Fighting back

I think it’s fair to say that the record of certain elements in the UK press of reporting on climate change has hardly been illustrious, but over the past few months, in the wake of the “climategate” story and the Copenhagen summit, they have surpassed even their own dismal standards with a whole series of high profile stories riddled with inaccuracies and distortions and which, frankly, betray either profound ignorance or dishonesty or both. I have described one example here, and there are others here, here and here – and this is only a selection.

Apart from the usual misrepresentations of the scientific arguments a noticeable trend we have seen is for scientists quoted in these articles to claim that their views have been blatantly misrepresented. One especially notable case recently was of course Phil Jones’s statement that warming since 1995 does not quite reach statistical significance, which was portrayed as “There has been no global warming since 1995″, but all my above links contain examples.

It is also clear from the above links that climate bloggers have done sterling work in exposing and refuting the various distortions and misrepresentations, but now one of the scientists who has been on the receiving end is fighting back. Climate Progress reports that Dr Simon Lewis, co-author of a paper on the impact of reduced rainfall in the Amazon, has submitted a 31-page official complaint to the UK Press Complaints Commission (PCC)  over an article in the Sunday Times in which he claims

they used highly selective reporting to imply, by omission, that a leading expert – myself – concurred with them that the IPCC had published an incorrect scientific claim. This is not the truth, and not what I told the Sunday Times, and therefore I consider the article materially misleading.

Dr Lewis’s complaint is especially damning because not only does he claim that his views were misrepresented, but that the journalist Jonathan Leake read out to him an original version of his story which fairly represented his views but

following this telephone call the article was entirely and completely re-written with an entirely new focus, new quotes from me included and new (incorrect) assertions of my views.

This doesn’t come as a huge surprise given Leake’s previous record, but it’s still a serious allegation. I have to say that I don’t have enormous faith in the PCC and even if they investigate and find against Leake and the Sunday Times it is unlikely that any published correction will get the same publicity as the original story, but I commend Dr Lewis for this actions and I do think that other scientists who have received similar treatment should follow his lead.

Welcome to mutantClimate

Welcome to mutantClimate, my new blog devoted to the subject of climate change and related issues. For the last couple of years I have been blogging at mutantBlog, writing about politics and other general issues which have interested me (and have also had the occasional guest posts at Liberal Conspiracy). In the last few months I have become increasingly interested in the subject of climate change and the associated arguments and have found myself comenting more and more on this issue, both in my own blog posts and in the comments at other blogs. I have therefore decided to start a new blog devoted to this particular subject in order to prevent mutantBlog becoming dominated by one particular subject. I may cross-post occasionally between the two if there is a post I think is especially significant.  

I have to stress that I am not a scientist, in fact apart from an ‘O’ Level in Chemistry I have no scientific qualifications at all, so I am writing very much from the perspective of a relatively well informed layman who has made an effort to understand the scientific arguments around climate change. I intend to write a post in the near future on the subject of expert vs non-expert opinion, but I do believe that non-experts such as myself can make a contribution to the ongoing debate. In fact given that this is a subject which will affect all of us in future but is surrounded by (often bogus) controversy I think it important that “ordinary” people do try to understand the issues and the various arguments as much as possible. I’m hoping any reaction I get to this blog will prove me right.

Anyway, I hope you like mutantClimate and I would welcome any comments.