My childhood was spent in an era before the internet, before smartphones, before 24/7 news, and before multiple TV channels. I was at university when UK residents were able to watch a fourth channel for the first time – Channel 4, needless to say – and I remember that friends and I were perplexed by its appearance. After all, we already had three TV channels, so why on earth did we need a fourth? Looking back to those times now from today’s Britain, with dozens, even hundreds, of channels to choose from, especially if one is prepared to pay for subscription TV, that view might seem remarkably naïve. Then again, observing how difficult it can be to find anything at all of interest to watch on TV, maybe the teenage me had a point after all.
Newspapers were much more relevant then than they are now. TV and radio news was limited. And, as I’ve already said, there was no internet. Reading a newspaper was probably the best way to find out what was going on, both within the UK and around the world. Having qualified in my chosen profession, the slightly older, but still young, version of me duly bought the Guardian every day to read during the 12 mile train journey to and from work. Perhaps memories fade with time and become suffused with a rosy glow, but I seem to remember a lot of serious journalism then, with investigative reporters taking the time and trouble to research important issues and to write up the conclusions with care. TV and radio news seemed to report simply on events that had just happened or which were ongoing – often very sad stories about wars, earthquakes, floods, droughts, famines, etc. – without much “spin” (though I have to acknowledge that the reporting around the Ethiopian famine of 1983-85 was designed to – and did – tug at the heartstrings, aided by Bandaid. Maybe that was where the media began to get the taste for celebrity news items).
Today it feels as though a newspaper’s website is as important as its print version, and that the BBC’s website is as important as its TV and radio programming. Perhaps it’s just my perception, but as the internet has increasingly become dominant, and with the advent of rolling news channels on TV, a glorious opportunity to inform and educate seems to have been lost, and the quality of journalism to have declined. Websites and 24/7 news channels offer the prospect of news updates from around the world, of education and information on a whole host of subjects, news from places that we rarely hear about. The BBC’s News 24 channel could be a marvellous source of all of the above, but is instead a prime example of a lost opportunity. Yes, it does offer local news and programmes such as “Outside Source”, but even that does little more than “gather the latest information as it arrives from news wires, video feeds and social media on the biggest stories of the day”. And local news on the BBC seems to be guaranteed to include a story about a struggle somewhere within the public sector (usually, but not invariably, the NHS), a lot of sport, and usually a bit of climate hysteria.
The climate hysteria I refer to regularly seems to be generated by a press release from one of the numerous “green” organisations who are increasingly skilful at issuing reports designed to make life easy for news organisations, who need do little more than “cut & paste”, maybe making a tweak or two here and there, and hey presto, a puff piece is suddenly “news”.
By way of example, I have just conducted an internet search using four key words/acronyms and a year and nothing else – the words/acronyms and date being “BBC” “2021” “climate” and “study”. The result came as no surprise, the following stories from the BBC’s website being prominent in the search results (in order of appearance, and otherwise completely random, all from 2021): “Climate change: Animals shapeshifting to stay cool, study says”; “Climate change: IPCC report is ‘code red for humanity’”; “Global heating: Study shows impact of ‘climate racism’ in US”; “Climate change: Young people very worried – survey” (The survey was conducted by Bath University); “Carbon emitters ‘failing to disclose climate risks’” (this one was as a result of a “study, conducted by the independent charity group-funded Carbon Tracker and the Climate Accounting Project (CAP))”; “COP26: Emissions of rich put climate goals at risk – study” (OXFAM “commissioned the study from the Stockholm Environment Institute and the Institute for European Environmental Policy”); “Ocean’s climate change ‘buffer’ role under threat” (University studies carried out for “i-Atlantic” project); “Coastal saltmarsh ‘engineered’ to fight climate change” (not reported particularly clearly – despite the press release! – but it seems to be a St Andrews University study); and “Warmer coastline impacts wildlife, Plymouth study shows”.
I could go on and on (and on and on), but the above completely random selection supplies the general idea. Universities are particularly good at generating publicity in this way, and charities like OXFAM, who are keen to push climate alarmism to the forefront of the news agenda, are also experts at commissioning studies to generate reports that can be turned into press releases which in turn can generate “news” items, thus guaranteeing that the issues that they want to be prominent in mainstream media news reporting duly receive a lot of publicity. Surveys and opinion polls, too, can be and are used to generate publicity that bears little relation to reality, as I discussed in “Poll-Axed”i.
There are several interesting takeaways from this small and not very scientific experiment. Firstly, many of the studies are carried out by people or organisations with an agenda. Of themselves, it is strongly arguable that they are not, in any objective sense, “news”. However, by packaging the result in a press release, they are able to generate headlines, and suddenly a pre-planned study, often conducted deliberately to achieve a result with attendant publicity, has become “news”, and is pushed at the public in that sense. In the case of the BBC, a report or study will often be used to justify a story on its website, which will then segue into something like: “If global temperatures rise by more than 1.5C, scientists say the earth is likely to experience severe effects such as millions more people being exposed to extreme heat.” That phrase (or variants on the theme) is to be found time and time again within articles such as these. It conveniently ignores the fact that worldwide many more people die of extreme cold each year than of extreme heat, and that warming is reducing the number of deaths each year from temperature extremes. To that extent it could, perhaps, be described as climate misinformation (see below, and see also “Losing The Plot”ii).
Secondly, it’s worth making an internet search for each of the article headings thrown up by the first search, and doing so separately, one by one. A great number of identical, or substantially similar, headings will be thrown up, in a plethora of other news websites, which have also simply regurgitated the press release, either without amendment, or with just a tweak or two. Thus the study, by the simple expedient of despatching a well-worded press release, generates headlines, not once, but numerous times, across many news organisations, programmes and websites. Needless to say, it’s great for “journalists” because they don’t have to do much, if anything at all, to produce a “news item” based on the press release.
A small postscript to this section, a variation on the theme of press releases. Politicians and others have become increasingly adept at manipulating the media and ensuring that the publicity they crave is generated several times over, by pre-releasing snippets of speeches to be made later in the day or later in the week. It is a commonplace of news reporting now to hear or to read something along the lines of “XYZ is expected to be announced later today by the Prime Minister” or “the Leader of the Opposition is scheduled to attack the Government for its handling of ABC”. Then, later on, when the Prime Minister has indeed made his announcement, or the Leader of the Opposition has made his attack, the story is reported on for a second time.
It’s not just the news
CliScep readers have, I think, already had their attention drawn briefly to a 36 page reported headed “The Power of TV: Nudging Viewers to Decarbonise their Lifestyles”iii. Sub-titled “An evidence-based guide for broadcasters” it is published by The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT)iv, having been commissioned by Sky. Chillingly (in view of the contents of the report) BIT is ”jointly owned by the UK Cabinet Office, innovation charity Nesta and our employees.v”
It seems it’s not enough that news programming and websites are dominated by climate change stories, many of which are highly repetitive pieces, with the same tired old tropes trotted out again and again, tagged on to new “stories” based on yet more studies, surveys or rigged opinion polls. In addition, all programmes are to be subtly changed so as to ensure subliminal messaging, with a view to altering our behaviours, without our even realising what’s going on. From the Foreword:
Societal-level behaviour change is needed to tackle climate change. It turns out that the majority of global future emissions reductions depend on us reducing our demand for high-carbon activities and materials and taking up new low-carbon technologies, according to the International Energy Agency. From changing what we buy and what we eat, to changing the technologies we use to heat our homes and travel, reaching Net Zero is conditional on large numbers of people taking up green behaviours and products.
And, broadly speaking, the conclusion is:
Broadcast organisations and content creators therefore have a unique opportunity to make a difference for the planet. Through the programs [sic] that they produce, the characters that they create, the plot-lines that they develop, and the adverts that they broadcast, content creators have the potential to have a far-reaching impact on the knowledge, attitudes and behaviours of citizens, and to spark conversations in boardrooms and political arenas alike. They are also pivotally placed to help people sift through the maze of choices and claims, to adopt behaviours – and products – that can get us to a greener future. The question of how to best promote a low-carbon future through television, phone, and laptop screens is still up for grabs. However, whilst further behavioural research is needed, it is important that we start a conversation about what we know so far. It’s time we ask ourselves, how can broadcasters do their best in the race against climate change? How can we nudge viewers to decarbonise their lifestyle on screen?
And how do they do propose doing that?
“Use credible and relatable green messengers. To convince viewers to take up green actions, characters, presenters, and talent must be trustworthy and relatable role models. Promote intergenerational spillover with kids content. Broadcasters should use kids’ content to encourage positive environmental behaviours amongst children – and their parents. Make it implicit with background action. Use green product placement and model green actions in the background to improve familiarity and create positive attitudes and norms. Promote green choices through adverts and reviews. Ensure adverts and product reviews promote green products and behaviours, where possible.”
The report is riddled with hints like these:
Having characters demonstrate familiar and low-effort pro-environmental behaviours by default. For example, characters could take the following actions, unless it is at odds with the setting, plot, or their character: — Use reusable water bottles, rather than disposable plastic ones — Choose public transport and active travel Showing select characters demonstrating other (potentially less common) green behaviours, in cases where it feels appropriate and in-line with their personality (e.g. creators might determine that it is fitting for a character who cares about animals to be shown eating vegan food). Example green behaviours might include: buying second-hand clothes, having solar panels installed in their home, driving an EV, or eating plant-based food.
Rather than re-invent the wheel, I urge you, dear reader, to visit the Spiked website, and read the tremendous article by Brendan O’Neill on this topic (“Big Media is turning into Big Brother”vi). The whole article is worth reading in full, but this paragraph particularly resonated with me:
This is alarming stuff. It is a call to make everything from news to drama subservient to a political cause – the political cause of imbuing the public with the green mindset. It is a proposal for the wholesale politicisation of news, drama and entertainment to the end of providing moral instruction to the masses. It feels virtually Stalinist.
From the positive to the negative
Stage one seems to be to ensure that news reporting is dominated by climate alarmism stories. Most of these are nothing to do with real-world events, and the “news” is produced by reporting the results of studies, surveys and opinion polls.
Stage two seems to be ensure that all aspects of TV broadcasting are used to “nudge” viewers towards the required behaviour patterns.
Stage three is to deny that there can be any rational opposition to the agenda. This week has seen a BBC article with the heading “Covid denial to climate denial: How conspiracists are shifting focus”vii. Attention has already been drawn to this at CliScep on Open Mic, including the fact that it was written by the BBC’s “Specialist disinformation reporter”. As though designed to make my point about studies being used to generate news articles, we learn that:
According to researchers at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), a think tank that researches global disinformation trends, some anti-lockdown groups have become polluted by misleading posts about climate change being overplayed, or even a so-called “hoax” designed to control people.
“Increasingly, terminology around Covid-19 measures is being used to stoke fear and mobilise against climate action,” says the ISD’s Jennie King.
She says this isn’t really about climate as a policy issue.
When the covid pandemic arrived, it knocked climate change off the news headlines, despite the best efforts to keep it at the top of the pile. I noticed in short order efforts by alarmists to link covid with climate change in the public mind, in what seemed to be a desperate attempt to prevent a real crisis in the here-and-now from taking priority in the public consciousness ahead of worries about climate change. Repeating my strategy of searching the internet with a date and some key words (in this case “2020”, “Guardian” “climate” and “covid”), the results, in order as they appeared, but otherwise at random, are: “Climate change, Covid – our hearts ache. But a new era is possible. We can do it”; “Revealed: Covid recovery plans threaten global climate hopes”; “The Guardian view on the climate and coronavirus: global warnings”; “How the twin disasters of climate change and Covid-19 could transform our cities”; “From the climate crisis to Covid-19: can journalism focus on the stories that matter?”; and “UK climate assembly: tax frequent flyers and ban SUVs as part of Covid recovery”.
It is, then, more than a little ironic that the BBC article is claiming that covid deniers are now becoming climate deniers, and seeking to link covid denial with climate denial (whatever that is). Again, we see an organisation with an agenda (ISD) producing a report which is turned by a mainstream media organisation (in this case the BBC) into a story aimed at ridiculing anyone who questions the official narrative:
As the pandemic progresses, vaccines take effect and many countries – particularly rich ones – inch closer to normality, this pivot from Covid towards climate change is something researchers have observed across a number of online spaces.
One way that ISD has seen this play out is around the term “climate lockdown”. It’s used to refer to the completely unfounded idea that in the future we might have Covid-style lockdowns to counteract climate change.
The term has found popularity with YouTubers who peddle conspiracy theories – but climate scientists say lockdowns would not be a serious climate change mitigation strategy. Covid lockdowns, for instance, only marginally reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
However, the distress caused by Covid and lockdowns – and the falsehoods that have sprung up around them – have laid the groundwork for yet more conspiracies to spread. A mindset has gripped a group of people who blame all bad news on shady plots by powerful people – rather than accepting the reality about the future of the planet.
Read the article and you realise they’re talking about a tiny minority of fringe groups and conspiracy theorists. That doesn’t matter, however. This has been a great opportunity to suggest that anyone who questions the climate change narrative at all must be a barking mad conspiracy theorist who has moved on from being a covid denier. Such people must all be crazy, obviously, and can safely be ignored, runs the subtext.
ISD seem to be a “go-to” organisation for handy studies and quotes at the moment, so far as the BBC is concerned. Others may disagree with my self-assessment, but I think I am more to the left than to the right of politics, yet it seems fairly clear to me following my visit to the ISD websiteviii that it is an organisation which concerns itself far, far more with calling out what it regards as far-right disinformation than any other type of disinformation. For instance, they have publications with titles like “The Business of Hate: Bankrolling Bigotry in Germany and the Online Funding of Hate Groups” with following text saying “ISD and GDI analyse 17 known German far-right groups and actors alleged use of popular online funding services such as Paypal to fund their activities.” Or “Gaming and Extremism: The Extreme Right on Twitch”; or again, “The Far-Right and Alt-Right Find Common Ground with the Taliban”; or again, “Far-right gamers on Steam and Discord, an uncensored community”. A search of their website produced just two articles referring to the far left alone, and two referring to far-left and far-right together. A similar search for articles with “far-right” in the heading produced dozens of results. I think it’s fair to say, therefore, that ISD is not an unbiased and disinterested organisation. It is no surprise, though, that the BBC is keen on producing articles based on ISD reports, and also that the BBC simply describes ISD as “a think tank that researches global disinformation trends”.
Speaking of ISD, and trends around disinformation claims, I recommend a quick read of “Climate Change Scepticism in Line For Censorship”ix at the Daily Sceptic website. It refers to an online event titled “Tackling Online Misinformation and Disinformation” to be held on 18th January 2022 under the auspices of the Institute of Government & Public Policy. A Daily Sceptic reader has received a letter of invitation to the event, which apparently included this paragraph:
“Major U.K. brands including Virgin Media O2, Sky, British Gas, Ben & Jerry’s and SSE have signed an open letter calling on Cop26 decision-makers and technology platforms to take immediate action on stamping out climate change misinformation once and for all. Led by the Conscious Advertising Network, a voluntary coalition of organisations on a mission to prevent advertisers from inadvertently funding harmful content online, the letter says climate change has reached a “crisis point”. Recent research from Stop Funding Heat also found 113 ads on Facebook with messages like “climate change is a hoax” between January and October 2021, with an estimated spend of between £42,000 and £55,000.”
Sound familiar? There is undoubtedly a big push on to quell discussion.
I was going to end with a reference to the latest egregious article at the BBC entitled “COP26: The truth behind the new climate change denial” which seems to take this all to a whole new level. However, Jit has just dealt with this in his excellent article, “The BBC’s Latest “Unreality” Check”x, and so I would suggest simply treating this article as a companion piece to that one.
The mainstream media and many others in positions of power and influence are now going to extraordinary lengths to clamp down on discussion or dissent with regard to the prevailing climate change narrative; to label any dissenters as “far-right”, “climate deniers”, etc.; and even to write “Reality Check” articles which turn reality on its head. Strange though it may seem, I regard this as grounds for hope. To go to such lengths suggests worry – a great deal of worry – on the part of the establishment. The reason for such levels of worry is a failure on the part of the public to show much concern or interest in the Apocalyptic narrative. People aren’t rushing to drive electric cars, to replace their gas boilers with heat pumps, and the moment foreign travel restrictions were lifted in connection with the covid pandemic they jetted off on holiday in their droves. The wall-to-wall media coverage of COP 26 has been a huge turn-off. People will say they care about climate change if confronted directly, but if it involves taking active steps, they don’t want to know. They realise that it’s going to cost them a great deal of money and change their lives for the worse. Those in power know that they know, and feel that they need to do something about it. They are very worried indeed. And so they should be. Still, Jit’s article and this one reveal a very shabby, undemocratic, and worrying set of developments. We should be worried, too.
As dictators down the ages discovered, if you suppress open discussion and disagreement, you drive it underground. The only things that people are turning off are their TVs. One day, perhaps, the BBC will realise that it’s doing more harm than good both to itself and to the cause it so blatantly espouses in such a biased way. Let’s hope it is, anyway.
In one important respect Mark I believe you have misremembered how news got to us within newspapers before the internet arrived. Almost all foreign news was directly reported or slightly rewritten from reports purchased from news agencies like Reuters, Associated Press and UPI. You could go from The Guardian to The Telegraph and be confronted by essentially the same piece of prose. This is not so very different from newspapers today getting news stories directly from green sources and merely massaging them a teeny bit.
Wikipedia tells me that the vast percentage of foreign stories still come from news agencies, of which there are dozens, but in the current Guardian, if sourced this way, must be unacknowledged. In today’s paper only two out of thirteen stories are credited to news agencies (one story surprisingly from the USA).
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Thanks Alan. You are quite correct, I am sure. I should probably have written something like:
“News reports from agencies such as Reuters have been replaced by press releases from’ green’ agencies, pushing their agenda via compliant and grateful media organisations, who are completely on board with the project.”
Despite your valuable correction, however, I think the thrust of my argument holds.
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That was a great overview Mark. TV used to have a lot of discussion shows with audience participation. These were shows like Phil Donahue, Firing line debates, Morton Downey Jr. and Larry King who used to take phone calls on his show. A lot of people might not know that before Larry King became a big TV star, he had one of the first nation wide radio talk shows In the 80’s starting at midnight Eastern time every weekday he would do a one hour interview with a guest, then take call in questions for this guest for two hours, and then do two more hours of open phone call ins. After that for a number of years he would even do another half hour of news highlights.
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The nudge unit’s suggestions could rightly be described as Orwellian, and that without a trace of hyperbole. Anyone who thinks this is ok is willing to let someone else do their thinking for them. That being the case, who knows where this might lead (slippery slope fallacy notwithstanding). Someone decides what we should be thinking, and everything we are exposed to in our everyday lives is geared towards making us think it? No-one should decide such things for us. Pity the screenwriter who has to produce a show to these specifications. The nudge unit should be disbanded.
On the plus side, if the BBC gets us to turn off our TVs, we will save a bit of CO2.
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Thanks for the write-up Mark. I was struck by this comment of yours;
“The reason for such levels of worry is a failure on the part of the public to show much concern or interest in the Apocalyptic narrative. People aren’t rushing to drive electric cars, to replace their gas boilers with heat pumps, and the moment foreign travel restrictions were lifted in connection with the covid pandemic they jetted off on holiday in their droves. The wall-to-wall media coverage of COP 26 has been a huge turn-off. People will say they care about climate change if confronted directly, but if it involves taking active steps, they don’t want to know.”
There was a survey recently reported in the Guardian that supports this view. I don’t recall it being highlighted on Cliscep so if it was, apologies for the repetition. Hard to keep up with all the great stuff being posted here!
“Citizens are alarmed by the climate crisis, but most believe they are already doing more to preserve the planet than anyone else, including their government, and few are willing to make significant lifestyle changes, an international survey has found.”
“Respondents viewed measures likely to affect their own lifestyles, however, as significantly less important ( than recycling!): reducing people’s energy consumption was seen as a priority by only 32%, while favouring public transport over cars (25%) and radically changing our agricultural model (24%) were similarly unpopular.
Only 23% felt that reducing plane travel and charging more for products that did not respect environmental norms were important to preserve the planet, while banning fossil fuel vehicles (22%) and reducing meat consumption (18%) and international trade (17%) were seen as even lower priorities.
“Citizens are undeniably concerned by the state of the planet, but these findings raise doubts regarding their level of commitment to preserving it,” the study said. “Rather than translating into a greater willingness to change their habits, citizens’ concerns are particularly focused on their negative assessment of governments’ efforts.”
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made a comment on anther thread regarding “Scientist Rebellion: researchers join protesters at COP26” – https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-03430-5
site – https://scientistrebellion.com/about-us/
I’m sure they had a link/comment at above site to the effect – “leak us policy/climate related details & we have contacts with the news/press”
can’t find that now, but the website now seems to be very slick & worth a read
snippet – “We have leaked part III of the upcoming IPCC report. There’s no time to wait around, there’s no time for continued inaction – the people deserve to know NOW what our corporate owned politicians have done to them.”
ahh found it under “Swiss Leak” section –
Dr. Franziska Elmer, part of the Scientist Rebellion and the Extinction Rebellion in Switzerland:
“As the climate crisis heightens, the lobbying pressure on scientists to mask the truth also seems to grow. This leads to more scientists taking the risky step of leaking documents in order to preserve the truth and increase transparency. They risk losing their job but take this risk because we are in an emergency.”
A call to action
Extinction Rebellion calls on everyone to take their responsibilities and get in the way of the destruction of our climate and life-support systems in any manner they peacefully can. For all of us, this means taking risks and getting out of our comfort zone. Ask yourself what you can do in your position. For scientists, it can mean shedding light on the inner workings of the science/policy interface by leaking documents.
Scientist Rebellion is prepared to support any scientists who see the need to leak a climate- or ecocide-related document for the above mentioned reasons. We will keep you anonymous and will handle the press work for you. Write to ScientistRebellion@protonmail.com
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wonder if we could send them a “spoof” leak & see what happens & what they check ?
dfhunter, they’ll be “good” leakers so far as the media is concerned – whistleblowers, no doubt, not hackers.
Sometimes I have used the term ‘fabricated news’, to describe the way that, for example, Roger Harrabin will ask Greenpeace what they think of something, knowing perfectly well what answer they will give, and then make a news story about it, “Greenpeace say that…”.
“The climate activists stealing Big Oil’s playbook”
“A secretive network of public relations experts has spent the better part of the last decade whispering into journalists’ ears about climate science — spoon-feeding them facts, figures, spin and quotes.
Few of the reporters they interact with know who backs them; until recently their one-page website didn’t bother listing funders or staff. And yet they seem to have a line into everyone, from obscure academics to big-name politicians.
If this sounds like yet another Big Oil manipulation of the climate conversation, that’s because the network deploys many of the same tactics, only on the other side of the debate.
Until they were contacted by POLITICO in preparation for this article, the Global Strategic Communications Council operated in semi-secret — “unbranded,” as they put it — to push a unified message from a diverse group of sources: Climate change is real, it’s caused by humans, and something needs to be done about it immediately.
The network of around 100 public relations pros in more than 20 countries has planned press conferences for the Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, trained media-shy climate forecasters to speak in soundbites, and collected and distributed scuttlebutt from closed-door climate negotiations, including in the ongoing COP26 climate talks in Glasgow….
…Originally conceived as a way to help European Climate Foundation grantees promote their work in the press, the network was spun off around 2013 into a separate global rapid response team for the broader array of green groups and researchers.
By the time of the next high profile climate summit — COP21 in Paris — the group was hitting its stride. And it did so just as public relations was becoming central to the fight against climate change.
The Paris agreement set a global goal to limit warming “to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.” There are some legally binding elements. But in reality, politics and strategic communications are at the core of enforcement.
Rather than depend solely on top-down prescriptions of what each government would do, the treaty set a goal and relies on a sense of competition among states and sectors to ratchet up commitments (at subsequent conferences like the one taking place in Glasgow) on how to make that actually happen.
Countries and companies can get on board, or risk being seen as falling behind.
At the Paris summit, GSCC used what Morena described as a “flotilla approach” to help drive the perception of a united front on the need for climate action. Behind the scenes, the network’s members led a “range of different actors who are quite visible in the climate debate to more or less push a narrative that is similar,” Morena said.
Anonymity was key. “Everyone is not under a shared brand, but everyone is pushing their own brand in the same direction,” Morena said. If the lead warship is invisible, it looks like “all these little boats are, by themselves, going in the same direction.”
Indeed, if there’s been a turning point in the climate debate since Paris — from the rise of youth activists to climate change’s link with fires and floods — chances are the GSCC was there behind the scenes, turning up the volume.
After all, someone’s gotta check Greta Thunberg’s email.
When the then-15-year-old Swedish climate activist burst onto the scene, she was inundated with media requests; GSCC offered help managing her inbox. They didn’t book her sailboat to travel carbon-neutrally across the Atlantic for a key climate conference in South America, but they set up the press conference in Plymouth to see her off.
More recently, when Thunberg hosted a roundtable of top newspaper editors at the Natural History Museum in London in the week ahead of COP26, the GSCC was helping with coordination.
Brookes insisted that his PR pros aren’t helping any of the media-savvy Gen Z stars with messaging. Thunberg, he said, “taught us more about communications than we’ve ever taught her.”
But climate scientists need more help. One of the network’s biggest accomplishments was promoting the IPCC’s 2018 report that made the case that even a temperature increase of 1.5 degrees will have catastrophic consequences — making a clear case that even the 2-degree limit set in Paris years earlier is woefully inadequate.
The GSCC trained researchers behind the UN climate change agency’s report to deliver their conclusions in soundbites, managed its rollout and set up independent interviews and briefings around the globe. It’s PR basics, but on a scale that hadn’t been a priority for the IPCC in the past. The efforts helped drive a relatively uniform interpretation of the 630-page report.
Beyond “significant” short-term attention, the network’s strategy resulted “in coverage that has kept the report in the forefront of informing the climate conversation,” said Larry Kramer, president of the Hewlett Foundation, one of the GSCC’s primary funders…
…Ed King, a former BBC producer who founded the news site Climate Home News in 2011, is the network’s international lead. (His Twitter bio: “Tracking international climate diplomacy since 2010” — no mention of GSCC).
Based in England, King has been the driving force behind the group’s COP26 prep, sending reporters quotes, political analysis and other raw materials that serve as building blocks for articles. Exhausted reporters in Glasgow trying to understand the confusing COP26 deliberations get King’s daily newsletter in their inbox each morning with a host of tips and story suggestions.
He’s also so quick to deliver direct quotes from closed-door meetings that some beat reporters are convinced he’s in the room — but it’s just his long-standing sourcing, both GSCC and U.K. government officials insist privately.
In Glasgow, the group has a large team on the ground, working the corridors and the media center and summarizing multiple negotiations tracks through a confidential online document shared with reporters. They are often seen huddling with U.K. officials as both the host government and civil society try to shape the narrative of the talks. ..
…Brookes, the group’s CEO, said POLITICO’s inquiries had prompted a reckoning about the network’s secretive approach.
“One of the interesting outcomes of this conversation has been to force us to actually think about this,” he said, promising to increase transparency. “We’ve been a bit shoddy on this front.”
Until last month, the GSCC’s website was a single static page for the “international network of communications professionals in the field of climate and energy,” with no individual staff listed, and an incomplete list of “network partners,” including the European Climate Foundation, and a generic email address as a contact.
Days after Brookes spoke with POLITICO, the website was fleshed out. Brookes was listed as CEO, and some of the big philanthropies backing the effort were also disclosed: the Hewlett, Ikea, Oak, Grantham and KR foundations. (Brookes said GSCC is honoring requests by some other donors for anonymity.)
The group’s structure is complicated, and often shifting, Brookes said. Their network includes about 100 people, but a precise number is hard to pin down, with people dipping in for different projects. The more overtly operated Climate Nexus is GSCC’s partner in the U.S., and other groups like ClimaInfo play a role in Latin America.
The GSCC is “fiscally sponsored,” but not bankrolled, by the European Climate Foundation. The two groups use the same number in the EU’s transparency register, an effort to keep track of lobbying in Brussels, but they’re separate entities, Brookes said. Indeed, there’s no mention of the GSCC on the European Climate Foundation’s website or in recent annual reports posted online.
Additionally, the UN Foundation (an organization founded by U.S. media mogul Ted Turner) is also an operational partner, providing labor, not cash — they have a memo of understanding with the GSCC for the IPCC work, Brookes said.
The GSCC’s unbranded approach “puts the focus solely on building a better future,” said the Oak Foundation — one of their backers — in a statement….”.
Worth a read, IMO, especially as the whole article is uncritical and supportive, and focuses its ire on the evils of those who “sought to make mischief” out of Climategate! Nevertheless, despite the supportive aims, it is an eye-opener, and confirms the suspicions I voiced in “Making The News”.
Pre-internet, we bought our newspapers, The period 2005-2020, showed a decline in spending on newspapers in the UK, from c£4.5b to c£2.75b.
Losing sales and thus losing advertising revenue too, as advertisers switch to other media & channels.
US data shows a similar decline. Revenue is now lower than it was in 1950.
Good journalism costs money, money’s disappearing from the industry.
We can now get our news, essentially “Free”.
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Here’s another one (“study finds”)…
“Rain to replace snow in the Arctic as climate heats, study finds
Climate models show switch will happen decades faster than previously thought, with ‘profound’ implications”
“Rain will replace snow as the Arctic’s most common precipitation as the climate crisis heats up the planet’s northern ice cap, according to research.
Today, more snow falls in the Arctic than rain. But this will reverse, the study suggests, with all the region’s land and almost all its seas receiving more rain than snow before the end of the century if the world warms by 3C. Pledges made by nations at the recent Cop26 summit could keep the temperature rise to a still disastrous 2.4C, but only if these promises are met.
Even if the global temperature rise is kept to 1.5C or 2C, the Greenland and Norwegian Sea areas will still become rain dominated. Scientists were shocked in August when rain fell on the summit of Greenland’s huge ice cap for the first time on record.
The research used the latest climate models, which showed the switch from snow to rain will happen decades faster than previously estimated, with autumn showing the most dramatic seasonal changes. For example, it found the central Arctic will become rain dominated in autumn by 2060 or 2070 if carbon emissions are not cut, instead of by 2090 as predicted by earlier models.
The implications of a switchover were “profound”, the researchers said, from accelerating global heating and sea level rise to melting permafrost, sinking roads, and mass starvation of reindeer and caribou in the region. Scientists think the rapid heating in the Arctic may also be increasing extreme weather events such as floods and heatwaves in Europe, Asia and North America by changing the jet stream.”
Link to the study here:
Given that things almost always seem to be worse than previously thought, that suggests that what they previously thought (and assured us was “the science”), they now think was wrong. So why should I believe the current version of “the science” (aka tweaked climate models)?
“Renewable energy has ‘another record year of growth’ says IEA
Renewables will account for about 95% of growth in global power-generation capacity up to the end of 2026, finds energy agency”
“It has been another record year for renewable energy, despite the Covid-19 pandemic and rising costs for raw materials around the world, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
About 290GW of new renewable energy generation capacity, mostly in the form of wind turbines and solar panels, has been installed around the world this year, beating the previous record last year. On current trends, renewable energy generating capacity will exceed that of fossil fuels and nuclear energy combined by 2026.”
Spot the sleight of hand? Given how little renewables generates as a proportion of humanity’s energy needs, I find the claim to be borderline incredible. But the sleight of hand is to refer to generation “capacity” rather than to actual generation. The two are very different indeed.
What the report fails to acknowledge is that growth from a low base still leaves renewables well short of the growth in new fossil fuel capacity.
It’s another case of “Making the News”.
Another example of making the news, when there is no news. This story is high-up on the BBC’s climate and science & environment sections:
“Thwaites: Antarctic glacier heading for dramatic change”
“Scientists are warning of dramatic changes at one of the biggest glaciers in Antarctica, potentially within the next five to 10 years.
They say a floating section at the front of Thwaites Glacier that until now has been relatively stable could “shatter like a car windscreen”.
US and UK researchers are currently engaged in an intense study programme at Thwaites because of its melt rate.
Already it is dumping 50 billion tonnes of ice into the ocean each year.
This is having limited impact on global sea-levels today, but there is sufficient ice held upstream in the glacier’s drainage basin to raise the height of the oceans by 65cm – were it all to melt.
Such a “doomsday” scenario is unlikely to come about for many centuries, but the study team says Thwaites is now responding to a warming world in really quite rapid ways.”
A survey suggests something might happen in the next 5-10 years, and if it does it will have limited impact. The big story is unlikely to happen for many centuries, apparently. But so what? Let’s make a scary headline.
Mark so typical of you to hide the truth by giving that glacier it’s benign name – the Twaites Glacier, when everyone with an ounce of credibility knows that it ought to be identified by its real name that identifies its real significance – the DOOMSDAY glacier. Someone in the Guardian redoubt is going to pay for this.
“Climate change: Huge toll of extreme weather disasters in 2021”
Weather events, linked to a changing climate, brought misery to millions around the world in 2021 according to a new report.
The study, from the charity Christian Aid, identified 10 extreme events that each caused more than $1.5bn of damage.”
Yet again, not news, but a headline generated by a report and press release.
The report can be found here:
Click to access Counting%20the%20cost%202021%20-%20A%20year%20of%20climate%20breakdown.pdf
Meanwhile, Paul Homewood reminds us that 2021 was not unusual, and in many ways was no different – in terms of extreme weather events – from 1961:
As for the report, I think statements like this undermine its credibility:
” Steve Bowen, Meteorologist & Head of Catastrophe Insight at insurers Aon has noted that 2021 is expected to be the sixth time global natural catastrophes have crossed the $100 billion insured loss threshold. All six have happened since 2011 and 2021 will be the fourth in five years.”
As the world’s population continues to grow, and as (happily) much of the world’s population continues to become wealthier, it would be a surprise if the value of insurance pay-outs didn’t increase year on year. As a statement, it’s essentially meaningless, without exploration of the reasons for the detail behind it.
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Mark, it’s at times like these that I reach for the excellent “Our World in Data.”
For a fair comparison of damages over time you’d have to remove the temporal function of increasing wealth. And even then the comparison wouldn’t be fair, because the footprint of humanity is so much larger now, so that the chances of somewhere populated being hit by adverse extreme weather is higher every year.
“Head of Catastrophe Insight”? Well, perhaps he said more relevant things that didn’t make the cut. I guess it’s impossible to know.
What we do know for sure is that Roger Pielke Jr has got into a lot of trouble for trying to get the correct answer (as opposed to the “right” answer) on extreme weather damages.
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Mark, watched that reported on the BBC “News” today.
as you & Jit note it made no attempt to analyse the report and press release it use’s as a source.
as long as it fits the “extreme weather caused by MMCC” narrative it’s waved thru & the “fact check team” can have a day off.
ps – following on from same news was the weather – “extreme heating heading for UK, very unusual for this time of year”
or something like that !!!
Talk about making the news!
“Five weather related things to watch for in 2022”
So now we get a news story about what might (or, of course, might not) happen in 2022. They call it “weather related things” [sic] but of course the sub-text is “climate-related horrors”.
“Warmest New Year’s Eve recorded in Somerset ushers in 2022”
“Britain has seen its hottest New Year’s Eve ever with temperatures reaching 15.8C (60.4F) in the west of England, the Met Office has said.
The previous record of 14.8C (58.6F) in Colwyn Bay, Wales, in 2011 was toppled this afternoon in Somerset.
Temperatures will continue to rise across England before dropping at night as the UK rings in 2022.
Areas of southern and eastern England including the West Country and London will see the mildest weather.
The Met Office said the extremely mild spell was driven by a flow of warm, moist air from the Canary Islands.”
But it’s not really news, interesting and unusual though it might be. A record (hot, dry, cold, wet, windy) will be broken somewhere most days if you select a specific day, rather than, say, a month or a season to compare against. As this local news website tells me, while reporting on the same story:
“The Met Office spokesman said the December record for England is 17.7C in 1985, while for the UK as a whole it was 18.7C in 2019 in Scotland.”
So it’s not a record temperature for a season or even for a month, just for a day. Unusual perhaps, interesting (and pleasant, compared to cold) certainly, but significant? Definitely not.
Perhaps inevitably, we have a New Year’s Day re-run of the New Year’s Eve “hottest day” story:
“New Year’s Day is warmest on record in the UK, Met Office says”
“The UK is having the warmest New Year’s Day on record, with new high temperatures set for the second day in a row, the Met Office says.
St James’s Park in central London saw temperatures of 16.3C (61.3F) on Saturday as 2022 was ushered in.
Warm air from the Azores has been reaching the UK in recent days, bringing unusually mild weather.
The previous New Year’s Day record was set in 1916, when it reached 15.6C (60.1F) in Bude, Cornwall….
…The Met Office say the UK’s record temperatures have all been elevated by manmade climate change which has raised temperatures globally by 1.1C….”.
Loads of stuff about records for the day being broken, also in Scotland and Wales. Context is rather lacking, however. What they forget to tell us is that the warmest January day is a full 2C warmer, at 18.3C, a record that has been set/equalled on four occasions:
27th Jan 1958 at Aber, Gwynedd; also at Aber, Gwynedd on 10th January 1971; and 26th January 2003 at both Aboyne (Aberdeenshire) and Inchmarlo (Kincardineshire):
As for the New Year’s Eve record of 16.5C (my local news was off the pace yesterday), it was a full 2.2C below the December record temperature I mentioned yesterday, which was 18.7C set on 28th December 2019 at Achfary in Sutherland.
However, there were also Januaries that were much colder, as someone turning 74 today pointed out in passing on Twitter and thus made the news for me (in the same sense as making my day).
This all seems entirely free of climate dogmatics and very endearing.
Let’s remove the dead hand and get back to being both humane and resilient.
(And able to debate the pros and cons of the NHS as it has evolved. But another time!)
Ah yes, 1947 – my nonagenarian father-in-law never shuts up about it! It seems to have marked him for life. At least that demonstrates that it was every bit as exceptional as a very warm end/start to a year.
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Hmm, and my Dad never mentioned the start of 1947 but only the long and warm summer:
For Dad Compton and Edrich having their record year as he himself opened the batting for the combined services, including getting some runs against a young and fiery Fred Trueman … this was the interesting news!
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Another favourite tactic, especially of the BBC (though they’re far from alone in this) is to anticipate an event, then report on it as they imagine it will happen. E.g. “Thursday could be the hottest of the day so far” (reported on the Sunday before the day in question). Then if Thursday isn’t the hottest day of the year so far, it doesn’t matter, they still had a headline suggesting it might be, and the people who read it are left with that residual memory about heat. If Thursday IS the hottest day of the year so far, then it’s double bubble – at least 2 headlines about hot days.
A variant is to anticipate the contents of a forthcoming report, widely trailed in advance, and write a big story about it in advance. Then rinse and repeat when the report is finally issued. Today has a fine example of this double dipping from Matt McGrath:
“IPCC: Climate change report to sound warning on impacts
By Matt McGrath
“A new report on the impacts of climate change will likely be the most worrying assessment yet of how rising temperatures affect every living thing.
This will be the second of three major reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its first since November’s COP26 summit.
Scientists and officials will publish their conclusions on 28 February.”
So why not wait until the report is published on 28th February, and tell us what it DOES say, instead of speculating?
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Mark but surely everybody does this – write an anticipatory story ahead of the actual news, followed by the actual story? Take this weekend’s England-Wales rugby match, I have already read in three different newspapers stories and predictions of the outcome and which players are likely to feature prominently. No doubt after the match the sports writers will be hard at work bringing us the verifiable facts of the massive Welsh defeat!!
Alan: There has to be a higher standard when you’re whipping up fear.
But Richard, if you truly believe in the dire predictions being foretold, the standards you talk about are different. There is an imperative to get the alarmist message across.
If you, as Roger Hallam, believe in the dire predictions, fair enough. But, as the state broadcaster, you should take extreme care. So I stand by my statement.
I think Justin Welby was waking up to this at the New Year. See ‘Real reasons to hope’ on climate action, says archbishop of Canterbury in the Guardian on 1st Jan with subhead “Justin Welby uses his new year message to urge people not to despair over the climate crisis”. I happened upon Welby talking about his own struggles with depression on Radio 4 last night. He still thinks the climate crisis is a thing so he’s in a bind. But at least he’s agonising about it, especially about the negative effects of the fear being sown into children.
AsI hope I made clear, the BBC are far from being the only culprits when it comes to this sort of thing, though they are past masters at it when it comes to getting repeat alarmist headlines.
My main gripe is that anticipating news isn’t the same as reporting news. It’s lazy, and distracts from reporting real news, even in a 24/7 news organisation with the resources of the BBC.
That said, I suspect the IPCC are the main culprits here. I doubt Matt McGrath could write as he does in the article I highlighted, unless he has already being tipped the wink by the IPCC, who I assume are looking to maximise publicity – which, if I’m correct, seems to be more the work of a political organisation than a scientific one.
More headlines generated by a press release:
“Global warming set to break key 1.5C limit for first time”
The paragraph that interested me (after all, most of the article is more of the usual) is the last one:
How this fits in with the BBC’s reporting of last summer’s drought/heatwave isn’t clear:
“The science of drought explained in pictures”
Climate change in England implies hot dry summers and drought (2022 version).
Climate change in England implies increased summer rainfall (2023 version).
Heads they win, tails sceptics lose.