Excerpts from the Guardian:
Press Complaints Commission told that newspaper story gives impression that IPCC made false Amazon rainfall claim
A leading scientist has made an official complaint to the Press Complaints Commission over an “inaccurate, misleading and distorted” newspaper story about a supposed mistake made by the UN’s panel on global warming.
He says the story is misleading because it gives the impression that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made a false claim in its 2007 report that reduced rainfall could wipe out up to 40% of the Amazon rainforest. The Sunday Times story was widely followed up across the world, and, in the wake of the discovery of a high-profile blunder by the IPCC over the likely melting of Himalayan glaciers, helped fuel claims that the IPCC was flawed and its conclusions unreliable.
Lewis said: “There is currently a war of disinformation about climate change-related science, and my complaint can hopefully let journalists in the front line of this war know that there are potential repercussions if they publish misleading stories. The public deserve careful and accurate science reporting.”
The Sunday Times piece was originally headlined “UN climate panel shamed by bogus rainforest claim”, though this was later changed on the website version. It said the 40% destruction figure was based on an “unsubstantiated claim by green campaigners who had little scientific expertise”.
Lewis said he was contacted by the Sunday Times before the article was published and told them the IPCC’s statement was “poorly written and bizarrely referenced, but basically correct”. He added that “there is a wealth of scientific evidence suggesting that the Amazon is vulnerable to reductions in rainfall”. He also sent the newspaper several scientific papers that supported the claim, but were not cited by that section of the IPCC report.
Lewis also complains that the Sunday Times used several quotes from him in the piece to support the assertion that the IPCC report had made a false claim. “Despite repeatedly stating to the Sunday Times that there is no problem with the sentence in the IPCC report, except the reference.”
Heh. This must be the first time Lewis has been interviewed by the press. From experience I can tell you that in matters of science, the message is often muddled by the time it gets to print. Sometimes this is intentional if the reporter has a specific agenda, but sometimes it simply is a combination of poor understanding of the subject and editorial considerations such as column space. Often a story as submitted will get cut down to size by the copy editor, changing the meaning by leaving out key details.
I don’t know if that is the case here, but it will be interesting to see what the PCC does.
Case in point. Two weeks ago I was interviewed by the Economist Energy and Environment Editor, Oliver Morton, for a story about the surface record. I completed four questions, and included details, but in bite sized form hoping they would get into the story because they were concise points. The reporter even asked if his assessment of my story about NCDC’s treatment of me, mentioned here was correct.
Here is the resulting story: The clouds of unknowing
What resulted for days of back and forth and carefully providing answers that I thought would be concise enough was this one sentence in response, even thought he reporter agreed in the email exchange that I had been “poorly treated” by NCDC.
A recent analysis by Matthew Menne and his colleagues at America’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, argued that trends calculated from climate stations that surfacestation.org found to be poorly sited and from those it found well sited were more or less indistinguishable. Mr Watts has problems with that analysis, and promises a thorough study of the project’s findings later.
Heh. Such balance and accuracy in reporting by the Economist.
It was certainly not worth the effort I extended with the reporter, so I know how Mr. Lewis feels. Will I lodge a complaint with PCC for misrepresentation? No.
On that note, the rebuttal paper to Menne et al is looking better and better.