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December 19 2011

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December 08 2010


November 15 2010


Ancient Rain Forests Found Upside in Heat Stress

Faced with rising temperatures and carbon dioxide levels 56 million years ago, rain forests actually thrived, with a rapid increase in plant diversity, scientists found.

June 25 2010


George Monbiot Rips UK Sunday Times For 'Amazongate' Lies And Stonewalling

Intrepid British journalist George Monbiot has a piece in The Guardian today that absolutely smashes the London Sunday Times' handling of its botched 'Amazongate' story.  The Times was forced to retract essentially its entire January article,  which badly mischaracterized the work and words of rainforest expert Dr. Simon Lewis, to whom the paper sheepishly apologized earlier this week.

Monbiot took some time to try to figure out how the Times could have possibly allowed the sham story to run in the first place, but his efforts were met with aggressive stonewalling by Times' editors, who trampled transparency in order to cover their own behinds. 

Exactly who at the Times was responsible for re-writing the story after a totally different version was read back to Dr. Lewis over the phone by the reporter Jonathan Leake, remains a mystery.
Monbiot doesn't think Leake is to blame for the hack editing job, writing that:
"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 – and more newsworthy – 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."

The whole 'Amazongate' episode began with the horrible mischaracterizations by climate denier Richard North of a WWF report that was referenced in the IPCC's fourth assessment report regarding the projected impacts of climate change on the Amazon.  North started the engine on the 'Amazongate' train, which eventually wrecked under the lightest of scrutiny, leading to the retraction and apology by the Times. 

Monbiot explains how North's lies were spread around the world without any one of the countless other climate deniers who trumpeted the tale actually bothering to check its veracity. 

While North - and the denier sheep who echoed him - asserted that the WWF report said nothing about the potential vulnerability of 40% of the Amazon's forests threatened by reduced rainfall due to climate change, it took Monbiot all of ten seconds to discover that North's spin about the WWF report was a total sham.

Monbiot explains:

I used a cunning and recondite technique known only to experienced sleuths: typing "40%" in the search bar at the top of the page [of the WWF report PDF]. This stroke of genius took all of 10 seconds to reveal the following passage:

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

Who says investigative journalism is dead?

None of North's suckers had bothered to carry out this complex procedure. They hadn't bothered because they didn't want to spoil a good story.

While the Times' retraction was a necessary and welcomed step toward clearing the air, it remains baffling that the Times would continue to hide the whole truth about how the story was completely re-written prior to publication in the first place.  After issuing a retraction and apology, what more could it take to simply come clean with the truth about what really happened and who was responsible?

Check out Monbiot's post for further details, but don't hold your breath for a mea culpa from the Times' editors.  They've clearly circled the wagons.

June 22 2010


UK Sunday Times Retracts Bogus ‘Amazongate’ Story, Apologizes to Simon Lewis

Ending a dispute that has dragged on for months, London newspaper The Sunday Times has finally retracted and apologized for an article filled with blatant misinformation and smears against the IPCC and climate researchers that it ran in January, creating a nontroversy which deniers tried to label “Amazongate.” 

RealClimate.org more accurately dubbed the episode “Leakegate” after the Times' reporter Jonathan Leake, who wrote the article in question.

The Times published a lengthy correction to the bogus article and disappeared the original from its website.

Since the bogus article ran in January, scientists and researchers who study the Amazon have tried to correct the misinformation it spread.  Chief among them was Dr. Simon Lewis, an expert on rain forests at the University of Leeds, who filed a 30-page complaint against The Sunday Times with the UK Press Complaints Commission in March. Lewis alleged that the paper had mangled his quotes, which ended up far from the remarks he actually made in interviews with the reporter, and that the paper had published “inaccurate, misleading or distorted information” about climate change in the article.
Lewis maintains that the reporter read him a version of the piece over the phone that Lewis found agreeable, but then the Times published a vastly different article skewed to fit the Times’ anti-science, denialist editorial line, completely ignoring the scientific facts underpinning the IPCC’s statements about the Amazon.

The Sunday Times acknowledged in its correction/retraction that the IPCC’s conclusion about the Amazon was supported by peer-reviewed science, and that it erred in presenting Dr. Lewis’s comments as disputing the science behind claims about the vulnerability of the Amazon rainforest to droughts caused by climate change.

The retraction notes:
“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.”

When Dr. Lewis heard the news, he wrote to several outlets, “I welcome the Sunday Times’ apology.”  

ClimateProgress published more of Lewis’s reaction:
“The public’s understanding of science relies on scientists having frank discussions with journalists, who then responsibly report what was said. If reporting is misleading then many scientists will disengage, which will mean that the public get more opinion and less careful scientific assessments. This is extremely dangerous when we face serious environmental problems, like climate change, which require widespread scientific understanding to enable wise political responses to be formulated and enacted.”

It is worth pondering what might have happened if Simon Lewis had chosen not to file his complaint.  Readers of the Sunday Times could have easily remained confused and misled on this subject, potentially losing trust in the IPCC scientific community. 

Lewis is to be commended for seeing this through, earning what amounts to a total retraction of Leake’s article and setting the record straight.  It isn’t every day that climate misinformation gets corrected in such a thorough manner.  This is a huge win for scientific integrity and accuracy in reporting.

“If reporting is misleading then many scientists will disengage, which will mean that the public get more opinion and less careful scientific assessments,” Lewis wrote in response to hearing the news about the correction.

But imagine if the article had been published in its original, unadulterated form – the version that Leake initially read to Lewis over the phone?  The misinformation and distortions would never have reached the public, the deniers would have been denied their long-winded gloating over the inaccurate version, and perhaps there would be less confusion over this entire issue. 

Just as with the so-called “Climategate” episode, there was no conspiracy here, no reason whatsoever to question the vast, global body of scientific knowledge about climate change. 

But until the media – especially biased outlets like the Sunday Times and FOX News – learn to report on climate science matters responsibly, the public is destined to remain confused about this important issue.

It should not take someone like Simon Lewis pressing the matter after the fact to correct the record.  It should be inherent in these newsrooms’ journalistic standards that nothing like this ever happen in the first place.

April 30 2010


Turtles vs. Tourism in Puerto Rico

Environmental groups are asking federal officials to designate a prime tourist development area in Puerto Rico a critical habitat for the endangered leatherback turtle.

April 18 2010


What’s Up With the Rainforest: Brazil suspends Amazon dam project targeted by Avatar director

With the 40th anniversary of Earth Day just around the corner, a renewed sense of activism and attention is cast around the present state of our natural environment. What started as a local grassroots effort to increase environmental awareness and provoke action from our political leaders has not only led to significant policy changes, but has [...]
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