AT 7.23 last Friday morning Mishal Husain began interviewing Emma Brown, spokesperson for Just Stop Oil, on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. What follows is not verbatim, but close.
Why were you pausing your campaign of blocking main roads?
– It was to give the government another chance to discuss with us, to meet our demands.
Will your protests start again?
– How can we stop? There is a risk to all our lives.
So this is just a pause?
– We are prepared to carry on to save lives.
You will start again? Go back on to the gantries?
– The use of fossil fuel is madness. Look at the Pakistan floods. The Met Office issued a warning of severe floods next February, which could flood up to one in six homes. We must do something. There will be millions of refugees. The political system is broken.
We heard that because of your protest one man was forced to miss his father’s funeral.
– Yes, I feel really terrible about that, but our action is proportionate to save the lives of millions. Our actions are not aimed at people.
That was the gist of the interview. The first point to make is important: that Met Office ‘forecast’ is pure fiction. They do not give warning of floods three months ahead. The misquotation was based on an Environment Agency message asking people to think whether they live in a flood risk area and should take precautions before the winter rains arrive. Why was Ms Brown not challenged?
Mishal Husain did not ask how the UK would manage in the future without either oil or gas. She did not ask whether JSO had considered how to keep people warm if we had to run on only one nuclear power station after 2028, maybe two if Hinkley Point C is finished by then.
Even up to 2050 the current UK government plan is to have nuclear power stations providing only 25 per cent of the projected electricity demand. Without gas and oil the remainder would have to come from wind turbines and solar panels. There would be lengthy and total power cuts whenever the wind did not blow, the sun was weak behind the clouds, and frost gripped most of the country. Like in winter.
Mishal Husain did not follow up the point that one man was prevented from attending his father’s funeral. There were probably thousands prevented from getting to hospitals, offices, schools and homes each time the JSO’s members chose to have a day out climbing a gantry.
Ms Husain did not attack JSO’s thinking at its weakest point: even if the UK could give up all use of oil or gas tomorrow it would reduce our one per cent contribution to global emissions by one half. Meanwhile China has admitted that its own 30 per cent will continue to rise until 2030.
If the world’s climate problems are really that serious, they can be solved only by a joint and immediate effort from each and every one of the countries currently attending the COP27 conference at Sharm El Sheikh. That is not likely to happen.
The BBC’s editorial guidelines state clearly: ‘We must be inclusive, considering the broad perspective and ensuring that the existence of a range of views is appropriately reflected.’ But Today’s questions were simply to elicit the JSO’s point of view and the whole thing was sympathetically conducted throughout, despite the intensity of public opinion about this lunatic behaviour.
How could Mishal Husain let their representative off so lightly? How could the BBC miss such an opportunity?