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Coral Digger Disturbs War Dead – Not Climate Change : BBC Remain In Denial

August 3, 2014
tags: ,

By Paul Homewood 




Readers may recall the BBC account, a couple of months ago, about the bodies of Japanese war dead being uncovered, supposedly by rising sea levels.

This is what the BBC had to say:


Rising sea levels have disturbed the skeletons of soldiers killed on the Marshall Islands during World War Two.

Speaking at UN climate talks in Bonn, the Island’s foreign minister said that high tides had exposed one grave with 26 dead.

The minister said the bones were most likely those of Japanese troops.

Driven by global warming, waters in this part of the Pacific have risen faster than the global average.

With a high point just two metres above the waters, the Marshall Islands are one of the most vulnerable locations to changes in sea level.

The 29 atolls that make up the Marshall Islands are home to around 70,000 people. The corals that have formed the island chain are highly vulnerable to the surrounding seas.

The waters are not just threatening to overwhelm their defences, they are eroding roads while the salt makes the land infertile.

Now the waters are posing a new, macabre challenge.

"These last spring tides in February to April this year have caused not just inundation and flooding of communities but have also undermined regular land, so that even the dead are affected," said foreign minister Tony De Brum, speaking on the sidelines of the UN climate negotiations.

"There are coffins and dead people being washed away from graves, it’s that serious."

He gave details of an island in his constituency where a mass grave with 26 bodies had been exposed.

"We think they are Japanese soldiers, no broken bones, no indication of war, we think maybe suicide," he said.

Now, according to their political leaders, they face an existential threat from global warming that is expanding the seas that surround them.

According to a recent report from the UN Environment Programme, sea level is rising in the Pacific around the Marshall’s at a much higher rate than elsewhere in the world. The rate of rise between 1993 and 2009 was 12mm per year, compared with the global average of 3.2mm.


As I pointed out at the time, the Telegraph offered a much fuller, more detailed and objective assessment. They revealed that scientific research showed that :


1) Many of the islands in the Marshalls are either stable or growing.

2) Photos from WW II proved that some islands are now larger than then.

3) The shrinking shoreline along coastal villages has largely been caused by commercial development, building of seawalls and land reclamation.

4) Population increases and inhabitation of low-lying lands are probably playing a part in the increasing signs of damage.


Unsurprisingly, none of this appeared in the BBC report. This lack of objective reporting led Ron Hughes to complain to the BBC, asking what evidence they had that climate change was responsible and proof of their claims about the claimed rate of sea level rise.


BBC Reply

In a short reply, the BBC referred to a recent report from the UN Environment Programme, which they claimed confirmed their figures on sea level.


2nd Complaint

Unhappy with this reply, Ron responded by asking how the claim “driven by global warming” could be justified, when there had been no warming for 17 years.


2nd BBC Reply

Again, the BBC completely failed to answer the question, simply rehashing the “hottest decade” meme.


3rd Complaint

Fed up with being fobbed off, Ron escalated his complaint to the Editorial Complaints Unit. This time he was able to go into much more detail in his complaint.

Ron pointed out a number of factors that could have led to the graves being disturbed, including commercial development, construction of infrastructure, drainage, water supplies etc needed for a rapidly growing population, tourism, rainfall and typhoons. He asked why none of these were mentioned in the article, and why the blame was put on rising sea levels when there was no evidence for this.


3rd BBC Reply

This is when things started getting interesting. On 21st July, they replied, admitting that:

The correspondent who wrote the article, Matt McGrath, accepts that some of the information included was not as accurate as it should have been and that rather too much emphasis was placed on the claim made by the foreign minister of the Marshall Islands. Accordingly, the article has now been amended to correct a factual error about the extent of sea level rise in the Marshall Islands. It has also been edited to ensure the suggestion that high tides caused by climate change were responsible for the exposure of the skeletons is attributed directly to the foreign minister.


After again rehashing the usual “hottest decade” argument and IPCC projections, they then make a remarkable admission:

On your second point, my research indicates that the skeletons were discovered in an islet on Kwajalein Atoll by a resident digging for coral gravel on the beach at the base of the local
landfill. The remains were between 2cm from the surface and 50cm.

In other words, the bodies were not uncovered by the sea, but by a coral digger.

And they admit:

It is not possible to say with any degree of certainty that rising sea levels were the sole, or principal, cause of these bodies coming to light and other factors may have played a part, including shifting shorelines from accretion. In my view, it would have been better if rather less emphasis had been given to the claims of the island’s foreign minister that climate change was responsible.


Although there is therefore no evidence that rising seas had any effect at all in the discovery of the bodies, the BBC, through their own tortuous logic, conclude:

To summarise, the article should have acknowledged that other causes may have played a part in exposing these skeletons but, since there does not appear to be evidence to support
your assertion that climate change has played no part, I do not believe that the article amounted to a serious breach of the BBC’s editorial standards.

In other words, as there is no evidence that climate change did not play a part, they feel they have no obligation to issue any sort of correction. [In fact, as Ron pointed out, he acknowledged from the outset that climate change may have played a role, and the BBC have subsequently apologised for this false accusation].


As Ron commented in his reply to the BBC:

“Would you explain why Mr McGrath’s report omitted the absolutely crucial fact disclosed in your letter? It is my opinion that that omission destroys his article’s credibility, and so damages the BBC’s Science & Environment reporting reputation?”


Ron has now escalated his complaint to the BBC Trust Unit. 


The whole affair reeks of confirmation bias. To simply and unquestioningly accept the words of a politician, who is trying to ramp up alarm in order to get climate aid money, is not proper journalism. And to lead with such an alarming headline shows that, for Matt McGrath, the main purpose was propaganda, and not an attempt to ascertain the facts.

Of course, the damage is already done, whatever corrections the BBC now issue, as readers will have read the article at the time and won’t be aware of its inaccuracies.

Nevertheless, for the BBC to remain in denial puts them in a very bad light.

Perhaps the most serious complaint of all is that the article was written under the banner “BBC News: Science & Environment”. If the BBC persist in broadcasting inaccurate and biased reports by their “Environment Correspondent”, that is one thing. But to pretend that this has anything to do with science is a totally different matter.




Coincidentally, two scientific articles have surfaced recently, which throw more light on the topic of coral atolls.


1) A GWPF paper, “Sea Level Change”, by Robert Carter & Willem de Lange has this to say about atolls:

The dynamic nature of an atoll is exacerbated, and its integrity jeopardized, when it is subjected to the environmental pressures created by a growing human population. Sand mining, construction project loading, and rapid groundwater withdrawal all cause local lowering of the ground surface, and thereby encourage marine incursion quite irrespective of any sea-level change. It is these processes in combination with episodic natural hazards like tides and storms, and not global sea-level change, which provide the alarming footage of marine flooding that from time to time appears on our television news screens.


2) An article in Science Magazine, “Warming May Not Swamp Islands”, recalls Paul Kench’s work in 1999:

In 1999, the World Bank asked [University of Auckland geomorphologist Paul Kench] to evaluate the economic costs of sea-level rise and climate change to Pacific island nations. Kench, who had been studying how atoll islands evolve over time, says he had assumed that a rising ocean would engulf the islands, which consist of sand perched on reefs. “That’s what everyone thought, and nobody questioned it,” he says. But when he scoured the literature, he could not  find a single study to support that scenario. So Kench teamed up with Peter Cowell, a geomorphologist at the University of Sydney in Australia, to model what might happen. They found that during episodes of high seas—at high tide during El Niño events, which raise sea level in the Central Pacific, for example—storm waves would wash over higher and higher sections of atoll islands. But instead of eroding land, the waves would raise island elevation by depositing sand produced from broken coral, coralline algae, mollusks, and foraminifera. Kench notes that reefs can grow 10 to 15 millimeters a year—faster than the sea-level rise expected to occur later this century. “As long as the reef is healthy and generates an abundant supply of sand, there’s no reason a reef island can’t grow and keep up,” he argues.


 3) Ron also unearthed this work of Charles Darwin’s about coral atolls, that suggested they form on sinking volcanic mountains.






  1. August 3, 2014 8:35 pm

    I thought Darwin originally rejected the claim that coral atolls formed on submerged volcanoes and argued that coral atolls formed on the subsidence of mountain ranges.

  2. Joe Public permalink
    August 3, 2014 11:12 pm

    Perhaps Tony de Brum, foreign minister of the Marshall Islands, deliberately targeted a gullible ‘reporter’ to aid his fishing – for – sympathy – handouts endeavours?

    After all, the event he was attending was a ‘Negotiation’, the very title of which should have alerted a competent reporter to be wary of ‘hidden’ agendas.

    • tom0mason permalink
      August 3, 2014 11:48 pm

      Umm “… competent reporter to be wary of ‘hidden’ agendas.”, unfortunately this reporter was from Aunty BBC, and as Ron has found out Aunty knows best, even if Aunty does know a darn thing.
      IMO Ron’s action in escalating to the BBC Trust Unit is admirable, it is will achieve nothing as the Trust is as criticism as coprolite is to decomposition.

  3. August 4, 2014 5:46 am

    I don’t trust any report McGrath produces. He is about the worst and most biased BBC climate alarmist there is. Does any one know what his background in science is? His journalistic training obviously was just how to regurgitate statements and press releases without any investigative work.

  4. Keitho permalink
    August 4, 2014 8:35 am

    Whilst it is accepted that some areas of the worlds oceans are at different levels than others because of gravitational variations it insults common sense that levels could be rising at different rates in different places. I am talking, of course, of sea levels as measured by satellites thus removing any isostatic changes that are measured by tide gauges.

    For there to be differential rates of absolute sea level change would require variable gravitational forces which could be acceptable on geological timescales, millions of years, it is simply not possible on the time scale of 40 years of satellite measurements or even over the 200 years of tide gauge measurements.

    Let’s face facts, if such rapid changes in the mass in or under our crust were taking place it would indicate that changes in atmospheric CO2 caused by our burning stuff is the very least of our worries.

  5. Black Pearl permalink
    August 4, 2014 9:00 am


    Guess he’s only following orders
    I’m afraid there’s not a lot of proper investigative reporting to be seen anywhere these days in main stream media.
    Just as well we have individuals who are willing to take them on.
    BBC’s so full of it ‘& we still pay their wages to be deceived’
    Until someone like Murdoch gets behind it, (which he wont as he needs to keep in to ensure broadcasting rights) the deception will continue.

  6. A C Osborn permalink
    August 4, 2014 9:58 am

    Paul, I caught part of the BBC program on Clouds this morning, there again we have Global Warming Lies spouted as scientific statements, the first was that Hurricanes have become more numerous and the second was the Oceans are warming.
    On top of that they stated that “Dirty” clouds hold more water and stop more heat getting to the surface and cause cooling, whereas “Clean” clouds do so to a lesser extent.
    Surely if a cloud absorbs heat, it is warming the atmosphere which is supposed to warm the earth, whereas a clean light coloured clouds will reflect the solar energy due to increased Albedo, both will still cast a shadow.
    They appear to be making up the Science as they go.

    • quaesoveritas permalink
      August 4, 2014 11:42 am

      I saw the programme and was surprised to see that they concluded that the recent increase in sea temperature and hurricanes was due to “cleaner” clouds and that the number of hurricanes was just returning to normal.

    • August 4, 2014 12:10 pm

      Found it in i-player.

      How far in is the hurricane comment?

      • quaesoveritas permalink
        August 4, 2014 12:59 pm

        Approx. 47 minutes in.
        But it’s all worth watching.

      • quaesoveritas permalink
        August 4, 2014 1:03 pm

        When the sequence starts it sound as though it’s saying that Hurricanes are increasing, but by the end it’s obvious their not.

  7. quaesoveritas permalink
    August 4, 2014 11:49 am

    The BBC has made many false claims about Climate Change over the years, and I have complained about some of them myself. You usually get fobbed off with their initial reply and I usually give up at that point. It is pure confirmation bias with CC being the only possible explanation.
    I am glad to see that Ron Hughes has more tenacity than I do and has pursued this to the extent that he eventually received an admission that they were wrong.

  8. August 4, 2014 1:21 pm

    MIT professors will state as a fact that Venus suffered a runaway greenhouse effect. That is 100% science fiction—we know far to little about Venus to make any statements on its past. Yet a professor will make that kind of claim. It’s not surprising that news media do that.

    In the US, I ran into reporters not knowing the difference between feet and meters. I’m not sure why the wind company reported the height of their turbines in meters (or if said reported looked it up—seems unlikely) but wind turbines were reported to be 80 feet tall and 40 foot blades. That’s a bit different than 262 feet and 131 foot blades. The strike area for birds is a bit higher on the later size. The reporter either did not understand or did not care that a meter is over 3 feet, not one for one.

  9. August 4, 2014 2:40 pm

    Reblogged this on and commented:
    Climate change looks more like a shovel?

  10. August 4, 2014 7:38 pm

    Reblogged this on the WeatherAction Blog and commented:
    BBC telling climate porkies and being glacial to correct it? Well I never

  11. winter37 permalink
    August 5, 2014 9:46 pm

    The B.B.C. ref. to climate change should be challenged.They should define climate change:-how do they know it is changing,what evidence do they have for this change,and are they using the Koppen-Geiger climate classification.If they cannot answer any of the above then they should omit the ref. to climate.
    Scaring people with misinformation is not within the remit of the B.B.C.-would the Govt. please note.

    • quaesoveritas permalink
      August 6, 2014 11:40 am

      There was recently an item about the decline of Antarctic Krill and it’s effect on seals, in which they referred to “changes in the environment” rather that “climate change”.
      I wondered whether this was significant.

      • Joe Public permalink
        August 6, 2014 12:54 pm

        Obviously not this article:

        “Antarctic fur seals feel climate impacts”
        By Jonathan Amos 23 July 2014

  12. Gillian Merrett permalink
    August 6, 2014 4:33 pm

    McGrath has a degree in history and classics, a teaching qualification and a Masters in broadcast journalism.

  13. Billy Liar permalink
    August 10, 2014 11:57 pm

    The Guardian had the story on 6 June:

    It looks like the facts have been hyped up by Tony de Brum, who is, according to ABC, Minister in Assistance to the President (vice-president equivalent), with portfolio responsibilities that include climate change and energy issues:

    Steven Goddard posted on 7 June:

    and I commented at that time:

    Where did the Grauniad get the name ‘Santo Island’ from? What they are talking about is Ennubirr or Third Island as it is the third island in the chain south from Roi-Namur at the north end of the Kwajalein atoll. It has a population of around 6,000 on an island 1,300 ft x 800 ft (about 200 acres) – no wonder it’s sinking.

    The health center there is called ‘Santo Dispensary’.

    and somewhere else (can’t remember where) I have seen plots of Kwajalein sea level from tide gauges showing sea level rising at something like 1.8 +/-0.8 mm/yr – not significantly different than the tide gauge average for the globe.

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