Sunday Times shamed by bogus Jonathan Leake story, retracts it

Kudos to Simon Lewis for forcing a retraction from the Sunday Times of the bogus Jonathan Leake story:

The Sunday Times and the IPCC: Correction

The article "UN climate panel shamed by bogus rainforest claim" (News, Jan 31) stated that the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report had included an "unsubstantiated claim" that up to 40% of the Amazon rainforest could be sensitive to future changes in rainfall. The IPCC had referenced the claim to a report prepared for WWF by Andrew Rowell and Peter Moore, whom the article described as "green campaigners" with "little scientific expertise." The article also stated that the authors' research had been based on a scientific paper that dealt with the impact of human activity rather than climate change.

In fact, the IPCC's Amazon statement is supported by peer-reviewed scientific evidence. In the case of the WWF report, the figure had, in error, not been referenced, but was based on research by the respected Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) which did relate to the impact of climate change. We also understand and accept that Mr Rowell is an experienced environmental journalist and that Dr Moore is an expert in forest management, and apologise for any suggestion to the contrary.

The article also quoted criticism of the IPCC's use of the WWF report by Dr Simon Lewis, a Royal Society research fellow at the University of Leeds and leading specialist in tropical forest ecology. We accept that, in his quoted remarks, Dr Lewis was making the general point that both the IPCC and WWF should have cited the appropriate peer-reviewed scientific research literature. As he made clear to us at the time, including by sending us some of the research literature, Dr Lewis does not dispute the scientific basis for both the IPCC and the WWF reports' statements on the potential vulnerability of the Amazon rainforest to droughts caused by climate change.

In addition, the article stated that Dr Lewis' concern at the IPCC's use of reports by environmental campaign groups related to the prospect of those reports being biased in their conclusions. We accept that Dr Lewis holds no such view - rather, he was concerned that the use of non-peer-reviewed sources risks creating the perception of bias and unnecessary controversy, which is unhelpful in advancing the public's understanding of the science of climate change. A version of our article that had been checked with Dr Lewis underwent significant late editing and so did not give a fair or accurate account of his views on these points. We apologise for this.

The original article to which this correction refers has been removed

Update: See also reports from James Kanter at the New York Times, Joe Romm, RealClimate and Bryan Walker.

Update 2: University of Leeds press release, Roy Greenslade, James Hrynyshyn, Nature.


More like this

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…
Few stories about climatology generated as much attention, positive and negative as one by Jonathan Leake in London's Sunday Times back in January. "UN climate panel shamed by bogus rainforest claim" claimed that references to threats to the Amazon rainforest from global warming were "based on an…
Jonathan Leake recently wrote a story alleging that the statement in the IPCC AR4 WG2 that up to 40% of the Amazon forest could vanish due to climate change was "bogus". Deltoid can now reveal that Leake deliberately concealed the fact that Dan Nepstad, the author of the 1999 Nature paper cited as…
Johann Hari has written an excellent article in The Nation on the scandalously poor reporting in the main stream media on climate science and scientists: Yet when it comes to coverage of global warming, we are trapped in the logic of a guerrilla insurgency. The climate scientists have to be right…

Score one for the good guys!

By Rattus Norvegicus (not verified) on 20 Jun 2010 #permalink

In other words, when you use campaign groups as a reference instead of peer-reviewed sources, idiots and ideologues will take the opportunity to bash you about the head with it, whatever the truth may be. Leake did an exceptional job of illustrating precisely that.

Leake and his ilk are such accomplished liars. I can't see them losing ground in public opinion any time soon.

I wonder if there is any possibility that Jonathan Leake might grace Deltoid with his presence, and issue an apology to all injured parties.

I wonder too if he would consider chasing his story around the Interweb, and correct the record wherever it has been set awry by his 'poor reporting'.

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 20 Jun 2010 #permalink

A few hours to write, nearly five months to retract. Damage is done.

Well it looks like there's no acknowledgement about this story at, yet: 1, 2, 3, ..., (?) 10googol (?).

But I did wonder momentarily about the story headline "Dishonesty multiplied - by Richard".

I'm glad it got picked up by the NYT. Hopefully other MSM will follow.

By James Haughton (not verified) on 20 Jun 2010 #permalink

Kudos to Lewis, and small but positive "victory".

As noted it comes five months too late, however we should learn from this.

It's a salutatory example of what we should be doing to "sceptical" journalists (I'm looking at you Andrew Bolt) every day.

Did anyone see Bolt's [shameful mauling of Time Flannery on Melbourne Talk Radio?](…).

Bolt has been crowing about his "victory":

*Bolt: Have you seen the water catchment levels? Here, see, theyâre tracking above the five-year level ...

Flannery: You want to paint me as an alarmist.

Bolt: You are an alarmist.

Flannery: Iâm a very practical person.

Bolt: You said (in The Guardian, August 9, 2008) the Arctic could be ice-free two years ago.

Flannery: No, I didnât*

People such as Bolt, Lewis etc. need to be called to account more often.

Flannery got ambushed, Bolt cherry picked some quotes and attacked him and had him on the back foot the entire interview with his version of the "Gish Gallop".

It's was disgraceful. Has anyone heard what Flannery has to say about the incident?

Through their writings, blogs and radio spots "sceptical" journalists poison the climate debate. And yet they get so many free passes.

Personally, I fee we should be turning the critical spot light on the highest profile "deniers" in the media and going to papers etc. and ask for the right of rebuttal.

By Watchingtheden… (not verified) on 20 Jun 2010 #permalink

Let's see all those who ran the Sunday Times story now also retract it.

Flannery has to learn not to debate dishonest gutter-level hacks who have no intention at all of giving him a fair hearing.

There is a special place in hell reserved just for Bolt.

What did Flannery expect? All Andrew Bolt has ever done with Flannery is take his own words out of context.

SO: someone with some time might track down palces that covered this story.
Post on their blogs or whatever.
See how long it takes, if ever...

I.e., for those capable of shame and reflection, make sure they think about it.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 20 Jun 2010 #permalink

Kudos for Lewis - and I note the comments above.

Publishers such as Murdoch and the editors of the HUN live and day by circulation numbers and hits to theirs websites/portals.

Bolt generates hits, the HUN sells about >1m copies in Melbourne. That means they adverstisers pay a premium for a spot. Nothing like controversy to drive circulation.

But perhaps it's time to organise a boycott of these publications for their support of climate change denial and their war on science.

We won't stop them publishing this drivel, but a calling for more accurate reporting is worth the fight.

I've stopped buying the HUN and Australian for that reason.

We can advocate for more space in their papers/web sites to rebut the claims of Bolt Equal time for all! Who can deny that? I mean it's a debate right?

Give Flannery two pages in the HUN Op-Ed section.

They'll reduce the volume of stuff if it impacts their bottom line.

Now they can pretend it's all about balance and debate. Once it effects revenue, you'll find their ideals are far more pragmatic and bottom line driven.

By Watchingtheden… (not verified) on 20 Jun 2010 #permalink

@ Tom

Not so astonishing news... honestly this is one of the most tired "sceptical" arguments out there. Yawn, more drive by denial.

See Skeptical Science:…

Note: "In the last 35 years of global warming, the sun has shown a slight cooling trend. Sun and climate have been going in opposite directions."

Have a nice day!

By Watchingtheden… (not verified) on 20 Jun 2010 #permalink


How about trying to read the [paper]( that's the source of the graph from that [story](…) with which you tried, but failed, to establish a link?

Do you think it's odd that Watts and others claim the paper shows it's the sun driving global warming, when the time covered by the graph, 1971 to 1974, was a period of declining solar irradiance?

By the way, I don't think it's odd.

The denialiti have never allowed the facts to stand between them and the message thay are trying to get across to their eagerly gullible audience.

Maybe you could explain why you tried to post that link.

Did you think it would impress anyone?

Did it impress you?

If climate denialists were right, they wouldn't have to lie.


I can't find the Sunday Times page with the retraction text.
The link now just goes to the home page.


I suspect it is because of the paywall.

By andrew adams (not verified) on 20 Jun 2010 #permalink

re: newspapers
How much do they care about loss of a few individual subscribers?

Follow the money.
Figure out who the biggest advertisers are, that might be influenceable.
.Bug them.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 20 Jun 2010 #permalink

My link goes to the retraction, but you have to register and login for it to work. The retraction was printed on page 2.

By Tim Lambert (not verified) on 20 Jun 2010 #permalink

The empirical strikes back!

A bigger vicotry than some give it credit for, this is a salutary tale for all editors on how not checking stories can make the journalist the story.

Leake typifies poor journalism, if he had conducted proper research he could have easily rebutted the Rowell & Moore claim and saved himself a great deal of embarrassment. Rowell & Moore claimed âup to 40% of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitationâ. The main issue was incorrect referencing. Nepstad 1994 was the paper which supported the claim. However in a later paper (1999) Nepstad put the risk at 15% and one would have expected the later paper to represent the risk more accurately. In addition Nepstadâs papers related to Brazilian forests, an area of 4.1million sq. kms. As opposed to the 8.2 million sq. kms of Amazonian forests. Another problem is with the term a âslight reduction in precipitationâ . Later papers ( Coe 2002 and Huntingford 2003) found that Amazon rainfall was underestimated by 25%. This has been a consistent problem and the IPCC authors would have been well aware of this. AR4 identified replacement of tropical forest by savanna in eastern Amazonia as a potential problem (Cox 2004, Betts 2004) but this scenario requires a reduction in annual rainfall of approx. 20% and I doubt that qualifies as a slight reduction in rainfall. When one considers that the GMC Cox and Betts use namely HADCM3 currently underestimates actual rainfall by 20% (Cox 2003, Li 2006) it becomes more unrealistic. Rather than denying the problem the IPCC should have it acknowledged moved on.

By allen mcmahon (not verified) on 20 Jun 2010 #permalink

Tim, I went to your link where Nepstad states â In 2004, we estimated that half of the forest area of the Amazon Basin had either fallen below, or was very close to, the critical level of soil moisture below which trees begin to die in 1998. This estimate incorporated new rainfall data and results from an experimental reduction of rainfall in an Amazon forest that we had conducted with funding from the US National Science Foundation (Nepstad et al. 2004).â One problem is the reliability of rainfall figures from 2004 , underestimation of rainfall in the Amazon has been and still is a major problem(Malhi 2009) . Another problem relates to his exclusion experiment in the Tapajo region. While the study area was representative of one third of the Amazon forests Nepstad notes that due to the depth of the groundwater (100m) that plant Available Water was lower that all but 10% of the basin and that the rainfall simulated is lower than all but 5% of the Amazon. (Nepstad 2007 Ecology) Finally if the soil moisture was that critical in 2004 one would have expected much higher tree mortality during the major drought of 2005, described as a 100 year event (Zeng 2006 Marengo 2008)

By allen mcmahon (not verified) on 21 Jun 2010 #permalink

allen, you are trying to refute Nepstadt, instead of simple listening to what he said:

Senior Scientist Daniel Nepstad endorses the correctness of the IPCCâs (AR4) statement on Amazon forest susceptibility to rainfall reduction

what part of it do you not understand?

Regarding Bolt's treatment of Flannery:

a). Bolt: "You said, for example, that Adelaide may run out of water by early 2009"

Indeed, Flannery almost said exactly that: Flannery - ["The water problem is so severe for Adelaide that it may run out of water by early 2009"]( March 2008

b). Bolt: "You said Brisbane would probably run out of water by 2009. They are now 97 per cent full. And Sydney could be dry as early as 2007. "

What Flannery actually said ["In Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane, water supplies are so low they need desalinated water urgently, possibly in as little as 18 months"]( New Scientist 16th July 2007.

Regarding Sydney, what Flannery actually said, in [an interview with Maxine McKew on lateline.](

MAXINE McKEW: Well, I'm not asking you to be alarmist, but in fact, what would you say is a plausible worst-case scenario that you and, say, other scientists in the Wentworth Group have come to agree on?

TIM FLANNERY: Well, the worst-case scenario for Sydney is that the climate that's existed for the last seven years continues for another two years. In that case, Sydney will be facing extreme difficulties with water........So there are some quite severe problems if the current trend continues. I really do hope that that doesn't happen, but as I say, something will have to change in order for Sydney to get out of that predicted future.

c). Bolt: "you said Brisbane would run out of water possibly by as early as 2009"
See a).

d). Bolt: "You also warned that Perth would be the 21 centuryâs first ghost metropolis."

Indeed, Flannery did say something like that. ["I think there is a fair chance Perth will be the 21st century's first ghost metropolis"](

e). Bolt: "You said the Arctic could be ice free two years ago."

Flannery said nothing of the sort. The article Bolt claims as his source is [here](…). Bolt completely made this one up.

f). Bolt "You warn about sea level rises up to an eight-storey building."

Flannery discusses the potential of 25m of sea level rise [here](…). The published paper that this figure is based on is [here](

Here is the relevant section from that paper, which Flannery was referring to.
"The imminent peril is initiation of dynamical and thermodynamical processes on the West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets that produce a situation out of humanity's control, such that devastating sea-level rise will inevitably occur. Climate forcing of this century under BAU would dwarf natural forcings of the past million years, indeed it would probably exceed climate forcing of the middle Pliocene, when the planet was not more than 2â3°C warmer and sea level 25±10âm higher (Dowsett et al. 1994). The climate sensitivities we have inferred from palaeoclimate data ensure that a BAU GHG emission scenario would produce global warming of several degrees Celsius this century, with amplification at high latitudes."

g). Bolt "No, no, no. Hereâs your quote: âOver the next two decades Australians could use nuclear power to replace all our coal âfired power plants. We would then have a power infrastructure like France and in doing so we would have done something great for the worldâ. That was your quote."

No, [HERE](…) is Flannery's quote. Bolt leaves off the end of the sentence, which qualifies the statement.

"Australians are the worst per capita emitters of polluting greenhouse gases on Earth, and Victoria is home to the most polluting coal-fired power station in the world. Fifty-six per cent of the greenhouse gases you generated this morning boiling the jug or taking the kids to school will still be in the atmosphere in a century's time, blighting the lives of our children's children. That's quite a moral issue.

Over the next two decades, Australians could use nuclear power to replace all our coal-fired power plants. We would then have a power infrastructure like that of France, and in doing so we would have done something great for the world, for whatever risks go with a domestic nuclear power industry are local, while greenhouse gas pollution is global in its impact."

It's possible Flannery didn't recognise his quote because Bolt left off the end of the sentence, which puts it in context.

Tim has already updated and added the link, but this part from [Greenslade](…) needs to be quoted:

UPDATED 1pm: The Sunday Times carried a rather large "correction" yesterday that, once read alongside the original offending article, amounted to a complete retraction. In fact, it was a giant climbdown.

a page covering the story, that should not be forgotten is [mongabay]( it also offers enormous insights into Amazon science and was early in pointing out the false use of Nepstad. (follow the link at the bottom, to get more Amazon stories)

i have quoted the earlier mongabay post above. here is the [link]( to the one about the retraction.

but Butler was right on February 3:

A claim published in the Sunday Times over the veracity of a statement published in an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report may land the British newspaper in hot water.

hot water, it was....

This is a great victory for Lewis but isn't there an entire chunk of explanation missing here? Like why the story got changed in the first place.

Lewis's PCC said the report read to him was fine.

He wrote in his PCC complaint: "I spoke to Jonathan Leake on the afternoon of Saturday 30, a few hours before the article went to press, as he wanted to check the quotes he was using by me (checking quotes was agreed between ourselves on Friday 29 January).

"The entire article was read to me, and quotes by me agreed, including a statement that the science in the IPCC report was and is correct.
"The article was reasonable, and quotes were not out of context. Indeed I was happy enough that I agreed to assist in checking the facts for the graphic to accompany the article (I can supply the emails if necessary).
"Yet, following this telephone call the article was entirely and completely re-written with an entirely new focus, new quotes from me included and new (incorrect) assertions of my views.
"I ask the Sunday Times to disclose the version of article that was read out to me, and provide an explanation as to why the agreed correct, undistorted, un-misleading article, and specifically the quotes from me, was not published, and an entirely new version produced."

So here's the question. Leake has written an entire article, read it to Lewis and then, for no apparent reason, completely rewritten it - apparently of his own volition.

What's more he has deliberately inserted a number of errors - something any science journalist must know is risking trouble. This makes no sense. There has to be an extra element which The Sunday Times is holding back. So the big question is: Whose decision was it to rewrite it?

Was it Leake? If so it sounds bizarre - any journalist would know that reading an article to a researcher then publishing something different is asking for trouble.

What's notable here is that no-one has actually interviewed Leake.
But there is a giant clue in the penultimate line of the ST apology where it says
"A version of our article that had been checked with Dr Lewis underwent significant late editing and so did not give a fair or accurate account of his views on these points."

So could the real question be not who wrote the article so much as who edited it?

It sounds like there is a back story here that no-one is being told. Someone needs to dig a little deeper and find out what actually happened to that article in between Leake reading it to Lewis and final publication.
(Might cross-post this - I think it's interesting)

By Professor Bray… (not verified) on 21 Jun 2010 #permalink

Hello Tim Lambert

The IPCC report states:
""Up to 40% of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation;..."

Do you believe in the scientific validity of this statement?


Which they cited from the WWF report which cited Nepstad:

>'Up to 40% of the Brazilian forest is extremely sensitive to small reductions in the amount of rainfall. In the 1998 dry season, some 270,000 sq. km of forest became vulnerable to fire, due to completely depleted plant-available water stored in the upper five metres of soil. A further 360,000 sq. km of forest had only 250 mm of plant-available soil water left. [Nepstad et al. 1999]'

Hmm. Yeah.

Dear John

The Rowell and Moore report states (as you note above):

"Up to 40% of the Brazilian forest is extremely sensitive to small reductions in the amount of rainfall. X.."

They cite the Nepstad 1999 paper to support this claim.

The Nepstad 1999 paper states:

"Because of the severe drought of 1997 and 1998, we calculate that... X"

X: Being essentially the same, i.e., data regarding area of forest under risk for fires, sourced from Nepstad 1999.

Isn't there a mismatch between the meaning of the two statements viz Nepstad 1999 and RM2000?


Oh [goat of a thousand young](…),

My name is not Tim and yet I'd like to draw your attention to a subtle distinction: I accept the scientific validity of a statement without necessarily believing in it. I assess the reputation of the writer and the referenced author, however I would probably prefer to read the cited source before I make any value judgement on its merits. When I accept the scientific validity of a statement, I am open to the idea that this is the current best knowledge and may be one day superseded or proved wrong (which in this case has not yet happened, quite the contrary). Were I to believe instead, this would be based on faith and I would be closing my mind to future improvement in our knowledge. This is the antithesis of science, which is based on open-mindedness and skepticism.

the author himself has answered the question, in a [post]( linked by Tim above.

In another article published in Nature, in 1994, we used less conservative assumptions to estimate that approximately half of the forests of the Amazon depleted large portions of their available soil moisture during seasonal or episodic drought (Nepstad et al. 1994). After the Rowell and Moore report was released in 2000, and prior to the publication of the IPCC AR4, new evidence of the full extent of severe drought in the Amazon was available. In 2004, we estimated that half of the forest area of the Amazon Basin had either fallen below, or was very close to, the critical level of soil moisture below which trees begin to die in 1998. This estimate incorporated new rainfall data and results from an experimental reduction of rainfall in an Amazon forest that we had conducted with funding from the US National Science Foundation (Nepstad et al. 2004). Field evidence of the soil moisture critical threshold is presented in Nepstad et al. 2007. In sum, the IPCC statement on the Amazon was correct.

Thanks for the replies regarding the link.

Doh. I forget Murdoch started charging.

But hold on, should one need to pay to read a retraction/apology?

I guess if they were forced to apologise by the PCC then the apology would be free?

Maybe I'm wondering about this too much but I'm still intrigued by that bit of the ST apology where it says "A version of our article that had been checked with Dr Lewis underwent significant late editing and so did not give a fair or accurate account of his views on these points."

Whose decision was this? Who edited it? Was it really Leake's own decision to completely change his own story after reading it to Lewis and getting Lewis's approval? If so, the implication is that Leake knew his original story was right but then changed it to make it wrong. Doesn't make sense to me.

Or was this decision imposed from a higher level - a fact which, if true, would transform the whole story?

It's strange that so many people have written so much about this (including journalists as well as bloggers) yet no-one has done the obvious thing of contacting Leake or the ST to find out the detail of what happened.

It's a small point but when the history of the climate struggle gets written it would be good to have this little mystery resolved

By Professor Bray… (not verified) on 21 Jun 2010 #permalink


Belief entails neither faith nor certainty; it is merely assent to a proposition. I believe that the IPCC statement is consistent with the best inference from the available data; that belief, being revisable in the light of additional data, is open-minded and skeptical.

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 21 Jun 2010 #permalink

43 PB,

I agree. Perhaps Leake did rewrite the story, but we can't assume that. OTOH it's odd that he still allowed his name to be used.

My suspicion is that someone higher up wanted the story to be other than the one that Leake had agreed with Lewis. Given that Richard North was cited as the researcher for the story and given North's attitude, as revealed in an [email](…), I wonder if North was involved in the rewriting?

I think we are only told as much as the PCC requested, and nothing more.

By TrueSceptic (not verified) on 22 Jun 2010 #permalink

[Braynestawm said](…):

It's strange that so many people have written so much about this (including journalists as well as bloggers) yet no-one has done the obvious thing of contacting Leake or the ST to find out the detail of what happened.

It's a small point but when the history of the climate struggle gets written it would be good to have this little mystery resolved.

The thing is, Leake is perfectly capable of apparating on Deltoid or elsewhere and correcting the record himself, if it requires correcting. He knows that he has a spotlight here, so any errors of reporting on Tim Lambert's part, or on the commenters, would be easily and quickly rebuffed by Leake's own participation here.

To date he's be conspicuously absent.

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 22 Jun 2010 #permalink

Dear MFS
I too, do all those things you mention. Worthy of mention in that regard, would be my constant attempts (with helpful reminders ;)), to not take things up on faith, or even authors' reputations alone.

But I hasten to add: I cannot be sure how Tim handles these issues, which is why I asked.

We should revise and update our appraisals no doubt, but in the present instance, our focus is on determining whether Mr Leake committed a 'fraud' in his assessment of the IPCC AR4.

Could you assist Mr Lambert in determining this? The citations in question are clear: Nepstad, 1994, 1999, 2004, 2007 - which of these publications supports the notion that the IPCC promulgates?

Please read Mr Nepstad's convoluted statements yourself. To excuse Rowell and Moore's enthusiasm (for lack of words) displayed in their 2000 report, Nepstad offers his 2004 paper and his 2007 papers for support. I find the chronology headache-inducing.

Even if we agree that the fact of the matter is all that matters (as MFS seems to suggest), ...that is another completely different argument altogether. Wouldn't you agree?

From the correction: "In fact, the IPCC's Amazon statement is supported by peer-reviewed scientific evidence. In the case of the WWF report, the figure had, in error, not been referenced, but was based on research by the respected Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) which did relate to the impact of climate change."

So the WWF report *did* include a claim that was unsubstantiated at the time the IPCC lifted it - there was no reference for the claim. Note: That doesn't make the claim itself wrong.

Nepstad wrote a letter to The Times admitting as much. The error was only corrected on the day the article was published iirc.

The old (but newly substantiated) claim still only referred to Brazil rain forest didn't it?

So the WWF report did include a claim that was unsubstantiated at the time the IPCC lifted it - there was no reference for the claim

No, a reference to the underlying literature was left out. The claim was substantiated, just not properly documented.

That's not controversial and has absolutely nothing to do with the complaint against the Times that led them to retract its story.

So the WWF report did include a claim that was unsubstantiated at the time the IPCC lifted it

What part of "supported by peer-reviewed scientific evidence" and "was based on research" don't you understand? Or do you simply not understand what the word "substantiate" [means](

By truth machine (not verified) on 22 Jun 2010 #permalink

Bernard J,

Of course Leake might want to keep his job and livelihood and not be seen to dish the dirt on 'higher ups' just to appease some far off blog commenters.

By Dave Andrews (not verified) on 22 Jun 2010 #permalink

I'll correct my earlier comment - David Nussbaum was the name I was thinking of. He admits mistakes were made in a letter to the times published on 07/02/2010:

"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 âup to 40% of the Brazilian forest is extremely sensitive to small reductions in the amount of rainfallâ. The primary source for this statement is Fire in the Amazon, a 1999 overview by the respected Amazon Environmental Research Institute that states: âProbably 30-40% of the forests of the Brazilian Amazon are sensitive to small reductions in the amount of rainfall.â

This is fully supported by peer-reviewed literature. Contrary to the headlineâs suggestion, it is not a âbogusâ claim.

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. "

1. The WWF paper mistakenly made no reference to Fire in the Amazon - that is admitted here by Nussbaum. An error of omission that existed *when the IPCC decided to include it*. The claim in the WWF paper was, until Nussbaum brought attention to the omission, literally unsubstantiated. It had no reference.

2. There is a difference between what the WWF say (and can now substantiate) and how the IPCC chose to use that. The claim the WWF paper does make refers to Brazilian rain forest - the IPCC applies this to all of the Amazon rain forest. Regardless of whether that is true or not (and it likely is as Nepstad points out in his letter to the Times published at the same time as Nussbaum) the reference the IPCC provided for that claim does not say what they said it does.

Was Jonathan Leake hung out to dry by The Sunday Times? George Monbiot, The Guardian…
"But the interesting question is how the Sunday Times messed up so badly. I spent much of yesterday trying to get some sense out of the paper, without success. But after 25 years in journalism it looks pretty obvious to me that Jonathan Leake has been wrongly blamed for this, then hung out to dry. My guess is that someone else at the paper, acting on instructions from an editor, got hold of Leake's copy after he had submitted it, and rewrote it, drawing on North's post, to produce a different â and more newsworthy â story. If this is correct, it suggests that Leake is carrying the can for an editor's decision. The Sunday Times has made no public attempt to protect him: it looks to me like corporate cowardice."

By Braynestawm (not verified) on 24 Jun 2010 #permalink

Should LeakeGate be HellenGate? Independent newspaper names Nick Hellen, news editor of the Sunday Times as real author of infamous Amazon story…
The Sunday Times ran a prominent apology last week over a story by Jonathan Leake about rewriting the UN climate panel. It's not the first time Leake has been in hot water: there are blogs dedicated to following his tussles with green groups. But is Leake entirely to blame?
News editor Nick Hellen is said to have been particularly enthusiastic about the UN story. Is that what the correction meant when it said: "A version of our article...underwent significant late editing and so did not give a fair or accurate account of Simon Lewis's views." ?

The Australian reprint appears to have transmogrified into a 404. seems it's been taken down. Did they apologise?

North is [threatening to sue](…) even those who just wrote a comment:

Commentators who choose to comment on this post may also wish to note that I would be happy to enjoin them in any legal action taken against Mr Monbiot or The Guardian newspaper if they too are of a libellous or denigratory nature. You have been warned.

he got a little angry over the fact, that he was unable to locate the 40% claim in the WWF article. his inability to perform a simple term-search in a online document makes him a horrible researcher. it is no surprise, that the Leake piece based on his "research" has fallen apart within seconds.

Monbiot has written a reply:

Dear Dr North, Go ahead, make my day. Yours Sincerely, George Monbiot

so does North really want the confirmation of a judge on his lousy reporting?

North's also threatening commenters at the Guardian with libel action now. Sad and funny at the same time. George's response to North's last threat, "Woohoo! I'm quivering with fear.".

Lots of pro-North "brand new members" suddenly joined up. Hmmm.... I wonder where they came from.

Best new member is Nepstad himself, posting how the IPCC got it right and the ST retraction is a victory for science.

I look forward to North attempting legal action against Monbiot. He will get slaughtered, and I hope that rabid fantasist Christopher Booker gets involved too.

By TrueSceptic (not verified) on 29 Jun 2010 #permalink

I've just skimmed through the CIF thread. I was particularly exasperated by the sheer repetitive idiocy of 'spacedout'. It turns out that this appalling cretin* is North himself!

*He appeared to be a carton denialist, the sort we get here from time to time.

By TrueSceptic (not verified) on 29 Jun 2010 #permalink

Cindy #55. The Australian definitely retracted the story, both in the paper and online. Apologise - not that I remember. I don't think they know what an apology is...

63 me,

cartoon denialist.

And, note that 'spacedout' joined the thread to attack Monbiot (author) and support North (subject) while pretending to be a third party. Sock puppetry is considered very poor behaviour in some parts...

By TrueSceptic (not verified) on 29 Jun 2010 #permalink

literally unsubstantiated. It had no reference.

Would you please look up the word "substantiate" in the dictionary? (I gave you a link.) Your misuse of it makes you look stupid -- and it certainly makes you wrong.

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 01 Jul 2010 #permalink

Last week, after six months of evasions, obfuscation,denials and retractions, a story which has preoccupied this column on and off since January came to a startling conclusion. It turns out that one of the most widely publicised statements in the 2007 report of the UNâs Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change â a claim on which tens of billions of dollars could hang â was not based on peer-reviewed science, as repeatedly claimed, but originated solely from anonymous propaganda published on the website of a small Brazilian environmental advocacy group.…
This is the problem with an agency like the IPCC
relying on trust associations with NGO's that share their agenda rather than real scientists that study actual verifiable data before stating an informed conclusion.

By broboxley OT (not verified) on 12 Jul 2010 #permalink

broboxley, it is unwise to rely on Booker for, well, anything.

There are many scientific papers that support the thesis that the Amazon is vulnerable to climate change. And if you think that the statement was "widely publicized", perhaps you will let us know how many times it was mentioned in the media before Leake's story. (Hint: You can count the number on the fingers of no hands.)

Hey Tim,
thanks for the reply. I just wish the IPCC took as much care publishing their stuff as the denialists take to disassemble their reports.

By broboxley OT (not verified) on 12 Jul 2010 #permalink

I don't. If that were the case, we wouldn't be able to trust the IPCC reports.

By Tim Lambert (not verified) on 12 Jul 2010 #permalink

Im not sure I understand post 70, please expand a little. I would think someone assembling a report would fact check the submissions for accuracy of the cites included.

By broboxley OT (not verified) on 12 Jul 2010 #permalink

Leake's story got so many things wrong that it had to be retracted. I would not want IPCC reports to be like that.

By Tim Lambert (not verified) on 12 Jul 2010 #permalink

You have to remember that this is the same paper that touted the Hitler Diaries

It's also the same paper that launched a âcampaignâ denying that HIV caused AIDS. (The word âcampaignââthe Sunday Times own wordâwas deliberately used to reflect their successful work on Thalidomide c.30 years earlier.) This so infuriated John Maddox at Nature that he published an editorial calling the paper's coverage of HIV/AIDS âseriously mistaken, and probably disastrous.â

@ broboxley OT

What is more important - referencing errors in IPCC reports, or what [peer scientific studies tell us](…"amazon ipcc")? Don't be fooled, Brooker and North are knit-picking and trying to distract you from the wider scientific picture.

If you are looking for errors look no further than North who is behind no less that 3 newspaper stories retracted since April - 'Africagate' retracted by the German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau, 'Amazongate' covered sbove, and this attempted smear story co-written with Brooker that even the Telegraph wasn't willing to stand by:

[UK Telegraph retracts and apologies for bogus Tata story, but doesnât apologize to Pachauri for smear](…)

On the amazon claims see also [Skeptical Science](…).

By lord_sidcup (not verified) on 12 Jul 2010 #permalink

So, the statement was substantiated by peer-reviewed research, but the research was not cited in the article.

It sounds as if sock-puppeteer North is a probable culprit in the rewrite.

This is my response at the Guardian to Richard North's challenge of my previous comments there, on why I believe why the claims about savanna-fication and changes in the Amazon are supported by the peer reviewed literature specifically referenced for Chapter 13 of WGII:

"@ spacedout / Richard North

Nepstad 2004 is a red herring. It does not apply. The IPCC have not cited it and nor do they rely on it in relation to the 40 percent claim.

The references for WGII are there for all to see, and one of those references is...

Nepstad, D., P. Lefebvre, U. Lopes Da Silva, J. Tomas, P. Schlesinger, L. Solorzano, P. Moutinho, D. Ray and J. Guerreira Benito, 2004: Amazon drought and its implications for forest flammability and tree growth: a basin-wide analysis. Global Change Biol., 10, 704â717.

It's specifically referenced for Chapter 13, which is the very same chapter that the object of your criticism is printed in.

A peer reviewed published scientific paper that draws on Trenberth and others, as does the Rowell & Moore report, that ENSO events could become more frequent. Increase in ENSO events is theoretically attributable to global warming. Increases in ENSO events cause increased drought in the Amazon rainforest. Increased drought frequency causes more fires. Hey presto, changes in the hydrology and more potential savanna in the Amazon.

Does AR4 WGII reference the 2004 Nepstad et al paper for Chapter 13?
Have typos and other such errors happened elsewhere in AR4 WGII?
Yes, your own buddz have made much copy from them.
Does the Nepstad paper contain peer reviewed estimates that minor increases in ET or a similar quantitative drop in precipitation would lead to changes in roughly half of the Amazon rainforest?
Will drying out of the Amazon lead to more fires?
Does the Rowell & Moore report (which contains a number of peer reviewed references itself) point out rapid changes to the ecosystem as a result of these fires?
Do Rowell & Moore specifically mention hydrology?
Does WGII Ch.13 mention rapid changes in hydrology and savanna-fication for the Amazon?
Are those estimated effects in Ch.13 in any way supported by the peer reviewed literature which is also in the references for that chapter?
Could that explain the Sunday Times' statement about the effects being supported by the peer reviewed literature, bearing in mind that lawyers are thorough?
Pretty damned likely..."

Then some other bits to do with familiar razors. I dare say there is a mistake in the final page, but it's a 3000 page report, and a trivial mistake as the effects are talked about in both the peer revieweed literature, and the grey literature which cites peer reviewed research as well.