Global Hot Air from the BBC

Billions of people now ‘know' about global warming and how it threatens the planet. They ‘know' that it is all the fault of decades of irresponsible, profligate industry and capitalism.

And yet, what exactly do they really know? Have they delved in to the research data? Have they made it their business to acquire a thorough understanding of atmospheric processes and of climatology? Or have they simply heard it ad nauseam on the news. Heard it so insistently, emphatically and endlessly repeated that it must be true. Surely?

And who exactly are these newsmen and women? What is it about these particular people that makes them so particularly equipped to be the guardians of our knowledge of current affairs? What were their primary motivations for climbing the media greasy pole to become the minor celebrity intellectuals that they have become? Is it that they are notable for their intellectual rigour; their erudition and ability in assessing the provenance of scientific research? Or is it their love of a journalistic drama and love, even more, for themselves to be the centre of attention in that drama?

I personally do not know how much real substance there is to the global warming fear. I do not know whether there has been, in recent times, a sustained and inexorable rise in global temperatures. I do not know whether changes in temperature are primarily affected by levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere or whether other factors are as (or even more) important. I do not know whether these levels are primarily driven by man-made factors or by other ecological factors outside of mankind's control. To be honest the task would be so daunting that I have not chosen to devote my life to this particular quest for understanding.

But I have --- as I always do -- listened out for alternative voices, different points of view, contradiction, paradox and logical fallacy in the assertions of others who claim that they DO know. And this has led me to conclude that the evidence is far from open-and-shut clear one way or the other.

What I DO know is that the global media machine is driven by forces quite alien to intellectual rigour, cold rationality, empirical scepticism etc. I also know that it is now -- in the early 21st century -- so powerful that it is capable of seducing pretty much anybody -- scientists, academics and politicians included, with its insistent and pervasive dramatic narrative.

I know that every time I hear a story on the news, that story is dripping with bias and editorial selectivity. One person gets murdered and it "catches the public imagination" we are told by the newsman. Another person gets murdered on the same day - and that person's mother is grieving too - but you will hear about it once only, if at all, in a bit column in a local newspaper.

Or to take just one recent ‘global warming' example; the BBC devoted much airtime tracking the drama of the Bali conference on climate change. It has made a very great deal out of the frustration with America for not falling into line with the binding emissions targets that everyone else in the world allegedly wants.

But not a word of explanation of why -- from their own perspective -- the American delegation has been taking that position. Barely a mention that what is really at issue is whether the huge polluter developing nations like China and India are also given targets. It has been presented as if it is simply the case that everyone else wants to do the right thing - excepting America, who just wants to do the selfish thing. No coverage, let alone rigorous analysis, of the likely impact on global warming if these targets were to be confined to the developed nations only. No mention that the reductions in the developed nations would be dwarfed by the increases of those developing nations. No mention about claims for America's rather impressive recent record in bringing on stream actual as opposed to rhetorical improvements in clean technology.

And why no mention of this? This remember is the great and good BBC; the great bastion of impartiality. I can only conclude that it is because they are so mesmerised by their own pious rhetoric that they are unable to step outside it.

In the cloying hothouse atmosphere of media political correctness they are quite simply unaware that there is any other way of looking at it. Other positions would in any case be ‘right wing' and therefore to be discounted. After all how could anything involving someone like George Bush be in any way defensible. And more importantly it would spoil the dramatic storyline, which is quite simply this: Look at what big bad America with its ‘incredibly right wing administration' is doing NOW!

Anyone who is anyone in the establishment in-crowds of the media, academia and politics is now on the man-made climate change bandwagon. Any one who dares to question the consensus gets the full force of moral outrage posturing and is labelled a climate change denier. Such is the loudhailer consensus that the ordinary man in the street just gets carried along. We are told that there is just no two ways about it. Well maybe, maybe not but, either way, the atmosphere is experiencing an unprecedented explosion of media hot air and not just on the subject of global warming. It may not threaten the planet but it does rather threaten the survival of post-Enlightenment civilisation.

The hard reality is that if you want to understand anything -- the great currents of change at work on the planet or anything else for that matter -- you are going to have to invest time and energy in educating yourself on that subject. You are going to have to actively go looking for alternative sources of information, checking the provenance of sources, cross - checking for logical inconsistencies, vested interests etc. You are categorically not going to get it on a plate from the world's media.

In this respect Western civilisation has gone backwards in recent decades; not forwards. We are awash with junk knowledge and yes it can be dangerous. The headlong rush into ‘environment friendly' bio fuel is just one example. Our academic and political establishments are awash with ‘deniers' of this change in the intellectual climate even though they dare not ask their publics the question whether or not society is heading in the right direction.

Mankind has, of course, always been subject to episodes of mass hysteria and the witch hunts that will follow in its wake. Never before though have the forces of unreason had such a loudhailer as is now provided by the mass media. Let's have an intergovernmental UN panel of scientists to investigate the quality of information provided by the world's media. How often have they presumed to foretell the future - and how often correctly so? How often have they accurately warned the world of an impending calamity? Check the media record on the ‘scientific consensus' on the spread of Aids or Bird Flue or BSE.  Let's have a UN inquest on the ‘Millennium Bug' or the ‘Next Ice Age'. Remember those? Your great television and newspaper savants apparently do not.

Billions of people now ‘know' about global warming and how it threatens the planet. They ‘know' that it is all the fault of decades of irresponsible, profligate industry and capitalism.

And yet, what exactly do they really know? Have they delved in to the research data? Have they made it their business to acquire a thorough understanding of atmospheric processes and of climatology? Or have they simply heard it ad nauseam on the news. Heard it so insistently, emphatically and endlessly repeated that it must be true. Surely?

And who exactly are these newsmen and women? What is it about these particular people that makes them so particularly equipped to be the guardians of our knowledge of current affairs? What were their primary motivations for climbing the media greasy pole to become the minor celebrity intellectuals that they have become? Is it that they are notable for their intellectual rigour; their erudition and ability in assessing the provenance of scientific research? Or is it their love of a journalistic drama and love, even more, for themselves to be the centre of attention in that drama?

I personally do not know how much real substance there is to the global warming fear. I do not know whether there has been, in recent times, a sustained and inexorable rise in global temperatures. I do not know whether changes in temperature are primarily affected by levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere or whether other factors are as (or even more) important. I do not know whether these levels are primarily driven by man-made factors or by other ecological factors outside of mankind's control. To be honest the task would be so daunting that I have not chosen to devote my life to this particular quest for understanding.

But I have --- as I always do -- listened out for alternative voices, different points of view, contradiction, paradox and logical fallacy in the assertions of others who claim that they DO know. And this has led me to conclude that the evidence is far from open-and-shut clear one way or the other.

What I DO know is that the global media machine is driven by forces quite alien to intellectual rigour, cold rationality, empirical scepticism etc. I also know that it is now -- in the early 21st century -- so powerful that it is capable of seducing pretty much anybody -- scientists, academics and politicians included, with its insistent and pervasive dramatic narrative.

I know that every time I hear a story on the news, that story is dripping with bias and editorial selectivity. One person gets murdered and it "catches the public imagination" we are told by the newsman. Another person gets murdered on the same day - and that person's mother is grieving too - but you will hear about it once only, if at all, in a bit column in a local newspaper.

Or to take just one recent ‘global warming' example; the BBC devoted much airtime tracking the drama of the Bali conference on climate change. It has made a very great deal out of the frustration with America for not falling into line with the binding emissions targets that everyone else in the world allegedly wants.

But not a word of explanation of why -- from their own perspective -- the American delegation has been taking that position. Barely a mention that what is really at issue is whether the huge polluter developing nations like China and India are also given targets. It has been presented as if it is simply the case that everyone else wants to do the right thing - excepting America, who just wants to do the selfish thing. No coverage, let alone rigorous analysis, of the likely impact on global warming if these targets were to be confined to the developed nations only. No mention that the reductions in the developed nations would be dwarfed by the increases of those developing nations. No mention about claims for America's rather impressive recent record in bringing on stream actual as opposed to rhetorical improvements in clean technology.

And why no mention of this? This remember is the great and good BBC; the great bastion of impartiality. I can only conclude that it is because they are so mesmerised by their own pious rhetoric that they are unable to step outside it.

In the cloying hothouse atmosphere of media political correctness they are quite simply unaware that there is any other way of looking at it. Other positions would in any case be ‘right wing' and therefore to be discounted. After all how could anything involving someone like George Bush be in any way defensible. And more importantly it would spoil the dramatic storyline, which is quite simply this: Look at what big bad America with its ‘incredibly right wing administration' is doing NOW!

Anyone who is anyone in the establishment in-crowds of the media, academia and politics is now on the man-made climate change bandwagon. Any one who dares to question the consensus gets the full force of moral outrage posturing and is labelled a climate change denier. Such is the loudhailer consensus that the ordinary man in the street just gets carried along. We are told that there is just no two ways about it. Well maybe, maybe not but, either way, the atmosphere is experiencing an unprecedented explosion of media hot air and not just on the subject of global warming. It may not threaten the planet but it does rather threaten the survival of post-Enlightenment civilisation.

The hard reality is that if you want to understand anything -- the great currents of change at work on the planet or anything else for that matter -- you are going to have to invest time and energy in educating yourself on that subject. You are going to have to actively go looking for alternative sources of information, checking the provenance of sources, cross - checking for logical inconsistencies, vested interests etc. You are categorically not going to get it on a plate from the world's media.

In this respect Western civilisation has gone backwards in recent decades; not forwards. We are awash with junk knowledge and yes it can be dangerous. The headlong rush into ‘environment friendly' bio fuel is just one example. Our academic and political establishments are awash with ‘deniers' of this change in the intellectual climate even though they dare not ask their publics the question whether or not society is heading in the right direction.

Mankind has, of course, always been subject to episodes of mass hysteria and the witch hunts that will follow in its wake. Never before though have the forces of unreason had such a loudhailer as is now provided by the mass media. Let's have an intergovernmental UN panel of scientists to investigate the quality of information provided by the world's media. How often have they presumed to foretell the future - and how often correctly so? How often have they accurately warned the world of an impending calamity? Check the media record on the ‘scientific consensus' on the spread of Aids or Bird Flue or BSE.  Let's have a UN inquest on the ‘Millennium Bug' or the ‘Next Ice Age'. Remember those? Your great television and newspaper savants apparently do not.