The BBC has long been a champion of the alarmist view of climate change. Now, with the UN summit in Paris just months away, it has taken the opportunity to crank up its climate propaganda wing. But according to the Bishop Hill blog, the corporation appears to have crossed the line from merely refusing dissenters a platform to misreporting in order to create scare stories.
Bishop Hill has noted a couple of examples of everyday bias at play over the last few days: “A couple of nights ago we had Kirsty Wark fawning all over Chris Rapley on Newsnight and wondering why good people like him weren’t making the policy decisions. Today we have Roger Harrabin on ocean acidification.”
In the latter example, the BBC’s Harrabin informs us that ancient seas were full of tiny shellfish until a “dramatic point 55 million years ago [the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum; PETM], when the oceans suddenly got hotter and more acidic and the shellfish disappeared. It took shellfish 160,000 years to recover and scientists say humans are changing the seas 10 times faster than at this catastrophic event.”
Harrabin then interviews Professor Daniela Schmidt of Bristol University who tells him: “My children will be alive in 2100. I would like them to be able to swim above a coral reef and enjoy its beauty. I would like them to be able to eat mussels and oysters and crayfish and if we continue to release CO2 at the current rate this is not going to happen.”
But a bit of digging by the blog reveals a paper authored by Prof Schmidt which notes that the sea creatures died out “several tens of thousands of years after the onset of the extreme temperatures and the acidification”.
Andrew Montford of the Bishop Hill blog has since had a Twitter exchange with Prof Schmidt who accused him of misunderstanding her work, before explaining that the BBC interview was “a news item, not a scientific paper,” as though that excused the lapse in accuracy.
Yet since the BBC decided that it didn’t need to present the other side of the global warming debate because the science was already settled, this sort of reporting has become standard for the corporation.
Which is perhaps why the BBC now feels that it can wilfully misrepresent evidence to fit the BBC world view.
Last week under Business News the corporation posted an article titled “Fracking ‘could lower house prices’ says draft official report”. In the body of the article, the BBC explains that last year the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) released a redacted version of a report on the potential effects of shale in response to a freedom of information request by Greenpeace.
Now, an unredacted version has been released. “Among the deleted sections were suggestions that house prices could fall by up to 7% in close proximity to shale gas exploration sites, while rental prices in the area could be pushed up by people coming to work on the developments,” the BBC said.
Yet a closer look at the study reveals a rather different picture, as it states: “Overall the evidence on impact on property prices in the literature is quite thin and the results are not conclusive. There could potentially be a range of 0 to 7% reductions in property values within 1 mile of an extraction site to reflect the impacts, where the high range reflects the top end of the Boxall et al (2005) estimate for the price fall.” (our emphasis).
One of the studies cited by the report even notes that, in some cases in Pennsylvania, house prices actually rose near wells, a fact avoided by the BBC.
The BBC decided instead to quote Greenpeace heavily (“It’s a complete vindication of Lancashire County Council’s decision to reject Cuadrilla’s bid to frack in their region, and provides other councils with compelling reasons to do the same.”) and include an analysis by their business correspondent John Moylan which further sticks the boot in:
“This report was written early last year – not long after the Prime Minister said the Government was going all out for shale,” Moylan writes. “We now know that around a third of the original report was cut out – much of this material throws a negative light on fracking.
“And given our national obsession with house prices – that 7% figure is likely to be highlighted every time communities face a fracking development on their doorstep.”
On the Pennsylvania research, Bishop Hill notes that “only homes with a private groundwater supply [were] negatively affected (in the UK this would be pretty much nobody). And even here it is worth noting the part that fear plays in this effect. There is no real evidence that shale gas actually affects ground water – there are only environmentalists’ scare stories compliantly repeated by a compliant media.”
The same could be said more broadly. Last week, Lancashire County Council turned down an application by fracking firm Cuadrilla for four wells, going against the advice of both their planning and legal departments to do so and in the face of evidence that fracking posed little risk, precisely because of the scare stories propagated by media outlets such as the BBC which slavishly follow the Greenpeace line. Needless to say, the BBC were overjoyed by the decision.
If house prices drop where fracking does take place, it’s more likely to be because of scare stories like this than because of any real risk posed by fracking. Although, of course, that would still allow the BBC to say: ‘told you so’.
Follow Donna Rachel Edmunds on Twitter: Follow @Donna_R_E or e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org