Monday, December 9, 2019
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BBC Election Briefing 2: Climate change claptrap

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This is the second in a series of reports on the BBC’s dumbed-down and fact-lite analysis of the general election.

ON Tuesday I reported on the BBC’s misleading and biased ‘what to look out for’ election briefing on LGBT issues. 

Today we look at an item called ‘This Matters: Is this the climate election?’ The BBC grandly claims that its series This Matters ‘looks into what’s really going on in this election’. Great – that sounds like it will have some strong analysis. 

The BBC starts by claiming that for a lot of people climate change is the most important issue facing the country. It says: ‘Concern for the environment has gone mainstream’. The evidence it produces to support this claim? ‘Look at Greta Thunberg . . . She’s a celebrity. She’s friends with Leonardo DiCaprio. And Jane Fonda’s out getting herself arrested at climate protests now!’

This is one of those moments when I feel embarrassed on behalf of all grown-ups. This is the kind of evidence we want to put in front of our kids? It’s cringe-making. Also, hypocrisy is only a sniff away: you should care about the environment – but also let’s aim to be friends with celebrities! Anyone want to speculate about the carbon impact of DiCaprio’s lifestyle? As for climate change being the most important issue facing the country, it’s interesting to note that in recent polling nearly 80 per cent of the population don’t even mention it. 

The presenter says: ‘Not having a climate change policy could be a political liability’. We move across to David Shukman, BBC science editor, saying: ‘What this is all about is how rapidly the country should reduce its carbon emissions down to effectively zero. The Green Party want to do that by 2030 and spend £100billion a year doing it. The Conservatives say their target date of 2050 is much more realistic. But Labour, SNP, Lib Dems and others say that’s way too late. They want to act much more rapidly.’  

Here I should move on to the BBC’s description of how we would get to Net Zero by 2030. What we would need to give up? How many jobs would be lost? What businesses would close? On what scale would we need to forgo flights and overseas holidays? How would we heat our homes? What food should we no longer eat? What technologies do we need to invent? The reason I have left out all of that analysis and discussion is because the BBC has left it all out.

In September, Robert Colvile of the Centre for Policy Studies looked at the actions Climate Strike activists believe we need to take to reduce emissions drastically and quickly. He did a long Twitter thread and it is well worth a read.  

One of his conclusions is that ‘the manifesto for the climate strike movement isn’t just unscientific, but actively anti-science – and hugely dangerous as a result.’ Even the Conservatives’ more cautious target of Net Zero by 2050 has staggering costs and will require changes to our lifestyles of which most voters remain blissfully unaware. 

The BBC goes on to say that actions speak louder than words. We take a look at MPs’ voting records on climate-related issues. Apparently ‘The Guardian did a study and gave each MP a score on how they voted in Parliament on climate issues . . . The Guardian‘s findings say the Conservatives . . . generally voted against pro-climate issues, getting worse scores . . . than other parties.’ Interested to know what the climate issues were, or what kind of costs they might have had? Why the Conservatives might have voted against them? Forget it. In a fact-lite world, presumably we shouldn’t care.

The report says that in Wales ‘sea levels will be up 20cm by 2050’. Source? Nope. I tried googling it in case it’s a commonly asserted prediction. No luck. While the BBC has made its editorial stance on climate change clear (it’s happening and we no longer need to debate it)  this does not excuse these source-free assertions.

The report looks at a village called Fairbourne in Wales and says ‘by 2050 the village is going to be abandoned’. That is not entirely certain and is going to be a very interesting case to watch as it sits just above current sea levels. Interestingly, a woman from Fairbourne says in the clip: ‘Unless they start to look at climate adaptation, rather than climate change, I don’t think we really are going to move forward.’ Well said, that woman – but I get the impression the creators of this piece literally missed her point.

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Caroline ffiske
Caroline ffiske
Caroline ffiske is a former adviser to the New Zealand Government, served two terms as a Conservative councillor in Hammersmith & Fulham and is currently a full-time mother. She tweets as @carolinefff

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