Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Complaint to PCC re David Rose's Mail on Sunday climate article


Geordie Greig, Editor Mail on Sunday
Following this  post by David Rose in the Mail Online, snappily titled "The Great Green Con no. 1: The hard proof that finally shows global warming forecasts that are costing you billions were WRONG all along", I am making a formal complain to the Press Complaints Commission, and also to the BBC, since the BBC Radio 4 news on Sunday morning gave a prominent reference to the post.

Please copy my complaint below, modify it and send in your own complaint. Also, please spread it on Twitter, Facebook by email and by word of mouth. The Daily Mail is an big beast, and is a cheerleader for the dangerous do-nothing approach to climate change that has a lot of influence with the Coalition Government.

Take action. It is true that the PCC has often behaved as a toothless tiger in the past, but since it is about to be abolished (for its ineffectiveness, in part), if enough of us write about this issue, the PCC may just manage to deal firmly with the Daily Mail as a swan song.

What will happen is that the PCC will send us a response of the Daily Mail, presenting its defence. It is vital that we send back a rebuttal to that defence, which may be a month or two down the line.

Join in this campaign and make a real positive difference to the world which our children inherit!

To the Press Complaints Commission

To the Press Complaints Commission
Submission by Dr Richard Lawson
Wednesday, 20 March 2013

I wish to make a formal complaint about an article carried in the Mail Online entitled  "The Great Green Con no. 1: The hard proof that finally shows global warming forecasts that are costing you billions were WRONG all along" by David Rose, published on 16 March 2013 online and on p 22 of the Mail on Sunday hard copy.

My complaint is based on the obligations of the Press Code which state that the Press must not publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information.

I also seek unequivocal confirmation from the PCC that the owner, editor and any agent of the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday are excluded from all deliberations and decisions by the PCC on this complaint, except to participate solely as defendants.

There are six points within the article where inaccurate, misleading and/or distorted information is presented.

1 . "Plotted in retrospect"
In the note in the bottom right hand corner of the figure representing temperature records,  it is written, "the 'predictions' to the left were plotted in retrospect'.

The word "plotted" implies the action of actually entering data onto a graph, usually by hand. There is a clear implication here that the temperature prior to the present time were merely a representation of known past temperatures.

This is far from an accurate representation of computer model hind-casting, which is what DavidRose is referring to. In hind-casting, computer models are set running, and given information about the dates and intensity of climate "forcings" or inputs. In the most sophisticated models these inputs would be data on solar heating, volcanoes, the reflectivity of the planet, greenhouse gas levels,  aerosol levels (e.g. smoke particles from industry), forested areas, grasslands and other relevant information. Given this information, the models will then calculate the effects and interactions of these inputs and the final output would be the net temperature for each year.

Model outputs  are checked for accuracy by comparison with the actual observed temperature record. The best models show a good match for the long term temperature trend. The match is becoming better as models become more complex, but the match is not perfect for global temperature fluctuations around the general trend. Perfection is never attainable in any human construction, but models become more accurate as they are developed.

Some models will spontaneously generate their own ocean currents such as El Nino and La Nina. However, they cannot yet represent the ocean currents accurately enough to coincide with the timing of actual currents. Since a cool phase of ENSO (La Nina) ocean currents are a strong factor in the post 1998 plateau of surface temperatures increases, the models have not represented this surface temperature levelling. An additional cause of the models’ failure to anticipate the levelling off of the surface temperatures is that the programmers did not anticipate the additional cooling effect of aerosol (smoke) particles from China’s industrial surge in the early 21st century.

If they had been instructed to indicate strong cooling ENSO currents - if indeed the currents were "plotted" into the models - the model output would have displayed the post 1998 levelling off of surface temperatures.

It is therefore my contention that the phrase "plotted in retrospect" is inaccurate,  misleading and a distortion of how models work.

2. "The forecasts have also forced jobs abroad as manufacturers relocate to places with no emissions targets".

The Mail on Sunday and Mail Online must supply instances where more than one manufacturer has relocated to places with no emissions targets where the motivation of "no emission targets" was the sole, or the primary driving factor, as opposed to a subsidiary factor, with, for instance, lower wage costs being the main factor.

If the Mail cannot supply these instances, the sentence is inaccurate and misleading.

3 Rose quotes Prof Myles Allen: "Academics are revising their views after acknowledging the miscalculation. Last night Myles Allen, Oxford University’s Professor of Geosystem Science, said that until recently he believed the world might be on course for a catastrophic temperature rise of more than five degrees this century. But he now says: ‘The odds have come down,’ – adding that warming is likely to be significantly lower".

However, Allen has also said:
 "While every new year brings in welcome new data to help us rule out the more extreme (good and bad) scenarios for the future, it would be equally silly to interpret what has happened since the early-2000s as evidence that the warming has stopped."
( Source:

Another quote from Prof Myles Allen: "Comparing the expected temperature for 2013-2017 with a single exceptionally warm year (1998), as some reports have done, is just daft. 1998 was around 0.2 degrees warmer than the 1996-2000 average, largely thanks to a massive, once-a-century El Nino event. The IPCC predicted a warming of 0.1-0.2 degrees per decade due to human influence back in 2000. That means the one-off impact of that El Nino event was equivalent to about 20 years of the expected background warming trend So, unsurprisingly, 20 years later, expected temperatures have risen so that an average year is now as warm as that exceptionally hot year.


The PCC will need to interview Prof Myles Allen to find out from him whether the quote by David Rose is misleading, inaccurate, and distorts his position.

Rose does have a past history of distorting statements by climate scientists to fit his agenda. See

4. "The graph confirms there has been no statistically significant increase in the world’s average temperature since January 1997"

This statement might possibly  be true of the world's average surface temperature, but the phrase "world's average temperature" implies that all temperature measurements are included. When the continuing increase of ocean temperature is included, a statistically significant increase in the world's average temperature has continued since 1997.

The statement is therefore inaccurate and misleading.

The same inaccuracy is repeated later: "The awkward fact is that the earth has warmed just 0.5 degrees over the past 50 years". That again refers only to the earth's surface temperature, and hides the fact that more heating has gone into the oceans, and will inevitably emerge in the future to push surface temperatures higher.

Examination of the surface temperature record since 1975 show six periods of plateau or decline  similar to the 1997 plateau. There is a graph here
which demonstrates these periods.

The point, as any competent science journalist would be keenly aware, is that it is long term, multi decadal trends that are important, and that by selecting start and end points on a noisy graph, trends of any variety can be produced.

5. David Whitehouse is presented as an "expert".  In fact his expertise is in astrophysics, not climatology, and the article hides the fact that the Global warming Policy Foundation is a think tank whose primary purpose lies in opposing decarbonisation of the UK  economy.

This is misleading.

6. A box repeats the talking point about "global cooling" theories in the 1970s. In fact, this was a theory put out by a very small group  of scientists which was seized upon and amplified by the media at the time.  Seven papers in the sixties and seventies suggested cooling, while six times that number suggested warming.


It is inaccurate, misleading and a distortion of the truth to compare that shortlived period of speculation by a few in a period when modern climatology was in its infancy with the very large body of present climate  science which is agreed by the overwhelming majority of professional climatologists.

In Conclusion

The current scientific consensus is opposed by a small minority of highly vociferous opponents whose underlying motive is that if global warming were true, it would require interference in the working of the free market, particularly the free market in fossil energy, which is anathema to their political ideology.

David Rose is well aware of the criticisms that have been made of his position, since he has made these points in print several times before, and each time the scientific community has responded to them.. Instead of taking these criticisms on board, or engaging with them and attempting to refute them, he is given the privilege of repeating them in their original form in a popular and highly influential national newspaper. The effect of his repetitions is to reinforce an erroneous belief in the population that man-made greenhouse gases have an insignificant effect on the planet. This is a misleading, inaccurate and distorted message, and it has a detrimental effect on Government policy, since the clear scientific consensus is that human greenhouse gases have a definite impact on the planet (even “sceptical” scientists agree that a doubling of CO2 will increase planetary temperatures by about 1.2 degrees Celsius), that this impact will be very serious, and that policy makers should take steps to decarbonise the world economy.

I submit that the article by David Rose presented in the Mail Online and the Mail on Sunday on 16th March 2013 is inaccurate, misleading and a distortion of the truth. I ask the PCC to require the newspaper to present a retraction and a correction of the facts, which are to be given equal prominence to the original article.

Thank you for giving your attention to this serious matter.


Richard Lawson

[Update: the PCC found 100% in favour of their colleague. My critique of their judgment: ]


Anonymous said...

Well Done, though a commenter on Skeptical Science said he had complained to the PCC before about Rose, and got no reply.

DocRichard said...

He said they weren't much help, which is true, they are generally pretty limp.

I've already got an acknowledgment from the PCC.

They are more likely to take action if they get a complaint from you :)