GWPF Criticises Ofcom For Getting It Wrong On IPCC And Extreme Weather

  • Date: 10/04/18
  • Global Warming Policy Foundation

London, 10 April: The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) has criticised Ofcom for its ruling against a BBC interview with Lord Lawson.


In his interview with the BBC’s Today Programme on 10 August 2017, Lord Lawson pointed out that while some extreme events had increased, others had diminished. Overall, however, extreme weather events had not increased according to the IPCC:

“For example, for example he [Al Gore] said that there has been a growing, increase which is continuing, in extreme weather events. There hasn’t been. All the experts say there hasn’t been. The IPCC, the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change, which is the sort of voice of the consensus, concedes that there has been no increase in extreme weather events. Extreme weather events have always happened. They come and go. And some kinds of extreme weather events, there’s a particular time increase, whereas others, like tropical storms, diminish”.

Lord Lawson’s statement was based on the IPCC’s key findings in its 2013 5th Assessment Report (see summary of IPCC conclusions at ttp://

  • “Overall, the most robust global changes in climate extremes are seen in measures of daily temperature, including to some extent, heat waves. Precipitation extremes also appear to be increasing, but there is large spatial variability”
  • “There is limited evidence of changes in extremes associated with other climate variables since the mid-20th century”
  • “Current datasets indicate no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century … No robust trends in annual numbers of tropical storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes counts have been identified over the past 100 years in the North Atlantic basin”
  • “In summary, there continues to be a lack of evidence and thus low confidence regarding the sign of trend in the magnitude and/or frequency of floods on a global scale”
  • “In summary, there is low confidence in observed trends in small-scale severe weather phenomena such as hail and thunderstorms because of historical data inhomogeneities and inadequacies in monitoring systems”
  • “In summary, the current assessment concludes that there is not enough evidence at present to suggest more than low confidence in a global-scale observed trend in drought or dryness (lack of rainfall) since the middle of the 20th century due to lack of direct observations, geographical inconsistencies in the trends, and dependencies of inferred trends on the index choice. Based on updated studies, AR4 conclusions regarding global increasing trends in drought since the 1970s were probably overstated. However, it is likely that the frequency and intensity of drought has increased in the Mediterranean and West Africa and decreased in central North America and north-west Australia since 1950”
  • “In summary, confidence in large scale changes in the intensity of extreme extratropical cyclones since 1900 is low”

Without providing any evidence to justify disputing the IPCC’s conclusions, Ofcom claimed that Lawson’s statement about extreme weather was incorrect and not sufficiently challenged by the BBC presenter during the interview.

Ofcom, however, appear to base its ruling on information from unnamed complainants, the BBC (and possibly from other unnamed sources) without publishing that information or where it obtained it from. As a result, nobody is able to see it and judge its credibility. It did not ask Lord Lawson for any information regarding his statements.

That Ofcom should judge on scientific matters without justifying their decision sets a worrying precedent concerning the oversight of journalists.

Presenters are not experts and cannot be expected to be. For them to provide a detailed examination of competing viewpoints would be a burden on them and a limitation of the freedom of broadcasters and the BBC, and severely inhibit live discussions, as well as investigative journalism.

For readers that are in fact interested in a competing viewpoint on the conclusions of the IPCC report, an example can be found here.