Time to Move the Debate on with Climate Change

Recently, Fran Unsworth, the Director of BBC News and Current Affairs, produced a briefing note that condemned the broadcaster’s coverage of man-made climate change for being too accommodating towards the viewpoints of those who deny it exists. In general, media coverage about the existence of climate change has done nothing to move the debate forward. It consistently provides a platform for both sides of the debate, even when the neigh-sayers have had considerably less if any, scientific evidence. It is for this reason that the debate must, to an extent, move on from fluctuating numbers, measurements and laboratories and towards questions about humanity’s plan of action in relation to this phenomenon. But the debate cannot move on unless people know it is over.

In Unsworth’s note, she includes a space for skeptics but not through questioning the realities of climate change. She puts forward that climate change skepticism should be scientifically based around “the speed and intensity of what will happen in the future” and henceforth the strategies governments should or shouldn’t use to combat it. This approach is more mindful of what deniers were trying to achieve in the first place – a global attitude of ‘let’s just do nothing’ and leave large corporations free to continue any industrial malpractice that accelerates the process to an unnatural rate.

This is not the shutting down of debate that deniers will no doubt claim it to be. In fact, it is quite the opposite. We are giving them a platform to express their hidden agenda. The truth behind deniers’ motivations has long been understated. To address climate change would be to admit that many of our most economically profitable practices in big business and our daily lives will have to change.

Yet to change the debate to address the very real issue, we have to invite those sitting on the fence to join the discussion. This would mean offering solutions to the problem that don’t require them to make significant changes to the way they live their lives. And that’s a good thing. The truth is, whilst the denying parties were busy trolling the scientifically sound truths about global warming, not much research was being done on addressing it. Ultimately, Unsworth is right; the media need to treat the existence of man-made climate change as a scientific truth as doing so would shift the focus of the debate entirely to engage all sides constructively once more. Scientists would receive funding from all sides of the political spectrum. This research would continue developing new, better, and cheaper solutions.

The overarching idea here is that with issues such as climate change, we need to establish a scientifically-grounded truth as quickly as possible, to allow us to all work towards solutions that protect the priorities of the whole political spectrum so that when the time arrives, we have multiple inexpensive solutions to choose from. Man-made climate change is a scientifically proven reality that we all live with and this is what media coverage needs to show. In the interest of the debate moving forward, the media must strike a balance concerning what can be done but also not spread doubt about a scientific phenomenon backed by a vast wealth of evidence.

Hamzah Bharwani