Mark writes :
Before you read the rest of Ros’s post…have a look at this
We got a number of complaints about yesterday’s programme. I’ve published several at the bottom of this post. The nub of the criticism is that we had too many climate change sceptics on the programme. So if you too had these concerns, here is why we invited the guests that you heard. It’s a long post, but I wanted to respond in detail….
Yesterday’s programme discussed if those who deny and question the nature and cause of climate change are a great threat to our planet. We decided upon this subject for two reasons.
Firstly, the leaked emails and the way they’ve been used by sceptics has clearly infuriated many people. Because of the leaked emails much to some people’s irritation the news agenda was dominated by consideration of the science and not by what deal can be struck at Copenhagen.
Secondly, all of last week we discussed with you the reasons for the underwhelming response that we get when we ask questions about climate change. Ask our audience what they’d like to happen in Copenhagen and the reality is that we get very few calls, emails, texts or blog comments. And this happens every time we discuss climate change.
So last week Mark posted about why you’re not engaging with the issue and we got a reasonably large response, with a number of you expressing doubts and confusion about the science that lies behind climate change negotiations.
And there is no doubt that some of that confusion is caused by those who keep the questions in the public eye.
So we had one discussion last week you showed little interest in (copenhagen), and one discussion you responded to (disengagement with climate change).
Then at yesterday’s meeting – we had two options as well. Talk about Copenhagen (Kevin Rudd’s role was announced over the weekend, as was the attendance of 60 world leaders), or talk about the emails and the way they were being used.
Again, when we looked at online response, the heat of the discussion was around the email, their contents and the motivation behind the leak. Copenhagen negotiations weren’t generating the same level of comment.
WHYS is about reflecting conversations that are happening, not about generating discussions or taking a position on what ought to be discussed. And that is why yesterday’s programme concentrated on climate change sceptics.
Now if you want to discuss a group of people you need to invite them onto the programme. So we did. Richard Lindzen from MIT, the author Christopher Booker and Patrick Michaels from the Cato Institute all have different positions but all have doubts about the majority view of climate change and what to do about it.
Also on the programme were Martin Ågerup, CEO of Centre for Political Studies in Copenhagen, Michael Tiampatti of of the Pastoralist Development Network of Kenya, and Bo Shellen of the Stockholm Environment Institute. All three believe that climate change is happening, is caused by mankind and requires urgent action.
The invited guests weren’t meant to reflect world opinion on climate change. They were there to represent the tension between those who who deny and question climate change, and those who feel this debate is preventing crucial decisions being taken.
Are keeping the debate alive as Laurie suggests?
No the debate is alive and well anyway. Just look online, and look at the reasons some people give for not doing more.
Are we suggesting that you should believe the sceptics as M suggests?
We’re not telling you do believe on thing or another. I did point out that the sceptics are in a minority. And asked repeatedly if they should feel grave concern that their attempts to stop a Copenhagen deal could endanger generations to come. You may well be wrong, I put to them several times.
Are we trying to create dramatic radio as M suggests?
We do not. Drama is not on the list of things we’re aiming to achieve.
Did we ignore the scientific consensus as Ben suggests?
Bo Shellen of the Stockholm Environment Institute has advised the EU and the Swedish government on climate change policy. He is one the best qualified people to represent the consensus. He spends his working day, arguing for it, and working on action to respond to it.
‘You gave a radical minority free, unchallenged airtime to pretend both that there is a still a “debate” on the reality of global warming, and to pretend that it is a debate that has so far not happened.”
The sceptics were challenged repeatedly by me and by some of the other guests. And there is still a debate. That fact may be infuriating but there is definitely still a debate. Every time we discuss climate change on WHYS, people tell us they don’t believe it’s as serious as is made out.
SOME OF THE COMPLAINTS THAT WE RECEIVED
Laurie, Oregon USA
Something like 95% of active climate researchers conclude that a significant fraction of 20th century warming was due to human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, and that by 2100 the human contribution will be totally dominant if we don’t change our energy production methods.
So, why do shows like WHYS today provide a forum for two of the world’s most prominent deniers, and only have two (weak) proponents of the consensus view? If you want the public to know what scientists really think, you should have had 19 scientists from the “AGW” camp for each denier.
So, the media are keeping the “debate” alive by skewing the talk show guest lists towards “fair and balanced”. I don’t have any problem with Professor Lindzen publishing research that challenges the current paradigm, but giving his view equal or higher weight to the “AGW” scientists is irresponsible.
I am very disappointed that the format of World Have Your Say is promoting the airing of opinions in a muddled, relativistic way, without sufficient critical capacity for learning. It’s just “he said, she said.” This can be seen most clearly in the current “debate” over the reality of climate change, and its implications.
We need to converge on what the science is telling us – not what this fringe person said, or that fringe person said. You may get cockamamie opinions from callers, but it seems to me you need to be sure the guests who frame your debate are truly literate in the science, and not merely shills for some ideology or special interest. IN the former camp are about 95% of scientists; in the latter, perhaps 5%. But on shows like yours and others, one gets the impression it’s much closer to 50%-50%.
And the science is clear enough. You do your listeners a disservice if that doesn’t come across.
Look, if I get 19 diagnoses form doctors that I have lung cancer and need treatment right away, and one doctor gives me a great herbal supplement that he says will cure me overnight – or better yet, that doctor denies I even have lung cancer – then who am I going to believe? Your show suggests I might just as well believe the 20th doctor as the other 19. As the result of falsely skewed debate like this, we are not learning, and we are not converging.
Without the capacity for learning and convergence, we are paralyzed. We might as well spend all our time worrying about whether 9/11 was a conspiracy of the CIA, or AIDS is not a virus, or any one of a number of other things for which there are plenty of people around who would like to promote a fringe perspective as, at best, one of two equally plausible alternatives.
Unfortunately, I fear your show, in its effort to promote good dramatic radio, has played into that. And incalculable damage is being done to our critical ability to act intelligently as a species – by your show and others.
What a shame, that even the BBC is suffering from this kind of “infotainment relativism.”
Dr Ben Young in the north of England
Re. World Have Your Say, 23rd Nov.
I simply cannot believe what you just broadcast.
In the time I was listening, you had *three* climate change deniers (including one from the Cato Institute – you might as well have had Bush himself); one feckless “moderate” voice from Copenhagen; and one sincere but easily discredited African correspondent.
No representatives of the scientific consensus were given airtime. Indeed, you gave your pundits space to make vacuous and evidence-free challenges to the consensus by undermining the IPCC, with no voices of response. You gave a radical minority free, unchallenged airtime to pretend both that there is a still a “debate” on the reality of global warming, and to pretend that it is a debate that has so far not happened.
Partly, I am concerned that you have fallen foul of coordinated media manipulation by climate-deniers. But primarily I am concerned that you have broken BBC guidelines. For in what sense was this a balanced debate? In the absence of eloquent and authoritative scientific views opposing the climate change-deniers, you have aired a biased and distortioned debate. I am therefore forwarding this email to the BBC complaints mail box, and also to Medialens.
Dr Ben Young
FROM KATHRYN IN THE UK
Dear Mr Atkins
Thank you for in some measure holding Christopher Booker in check on Monday’s programme, the man was driving me demented, dismissing all computer models out of hand, as if he were more expert than the collective brains of the IPCC….
I would have liked you to have another voice on the programme, in the studio, someone from well informed NON – denier of climate change camp, someone measured and articulate# to refute some of the spurious ideas of Mr Booker and Prof Lynton. Could you have achieved MORE balance. # eg Miles Allan from Oxford