BBC Response to Svalbard Complaint

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By Paul Homewood

You will all no doubt recall this dishonest report from the BBC a few weeks ago:

 

Deep inside the Arctic Circle, the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard is home to the world’s northernmost permanent settlement, Longyearbyen, which is estimated to be heating at six times the global average. So, what is being done to save it?

Experts from the Norwegian Polar Institute are among those who calculate it is heating six times faster than the global average.

The consensus is that the temperature in Svalbard has jumped 4C in the past 50 years.

Wildlife and human life are now in a struggle to survive. This is why Limstrand’s congregation is praying for help.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-63387233

As I inconveniently pointed out at the time, Svalbard’s climate is only marginally warmer now than eighty years ago, but temperatures plummeted in the 1960s, which was of course the time which the BBC chose to make comparisons from:

Needless to say, I filed a complaint with the BBC about their omission of temperature trends prior to 1960. As usual they have tried to fob me off at the Stage 1 level with this response:

Thank you for contacting the BBC about the article: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-63387233

We have looked at your email, the article and other sources of information on this topic.
As I understand your complaint, it is about the claims concerning the rate of warming of Svalbard and your email’s claim that the report ‘omits the crucial information that the climate at Svalbard underwent massive cooling during the 1960s, and that current temperatures are no higher than they were in the 1920s to 1950s’.
To substantiate the warming at Svalbard, the BBC’s article referred to one source within the article in the extract below:
Experts from the Norwegian Polar Institute are among those who calculate it is heating six times faster than the global average. The consensus is that the temperature in Svalbard has jumped 4C in the past 50 years.
The Editorial Guidelines recognise the BBC can report the views of credible and named individuals and organisations so long as such views are appropriately attributed. In the case of this article, readers would have understood it presented the informed views of the Norwegian Polar Institute and would have judged what was written accordingly.
The article describes a ‘consensuses on the temperature rise, so I thought I’d include at least one other survey in this email.


This study was carried out on the effects of climate change on Svalbard and Longyearbyen by The Norwegian Centre for Climate Services (NCCS), which is a collaboration between the Norwegian Meteorological Institute, the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate, Norwegian Research Centre and the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research. Their study Climate in Svalbard 2100, published in 2019 contains many facts about the rate of warming in the area.
Here are two extracts for your information.
From 1971 to 2017, a warming of 3 – 5°C has been observed (less in the south, more in the inner fjords), with the largest increase in winter and the smallest in summer. For RCP8.5, the ensemble median projections from regional models and statistical downscaling indicate an increase in annual mean temperature for Svalbard of almost 10 °C from 1971-2000 to 2071-2100.
Especially the northern Barents Sea has experienced a rapid climate shift and is described as the “Arctic warming hotspot” where the surface warming and loss of winter sea ice is the largest in the entire Arctic.”

There is also a section on sea ice which considers the thickness over time periods and areas where sea ice has already reduced.

Here is an extract from the section on sea ice:

‘The sea ice conditions vary from region to region and from year to year. West of Svalbard, the properties of the West Spitsbergen Current play an important role for the sea ice in the western fjords. The inflow of warm Atlantic water to the fjords has strong impact on the local ice conditions. In the last decade, the fjords on the west coast have been almost ice-free in the winter (Muckenhuber et al., 2016). East of Svalbard, the East Spitsbergen Current transports Polar water and sea ice southwards, causing this region to be ice-covered most of the year. In the last decade, the whole Barents Sea, including the area east of Svalbard, has been icefree for several months in the summer and autumn.’

Not every BBC article can include all the information every reader would wish to see in it. It is the job of the BBC’s news editors to make decisions about the content of news stories.  I have not fact checked your information about ‘massive cooling’ during the 1960s, but I did consider whether, if true, the omission of this information would undermine the article.  In view of the context and information laid out above in this email, I do not think that it would.

I have also attached an article from Euronews, which recently reported from Svalbard.  Of course, the output of other media organisations does not affect the BBC’s editorial decision making, but I thought it may be of interest to you.  It includes a segment on Ny-Ålesund – the northernmost human settlement on Earth, which has a year-round research station and is home to 18 scientific institutions from a host of countries.
https://www.euronews.com/green/2022/07/26/polar-opposite-how-climate-change-is-altering-the-arctic

I hope this email taken with our first response helps to resolve your concerns about the article and thank you again for contacting the BBC again.
Kind regards
Quentin Smith
BBC News

The response does not address my complaint at all.

They spend most of the reply trying to prove that the climate in Svalbard has got warmer since 1960, but this was never in dispute.

Their only defence of the omission of all relevant facts is that BBC News Editors can choose to include whatever they want!

As for the comment that “but I did consider whether, if true, the omission of this information would undermine the article.  In view of the context and information laid out above in this email, I do not think that it would”, it is simply absurd, given that the article is all about the “race to save Svalbard”. Most independent observers would agree that the fact that Svalbard was just as warm a few decades ago was highly relevant.

Naturally I have responded to the BBC and moved the complaint to Stage 2.

via NOT A LOT OF PEOPLE KNOW THAT

November 22, 2022

BBC Response To Svalbard Complaint — NOT A LOT OF PEOPLE KNOW THAT

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