Extracts from Ofcom Complaint, by Category

Falsification/Manipulation by
Quoting Selectively

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Comment 112: Misquoting of IPCC on malaria / Comment 114: Wall Street Journal allegations

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 its an opinion.


Climate scare stories cannot be blamed solely on sloppy or biased journalism. According to Professor Reiter hysterical alarms have been encouraged by the reports of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC. On the spread of malaria, the IPCC warns us that:

[Voiceover with on-screen quotation from IPCC Assessment]

Mosquito species that transmit malaria do not usually survive where the mean winter temperature drops below 16-18°C.


According to Professor Reiter, this is clearly untrue.

[Comment 112: The IPCC is selectively quoted here. The full sentence where the quotation appears (Climate Change 1995: Impacts, Adaptation and Mitigation of Climate Change, p571) reads:

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 parasites 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, page 142 and Comment 109, page 89 [of the full complaint]).

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)


In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, Professor Frederick Seitz, former President of Americas National Academy of Sciences, revealed that IPCC officials had censored the comments of scientists. He said that:

[Cut to zoomed in on-screen display of Wall Street Journal article.]


This report is not the version that was approved by the contributing scientists.


At least 15 key sections of the science chapter had been deleted. These included statements like:


None of the studies cited has shown clear evidence that we can attribute climate changes to increases in greenhouse gases.


No study to date has positively attributed all or part of the observed climate changes to man-made causes.


Professor Seitz concluded:


I have never witnessed a more disturbing corruption of the peer review process than the events that led to this IPCC report.

[Cut to on-screen display of IPCC reply to these allegations.]


In its reply, the IPCC did not deny making these deletions, but it said there was no dishonesty or bias in the report; and that uncertainties about the cause of global warming had been included. The changes had been made, it said, in response to comments from governments, individual scientists, and non-governmental organisations.

[Comment 114: The documentary should have made clear that this refers to events that took place in 1996, surrounding the release of the Second Assessment Report, which has been superseded by two more recent assessments. It should also have disclosed that Frederick Seitz is a condensed matter physicist, and has never been a climate scientist or ever been involved with the IPCC. Moreover, it should have disclosed that at the time of writing the letter to the Wall Street Journal, Seitz was the Chair of the fossil-fuel industry–funded George C. Marshall Institute (see page 149 [of the full complaint]), as well as being Chairman of the Science and Environmental Policy Project (see page 155 [of the full complaint], and see also S. Fred Singer, Appendix C.10, page 135 [of the full complaint]).

Seitz has also worked as a consultant to the tobacco industry (http://tinyurl.com/j5dpp [Guardian]), and was described in an internal memo by Phillip Morris Co. in 1989 (7 years before the WSJ letter) as quite elderly and not sufficiently rational to offer advice. (http://tinyurl.com/ytymym [Tobaccodocuments]). He was later instrumental in organising a petition project of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine or OISM: a petition that has been heavily criticised for its misleading nature (see the entry about the OISM on page 154 [of the full complaint] for details).

Moreover, the revisions to a draft chapter of the IPCC report were made by the authors (i.e. the scientists) themselves, in response to review comments, as they are obliged to do under the normal peer review process. None of the authors complained about the changes, and forty signed a letter to the Wall Street Journal (see http://tinyurl.com/yr3ozf) stressing that the scientific content of the report was unchanged, and that uncertainties were still discussed in the final version.

They also noted that Seitz:

… was not involved in the process of putting together the 1995 IPCC report on the science of climate change. He did not attend the Madrid IPCC meeting on which he reports. He was not privy to the hundreds of review comments received by Chapter 8 Lead Authors. Most seriously, before writing his editorial, he did not contact any of the Lead Authors of Chapter 8 in order to obtain information as to how or why changes were made to Chapter 8 after Madrid.

An open letter of support for the IPCC was also written by the American Meteorological Society and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (see http://tinyurl.com/yr3ozf). See also Appendix G: page 165 [of the full complaint] for further context provided by Bert Bolin, the IPCC Chairman at the time of this controversy.

By quoting selectively an article by someone who has never had any involvement with the IPCC, who is not a climate scientist, and whose article in the Wall Street Journal has been shown to be so highly misleading, the film maker was apparently setting out to mislead the audience and to misrepresent the facts.]

(In breach of the 2003 Communications Act Section 265, Ofcom 5.4, 5.5, 5.7, 5.11, 5.12)