread for anyone who wants to discuss Climate Change by the Numbers. I'll set some thoughts down in the morning.

Readers may also be interested in the post-match thoughts of one of the presenters, Norman Fenton.


Quote of the day, chutzpah edition

As a social scientist and policy researcher with a particular interest and involvement in the media I’ve long been frustrated by the predominant tactics aimed at mobilising public concern. Phrases like “the science is finished” and “the greatest challenge facing humanity” have sought to enrol the public and politicians in a grand cause. But these approaches may alienate as many as they attract.

This comes from Joe Smith, in an article at the Conversation. Smith's career to date involves trying to get just these kind of messages on the BBC airwaves, preferably by stealth.


Another line for Gordon's political epitaph

Having used his time in office to slap a supertax on the oil industry, Gordon Brown is now demanding massive state intervention to fend off the collapse of the North Sea drilling industry:

He is suggesting a number of measures that he said could help the industry, including;

  • A North Sea reserve to maintain and upgrade essential infrastructure and to provide "last-resort" debt finance for companies who want to keep fields open.
  • UK government co-investment through public-private partnerships.
  • Government loans.
  • And advance purchase agreements.

Mr Brown said: "In the most extreme cases, to avoid the field being mothballed in its entirety, the government could go into partnership for a take-over of the field.

"If it is temporarily abandoned, the government should act to ensure that sometime in the future it is possible to come back and exploit the oil.

To be fair, the situation has not been helped by low oil prices, but I think it's fair to say that the political establishment had pretty much done for the North Sea already. That, I suppose, needs to be added to the list of misdemeanours on several political epitaphs, including the particularly lengthy list of Mr Brown's.


How wrong can the Guardian be?

Less food for more people on a hotter, drier Earth. How can we work to avoid this future?

That's the standfirst on the Guardian's editorial on food security this morning, introducing a more-than-usually daft dose of apocalytic predictions from the once-great journal. You know the kind of thing:

The big heat has yet to arrive. It will be catastrophic.

I'm struggling with their idea that the world is going to get drier. I thought it was supposed to be basic thermodynamics that greenhouse warming is going to produce more water vapour and therefore more rain? Anyone would think that the Guardian was just making up fairy stories for the entertainment of their readers.

This impression is confirmed elsewhere in the editorial, which makes it fairly clear that it is written as a trailer for the Paris climate conference. Also as part of the apparent push is a new paper cited by the Graun that claims to find a link between recent temperatures in Europe and stagnation of grain yields. Doug Keenan will no doubt be interested in its claim that there has been statistically significant warming in Europe in recent years. Watchers of the scientivist movement will be intrigued to see that the paper is edited by Ben Santer. Quite what a climate modeller is doing involved in a statistical analysis of crop yields is anyone's guess.

I also noted the use of "business as usual" with respect to the concentration pathways underlying the predictions of 4 degree warming. This is of course not true, but that has rarely concerned the Guardian.  Tim Worstall is similarly unimpressed with the treatment of emissions and CO2 concentrations, but for different reasons.

So in summary, Guardian editorial is drivel.

It's not really news is it?




Diary dates, look back in anger edition

Readers are no doubt looking forward to tonight's Climate Change by Numbers on BBC4, which promises to be the talking point on the climate blogs for a couple of days at least. It turns out, however, that there is another BBC show on climate this week:

Today, the topic of climate change is a major part of daily life, yet 40 years ago it was virtually unheard of. Since then, Horizon and the BBC have followed scientists as they have tried to unpick how the climate works and whether it is changing. Dr Helen Czerski delves into this unique archive to chart the transformation of a little-known theory into one of the greatest scientific undertakings in history. It has been a constantly surprising journey of discovery that has revolutionised our understanding of climate, and seen scientists face unprecedented controversy and criticism.

Czerski, you may recall, won plaudits for her intelligent coverage of the Antarctic sea ice issue a few weeks ago.

There is a trailer for the show here.



The BBC on climate, circa 2007

While trawling through my archives last night I came across a dead link, which I was fortunately able to resurrect through the Internet Archive. Well worth a look.

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