The headline on The Australian newspaper’s story about a leak of a major United Nations climate change report read “We got it wrong on warming, says IPCC”.
But an investigation by Australia’s press watchdog has found that in fact, it was the Murdoch-owned national newspaper that “got it wrong”.
The Australian Press Council has upheld complaints about the coverage, led by a story from the newspaper’s environment editor Graham Lloyd.
The council also found the newspaper’s attempts to correct its story had failed to meet the press standards.
Lloyd’s original story, published on page one in September 2013, was an echo of a story published the previous day by the UK Daily Mail’s David Rose.
The story claimed a leaked version of the fifth UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report into the scientific basis for climate change would state that “over the past 60 years the world has in fact been warming at half the rate claimed” in the previous 2007 report.
Rose and Lloyd seemed to want people to conclude that the IPCC didn’t know what it was doing, had shown to have got things badly wrong and that global warming was only half as bad as people had been making out.
Except as I explained in The Guardian at the time, the Daily Mail, The Australian and several other outlets that parroted the story had badly misread the numbers.
The rate of warming over the past 50 years declared by the two IPCC reports was in fact almost identical (a difference of only 0.01C) when you compared apples with apples, rather than comparing, say, a newspaper with a bowl of cheese.
The Australian Press Council adjudication, handed down this week, said: