Science and Technology CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by The Daily Telegraph (CLC070)

How should climate scientists communicate their findings?

Does the media make effective use of scientists when covering the debate about climate science?

Are there any scientific voices missing in the debate?

The media relies on scientists putting themselves forward and the research they publish. More could always be done to bring their views to the public’s attention, but scientists in turn need to find ways to make their work and what they say about it accessible to a lay audience.

Scientists usually come top of professions that are most trusted by the general public in surveys. Why is that different in the climate debate?

What are your trusted information sources on climate?

Is there a tendency on both sides of debate to demonise the opposition?

I don’t know as I have not seen any data to substantiate the premise of the question. I am wary about the value judgment implied in the term “trusted information source”. We report information, and rely on our commentators to interpret it.

What is your opinion of mass media coverage of climate?

Is it possible for our major broadcasters to function as trusted voices on issues such as climate?

How should we decide on what weight sceptical voices should be given in the mass media?

The climate debate is covered exhaustively in the Telegraph and elsewhere. Again, I’m not sure about the word trust. Media have a duty to report all facets of a debate, even if it means pointing out that the balance of facts favours one side.

James Painter’s research has found that press coverage in the UK has become increasingly polarised—why is this?

Do you consider the public are sensitive to the differences between reportage, informed commentary and polemic?

Controversy and dissent sells—isn’t this the reason the proportion of sceptical commentary in the press is much greater than the weight of science output might warrant?

I am not familiar with Mr Painter’s research. I can only speak for the Telegraph’s coverage. We try to bring a range of voices and views to the debate, in addition to covering developments in the news story. Our readers are informed and have a clear understanding of the difference between news and opolemic.

What is your publication’s working definition of climate change?

Do you think that it is understandable to most of your readers?

Does it agree with the current science facts?

We don’t have a working definition of climate change. We report on it rather than define it. In terms of our editorial policy, it is broadly that we believe that the climate is changing, that the reason for that change includes human activity, but that human ingenuity and adaptability should not be ignored in favour of economically damaging prescriptions.

Do you agree that there are core facts that everyone might agree upon? Where should these facts be promulgated?

Can you all agree, for example, on whether there needs to be more information available on climate science in formats that the public can engage with?

Do you think there are any bodies that all sides of the debate could accept as authoritative voices on climate science?

Your question suggests that we are participants in the debate. We are not. Our sole responsibility is to our readers, and that involves presenting them with a compelling daily package of news and features that they are happy to pay for. As part of that, we try to provide them with reliable information that they can engage with: Too often we are faced with impenetrable gobbledygook from scientists who appear to have no inkling that their case is incomprehensible to most members of the public.

As a publisher of news, you communicate with the public on climate issues. Do you think you attract a broad spectrum of opinion or are you only speaking to like-minded people?

What is your purpose in writing about climate? Are you seeking to change minds, to educate and inform or simply to entertain?

Do you find people better understand climate issues when they are linked to more immediate concerns such as energy efficiency, energy security and local environmental benefits like improving air pollution?

You will see if you study the Telegraph over the past, say, five years that we cover a broad spectrum of views and, better than most, allow conflicting voices space to make their case.

Discussions and dissent on climate change policy often focus on uncertainties in the science. Should policy not be driven by mitigating the risks of climate change rather than hesitate due to uncertainties in aspects of the science?

Are the possible risks from climate change something that is covered effectively in the media?

Of course, efforts should be focused on mitigating the effects of climate change. We regularly urge government in our leaders to consider how it does so. We are concerned that the identified risks of climate change are well covered, but do not take sufficient account of human adaptability and ingenuity How best to mitigate those risks is a debate worth having. The US, for example, has seen its carbon emissions plummet by switching from coal to shale.

December 2013

Prepared 1st April 2014