BBC Climate Documentary: ‘How they (skeptics) Made Us Doubt Everything’

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

I’ve just listened to the entire BBC radio series “How They Made Us Doubt Everything”, which compares climate skepticism to rejecting the link between tobacco and cancer.

Episodes 1-5, all I heard was details of how the tobacco industry sowed doubt about lung cancer – interesting but largely irrelevant to the climate debate.

Episode 6 starts with a few details of Ben Santer’s custody battle for his son, then segues straight into saying how his life is also tough because he is a climate scientist. The episode then dives into Myron Ebell’s battle against the Kyoto Protocol, claiming Ebell’s plan to oppose Kyoto was just like the “white coat” campaign against tobacco regulation.

It is worth pausing for a moment to reflect on some of the reasons why Ben Santer has encountered a few frustrations in his career. Ben Santer became a Climategate star because of his email fantasy of perpetrating violent assault against Pat Michaels, but this is not all that Santer did. Ben Santer also seems to have spent a fair bit of time thinking up excuses to fend off requests for data referenced by his published papers, while writing angry emails to colleagues about the persecution he was enduring. “Can any competitor simply request such datasets via the US FOIA before we have completed full scientific analysis of those datasets?” (Climategate Email 1231257056.txt). Stephen McKintyre describes Santer refusing a polite request for data on the Climate Audit website.

Of course none of this was mentioned by the BBC.

Episode 7 contains a quote from science communicator Susan Hassol, who seems to think ordinary people don’t understand the word “uncertainty”.

Episode 8 talks about Jerry Taylor. Jerry used to be a climate skeptic, but changed his mind after talking to Joe Romm in the changing room after a live debate about James Hansen’s work. Jerry discussed what Joe Romm said with Pat Michaels, about Hansen producing more than one scenario, but was unsatisfied with Pat’s response; Jerry left with the impression he had been “duped” by climate skeptics.

I’m not sure why Jerry feels he was misled; according to our Willis, Hansen’s Scenario A underestimated CO2 emissions by 25%, but predicted double the observed global warming. The other Hansen scenarios were a better fit for the observed temperature trend, but drastically underestimated CO2 emissions. Hansen got it wrong.

Episode 8 also mentions the BBC advising their journalists “we do not need a denier to balance the debate“.

Episode 9 focuses on smearing Dr. Willie Soon. In my opinion the BBC attempted to make funding for Soon’s research look like Dr. Soon received a million dollar bribe from the fossil fuel industry. The part the BBC leaves out of this grossly misleading attack is the grant was paid over a period of ten years. Lord Monckton estimates Willie Soon received less than $60,000 / year after the Smithsonian took their cut – not exactly life changing money.

WUWT published Willie Soon’s excellent response to the BBC’s biased questions, which Soon received from BBC producer Phoebe Keane a few weeks ago.

Episode 10, “Leaving the Tribe”, discusses former Republican representative Bob Inglis being dumped by his district after he embraced climate alarmism, though looking at other sources it is unclear whether climate alarmism was the primary reason Inglis was dumped – Inglis did plenty of other things which likely upset his supporters.

Producer Phoebe Keane then complains in episode 10 that when Willie Soon responded to her biased questions, she also received angry emails from other people Dr. Soon copied into his response. Keane then wastes listeners time discussing her disdain for the people who wrote to her, but doesn’t actually present what Dr. Soon said in his response.

What can I say – this is not the BBC I grew up listening to and watching. In my opinion “how they made us doubt everything” is an innuendo heavy smear, rather than a genuine attempt to enlighten BBC listeners.

The BBC “How they made us doubt everything” series spent two episodes of their 10 episode series vilifying Dr. Willie Soon, then failed to present Dr. Soon’s response to their attacks.

Regardless of whether you think Dr. Soon is right or wrong, Dr. Willie Soon deserves better than this one sided gutter press assault on his reputation from the BBC. Even dictators and murderers are often given an opportunity to argue their case on the BBC. But this is a courtesy the BBC “How they made us doubt everything” series has so far failed to extend to a mild mannered law abiding climate scientist, who was unfortunate enough to be a prime target of their latest ugly smear campaign.

Update (EW): h/t Dr. Soon – Corrected the spelling of Susan Hassol’s name. Naomi Oreskes has expressed her support for the BBC series.