Britain Cuts Environment Staff As BBC Comes Under Fire For Giving Airtime To Climate Deniers

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The flood barrier on the River Thames.

Just days before the country was buffeted by hurricane-force winds, rain and flooding, Britain announced that it will cut 15 percent of its Environment Agency staff, the country’s agency responsible for issuing things like flood reports.

The agency, which enforces environmental regulations and also manages Britain’s flood risk, will reduce its 11,400-member staff to around 9,700 by October 2014 due to budget cuts. It’s unclear so far which staff from the agency will be cut, but according to agency workers who spoke to The ENDS Report, they were worried the cuts will affect how the agency does its work.

“We’ve already changed our ways of working so we regulate industry in a much more risk-based way and we rely on operators to self-report problems,” one staff member, who remained anonymous, told ENDS. “We’ll do a lot more of that I guess, but how can you guarantee businesses are self-reporting properly if you don’t have the staff to check the reports?”

The news of the cuts comes as the government-funded BBC is fielding criticism for giving too much time to the views of climate deniers. A group of Members of Parliament have spoken out against the broadcasting service’s decision to give airtime to climate deniers, a decision it says is part of its role as a journalism outlet.

“At a time when poor editorial decisions have dented trust in the BBC, the organisation should be taking much greater care over the accuracy of its reporting — especially in the area of science where misreporting can cause disastrous results,” Andrew Miller, chair of the science and technology committee, told the Guardian.

Miller cited a BBC program from July in which the presenter, during an interview with the country’s climate and energy secretary, cited supposedly scientific findings that questioned whether or not climate change was happening. Bringing up climate denier arguments in the midst of a legitimate scientific discussion does a disservice to the public, biologist Steve Jones told the Guardian.

“This goes to the heart of science reporting — you wouldn’t have a homeopath speaking alongside a brain surgeon for balance, as that would be absurd,” he said. “It’s just as absurd to have a climate skeptic for balance against the work of the overwhelming majority of climate scientists.”

Climate change is likely to make life more difficult in the U.K. in the years to come. As sea levels rise, extreme weather like Monday’s St. Jude’s Day Storm will become even more dangerous, and intense rainfall could become more of the norm. Heat waves, like the one that killed thousands of people in Europe in 2003, could become more common. And climate change around the world could pose a threat to the U.K.’s food supplies.