Fake News: Mail on Sunday Forced to Correct ‘Significantly Misleading’ Article on Global Warming ‘Pause’

Fake News: Mail on Sunday Forced to Correct ‘Significantly Misleading’ Article on Global Warming ‘Pause’
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The Mail on Sunday has been forced to publish a 659-word correction to an article alleging a scientific study exaggerated the extent of global warming and was rushed in an attempt to influence the Paris Agreement negotiations.  

The article was quoted in a number of other mainstream news outlets including The Times and Fox News, and was even referenced in the US Congress by climate science denier Representative Lamar Smith.

The UK’s press regulator, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), today ruled that the Mail on Sunday had “failed to take care over the accuracy of the article” and “had then failed to correct these significantly misleading statements”.

Mail on Sunday columnist David Rose based the article on an interview and blog by Dr John Bates, a climate scientist formerly employed at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The article was widely criticised at the time for being misleading.

The NOAA data tells a very similar story to that of other datasets, Carbon Brief analyst Zeke Hausfather pointed out, showing “no detectable sign of a ‘hiatus’ or ‘pause’ through to the present”.

In a lengthy ruling, now published above the original article on the Mail on Sunday’s website, IPSO said that “the newspaper’s claims that Dr Bates’ testimony had provided ‘irrefutable evidence’ that the paper had been based on ‘misleading, ‘unverified’ data’’, leading – as the headline claimed – to world leaders being ‘duped’ over global warming, and ‘convinced’ to invest billions in climate change, went much further than the concerns which Dr Bates had detailed in his blog or in the interview”.

It said the article “did not represent criticisms of the data collection process” but had instead taken as “assertions of fact that the data had been demonstrated conclusively to be wrong and had a significant impact on the decision making of world leaders, with an additional implication this had been part of a wilful attempt to deceive.”

Bob Ward, communications director for the Grantham Institute at LSE, who originally complained to IPSO, said the ruling was “another shameful moment for the British media”, in a blog published today.

He said IPSO’s decision was “a significant victory for the long-suffering readers of The Mail on Sunday who have been subjected to a campaign of misinformation by the newspaper, often under a banner headline of ‘The Great Green Con’, about the causes and consequences of climate change.”

Ward said the ruling showed “fake news stories about climate change are a significant threat to the public interest in the UK, United States and other countries. The expert community must continue to fight back against the deluge of propaganda from climate change deniers.”

A spokesman for the Mail on Sunday told the Guardian that the newspaper was “disappointed with this finding, but we accept it and are publishing the adjudication with prominence in the newspaper and online.”

Doubling down on the (highly questionable) idea that climate change science remains a contested field, the spokesperson added:

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.”

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Fake News: Mail on Sunday Forced to Correct ‘Significantly Misleading’ Article on Global Warming ‘Pause’
Mat is Special Projects and Investigations Editor of DeSmog, and Operations Director of DeSmog UK Ltd. He was DeSmog UK’s Editor from October 2017 to March 2021, having previously been an editor at Nature Climate Change and analyst at Carbon Brief.

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