Monday, August 06, 2018

Resolving the BBC's dilemma on man-made Climate Change

I have just sent this off the the BBC 

Francesca Unsworth
Director News and Current Affairs
BBC Executive Committee
Broadcasting House
Portland Place

Resolving the dilemma on man-made Climate Change

You will be aware that there is a great deal of controversy on the BBC’s position on man-made Climate Change. Many educated people are increasingly offended by the BBC’s insistence on balancing any scientific statement on climate change with a view from someone who is sceptical of the science. At the same time, you are subject to intensive lobbying by these “sceptics”.

There is a way out of this dilemma.

The BBC’s mission includes informing and educating. To do this the BBC itself needs to know and understand. Climate science is intensely complex, but at its heart are three basic scientific facts about Earth climate:

1)     The Greenhouse Effect is a reality. Without it Earth average surface temp would be -15C
 instead of the present +15C
2)     CO2 is second most important greenhouse gas, after water vapour
3)     Burning of fossil fuels is increasing the concentration of CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere.

There is no reasonable scientific doubt about these facts. You can always find individuals who are prepared to dispute each of them, just as you can find individuals who dispute HIV, MMR, and the shape of the planet. These individuals will always be with us, but they have no place in serious public debate, and they are not scientific in that they do not present a coherent picture of what is taking place. Instead they suffer internal contradictions in their arguments, and explanations put forward by different “sceptics” are often mutually incompatible.

Your presenters can therefore safely and rightly introduce the topic of climate change by informing your audience of the above facts.

This now moves the debate forwards into the realm of the magnitude of the effect of the CO2 that our fossil fuel is producing. You will be aware of an influential group called “Lukewarmers” who accept the scientific facts summarised above but claim that the influence of CO2 is less than that which is accepted by the scientific consensus. It is here that the BBC can exercise its educational responsibility.

The question now is about Climate Sensitivity (CS), which is an estimate of the global temperature increase, in degrees Celsius, to a doubling of CO2 concentration, which is due to take place around 2075. CS is a complex technical matter, but at the same time, there is a simple resolution point, where figures overlap. Lukewarmers claim that value of Equilibrium Climate  Sensitivity lies in a range of 1-2C. The IPCC holds that the ECS range is 1.5 to 3.5. You notice that there is an overlap at the 2 figure, which is towards the high end of the Lukewarmers estimate, and the lower end of the consensus estimate.

Therefore the BBC could put on a programme to educate the public about this interesting point of agreement, which can be seen as a resolution of the long debate about climate change.

A further programme could explore the kind of global changes we can reasonably expect at a global increase of 2C.

I hope that you will find the above suggestions helpful in resolving what must be a seemingly intractable problem to the BBC, and I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely

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