The UK Mail on Sunday claimed “world leaders were duped over global warming” and had been “convinced” to invest to protect against climate change. And yet, the Mail got it wrong.
The Mail on Sunday‘s Feb. 5 article cited a former U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration climate scientist, Dr. John Bates, and his complaints about a NOAA paper that indicated there was “no ‘pause’ in global warming in the 2000s.” The Mail on Sunday then claimed Bates’ criticism, which was posted on his blog, provided “irrefutable evidence” the NOAA article featured “misleading, unverified data.” The Mail also claimed the NOAA paper, which was published in 2015 by Science journal, didn’t go through NOAA’s normal evaluation practices and was sensational.
However, IPSO ruled that the Mail on Sunday article “went much further than the concerns which Dr Bates had detailed” and alleged “assertions of fact that the data had been demonstrated conclusively to be wrong.” Further, the Mail on Sunday mischaracterized Bates’ claims about the NOAA’s process of archiving data, not to mention the newspaper then incorrectly plotted data in its graphic.
The Mail had to publish the ruling here on its website and atop the original article. A Mail spokesperson told iMediaEthics by e-mail,
“The subject of the rate of climate change is fiercely debated with reputable scientists taking positions on both sides. The Mail on Sunday has published articles that challenge some widely held opinions. The complainant in this case is a professional spokesman for two academic institutions involved in the debate. He has complained to the press regulator on three previous occasions about our articles on climate change but those complaints were rejected.
“This newspaper is fully committed to the principle of independent press regulation and is a member of IPSO. We are disappointed with this finding but we accept it and are publishing the adjudication with prominence in the newspaper and online.”
The Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment’s Bob Ward, the man who complained about the article to IPSO, told the New York Times he thought the original Mail on Sunday article “grossly overblown.”
Ward told iMediaEthics by e-mail, “I am disappointed that IPSO decided not to assess the accuracy of Mr Rose’s article, but instead only considered whether the views of Dr Bates had been accurately reported. Notwithstanding the low bar set by IPSO, I am pleased that its Complaints Committee recognised that Mr Rose had misrepresented the content and significance of Dr Bates’s views.”
In a phone interview, Ward told iMediaEthics he believes that IPSO only examined whether the Mail on Sunday accurately reported on Bates’s claims, rather than whether those claims were correct. That, he said, was a “shortcoming of the IPSO process.”
“We’ll have to wait and see if it has an impact on the way the newspaper covers climate issues,” Ward commented. Noting that he is a member of the Association of British Science Writers, whose members are “scrupulous about climate change,” Ward criticized the Mail on Sunday‘s reporter, Rose, for his reporting on climate change.
The ruling attracted more attention than most IPSO business, as it was featured in the New York Times.