Does the Today programme have an anti-Climate Science agenda?

I was listening to Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday and was quite surprised that they spent nearly 5 minutes reporting from the Heartland Institute’s International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC).  This conference is different to almost all other climate conferences as it is dominated by climate change “sceptics”.

The Today programme is one of the UK’s most influencial news programmes and I’ve never heard a report on this show from any other climate science conference despite there being many, many others every year.  (I’m not including Copenhagen here as that was a climate policy conference, not a science conference.)

So why report from the ICCC?  Well, their angle in the report was that its not just right-wingers that are climate change “sceptics”.  This strikes me a bit lame and not really news.

I’m beginning to think that the Today programme has an anti-Climate Science agenda.

My main other concern with the Today programme and its climate coverage is Justin Webb.  A relatively new host, he seems to think that his views should shape the programme’s stance on climate science.  His most notorious moment was an awful interview with Prof. Ian Plimer (geologist turned climate “sceptic”) where Webb failed to question Plimer on any of the controversial things he was saying.

Reporting the consensus view on climate science is probably getting a bit dull and maybe that is why the media like the contrary view.  I just thought that the Today programme was better than that.

[The relevant piece starts at 2:49:49 of the Today programme from 18th May 2010, which is available here for a limited period on the BBC iPlayer.]

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13 Responses to “Does the Today programme have an anti-Climate Science agenda?”

  1. Adam Corner Says:

    Andy I think you’re right – I’ve noticed it before, and it seems to go beyond the ‘balanced’ journalism requirement and edge into an undertone of ‘begrudingly’ believeing that climate change is happening, and is a problem.

    I spoke to a BBC TV producer who works on one of their flagship current affairs programmes, and she said that when climategate happened, lots of senior producers/editors could barely conceal their delight that it wasnt as cut and dry as the boring consensus was making it out to be.

    Maybe an anonymous staff survey at the BBC would be interesting, along the lines of the one reported about the Tories?!

  2. MikeC Says:

    I agree that the right/left-wing excuse was a bit lame but I’m hopeful that maybe, in fact, the BEEB is finally attempting to address the criticism that it has been promoting the MMGW argument for several years without balance – and continues to do so on many fronts.

    If anything, the report was just lame, period – I don’t think man-made climate-change-alarmists have anything to fear.

    • andyrussell Says:

      I suspect we may be looking at this problem from different perspectives!

      For years, in the name of balance, the BBC used to drag anyone on air who would disagree with the climate scientist they had on. Thankfully they’ve started to move away from that. I don’t think that policy really gets us anywhere.

      • MikeC Says:

        But what about the myriad of non-news BBC content that proliferates over all its channels? Reaching into, even, CBEEBIES?

      • andyrussell Says:

        I don’t watch much CBEEBIES so I don’t know what programs feature any climate science – I’d be interested to know though…

        As for the rest of the BBC, I’m not sure what you’re suggesting. Do you think that there is some sort of underlying BBC agenda to present a one-sided view of climate science throughout all their schedule?

      • MikeC Says:

        I wouldn’t honestly know – I would hope not.

        The BEEB has many content creators; “agenda” is probably too strong a word (although if watching Working Lunch, one might wonder).

        There are loads of programmes, over many categories, which feature items (or contain storylines or comments) posited on the assumption that MMGW is fact – from CBEEBIES to the World Service.

  3. Alan Simpson Says:

    MikeC Says:
    “If anything, the report was just lame, period – I don’t think man-made climate-change-alarmists have anything to fear.”

    I think the shock is that anyone in the BBC dared to mention that a contrary view even existed. Burt Rutan’s summary of the current state of play in climate science makes interesting reading. Even if he does attribute a Phil Jones comment to Michael Mann, Tchh! climate scientists who can tell them apart. 🙂

  4. Peter Paulson Says:

    Andy, the main thrust of Harabin’s coverage was the bogus smear that the conference is funded by ‘Big Oil’ and right-wing groups – so don’t worry – he’s still ‘on-message’ – despite the fact the majority of sensible adults are now rightly sceptical of the message after years of ridiculous climate scare stories.

    > Reporting the consensus view on climate science is
    > probably getting a bit dull

    As the roster of eminent scientists at the conference proves, there’s no scientific consensus on catastrophic man-made global warming – just a politcal consensus that it’s a good cover story for extending government taxes and controls.

    • andyrussell Says:

      To me, the right vs. left thing seemed incidental to being at the ICCC and talking to a guy that had a book to sell.

      There is a consensus view on certain (very important) aspects of climate science even if other parts are hotly debated and still being worked on. That’s what happens in science.

  5. John Mashey Says:

    In fact, to the extent it is possible to uncover the (well-laundered funding) of Heartland conferences, given heartland and the various cosponsors, it is virtually certain that there is money from:
    1) ExxonMobil, eitther directly, through their foundation, or via the API.
    2) Very conservative family foundations, including but not limited to:
    – The Koch foundations [the Koch brothers run Koch Industries, the 2nd largest private company in US … oil&gas. Their father cofounded John Birch Society, and one cofounded CATO Institute.)
    – Richard Mellon Scaife, i.e., one of the inheritors of Mellon fortune that included Gulf Oil (=>Chevron, eventually), although his foundations these days own more ExxonMobil stock than Chevron. Also, was a funder of the SwiftBoat exercise.

    The money flows through a network of thinktanks and front organizations, most of which (like heartland) learned their trade helping tobacco companies.

    Anyone who cares about this topic and wants to learn: try PDF @

    which is a 185=page report I did on the foundations, thinktanks, fronts, visible money flows, people, and reasons for doing this (of a catalog of about 30, only a handful are actually financial).

    What you might ask Today is if they realize Heartland has a long history of helping tobacco companies, which of course only stay in business by addicting 12-18-year-olds. Confusing people about climate is child’s play by comparison.

    As for this specific conference, see:

    • andyrussell Says:

      Thanks, I’ll have a look as I don’t know too much about Heartland and ICCC other than it’s not a particularly significant cliamte conference.

      I’ve also noticed that the Guardian had a report from the ICCC. They focused on Lindzen’s talk on the use of the term “sceptic”, which seems a bit more newsworthy than this right vs. left thing.

      • John Mashey Says:

        The short version:
        Heartland is the sort of thinktank that is really a tax-free PR agency/lobbying firm, with a really good mailing list of state legislators. They’ve long gotten money from that small fraction of corporations and socialize the costs, like tobacco companies. Heartland, and its President Joseph Bast show up *very often* in the Tobacco Archives.

        lately, tobacco money seems harder to get, but climate anti-science money got more available. heartland runs the kind fo conference where they pay the expenses for anybody in relevant parts of government to attend. Joe Barton (of Wegman Report fame) sent a bunch of his staffers to one of them.

        Lately, heartland has seemed to become the uber-thinktank collecting others.

        The gory details are in the long report I mentioned.

  6. Veronica Heard Says:

    If only more people could hear this.

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