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Roger Harrabin, The BBC And The Agnostic Majority

An amusing paper in which the great and good of the climate narrative sit around and mull over what they have achieved and what they would like to achieve. This appears to have been recorded at a series of panels in front of an invited audience a few months back. There are several panels, but the interesting one involves Mike Hulme, Roger Harrabin and Oliver Morton:

I was amused by some of Harrabin’s contributions, in particular this one:

What we appear to have constructed in climate change is a bunch of people who say, ‘I’m really worried about the future. I’m really worried about climate change’; a small group of people who say, ‘I don’t give a damn. It’s not going to happen. Humans can’t change the planet’; and quite a lot of people in the middle who say, ‘Well actually, I don’t know. I hear these competing voices and I don’t know’. Now, there is another potential narrative which runs like this: ‘There is massive consensus that humans have changed the planet already and will almost certainly change it some more. There is not a great deal of consensus about  quite how future climate change will impact and what emission scenarios are tied to temperature outcomes and at the extreme end those scenarios are extremely scary and at the narrow end they are probably quite simple to cope with. We don’t know which we are going to end up with’. That becomes more of a narrative of risk and risk avoidance and takes you into politics. Somehow we have failed to tell that [narrative]. It’s not taken very long for me to tell it but over the years those of us in the media have failed properly to inform people about this issue because we’re constantly pulled into ‘Oh, we’ve got to have somebody saying something completely different’. Climategate was a real problem for the public consciousness. It seemed like something dodgy had gone on. Now I’ve looked very deeply into Climategate and I can’t find any smoking gun at all. But I’ve also followed the enquiries into Climategate, and in my view they were all inadequate. So if you were looking on from the outside, from a suspicious viewpoint, you would be continuing to say, ‘There is a scam. They are cheating us. The enquiries haven’t looked into the issue properly’ — because they haven’t. It allows this continual erosion of a middle ground position.

I love the way he says that “somehow” he and his colleagues in the mainstream media have failed to give a balanced view of the climate debate. One can’t help wondering whether his own long-term campaign to remove sceptical voices from the airwaves might not have something to do with this failure, at least as far as the BBC is concerned. After all, the idea that man is changing the climate but that the effects will be limited and well within the scope of human adaptability is mainstream among sceptics. But these are the very people Harrabin believes should not be allowed a voice. When he was inviting people to his 2006 seminar on climate change coverage, how many of those sceptics espousing such middle ground positions did he invite? It seems clear that he invited almost nothing but green campaigners and moreover he put Lord May in charge of the sessions. This is not the action of someone who is trying to expand the middle ground or, if truth is told, even someone who is trying to “erode” it. It is the action of someone who is trying to utterly destroy it to advance a political agenda.

We don’t know whether the BBC seminar covered climate change economics, but we could wonder how many mainstream economists would be invited to such an event at the BBC. Since the Stern report appeared, the extreme assumptions on which Stern based his findings have gone almost unmentioned on the BBC. Time after time after time we are presented with Stern’s conclusions as if this was a piece of mainstream of academic work. “Somehow” the truth has never been told here either.

And what about the Climate Wars programme or anything passing the lips of Richard Black? Expansion of the middle ground or a voice for extremists on one side of the argument? Or the treatment of McIntyre, the man who has had the temerity to point to problems with the paleoclimate reconstructions but accepts the manmade global warming hypothesis; the man who has been nominated one of the most important people on the face of the planet but whose contributions to the climate debate have “somehow” been virtually ignored by the BBC. Expansion of the middle ground? Truth-seeking behaviour?

You decide.