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BBC REASONING CHECK – BBC statement and response

BBC REASONING CHECK – BBC statement and response

The BBC reposted this article today: https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-61844299

BBC TITLE: Climate change: How to talk to a denier

RESPONSE: 1) This is on a news site – how is it news? 2) The article was first posted in July – why is it reposted? 3) No intelligent, informed person is denying climate change - the Earth’s climate is continually changing

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BBC BYLINE: By Merlyn Thomas & Marco Silva, BBC Climate Disinformation reporters

RESPONSE: 1) Merlyn calls herself a ‘climate disinformation journalist’. She studied French and Arabic at Cambridge. 2) Marco is a ‘senior journalist’ who regularly tweets about ‘climate disinformation’: https://twitter.com/MarcoLSilva Previous role was in ‘crime and justice’. 3) In order to claim ‘dis’ or ‘mis’ information it is necessary to know true information – how do these ‘journalists’ know true information?

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BBC LINE: “What can you do when the people closest to you believe climate change is a hoax?”

RESPONSE: Ask them to give their evidence and reasons and then assess these dispassionately. Just as you would in any other intelligent debate.

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BBC LINE: “But, as time went on, Lance started realising his father's views weren't backed by scientific evidence - and he decided to challenge him.”

RESPONSE: What is the scientific evidence that human beings are causing climate change?

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BBC LINE: “But Gail Whiteman, professor of sustainability at the University of Exeter, says it's important to talk: 'If we don't tackle climate denial and climate indifference, then the uphill battle to find a safer future is lost.

'We need to tackle our teachers, our neighbours... All of us have to become vessels for communication.'”

RESPONSE: Vessels to communicate what? How does talking to people help us find a ‘safer future’. Isn’t that grandiose ideation?

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BBC LINE: Prof. Sander van Linden says years of research have shown him that confronting people with hard evidence is not the way to go.

RESPONSE: Clearly the BBC has at least taken this advice to heart.

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BBC LINE: ‘Lance says there is a common misconception that people who don't believe that climate change is real are 'stupid or uneducated'.

'But there are a lot of people out there who are just naturally sceptical as part of their personality,' he says.

His father, Brian, is one of them - he grew up in rural Minnesota in the 1970s. 'It was incredibly cold,' Brian says, and this made it hard for him to believe scientists who spoke of a 'warming planet'’

RESPONSE: How is any of this relevant to anything? Might one say that the weather in Minnesota is rather obviously not really pertinent to a judgement about global climate conditions, and to think it is is perhaps just a tad ‘uneducated’? Why has Brian changed his mind? Has he moved to Florida maybe?

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BBC LINE: ‘Lance says that his father is a very religious man - so he asked him to assume that climate change might be real, and questioned whether he wouldn't then have a moral responsibility to take care of what God had provided.’

RESPONSE: Yet another non-sequitur. A fact or an assumed fact (in this case that human caused climate change occurs) does not create moral responsibility. These are quite different matters.

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BBC LINE: ‘Prof van der Linden believes that changing the minds of climate deniers is impossible without affirming - to some extent - their worldview.

He says it's important to '[expose] techniques of manipulation' by asking questions such as: 'Have you considered that some of these theories might be created to take advantage of people?'’

RESPONSE: Here is a list of the staggering billions of dollars granted to research climate change in 2015 – could this possibly be related to some advantageous vested interest? https://unfccc.int/news/list-of-recent-climate-funding-announcements

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BBC LINE: ‘But Prof van der Linden points out that 'some of these dismissive individuals are very loud and have a disproportionate influence on public debate'.

'It's quite risky to do nothing, especially when [they] have outsized voices.'’

RESPONSE: Um… doesn’t the BBC have a ‘disproportionate influence’ on public debate?

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BBC LINE: ‘With time and patience, Lance managed to convince his father that climate change was real - so much so that he was surprised by his own success.

'One time, my dad came downstairs in the middle of the night, so enthused after watching a documentary about deforestation that he was like: 'Lance you won't believe what's going on in the rainforest!'

'It was a breathtaking moment, to see him so engaged.'’

RESPONSE: Thank goodness Dad has seen the light! (Even though one can be quite reasonably concerned about the loss of rainforest without being a converted true believer.)

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“Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

What to say in an interview for a job at BBC News?

It is proposed that claiming disinformation requires the claimant to demonstrate true information

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