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« The blessed plot | Main | Thorne responds »

Ho, ho, ho

Alex Kirby in Climategate email 4894 on the BBC's neutrality.

Yes, glad you stopped this -- I was sent it too, and decided to spike it without more ado as pure stream-of-consciousness rubbish. I can well understand your unhappiness at our running the other piece. But we  are constantly being savaged by the loonies for not giving them any coverage at all, especially as you say with the COP in the offing, and being the objective impartial (ho ho) BBC that we are, there is an expectation in some quarters that we will every now and then let them say something. I hope though that the weight of our coverage makes it clear that we think they are talking through their hats.

BBC impartiality, ho, ho.

It's hard to disagree, particularly on reading some of his output.

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Reader Comments (28)

What a piece by Kirby... Jan 2004, 8 years on the world has not changed much. The end of the world predictions are still with us... world still turning.

Nov 24, 2011 at 7:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

Good grief does he still work there? One thing I felt reading that 2004 opinion piece was that I don't think you would get an Enviro reporter speaking in such a style today - something has changed I can't put my finger on what exactly - subtlety maybe?

It is not fanciful to envisage our children living in a Britain where the Gulf Stream has ceased to flow, and where climate change means winters as cold as northern Canada's.

If he isn't at the Beeb I'm guessing he has a future as a scriptwriter for Roland Emmerich ;)

Nov 24, 2011 at 8:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

British conspiracy law

Nov 24, 2011 at 8:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterManfred

The paper cited in the BBC story is “Extinction risk from climate change” by Thomas et al. [Nature, 08 January 2004].

The last sentence of the paper is this: “Returning to near pre-industrial global temperatures as quickly as possible could prevent much of the projected, but sloweracting, climate-related extinction from being realized”.

It is interesting to see these papers, and that they apparently got away without mockery at the time.

Nov 24, 2011 at 8:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterDouglas J. Keenan

Ho, ho, ho

Mike Hulme shows a wee sense of humour.

date: Fri Apr 26 16:35:35 2002
from: Mike Hulme <m.hulme@..........>
subject: talk title
to: jenkins_geoff

...... that suggests a good title for a popular talk on climate modelling: 'Climate models or Lara Croft: which is closer to reality?'

Did not find <<5215>> funny.
"Finally, that idiot Lord Monckton or Brenchly" making a DVD "which had many more errors than Al's DVD"

Lost with <<5243>> an email from Tony Blair to Mike Hulme and others.
A good read, I feel I'm missing something here as it is about "Lord Butler's Report on intelligence and weapons of mass destruction"

<<5200>> David Bellamy I say I say!!
"Keith Briffa heard Bellamy on the radio saying the same thing that 5 research groups had
discredited the hockey stick. Bellamy is doing this as he's against wind farms - says they
destroy habitats ! "

<<5264>> "The Pyrenees record sounds a useful inclusion - they aren't that far from the Alps."
All a matter of scale.

For me <<0851>> is just ........ just ... just
Thanks to Wayne over at WUWT.
I'm still shaking my head at this. I honestly feel sick.


Nov 24, 2011 at 8:37 PM | Unregistered Commenterbk

The equivalent of the BBC in Australia ("our ABC") is so neutral that it hasn't even mentioned Climategate 2 (but it did take the ABC some days to get around to mentioning Climategate 1).

Nov 24, 2011 at 8:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Pond

Comets, super volcanoes and viruses are all naturally ocurring events, they are proven to cause extinctions or close to extinctions.
I do not believe that CO2 is currently warming the planet however I do believe that only one species is capable of creating technology that could avert these catastrophic events. Technology depends on investment and investment is only available in wealthy economies.
Burn fossil fuels and create wealth and give us a chance of survival.

Nov 24, 2011 at 8:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterDung

It is not fanciful to envisage our children living in a Britain where the Gulf Stream has ceased to flow, and where climate change means winters as cold as northern Canada's.

I'm confused. Aren't we supposed to be living in a Britain where our poor children "won't even know what snow is"?

Nov 24, 2011 at 9:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterBuffy Minton

Oh Buffy, you are confused. If we don't control carbon and shovel lots of money to special interests in the process, one, both or neither of these horrible things may happen. Don't say you haven't been warned.

Nov 24, 2011 at 9:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

It is fanciful to imagine living in a Britain where the BBC practiced impartial reporting on this and many other subjects.

Nov 24, 2011 at 9:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterBuffy Minton

Kirby obviously undertakes his own extensive research into this climate business:-

I met a man recently who told me how he could see the effects of the warmer climate in his local park in Birkenhead, in the north of England.

I mean, you can't argue with that level of evidence.

Nov 24, 2011 at 9:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterFoxgoose

From an Alex Kirby speech, Kirby giving advice to his junior journalists:

Don't know too much about climate change. When I was being interviewed for the job of BBC environment correspondent someone asked me a question which I was completely unable to answer. So I said: "I know so little about the environment that you ought to appoint me as your correspondent, because I will not be able to confuse the listeners." It was true then – and it's true now. I have a very short memory span, and every time I have to write something about climate change I have to look up the latest statements from the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) or the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) or whoever it is.

In the same way, you don't need a science degree – in fact you are probably better off without one. Not long ago I met an Australian journalist who summed up the understanding of science in her newsroom. "If it's green and wriggles, it's biology," she said. "If it stinks, it's chemistry. And if it doesn't work, it's physics. That's all the science we know."

You certainly won't be able to confuse your audience if that's all the science you know.

Nov 24, 2011 at 9:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

In future, I shall only ever refer to our national broadcaster as "The impartial (Ho Ho) BBC"

Nov 24, 2011 at 9:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterFoxgoose


date: Thu Mar 17 15:05:38 2005
from: Phil Jones <>
subject: Re: BBC E-mail: New row on climate 'hockey stick'
to: "Michael E. Mann" <>

If you do it's worth sending also to this guy, Alex Kirkby.
"Alex Kirby"
This guys higher up. He got them to check more the items they post
on their web site from members of the public.

Nov 24, 2011 at 9:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterManfred

It is nice of the BBC that they "now and then" also let sound people say something , amidst their brain-hogwash..

We should pay them4it , now and then, as well.

Nov 24, 2011 at 9:46 PM | Unregistered Commentertutu

Quote Alex Kirby, "I will try to go on being what anyone who reports on climate has to be, that contradictory figure, a serious reporter - a doubtfull optimist, a hopeful scpetic."

Ho, ho, ho, ho, ho!

Nov 24, 2011 at 9:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Alex Kirby - 'What are Climate Correspondents for?'

So what are BBC climate correspondents for?

Answers on a postcard to;

BBC Trust Unit
180 Great Portland Street

Nov 24, 2011 at 9:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac


Twenty years ago, no one was interested in global warming and “it was very difficult to get the BBC to take the environment seriously,” he said.

He remembers coming into work and his colleagues saying things like: “It’s a very quiet day; we might have room for some of your environment stuff.”

‘Doom and gloom’

He also said people actually blamed him for encouraging youth suicide because of his “doom and gloom” climate change reports.

Often the BBC would refuse to run his exclusives because it had not heard them reported anywhere else. So he would persuade a friend to file the story with a domestic news agency first and then the BBC would then ask him to write something on the topic.

Getting the environment into the news has been “a long battle, but the battle has paid off,” he said.

“Now there are heaps of environmental journalists.”

Nov 24, 2011 at 10:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

I saw another impartial (ho, ho) BBC environmental correspondent on the discussion panel at a lecture given today in Oxford by Myles Allen. With a masterstroke of tact and diplomacy, Richard Black managed to alienate an audience which otherwise seemed very sympathetic to the established view of AGW. Apropos of nothing very much, Mr Black opined that climate sceptics were mainly middle-aged, white, male, Anglo-Saxons (Mawmas?). It wasn't at all clear why he felt the need to say this. I think he meant to be insulting in some way but, as he was sitting on a panel 5 of whose 6 members were Mawmas, in front of an audience which was dominated by Mawmas, talking about climate science whose academic luminaries are mainly Mawmas while himself being a Mawmas, his motives were rather mysterious. Rather less ambiguous was the distinct murmur of disapproval from his audience and the slightly embarrassed silence that followed.

Nov 24, 2011 at 11:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterSimon Anthony

Kirkby, who met a man in a pub and he said............................

Next.................. Climatology research scientists say.............LIFE EXTINCTION IMMINENT SOMETIME SOONISH.

Nov 25, 2011 at 12:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

Giving advice to jounalists, Kirby quotes an excellent line: "Why is this lying bastard telling me this particular lie at this particular time?"

It is instructive to note that he only applies this acid test to skeptics.

Nov 25, 2011 at 1:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterPolitical Junkie

Alex Kirby,on behalf of the BBC stated "we are losing species we do not know exist" . This reminded me of the concept of a new style of self defence promoted by the Monty Python team,called llap-goch by means of which " you may be able to render your assailant unconscious before he is even aware of your existence"

Nov 25, 2011 at 9:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterChris Korvin

It is always interesting to collect pieces like this for the subsequent book about useful idiots.

Nov 25, 2011 at 10:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve


So what are BBC climate correspondents for?

Answers on a postcard to;

BBC Trust Unit
180 Great Portland Street

On the face of it this might sound like a good idea. The reality, however, is that you would achieve the same result if you flushed the postcard down the toilet! Take it from one who wasted over 3 years trying in vain to get honest and unbiased answers from the BBC Director General, Mark Thompson, and the BBC Trust.

They are ALL only interested in covering their collective backsides!

Nov 25, 2011 at 2:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterYertizz

@Simon Anthony 11.35pm 24.11.11

Have you any more details of the Oxford lecture you went to?

Nov 25, 2011 at 3:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

@Messenger Nov 25, 2011 at 3:31 PM

Myles Allen's talk was fairly routine. "Standard model" of AGW was taken as read, although he didn't seem dogmatic and was open about at least some uncertainties. He was somewhat disingenuous (although I think in a self-deprecating manner) about a prediction of global temperature that he and colleagues made in 1999 which seemed to show remarkable agreement with early 21st century measurements. While he didn't address the issues of "survivorship bias" or whether the inputs to his prediction were also as predicted, he did mention uncertainties and even the possibility of luck playing a part.

His main interest was in how to engage those parents he meets when collecting his children from their North Oxford school in probabilistic accounts of the climate in a hundred years time. His view was that such an abstract approach wasn't effective and instead the increased probability of "extreme weather events" should be emphasised as a much more visceral and immediate effect of AGW. He was however clear that there were again uncertainties involved. That reservation was underlined by a point from a member of the audience (I think Tim Allen, certainly someone from ECMRWF) who said that they still didn't know how reliably they could attribute the European heatwave of 2003 to AGW.

His final remarks concerned how to effect changes in behaviour if politicians continue to avoid doing anything very much. He suggested that a possible approach was through the law - taking actions against, eg, oil companies for their liability for the damage caused by extreme weather events produced in part by CO2-induced heating. He recognised that, unlike, say, someone who smoked the same brand of cigarettes for years and contracted lung cancer, it would be more difficult to argue the responsibility of a particular oil company. That would however leave open the possibility of an action against all of them, each responsible for the fraction they'd contributed...

Nov 26, 2011 at 12:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterSimon Anthony

@Simon Anthony.

Thanks for that. Myles Allan sounds pretty convinced to me, whatever he says about uncertainty, if he considers that it his duty to promote legal means to change other people's minds to his own viewpoint.

Nov 26, 2011 at 2:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger


Has anyone here submitted evidence to the BBC Trust consultation? It is entitled 'Delivering Quality First'.

If not this is a reminder that submissions have to be in by 21 December 2011. More details here.

Nov 27, 2011 at 8:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnoneumouse

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