As the debate on climate change has proven, balance should never get in the way of scientific truth

If 99 per cent of scientists agree about a thing, it's usually because that thing is right


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.

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.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page


General Election 2015: The SNP and an SMC (Salmond-Murdoch Conspiracy)

Matthew Norman
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk