Don Keiller has sent me copies of his correspondence with his MP, the Liberal Democrat Dr Julian Huppert. Huppert is one of the few ex-scientists in the House of Commons. He is also, incidentally, the son of Herbert Huppert, one of the scientists on the Oxburgh panel.
Dear Dr. Huppert,
I am writing to you about a serious concern regarding the BBC’s reporting of climate change science and associated issues.
From the detail emerging in the aftermath of Mr. Tony Newbery’s F.O.I case (EA/2009/0118) it is absolutely clear that the BBC is in breach of its Charter, which requires it to be impartial.
Furthermore it knowingly and wilfully breached its Charter in this regard and has since tried to hide this fact from the Public and license fee payers, at the public's expense.
In June, 2007, the BBC Trust published a report entitled “From Seesaw to Wagon Wheel: Safeguarding impartiality in the 21st Century”. That report, which is fully endorsed by the BBC Trust, contains the following statement (page 40):
“The BBC has held a high‐level seminar with some of the best scientific experts, and has come to the view that the weight of evidence no longer justifies equal space being given to the opponents of the consensus."
This statement forms the basis for the BBC’s decision to breach its Charter and abandon impartiality on the subject of climate change and instead provide a highly biased and alarmist presentation of the science of climate change, without any attempt at counterbalancing argument, let alone “equal space”.
Since then attempts have been made, via FOI requests, to find out the identities of the so-called “best scientific experts” who attended the “high level seminar” which thereby provided the justification for the BBC to abandon its principle of impartiality in this area. To my best knowledge, the BBC has not abandoned its impartiality in this way, even in wartime.
Tony Newbery, a pensioner, clearly felt the same way and has gone through a long series of FOI requests and processes, culminating, earlier this month, in a tribunal at the Central London Civil Justice Centre (case no. EA/2009/0118). The FOI request was for the identities of the “best scientific experts” who attended the seminar. In order to conceal this information, the BBC fielded a team of 6 lawyers, including barristers, at an estimated cost of £40,000 per day, to prevent the list of names from being published. Whilst they were successful, it was a pyrric victory, as it transpires that this information, that the BBC had tried so hard to conceal, had been in the Public domain for some time.
So who were these “best scientific experts”?
It turns out to be a motley collection of climate alarmists, activists, environmental advocates and those with vested financial interests:
- Blake Lee-Harwood, Head of Campaigns, Greenpeace
- Andrew Dlugolecki, Insurance industry consultant
- Trevor Evans, US Embassy
- Colin Challen MP, Chair, All Party Group on Climate Change
- Anuradha Vittachi, Director, Oneworld.net
- Andrew Simms, Policy Director, New Economics Foundation
- Claire Foster, Church of England
- Saleemul Huq, IIED
- Poshendra Satyal Pravat, Open University
- Li Moxuan, Climate campaigner, Greenpeace China
- Tadesse Dadi, Tearfund Ethiopia
- Iain Wright, CO2 Project Manager, BP International
- Ashok Sinha, Stop Climate Chaos
- Andy Atkins, Advocacy Director, Tearfund
- Matthew Farrow, CBI
- Rafael Hidalgo, TV/multimedia producer
- Cheryl Campbell, Executive Director, Television for the Environment
- Kevin McCullough, Director, Npower Renewables
- Richard D North, Institute of Economic Affairs
- Steve Widdicombe, Plymouth Marine Labs
- Joe Smith, The Open University
- Mark Galloway, Director, IBT
- Anita Neville, E3G
- Eleni Andreadis, Harvard University
- Jos Wheatley, Global Environment Assets Team, DFID
- Tessa Tennant, Chair, AsRia.
Not one of these could be described as “scientific”, let alone an expert.
- Robert May, Oxford University and Imperial College London
- Mike Hulme, Director, Tyndall Centre, UEA
- Dorthe Dahl-Jensen, Niels Bohr Institute, Copenhagen
- Michael Bravo, Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge
are scientists, but were misleadingly described in court by Helen Boaden (of Jimmy Saville infamy), as “scientists with contrasting views”. In fact all are unashamedly alarmist. Pointedly, not one of these scientists deals with attribution science, or the atmospheric physics of global warming.
So where are the real experts? Scientists from the Met Office, or the Hadley Centre, one of the foremost climate research centres in the world? Where are the names of Dr.
Chris Landsea, World expert on hurricanes, or Dr. Nils‐Axel Mörner, World authority on sea level rises? Or Professors Richard Lindzen, or Murry Salby, World experts on atmospheric physics? Why are there no experts from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia?
It now crystal clear why the BBC went to such great lengths and expense to withhold the names of those attending. They are not the “best scientific experts” but rather a group overwhelmingly comprised of environmental activists and NGO’s, with no scientific training, whatsoever, or those with a vested interest, often financial, in keeping climate change alarmism firmly in the Public eye.
In conclusion I put it to the BBC Trust that:
1. The BBC and, by endorsing the report, the BBC Trust, have lied to the public that they organised and/or attended a seminar at BBC Television Centre involving the “best scientific experts” on climate change.
2. That its change of policy to no longer be impartial on the subject of climate change was not based on scientific evidence, or the views of the “best scientific experts”, but in fact was as a result of listening to the views, advice and lobbying from inappropriate and biased individuals, groups and organisations including Greenpeace, Tearfund, US Embassy, BP, IIED, IBT, AsRia, E3G etc.
3. That the BBC and the BBC Trust are in breach of the charter and acting unlawfully. The following quotations are taken from the website http://www.bbc.co.uk/editorialguidelines/page/guidelines-editorial-values-editorial-values/
Trust is the foundation of the BBC: we are independent, impartial and honest. We are committed to achieving the highest standards of due accuracy and impartiality and strive to avoid knowingly and materially misleading our audiences.
1.2.2 Truth and Accuracy
We seek to establish the truth of what has happened and are committed to achieving due accuracy in all our output. Accuracy is not simply a matter of getting facts right; when necessary, we will weigh relevant facts and information to get at the truth. Our output, as appropriate to its subject and nature, will be well sourced, based on sound evidence, thoroughly tested and presented in clear, precise language. We will strive to be honest and open about what we don't know and avoid unfounded speculation.
Impartiality lies at the core of the BBC's commitment to its audiences. We will apply due impartiality to all our subject matter and will reflect a breadth and diversity of opinion across our output as a whole, over an appropriate period, so that no significant strand of thought is knowingly unreflected or under-represented. We will be fair and open-minded when examining evidence and weighing material facts.
1.2.4 Editorial Integrity and Independence
The BBC is independent of outside interests and arrangements that could undermine our editorial integrity. Our audiences should be confident that our decisions are not influenced by outside interests, political or commercial pressures, or any personal interests.
Each and every one of these guidelines has been knowingly breached.
This is a scandal that is, in its own way, more disturbing than the one over the Jimmy Savile affair, as it has implications for the whole population. Interestingly the key players in this scandal, George Entwistle, Helen Boaden, Peter Rippon and Steve Mitchell, are also key players in the Savile affair. However whilst the Savile scandal is being looked into by a series of inquiries, this has been ignored.
I look forward to hearing from you in due course on this matter. Please also be advised that I have sent a copy of this letter to the Director of the BBC Trust.
Dr. D. Keiller (M.A., PhD., Cantab)
And here is Huppert's response
Thank you for writing to me with your concerns about the BBC Trust and the BBC’s reporting of climate change science.
I do appreciate your concerns that the attendees of the BBC’s ‘high-level seminar’, where it was decided that there was enough evidence about climate change to justify not giving equal space to “the opponents of the consensus”, were originally withheld from the public. I would have like to have seen a greater amount of transparency on this point. However, it remains the case that the FOI request made by Mr Tony Newbery to reveal the names of the attendees was denied.
Because the BBC has not published the list of attendees we can only speculate as to whether the list you have provided is indeed accurate. To my mind the list – whether it is correct or not – is impressive in that it suggests a wide range of views would have been represented, including a number of experts in the field.
I appreciate that you are likely to disagree with my interpretation of whether those mentioned on the list are experts or not. However, I am satisfied that the list is not compromised of merely alarmists and activists.
Furthermore, although the seminar was significant as it was on this occasion that the decision to accept climate change as a fact was made by the Trust, the BBC have engaged with a huge range of scientific experts to discuss this issue since then. In your letter you have asked why scientist from the Met Office and other experts in various fields of research were not included in the seminar’s attendees list. I would like to point out that on numerous occasions the BBC has collaborated extensively with the Open University, Met Office and academics from a number of distinguished institutions to produce broadcasts and news articles concerning climate change and I am afraid that I do not share your concerns about the BBC Trust having breached its charter in the ways which you have suggested.
As a former scientist I know all too well the need to work from a solid evidence base. Indeed, this is a principle which I apply to politics as well. I am proud that the Lib Dems are a party which believe in evidence-based policy making and if I thought that an institution as important and as influential as the BBC has developed its policy towards climate change on anything but the most reliable and compelling evidence then I would raise my concerns with the Government in the strongest possible terms and without hesitation.
Although I do not share your views I would like to thank you for taking the time to make me aware of your concerns. I hope that you receive a helpful response from the Director of the BBC Trust.
Member of Parliament for Cambridge