The Reading Room

The BBC and climate denial

It’s been a long-held belief in the US Conservative movement that the “mainstream media” – meaning the newspapers, the network broadcasters (in fact anyone outside the cable channels) are run by sneering liberal intellectuals who are determined to discredit conservatism.   The audiences turning up at Sarah Palin’s book tours name check the media as part of a conspiracy to deny them the kind of red-meat Conservatism that the country would otherwise embrace. It’s one of the worst things about US politics is that not only do both sides have their own interpretation of events – they have their own set of facts about what is happening in the world.

I hadn’t thought we’d reached that stage here. For instance, the Telegraph’s revelations on MP’s expenses weren’t disputed simply because they came from a right-wing newspaper. Everyone accepted them as a genuine scoop that should be taken seriously. And – whatever the Right wing snarling at the BBC’s agenda here – The Ten O Clock News and the Today Programme will still be listened to in even the most conservative households. Facts and opinion are still treated differently.

But the reaction to the supposed doctoring of the emails at East Anglia’s Climactic Research Unit has made me worry that we have imported some of the worst aspects of US Climate Denial where the conservative media outlets pick and choose their own science.   Matters that should be beyond political debate – the overwhelming consensus of climatologists that man-made global warming is happening – are now splitting on predictably partisan lines.

The Telegraph and the Daily Mail flirt with climate denial – whilst the Guardian, the Times and The Sun uphold the conventional wisdom. How long before the emboldened denialists – backed by powerful figures behind them including Lord Lawson and Michael Portillo – will create a climate in journalists are pressured to pretend that man’s responsibility for climate change is still a matter of debate?

A worrying straw in the wind came recently when Andrew Neil posted a sceptical post on climate change on his BBC blog and warned that the Corporation are planning more Alice-in-Wonderland debates about whether global warming is really happening. The sceptics must feel very pleased with themselves: they are succeeding in bullying a beleaguered BBC. RB

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