Clive James: Attenborough’s Global Warming Blunder

  • Date: 23/02/13
  • Clive James, The Daily Telegraph

Getting a bit frail in my old age, I never thought I’d live to see the day when the Guardian told the BBC to stop cooking the books. But it happened.

Blunder: in the final episode of ‘Africa’ David Attenborough offered an ‘absurd’ figure about climate change Photo: BBC/David Chancellor

Now that the Attenborough series Africa is over, the BBC has followed it up, in the late afternoon slots, with such earlier work of his as Life on Earth and The Living Planet, as if to prove that the older stuff tends to be the best.

Africa had some super-advanced camera work, but although, in its classic predecessors, the camera work might have been merely advanced, Attenborough himself was invariably in full control of the concept. In those days, while a whole pride of lions stuck their heads into a slain wildebeest, he would shape the script as if it were all his. In the last episode of Africa he got stung by his own research staff, who fed him an absurd figure for the amount that the temperature in that region has supposedly gone up.

Demonstrating an unusual new ability on the Beeb’s part to be sensible on the subject, the offending sentence was eliminated between the first and second screenings of the show. Perhaps the decisive objection to what Attenborough had said came from the Guardian’s environmental blog-person.

Until very recently, all the mainstream media sources on the alarmist wing of the global warming theory were apt to agree with one another no matter what, but now, at last, when somebody announces that the oceans will soon be 30 feet over the heads of our grandchildren, there is a welcome new reluctance to accept the mere assertion as evidence in itself. Getting a bit frail in my old age, I never thought I’d live to see the day when the Guardian told the BBC to stop cooking the books. But it happened.

There was a time when Attenborough would have rather made his own blunder than just read out the blunder that was handed to him.

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