Decision of the Complaints Committee 03167-14 Wilkinson v Daily Express
Summary of complaint
1. Vince 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 headlined “Exclusive: Ice in the Arctic and Antarctic is ‘not melting’, says global warming expert”, published on 25 December 2014 on Express.co.uk.
2. The headline of the article attributed a claim that ice in the Arctic and Antarctic was not melting to a “global warming expert”. It reported on the research of Ted Maksym, an oceanographer who had used underwater robots to measure the ice in the Antarctic sea. It went on to report the comments of Dr Benny Peiser, who said that “the Antarctic is actually growing and all the evidence in the last few months suggests many assumptions about the poles was wrong”. The article also reported that “other experts have questioned the accuracy of the latest reports” and quoted the comments of a named academic, who stated that “I would say that the consensus view of climate scientists is that the trend of area and thickness in Arctic sea ice is very strongly downwards, despite this year’s partial recovery”.
3. The complainant said that the article was ambiguous as to the identity of the “global warming expert” referred to in the headline. Nevertheless, he said that there was an implication that it was Dr Peiser. He provided details about Dr Peiser’s career and his research interests. He said that Dr Peiser was a social anthropologist, rather than a “global warming expert”, and it was therefore misleading to refer to him as such in the headline.
4. The newspaper said that the phrase “global warming expert” referred to Dr Peiser. The newspaper accepted that Dr Peiser was not a climate change scientist, but said that he was the director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), a think tank set up to challenge the policies envisaged by governments to mitigate global warming. It said that this role required him to interpret the scientific evidence relating to global warming, and that he therefore had sufficient experience and authority on global warming to be considered an expert. The newspaper said that in stating that Dr Peiser “believes the threat of global warming had been overstated by climate scientists”, the article made clear which side of the global warming debate Dr Peiser was on. In addition, it noted that the article provided the other side of the argument, including the comments from the academic.
5. The newspaper amended the online article to make it clearer that the expert referred to in the headline was Dr Peiser. It appended a footnote to the article which explained that it had been amended.
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. In cases involving the Regulator, prominence should be agreed with the Regulator in advance.
iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
Findings of the Committee
7. The “global warming expert”, referred to in the headline, was not identified until later in the article, when the comments of Dr Peiser were reported. Whilst the article might have been clearer on this point, it did not give the impression that the “global warming expert” referred to was someone other than Dr Peiser. Nevertheless, the Committee welcomed the newspaper’s decision to amend the online article to make it clearer on this point.
8. Dr Peiser is the director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which the article explained. In reporting his views, the newspaper was entitled to refer to him as an expert in the field of global warming. The article was not misleading on his point, and there was no breach of Clause 1.
9. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 26/12/2014
Date decision issued: 27/03/2015Back to ruling listing