Home > Climate Change, Global Warming > Climate Expertise Inflation By The BBC

Climate Expertise Inflation By The BBC

Richard Black’s desire to defend the BBC is natural and even commendable. Still, his or any defence of the (unsigned) Feb 15 “Global warming ‘underestimated’” article is untenable.

That article is clearly misleading.

Black tries to make a point about Field’s political weight and the breadth of the IPCC “Impacts” Working Group remit:

As the new co-chair of the IPCC working group on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability, he now has a leadership role in the periodic assessments of global climate change that are the most politically significant documents in the field; so his views on the subject will presumably carry some political weight, and are therefore worth reporting.

As to how well qualified someone who started life as a biologist is to pronounce on climate change; well, if you look at the scope of that IPCC working group, it’s extremely broad, and I suggest it would be impossible to find anyone who has formally studied all of the relevant disciplines.

That situation, though, is hardly unknown in science. Even within universities, a dean of science could hardly be expert in every subject in his or her faculty; yet many intelligent and able people seem to make a decent fist of it, and it’s highly unlikely, I would suggest, that Chris Field would have got the job if his peers didn’t think him qualified.

But that’s not the issue with the Feb 15 article. The problem is that the BBC chose to describe Field as a “leading climate scientist“. And whilst Black is right in stating that Field is a leader, and a scientist, and a biologist with experience in the potential impacts of climate change, by all means Field is no “climate scientist“.

Why couldn’t the BBC write of Field as a “leading biologist in the field of climate change“? As things stand instead, casual readers of that article will have no clue of the fact that Chris Field’s take on future temperatures is not a climatologist’s.

A quick search in past BBC news reports reveals how Brian Austin for example, Dean of Science at Heriot Watt University, was characterised first and foremost as the exact kind of expert he was (microbiologist) (“Sponge puzzles superbug experts“, 26/12/2005).

The BBC faux-pas about Field is perhaps telling of a mindset that conflates all kinds of experts under the all-encompassing umbrella of “climate”, whenever anybody mentions climate change/global warming within the IPCC orthodoxy.

And that mindset can only succeed in cheapening up the very concept of “climatologist”.

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  1. obnoxiusnox
    2009/04/03 at 06:27

    It’s a canard. It doesn’t take a qualified doctor to tell you that an arm is broken when a bone is protruding from the skin.

    Most people also fail to realize that CO2 IS NOT a pollutant.

    I’m still waiting on someone in the AGW camp to explain to me how it is, despite the fact they are constantly being told that without it, life wouldn’t exist.

  2. 2009/03/01 at 02:25

    Come on you guys.

    It is better to concentrate on what they write about.Than to talk about whether they are qualified to write about it.

    Right now most people fail to realize that AGW claims that CO2 emissions can warm up the earths surface is absurd.What about that 2nd Thermodynamics law?

  3. geoff chambers
    2009/02/26 at 22:38

    The specific reference for my comment is http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2009/feb/25/climate-change-denial-christopher-booker

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/climate-change repays frequent visits. An article a couple of hours ago, claiming soft toilet paper was destroying the planet, has mysteriously disappeared. Still there is this:

    Leicester Square prepares for the premiere of climate change film “The Age of Stupid”
    A sustainably-made “green” carpet will replace the traditional luxurious red carpet. The projector will be powered by batteries charged from solar panels and the tent will be lit by gas from London landfill sites, and may be heated with stoves using “eco-logs” made from recycled free London newspapers, and possibly also horse manure.

    O tempora, o Monty Python, o mores

  4. geoff chambers
    2009/02/26 at 19:32

    I go to http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/climate-change for all the Guardian’s articles on the subject (currently running at 8-10 a day !) Then they have
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/network, where they team up with the likes of Realclimate and Grist (and even a bilingual English / Chinese forum) in a scheme which make a mockery of the Guardian’s tradition of independent journalism. I’ve been commenting obsessively on articles by Monbiot and others, not because I have any illusions about influencing true believers in the warmist creed, but to test my belief that the Guardian is still a broad church – a medium where rational debate is still respected, and where – surely – there must be journalists and editors as shocked as I am by Monbiot’s Savonarola-like rantings.

  5. geoff chambers
    2009/02/26 at 01:55

    The question of Chris Field’s qualification as a “leading climate scientist” was also raised by Christopher Booker in the Telegraph, leading the Guardian’s science correspondent James Randerson to relaunch George Monbiot’s recent puerile attack on Booker, accusing him of “bullshit”. A blogger, Hamlet4, has convincingly demolished the arguments of the Guardian’s science correpondent, using arguments similar to yours, and seems to have silenced the usual Monbiot fan club on the Guardian’s “Comment is Free” site.
    It’s fascinating to see the different reactions to the same story in blogs by the BBC’s Richard Black and the Guardian’s Monbiot/Randerson. Black uses the same technique as your man at the NYT – sweet reason and a tsunami of links to drown all but the strongest sceptic – while Monbiot and co at the Guardian go for the more aggressive approach – “And when did you stop shitting on your planet?”
    Just how the different media treat the AGW story is fascinating in itself and important for the development of the story. The great AGW hysteria is soluble, not in the pure essence of rational scientific discussion, but – I suspect – in the soft-scientific soda of newspaper-reader/voter psychology. Who will benefit politically from the unwinding of the AGW fable? What will be the effect on the credibility of scientific expertise? How will all that grass-roots carbon-related energy be dissipated?
    Whether Chris Field is a climate expert or not is a question of monumental triviality. How the BBC, the serious press, and other political and social actors emerge from this saga is important . The maintream media can’t see this story, because they’re right in the middle of it.
    You,,and a tiny number of other blogs, like Bishop Hill and Climate Resistance, are working on the scoop of the century. Keep at it.

  6. Folke Stenman
    2009/02/24 at 11:19

    There are other examples. Pachauri himself is described as “one of the world’s foremost climate scientists”. As far as I know, he is an economist and engineer. James Hansen is often described as “America’s leading climate scientist”. He is an astrophysicist. To find a REALLY big climate scientist, you would have to turn to people like Richard Lindzen or Roger Pielke Sr. In Finland, we have a professor at the Finnish Enviroment Institute (a kind of research and statistics office) who hands out warnings regarding imminent doom because of CO2. He is a doctor of building engineering with construction lifecycles as specialty.

  7. 2009/02/24 at 03:19

    Possibly the more serious problem is that he’s making assessments that require the qualifications of a climatologist and atmospheric physicist. He’s not either. Once a climatologist who is an atmospheric physicist does the modelling work, then he can go and pontificate I would imagine. But as a biologist he is not qualified to do an assessment of that type. He can talk about impacts, once an expert has done an assessment. Seems anyone can call themselves a climatologist these days… 😉

    And notice if a sceptical scientist is not an atmospheric physicist he is shouted down by the media as unqualified? Interesting double-standard.

  1. 2009/07/04 at 13:41

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