Met Office Accused Of Misleading BBC Audience Over Extreme Weather Claims

  • Date: 11/08/17
  • Paul Matthews, Climate Scepticism

The BBC asked Peter Stott (Met Office) about extreme events, and specifically storms, but Stott responded by talking about heat waves. What we see here is another example of the self-destructive ‘circling the wagons’ policy. The sceptic has to be attacked, and the warmist defended, even when the IPCC report supports the sceptic.

Yesterday, Nigel Lawson was allowed onto the Today programme in response to an earlier interview with Al Gore promoting his new alarmist film. The audio is here, Gore at about 1:09:00, Lawson at 2:33:30.  Gore had made the false claim that “The second big change is that the climate-related extreme weather events have grown far more numerous and far more destructive”, and Lawson corrected him on that, pointing out what the IPCC says about extreme events.  He also corrected Gore’s bogus claims about fossil fuel subsidies, saying that fossil fuels are taxed, not subsidised.  He also said that “during this past 10 years if anything mean global temperature has slightly declined,” which is not correct according the most commonly used indices (Lawson’s comment probably came from this graph of the global 2m temperature anomaly).

Needless to say, the usual suspects like Brian Cox and Jim Al-Khalili howled with indignation that Lawson was permitted to speak. Carbon Brief carried out a ‘fact check’, which I have fact-checked in their comments section. As far as I am aware, no climate scientist has yet spoken out about Gore’s false claim of “far more numerous” extreme events.

Even though yesterday’s programme featured one sceptic and two climate activists (alarmist film-maker Fisher Stevens was also interviewed), the BBC felt the need to balance this with two more climate activists this morning, their own Roger Harrabin and Peter Stott from the Met Office. Carbon Brief have put up the recording.

Harrabin tried to defend Gore’s claim about subsidies, but had to admit that as far as the UK is concerned, Lawson was correct, we don’t subsidise fossil fuels, we tax them,  and most subsidies go to renewables.

Peter Stott’s interview was quite shocking. John Humphrys asked him about extreme events, and specifically storms, but Stott responded by talking about heat waves. I was reminded of the interview where Theresa May was asked about Health Service funding and gave an answer about the economy. Is Peter Stott a scientist, or a politician? I think this interview answered that question.

Here is a transcript of that section:

JH:  Dramatic weather events, are we seeing more of them, more great storms, because of climate change specifically?

PS: We are indeed seeing more extreme weather as a result of climate change. In fact there was a big report came out only yesterday, compiled by over 450 scientists from more than 60 countries, and they looked at the latest data, and we know that 2016 was the warmest year on record, over a degree warmer than late 19th century levels, so this claim that we heard from Nigel Lawson that it’s been cooling is simply not true, and the other claim that was not true was to say that the IPCC had not found evidence for changes in extreme weather, well, we can look at what they found, and they state very clearly that we have seen changes in many extreme weather and climate events, since the late 1950s.

JH Such as?

PS: Well, for example if you look at heat waves, we did an analysis at the Met Office and looked at the UK actually, looked at temperature records, and you see that there’s been about ten times as many hot weather records as there have been cold weather records.

So here is a reminder of what the IPCC does say about storms, (see section 2.6.3 of the latest IPCC report) which might have provided Radio 4 listeners with a more honest answer to John Humphys’ question than the one Peter Stott gave:

Current data sets indicate no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century and it remains uncertain whether any reported long-term increases in tropical cyclone frequency are robust, after accounting for past changes in observing capabilities.

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, this assessment does not revise the SREX conclusion of low confidence that any reported long-term (centennial) increases in tropical cyclone activity are robust, after accounting for past changes in observing capabilities.

And here is the relevant figure, fig 2.34:

As well as storms, Lawson was correct with regard to floods, where the IPCC says

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.

Again, Peter Stott failed to mention this in his interview.  You only have to watch the trailer for Al Gore’s film to see that the extreme weather he is talking about is things like floods and storms. Stott’s comments about heat records are tautologies: since the world has warmed over the last century, it’s hardly surprising that there are more hot records than cold records.

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