30 Jul 2007

Live with Johnny Ball climate skeptic.

I am momentarily distracted by Johnny Ball appearing on the television screen overlooking my own. He seems to be shouting at someone in a news programme debate. If anyone has the faintest idea what's happening there, please do email me - sport@timesonline.co.uk.

Even this would be more convincing than the theory of Johnny Ball, who for some reason has become one of their media spokemen, and who cornered me for half an hour, during which time he said with great conviction: "Do you know what causes more global warming than anything else? The methane from spiders."

This was a rather bizarre event. I mean what a discussion next of monetary policy with John Noakes or ID cards with Lesley Judd, I was brought up on a diet of BBC childrens tv in the 1970s! I think Sky News set it up so we could have an entertaining on screen row, I am not sure at the end of the day this is a good way of dealing with science, fun as it was for Johnny, myself and the viewers watching at 11.20 am on sunday. I am not a scientist and in essence Johnny Ball is a former childrens tv presenter. But I guess it is virtually impossible to find an actual scientist who will go on television and argue against the principle of climate change.

I find it quite difficult to pin down the climate sceptics but Johnny seems to be saying climate change is not occurring and even if it is we should tackle it by adaption. He seemed to be in the interview to deny the bed rock idea that CO2 traps sunlight and thus increases temperatures. He clearly states that natural sources of CO2 are more significant than human, this does not take into account the fact that human beings have mined fossil fuels and increased greenhouse gas from 280ppm to 380ppm over a century or so.

We are undertaking a giant experiment with the weather which looks like a very dangerous thing to do.

Johnny told me off screen about his 7 page ‘epistle’ to sky over climate change and how angry the issue makes him…

Johnny is an extremely pleasant person to meet but seems to have some bizarre views when it comes to climate change. He does seem to have a range of rather bizarre views full stop….the wiki oracle notes:

In July, 2004 he was named in the Radio Times list of the top 40 most eccentric TV presenters of all time.[citation needed]
Johnny is in favour of nuclear power and has given many talks and speeches arguing for the development of nuclear power.
Still many years since his career started, he visits schools throughout the country, to give educational talks. In recent talks he has courted controversy by his views on the BBC being run by homosexuals and that this is having a direct detrimental effect on science programming for children including his own lack of appearances and series. This has been compared to Patrick Moore's recent assertion that the BBC is run by women and this has led to the proliferation of mediocre programming.
In November 2006, Ball voiced his opposition to the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act, which would require any adult working with children to be vetted by the Criminal Records Bureau. In an interview with The Sunday Times, he said: "It is like George Orwell’s 1984... a quarter of adults will have to be checked... The fear we are instilling in [children] is abhorrent."[1]

Mark Steel http://comment.independent.co.uk/columnists_m_z/mark_steel/article2753362.ece has written of one encounter with him and my friend Paul Frost heard him on local radio, see here greenmansoccasional.blogspot.com/2007/07/johnny-ball-talking-b.html.

Incidentally New Scientist is proving to be essential reading on climate change with lots of worrying stuff from Paul Hansen http://environment.newscientist.com/channel/earth/mg19526141.600-huge-sea-level-rises-are-coming--unless-we-act-now.html


Andrew said...

Johnny Ball's views on climate change are nothing like as bizarre as you might think.

[By the way two science programmes that the BBC can be fairly proud of: BBC4's Dangerous Knowledge (about Cantor, Boltzmann, Goedel and Turing - "whose obsessive pursuit of the deepest knowledge led them to madness and suicide") and the Atom series. The only trouble with these sorts of programmes is what is left out...which is a lot of the mathematical and scientific "meat"!]

His name is but one of an ever growing list of public figures in the UK and elsewhere who have expressed doubts about the default position on AGW. That list includes Rod Liddle, Jeff Randall, Ruth Lea and Lord Winston to name but a few. The Stern Report has been subject to some heavy criticism, and so has the IPCC's AR4, e.g., [1]. Spiked has run a number of articles highly critical of the consensus viewpoint, e.g., [2].

Even the famous Princeton physicist Freeman Dyson has been asserting recently [3] (and as it turns out some while ago also [4]), that climate models that inform the views of those at the IPCC are nothing like as unflawed as it would have us believe.

And the IPCC, being tasked with reporting on the consensus within the field, comes at this issue with one hand tied behind its back. Sure, a number of environmentalists find it too conservative, but many in climate science find it too alarmist and its attempts at summarising the thinking on climate change as seriously wanting.

The reason that consensus-finding in regard of science is, shall we say, "sub-optimal" is that the traditional scientific method involves questioning, if not everything, then many things. It is a form of scepticism and can give rise to dissent. Indeed Jacob Bronowski said "Dissent is the native activity of the scientist..."

In the fullness of time, it is likely that the IPCC will need to be reformed so woeful is its analysis of the rich perspectives that flourish within climate science proper.

See, for example, Roger A. Pielke, Sr's "Climate Science" blog [5].

The reason that hardly any scientists ever appear on the BBC discussing these sorts of issues is because the BBC took a corporate decision to go along with the Royal Sociey, which is fully signed up to the IPCC approach. You'll be pleased to hear that the BBC Trust has been getting on to the BBC recently about this in its Impartiality Report, and so now you do get an occasional dissenting view.

But those views are not given the weight or respect they deserve. This is because the AGW theory has got into quite a lot of people's belief systems. Compare and contrast today's output with the range of views that were capable of being broadcast and published in 2001 - see [6].

At the root of it all is a perceived/contrived "consensus", research funding and political agendas.

It really is a scandal: at best "a very inefficient use", and at worst "a waste", of many tax- dollars, pounds and many, if not all, other currencies.

That is not to say humans don't perturb the environment, it is just that it is in really complex ways.

Anthropogenic CO2 is likely to be in the mix there somewhere, just not the end of the story.

What we need is scientists - preferably active climatologists - of acknowledged high standing admitting this openly, and for their concerns to be properly reported and given far more weight in the public debate.

The thing is you have to look beyond most mainstream media, including Science, Nature, Scientific American and New Scientist, to find these views.

Annoying, isn't it?

Maybe it is why the very-nice-to-meet Johnny Ball gets so worked up?

"Fair comment" needs to make a come back. Big time.


Andrew Robinson

[1] Clive Crook The steamrollers of climate science FT.com Aug 2, 2007
[2] James Woudhuysen and Joe Kaplinsky "Let's fight back against the new Model Army" spiked July 12, 2007 http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/3598/
[3] Freeman Dyson "Heretical Thoughts About Science and Society" Edge 219 August 9, 2007 http://www.edge.org/documents/archive/edge219.html#dysonf
[4] NPACI "Freeman Dyson Discusses Global Warming at San Diego Science and Technology Council Lecture" 3(17) August 18, 1999 http://www.npaci.edu/online/v3.17/dyson.html
[5] Roger Pielke, Sr. Research Group "Climate Science Weblog" http://climatesci.colorado.edu
[6] Truth Will Out Global warming is caused by human activity - and successive pages BBC/OU Open2.net 2001

Paul said...

Johny Ball is spot on with most of what he says. It makes far more sense than what most of the lefties suggest. They is far more factual based info on Ball's side of the arguement.

David said...

Isn't it about time that we held a scientific conference regarding Global Warming. There seems to be little doubt that we are experiencing warmer temperatures, but, and this is the real question, what is the cause. Surely with the advance in science that the world has experienced we should be able to pin point scientifically what the cause is, and state it SO clearly that everyone will be able to understand AND accept. Maybe THEN we will get a consensus of how we should move forward.
David Bessant

Anonymous said...

Johnny Ball is to be applauded for expressing his opinion on the massive fraud that is AGW. Most 'celebs' or people in the public eye are more concerned about their own profile. As for the rest of us, we worry about ridicule from our peers. Global warming? Follow the money.

Anonymous said...

Great to see this support for Johnny Ball and calls for open, unbiased (ie. no vested interest) debate on the (anthopological) climate change question. David Bellamy is another skeptic in the 'kids TV from the 70s' vein who springs to mind, and he has been cruelly treated by the media because of his views. These people made their names in the first place because they are respected scientists - we have to ask WHY they have been ostracised & ridiculed when their views no longer conform to current thinking, on a single subject that is nowhere near reaching a consensus (no matter how hard the various authorities may try to convince us otherwise).