Ministry Of Truth: Crackdown Ordered On Climate Change Sceptics
Ministers who question the majority view among scientists about climate change should “shut up” and instead repeat the Government line on the issue, according to MPs.
The BBC should also give less airtime to climate sceptics and its editors should seek special clearance to interview them, according to the Commons Science and Technology Committee. Andrew Miller, the committee’s Labour chairman, said that appearances on radio and television by climate sceptics such as Lord Lawson of Blaby, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, should be accompanied by “health warnings”.
Mr Miller likened climate sceptics to the Monster Raving Loony Party and said that the BBC should limit interviews with them just as it restricted the coverage it gave to fringe political parties.
In a report published today, the committee criticises the BBC’s coverage of climate change, saying that its news programmes “continue to make mistakes in their coverage of climate science by giving opinions and scientific fact the same weight”.
The MPs say that the BBC should apply the same “stringent requirements” to interviewing climate sceptics as it applies to interviewing politicians. “For example, any proposal to invite politicians to contribute to non-political output must be referred to the Chief Adviser Politics. The BBC could benefit from applying a similarly stringent approach when interviewing non- experts on controversial scientific topics such as climate change,” the committee says.
Speaking to The Times, Mr Miller added that when Lord Lawson appeared, the BBC should make clear that his think-tank, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, questioned the conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “At the very least, put a caption at the bottom of the screen: ‘the Global Warming Policy Foundation’s views are not accepted by 97 per cent of scientists’,” he said.
The committee’s report says that the Government is “failing to clearly and effectively communicate climate science to the public”. It concludes: “All Ministers should acquaint themselves with the science of climate change and then they, and their Departments, should reflect the Government approach in person, in media interviews and online by a presenting a clear and consistent message.”
Mr Miller named Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, as one of the ministers he believed had deviated from the Government line on climate change. Mr Paterson reportedly told a fringe meeting at the Conservative Party conference last year: “People get very emotional about this subject and I think we should just accept that the climate has been changing for centuries.”
Mr Miller said: “There are dissenting voices inside the Government machine . . . Frankly, the role of a minister is either to accept collective responsibility or shut up or leave. Climate change is such a hugely important public policy issue and therefore to have inconsistency from within Government is extremely dangerous territory.”
He said it was not acceptable to have “ministers who are not prepared to line up beside No 10 and say ‘yes, I accept climate change is real, we must do something about it’ .” He added: “Paterson is one example — he is ducking and diving on this.”
The committee also criticises the Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraphfor placing “heavy reliance . . . on the ability of their readers to distinguish between fact and opinion on climate science”.
Responding to Mr Miller’s comments, Lord Lawson said: “I think it is appalling that a member of the House of Commons should want to shut down debate on this issue.”
A BBC spokesman said: “The BBC does its utmost to report on this complex subject as clearly as possible using our specialist journalists. While the vast bulk of our interviews are with climate scientists, as part of our commitment to impartiality it is important that dissenting voices are also heard.”
The Times, 3 April 2014
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