The BBC, along with the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph newspapers, is among national media outlets in the UK criticised today for mis-leading the public about climate change.
In a parliamentary report by the Science and Technology Committee the BBC is accused of creating a ‘false balance’ by allowing unqualified climate sceptics too much airtime and giving opinion the same weight as fact.
The committee also levels at the government saying it is failing to “clearly and effectively communicate” climate science to the public.
MPs reported little evidence of co-ordination amongst government, government agencies and public bodies on communicating climate science, despite various policies at national and regional level to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
Andrew Miller MP, chair of the Science and Technology Committee, said: “Some editors appear to be particularly poor at determining the level of scientific expertise of contributors in debates. For instance, putting up lobbyists against top scientists as though their arguments on the science carry equal weight.”
The report highlights a BBC ‘World at One’ item in September 2013 on the landmark UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) research project which concluded with 95 per cent certainty that human activity is the main cause of climate change.
The programme’s producers asked a dozen qualified UK scientists to give an opposing view but could not find one willing to do so – so they went to Mr Bob Carter a retired Australian geologist and well-known climate change sceptic.
Mr Carter described the findings of the most authoritative report ever undertaken into the science of climate change and put together by hundreds of scientists around the world as “hocus-pocus science”.
The report points out that BBC news teams continue to make mistakes in their coverage of climate science by giving opinions and scientific fact the same weight.
It concludes that while politicians, lobbying groups and other interested parties should be heard on the issue, the BBC should be clearer on the role of its interviewees and should not treat lobbying groups as disinterested experts.
The report describes MPs as being “very disappointed” by the heavy reliance that the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph place on the ability of their readers to distinguish between fact and opinion on climate science.
“This is especially the case because opinion pieces about climate science in these publications are frequently based on factual inaccuracies which go unchallenged,” it stated.
The committee said that the government’s ‘hands-off approach’ to engaging with the public and the media – relying heavily on scientists as the most prominent voice – has a resulted in a vacuum that has allowed inaccurate arguments to flourish with little effective challenge.
To achieve the necessary commitment from the public, the government must demonstrate a coherent approach to communicating both the scientific basis and the proposed solutions to climate change.
The current lack of a clear narrative from government reflects a lack of leadership the issue, it says.