BBC Trots Out Skeptic Benny Peiser To Question Global Warming In A Snow Storm

Fri, 2010-01-08 11:48Brendan DeMelle
Brendan DeMelle's picture

BBC Trots Out Skeptic Benny Peiser To Question Global Warming In A Snow Storm

The BBC used Britain’s recent snowy cold snap to trot out the climate skepticism of Dr. Benny Peiser, a social anthropologist at Liverpool’s John Moores University with absolutely zero scientific expertise in climate change. 

In a segment titled “How the big freeze fits theories of global warming,” exploring “how one of the longest cold snaps for a generation fits in with theories of a warming planet and global climate change,” the BBC oddly shoehorns Peiser’s climate change denialism into an otherwise decent piece explaining the difference between weather and climate and why the existence of snow and cold weather does not in any way negate the realities of climate change.

So what could Dr. Peiser - whose greatest achievement in science is getting an asteroid named after him – have to offer on the subject of climate change?

Standing out in a field lightly dusted with snow for the BBC camera, Peiser posits that, because the Met Office predicted a mild winter, “people are right to ask questions and to look into the complexities of climate.”

Below his name, the BBC lists Peiser’s affiliation with The Global Warming Policy Foundation, a new UK “think” tank founded by Lord Nigel Lawson, the former Conservative Chancellor and current global warming “critic.”

After Peiser’s 10 seconds in the sun, er snow, BBC host David Shukman immediately launches into a correction of Peiser’s misunderstanding of climate, noting that “the key thing is that there’s a difference between weather and climate.  The weather is what you get day by day, month by month, like this cold spell.  But the climate is the kind of weather that you get over a thirty-year period. And that is what the scientists say is changing. “

Then Rob Varley of the Met Office further explains that: “It’s absolutely undoubtedly true that, over the last 100 years, the world has gotten warmer and the science is really very clear that the world will continue to get warmer, and the fact that it’s snowy in my garden at the moment really doesn’t alter that one bit.”
 
Peiser is a confused skeptic, as even he acknowledges the overwhelming scientific consensus that global warming is caused by human activity. Peiser admitted to Media Watch in 2006 that: “I do not think anyone is questioning that we are in a period of global warming. Neither do I doubt that the overwhelming majority of climatologists is agreed that the current warming period is mostly due to human impact.”

According to an ISI search of publications, Peiser has published only a handful of research papers in peer-reviewed journals, mostly in sports medicine and astronomy journals.  None of Peiser’s peer-reviewed work is related to human-induced climate change.

So why does the BBC think it necessary to include Peiser’s views in a piece on climate when he clearly has no credible expertise in the science of climate change?

Comments

It was a pretty effective way to deal with the whole question of snow and global warming. Rather than just explain it, bring in someone who questions it and let him give his point of view and then offer a counter argument.

I think where Peiser scored a point is where he pointed out that the Met office was calling for a mild winter. They probably have no business doing that, the uncertainties of weather being what they are.

He was then able to tie that to the question of the science. In effect saying that things are complicated and uncertain and so scientists should perhaps be careful when making predictions about the future.

In another version of the same report that I saw, the female interviewer interrupted with repeated claims that the failure to predict this cold weather had to undermine the claim that we can predict a warmer climate 100 years from now. The response was fair enough (these are entirely different kinds of predictions) but she wasn’t having any of it. Really disgraceful- it was about as bad as Faux News…I wrote the BBC and took them to task over it.

You had to know the media and the Deniers were going to tee this up. But as for your question, “So why does the BBC think it necessary to include Peiser’s views in a piece on climate when he clearly has no credible expertise in the science of climate change?”

My experience as a journalist left me with a very clear understanding about mainstream media, and the producers/managers responsible for day-to-day news feeds:

i. many (though not all thankfully) of these individuals have conservative and narrow views about … just about everything! They don’t read specifically but generally, and often reports and books by their peers who … represent the same conservative and narrow view; and

ii. they answer to the daily ‘meat-grinder’ requirement of mainstream media which, in character often relies on re-posing controversies (authentic and phony) to help meet their deadlines. There is little fact-checking or investigative journalism involved, though there is a much posturing and cosmetic pretense of doing real journalism.

And TV news is the worst offender in this game.

The BBC are on an “impartial” crusade, Im afraid. This is what happens when politicians get involved in media. Im sure we will see a lot more of this.

“So why does the BBC think it necessary to include Peiser’s views in a piece on climate when he clearly has no credible expertise in the science of climate change?”

My experience as a journalist left me with a very clear understanding about mainstream media, and the producers/managers responsible for day-to-day news feeds:

i. many (though not all thankfully) of these individuals have conservative and narrow views about … just about everything! They don’t read specifically but generally, and often reports and books by their peers who … represent the same conservative and narrow view; and

ii. they answer to the daily ‘meat-grinder’ requirement of mainstream media which, in character often relies on re-posing controversies (authentic and phony) to help meet their deadlines. There is little fact-checking or investigative journalism involved, though there is a much posturing and cosmetic pretense of doing real journalism.

And TV news is the worst offender in this game.

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