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BBC wrong to not challenge climate sceptic Lord Lawson

October 25, 2017

By Paul Homewood


From the BBC:




The BBC should have challenged the views of climate sceptic Lord Lawson in an interview in August, the complaints unit for the corporation has ruled.

The ex-chancellor claimed in an interview with the Today programme that “official figures” showed average world temperatures had “slightly declined”.

This view, shown to be false by the Met Office, was not challenged on air.


The BBC admitted it had breached its “guidelines on accuracy and impartiality”.

Conservative peer Lord Lawson’s appearance on Radio 4’s flagship Today programme sparked a number of complaints from listeners.

He had been invited on to discuss the latest film on climate change by former US Vice President Al Gore.

During the interview, Lord Lawson said “official figures” showed that “during this past 10 years, if anything… average world temperature has slightly declined”.

He also claimed the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had confirmed there had not been in an increase in extreme weather events for the last 10 years.

Dr Peter Stott, of the Met Office, came on the programme the following day to confirm that Lord Lawson’s statistics, which he did not cite at the time, were incorrect.

Dr Stott also said the IPCC has clearly indicated an increase in extreme weather events across the globe were linked to human use of fossil fuels.

The Global Warming Policy Foundation, a campaign group chaired by Lord Lawson, later confirmed his statistics were “erroneous”.


The BBC’s media editor Amol Rajan said the Today programme had a remit to offer dissenting opinions, aimed at challenging lazy thinking and consensus views.

But he said the BBC’s complaints department ruled that a lack of scrutiny of Lord Lawson’s claims meant the interview fell short of editorial standards.

It ruled that the peer’s statements “were, at the least, contestable and should have been challenged”.


A paper by Skeptical Science claims that 97% of scientists across the globe believe climate change is caused by humans.

In 2014 the BBC Trust stated the corporation has “a duty to reflect the weight of scientific agreement but it should also reflect the existence of critical views appropriately”.



The tragedy is that this could have been so easily avoided if Lord Lawson had been properly briefed.

All he needed to say was that according to the satellite data, which is the most comprehensive we have, last year was not statistically warmer than 1998.




He could also have added that computer models have consistently overestimated warming by a large margin.


While such statements may have been controversial, neither is untrue, and both would be highly relevant to the public.



BBC Hypocrisy

The hypocrisy of the BBC here is of course stunning, if not unexpected.

There have been frequent occasions when they have, for instance, interviewed Al Gore without even attempting to challenge his view.

As an example, in July 2014, they interviewed him in Australia:


Referring to floods and wildfires there, Gore clearly stated that there had always been floods and fires in Australia, but not like now, they’re more extreme, more frequent.

The BBC’s interviewer, Jon Donnison obviously confused Gore with the Pope, as he let him make this claim without any challenge whatsoever.

In fact, both of Gore’s allegations can be readily challenged.

A study by Ishak et al in 2010, Preliminary analysis of trends in Australian flood data,  found that:

Preliminary trend analysis results show that about 30% of the selected stations show trends in annual maxima flood series data, with downward trends in the southern part of Australia and upward trends in the northern part.

And another study by Doerr and Santin, “Global trends in wildfire and its impacts: perceptions versus realities in a changing world”, in 2016 declared:

For example, data for Europe and Australia/New Zealand show a strong decline in area burned of 5% yr


 Nobody would expect Donnison to be aware of the detailed facts, and other scientists might disagree, but this is not the point. It is the BBC’s duty to question and statements made, regardless of the source or subject.


Stott and the 97% Scam

To cap it all, the BBC wheeled out the Met Office’s Peter Stott the next day to “correct” Lord Lawson’s statements.

According to the BBC:

Dr Stott also said the IPCC has clearly indicated an increase in extreme weather events across the globe were linked to human use of fossil fuels

This statement is in fact utterly false.

The IPCC’s Special Report on Extreme Weather Events, published in 2012, actually finds little evidence to support Stott’s wildly inaccurate claims.

As a reminder:

1) There is little evidence of any trends in cyclone activity.

2) Some evidence of heavier rain in certain places, but the opposite in others. (Heavier rainfall, it needs to be pointed out, is very often a good thing, as the alternative is drought)

3) Droughts are worse in some regions, but less intense in others.

4) No evidence at all about flood trends.




It also needs pointing out that these changes identified are not necessarily connected to global warming, whether man-made or not. It is well accepted that changing natural ocean and climate cycles have a major impact on such matters, and always have had.


Again, the exact facts here are not particularly important. The issue is that the BBC interviewer should not be accepting statements, such as this one by Stott, as gospel truth.


And if that was not enough, the BBC ends up quoting the Cook 97% paper:

A paper by Skeptical Science claims that 97% of scientists across the globe believe climate change is caused by humans.

As careful analysis of Cook’s work actually reveals, only 1.6% of the papers surveyed find that “humans are the primary cause of recent global warming”.

  1. Malcolm Bell permalink
    October 25, 2017 5:07 pm

    Dear me Paul, you’ll be wanting free speech and reasoned debate next. Tge universities have made it abundently clear this week that this is not permitted. Agree with the consensus or reap the tornado. Even poor old Lawson (and I have little enough reason to like him) is getting this intellectually immoral torment.

    Did you hear “Professor” Harrabin telling us how Attenborough in his new programme has proved ocean acidy is wiping out ocean life at accellerating rates? The corals may have another decade or so then …

    Is coral the new arctic ice scare?

    • October 25, 2017 5:15 pm

      Worth bearing in mind that Lawson is 85 years old, with a much younger girlfriend, so climate scepticism is clearly good for your health and libido.

    • quaesoveritas permalink
      October 25, 2017 5:27 pm

      And David Shukman saying “There was a very moving scene in episode one, of a Walrus mother trying to get her calf onto a piece of ice and there wasn’t much left because it’s all melting.”

    • Ian Magness permalink
      October 25, 2017 5:52 pm

      Tucked away in the latest Comrade Harrabin article is the statistic that average global marine (or some such statistic) pH has moved dramatically (my words) “since the beginning of the industrial revolution” from 8.2 to 8.1 – apparently this marks an “increase in acidity of 26%”. Ignoring the fact that 8.1 or 8.2 are alkaline statistics, can someone with more knowledge please tell us:
      1) whether the difference between 8.1 and 8.2 has any significance to marine life at all? In other words: “is it bovvered”?
      2) whether the 0.1 variation is well within the bounds of normal marine variability, either in one location or between locations world-wide where regional differences in climatic (eg temperature, rainfall) or geographic (eg depth, sediment run-off etc) parameters mean more significant variance from, say, 8.2 pH?
      3) how on earth can you make a 0.1 pH change equate to an increase in acidity of 26%?
      The article is entitled “More acidic oceans will affect all sea life”. With regard to a pH move from 8.2 to 8.1, I really somewhat doubt it but I wait to be enlightened!

      • Colin permalink
        October 25, 2017 6:33 pm

        Strictly speaking 26% is correct, to put into context though, getting to neutral pH from 8.1 would be about 1100% increase in acidity or more accurately reduction in alkalinity. The pH is quoted to one decimal place which probably means that 26% is a bit of joke number, between 10 and 30% would give a better reprentation of the exactitude possible.

      • jim permalink
        October 25, 2017 6:34 pm

        The PH scale is logarithmic, so 0.1 movement is actually more than you initially think.
        However to state a number, any number, as an ‘average global marine’ is just complete c**p! Every part of ‘climatology’ is just silly numerology. Its not science at all. There have been some good articles on WUWT recently about the complete lack on understanding of accuracy and the misuse of statistical techniques.
        As I remarked to one, you can replace all the exotic variables in all the models with the timetables of London buses , as long as you keep the CO2 forcing component in the equations you end up with the same outputs. In other words, GIGO, with the outcome predetermined.

      • David Ashton permalink
        October 25, 2017 7:42 pm

        The concentration of H+ ions in water at 8.2pH is 6.3×10^(-9) moles/litre, at 8.1pH it is 7.9×10^(-9) moles/litre.

        For completion, the concentration of OH- ions in water at 8.2pH is 1580×10^(-9) moles/litre and at 8.1pH it is 1260×10^(-9) moles/litre.

        I have assumed the product of [H+] and [OH-] is exactly 10^(-14).

      • Graeme No.3 permalink
        October 25, 2017 9:24 pm

        As there were NO pH meters at the start of the Industrial Revolution I would like to ask them where that figure came from.
        Even the concept of pH wasn’t known at that time.
        And the first widely used pH meters (Beckmann) introduced in the late 1930’s were only accurate to 0.1 units (and that took careful work).

        And the pH of ocean samples can vary from 7.7 to ~8.3, with a seasonal variation in any spot up to 0.3.

      • Ian Magness permalink
        October 26, 2017 12:29 pm

        Thank you Colin, Jim, David and Graeme3 for your informative points. As I suspected, it looks like the Comrade’s article is utter nonsense. Quelle surprise!

  2. Dung permalink
    October 25, 2017 5:16 pm

    On the same day as this happened David Attenborough was interviewed by one of the regular BBC scientific stooges and ‘stated’ that global temperatures were rising and we were to blaim, no dissenting voices were heard (except mine much more loudly that my wife appreciated).

  3. Curious George permalink
    October 25, 2017 5:18 pm

    “A lack of scrutiny of Lord Lawson’s claims meant the interview fell short of editorial standards.” Does BBC really scrutinize green claims? Surely not. The lack of scrutiny is a norm, not an aberration.

  4. quaesoveritas permalink
    October 25, 2017 5:20 pm

    There are so few opportunities for sceptics to speak in the media, it is vitally important that they are factually correct.
    Otherwise it brings the whole sceptical movement into disrepute.
    Perhaps what is needed is an agreed script or manifesto.
    Of course, the BBC rarely challenges proponents of climate change and even puts forward its own opinions on the subject.

  5. October 25, 2017 6:27 pm

    The Lawson thing is a non story
    It is merely propagandists coming back for second bite of cherry.
    #1 Lawson already corrected himself
    #2 The big story is that Lib mob want to turn this into story and don’t say anything about Gore and other alarmists getting a free pass on the same day.

    This is like the way Trump trolls the media with 1 tweet
    They dramaqueen like crazy in an unfair and unreasonable way, Trump’s base see this and are reinforced towards him.
    Same as we are now reinforced towards Lawson and the way the BBC is unfair to skeptics.

    There is irony
    however now that La Nina seems certain it does seem likely that soon global temperatures for each month should be lower than they were under last years El Nino.

    • October 26, 2017 11:44 am

      And after the media has huffed and puffed and blown their house down over President Donald Trump’s tweet, Donald is shown to be absolutely correct in what he tweeted. This brings on a firestorm of indignation from the media, the RINOS* and the rest of the swamp bleating that he is “un-Presidential.” Since he IS President, I am not certain how that is construed as un-Presidential, but never mind.

      As to your reference to his base. We are DELIGHTED to see the man we supported supporting us. “W” never did. When they brought garbage against him he did not correct or fight back–in a most “Presidential” way. These attacks are really towards those of us who support these folks and we were left to muddle in the trenches without reinforcements from the President. Following the election and during his Inaugural Address, President Trump said several times, “I will never let you down.” I actually cried every time I heard it–we were so used to being let down. He has kept his word as I knew he would. Watching him play the media is a daily treat–it reminds me of Lucy and Charlie Brown with the football. It is very illustrative of the media’s mental prowess.

      *RINO for those of you across the pond means “Republican In Name Only”. Think Senators John McCain, Jeff Flake, Robert Corker, Susan Collins, etc. However, there is a gurgling sound as Flake and Corker have elected to leave the swamp. Both were likely to be “primaried.” Arizona physician, Kelli Ward, who was born in Fairmont, WV ca. 25 miles south of me, was ahead of Flake in the polls by 16 points. Corker, from Tennessee, was also facing stiff primary competition. Draining the swamp is not pretty, as the denizens thrash and scream as they go, but it is a satisfying process.

  6. October 25, 2017 6:40 pm

    The BBC will never challenge sceptics. To do so would be public suicide. We must just accept that Harrabin, Attenborough, Shukman, stooges in the Complaints Dept etc are simply propagandists, knaves and charlatans, whose influence – with the benefit of almost unlimited financial resources – will continue to have currency for some time yet.

    • October 25, 2017 8:18 pm

      @RW you need an edit button.
      You meant “The BBC will never challenge Climate Alarmists”

  7. HotScot permalink
    October 25, 2017 6:55 pm

    Why in God’s name they wheeled out Lawson to appear for the GWPF I’ll never understand. The man is, and always was a terrible speaker and debater. And despite being Chairman (or whatever he is) of the GWPF he seems astonishingly ignorant of the subject.

    • October 25, 2017 7:21 pm

      The BBC does not tolerate Heretics.

    • October 25, 2017 8:19 pm

      Last time hey seemed to pull a stunt
      deliberately inviting Lawson they could then have many more items airing why Lawson is a bad man.

    • Athelstan permalink
      October 25, 2017 10:43 pm

      Lord Lawson of Blaby, conducts in, writes very eloquently in good prose and precisely at that.

      Lord Lawson, is and has been a critic of the green madness, a consistent pain in the arse of the green blob and trod a lonely furrow, he stood up when others hid away – matey.

      One of the primary reasons the beeb call on him, is that sometimes the wankerati have to be seen to be doing the public . ie craftily playing to both sides of the argument.
      Nota Bene: it matters not whether they allow the realist spokesperson [in this case Nigel Lawson] to have his say, attempt to catch him out. They will shout over his answers given in good faith and generally take the piss, in their arrant ignorance – as all lefttards do “ooooooooooooooh but the consensus says!” – it’s the impression of objectivity that counts.

      When did the BBC ever allow on someone who and excuse me my Lord [ bless you Nigel ]……….when I say this, someone who could really take the debate to the liars, Harrabins, Shukmans, shills and tossers who spout the green lies and promote their own money grubbing & pension scheme to boot?

      How about Marc Morano, Monckton, Steyn, Peter Lilley never got on the beeb because he scared the living sh*7 out of the warmunistas – So think on and then conclude: yeah absolutely no chance.

      • HotScot permalink
        October 25, 2017 11:23 pm


        Whilst I respect Mr. Lawson for his courage in taking on the green blob, I nevertheless maintain my contention that he’s a lousy debater.

        The fact is, it would have been better had he not appeared as his grasp of the subject is not as comprehensive as Moncktons or Moranos (and I’m well aware they will never be invited onto the BBC for fear of them ripping it apart) and he has done more harm than good in this instance. He should stick to writing where he has the time mental space to express himself well.

      • Athelstan permalink
        October 26, 2017 10:11 am

        OK HS.

        I hear you! my contention was that Lord Lawson is dragged before our screens precisely because he ain’t so good with his oratorial ‘thrust, parry and attaque au fer’, if I didn’t make that so clear [I didn’t] – then my apologies to you.

  8. richardw permalink
    October 25, 2017 7:45 pm

    Inaccurate remarks like this, corrected or not, do not serve to persuade people. Indeed they simply reinforce their views. For example, I gave a friend a copy of “The Rational Optimist” by Matt Ridley in an attempt to get her to see that there was more than one point of view. She clearly googled him and when we next met she said “Do you know who he is? He’s an aristocrat who owns a coal mine!!” Despite my response correcting her perception, she will now look at the book with a jaundiced eye.

  9. Rowland H permalink
    October 25, 2017 8:24 pm

    “97% of scientists “believe” that climate change (what climate change?) is being caused by man”. Belief proves absolutely nothing.

  10. October 25, 2017 9:32 pm

    The squabbling continues…

    Date: 25/10/17 James Tapsfield, Mail Online

    The BBC was accused of being a ‘left-wing mouthpiece’ today after it issued a grovelling apology for failing to challenge Lord Lawson over a claim temperatures have not risen over the last 10 years. Furious MPs said the decision to single out the peer showed the corporation had given up any ‘pretence’ of impartiality.

    ‘Furious MPs’ have just noticed that? It’s been going on for at least a decade on climate stuff,

  11. Bill Berry permalink
    October 25, 2017 9:40 pm

    As Lord Lawson’s views have been aired before by the BBC they knew what to expect. He was used as an Aunt Sally and they exploited the complaints to extend the furore. What is needed are rapid and focused complaints made whenever Attenbore and the other usual suspects trot out their frequent unsubstantiated claims. It would be useful to have a short list of claims and referenced refutations – ideally the references should come from the IPCC reports. Otherwise we are just talking to ourselves.

  12. Thomas Brown permalink
    October 25, 2017 10:39 pm

    If I believed in conspiracy theories I might suggest that the BBC apology was planned well in advance and Lord Lawson was the perfect stooge.
    I suggest that the best way to counter BBC climate change propaganda is to challenge the myth that an increase in carbon dioxide occurs in advance of a rise in global temperatures, when a substantial amount of data suggests exactly the opposite.

  13. October 26, 2017 1:21 am

    The “paper by Skeptical Science” that they linked to isn’t an academic paper, at all. It is a web page which discusses several papers, on an unreliable advocacy web site, and it is highly misleading.

    An article by Prof. Peter Doran in 2009 was the first to claim a “97% consensus” on climate science. Here’s what he did.

    FIRST, Dr. Doran wrote just two “opinion” questions for his survey, both of which were “gimmies,” designed to elicit the answers he wanted. (There were also some demographic & background questions.)

    The survey PRETENDED to be an attempt to learn about scientists’ opinions, but it wasn’t. Neither question was designed to actually learn anything about scientists’ opinions. Both of the questions were so uncontroversial that even I, and most other skeptics of climate alarmism (a/k/a “climate realists” or “lukewarmers”) would have given the answers he wanted.

    SECOND, Doran had his graduate student send the survey to over 10,000 geophysical scientists, but ONLY to people working in academia or government — known bastions of left-of-center politics. Scientists working in private industry, who tend to be more conservative, were not surveyed. That biased the sample, because the climate debate is highly politicized: most conservatives “lean skeptical” and most liberals “lean alarmist” in the climate debate.

    They got 3,146 responses.

    THIRD, to calculate his supposed “consensus” Prof. Doran excluded all but the most biased respondents: the most specialized specialists in climate science.

    That’s a massive, fundamental blunder. That’s like asking ONLY homeopaths about the efficacy of homeopathy, rather than the broader medical community. It’s like asking ONLY people working on cold fusion about whether cold fusion works, rather than asking all physicists.

    That process excluded over 97% of the geophysical scientists who answered the survey! Only 79 were left.

    That’s right: he pruned 3,146 responses down to just 79.

    But even that didn’t get his desired “consensus” figure up to 97%. So,

    FOURTH, to calculate his final “97.4%” result, Doran EXCLUDED respondents who gave one of the “skeptical” answers to the first of his two questions.

    I’m not kidding, he really did.

    The first “gimme” question was:

    “When compared with pre-1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?”

    (I would have said “risen.”)

    Those who answered “remained relatively constant” were not asked the 2nd question, and THEY WERE NOT COUNTED when calculating his percentage consensus.

    That left him with just 77 out of 3,146 responses. He used only those 77 for the “97.4%” calculation.

    The second question was:

    “Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?”

    Well, of course it is! That encompasses both GHG-driven warming and particulate/aerosol-driven cooling. It could also be understood to include Urban Heat Island (UHI) effects.

    Since just about everyone acknowledges at least one of those effects, I would have expected nearly everyone to answer “yes” to this question. Yet 2 of 77 apparently did not.

    It is unfortunate that Doran and his graduate student didn’t ask an actual, legitimate question about Anthropogenic Global Warming. They should have asked something like, “Do you believe that emissions of CO2 from human activities, such as burning fossil fuels, are causing dangerous increases in global average temperatures?” or (paraphrasing President Obama) “Do you believe that climate change is real, man-made and dangerous?”

    Of course, the reason he didn’t ask “real” questions like that his survey was a scam: Its purpose was NOT to discover anything, it was to support a propaganda talking point.

    BTW, I bought his graduate student’s thesis project report, so if you (or anyone else) have any questions about it let me know. My contact info can be found on my web site.

    You can find much more information about the various surveys of scientific opinion on climate change, including source references for everything I’ve written here, on this web page:

    • Robin Guenier permalink
      October 26, 2017 6:40 am

      This 2013 submission to the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee covers the Doran paper (and much more):

      • October 27, 2017 12:19 am

        Thank you, Robin; I just skimmed briefly, but it looks like some good work there!

        One thing you missed was the fact that after Doran pruned the 3,146 geoscientists down to just 79 he deleted two of the four identified skeptics before calculating his 97.4%.

    • October 26, 2017 12:00 pm

      Thank you, daveburton. You saved me from having to go through the long narrative of how a masters student twit and her “major professor” arrived at the spurious and infamous “97%.” Their methods were in direct conflict with the “Scientific Method.” My late major professor, Dr. Albert E. Radford, and the rest of my two committees in the Botany Department of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, would never have gone along with such non-scientific methods. Nor would I. Sorry you had to waste good money buying her thesis. What a waste of a tree that was.

      • October 27, 2017 12:12 am

        Joan, it didn’t cost much, and I don’t blame Ms. Zimmerman much. I blame her supervising professor, Dr. Doran.

        I approached them both about doing a collaborative update/correction article, and got very different responses. Well, neither was interested. But she was cordial, and at least willing to talk to me. He was extremely hostile, rude, and insulting.

        I think she just did as she was directed to do, by her supervising professor. He used her to do the grunt work, to generate his propaganda talking point.

  14. October 26, 2017 2:39 am

    Great post. Cheers Paul.

  15. richardw permalink
    October 26, 2017 7:24 am

    It gets worse. My wife, who is aware of my concerns but doesn’t really share them or have an interest in them, just came in to show me an online Guardian report of this apology and the predictable drubbing of Lord Lawson. So the negative publicity from his interview and the subsequent fallout just gets worse for the GWPF.

  16. geordie stuart permalink
    October 26, 2017 8:03 am

    I listen less and less to the BBC news . Shame . So much of what they do – music (astonishing ) , documentaries , drama , comedy , entertainment is world class . Why is News and comment so poor and partisan ?

  17. Derek Buxton permalink
    October 26, 2017 8:49 am

    Simple answer, because they can and with no one to account to and the use of public money makes it simple.

    • Athelstan permalink
      October 26, 2017 11:06 am

      Nail, head and hammered in by Derek, perceptive acuity in simple terms.

      • October 26, 2017 12:02 pm

        Also, with the good programming, they hook you in to listen to the fake news.

  18. October 26, 2017 10:17 am

    Dear Paul, our revered fact finder in chief,
    This is, albeit just another, a huge demonstration of the BBC’s constant dereliction of duty, according to its Charter. I just wonder how you, and perhaps with the help of all your followers, can zap this into that benighted (dis)organisation, to make them realise that not only are they wrong about the subject, but also very wrong about their broadcasting independence ? It would also be just great if we could all join forces to lobby the whole of the press, politicians and assorted biased blowhards. Any suggestions ?

  19. October 26, 2017 11:54 am

    Lord Lawson is ‘spinning’ to stop the waste of money on renewables.

    The BBC are teetering on the edge of action against them for ignoring nuclear power and promoting offshore wind for meeting UK carbon targets.

    “…Is Derby’s Rolls-Royce on verge of go-ahead for £100 BILLION nuclear programme?…” Newspaper headlines a few days ago – nothing on BBC News.

    Not so for Offshore Wind 11 Sept.

  20. Jack Broughton permalink
    October 26, 2017 3:27 pm

    The mighty Meja have successfully stopped almost all debate of AGW for years, this fact alone makes the BBC apology totally hypocritical. Despite their massive brainwashing efforts, scepticism abounds and the internet is the only area available for this. There is growing evidence that the internet is now where people go to avoid the “fake-news” that is being served up on almost every subject by the BBC & ITV enforcers. The fake-news shows have actually become boring and repetitive anyway.

    This gives some hope to HotScot’s belief that the tipping point is approaching and the grand-fraud will be exposed.

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