To mark the occasion of James Delingpole making a complete ass of himself once again by publishing an article in the Daily Mail, which drew this response from the Met Office… As regular readers of this blog will know, I submitted a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission last October regarding David Rose’s similarly repetitious attempts to paint the Met Office (MO) as either incompetent or willfully deceptive. Sadly, the PCC were forced to deal with my complaint because the MO declined to get involved (even though the PCC asked them if they wanted to). I am afraid I got tired of the obfuscatory responses submitted by the Mail on Sunday and told the PCC to just go ahead and make a decision. However, the PCC have said I can publish their decision in the case, so here it is: ——————
Commission’s decision in the case of
Altman v The Mail on Sunday
The complainant was concerned that an article, which reported on new global temperature data, contained inaccuracies in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. In particular, he considered that the article had misleadingly referred to the update of HadCRUT4 dataset as a report. The complainant emphasised that global warming has never been consistent, and was therefore concerned that the article had implied that the data showed that the Earth’s climate had stopped changing, and that carbon dioxide had not contributed to such changes as had occurred. Under Clause 1, the press “must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information”. The Commission first considered the complaint in relation to the description of the data update as a “report”. This appeared only in the headline, and was not used to describe the update elsewhere in the text of the article. The Commission noted that it considers headlines in the context of the article as a whole rather than as a standalone statement. This is due to their brevity – they can represent only a limited summary of a potentially complex set of circumstances. The Commission noted that in the body of the article it was made clear that this referred to the update of the HadCRUT4 dataset on the Met Office’s website. Given this, the Commission did not consider that the reference was significantly misleading, as readers were made aware of the precise way in which this new information had been released. The Commission noted that the complainant did not dispute the fact that the new data did not show a significant increase in temperatures over the last fifteen years. Instead, his concern was that the article wrongly implied that climate change had stopped, and that carbon dioxide had not contributed to previous increases in temperature. The article had made clear that there was disagreement between climate scientists as to the significance of the data, and to the potential for drawing major conclusions from it. As such it was apparent from the article that there was a variety of expert opinion as to how the new data was to be interpreted. Furthermore, the Commission noted that in the accompanying commentary, the newspaper had made clear that the plateau in temperatures did not mean that “global warming won’t at some point resume”, had stated that global warming was real, and that carbon dioxide had contributed to it. As such, the Commission was not able to find that the article was in this way misleading. Although the headline referred to climate change having “stopped”, it was clear from the article that this was not necessarily permanent. The Commission was aware of the complainant’s view that the article had contained other inaccurate and misleading statements; however it noted that the complainant had repeatedly declined to specify these, and consequently the Commission was not in a position to comment further. As such, there was no breach of Clause 1.
Reference no. 124521
Ben Gallop Complaints Officer Press Complaints Commission Halton House 20/23 Holborn London EC1N 2JD Tel: 020 7831 0022 Website: www.pcc.org.uk ————— As I have said in comments on the Met Office blog, I really do think that the time has come for the Met Office to stop issuing rebuttals and take these idiots to Court. UPDATE (15 January 2013): As I have said to Barry Woods in the comments appended to this post… I repeatedly referred the PCC to other websites where all the factual inaccuracies had been explained in detail – such as The Carbon Brief – and made it clear to the PCC that I had much better things to do with my time. In other words, I made a conscious decision not to waste more time on my complaint because it was obvious the PCC was not going to find the Mail on Sunday guilty of any offence (under the Code). However, that does not make the Mail on Sunday, Daily Mail, or James Delingpole any less guilty of repeatedly publishing very misleading articles…