Fresh insights into the techniques used by the BBC to catastrophise climate change are revealed in an exchange of letters with the producer of Justin Rowlatt’s “Wild Weather” Panorama and a former producer of Top Gear. Justifying the Rowlatt suggestion that global weather is getting warmer and more unpredictable and the death toll is rising, the programme’s producer Leo Telling said the latter figure was “cumulative”. In reply, Ken Pollock called the explanation “asinine”, and suggested Telling recognised that: “The death toll in the U.K. is cumulative. It is difficult to imagine it not increasing, if you quote cumulative figures,” he explained.
The “Wild Weather” programme, broadcast in December 2020, was an emotion-charged rant that tried to show that human-caused climate change was behind a series of recent bad weather events. It led to two internal complaints being upheld against Rowlatt. On the death toll claim, the BBC accepted that deaths from natural disasters have actually been falling for many years.
Telling then went on to argue that heatwaves will lead to excess deaths in vulnerable groups with a lower tolerance to extreme temperatures. In addition, he stated that the heatwaves will lead to avoidable deaths through wildfires.
“How can you write with a straight face that heatwaves will kill more and more people,” replied Pollock, “without also accepting that cold kills 10 times as many people every year and extra heat may save far more people?”
How do you reconcile the fact that Singapore and Helsinki have average temperatures differing by 22°C, and yet you accept that a further 1°C could spell disaster, he went on to ask.
Pollock then wondered what the Panorama producer really meant by the suggestion that avoidable wildfire deaths would increase. “You surely know that most of the Australian wildfires and those in the West of the USA were started by arson. Surely you know that the recent wildfires were nowhere near as bad as those in the West of the USA in the 30s and 40s and in Australia in the 80s, when I filmed them for the BBC, and in earlier decades,” he wrote.
In Pollock’s view, much of what Telling produced was drawn from the World Health Organisation and “highly questionable” IPCC predictions. One might expect you to challenge some of them, or at least refer to the source and the speculative nature of the predictions, he contended. Pollock concluded by noting that in his 22 years as a BBC producer, he became alarmed at the inadequate use of statistics by the Corporation in current affairs and elsewhere: “Many BBC people repeated statistics without understanding them”.