BBC backs down on David Attenborough's climate change statistics
Published 11/02/2013 | 11:51
THE BBC has backed down over Sir David Attenborough’s widely contested claim that parts of the world have warmed by 3.5C over the last two decades.
The comment, first broadcast in the final episode of the Africa series last Wednesday, was removed from Sunday night’s repeat of the show.
The six-week wildlife series showed stunning footage of life on the continent. In the last episode looking towards the future Sir David discussed the challenges facing the region.
Sir David, 86, speaking over footage of Mount Kilimanjaro, made the assertion that "some parts of the continent have become 3.5C hotter in the past 20 years".
Given that since 1850 global temperatures have risen by about 0.8C, causing widespread concern, it was seen as a shocking assertion.
Bloggers and environmentalists expressed their surprise and questioned the scientific evidence behind the claim.
But the BBC initially defended it. They said it was drawn from a report by Oxfam and the New Economics Foundation., but in turn this report suggested the figure had come from a report by Christian Aid.
In a footnote that report suggested the claim had been made at a climate change conference in Dakar in 2004.
Unable to back up the assertion, the BBC last night deleted the words from the repeat of the episode.
Instead the corporation played orchestral music after Sir David said: "Africa's climate is certainly changing." Instead there was only orchestral music in the background.
The next few words from the original broadcast, referring to the 3.5C rise, were missing.
A BBC spokesman said: "There is widespread acknowledgement within the scientific community that the climate of Africa has been changing as stated in the programme.
“We accept the evidence for 3.5 degrees increase is disputable and the commentary should have reflected that. Therefore that line has been removed from Sunday's repeat and the iPlayer version replaced."
A BBC source told The Times that the mistake was made by the production team and not by Sir David, who told them he did not know how it ended up in the script.
"The mistake was being so specific. It should have been more carefully scripted,” the source said.
Later in the episode, Sir David points out that the world’s poorest continent is getting hotter, and 80 per cent of the permanent icefields at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, had disappeared.
In 2006, Sir David admitted that he used to be a sceptic but now believed it is one of the major challenged facing the world.
In the final episode of Africa he also focused on the threat of the growing population, with farmland expanding at the expense of wildlife.