The Erosion of Public Trust in Authority

The Telegraph
How BBC warmists abuse the science
By Christopher Booker
January 29, 2011

Box: Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, is an expert in genetics, not climatology, writes Christopher Booker.

The timing was immaculate. Last Tuesday, across a two-page extract from the memoirs of Peter Sissons, the senior BBC newsreader, was the headline: “The BBC became a propaganda machine for climate change zealots – I was treated as a lunatic for daring to dissent.” The previous evening the BBC had put out a perfect example of the zealotry which had made Mr Sissons, as a grown-up journalist, so angry. Horizon’s “Science Under Attack” turned out to be yet another laborious bid by the BBC to defend the global warming orthodoxy it has long been so relentless in promoting.

Their desperation is understandable. The past few years have seen their cherished cause crumbling on all sides. The Copenhagen climate conference, planned to land mankind with the biggest bill in history, collapsed in disarray. The Climategate emails scandal confirmed that scientists at the heart of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had distorted key data. The IPCC’s own authority was further rocked by revelations that its more alarmist claims were based not on science but on the inventions of environmental activists. Even the weather has turned against them, showing that all the computer models based on the assumption that rising CO2 means rising temperatures have got it wrong.

The formula the BBC uses in its forlorn attempts to counterattack has been familiar ever since its 2008 series Climate Wars. First, a presenter with some scientific credentials comes on, apparently to look impartially at the evidence. Supporters of the cause are allowed to put their case without challenge. Hours of film of climate-change “deniers” are cherrypicked for soundbites that can be shown, out of context, to make them look ridiculous. The presenter can then conclude that the “deniers” are a tiny handful of eccentrics standing out against an overwhelming scientific “consensus”.

Monday’s Horizon exemplified this formula to a T. The scientist picked to front the progamme was Sir Paul Nurse, a Nobel Prize-winning geneticist, now President of the Royal Society (which has been promoting warmist orthodoxy even longer than the BBC). The cue to justify the programme’s title was all the criticism which greeted those Climategate emails leaked from Sir Paul’s old university, East Anglia, showing how scientists had been manipulating their data to support the claim that temperatures have recently risen to unprecedented levels.

One of the two “deniers” chosen to be stitched up, in classic BBC fashion, was the Telegraph’s James Delingpole. He has spoken for his own experience on our website. Still worse, however, was the treatment of Professor Fred Singer, the distinguished 86-year-old atmospheric physicist who set up the satellite system for the US National Weather Bureau. We saw Nurse cosying up to Singer in a coffee house, then a brief clip of the professor explaining how a particular stalagmite study had shown temperature fluctuations correlating much more neatly with solar activity than with levels of CO2. This snippet enabled Nurse to imply that Singer’s scepticism is based on one tiny local example, whereas real scientists look at the overall big picture. No mention of the 800-page report edited by Singer in which dozens of expert scientists challenge the CO2 orthodoxy from every angle.


January 9, 2013

Nobel Prize winner Sir Paul Nurse examines why science appears to be under attack, and why public trust in key scientific theories has been eroded – from the theory that man-made climate change is warming our planet, to the safety of GM food, or that HIV causes AIDS.

He interviews scientists and campaigners from both sides of the climate change debate, and travels to New York to meet Tony, who has HIV but doesn’t believe that that the virus is responsible for AIDS.

This is a passionate defense of the importance of scientific evidence and the power of experiment, and a look at what scientists themselves need to do to earn trust in controversial areas of science in the 21st century.



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