'An absolute disgrace': BBC Bitesize criticised over listing the 'positive impacts' of climate change

The BBC has come under attack over the climate change section of Bitesize, its online educational tool for school pupils.

Journalist George Monbiot was among a number of people to criticise the BBC Bitesize page on climate change (Photo: Getty)
Journalist George Monbiot was among a number of people to criticise the BBC Bitesize page on climate change (Photo: Getty)

The BBC has been criticised for including a section on the "positive impacts of climate change" on a GCSE Bitesize revision page.

A number of teaching sources have claimed that it does not follow the curriculum.

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At-a-glance: 5 key points:

- Journalist George Monbiot tweeted: “This is what @bbcbitesize is teaching our children about climate breakdown. I'm sorry, but it's an absolute disgrace. You could come away thinking: "on balance, it sounds pretty good". It could have been written by Exxon.”

- The ‘positive impacts of a warmer global climate’ listed on the page include: “warmer temperatures and increased CO2 levels, leading to more vigorous plant growth”, “more resources, such as oil, becoming available in places such as Alaska and Siberia when the ice melts” and “new tourist destinations becoming available”.

- The @BBCBitesize Twitter account posted the following response to Monbiot’s tweet: “Hi George, thank you for your comment. We have passed this on to the relevant team and are assessing the guides in relation to the latest ed specs from the relevant exam boards.”

- Stuart Lock, the CEO of Advantage Schools, tweeted: “Dear @bbcbitesize, I think this is flat wrong, doesn’t align with the national curriculum or exam specs, and needs reconsidering”

- The page has been widely criticised on Twitter today, as an example of the BBC trying too hard to present “both sides” of an issue.

What’s been said?

Journalist George Monbiot followed up his initial tweet, adding: “The BBC has a long and disgraceful history of both-sidesing the greatest threat to life on Earth. Every so often, it puts out a memo claiming it has got its act together. Then it fails again. People who make this content believe "neutrality" = impartiality. It's the opposite.”

The full list of ‘positive impacts’ listed on the BBC Bitesize page:

- “warmer temperatures and increased CO2 levels, leading to more vigorous plant growth”

- “some animals and plants could benefit and flourish in a changing climate”

- “new shipping routes, such as the Northwest passage, would become available”

- “more resources, such as oil, becoming available in places such as Alaska and Siberia when the ice melts”

- “energy consumption decreasing due to a warmer climate”

- “longer growing season leading to a higher yields in current farming areas”

- “frozen regions, such as Canada and Siberia, could be able to grow crops”

- “new tourist destinations becoming available”

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Background

The BBC grappled with the issue of climate change for a long time.

In 2018, the website Carbon Brief obtained an internal guidance note to all staff sent by from Fran Unsworth, the BBC’s director of news and current affairs, offering training on the issue.

Its own policy for journalists states: “As climate change is accepted as happening, you do not need a ‘denier’ to balance the debate. Although there are those who disagree with the IPCC’s [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] position, very few of them now go so far as to deny that climate change is happening. To achieve impartiality, you do not need to include outright deniers of climate change in BBC coverage, in the same way you would not have someone denying that Manchester United won 2-0 last Saturday.”

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