BBC on Overselling Climate Science

Roger Pielke Jr. describes the BBC program “A load of hot air?” This is a good and useful example of fresh air. Maybe it will help break the gridlock on climate policy.

The BBC has a really excellent half-hour program on the overselling of climate science. A short news story accompanies the program, but it is really worth listening to the program in full, and it is available here. The program makes a compelling case that climate science has, in many instances, been oversold. A central focus on the program is the path between scientific publication, official press release, and media reporting. The BBC program finds fault at all three stops. I have a few thoughts on the program after the jump.

First, the BBC critiques a number of areas of arguably exaggerated climate science and a card-carrying climate skeptic is nowhere to be found. This is smart and responsible reporting, given the intense politicization of the climate issue. In a comment posted at the Climate Audit weblog the producer of the piece explains (in response to an earlier comment about the program’s conclusion that it should give skeptics little comfort — a conclusion that the earlier commenter called a “rider”),

I produced the documentary. I think what you describe as the rider was important because we wanted to move beyond the sceptics v believers argument. I think the programme was better for not featuring sceptics, that the true believers could just dismiss.

Climate science needs to be put under the same degree of public scrutiny as politics, business and other scientific fields. This can’t happen if you have to choose to be either a partisan sceptic or an uncritical believer.



It would be oh-so-easy for someone to simply dismiss the BBC story had they not carefully chosen who they interviewed. On numerous occasions the program clearly described that the people that they were interviewing actually believe that climate change is real and a problem. As the news story accompanying the program notes,

All of the climate scientists we spoke to fervently believe global warming is being caused by human activity. Many agree there’s also a major problem with alarmism. As one scientist said: “If we cry wolf too loudly or too often, no-one will believe us when the beast actually comes for dinner.”

Don’t jump to conclusions before you read all of Roger’s piece, and listen to the BBC Radio 4 program [about 27 minutes total].

Ed. note: evidently the BBC hasn’t heard of podcasting as yet – the program is only available as %@!& “Real Audio” so you’ll need real-time recording software to convert this into a useable audio file. E.g., Audio Hijack Pro. What a pain – I do hope Real Audio goes away soon – down with proprietary formats!