Complaint issued on Amazongate reporting

Excerpts from the Guardian:

Forests expert officially complains about ‘distorted’ Sunday Times article

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.

Simon Lewis, an expert on tropical forests at the University of Leeds, says the story, published by the Sunday Times in January, is wrong and should be corrected.

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.

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PaulH

This latest kerfuffle reminds me of an article I read a few years ago, “Nine Things for Scientists to Think about Before Talking to Reporters”:
http://www.scripps.edu/newsandviews/e_20040621/science.html
Paul

John F. Hultquist

This whole story is now so garbled that soothing Prof. Lewis’ ruffled feathers won’t make it any clearer. And the reporters probably can’t published a correction without introducing more distortions.

Dan

Excellent! Finally someone is standing up to the misrepresentations of science reported in the press. There are some shockers in the Telegraph too, for example the report on the recent Geophys. Res. Lett. paper on Amazon drought. I don’t think the journalist even bothered to read the paper.

James F. Evans

I don’t think the complaint will go anywhere…
BUT, this could be the opening shot by AGW advocates to attempt to shut down free speech.
Warmists can’t win on the science, so now they go into repression.
Tyranny & intimidation to impose their world-view.
A sign of desperation? Yes.
It must rejected, put down and exposed for what it is — intellectual repression.

Enneagram

Before anything could be said about the Amazon forests and before anyone could say anything about them , there is one point to be clearly specified: It must be consulted with the real owners of the amazon forests, the countries involved, if this is not the case, then it would be flagrant foreing intervention and meddling into internal affairs of those national states.
International NGOs have many times tried to attain an international agreement for declaring the amazon basin and forests as a “patrimony of humanity”, undoubtedly with the purpose of making big business with the so called carbon credits and carbon shares. This has been strongly rejected in the near past and will be undoubtedly strongly rejected in the future.
Do whatever you want to your OWN countries and your OWN people but just keep your hands off from the amazonian countries.

Calum

Direct quote from Simon Lewis, Jan 2010, “The Nature paper is about the interactions of logging damage, fire and periodic droughts, all extremely important in understanding the vulnerability of Amazon forest to drought, but is not related to the vulnerability of these forests to reductions in rainfall. In my opinion the Rowell and Moore report should not have been cited; it contains no primary research data.”
Quote from Simon Lewis, Mar 2010, “it’s important to protect my reputation in terms of providing accurate scientific information to the public.”
Obviously they can’t be the same Simon Lewis’s, one is a tropical forest expert based in Leeds, England, and the other is a tropical rainforest expert based in Leeds, England.
I wonder if they have ever bumped into each other.?

Brian G Valentine

“Amazon rain forest” exists because humans did – nothing. It developed as natural evolution of flora and fauna.
Now suppose “humans” bulldozed the forest right to the ground, and berried it 10 m deep, leaving nothing but scorched earth.
What do you think would be there thirty years later?

Dan in California

It doesn’t take a professional Climate Scientist to understand: “there is a wealth of scientific evidence suggesting that the Amazon is vulnerable to reductions in rainfall”
In other words, “a rainforest needs rain” But that’s a long way from demonstrating that man-made CO2 causes reduction in rain. You could just as easily say that increased temperatures increase ocean evaporation, and that increases rainfall. But you would have to prove that too.

Curiousgeorge

“He added that “there is a wealth of scientific evidence suggesting that the Amazon is vulnerable to reductions in rainfall”. What the hell is this supposed to mean? I can “suggest” that the moon is made of green cheese! That doesn’t mean it is.

jorgekafkazar

PaulH (09:49:10) : “This latest kerfuffle reminds me of an article I read a few years ago, “Nine Things for Scientists to Think about Before Talking to Reporters”:
http://www.scripps.edu/newsandviews/e_20040621/science.html
Great link, Paul. here’s Number Ten:
Science is dead.

John W.

Calum (09:57:44) :

“it’s important to protect my reputation in terms of providing accurate scientific information to the public.”

Translation: “Oh crap! They’re going to cut my funding for not supporting the narrative! I’d better backtrack.”

John Wright

More red herrings and straw men; they won’t stop and they’ll keep coming up with new ones. They have no other arguments left.

MattN

Speaking of rainfall: http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2010/2010GL042468.shtml
Anyone care to hazzard a guess what the trend would look like if a start date of 1900 (instead of 1950) is used?

Phillip Bratby

Can’t wait for your the rebuttal paper to Menne et al. When is it out?
REPLY: We are finishing up the final analysis sections. It’s late becuase we had to scrap the first paper, and re-purpose towards a response to Menne et al thanks to their professional discourtesy. – A

bubbagyro

“poorly written and bizarrely referenced”, I’m sorry – does not constitute “correct”, except maybe in Johnny Depp’s recent movie. I think Lewis’s “Lobster Bisque Dance” does, however, do justice to Carroll’s work.
I see his point, though, that the Amazon is “vulnerable to reductions in rainfall”. Can’t argue with that “factual analysis”- my houseplants do not do well when I don’t water them!
It’s the 40% figure that was pulled out of the thin air (rather, the ozone-replete air inside the IPCC’s desktop computers)!

higley7

If you really have few truly valid sites, how can anyone say that hordes of compromised sites are “indistinguishable” from good ones? Then why have any standards for siting at all?
Of course, after you wash, bleach, sanitize, and homogenize you either have low fat yogurt or bland one-size-fits-all data.

Isn’t GW suppose to produce higher temperature, more evaporation from the 75% of the globe’s surface, (vapour being very efficient GH gas driving temperatures even higher), more humidity and consequently more condensation, more precipitation, or that was explanation for the extra snowfall this winter. Isn’t GW meant to cause a ‘greenhouse’ effect? Any of these scientists ever entered a greenhouse?

Richard Sharpe

Looks like the counter will hit 40 million some time tomorrow …

Tenuc

“The public deserve careful and accurate science reporting.”
Agreed. Shame we’ve had to put up with all the alarmist drivel for the last 10+ years!
What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Brian G Valentine

I wrote “berried” and I meant to write “buried”

AnonyMoose

“Despite repeatedly stating to the Sunday Times that there is no problem with the sentence in the IPCC report, except the reference.”

So because the reference is supposed to be the IPCC’s proof of what they say, he’s saying the IPCC sentence is fake but accurate?

Wren

Years ago I was interviewed by a newspaper reporter who wanted to do a story on an article I had written. I was shocked when I read the story. When I complained to my boss about the mistakes the reporter had made, he agreed the story was inaccurate, but thought it was more interesting than my article.

rbateman

MattN (10:22:20) :
Speaking of rainfall: http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2010/2010GL042468.shtml
Anyone care to hazzard a guess what the trend would look like if a start date of 1900 (instead of 1950) is used?

Yes, it would look like a series of seismic events, forward or reversed, depending on station and region. The longer the period you use, the more of these ‘event’ trends you would see.

Neo

At least Mr. Simon Lewis’ lawyer is employed

CodeTech

It seems to me that some people need to be VERY careful when they complain about inaccurate reporting. How many blatantly inaccurate media reports have we all seen?
The media reminds me of a manager I used to work under… his stories were all very plausible until the day I heard him tell a story about something where I WAS THERE… and that was the day I realized he was a pathological liar. His embellishment and subtle alteration completely changed the spirit of what happened.
Maybe everyone who believes “the media” is somehow unbiased and honest needs that kick in the backside that wakes them up.

ShrNfr

The Amazon is also vulnerable to an extreme blizzard. I do not see that happening soon either. (Outside of the Albert In Wonderland Books)

GP

This could get interesting.
The journalist whose name is attached to the article has for some time – at least the last decade – been a very effective promoter of the AGW line with no sceptical angle that I can recall. Ever.
Does that mean that if they attempt to destroy his reputation, as the Deltoid blog seemed to be attempting a short while ago, all his previous work can be called into question as well?
Meanwhile what are the press going to make of this – yet another CRU investigation it seems.
A Peer review no less.
http://news.aol.co.uk/environment-news/peer-to-chair-climate-unit-review/article/20100322092258173659575
Reading the piece it is absolutely clear that this chap is entirely without any position or opinion on the matter, at all, in any way, er, to he should make and excellent fist of peer review. Well, as good as one can expect from a scientifically trained academic with a BIG oil background who is currently involved with Carbon Capture and Storage technology along with other ‘renewables’ interests.
Has the word ‘impartial’ suddenly become inverted in meaning – like, say, ‘bad’ when it means ‘good’ in local or age group based patois?

Enneagram

Vuk etc. (10:34:21) : The only “green house” they know is those houses called BANKS full of newly printed green notes.

renminbi

Thanks for the link to the Economist.This reminds me why after years of subscribing I let my subscription lapse. Their writers are people who know much(sometimes) but understand nothing (almost all the time).

Colin Porter

I have reread the article and do not see what complaints Simon Lewis can have. It may be a fact that comments can be distorted or truncated, but there is no getting away from the fact that the IPCC used NGO propaganda instead of peer reviewed reports. It’s no use crying that Lewis quoted other reports. The Times were not required to quote that. What matters is what the IPCC reported which was an unacceptable disgrace. I suspect that Lewis is back peddling from his own condemnation of the IPCC in the face of peer review from his own warmist colleagues who will have reminded him that it is the cause that counts rather than anything frivolous like scientific integrity and honesty. And how can Lewis complain that Leake gave the impression that the IPCC made a false claim that 40% of the forest could be wiped out. Of course it was a false claim. I shall say it myself. It is a completely unsubstantiated and false claim that the IPCC made, so report me to the press complaints commission for writing these remarks.
To Jonathan Leake I would say, don’t be intimidated by this very powerful movement and publicity machine. Stand by your guns and continue your great work of true investigative journalism in exposing the unacceptable excesses of the IPCC, such as the Himalayan melting scare which you also exposed. And just remember where your friends and the truth are and stop sitting on the Global Warming fence with statements like “even though the fundamental science, that greenhouse gases can heat the world, remains strong.”

John Blake

So-called Climate Science is not an empirical discipline but a post-hoc classification exercise akin to botany. The Green Gang of Briffa, Hansen, Jones, Mann, Trenberth et al. relies on deceit, manipulation, outright fabrication because there are no experiments to replicate: Since “climatology” occurs in spuriously adjusted hindsight, “peer review” becomes complicit in propagating abusive ideological fraud in bad faith, under false pretenses, for the purpose of riding a corrupt grant-monies gravy train.
Warmists are sell-outs to hyper-partisan Big Government, whose corrupt politicians and self-aggrandizing regulatory apparatchiks call their tune. Would that disinterested researchers of integrity had more 1/3500th of Warmists’ financing from any source… but for decades an academic/media/political Gresham’s Law has acted to drive “good science” out of general circulation.
Over time, of course, the truth will out. Nature in fact cares nothing for the fatuous Pachauri or credentialed poseurs assiduously blighting everything they touch. As Planet Earth enters on a 70-year “dead sun” Maunder Minimum presaging the overdue end of our current 12,250-year Holocene Interglacial Epoch, global populations will discover that Warmists’ true agenda is a Luddite sociopathic war on industrial/technological civilization in itself. The sooner scrabrous political elites default to zero in disgrace, the better for everyone concerned.

Apologies, I have no idea what this guy is complaining about.
It’s been shown in the recent paper that the Amazon forest is remarkably resilient even during extreme reductions of precipitation that cover the whole year. He agrees that the references pointed to advocacy groups, and so on. Do I misunderstand that he is just a chicken little demagogue? Does he differ from the fraudsters at RealClimate.ORG or others?
I really don’t understand where the compassion towards him comes from. He hasn’t been harmed in any way. He has just been ignored and he should have been.

B. Jackson

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 AGW pushers have been waging a war of disinformation for years and have ignored/chastised people asking for careful and accurate scientific reporting. They need to remember, as my Mom likes to say, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

B. Jackson

Good one, Tenuc, you beat me to it. 🙂

Jknapp

So let me get this straight. If it stops raining in a tropical rain forest the rain forest will die. OK, seems a tautology.
And, if we have global warming (oops) climate change then the rainfall might decrease, stay the same or increase. And if we don’t have global climate change the rainfall might decrease, stay the same, or increase. Therefore we need to worry about global climate change because the rain might decrease and the forest will die.
So when the Times says that maybe the final conclusion is a bit suspect and not worthy of alarm, they got something wrong and the “science” was misrepresented? I guess that is where I get confused.

Bruce Cobb

Looks like a gold mine of false or misleading claims on that one page alone.
From AR4 WGII Chapter 1:http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg2/en/ch13s13-4.html
“The change in temperature and cloud-base in these forests could have substantial effects on the diversity and composition of species. For example, in the cloud forest of Monteverde Costa Rica, these changes are already happening. Declines in the frequency of mist days have been strongly associated with a decrease in population of amphibians (20 of 50 species) and probably also bird and reptile populations (Pounds et al., 1999).” I’m surprised they didn’t mention the extinction of the Golden Toad, a much-touted victim of global warming.
What it conveniently omits is the fact that 2 years later another research team, headed by R.O Lawton demonstrated that the actual culprit was the extensive deforestation of the lowland areas in previous years, leaving only 18% of the original vegetation by 1992. Oops.

Gary

The only way to get an accurately reported interview with the press is to insist on reviewing the final copy before it goes to press (or the file server these days). In no time at all you will find yourself not bothered by reporters any more.

Vincent

“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.”
It reminds me of that remark made by activist Jo Abbess to Roger Harrabin over a BBC article. She let it be known that if Harrabin didn’t change his wording she would bring it to the attention of “some climate scientists” who would clearly put him right. Both remarks have a clear threat of repercussions – in Lewis’ case, the word “repercussion” is used explicitly.
Is Lewis even correct in his complaint? In the question of vulnerability of the Amazon to drought, he makes an oblique reference to a “wealth of data” to back this up. In a court of law, I would favour The Times because they were only reporting the fact that the IPCC report cited a non peer reviewed article by WWF which when traced to its source, was related to logging, not climate change. So essentially, The Times are correct to say what they said. The fact that there may exist other papers which the IPCC did not reference is immaterial to the fact.
Still, it’s interesting to see how the alarmists react to getting a taste of their own medicince.

Enneagram

Can´t help seeing a Doberman´s face on seeing Patchy complexion..

John Galt

Dan in California (10:09:20) :
It doesn’t take a professional Climate Scientist to understand: “there is a wealth of scientific evidence suggesting that the Amazon is vulnerable to reductions in rainfall”
In other words, “a rainforest needs rain” But that’s a long way from demonstrating that man-made CO2 causes reduction in rain. You could just as easily say that increased temperatures increase ocean evaporation, and that increases rainfall. But you would have to prove that too.

We all know how dry it was when it was hotter and dinosaurs roamed the earth.
No, wait… never mind!

derek

It’s Just more feeble attempts at damage control nothing more nothing less.

Henry chance

Lewis is a cry baby. Must be funded by Baby Oil. If he wants to become honest, we will all have to wait 30-50 years to see if the claims on the Amazon were true or not. He is in no position to prove his claims about drought, destruction or disappearnce of the Amazon.

P Gosselin

Cold linked to solar minimum, research says:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/paulhudson/2010/03/-i-am-indebted-to.shtml

Chad Woodburn

Over the past 40 years I have been interviewed willingly dozens of times by reporters (for both print and broadcast) as it related to my politically-incorrect profession and my politically-incorrect activities in that profession. (I was a conservative minister.) In my opinion, only once did the resulting story even closely approximate what I had said or done.
However, the worst news report was when the local ABC news station in Orlando reported that I, the pastor of a local church, had been arrested for a sex crime. The problem was, it was a different minister from a different church. Yet, after pleading in person with the news director, he refused to issue a correction on the story even though he acknowledged that it was completely inaccurate.
Needless to say, I have a VERY low opinion of reporters. Heck, I even have a higher opinion of lawyers and politicians.

A Lovell

Vincent (12:01:53)
Your third paragraph says it all. It will be interesting to see what the PCC decides.
Anyone know how long it will take to come to a decision?

yvesdemars

may be the fact that Mr lewis could be fired by IPCC explains his complaint ????

Gareth

Vincent said: Is Lewis even correct in his complaint?
No.
Shortly after that article was published David Nussbaum of the WWF-UK wrote a letter to the times which was published. In it Nussbaum plainly admits that the claim the IPCC appropriated from ‘Global Review of Forest Fires’ concerns the Brazilian rainforest not all of it, and that until a few hours before The Times published their piece the claim the IPCC appropriated *was* unsubstantiated.(And had been for about a decade)
Had the IPCC checked the references in the WWF report they would have come to the same conclusion certain bloggers did – that the claim presented in ‘Global Review of Forest Fires’ was unsubstantiated. That is not to say it is incorrect, just that there was no reference to other material to substantiate the claim. It is also impossible to avoid the fact that the claim refers to Brazil not the whole Amazonian rainforest, of which the Brazilian portion is only about half.
When the IPCC started making their claim about 40% of Amazonian rainforests being at risk the WWF report that underpinned it had never made that claim nor had a reference to substantiate what it did actually say. With the WWF’s exceedingly late correction the WWF claim is now substantiated but the IPCC’s claim still was unsubstantiated and bogus as even with the WWF correction *’Global Review of Forest Fires’ does not say what the IPCC claimed it did*.

Without the rain it’ll just be a forest! 😛

johnnythelowery

Beware the Biologists. Dissappearing toads and Amphibians is grist for the AGW mill. Once AGW moves from the Climate Depts. to the Biology dept. We’ll never win no matter how many digits we cut off. If it isn’t amphibians, then it’s butterflys getting lost, and roses not smelling right, and ‘species dissappearing’, hive collapse, and………………. We can beat arguments based on climate data (or lack therof) with analysis of the same data(if they’ll provide it), but Biological arguments will have to be falsified by biological arguments in their minds.