Extracts from Ofcom Complaint, by Category
Misrepresentations Regarding the
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Comment 109: Misleading statement about effect of temperature on mosquitoes and malaria / Comment 110: Overstating of Reiter’s credentials / Comment 111: Inaccurate claim about malaria in the Soviet Union / Comment 112: Misquoting of IPCC on malaria / Comment 113: Inaccurate claim that IPCC reports ignore literature by specialists
Key to colour-coded commentary text
Bright red text: Actual falsification of data, and/or misrepresentation of the views of a contributor to the programme
Dark red text: Narration, or on-screen graphics, or an accumulation of consecutive interviewee statements that taken together amount to narration; which are either factually inaccurate, or apparently intentionally misleading, or are an attempt to give the impression that a contentious opinion is a fact.
Blue text: Interviewee is either factually inaccurate, apparently intentionally misleading, or expresses an opinion as if it were a fact without context being provided to make it clear that it’s an opinion.
[This section was considered by both the the Fairness and Standards Divisions of Ofcom.]
Extracts from Complete Transcript and Rebuttal
(In breach of the 2003 Communications Act Section 265, Ofcom 5.7, 7.2, 7.3, 7.6, 7.9)
[Comment 110: Reiter’s primary area of expertise is the mosquitoes that carry diseases other than malaria, such as those that carry the West Nile Fever virus: not malaria, nor malaria-carrying mosquitoes. For the narrator to say that he is “one of the world’s leading experts” on these topics is misleading. See also Appendix C.18 [below].]
(In breach of the 2003 Communications Act Section 265, Ofcom 5.7, 5.8)
[Comment 111: It is not true that the most devastating epidemic of malaria was in the Soviet Union in the 1920s. Most serious malaria (well in excess of a million deaths every year, currently), occurs in tropical and sub-tropical regions, such as in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Reiter has acknowledged his error in his email to Professor Curtis at http://tinyurl.com/2rklxc.
In addition, the narrative continues to imply, wrongly, in this statement by Reiter, that wherever there are mosquitoes, there will also be malaria (untrue); that the IPCC is suggesting that mosquitoes are specifically tropical (it is not); and that the IPCC is suggesting that malaria is likely to move northwards (it is not); all in an apparent attempt to discredit the IPCC in the eyes of the viewer, based on clear misrepresentations of the facts. For more detail on this, see Comment 109 [above].]
(In breach of Ofcom 5.7)
Although anopheline mosquito species that transmit malaria do not usually survive where the mean temperature drops below 16-18°C, some higher-latitude species are able to hibernate in sheltered sites. [Emphasis added.]
Hence, the IPCC statement, taken in context, is consistent with the statements of Reiter. By pretending that it is not, and by quoting only the middle half of the sentence in order to make it appear to state the opposite of what it really is stating, the film maker apparently set out quite intentionally to mislead the audience.
Furthermore, the risk of malaria depends not only on the vector (the anopheline mosquito) but also the malaria parasite. The programme refers only to the effects of climate on the vector. The 1996 IPCC report went on to say:
Sporogonic development (i.e., the extrinsic incubation phase of the plasmodium within the mosquito) ceases below around 18°C for Plasmodium falciparum, and below 14°C for P. vivax. Above those temperatures, a small increase in average temperature accelerates the parasite’s extrinsic incubation (Miller and Warrell, 1990).
In addition, the 3rd and 4th IPCC Assessments were both very clear that the jury is still out as to whether increases in malaria in the East African highlands can be attributed to rising temperatures. For example, see Box 9.2 of the 3rd Assessment at http://tinyurl.com/38mckr, which states:
There are insufficient historical data on malaria distribution and activity to determine the role of warming, if any, in the recent resurgence of malaria in the highlands of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Ethiopia (Cox et al, 1999).
Nevertheless, peer reviewed studies by specialists in this field have indeed suggested that in the future, climate change will be one of many factors influencing the incidence of malaria, including in the East African Highlands (Githeko and W Ndegwa, 2001, http://tinyurl.com/3cl7hw; Tanser et al, 2003, http://tinyurl.com/yvqnxb; and Martens et al, 1999, http://tinyurl.com/342b44).
It should also have been pointed out by the narrator that Reiter is not an expert on the effects of large-scale environmental change on human health; and nor is he considered to be a malaria mosquito expert – he is more of an expert on other types of mosquito (see Appendix C.18 [below] and Comment 109 [above]).
Thus the above narration is deeply misleading, both concerning the IPCC, and regarding the current state of scientific knowledge.]
(In breach of the 2003 Communications Act Section 265, Ofcom 5.4, 5.5, 5.7, 5.11, 5.12)
[Comment 113: This allegation that that IPCC Working Group II reports do not consider any of the peer reviewed literature by any genuine specialists in any of the fields that it covers is clearly false: in the chapter on Human Health in the Third Assessment Report, the reference list runs to nearly 7 pages of citations of peer reviewed scientific papers by specialists, and three of the references are to Paul Reiter’s own work (see IPCC TAR WG 2 p.483, http://tinyurl.com/35gb3m).
The chapter discusses the possibility that recent increases in highland malaria might have been caused by global warming and concludes on p.465 that “there are insufficient historical data on malaria distribution and activity to determine the role of warming, if any, in the recent resurgence of malaria in the highlands of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia” (see http://tinyurl.com/2xmwx4). Thus the conclusions in the IPCC report are cautious and the criticisms Reiter makes here are factually incorrect.
Reiter must be well aware of the above, as it is all in the public domain, so the above statement by him was an apparent attempt to mislead the public.
In addition, see the statement by former IPCC co-Chair Professor James McCarthy at http://tinyurl.com/yqyego (PDF), describing how the IPCC processes actually work. It is difficult to see how the film’s position on the IPCC processes can credibly be maintained in the light of this document; and the fact that the IPCC was not given a chance to respond to the very serious allegations made against it by Reiter in the Channel 4 programme is a clear breach of Section 7 of the Ofcom Code.]
(In breach of the 2003 Communications Act Section 265, Ofcom 5.7, 7.9, 7.10, 7.11)
Professor Paul Reiter
Reiter is director of Insects and Infectious Diseases at the Pasteur Institute in Paris. He is a distinguished entomologist specialising in mosquitoes, but although he talked about climate change in the programme, he is not an expert on climate; nor is he an expert on the effects of large-scale environmental change on human health, which he also discussed. Reiter’s primary area of expertise is the mosquitoes that carry diseases other than malaria, such as those that carry the West Nile Fever virus: not malaria, nor malaria-carrying mosquitoes: yet the narrator of the film referred to him as “one of the world’s leading experts on malaria and other insect-borne diseases” (see Comment 110 [above]). In addition, his links with the IPCC were greatly overstated by the programme (see Comment 115 [of the full complaint]).
Thus his credentials with respect to the specific subjects that he discussed in the film were greatly inflated by the film maker, and the public was seriously, and apparently intentionally misled about his expertise in these areas.
It should also have been pointed out that Reiter’s views on the relationship between climate and infectious disease are certainly not shared by all or even by most scientists working in this area. Here are some examples:
Tanser et al, 2003, http://tinyurl.com/yvqnxb, reports that “projected scenarios would estimate a 5–7% potential increase (mainly altitudinal) in malaria distribution with surprisingly little increase in the latitudinal extents of the disease by 2100”. In comparison, Reiter focuses on the much more ambitious task of predicting disease.
Martens et al, 1999, http://tinyurl.com/342b44, concludes: “On a global level, the numbers of additional people at risk of malaria in 2080 due to climate change is estimated to be 300 and 150 million for P. falciparum and P. vivax types of malaria, respectively, under the HadCM3 climate change scenario. Under the HadCM2 ensemble projections, estimates of additional people at risk in 2080 range from 260 to 320 million for P. falciparum and from 100 to 200 million for P. vivax.”
Githeko and W Ndegwa, 2001, http://tinyurl.com/3cl7hw, report that: “We found an association between rainfall and unusually high maximum temperatures and the number of inpatient malaria cases 3–4 months later.”
In addition, Reiter’s links with fossil fuel industry–funded lobby groups that campaign against measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions were not revealed by the programme (see below), and the public was thus misled about his impartiality.
Links to Corporate-funded Lobby Groups
(For information about the following organisations and the funding they receive, see Appendix D: Corporate-funded Organisations Linked to Contributors to the Programme).
The information in the table below was obtained from the websites that it cites and links to throughout. The authors of this complaint carried out this research with the help of many others, whose contributions are acknowledged in section 1.13, page 12 [of the full complaint].