British Press Watchdog Says Climate Change Article Was Faulty

British Press Watchdog Says Climate Change Article Was Faulty

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“It was fairly obvious right from the start it was bound to be suspicious because David Rose has a long history of promoting climate change denial,” Mr. Ward said.

“It was grossly overblown,” Mr. Ward added, “and that was clearly what he was trying to do.”

Efforts to reach Mr. Rose were not successful. John Wellington, managing editor of The Mail on Sunday, confirmed in an email that the news organization was going to post what he referred to as an adjudication.

Mr. Rose’s article was published with the print headline, “EXPOSED: How world leaders were duped over global warming,” and a similar headline online. It detailed assertions by Dr. Bates about temperature data that had been used in the 2015 paper, which provided evidence against the idea that global warming had slowed in the first decade of this century.

In The Mail on Sunday’s article, Mr. Rose described Dr. Bates as a “high-level whistle-blower” and said Dr. Bates had told him that NOAA had “breached its own rules on scientific integrity” by using what was described as “unverified” data for the study. The article also asserted that the study was rushed into print in June 2015 to have “maximum possible impact on world leaders” at the Paris climate talks later that year.


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Most of the article’s assertions were rejected by scientists in the days after it was published. Former colleagues of Dr. Bates, who at one time was in charge of archiving data at the National Centers for Environmental Information, where Mr. Karl served as director, ascribed Dr. Bates’s assertions to lingering resentment over a demotion.

Dr. Bates himself, in an interview after the Mail article was published, said he had not intended to accuse Mr. Karl of manipulating data.

But the article made Dr. Bates into something of a hero in the community of climate change denialists and others who claim that some climate scientists are politicizing the subject.

Representative Lamar Smith of Texas, a Republican who heads the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, tweeted at the time that “NOAA sr officials played fast & loose w/data in order 2 meet politically predetermined conclusion on climate change.”

Mr. Smith, who previously had accused the Obama administration of having a “suspect climate agenda,” also wrote to NOAA seeking more information on Mr. Karl’s study, which he said raised questions “as to whether the science at NOAA is objective and free from political interference.”


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An email request for comment from a spokeswoman for Mr. Smith’s committee was not returned.

Mr. Ward of the Grantham Institute also filed a complaint about an opinion piece in The Times of London on Dr. Bates’s claims. That complaint was dismissed by IPSO in July.

Mr. Ward said he thought his complaint against The Mail was upheld because it was not about whether Dr. Bates’s claims were true, but about whether the article had accurately reflected his views.

“In this case the newspaper article was considered to have gone well beyond those views,” Mr. Ward said.

IPSO was established in 2014 after a phone-hacking scandal rocked the British news industry and revealed deficiencies in the previous system for self-policing. The Mail on Sunday and other news organizations are part of the effort, but some news organizations, including The Guardian and the Financial Times, are not involved.

Mr. Ward said The Mail on Sunday had a long history of publishing articles that were inaccurate and misleading about climate change.

“We’re hopeful that following this the editor will be somewhat more skeptical about stories that Mr. Rose brings to them,” he said.

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