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Has The BBC Banned All Non-Alarmist Views?

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Peter Lilley, Bishop Hill

Peter Lilley has issued the following press release.

BBC PUTS IMPARTIALITY AT RISK BY ATTEMPTS TO CENSOR AND DISCREDIT MPs

The BBC is undermining its reputation for impartiality by apologising for “giving a voice” to two MPs and by putting a ‘health warning’ on the BBC website casting doubt on their credibility – even though the accuracy of what they said is not disputed: says Peter Lilley MP in a letter to the Director General.  

He added: “It is particularly outrageous that the BBC should try to discredit the only two scientifically qualified MPs who served on the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee; absurd to suggest my views are “outside the scientific consensus” when I said on the programme that I accept the proven science of global warming though my views on the likely amount of warming are at the “lukewarm” end of the range given by the IPCC; thoroughly unscientific to claim the Met Office views are upheld by scientists when, on the matter under discussion, their predictions had been falsified; and discourteous to publish these insulting and untrue remarks without even informing me.”

The letter in full:

Dear Lord Hall,

I would be grateful for the opportunity to come and discuss with you the following issue which calls into question the impartiality of the BBC.

The BBC has published an apology relating to the programme What’s the Point of the Met Office for “giving voice to climate sceptics” and because it “failed to make clear that they are a minority, out of step with the scientific consensus”.   I has also posted a note on its website to similar effect specifically referring to “comments by MPs” making it clear that it refers to me (and also Graham Stringer) and casting doubts on our credibility.

It is particularly ludicrous that the BBC should behave in this heavy handed way about a light hearted programme in a series poking fun at everything form the Methodist Church to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.   It should have told critics to get a sense of humour – not insulted participants in that show and put the BBC’s impartiality at risk.

The apology and the note are offensive, inaccurate and based on a false premise.   It is sad and in conflict with its own Charter that the BBC has again bowed to attempts by environmental campaigners to censor any views less strident than their own.

Any one reading these apologies will assume:

a)      That something I said was factually untrue.   In fact my remarks were demonstrably true and not even the Met Office have challenged a word I said.   (The Met Office did publish in 2004 with much fanfare a forecast that the world would warm by 0.3oC by 2014 whereas there was no statistically significant increase in temperature over that period.)

b)      Or that, although what I said was accurate on this occasion, I am not to be trusted in general.   That is an outrageous and possibly libellous slur.

c)       And that I will probably not be “given voice” on the BBC in future on matters relating to energy and climate change (despite my service on the Select Committees on Energy and Climate Change and on Environmental Audit) and if I am – and even if what I say is factually correct – it will always be accompanied by a health warning to listeners casting doubt on its accuracy and my credibility.

The BBC justifies this extraordinary approach by asserting that mine is a “minority voice, out of line with the scientific consensus”.   The notion that scientific truth is established by a show of hands is itself absurd[1].   But it is not true that I reject the consensus as I made clear in the programme when Mr Letts specifically asked me about this:

Quentin LettsAre you a total sceptic, on man-made climate change? 
Peter LilleyNo, I studied physics at Cambridge, so I accept the basic thesis that … a lot more CO2 in the atmosphere, will marginally warm up the Earth. But I’m what’s known as a “lukewarmist”, one who thinks that there won’t be much warming as a result of it, and that’s the scientifically proven bit of the theory – anything going on the alarmist scale is pure speculation.

There is no scientific consensus about the climate sensitivity – how much warming will follow from a doubling of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere.   The IPCC shows a wide range of estimates and in its last report for the first time was unable even to agree on a best estimate.   My ‘lukewarmist’ estimate falls within the range they show.

What is the minimum estimate of the climate sensitivity in which it is necessary to believe for the BBC to define someone as part of the “scientific consensus”, and to be allowed a voice on the airways without a demeaning health-warning?    Is there a maximum estimate beyond which a similar health warning will be given?   Or does the BBC take the view that no one can be too alarmist even if they are outside the “scientific consensus” or the range spelt out by the IPCC?

Is the BBC now saying that anyone who takes a less than alarmist view of the likely rate of global warming is outside the scientific consensus and must be publicly labelled as unreliable or excluded from the airwaves?

On what evidence does the BBC base its claim about the existence of a scientific consensus?   The only detailed and credible study of the views of climate scientists that I know of is that published by Bray and von Storch[2].  It shows that there is no consensus on many key aspects of climate science.   Their Figure below shows that if anyone is outside the consensus it is the Met Office which claimed that it could forecast a decade ahead but – as I reported in the programme – was falsified by the resultant observations.

I am personally less concerned about the harm to my reputation from the BBC’s decision to cast doubt on my credibility than about the serious damage this will inflict on the BBC’s own reputation for impartiality and veracity.    As someone brought up in a BBC household I have a considerable affection for the institution.    I hope you will try to restore the Corporation’s credibility by repudiating this unwarranted apology, taking down the insulting note from the website and giving me the assurance that I will neither be excluded from the airwaves nor subject to demeaning and unjustified slurs on my credibility should my views ever be reported by the BBC.

But we can discuss the best way to set matters right when we meet.

Yours sincerely

Rt Hon Peter Lilley MP

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