How The BBC Turned A Natural Disaster Into A Drama About Global Warming

  • Date: 17/11/13
  • David Rose, Mail on Sunday

Listeners to Radio 4′s Today programme were given an unmistakable but totally bogus message last week: that catastrophic storms such as Typhoon Haiyan are linked to global warming – and are set to increase.

The same claim, which has no scientific basis, was echoed by David Cameron, who said there was ‘growing evidence’ that warming was responsible for storms.

Interviewing Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, presenter Evan Davis announced that climate change has made the Philippine islands ‘one of the most fragile parts of the planet’ and asked what would the world do if more frequent storms forced its population to abandon them.

Radio 4 Today programme presenter Evan Davis said announced that climate change has made the Philippine islands 'one of the most fragile parts of the planet'

Radio 4 Today programme presenter Evan Davis said that climate change has made the Philippine islands ‘one of the most fragile parts of the planet’

‘That’s a great question,’ Kim replied. In his view, rising seas caused by global warming would make not just islands but the Thai capital Bangkok uninhabitable ‘within the next 20 to 30 years’.

‘The predictions the scientists  are making are that the severity and frequency of these extreme weather events are going to go  up,’ he said.

The response of Davis – with the full weight and authority of the BBC’s morning news flagship behind him – was to muse: ‘If we don’t invest in the prevention of climate change, we’d better invest in border control.’

In fact, basic facts Davis and the Today programme’s army of researchers failed – or refused – to raise with Jim Yong Kim include:

* A study based on data from the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre and the Japan Meteorological Agency shows the number of typhoons making landfall in the Philippines has declined since 1990.

* The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – hailed by greens as the ultimate arbiter – does not agree tropical storms have become more intense or frequent, but says the opposite. Their special report last year said: ‘There is low confidence in any observed long-term (40 years or more) increases in tropical cyclone activity (ie intensity, frequency, duration).’  Its authoritative Fifth Assessment Report added in September there have been ‘no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century’.

* The reason Bangkok is suffering serious floods isn’t rising sea  levels but the fact the city is built on soft clay – the weight of its skyscrapers is causing subsidence of up to 2in a year. Local expert Anond Snidvongs says: ‘The rise in sea level is not that great and climate change only plays a fairly small part – about one-fifth – in the current scenario.’

* There have been very few Category 5 storms like Haiyan in the Pacific since 1991. A study published this year by the American Meteorological Society states in the North Pacific ‘overall tropical cyclone activity shows a significant decrease’ since 1998.

* This year has been the quietest Atlantic hurricane season for decades. No Category 3 or stronger storm has made landfall in the US since Katrina in 2005 – the longest hurricane ‘drought’ on record.

* A new study published last week said the rate of sea level rise has diminished by 44 per cent since 2004, to just 1.8mm per year – 18cm (7in) per century. The reason is the 17-years-and-counting global warming ‘pause’, which was not predicted by computer models.

Meanwhile, Japan last week joined Australia in renouncing  its target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Dr Benny Peiser, director of  the Global Warming Policy Foundation, said both Mr Cameron and Today seemed ‘totally unaware of both the science and changing international realities. Every scientist is adamant that the typhoon has nothing to do with global warming.’

Typhoon frequency graphic

Mail on Sunday, 17 November 2013