Since 2006, the BBC has relentlessly promoted the global warming orthodoxy as a pressure group in its own right.
© GETTYPuffed by the BBC: a wind farm near nears completion in Scotland
The story of the BBC's bias on global warming gets ever murkier. Last week there was quite a stir over a new report for the BBC Trust which criticised several programmes for having been improperly funded or sponsored by outside bodies. One, for instance, lauded the work of Envirotrade, a Mauritius-based firm cashing in on the global warming scare by selling "carbon offsets", which it turned out had given the BBC money to make the programme.
Just as this scandal broke, I was also completing a report, to be published next month by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, on the BBC's coverage of climate change. It ranges from the puffing of scare stories dreamed up by "climate activists", to BBC reporting on wind farms, often no more than shameless propaganda for the wind industry. Part of the story told in my report is the unhealthily close relationship that developed between the BBC and organisations professionally involved in the "warmist" cause.
Some years back, the BBC adopted a new editorial policy - that the scientific and political "consensus" on climate change was now so overwhelming that it should be actively promoted, while climate sceptics, or "deniers" as the BBC calls them, should be kept off the airwaves.
A key moment in developing the new party line was a "high-level seminar" in 2006, attended by a bevy of top BBC executives. It was organised by Roger Harrabin, one of its senior environmental correspondents, and Dr Joe Smith, a geographer and climate activist from the Open University. They had set up the Cambridge Media and Environment Programme to promote the consensus line on global warming, funded by, among others, the Department for the Environment (then in charge of government policy on climate change) and WWF, one of the leading warmist pressure groups.
For a long time the BBC was remarkably coy about what had transpired at this gathering, but gradually - aided by the Freedom of Information Act - the details were dug out by two diligent bloggers, Tony Newbery of Harmless Sky and Andrew Montford of Bishop Hill. Their submission on it was, however, brushed aside in that dotty BBC Trust report last summer, where Prof Steve Jones recommended that the BBC's coverage of climate issues should show not less bias but more.
Since 2006, the BBC has relentlessly promoted the global warming orthodoxy as a pressure group in its own right. In covering the latest twists of this story on his blog, Montford cites another odd BBC programme, Earth Reporters: Sea Change
, funded by Unesco, which was like an adulatory commercial for the scientists who push alarm about the impact of global warming on the oceans, via the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The scientific adviser for the programme was the same Dr Smith who organised that 2006 seminar, and whose website lists a string of other BBC programmes he has worked on.
The irony is, however, that just as the BBC adopted its new hard line on climate change, in the real world the story was beginning to shift. Ever more searching questions have come to be asked about the supposed "consensus" on man-made warming, and the BBC's coverage has come to look ever more one-sidedly absurd.
Last week, even Richard Black, another BBC proselytiser for man-made warming, was gloomily having to reveal the conclusion of a new IPCC report: that, over the next few decades, "climate change signals are expected to be relatively small compared to natural climate variabilty". In plain English, that means the great scare story is over. What a shame. But at what a price.Dave goes an extra mile for the EU
When David Cameron, implausibly describing himself as a Euro "sceptic", made reference in his Guildhall speech on Monday to "pointless interference, rules and regulations" from Brussels, he might have been thinking of Kevin Doherty of Yeovil, whose story seems perfectly to exemplify what the Prime Minister was talking about.
When Mr Doherty was made redundant in the 2008 recession, he started his own business, Auto-Movements, taking cars all over the country on a trailer for dealers and leasing companies. All went well - he turns over more than £100,000 a year - until he recently met a friend's son working for the Vehicle Operator Services Agency (VOSA). He told Mr Doherty that new EU rules coming into force on December 4 might apply to him because the combined weight of his van and trailer exceeds 3.5 tons.
When Mr Doherty discovered what this was about, he was shocked. Under EU Council Regulation 1071/2009, thousands of small businesses like his are being put on the same regulatory footing as large transport firms operating trucks all over Europe. He will have to pay £1,000 and take two weeks off work to obtain an International Certificate of Professional Competence (even though he never works outside the UK), or hire a fully qualified transport manager. He will have to keep £8,000 permanently in the bank as security, and acquire "premises" to store his vehicles when not in use.
As shocking as anything was that - although Mr Doherty learned about it only by chance - the new law comes into force in just two weeks' time. Yet VOSA tells him it will take 12 weeks to process his paperwork. So for more than two months it will be illegal for him to work.
On looking into it, I was astonished to find that the statutory instrument putting the EU regulation into UK law was only laid before Parliament on November 7, less than a month before coming into force. When I discussed this with the Department for Transport, they were clearly sensitive to the difficulties it was creating. They admitted that they had no way of notifying all the businesses that will be affected, but said that VOSA will take no enforcement action for six months, until businesses have had time to comply.
Oddest and most shocking of all, however, is to read in the EU regulation that it is "unnecessary" for it to be applied to firms "which only perform transport operations with a very small impact on the transport market". If Mr Cameron's Government had wished it, thousands of tiny operations such as Mr Doherty's could quite legally have been exempted altogether. Instead, it has imposed on them a wholly unnecessary burden which is likely to force many out of business.