What do Nigel Lawson and I have in common, apart from our stunning good looks? One thing is that we have both recently been banned from the BBC. "Banned" in the sense of "not invited on for a while", but Lord Lawson is very cross about it, and has written about his "ban" in the strongest terms. He even called the BBC's tactics "quasi-Stalinist".
Lord Lawson, you see, is a bit of a sceptic about man-made climate change. To give you an idea, his book, An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Climate Change, is described as a "hard-hitting response to the scaremongering of climate alarmists". Those would-be "climate alarmists" such as most of the scientists in the field, presumably. So, has Lord Lawson really been barred on account of his views being too eccentric? If so, it is about time.
I was banned from the BBC for the opposite reason. I was phoned up recently and asked for my views about Shakespeare in schools, and then politely stood down when I turned out to have the exact same views as every single other person they had asked.
For the purposes of offering a "balanced" debate, I assume that the poor producer had to keep ringing round until she found someone with the view that all of Shakespeare's works were secretly written by frogs.
If the eerie absence of Lord Lawson means that the BBC has changed its mind about what constitutes balance, I for one am delighted. Until now, it often seemed that any debate had to be between two people with exactly opposite views. If the BBC phoned 99 scientists and found that they all had the same thoughts on a current issue, they would keep searching until they found the one in 100 who disagreed.
The resulting argument may provide fireworks but it doesn't make for an informative debate. If 99 per cent of scientists all agree about a thing, it's usually because that thing is right.
Meanwhile, at The Independent, it was about 10 years ago that the paper's letters editor decided – after thoughtful consultation with the science editor – that the debate about climate change was effectively over. As over as the "debate" about whether the Holocaust really happened, or the one about whether the Earth is flat.
1/7 Coastal systems and low-lying areas
Flood damaged streets in Queens, New York where the historic boardwalk was washed away due to Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The report predicts that by the end of the century “hundreds of millions of people will be affected by coastal flooding and displaced due to land loss”
2/7 Food security
Widespread drought devastated a corn crop on a farm near Bruceville, Indiana in 2012. The report forecasts that climate change will reduce median yields by up to 2 per cent per decade for the rest of the century
3/7 The global economy
The Evening Standard headline board showing the words 'Black Friday Shares Crash' in London in October 2008 in London. The report warns a global mean temperature increase of 2.5C above pre-industrial levels may lead to global aggregate economic losses of between 0.2 and 2.0 per cent
4/7 Human health
A child suffering from malnutrition and diarrhoea is seen at the Banadir hospital in the Somalian capital of Mogadishu in 2009. Climate change will lead to increases in ill-health in many regions, with examples including an increased likelihood of under-nutrition.
5/7 Human security
A Muslim migrant holds his son as they are detained at the Immigration Police Office on the Thai-Malaysian border in March 2014. The report states that climate change over the 21st century will have a significant impact on forms of migration that compromise human security
6/7 Freshwater resources
A villager walks through a parched paddy in Tianlin county, China in 2012. The report finds that climate change will “reduce renewable surface water and groundwater resources significantly in most dry subtropical regions"
7/7 Unique landscapes
Machair, a grassy coastal habitat found only in north-west Scotland and the west coast of Ireland, is one of the several elements of the UK’s “cultural heritage” that is at risk from climate change
What readers need to know now is not "is climate change real?" but "what should we do about it?" My colleague Robert Fisk is a fierce critic of something he calls 50/50 journalism: the idea that reporters should give equal weight to each side in a dispute. That's fine if you're covering a football match, he says, "but the Middle East is not a football match".
Unlike actual football matches, the news does not benefit from being fought over by opposing teams. The BBC should not allow so-called balance to get in the way of the truth. And if that means that we have to lose Nigel Lawson, it's a price worth paying.Reuse content