A quarter of a century ago this writer was an intern at an advertising agency and I asked the creative director about the research that was going to be used to judge a campaign I had been working on. "Research is like a lamppost " he said "you can lean on it or you can use it to illuminate your way"*
Within days of the original broadcast of the infamous Analysis documentary that has spawned this blog the BBC published a poll suggesting a rise in climate scepticism. In it's report the BBC warms to the theme that this could be down to the CRU hack or the himalayan glacier story or the unusually cold winter here in Britain or even 'science flaws'. However the BBC is careful not to suggest climate scepticism could be manipulated by propaganda put out by the fossil fuel lobby and their cohorts.
There are two main reasons why this is at odds with the BBC's own editorial guidelines which state "we will be objective and even handed in our approach to a subject". Firstly the fossil fuel industry has for many years been manipulating public discourse on climate change. I hope that is a given, if not read this blogpost here.
The second reason can be found in the survey itself. In answer to the question "which of these statements is closest to your view" respondents are offered three scientific propositions - climate change is man made, climate change is not man made or climate change is not happening ; and one proposition about the media - "Climate change is happening but it is environmentalist propaganda that it is man made"
So the BBC clearly proposes that propaganda is made by environmentalists, but does not ask if propaganda could be made by the energy industry. There is no corresponding proposition that propaganda is made by industry or that public opinion is massaged or that public discourse is managed to prevent action taking place. Quite how the BBC will maintain that this approach is even handed is a mystery to this writer.
No light is shed on climate science by this research. Public opinion makes no difference to the science anyhow. Climate science stands or falls on whether it is proved over time, not by public opinion which may be informed or misinformed or manipulated or disinterested or just plain wrong.
Environmentalists would like to hope that a national broadcasting network with the pedigree of the BBC would be above that. This poll though begs the question to what purpose was it commissioned? The BBC would like you to take it at face value with the results showing fewer people believe in the global warming phenomenon than did a couple of months ago . But to an inquiring mind this suggests something much darker - the BBC is part of the disinformation campaign too.
* The agency was Grandfield Rork Collins and the creative director was Andy Rork