Mathew’s musings…Commentary on this week’s news

A climate of denial

It was good to see former U.S. Vice President Al Gore in the UK yesterday, for the British debut of his new film ‘An Inconvenient Sequel’ and he was touring the broadcast media studios to promote it.

Mr Gore is one of the most knowledgeable and trustworthy non-scientist voices on the impending doom that is man-made climate change and the urgent changes we need to make to stop it.

He’s dedicated his post-political life to raising this worldwide issue and using his significant platform and very high profile to encourage today’s political leaders to ensure it remains at the top-or very near it-of the agenda.

Sadly, due to Brexit and the ‘election’ of Donald Trump, this most important issue we all face-impending and potentially life-threatening catastrophic global warming-has increasingly been an also-ran in our political debate and news agenda.

That’s why this latest film from Gore and his team-a follow-up to his 2006 documentary ‘An Inconvenient Truth’-couldn’t be timelier or more needed.

In an interview with the excellent LBC mid-morning presenter James O’Brien yesterday Gore alleged that the BBC are ‘Climate Change deniers’ due to them embracing a ‘false equivalency’ between experienced and knowledgeable experts on the subject-such as himself-and those he alleges (and it’s hard to disagree with him) of being deniers…such as former Chancellor of the Exchequer Lord Nigel Lawson.

The ‘Today’ programme team, on BBC Radio 4, put Lawson up against Gore yesterday morning…as if they are both of equal standing on the issue when they quite clearly are not.

As I pointed out in a recent piece in The New European newspaper, by seeking ‘balance’ BBC News (and, to be fair, other broadcasters) often actually give greater weight to one side/point of view than its merits deserves.

They skew true debate.

This is one such case.

95-plus per cent of climate scientists agree that the global warming we’re experiencing is down to the actions and gross irresponsibility of human beings.

How dare the BBC give equal weight, respectability and air-time to echo-chambers of the tiny minority who try and argue that climate change isn’t man-made?

I’m all for the representations of minorities, usually, but, in this case, the BBC is deeply irresponsible for creating an equivalency which demonstrably doesn’t exist.

Do I think the BBC is institutionally climate change denying? No, I don’t.

But do I think they need to look seriously and urgently at their version of ‘balance’? Yes, I very much do.

Climate change is real. It is, overwhelmingly, caused by the actions of human beings. We, all of us and especially political leaders and governments, must do all in our power to stop it.

Before it’s too late.

Doing sweet FA

Last weekend I watched an excellent-but soul-destroying documentary on BBC Two (I love the BBC, by the way, I just get annoyed when it lets itself down…re my commentary above.)

It saw the former Welsh rugby captain Gareth Thomas, a hero of mine who I was fortunate to meet a number of years ago, one of the first UK professional sportsmen to come out as gay, exploring homophobia in football and what, if anything is being done to stop it.

The footage of deeply homophobic chants being said/sung at various grounds around the country was very hard to watch.

No wonder there’s currently no openly gay footballers in the professional game in Britain, if that’s the culture they’ll be facing.

Whilst individual clubs and external campaigns/groups are doing their bit to counter and end this seemingly intractable issue, the Football Association is doing, well, FA.

In Thomas’s film whilst, yes, the FA’s representatives spouted warm words on how they’re fully engaged in countering homophobia in the game, its Chief Executive wouldn’t give an on-camera interview to the programme and, certainly from this viewer’s perspective, there was little tangible evidence presented of them walking the walk on this.

Homophobia is never, ever acceptable…and just because it’s being done in crowds at a football match doesn’t make it so.

The FA and other football governing bodies, locally and nationally, need to do much more on this…including implementing and acting on a zero tolerance policy of homophobia.

At the moment, rampant homophobia is truly the ugly side of the so-called ‘beautiful game.’

But, there is always hope, and I was delighted to read about 32-year old Ryan Atkin who, this week, became the first openly gay professional referee in the English game, in what’s been called a landmark moment for the sport.

What a brave man. What a hero. What a role model.

I’ll end this column with a quote from the EFL and National League referee: “Homophobia is still a problem but things are improving all the time. You can change the game and culture by changing your mind. Referees get a lot of stick for a number of reasons but their sexual orientation cannot be one of them.”

* Mathew Hulbert is Vice Chair of Bosworth Constituency Lib Dems and a former Councillor.

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13 Comments

  • I didn’t hear the interview with Lawson but the tradition with Today is to have very robust questioning!

    I think to say that people can’t make up their minds on the basis of the answers given is deeply patronising.

    I think not to present minority views on scientific questions from time to time is troubling. Most scientific theories that are accepted today started of as mad minority crackpot ideas. We are really descended from apes, Mr Darwin????

    Mainstream consensus science often changes its mind 180 degrees on issues.

    I think the BBC commissioned an external report on its coverage and balance on climate change and said that contrary opinions should be presented from time to time but not every time.

    No science is 100% black and white not even climate change although it is more certain than most.

  • Michael, I believe we, and the media, have to think hard about ‘balanced’ views…The publicity given to the ‘alternative’ view on the MMR vaccine caused untold concern and repercussions…

  • David Pocock 12th Aug '17 - 10:33am

    The other day I was you tubing and got to the flat earth part of YouTube. I found it all perplexing and a little amusing and I wondered how a mind ends up buying into this stuff.

    Then I saw a video where a flat earther was talking to a skeptic and the skeptic took an hour of his life to patiently discuss and deconstruct his argument.

    My point I guess is that if we do not talk with climate change skeptics then they will carry on slowly building members. I think it is healthier to put them on a platform as equals and then have someone like Al Gore slowly destroy their arguments. I remember seeing Brian cox argue aga

  • David Pocock 12th Aug '17 - 10:35am

    Against a sceptic and he came off so arrogant I inside was rooting for the denier lol. So my opinion would be to put them up and be polite and make sure at the end their argument is in tatters.

    Sorry for the split post, my phone betrayed me.

  • Andrew Tampion 12th Aug '17 - 11:57am

    I’m prepared to be corrected but my understanding is that Al Gore is no more a trained scientist than Nigel Lawson. In which case it is absolutely fair to put him up against Al Gore.

  • Martin 12th Aug ’17 – 11:11am…I agree entirely…The ‘Brexit’ claims made by both sides were appalling. ‘Remainers’ painted a picture of us being forced to sell our firstborn into slavery if we left and ‘Leavers’ predicted a ‘free’ UK as a land of milk, honey and free unicorns….

    A debate where giving EU membership 7/10 was deemed too ‘wishy-washy’ was no debate at all…

  • David Pocock 12th Aug '17 - 1:44pm

    Probably truth in that expats. Project fear was likely more truthful than project milk and honey yet I think some of it was over done.

    Which feeds into my point t, like it or not it isn’t about scaring people or preaching. The message must be delivered right too.

  • @expats

    1. Equally not allowing “dissenting” voices can be harmful
    2. Unfortunately most science reporting is appalling. This helped fuel the MMR scare
    3. People should be allowed to make up their own minds. Censorship makes people distrustful as to what the “experts” hiding
    4. Even where the science is pretty much “decided” there remain a whole host of other questions.

    A key theory was that fat in the diet caused excess weight and also heart disease. This was based in part but influentially on the work of Ancel Keys. His nations study showed that those nations where that consumed more fat had more heart disease. However he left out countries where the relationship was not the case and indeed the opposite.

    Meanwhile food producers took out the fat and put in sugar to make the products palatable. There is some evidence that fat promotes satiety or fullness So people were now eating more sugary products and more calories to be satisfied. And also sugar (fructose half of table sugar) is metabolised particularly in the liver and causes fatty organs which is particularly harmful and contributes to type 2 diabetes.

    But to go on the media and argue that people should eat more fat certainly until recently would be seen as irresponsible.

    Science and scientists can be as prone at times to confirmation bias as other branches of human endeavour even though the way it is conducted they shouldn’t. Some people questioning is helpful to counteract this.

    —-
    Many media reports will sensationalise and overplay one study. Understandably as their job is to make things interesting and sell papers or increase ratings. Every study has major flaws, it is but one bit of evidence that points in a certain direction. Arguably this is what happened in the supposed link between MMR jabs and autism.

    Equally the media can lazily go with the mainstream and not report and question enough contrary opinions for fear of looking stupid. Have we may be seen that in recent political reporting?

    But people should be educated that where there many different and separate pieces of evidence this points to something being increasingly likely but never completely decided.
    Indeed we will probably look back at now in 100 or 200 years time and say that we were so stupid and naive to believe many things – just as we look back.

  • Gore`s degree is politics. He has no scientific credentials at all. Like all true believers in the science.

  • David Pocock 12th Aug ’17 – 1:44pm…Agreed; which is why I’m a ‘remainer’…

    However, after 40 odd years of tabloid demonisation of the EU, rational debate, rather than threats of financial/social Armageddon, might have laid a few ‘demons’ to rest…

  • David Pocock 12th Aug '17 - 11:14pm

    Expats, I agree. There was a role for laying out the economic danger but I think delivering a patient pro europe argument was needed. I think the Lib Dems did this during the referendum but most of it was swepted along by Cameron and the tories. My guess they simply could not make a pro-europe argument. I know this sounds like im whitewashing the party lol. I just dont think the Lib Dems made any impact in the referendum sadly and it was dominated by the Tories.

  • David Pocock 12th Aug ’17 – 11:14pm…..

    Again, we are singing from the same hymn sheet…Sadly, we lost our position as a serious political voice in 2015….
    Clegg’s 2008 petition FOR an EU in/out referendum came back to haunt us and his glib one liner, “that the EU would be largely the same in 10 years” suggested almost contempt for those with concerns…
    According to all independent polls Farage won the debate easily and the post debate excuses by Alexander etc. just made things worse…

    The supposedly independent BBC gave much publicity, on prime time news, to the outlandish claims by ‘Johnson, Farage, Gove, etc.. The factual rebuttals were mainly on discussion programmes i.e. less watched by the general public…

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