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Ipso proves impotent at curbing the Mail's climate misinformation

Posted on 27 March 2015 by dana1981

David Rose is a writer for the UK tabloid Mail on Sunday, and is known for his inaccurate and misleading climate change coverage. Rose is particularly fond of cherry picking data to hide the rapid decline in Arctic sea ice. In August 2014, he published a piece focusing on the fact that at the time, there was more sea ice in the Arctic than during the record-breaking summer of 2012. Rose’s misguided focus on noisy short-term data is underscored by the new record low winter Arctic sea ice extent we experienced this year, less than seven months after his piece was published.

the independent regulator of the newspaper and magazine industry. We exist to promote and uphold the highest professional standards of journalism in the UK, and to support members of the public in seeking redress where they believe that the Editors’ Code of Practice has been breached … IPSO is here to serve the public by holding publications to account for their actions.

The first clause in the Editors’ Code of Practice deals with accuracy of the Press and includes the following provision.

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.

Bob Ward’s complaint alleged that Rose and the Mail had violated this section of the Code on several points, for example by giving the impression that the long-term decline in Arctic sea ice had reversed and by claiming that polar bear populations aren’t declining. On each point, Ward was correct that Rose’s piece is at best misleading, and often factually incorrect. Nevertheless, yesterday Ipso ruled in favor of Rose and the Mail.

On the Arctic sea ice decline, Rose covered himself by quoting contrarian climate scientist Judith Curry, who allegedly told him,

The Arctic sea ice spiral of death seems to have reversed.

This claim is entirely false, as the data in the following video illustrates.

Arctic sea ice annual minimum volume data, created by Andy Lee Robinson.

Rose also quoted climate scientist Ed Hawkins saying, in understated fashion,

I’m uncomfortable with the idea of people saying the ice has bounced back

So Ipso ruled that by including these comments from two climate scientists, Rose “had made clear that scientific opinions regarding the significance of the most recent data varied.” In this specific case, most of the fault lies with Judith Curry for providing Rose with a misleading and scientifically indefensible quote.

However, on several other points, Rose’s piece was simply factually wrong. For example, it claimed,

Yet even when the ice reached a low point in 2012, there was no scientific evidence that bear numbers were declining

As Ward pointed out in his complaint, the Polar Bear Specialist Group has reported that several polar bear sub-populations are declining. Specifically, in the group’s latest report, they found that three sub-populations are declining, six are stable, one is increasing, and nine lack sufficient data. For example, one recent study found that the number of polar bears in the southern Beaufort Sea has declined by approximately 40% over the past decade.

Polar bear survival is strongly tied to the abundance of sea ice, which they rely upon to hunt seals. While Arctic sea ice as a whole is declining rapidly, in some areas it has remained stable, depending upon local geographic conditions. In areas with stable sea ice, polar bear sub-populations have also generally remained stable.

However, sea ice in other regions has declined, and the local polar bear sub-populations along with them. The long-term outlook is bleak for both Arctic sea ice and polar bears, including in most regions where the ice has so far remained stable. Uncurbed global warming will eventually melt the ice, even in currently stable regions.

In any case, there was scientific evidence in 2012 that several polar bear sub-populations had declined. Ipso ruled in Rose’s favour because he wrote,

the main international bear science body, the Polar Bear Specialist Group, admits it has no reliable data from almost half of the Arctic, so cannot say whether numbers are falling or rising.

However, this is different from claiming that there is no scientific evidence that polar bear numbers are declining. The data show that three sub-populations are declining, and some very rapidly. In short, Rose has confused a lack of data from some sub-populations with “no evidence” of population decline. The latter is simply untrue. The available data are very concerning, which is why polar bears are listed as a threatened species.

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Comments 1 to 12:

  1. As an outsider it seems to me that IPSO is at best useless and worst incompetent.

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  2. Well, I've just send IPSO an email and tell them what I think, politely, of course. I think this kind of legitimate pressure is vastly underestimated.

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  3. I couldn't find information on the IPSO website, but I can only assume that it is funded by the news industry, with membership from that industry. I wouldn't count on IPSO doing anything.

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  4. A Major US church has labelled climate deniers as immoral. Dr. Martha Stout in The Sociopath Next Door claims 4% of people are sociopaths. Mr. Rose may be both.

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  5. But on the other hand Ipso doesn't do much about pictures showing steam not smoke coming out of power plant stacks in newspaper articles about global warming.  Perhaps the body just isn't up to its monitoring role.  And labelling as immoral those who have a different opinion, not only smacks a little of use of the term heretic in the middle ages but also is unlikely to get them to change that opinion.

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  6. It's not immoral to have a differnet opinion but it is immoral to lie.

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  7. ryland, why would IPSO do anything about the 'failure' to point out an irrelevancy?

    'That is steam, not smoke!'

    Um, ok... so what? How is that relevant to global warming? People might over-estimate the amount of smoke emitted by power plants (since steam output is greater)? And that would oversell global warming how exactly? Smoke is particulate matter... which causes cooling.

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  8. Now that the General Election is officially underway in the UK, expect more of this sort of thing. But it may not always involve the national press, and because election adverts are not subject to the rules of the Advertising Standards Authority, it seems little could be done to redress the following piece of nonsense and others like it, which may yet appear. I doubt IPSO would be able to do any good, though I have not investigated their rules wrt election material.

    Taken from The Comet, Hitchin edition, Thursday March 26th 2015. (No link provided as subscription may be needed):

    "Let's talk about climate change...

    John and UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party) do not believe in all these doom and gloom stories..."

    "I am a skeptic on climate change and believe that any effects have been over exaggerated. The first half of 2014 was the coldest since records began in 1888. The Earth has warmed about 16 degrees F in the three million years following the last ice age and since 1979 the increase has been 0.19 degrees F well within the range of natural fluctuation."

    John Stocker MBE UKIP Hitchin and Harpenden.

    And that is it. No references of course. I will have a large poster ready in case they knock on my door, just to put them straight. Politely, of course.

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  9. CB Dunkerson  My point about the steam from cooling towers is that these pictures are juxtaposed to stories about global warming due to human emission of CO2 from burning fossil fuels.  The picture gives the impression that this is an example of the pollution due to this burning when in fac t it is nothing of the kind.  The picture is falsely used to reinforce the message of the written piece.

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  10. ryland, so how exactly would you suggest they go about showing a photograph of the actual emission of CO2 from power plants? Given that CO2 isn't visible?

    Sorry, but I'm just not buying it. There is nothing 'false' about showing power plants as a source of the CO2 which causes global warming.

    Which illustrates to a degree the problem that IPSO and other 'press scrutiny' organizations face... people live in very different realities and what is 'truth' for one person is very often 'fiction' for another. That said, there are objective truths that these organizations could and should enforce. Whether or not some people might mistake visible steam for invisible CO2 and thereby be 'deceived' into a 'reinforced message' that power plants cause global warming (which... they do) is exceedingly subjective. The fact that arctic sea ice is on a declining trend is not.

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  11. CBDunkerson.   Why not just show smoke stacks belching out smoke?  That gives a double whammy of CO2  plus very visible atmospheric pollution?

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  12. ryland, I suppose they could do that. But just because they could do something else doesn't make the alternative they chose deceptive. It's not even remotely similar to what Rose did, which was deliberately deceptive.

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