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.

2 thoughts on “Fighting back

  1. Just a quick typo correction for you: Lewis didn’t complain to the IPCC, but to the UK’s PCC (Press Complaints Commission) ;)

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