Some years ago the BBC conducted an internal meeting on ‘climate change’, which the BBC Trust later described as ‘a high-level seminar with some of the best scientific experts’, and thereafter came to the view ‘that the weight of evidence no longer justifies equal space being given to the opponents of the consensus’. I don’t know that our ABC held a comparable gathering, but it certainly seems to have come to the same view.
Sceptics of all kinds were understandably upset at this turn of events, and one of them, a pensioner named Tony Newbery, asked for the names of the experts. He was told he couldn’t have the names, and he went through the FOI process to obtain them. He persisted for a long time, as you sometimes need to do in FOI struggles, and 2012, several years later, the matter finally came to the appropriate Tribunal. There Newbery argued that the matter could not simply be an internal one. On the face of it, he was right, since the BBC is supported by taxpayers like himself, and because the matter of global warming is arguably as serious as any matter could be.
The BBC, for its part, declined to release the names, on the one hand because the seminar and the names were for ‘the purposes of journalism’, and on the other because under Chatham House rules those attending such a meeting must not be named. Since I have been at a Chatham House meeting in London I know that the second argument was simply wrong in fact: the rule is that statements made at such a meeting must not be attributed to particular people. In any case it is a convention, not a rule of law.
Mr Newbery, who was representing himself, found that he was facing two barristers, a lot of BBC legal people and what seems to have been a less than even-handed Tribunal chairman. The outcome was that he lost. And then, in a denouement worthy of a Victorian novel, up came the discovery of the names through a perfectly legal piece of sleuthing by another sceptic. They existed, had always existed, in another place, and they are now public. The BBC has yet to agree that these were, in fact, the names, but on the face of it, these are they.
Well, you ask, who were these experts? There were 30 in all, defined in the list as ‘specialists’, and they were accompanied by 28 executives from the BBC itself, who all seemed to have important posts, like ‘Director of News’ and ‘Director of Television’, as well as ‘Head of Comedy’. Within hours of the appearance of the list, sceptics had used the Internet to discover the backgrounds of the 30 specialists. The appearance of BBC’s Head of Comedy was fitting, since only three of the 30 had any claims to being ‘scientific experts’. One was Lord May, a former President of the Royal Society, though not a climate scientist. One was Professor Mike Hulme, who has a chair at the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Centre, but his work is largely that of a social scientist, exploring the ways in which ‘climate change’ is presented in public debate. The third, Professor Dorthe Dahl-Jensen, is indeed a highly respected climate scientist who works on ice-core data. All three are from the orthodoxy. The meeting included nobody at all with a dissenting view.
The others? The majority seemed to be lobbyists of some kind, from environmental groups like Greenpeace, and Stop Climate Chaos. The Church of England was there in the person of its national adviser on environmental matters. So was the US Embassy, whose representative also had a role in the international Marine Organisation. British Petroleum was there, represented by the man who managed its carbon dioxide project. One of UK government departments was there, as was someone from the insurance business. There were people from Harvard, Cambridge and the Open University, but their expertise was in areas like journalism about climate or history.
All in all, this seemed not at all like a gathering of scientific experts, which could deal with the existing knowledge and uncertainty of ‘climate change’, but a meeting of the orthodox, already convinced and actively involved. That the BBC Trust could later defend its decision not to give time to the opponents of the ‘consensus’ on what it had learned at this meeting would be simply laughable if it were not so serious. That the BBC so strenuously defended its decision not to release the names is now quite understandable: it would have been deeply embarrassing to have done so. And it is deeply embarrassing to the BBC now that the names are known.
Of course, the BBC is already embroiled in another scandal, involving the sexual behaviour of one of its presenters, whose fondness for young girls seemed to have been widely known within the organisation and covered up for along time. A shake-up is promised, and my hope is that when the shake-up occurs, if it does occur, the BBC’s behaviour in this ‘climate change’ fiasco will receive proper attention. Dare I hope that this will also offer a wake-up call to those in charge at the ABC?