Challenging Thoughts for the BBC and Guardian – BBC’s Michael Buerk at The Fifth Column blog

Originally blogged at Realclimategate

Update: I quickly wrote this last night (26th Dec), I’m working on a more detailed analysis today, come back later for a link.

Interesting thoughts (podcast and transcript) by journalists challenging the ‘media  consensus’ on a number of topics. These words from the BBC’s Michael Buerk (BBC R4 – The Moral Maze) apparently challenging the simplistic mainstream media ‘climate consensus’ at a new blog – The Fifth Column - with has an apparent provocative and challenging devil advocates agenda.

What gets up my nose is being infantilized by governments, by the BBC, by the Guardian that there is no argument, that all scientists who aren’t cranks and charlatans are agreed on all this, that the consequences are uniformly negative, the issues beyond doubt and the steps to be taken beyond dispute.”

- Michael Buerk – Agitator Fifth Column (Chair of BBC’s The Moral Maze)

I wonder what the BBC’s Environment team will (Richard Black especially) have to say about his from Michael Buerk’s podcast broadcast at the Fifth Column blog.

“…And actually there has been no significant rise in global temperatures for more than a decade now.

We hear a lot about how the Arctic is shrinking, but scarcely anything about how the Antarctic is spreading, and the South Pole is getting colder.

Droughts aren’t increasing. There are fewer of them, and less severe, than a hundred years ago. The number of hurricanes hasn’t changed, the number of cyclones and typhoons has actually fallen over the last 30 years.

And so on.” – Michael Buerk

I hope they don’t mind me reproducing a transcript of the Podcast on an article that apparently has only seen a relatively small audience so far: Michael Buerk on the Climate Summit I will include a few highlights in bold where I would considerit very interesting to all those involved in the climate change (man made catastrophic version) debate:

Transcript – The Fifth Column – Michael Buerk on the Climate Summit

The latest so-called Climate Summit, that’s been taking place in Durban, hasn’t made many waves. It could be because global warming seems less daunting if you can no longer afford heating bills. It could also be that we’re getting fed up with the bogus certainties and quasi-religious tone of the great climate change non-debate.

Now, I don’t know for certain that man’s activities are causing the planet to heat up. Nobody does. We simply cannot construct a theoretical model that can cope with all the variables.

For what it’s worth, I think anthropogenic warming is taking place, and, anyway, it would be a good thing to stop chucking so much bad stuff into the atmosphere.

What gets up my nose is being infantilized by governments, by the BBC, by the Guardian that there is no argument, that all scientists who aren’t cranks and charlatans are agreed on all this, that the consequences are uniformly negative, the issues beyond doubt and the steps to be taken beyond dispute. 

You’re not necessarily a crank to point out that global temperatures change a great deal anyway. A thousand years ago we had a Mediterranean climate in this country; 200 years ago we were skating every winter on the Thames.

And actually there has been no significant rise in global temperatures for more than a decade now.

We hear a lot about how the Arctic is shrinking, but scarcely anything about how the Antarctic is spreading, and the South Pole is getting colder.

Droughts aren’t increasing. There are fewer of them, and less severe, than a hundred years ago. The number of hurricanes hasn’t changed, the number of cyclones and typhoons has actually fallen over the last 30 years.

And so on.

There may be answers, I think there probably are – to all these quibbles – I would like to hear them.

I don’t want the media to make up my mind up for me.

I don’t need to be told things by officialdom in all its forms, that are not true, or not the whole truth, for my own good.

I resent the implication that the exercise of my reason is “inappropriate”, an act of generational selfishness, a heresy.

I want a genuine debate about the assumptions behind the more apocalyptic forecasts.

As recently as 2005, for instance, the UN said there would be 50 million climate refugees by 2010.

That was last year.

OK – so where are they?

I would like to hear a clash of informed opinion about what would actually be better if it got warmer as well as worse.

Where do you see reported the extraordinary greening of the Sahel, and shrinking of the Sahara that’s been going on for 30 years now – the regeneration of vegetation across a huge, formerly arid swathe of dirt poor Africa. More warming means more rainfall. More CO2 means plants grow bigger, stronger, faster.

I would like a real argument over climate change policy, if only to rid myself of the nagging feeling that sometimes it’s a really good excuse for banging up taxes and public-sector job creation.

It’s not happening. It’s a secular issue but skepticism is heresy.

They talk the language of science, but it is really a post-God religion that rejects relativist materialism.

Its imperative is moral.

It looks to a society where some choices are obviously, and universally held to be, better than others.

A life where having what we want is not a right and nature puts constraints on the free play of desires.

To reinvent, in short, a life where there is good and bad, right and wrong.

As with all religions, whether the underlying narrative is true, has become beside the point.” – Transcript here

Very interesting, provocative thoughts from a senior BBC journalist at the Fifth Colum blog especially, with these very challenging words from the BBC’s Michael Buerk for the Guardian and the BBC.

“What gets up my nose is being infantilized by governments, by the BBC, by the Guardian that there is no argument” – Michael Buerk

The Fifth Column Blog is apprently only a month or 2 old, and at time of writing has only a 113 Twitter followers, it  may become very interesting: (About)

Welcome to The Fifth Column

The name implies a spirit of subversion.. .

Yes, but not in the predictable, ultimately tiresome, sense of arguing with everything and everybody.

Rather in what will be the refreshing sense of saying the un-sayable or asking the un-askable when nobody is saying it or asking it because of behind-the-scenes’ deals, old pals’ agreements, eyebrow-raising scruples, or an unwillingness to offend or to be offended.

Our business will be stories, issues, controversies in the public consciousness. Which deserve more, sometimes deeper, investigation. Truth, after all, is hard to find – it’s usually subjective, and always complex.”

From The Fifth Column Twitter Bio:

“Thought provoking podcasts on topical & controversial issues, with contributions from some of the most respected names in UK journalism as well as new talents.”

I think, that I may just decide ;-) to follow The Fifth Column blog on Twitter (please retweet)

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20 Responses to Challenging Thoughts for the BBC and Guardian – BBC’s Michael Buerk at The Fifth Column blog

  1. Christian J. says:

    I have been a sceptic right from the word go and did have a sense of “no one is going to believe the truth when it’s finally exposed”. But as an MRA, I am having the same problem trying to get some exposure against radical feminism. It appears to be on par with anti-AGW as a non topic. Nobody wants to expose that either.
    Frustration only begins to acknowledge it.

  2. lapogus says:

    Great find Barry – how refreshing (and pleasing) to see some rational analysis from someone still in the employ in the BBC. Kudos to Michael for asking the right questions and pointing out the irrational religiosity of the alarmists.

  3. Jimmy Haigh says:

    A very good piece by Michael Buerk. How long will he be in the employ of the BBC after this heresy – his word and the most appropriate.

  4. He works for the BBC . If he is unhappy with the BBC’s coverage he should use his position at the BBC to improve that, not dump his half baked polemic on an already confused public. His understanding of this is partisan and uninformed , I was in the Sahel 25 years ago and it wasn’t greening perhaps that’s why it’s not being reported. Where does Buerk get “the steps to be taken beyond dispute” from? Wanting a meaningful debate is fine , but Buerk’s desire to base it on such a premise indicates how ill-informed he is.

    • federico says:

      Hengist:
      Buerk is approaching his retirement age (I suppose, after reading his biography) and can now open his thoughts to the public without fearing to be mobbed or fired (a pretty common phenomenon). It is therefore naive to say that he “…should use his position at the BBC to improve that…(the BBC’s coverage)”. Once some “science” becomes a tool to promote a specific political agenda of an Organization, it becomes impossible to change this agenda from within the Organization, not even with sound scientific arguments, if these are suspect to contradict said political credo; the chance to succeed as a single person is just nil.

      You are right, people is “already confused”. The BBC has done its part in creating this confusion:
      Global Warming Causes Sahel Drought (According to models = must be true!)
      http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/4479640.stm

      Sahel Greening, (according to observation)
      http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8150415.stm
      … also due to climate change =global warming.
      In some years “experts” will predict flooding in the Sahel Region (due to AGW, of course).

      Just found a recent forbes article on Sahel Greening which may reduce people’s confusion:

      http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamestaylor/2011/12/14/is-global-warming-really-harming-africas-sahel-region/2/

    • http://www.eoearth.org/article/Greening_of_the_Sahel

      After several decades of declining rainfall and dwindling food production in the Sahel, reports telling a different story started to appear. Analyses made by several independent groups of temporal sequences of satellite data over two decades since early 1980s, showed a remarkable increasing trend in vegetation greenness.

      The first results results appeared in 2003 and showed a strong increase in seasonal greenness that was observed over large areas of the Sahel during the period 1982-1999 (Figure 2). These results were then followed up by more recent studies where the time series have been extended to cover the period 1982-2003, verifying the previous results.

  5. Edbhoy says:

    The public is confused because the science is confused and mother earth just refuses to obey those wonderful climate models that predict rapid warming based on poor understanding of our atmosphere. The ongoing conspiracy to deny the uncertainty in the science of climate prediction is preventing our politicians and the public from forming well informed opinions on climate policy. Preventing acknowledgement of the uncertainty is ultimately a disasterous ploy as we cannot sensibly plan for our future energy provision without facing up to our lack of understanding. Our green energy initiatives are very expensive and I would rather commit to them understanding the risks and costs involved rather than based on the prophetic utterances of climatologists whose science does not stand up well to close scrutiny.

  6. Justin Ert says:

    Yes, I agree – good find.
    Judging by his succinct article, Michael Buerk’s understanding of the debate appears neither partisan nor ill-informed, and he should be applauded for speaking independently of the institutionalised, dogmatic scientism propagated by bbc and grauniad journalists.
    Well said and well done to Michael Buerk, he is sure to receive some flak for airing such a contentious position – especially given his employer’s reputation for its aggressively defended one-sidedness in the agw debate.

  7. Mailman says:

    Awe bless, the Mann Made Global Warming ™ cultist is all upset because someone is blaspheming his religion.

    Maybe we should excommunicate him, as people like Mann and Jones et al have been doing to anyone who dares question their religious beliefs.

    Although I do find it some what amusing that you accuse him of confusing people by laying out the facts when the worst offenders have been so called climate scientists like Jones et al and supposed journalist like Black, Harribin, moonbat, Louise Grat etc who gave purposely and deliberately ignored anyone who questions the religion of Mann Made Global Warming ™.

    Mailman

    Mailman

  8. Andy says:

    Oi Hengist!

    From the abstract of a paper written about the Sahel by Olsson et al:
    “However, recent findings suggest a consistent trend of increasing vegetation greenness in much of the region. Increasing rainfall over the last few years is certainly one reason, but does not fully explain the change. Other factors, such as land use change and migration, may also contribute.”

    So it seems, there has been greening of the Sahel and this has happened for a variety of reasons (warmists hate having to look at multiple reasons as it doesn’t fit in with their single-issue ‘AGW is gonna kill us all’ faith).

    Just because you’d been hanging around in the Sahel once doesn’t make you right. In fact, you were wrong and Buerk was right.

    Toodle-pip!

    Andy

  9. gnomish says:

    important points:
    “They talk the language of science, but it is really a post-God religion …”
    “Its imperative is moral.”

    so, you can’t win the day until you argue on moral grounds. quibble about a phrase and they’ll just change the phrase. quibble about a detail and they can shift focus to others.
    when you can say in a single sentence what it is about them that is wrong, you will have a chance. until then, you are merely harried prey.
    but you don’t dare attempt to argue against their morals – because they are yours too.
    that’s why you submit, regarding it as a moral imperative.
    altruism and collectivism are evil. if you can say that and mean it – you might stand a chance of keeping your own life in your own hands. otherwise, no. you can’t win.

  10. Alex Cull says:

    Barry, I agree – The Fifth Column is an interesting development, and I think one to watch. If you look at the list of contributors, BBC current affairs journalists are well-represented (Gerry Northam, Wendy Robbins and John Sweeney, all of whom have worked on Panorama). Michael Buerk, of course, has emerged as a CAGW sceptic, pretty much. Louisa Bolch I would tentatively identify as an active AGW proponent, purely based on the orientation of the organisations she has been a part of and the people she has probably worked with in these organisations (Arts Council, British Antarctic Survey – i.e. Chris Rapley – and ASA – Chris Smith) – of course, I might be wrong. So, an intriguing mixture, and an independent media company (CTVC). I look forward to whatever they come up with in 2012.

  11. Andy, thanks for that. I’m pleased to hear that in recent years things have improved. As I say it was 25 years ago when I was there , there was a bad drought in northern reaches of Upper Volta (as it was then called) and Mali . Obviously as a rich foreigner it didn’t affect me , but I was aware of it, some time ago now though.

    Object to your simplistic “warmists hate having to look at multiple reasons as it doesn’t fit in with their single-issue ‘AGW is gonna kill us all’ faith” but you believe what you please.

  12. federico asserts I’m naive to say that Buerk should use his position within the BBC to influence the BBC’s output. Strange, who does federico think is closest to the decision making at the BBC ? Buerk works for the BBC his audience doesn’t. Buerk’s article tells us nothing about climate change but it says a lot about Michael Buerk.

  13. Hi Barry, the other day you were criticizing a Grauniad journalist for his connections to a campaign group. You pointed out that it was ‘hard to percieve Guardian as ‘neutral’ in climate debate’ because of an activist on the staff.

    Surely the same standards should apply to the BBC don’t you think ? I think we should be calling for Michael Buerk to be sacked because of his comments above. He’s an activist on the staff and this makes it harder to percieve the BBC’s impartiality. Agreed ?

  14. Mailman says:

    Hingst,

    The BBC is a Mann Made Global Warming ™ advocate and I’m all up far the BBC getting the sack! Finally, there is something that I agree with you about.

    Mailman

  15. Pingback: Still The Ones | Skeptical Swedish Scientists

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