Claire's blog

IPCC report shows futility of 'adaptation' rhetoric

There are few, now, who would argue that climate change is not happening. But this denial has been replaced by a dangerous rhetoric: that it will all be ok because we can 'adapt' and, by implication, we don't have to worry too much about cutting our carbon dioxide emissions.

This complacency is hardly very convincing even in the coastal communities and flood plains of Britain. From Bangladesh, a country at sea level where some of the world's poorest already face homes lost to flooding, farmland poisoned by salination and drinking water contamined, it must seem like cruel mockery.

The IPCC's latest report should shatter once and for all the myth that adaptation to climate change could be enough on its own. Adaptation is necessary, of course - but alone it is the equivalent of the proverbial deckchairs on the Titanic. 

The BBC, Today and climate change coverage

The British media is... diverse. And never less so than in its approach to climate change. It might be wondered why, with newspapers such as the Daily Express regularly running strident articles proclaiming global warming a hoax, we would target our campaigning at the more civilised atmosphere of the BBC and Radio 4's Today programme. Why are we so concerned about how they cover the forthcoming IPCC report and climate change in general?

The BBC has a degree of authority and status which few other news outlets have, and with public ownership comes a public service responsibility. The crisis of climate change requires us as a society to take urgent decisions. It is particularly worrying when BBC coverage encourages doubt about climate science and complacency about its implications.

For some reason the Today programme is a repeat offender for inaccurate climate coverage. A quick reminder below:


Professor Steve Jones led a BBC Trust review into the accuracy and impartiality of BBC science coverage. He found that some programmes set out a 'false balance', "suggesting that there are two equally valid points of view that must be sorted out – ten years after consensus had been reached that (whatever the cause) climate change is happening." A key recommendation was that "there should be no attempt to give equal weight to opinion and to evidence."


quick audit of news coverage by Carbon Brief suggested that the review's findings have not been fully implemented . This was epitomised by John Humphrys' combative interview with Ralph Cicerone, president of the US National Academy of Science.

"Do you accept that if you live in a country like this where we've had a series of rotten summers [...] that actually, we're entitled to be a bit skeptical?"

"You can't absolutely prove, can you, that CO2 is responsible for global warming?" 

As IPCC warn of devastating climate impacts, Chancellor gives coal pollution free rein

With impeccable timing, a draft of the IPCC’s next report has been leaked just before Budget Day. The report warns of the floods, malnutrition, conflict and economic devastation that can be expected with our current weak response to climate change.  A report that should focus the attention of any politician on how we can avoid these frightening predictions.

Not George Osborne, however. Our Chancellor today announced that the UK’s carbon price floor will be frozen, allowing coal plants – the most carbon polluting fuel – to keep running for longer. Yet again, the Treasury is prepared to jeopardise climate goals and undermine clean energy.

Just three months ago the government assured Parliament that a cap on emissions from coal plants was unnecessary, since coal would quickly become uneconomic. This measure was forced out of the Energy Bill, along with a crucial target to decarbonise electricity generation by 2030, which was widely supported by business and civil society. We, and many MPs and Lords, will now be asking how the government can justify giving these false assurances.

Driven by short-term politics, this government is failing to provide any certainty about our energy direction and climate commitments. It is also failing consumers. As the government sways back and forward on clean energy, investors delay, and consumer bills are driven up by this uncertainty.