READERS will recall the BBC’s naive coverage of an Institute for Public Policy Research report last month which claimed environmental breakdown was imminent, partly because of climate change.
This is what the report by Roger Harrabin, BBC environment analyst, said:
Politicians and policymakers have failed to grasp the gravity of the environmental crisis facing the Earth, a report claims.
The think-tank IPPR says human impacts have reached a critical stage and threaten to destabilise society and the global economy.
As I pointed out at the time, the claim they trumpeted was a totally fake one, which merely reflected the fact that more disasters are reported now than in the past, rather than more actually occurring.
I therefore sent in a formal complaint to the BBC.
They first tried to fob me off:
Thank you for contacting us about the BBC News Website.
We understand you found the article entitled ‘Environment in multiple crises – report’ contains inaccurate information.
We appreciate your comments however as outlined in the article it is made clear that this information had come from the think-tank IPPR. The article gives context to the political leaning of the think tank as well as highlighting the research undertaken and the findings as well as reaction from numerous experts including Simon Lewis, Professor of Global Change Science at University College London and Harriet Bulkeley, a geography professor at Durham University as well as the government.
Overall we felt the findings of this report were in the public interest and editorially justified, we are careful to check and report the facts surrounding any debate, examine relevant arguments, and offer detailed analysis. We believe that by doing this our audience can then make up their own minds.
We always aim for due impartiality, and hear from all sides of a debate over time.
I refused to accept this, and strongly pointed out that Harrabin had a duty to challenge statements which were, at least, contestable.
The BBC have now folded, and accepted that the IPPR claim was totally incorrect.
In good Soviet fashion, the incorrect statement has now been removed from the website, and there is this rather meaningless correction added:
Update 28 February 2019: This story has been amended following criticism of IPPR’s Online report which led it to altering its comments on extreme weather.
As is always the case, nobody will pay the slightest attention to the new version, and the lie has gone around the world and back in the meantime.
Nevertheless, the Global Warming Policy Forum, who have also written to complain, will insist on a formal entry being made on the BBC’s correction page. It is good that Harrabin knows he cannot keep getting away with his incompetent, biased and dishonest coverage of these issues.
It is encouraging that this particular exposure of the BBC has attracted a fair deal of public attention, thanks to the help of Christopher Booker, James Delingpole, Kathy Gyngell of TCW and Matt Ridley’s piece in the Spectator.
I will be working to ensure that the BBC’s retraction will also get maximum publicity.
Finally, the public exposure has also resulted in the IPPR themselves being forced to make major changes to their own paper.
This article was first published on March 1, 2019, in Not A Lot of People Know That and is republished by kind permission.