Facing the heat: Daily Mail and Sunday Times climate journalism

The Daily Mail and Sunday Times are at the centre of a row over the accuracy of their climate reporting. They have been accused of "making things up".

The Daily Mail and Times are at the centre of a row with scientists over the accuracy of their reporting on climate science. They have been accused of “making things up” and “printing misleading claims”.

Two leading climate scientists, Murari Lal and Mojib Latif, have accused the Daily Mail of misquoting and misrepresenting them. Dr. Latif said, ‘”I don’t know what to do. They just make these things up.” Similarly, the US-based National Snow and Ice Data Centre, a part of the University of Colorado, supported by NASA and National Science Foundation, have accused the Daily Mail of printing “nonsense” and of “very lazy journalism.”

One particularly misleading story in the Mail said:

“According to the National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Colorado the warming of the Earth since 1990 is due to natural oceanic cycles, and not man-made greenhouse gas emissions.”

An NSIDC spokesman said:

“This is completely false. NSIDC has never made such a statement and we were never contacted by anyone from the Daily Mail. We hope that this is simply a case of very lazy journalism and nothing more.”

At Realclimate.org, a group of leading climate scientists have written a blog post titled ‘Daily Mangle,’ rebutting recent misleading claims from The Mail. The scientists write:

“Unfortunately, these kinds of distortions are all too common in the press nowadays and so we must all be prepared to respond to those journalists and editors who confuse the public with such inaccuracies.”

Left Foot Forward supports the advice of the web’s foremost climate blogger, Joe Romm, who writes:

“Scientists should refuse to grant interviews to the paper without a third-party present or an agreement to allow a review of any quotes used.”


More recently, following Left Foot Forward’s blog by Joss Garman revealing the “pseudo-science” with links to Big Oil behind a Sunday Times story, Environment Editor Jonathan Leake is facing new claims of shoddy journalism.

A story headlined, ‘IPCC Shamed By Bogus Rainforest Claim’ was eventually changed to, ‘The UN climate panel and the rainforest claim.’ Thus, the newspaper accepted it had over-egged the story. But by that time the damage had been done and the story – which became known as “Amazongate” – went around the world. In fact, the content of the Sunday Times story was plain wrong. The WWF report which Leake disputed was completely backed up by peer-reviewed literature. ClimateSafety.org traces how the story seems to have begun on a blog from well-known climate sceptic Richard North. As Deltoid explains:

“Leake deliberately concealed the fact that Dan Nepstad, the author of the 1999 Nature paper cited as evidence for the IPCC statement about the vulnerability of the Amazon had replied to Leake’s query and informed him the claim was correct. Leake didn’t report what Nepstad told him. Instead he claimed that the IPCC statement was “bogus”, even though he knew it wasn’t.”

It now emerges that in the same story Leake completely misrepresented the views of another leading climate scientist, Dr. Simon Lewis of Leeds University who called it “An outrageous piece of journalism.” (In contrast Lewis gave a similar interview to the BBC’s Roger Harrabin who reported his views accurately.) It also turned out Leake didn’t  bother to contact the author of the report at the centre of his story.

The New Republic has now picked up the story, asking ‘Why is the British press so sloppy on climate issues?’ and adding:

“The guy fanning most of the allegations against the IPCC is Jonathan Leake of the London Times, who appears to print whatever misleading claims climate skeptics tell him to report and then actively ignores the scientists he talks to who try to set him straight.”

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