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Not alarmist enough?

Lord Winston, the scientist and broadcaster has made some interesting comments about BBC coverage of climate change. Accusing the corporation of dumbing down its coverage, he suggests that he would do things differently.

The trouble with climate change is it’s an extraordinarily diverse and complex issue, but for example if the BBC would let me make some of the programmes I’d like to make on climate change, I bet you there would be a change of emphasis.

I'm not entirely convinced that he is seeking quite the same change of emphasis as I am though.

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Reader Comments (23)

He's right of course, they did dumb down coverage- they left out Reality, Skeptical arguments, common sense...

Oct 30, 2012 at 8:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterOtter

Ah but Bob Winston has had a good innings with the BBC, made all sorts of programs, almost all outside his specialism. Now he is regarded as yesterdays man by the BBC and the presenter job on future science series goes to Brian Cox (gawd help us - he's awful) and Winston moaning at the hand that fed him rater extravagantly in the past. All broadcasters have their time, and the art is to recognise this gracefully.

Oct 30, 2012 at 8:28 AM | Unregistered Commenterunderotter

Well he is certainly right that the BBC science coverage has been dumbed down. Last time I tried to watch Horizon a few weeks ago I turned it off after a few minutes - the emphasis was all on the personalities of the scientists and what they did in their spare time. I'm not sure if he means "not alarmist enough" - you may be reading between the lines a bit there, based on some of his previous comments. [edit: no, you're right, towards the end of the webchat there's something about climate change taking place 100 times faster than expected!]

Anyway, let's hope that "Climategate Revisited" on Radio 4 at 9pm tomorrow isn't dumbed down.

Oct 30, 2012 at 9:10 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Horizon? Used to be a superb programme. These days a handsome boffin driving his car, then getting out to gaze wistfully at the sky is de rigeur. Dumb.

Oct 30, 2012 at 9:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrent Hargreaves


Yes, I googled him first and he doesn't seem sceptical about AGW.

Oct 30, 2012 at 9:31 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Wnston ... Winston ... where have I read that name before? In the context of a change to the way poeple think?

Maybe it was this guy from 1984 who was reviewed thus -
Summary: 1984 was a great read, set in a futuristic Britain society. In the book Oceania is a totalitarian system of control by the government, or “The Party”. Oceania’s government has complete control of everything from necessities to luxuries. Along with controlling physical, items the party also installs fear into its citizens making sure that people understand the punishments in place for betrayal and conspiracy. Thought crime is death! Winston, a member of the outer party, is the protagonist in this book, and 1984 is a description of his conflicts with the party

Oct 30, 2012 at 9:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Sherrington

I went to a talk of his and saw him waffle on. Lord Windbag.

Oct 30, 2012 at 9:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterAC1

I agree that he is right that the BBC science coverage has been dumbed down. It applies to both television and radio. There were numerous complaints about the dumbing down and removing of good science programmes (eg on Feedback about the deletion of Radio 4's "Home Planet"). Like all complaints to the BBC (eg re Jimmy Savile), the BBC movers and shakers (non-scientists, naturally) know better than us licence-fee players and all complaints were swept aside.

Horizon is the worst example of dumbing down. I am unable to watch a complete episode without falling asleep because of the slow and gentle commentary, the wistful scenes and the lullaby type of musical accompaniment.

Oct 30, 2012 at 9:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Its just a reflection of the way 'climate doom ' has dropped off the public interest radar , although some are rather desperately trying to use cyclone Sandy to up the interest . Not even the BBC want to give it much coverage these days and they work as its marketing agency .

Oct 30, 2012 at 10:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

there's something about climate change taking place 100 times faster than expected!]

Why oh why is it that this sort of propaganda is often dished out, without thinking it through? If so, then the Computer Models have definitely got it wrong, but if you were to point this out, they would deny it because the models are on their side! Every time they come out with "it's worse than we thought", they shoot themselves in the foot because it clearly demonstrates that the previous state of the art machinery was wrong & cannot be believed!

Anyway "Lord" Winston is a very nice man, & a marvellous & compassionate physician, but Climate Scientist he ain't, Socialist he is (they always reward their useful idiots), & nobody is going to tell me what to do, eat, drink, think, say, associate with, write, etc!!!!!

Oct 30, 2012 at 10:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

Nobody seems able to present an edition of Horizon these days without an obligatory shot of them Berghaus-clad clenching an ice axe, or making naff diagrams in the sand on some beach or other or generally posing like the wretched Brian Cox. Its all about the presenter and the scientists, not about the science. Sad.

Oct 30, 2012 at 10:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn

Winston, like most people without deep physics plus lots of practical heat transfer knowledge cannot comprehend that the 'GHG blanket' cannot happen. Ask any Metallurgical engineer what they think of the claim the Earth is a black body radiator! Winston hasn't a clue!

Oct 30, 2012 at 10:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

Bob Winston is a geneticist, very good in that field, but climatology?

Oct 30, 2012 at 10:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

How does he know it's faster than expected when there are no predictions as to how fast it will happen?

In sum, a strategy must recognise what is possible. In climate research and modelling, we should recognise that we are dealing with a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible.”

So states the IPCC’s Working Group I: The Scientific Basis, Third Assessment Report (TAR), Chapter 14 (final para.,, p774. (h/t JunkScince)

Oct 30, 2012 at 10:59 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Ah yes, TV science presenters. Anyone remember Raymond Baxter? Spitfire pilot (DFC), works rally driver (BMC). Air show and motor sport presenter as well as Tomorrow's World. There was a man who understood and appreciated science and technology.

Oct 30, 2012 at 11:09 AM | Registered CommenterHector Pascal

I recently watched a Horizon and noticed that it was 18 minutes into the program before that actually reached the topic in hand. All that proceeded was introduction to the people involved, and summaries of the science for folk too ignorant to have been watching it in the first place.

Very depressing. Anyone remember how Nigel Calder used to make real science TV?

Oct 30, 2012 at 11:10 AM | Unregistered Commentersteveta

Winston's command of physics and mathematical modelling is just what's required for broadcasting bombast about Global Warmmongering. Silly ass!

Oct 30, 2012 at 12:50 PM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

Winston's seen a slight change in emphasis in the beeb...very slight...and decided to tout for some more work from the cow that never stops giving.

Oct 30, 2012 at 3:54 PM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

"Why oh why is it that this sort of propaganda is often dished out, without thinking it through?"

I have always believed that: "The science is settled; it is worse than we thought" comes into that category.

Surely, if it is settled then it is exactly as bad as we thought? No worse and no better. If it really is worse than we thought then the scientists need a re-think because it is obviously not settled.

Oct 30, 2012 at 10:23 PM | Unregistered Commentergraphicconception

No - that is the First Law of Climatology:

1. It's worse than we thought.

Oct 30, 2012 at 11:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

Slightly related. Here is Jon Snow of C4 news working hard to get a scientist to confirm that AGW is responsible. The scientist paints a somewhat broader picture but it seems Jon Snow is not listening.


Oct 31, 2012 at 12:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterMick J

The Jon Snow report no longer at that link.
This one works today. :)

Oct 31, 2012 at 1:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterMick J

By chance, today I stumbled across the BBC Trust web-page and discovered that:

-"The BBC Trust is consulting publicly on some planned changes to what are called Purpose Remits – documents that explain what the BBC needs to do to fulfil each of its public purposes. The document below sets out the scope of the public consultation and information on why we are consulting now."

Perhaps, while it is having it's ear bent so strongly, it might be a good time to whisper into it again about any BBC's failings in this matter?

The consultation runs until 6 December2012 and there is a .pdf form that can be downloaded from the page:

Nov 1, 2012 at 5:22 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

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