Has the BBC broken faith with the General Public?

Guest Post by Barry Woods

It is my opinion that the BBC in broadcasting the BBC 2 Horizon program ‘Science Under Attack’ did not treat the general public in the UK and at least one of the interviewees with the ‘good faith’ that they should be able to expect from the BBC. After the program aired, I contacted James Delingpole, who was one of the sceptics portrayed in the program and he told me how he was approached to participate by the BBC.

“I am making a film for BBC’s Horizon on public trust in science and I was hoping you may be able to help.”  – BBC Producer

However, the programs underlying message to the general public came across to me as that climate science was under attack by climate sceptics or deniers of science who are on a par with those that deny Aids, vaccines and extreme anti GM environmentalist activists.

Yet, in discussion with a NASA scientist, the presenter Professor Paul Nurse apparently makes a gross factual error informing the viewer that annual man-made CO2 emissions are;

seven times

that of the total natural annual emissions. This raised a number of eyebrows and is now subject to some discussion amongst the blogs, including at Bishop Hill[1].

That such an apparent major error was presented to the public as fact, in the BBC’s flagship science program, should I think raise questions with respect to the handling of all the issues within the program.

Paul Nurse: The scientific consensus is, of course, that the changes we are seeing are caused by emissions of carbon into the atmosphere. But given the complexity of the climate system, how can we be sure that humans are to blame for this?

Bob Bindschadler[NASA]: We know how much fossil fuel we take out of the ground. We know how much we sell. We know how much we burn. And that is a huge amount of carbon dioxide. It’s about seven gigatons per year right now.

Paul Nurse: And is that enough to explain…?

Bob Bindschadler: Natural causes only can produce – yes, there are volcanoes popping off and things like that, and coming out of the ocean, only about one gigaton per year. So there’s just no question that human activity is producing a massively large proportion of the carbon dioxide.

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