Bone of contention ... The climate change denier Ian Plimer. Photograph: Megan Lewis/Reuters
Had the BBC done its research, Ian Plimer's falsehoods would not been allowed to pass unchallenged
15 November 2009
Should the Today programme have interviewed Ian Plimer yesterday? According to many environmentalists, it shouldn't. Here, for example, is the Green party councillor Rupert Read:
"I literally could not believe my ears when I heard you giving an entire interview this morning (at 8.53) to the fringe Australian geologist still questioning man-made global over-heating, at this crucial time, when 1) it is now utterly obvious and everywhere accepted by atmospheric scientists that humans are responsible for the dire and continual upward trend in CO2 emissions, and 2) the Copenhagen summit is almost upon us … By doing interviews like that, that you chose to air this morning, you are materially damaging the chances of an agreement at Copenhagen, an agreement that might just save our civilisation and species from self-destruction."
I don't agree. I don't think any voice should be suppressed, unless it is directly inciting people to rise up and kill or hurt others. You could argue, rightly, that death and devastation is the likely result of a widespread failure to take climate change seriously. But on the same grounds you would have to stifle the voices of people who demand a reduction in taxes (that might have funded the NHS or overseas aid) or people who came out in favour of the
war. It's not clear-cut of course: the laws that prevent people from inciting violence against British people of Iraqi origin don't prevent commentators from inciting state violence against Iraqis overseas. There is clearly a pay-off between free speech and the defence of vulnerable people. But would any of you seriously argue that such commentators should not be allowed to state their case, however repulsive we might find it? Iraq
Let Plimer speak, but let his interviewers do some sodding research first.
On the Today programme Justin Webb allowed him get away with some extraordinary claims. Plimer maintained, for example, that "we cannot stop carbon emissions because most of them come from volcanoes". How many times does this has to be debunked? Among many others, I have pointed out to Plimer that this is plain wrong: humans currently produce 130 times as much CO2 as volcanoes.
He has never tried to refute this. Instead he just keeps repeating his claim. Water off a duck's back doesn't begin to describe it. But Webb allowed this howling falsehood to pass unchallenged.