Bullying bloggers are no strangers to online media - especially when they're Single Issue Fanatics (SIF). "They're deeply emotional, they're bullies, and they often don't get out enough," the BBC's Adam Curtis noted here last year. This week, campaigner Jo Abbess is boasting about how she browbeat the BBC into modifying a story about Global Warming. The BBC has defended the changes to its story.
Abbess swung into action on Friday after the BBC's Roger Harrabin reported comments by World Meteorological Organisation secretary general Michel Jarraud. In a story titled "Global temperatures 'to decrease'", Harrabin wrote:
"The World Meteorological Organisation's secretary-general, Michel Jarraud, told the BBC it was likely that La Niña would continue into the summer. This would mean global temperatures have not risen since 1998, prompting some to question climate change theory."
La Niña is the cooling phase of what's called the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which affects the sea surface in the central and eastern Equatorial Pacific. Niña alternates with El Nino, which raises temperatures. We're entering the Niña phase. Global temperatures have been static from their 1998 peak, when El Nino peaked.
It's nicely illustrated by this graph:
The ENSO cycle
Which also shows how foolish it is to extrapolate anything from short-term trends.
The plateau in temperature this century was acknowledged by IPCC chief Dr Rajendra Pachauri back in January.
Abbess fired off an email titled "Correction Demanded: 'Global temperatures 'to decrease'". She argued that anyone who doubts the scientific orthodoxy is not qualified to hold an opinion.
"Several networks exist that question whether global warming has peaked, but they contain very few actual scientists, and the scientists that they do contain are not climate scientists so have no expertise in this area."
Harrabin initially stood firm.
"No correction is needed. If the secy-gen of the WMO tells me that global temperatures will decrease, that's what we will report", replied the envy-corry of the beeby-weebie.
But our keyboard warrior fired back:
"Personally, I think it is highly irresponsible to play into the hands of the sceptics/skeptics who continually promote the idea that 'global warming finished in 1998', when that is so patently not true.
"Please do not do a disservice to your readership by leaving the door open to doubt about that."
Harrabin began to wilt, promising to take on the doubters.
"We can't ignore the fact that sceptics have jumped on the lack of increase since 1998. It is appearing reguarly now in general media. Best to tackle this - and explain it, which is what we have done."
Abbess fired back again:
"When you are on the Tube in London, I expect that occasionally you glance a headline as sometime turns the page, and you thinkg [sic] 'Really?' or 'Wow !' You don't read the whole article, you just get the headline.
"It would be better if you did not quote the sceptics. Their voice is heard everywhere, on every channel. [Even the BBC? - astonished ed] They are deliberately obstructing the emergence of the truth. I would ask : please reserve the main BBC Online channel for emerging truth." [Our emphasis]
Abbess was worried about the consequences of Harrabin's report. People might think The Wrong Thoughts. She spelled it out:
"A lot of people will read the first few paragraphs of what you say, and not read the rest, and (a) Dismiss your writing as it seems you have been manipulated by the sceptics or (b) Jump on it with glee and email their mates and say "See! Global Warming has stopped !"
And she signed off with a threat:
"I am about to send your comments to others for their contribution, unless you request I do not. They are likely to want to post your comments on forums/fora, so please indicate if you do not want this to happen. You may appear in an unfavourable light because it could be said that you have had your head turned by the sceptics."
That means career suicide at the Beeb. Enough already, replied Harrabin.
"Have a look in 10 minutes and tell me you are happier. We have changed headline and more."
The headline was changed to the bizarre "Global warming 'dips this year'" and the paragraph removed.
A dip in warming? Isn't that like, er... cooling?
The offending paragraph was modified to read:
"But this year's temperatures would still be way above the average - and we would soon exceed the record year of 1998 because of global warming induced by greenhouse gases."
And we now learn
"A minority of scientists question whether this means global warming has peaked and argue the Earth has proved more resilient to greenhouse gases than predicted."
BBC sources confirmed the authenticity of the correspondence.
The BBC provided us with this statement:
"A minor change was made to the 'Global temperatures "to decrease"' piece on our website to better reflect the science. A few people including the report's authors, the World Meteorlogical Organisation, pointed out to us that the earlier version had been ambiguous."
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