Why the truth is rarely naked

Some people think I am obsessed by climate change. Of course you can’t help what people think: one rather deluded soul wrote to say I was carrying on a vendetta against the Eastern Daily Press – a newspaper for which I have a great admiration on the whole, and which pays me both a pension and share dividends on a regular basis. Needless to say, there is no vendetta. But the EDP is my local paper, and in commenting on local and national issues, my material often comes from there.

At present it is doing an excellent job in fighting to keep local post offices and safeguard the vulnerable Norfolk coastline. And I was delighted to see the environment correspondent include the phrase “global warming, whether man-made or otherwise” in an article the other day, which has to be a step in the right direction.

But for one step in the right direction, there are still plenty going the other way. One of the political parties that thinks it will do rather well in the local elections in Norwich wants to have a city council Department for Climate Change, which would be amusing if it were not so frightening. Norwich City Council can have about as much influence on climate change as it can on the orbit of Pluto. So what could such a department be for?

But the chances of the electorate asking such a question are slim, because like most people in this guilt-ridden country they have been bamboozled by the sheer weight of the assumption that we are to blame for climate change and must pay for it in some way.

One of the main reasons for this is the way the media generally have refused to give space to any other view. The BBC is particularly guilty, and an amazing incident has just exposed this.

Readers of this commentary will probably probably know that there has been no increase in global warming over the last decade. This could of course be part of a general trend, or a blip in the trend. No prizes for guessing which option has been presented to the public.

Nevertheless, the BBC website did carry a story earlier this month which had the headline “Global temperatures ‘to decrease'”. This referred to the prediction that this year temperatures would be lower, attributable in part to La Nina. The article mentioned that some scientists linked this with doubts about global warming.

Within a very short time this was challenged in an e-mail from a climate change activist called Jo Abbess. Full details of the exchange are available here, and they are worth reading to discover what depths such activists will plumb to make sure that readers do not get the full story.

In brief, she began by saying the BBC was misleading people and claimed it was “incorrect” for the BBC to say that a minority of scientists question whether global warming has peaked. She said “networks” making this claim existed, but they did not contain many “actual scientists” and “no climate scientists”. This is not true. Both actual and climate scientists are looking at the issue.

Commendably, the BBC refused to budge at first, and said there were no mistakes in its story. But Ms Abbess persisted. She said it was “irresponsible to play into the hands of the sceptics” (so presumably truth is irrelevant as long as the message is right). Later she said climatology was an infant science, dealing with “emerging truth”, though why you would want to accept what an infant says, I’m not sure.

She went on to tell the BBC reporter that “it would be better if you did not quote the sceptics” – so there goes free speech. If he did not comply with her wishes, she told him, “I would have to conclude that you are insufficiently educated to be able to know when you have been psychologically manipulated”. As if this were not unpleasant enough, she concluded by psychologically manipulating him: “I am about to send your comments to others for their contribution unless you request I do not. They are like to want to post your comments on forums, so please indicate if you do not want this to happen. You may appear in an unfavourable light because it would be said that you have had your head turned by the sceptics.”

I find it hard to express how abhorrent this kind of pressure is. It would be nice to report that the BBC stood firm, but it didn’t. It caved in. The headline of the piece was changed, and so was the key sentence about the view of a minority of scientists. The reporter e-mailed Ms Abbess: “Have a look in 10 minutes and tell me you are happier. We have changed headline and more.”

Not only did they change “headline and more”, they did not change the dateline on the page to indicate that a change had been made. In other words, they were trying to avoid drawing attention to what they had done.

Happily, some of the original was later reinstated, including the headline, but this does reveal what lengths people who are really obsessed about climate change will go to to disguise the truth from the public. And when I say the truth, I do not mean the truth that is necessarily the complete opposite to what Ms Abbess believes: I mean the truth that there is a debate, real climate scientists are involved, and not all the evidence supports man-made, ongoing global warming.

See here for another devious BBC approach to a similar subject.