I am writing to protest the misrepresentation of the views of scientists who spoke at the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change, hosted by The Heartland Institute in March, in the BBC series “Earth: The Climate Wars.”
The BBC series is entirely one-sided and riddled with scientific errors. We regret that film taken at our conference was used in such a partisan and even mean-spirited piece of propaganda. It was particularly unfair and unethical to deliberately quote out of context scientists who spoke at our conference, plainly with the intent to mislead viewers about what they actually said and believe.
For example, climatologist Dr. Patrick Michaels gave a 30-minute keynote presentation at the International Conference with a theme (that has appeared in virtually all of his writing on the subject) that while some warming is taking place and human activity is partly responsible, there is no evidence that a global warming crisis looms. Michaels demonstrates how many “skeptics” in the global warming debate do not “deny” the basic science of climate change, but rather understand that science better than most of the “alarmists” in the debate. Global warming is “real,” but it is not a “crisis.”
BBC presented a few of Michaels’ short statements out of context to assert that he “is in surprising agreement with the advocates of global warming.” BBC entirely and deliberately obscures Michaels’ central point, that it is the amount of warming and its likely consequences that are the crux of the debate.
BBC showed a brief clip of Dr. Roy Spencer, who oversees satellite temperature data for NASA, acknowledging minor errors that needed correction in the NASA temperature datasets. BBC then took Spencer’s statement out of context to assert that Spencer now agrees the corrupted data from poorly located surface temperature stations confirm an alarming rise in global temperatures. Even the most cursory look at Dr. Spencer’s scientific work confirms that Dr. Spencer certainly does not believe what BBC asserted he believes.
BBC repeatedly asserts that only a very small minority of “maverick” scientists disagrees with the proposition that humans are causing a global warming crisis. Yet BBC fails to mention there were more than 500 “skeptical” scientists, economists, and policy experts at the conference. It fails to mention that more than 32,000 scientists have signed a petition presented by a past president of the National Academy of Sciences documenting that humans are not creating a global warming crisis.
BBC also fails to mention that an international survey completed by more than 500 climate scientists found widespread doubts about how much of the warming of the twentieth century was due to human activities and the reliability of forecasts of future warming. Or that fewer than half of the scientists surveyed believe the science is sufficiently settled to justify turning the issue of global warming over to policymakers.
The BBC goes to great lengths to assert that scientists at the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change engaged in a scientifically baseless and mean-spirited campaign to cast doubt on Michael Mann’s infamous “hockey stick” graph of alleged global temperatures during the past 1,000 years. The BBC somehow fails to note that a panel of scientists and statisticians appointed by the U.S. Congress concluded that the hockey stick graph is based on cherry-picked data and is not supported by sound science.
The BBC failed to report that The Heartland Institute invited scientists who believe global warming is a crisis to attend its conference and defend their thesis; none attended. (Joseph Bast reported this in his opening remarks at the conference; it was not a secret.) Or that the conference featured 100 speakers from a dozen countries and more than 30 universities who delivered presentations that asked questions the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change refuses to address, and delivered reports on new research casting doubt on the fundamental assumptions of the alarmist position. Somehow, the BBC managed to miss those presentations, and its “documentary” hides them from its viewers. That is a disservice to the BBC’s viewers.
Thankfully, the BBC has a chance to “get it right.” The Heartland Institute is hosting a second International Conference on Climate Change, once again in New York, on March 8-10, and we once again expect to attract hundreds of scientists from around the world who want to be heard in the debate over global warming. The BBC is once again welcome to attend and film presentations. This time, we hope they have the integrity and honesty to share with the BBC’s viewers what the speakers actually have to say.
James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is a Heartland Institute senior fellow and convener of the 2008 and 2009 International Conferences on Climate Change.