The BBC has admitted an interview with former chancellor Nigel Lawson during which he described climate change as “clap-trap” and denied that global temperatures had risen during the last decade had breached editorial guidelines.
The BBC’s executive complaints unit ruled the comments were “contestable” and “should have been challenged”.
In the highly-contested interview on Radio 4′s Today programme in August, Lord Lawson was responding to an intervention on the dangers of climate change by former US vice president Al Gore.
Lord Lawson said: “He’s the sort of bloke who goes around saying the end of the world is nigh.
“We should be concentrating on real problems like North Korea and disease. To divert resources and energy to non-problems is really ridiculous.”
According to The Guardian, the BBC’s ruling was focused on two further statements made by Lord Lawson during the interview - one in which he claimed the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) “has confirmed that there has been no increase in extreme weather events” and another where he asserted that official statistics showed “if anything, mean global temperature, average world temperature, has slightly declined”.
Speaking on the Today programme on Wednesday, the show’s media editor Amol Rajan said the problem was not only that Lawson’s comments about climate change were “provably false”, but that a previous interview with him on the same topic in 2014 had given “undue weight to his views”.
Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley wrote to the BBC to ask why Lord Lawson’s claims that global temperatures have fallen over the last ten years, and that fossil fuel companies do not receive any subsidies from the UK government, had not been challenged.
“It’s unbelievable that the BBC is giving almost unchallenged airtime to climate-dinosaurs like Lord Lawson,” he said.
“It’s the modern day equivalent of giving the smoking lobby a platform to deny that lighting up has any link to cancer.
“Climate change is an immediate threat and the BBC has a responsibility to provide a proper balance of opinions, not hand the airwaves over to someone with fringe views.”
The BBC initially defended the interview saying it had a duty to inform listeners of all sides of a debate.
It said: “We appreciate that listeners may disagree with the position Lord Lawson takes on this issue, but his stance is reflected, for example, in the current US administration which has distanced itself from the Paris Agreement.
“As we pride ourselves on hearing opinions from all sides on Today, we are confident that we gave listeners the context and facts to make their own minds up about the views expressed.”
However, the BBC has now apologised for the interview, but said it would not be commenting further on the matter, as the decision was made by the editorial complaints unit.