It’s not often one looks to the Guardian’s environment pages for an incisive and thorough critique of green propagandising. But hats off – really – to Leo Hickman for this ruthless deconstruction of an erroneous claim made by David Attenborough on his latest BBC nature documentary that in the last twenty years Africa has warmed by 3.5 degrees C.
3.5 degrees C in two decades? That would indeed be a remarkable temperature rise in anybody’s money. (Remember, since 1850 global mean temperatures have risen by about 0.8 degrees C – and we’re supposed to find that worrying and significant). Which is why, you might have thought, the BBC would have spotted so obvious an error and removed it before the programme went out.
To his credit, this troubled Leo Hickman, too.
I’d never heard this arresting claim before. If that rate of temperature rise continued over, say, a century, then those parts of Africa would see a deathly rise of 17.5C?! Could that claim really be true?
So began his wild goose chase to track down the source of the BBC’s factoid. As you’ll see from his superb piece he never got a terribly satisfactory answer.