Leakegate: the case for fraud

They have been some explosive new revelations in the Leakegate scandal. Remember how 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.

Deltoid can now reveal that Leake’s reporting was far more dishonest than originally believed. This is how Leake quoted Simon Lewis:

Simon Lewis, a Royal Society research fellow at Leeds University who specialises in tropical forest ecology, described the section of Rowell and Moore’s report predicting the potential destruction of large swathes of rainforest as “a mess”.

“The Nature paper is about the interactions of logging damage, fire and periodic droughts, all extremely important in understanding the vulnerability of Amazon forest to drought, but is not related to the vulnerability of these forests to reductions in rainfall,” he said.

But Lewis, like Nepstad, told Leake that the IPCC was correct. When asked whether Leake had represented his views accurately he replied:

Absolutely not. Please see the BBC piece online, by Roger Harrabin. I sent them the same email with my comments. The scientific statement in the IPCC WG2 report is essentially correct, but has a referencing error. IPCC WG1 get it right. An outrageous piece of journalism.

Even the Sunday Times is backing away from Leake’s dishonest reporting by printing two letters refuting Leake’s claims. Andrew Rowell:

I am the co-author of the WWF report that you alleged included the bogus figure that “up to 40%” of the Amazon was sensitive to reduced rainfall.

Not only did you fail to contact me, but you ignored credible evidence that the figure was correct. You also ignored evidence that the figure had been backed up by peer-reviewed research both before and after our publication.

You spoke to Dr Dan Nepstad, one of the world’s leading authorities on fire in the Amazon. You ignored the fact he told you he had published an even higher figure in Nature in 1994 and that subsequent research validated our figure. What you published was demonstrably false and has seriously misled the debate on climate change.

David Nussbaum:

WWF cannot speak for other institutions that have used our report, but we, and indeed leading scientists in the field, firmly stand by its conclusion that “up to 40% of the Brazilian forest is extremely sensitive to small reductions in the amount of rainfall”. The primary source for this statement is Fire in the Amazon, a 1999 overview by the respected Amazon Environmental Research Institute that states: “Probably 30-40% of the forests of the Brazilian Amazon are sensitive to small reductions in the amount of rainfall.”

WWF acknowledges that a reference to Fire in the Amazon as the source of the 40% claim was omitted during the editing of the Global Review of Forest Fires. However, WWF informed your reporter of the source several hours before you went to press.

Your article rightly concludes that “scientists fear the controversies will be used by climate change sceptics to sway public opinion to ignore global warming — even though the fundamental science, that greenhouse gases can heat the world, remains strong”. However, it is also the case that misleading coverage in respected media outlets can serve to undermine public confidence in the credibility of climate science.

If you are keeping count, that’s three separate sources who told Leake that the IPCC report was correct. And Leake dis not mention any of this, instead he simply lied and wrote that it was “bogus”.

I contacted Leake for comment, and while he replied, he demanded that it be kept confidential. I wonder if the reason was that he thinks everybody else operates like him, and I would have quote mined his response?


  1. #1 Gene Zeien
    February 14, 2010

    So sad, when facts are not properly checked before publication. So often people misrepresent whatever they’re selling. Not to hard to spot the “slant”, unless you really want to believe.

  2. #2 DavidCOG
    February 14, 2010

    Nice work, Tim. Keep nailin’ the bastards!

  3. #3 davidk
    February 14, 2010

    So, any thoughts on how Leake will report on this?

  4. #4 Nils Ross
    February 14, 2010

    Keep hammering. Maybe this itself will get some press time with rival news outlets: the new ‘the IPCC citations are bogus’ meme is taking root fast.

  5. #5 cbp
    February 14, 2010

    I’m sure RealClimate is on everyone’s blogroll, but for prosperity I think its good to link to today’s article: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/02/ipcc-errors-facts-and-spin/

  6. #6 Harvey Puca
    February 14, 2010

    The problem with newspaper reporting these days is that the newspapers are under an enormous pressure. Many are on their death beds. So all that is left is “sensationalist” reporting. Not really reporting at that, but more along the lines of the the rags that follow Hollywood around.

    Even if you convince them they are wrong, they will never publish the correct facts, or if they do bury it on page 10.

    The real counter is to get the facts out.

    Publish videos on Youtube showing the reporters and others fake arguments.

    Find an articulate person to take the battle to them with video interviews.

    Forget the newspapers, they will soon be irrelevent.

  7. #7 Hal9000
    February 15, 2010

    chd, I agree with you, but suspect that in saying’but for prosperity I think its good to link to today’s article: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/02/ipcc-errors-facts-and-spin/‘ I suspect you meant ‘for posterity’…

  8. #8 cbp
    February 15, 2010

    >> I suspect you meant ‘for posterity’…

    Aargh, you mean I’ve been making a fool of myself for years?!

  9. #9 Martin Vermeer
    February 15, 2010

    “Fraud” is the word. If a scientist would try this, even in a much, much smaller way, his career would be over.

    For perspective…

  10. #11 Jesús
    February 15, 2010

    “Two British scientists quoted by Leake – Jonathan Gregory and Simon Holgate – independently wrote to Stefan after the article appeared to say they had been badly misquoted. One of them wrote that the experience with Leake had made him “reluctant to speak to any journalist about any subject at all”.”

  11. #12 cbp
    February 15, 2010

    @William Wallace
    I see that the Daily Mail’s word-twisting is having the desired affect – unleashing the denialist spammers.

    How about you try reading the actual BBC Q+A with Jones that the Daily Mail headline so blatantly gets wrong – you may learn something. There is no U-Turn.

  12. #13 Lars Karlsson
    February 15, 2010

    Regarding the Daily Mail article that William Wallace linked to: it was predictable that Jones admission of “no statisticially significant warming since 1995” would be twisted into “There has been no global warming since 1995”

    “No statisticially significant warming since 1995” really means that there is (slightly) more than a 5% chance to observe a warming trend of that magnitude out of pure chance (ie when no underlying trend really exists).

  13. #14 Dave
    February 15, 2010

    @3 davidk

    Wow. I have a hard time believing someone actually managed to write that drivel with a straight face.

    Inhofe. Monckton. Singer. Michaels.


  14. #15 davidk
    February 15, 2010

    Dave @14. Yep, it seems they have an annual conference now twice a year and you get the same straight faced speakers every time, with nothing new to say … boring.

  15. #16 Lars Karlsson
    February 15, 2010

    Dave, davidk,
    I don’t think the face is involved. Rather some other part of the human anatomy.

  16. #17 davidk
    February 15, 2010

    Please Lars, I’m sure wattisname does have a straight one, not so sure about what he has to say tho.

  17. #18 Eamon
    February 15, 2010


    Surely then we have a case for the ‘scientists can’t communicate well’ file, as Jones should have said:

    “There’s a 94% chance that the warming over that period is man-made.


    (Bit o’ denialist formatting at the end there just for fun)

  18. #19 Anna Haynes
    February 15, 2010

    A bit of Jonathan Leake history – he’s listed as co-author (2nd) on a schizoid “climate conference footprint fetish” story on Bali (UN climate circus rolls in on CO2 cloud)

    At the story’s beginning, the conference is “a major contributor to global warming”, and a circus; at the end, the conference is a minuscule contributor, and necessary.

    (minuscule being ~1/66,000th of the annual estimated output of Britain)

  19. #20 amylynn
    February 17, 2010

    For a unique and real perspective on everyday indigenous life in the Peruvian Amazon (near the headwaters of the Amazon river) I invite you to visit ninosdelaamazonia.org
    You will see amazing photos, all of them taken by the indigenous children who live there. It is valuable as reportage as well as beautiful photography.

  20. #21 SammyG
    February 18, 2010

    Aren’t the slander/libel laws really tough in Britain? Couldn’t some of this be interpreted as slander against the IPCC or the authors of the report?

  21. #22 Contact Journal
    February 27, 2010

    The IPCC is discredited… not to worry, the politicians don’t care, they will carry on with their “green” tax and spend plans regardless. http://www.climatejournal.org/

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