climate change

Opinion: A balanced debate on climate change does not mean denying the science behind it



Lord Lawson.  Photo credit: Financial Times via Flickr.

By Anders Lorenzen

Lord Lawson is one of the UK’s most well-known climate deniers and founder of the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF). He caused controversy and outcry In August when appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme.

Lord Lawson had been asked on the programme to give his views on former US Vice President and climate change advocate Al Gore’s new climate change documentary ‘ An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power’. It can come as no surprise to many that he used this opportunity to give voice to his climate-skeptic views.

Therefore much of the anger following the interview has not only been directed towards Mr Lawson, a former Conservative MP and UK Chancellor but also against the BBC for inviting him onto the programme. The must have been fully aware that he would attack the science behind and the reality of climate change.

The BBC has responded defiantly to the criticism, claiming that all they were doing was airing two sides of the debate. It is, however, strange that they ask a former politician, with no scientific background, to comment on a film warning about the dangers of climate change.

And the BBC’s notion that they have to air both sides of the debate is flawed. It is akin to inviting conflicting experts to discuss whether smoking contributes to cancer or whether the Earth is round or flat. This does not acknowledge how much the science of climate change has moved on and how robust it is. They claim the need to air both sides of the debate, where one side numbers about 97% of opinion and the other side around 3%. Further, the 3% does not account for one single peer-reviewed report. Not much of a balance in that is there? I’m generally surprised as I assumed that the BBC, alongside the majority of mainstream media networks around the world, had moved away from this.

But in the climate debate, of course, there has to be balance, but the balance does not mean we have to deny the robust science behind it. Amongst scientists who 100% agree that climate change is happening there is a lot of disagreement about how it will impact us, how soon, and how serious it is and what the solutions are.

And similarly, amongst policymakers, politicians, NGO’s and the public there are also split views about how best to tackle it. Does nuclear energy play a role? Should we geoengineer? Should we frack? Should we invest in carbon capture and storage? Should we re-forest? Should we all become vegans or vegetarians? Should we take on the solutions proposed by the political left or the political right in terms of more regulations or a market-based approach?

In terms of fighting climate change and how best to do it, there are many things we do not agree on, which surely is a healthy thing. So when it comes to a balanced debate on climate change, surely it is the issues above we should discuss, and not whether it is happening.

Dear BBC, the science behind climate change is overwhelming, please take note!

Categories: climate change, opinion, UK

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9 replies »

  1. What is it with the media that seeks to obfuscate the science behind climate change? I would like to believe that the BBC is relatively immune to outside vested interest. Presumably it is their own vested interests that they are defending – the need to appeal to the majority of their viewers who don’t want to hear how damning the science is about the unsustainable misuse of the planet. What happened to the public interest and educational role of the BBC?


    • Hi Martin, personally I agree that on some occasions the BBC has let us down. I think on many occasions they have delivered education. The problem is that the organisation is so large and it can be hard to policies what different editors do. Overall the whole idea that they should always feature the other side of the argument equally is damaging for fact-checked and accurate news.


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