01432-14 Wilkinson v Daily Express

Decision: Breach - sanction: action as offered by publication

Decision of the Complaints Committee 01432-14 Wilkinson v Daily Express

Summary of complaint 

1. Vincent Wilkinson complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Express had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article published on its website on 23 October 2014 headlined “Climate change PROVED to be ‘nothing but a lie’, claims top meteorologist”. 

2. The article reported that the co-founder of the Weather Channel had claimed that “man-made climate change was no longer scientifically credible”, and discussed a variety of current opinions on global warming and greenhouse gases. 

3. The complainant said that it was inaccurate to report that “in 2010 a high-level inquiry by the InterAcademy Council found there was ‘little evidence’ to support the IPCC’s [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] claims about global warming. It also said the panel had purposely emphasised the negative impacts of climate change made ‘substantive findings’ based on little proof.” The complainant said that the Council had not been critical of the IPCC’s work in the terms quoted in the article, and provided a copy of the relevant report. He was particularly concerned that other websites were now repeating this inaccurate claim, referencing the article. 

4. The newspaper accepted that the InterAcademy Council’s findings had been quoted incorrectly. The statements had been included in a previous article in the same newspaper, and the inaccurate information had been repeated without verification from a previous article it had published. The newspaper removed all references to the InterAcademy Council and its findings from the article, and appended the following footnote, under the heading “Correction”: 

“This article originally referred to John Coleman as a top meteorologist; that reference has now been removed. It also claimed that in 2010 a high-level inquiry by the InterAcademy Council found there was ‘little evidence’ to support the IPCC’s claims about global warming. In fact, the InterAcademy Council had not found that. The article has now been amended.” 

5. The complainant said that the newspaper’s offer was insufficient to remedy the dissemination of the phrase elsewhere on the internet. 

Relevant Code Provisions

6. Clause 1 (Accuracy) 

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

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and – where appropriate – an apology published. 

Findings of the Committee

7. The newspaper had accepted that the article had been inaccurate in the manner identified by the complainant: the InterAcademy Council’s report had not criticised the IPCC in the terms reported. The report had not said that there was “‘little evidence’ to support the IPCC’s claims about global warming”, nor had it said that the IPCC had made “’substantive findings’ based on little proof”. The article had misrepresented the InterAcademy Report, and it was significantly misleading and requiring of correction, in order to comply with the terms of Clause 1 (ii). 


8. The complaint was upheld. 

Remedial Action Required

9. Having upheld the complaint under Clause 1(i), the Committee considered what remedial action should be required. The Committee has the power to require the publication of a correction and/or adjudication, the nature, extent and placement of which is to be determined by IPSO. It may also inform the publication that further remedial action is required to ensure that the requirements of the Editors’ Code are met. 

10. The Committee noted that the newspaper had already amended the references to the InterAcademy Council from the article and appended an appropriate footnote. These actions gave due prominence to the correction and were sufficient to remedy the established breach of Clause 1. While the Committee acknowledged the complainant’s concerns that the statement had been repeated on other websites, which cited the Daily Express as their source, those websites are not members of the system of self-regulation which IPSO operates, and so the Committee could not require other iterations of the inaccuracy to be corrected. However, the Committee would expect the newspaper to mark the previous inaccurate article in its archive, to minimise the possibility of the inaccuracy being repeated again. 

Date complaint received: 23/10/2014 

Date decision issued: 17/02/2015 Back to ruling listing