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Why the BBC Was Wrong to Make Reindeer Climate Scare

The Global Warming Policy Forum

In a recent BBC programme, Simon Reeve made the alarming assertion that reindeer populations across Northern Russia were “in steep decline because of climate change”. The BBC have now admitted that this claim was false. It is just the latest instance in their attempts to whip up public alarm at the consequences of climate change and ignore scientific evidence which contradicts climate alarmism.

The false claim was made during the first episode of the recent BBC2 series: Russia with Simon Reeve. Writing to the BBC, Lord Lawson pointed out that according to a 2016 study, 17 out of 19 sub-populations of Eurasian Reindeer were now either increasing in number, or had a stable population trend.

This paper and others observational studies have documented that other factors have been responsible for recent fluctuations in reindeer populations. Political factors have played the most significant role, and in particular the collapse of the Soviet Union. Konstantin Klokov, of St Petersburg State University, concludes that “the effect of the political context is so large as to conceal the impact of other natural factors on reindeer populations such as climate change.”


The BBC have now accepted the evidence, but have published a typically mealy-mouthed correction which reads: “This programme suggested that many reindeer populations are in steep decline because of climate change. It would have been more accurate to say that many reindeer populations are threatened by it.”

Indeed, this would have been less inaccurate, given that the claim is blatantly false. But even the assertion that they are “threatened” is highly questionable given their growing populations. Sadly, this kind of speculative claim is entirely predictable because any prediction of future climate disaster is impossible to verify, yet likely to be believed by a great many people.

Attempting to provide evidence for the claim that reindeers were “threatened” by climate change, the Executive Producer of the programme, Sam Bagnall, cited a recent mass starvation event in the Yamal Peninsula in which 60,000 reindeer died as rapidly freezing rainwater prevented them from eating the lichen beneath. However, his claim that some scientists have “predicted” these events may become more frequent is based upon speculation and lacks any empirical support. A recently published analysis has found “no robust trend” in the frequency of these so-called ‘Rain-on-Snow’ (ROS) events.

In fact, the Yamal Government has decided to cull 100,000 of these domesticated reindeer because experts have told them that the region has more reindeer than it can support. It turns out that the high population of reindeer in the Yamal peninsula is posing an environmental risk of its own.

The correction should encourage more BBC viewers to come forward whenever they see exaggerated or inaccurate claims being broadcast on the BBC.