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Two pieces of government propaganda advertising that twist nursery rhymes (and heartstrings) to raise climate change awareness have been banned by the Advertising Standards Agency. The adverts have been struck down for exaggerating the mainstream scientific consensus over the effects of climate change, with the ASA noting that even the environmentalist’s bible, the IPCC report, ‘involved uncertainties’ that weren’t reflected in the adverts.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change concedes that they should have been more ‘tentative’ in their language, instead of broadcasting the most extreme potential outcome of climate change as fact, by making claims such as ‘extreme weather events would become more frequent and intense’.

This is typical arrogant and bullying government behavior if you can’t get your point across through reasoned argument, warp, exaggerate and distort the facts. While this might be common procedure within Westminster, the ASA has quite rightly found this rather irresponsible. It was also a gross misuse of public money. This isn’t the first time that the government’s enthusiasm for behavior-altering climate change propaganda has crossed the mark. Following nearly 1,000 complaints from viewers, Ofcom has launched an investigation into the now notorious ‘bedtime stories’ video.

Under the Communications Act, government advertising can provide ‘public services’ such as whinging about drink driving or obesity. What they can’t do, however, is to broadcast adverts seeking to ‘influence public opinion on a matter of public controversy’. And, despite repeated statements from the government that ‘the science is settled’ on man-made global warming and that anyone who disagrees is a ‘flat-earther’, the public are not so convinced. In a Populus poll last month, only 26% respondents agreed that climate change is happening and is largely man made. Of the remainder, 38% believed that climate change is not yet proven to be largely man-made, 10% believed environmental propaganda unfairly blames climate change on men, while 25% believe that ‘climate change is not happening’.

‘Bedtime Stories’ is out and out propaganda that seeks to both change the public’s behavior, and parades opinion as fact. Hopefully, Ofcom will recognize this. Scaremongering and myth have no place in a government, and every small step they take in this direction leads us closer to the Two Minute Hate.

Adam Smith Institute, 22 March 2010