Extracts from Ofcom Complaint, by Category

Misrepresentations Regarding the
Spread of Malaria and the
IPCCs Processes

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.

[This section was considered by both the the Fairness and Standards Divisions of Ofcom.]


Extracts from Complete Transcript and Rebuttal


It is also suggested that even a mild rise in temperature would lead to the spread northward of deadly insect-borne tropical diseases like malaria. But is this true? Professor Paul Reiter of the Pasteur Institute in Paris is recognised as one of the worlds leading experts on malaria and other insect-borne diseases. He is a member of the World Health Organisation Expert Advisory Committee, was Chairman of The American Committee of Medical Entomology, of the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Lead Author on the Health Section of the US National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability. As Professor Reiter is eager to point out, mosquitoes thrive in very cold temperatures.

[Comment 109: The first and last sentences by the narrator, above, are highly misleading, in several respects.


The narrator implies here that as a general rule, mosquitoes are as active and long-lived in cold temperatures as in warm ones, which is entirely untrue. Reiters own papers make the point that general statements of the kind made by the narrator are inaccurate. See for example the following paper which Reiter co-authored: Patz J et al, The potential health impacts of climate variability and change for the United States, Environmental Health Perspectives, April 2000, http://tinyurl.com/34gd5j (PDF), which states (on page 7 of the PDF file):

High temperatures can increase the rate at which mosquitoes develop into adults, the rate of development of pathogens in the mosquitoes and feeding and egg-laying frequency. The key factor in transmission is the survival rate of the vector. Higher temperatures may increase or reduce survival rate, depending on the vector, its behavior, ecology and many other factors.

Indeed the narrator is misrepresenting Reiter here: Reiter does not claim that mosquitoes thrive in the cold: he simply makes the points that some mosquitoes are able to survive low temperatures and that malaria is not necessarily restricted to the tropics (although malaria transmission has now been eradicated from Europe and North America) – see his actual statements below, and Reiters email to Professor Curtis at http://tinyurl.com/2rklxc.


Although the narrator does not specify whom he thinks is suggesting that even a mild rise in temperature would lead to the spread northward of … malaria, in the context of the statements about the IPCC, both by the narrator and by Reiter, that precede and follow this claim (Comment 22 [of the full complaint], Comment 112, Comment 113 [below], Comment 115 [of the full complaint]), the viewer is left with the clear and completely false impression that the IPCC has suggested this. It has not.

For example, the IPCC 3rd Assessment Report Working Group II, 2001, states (http://tinyurl.com/2xmwx4):

Malaria was successfully eradicated from Australia, Europe, and the United States in the 1950s and 1960s, but the vectors [i.e. the mosquitoes] were not eliminated (Bruce-Chwatt and de Zulueta, 1980; Zucker, 1996). In regions where the vectors persist in sufficient abundance, there is a risk of locally transmitted malaria. This small risk of very localized outbreaks may increase under climate change. Conditions currently exist for malaria transmission in those countries during the summer months, but few nonimported cases have been reported (Holvoet et al., 1983; Zucker, 1996; Baldari et al.,1998; Walker, 1998). Malaria could become established again under the prolonged pressures of climatic and other environmental-demographic changes if a strong public health infrastructure is not maintained. A particular concern is the reintroduction of malaria in countries of the former Soviet Union with economies in transition, where public health infrastructure has diminished (e.g., Azerbaijan, Russia). [Emphasis added.]

This is a very cautious statement. It makes it quite clear that malaria is not a tropical disease (stating that is was eradicated from temperate regions only quite recently); it states specifically in its third sentence that Anopheles mosquitoes (i.e. those that could carry malaria) do currently live in many temperate countries; and it makes it clear that the reintroduction of malaria into temperate regions due to climate change is highly unlikely, except possibly in countries whose health services break down.


The narrative, both in the above statement and in the statements which follow, attempts to confuse the viewer into believing that where mosquitoes are able to survive, malaria is also likely to be present, as it makes no distinction between the two – but this is quite false, as the film maker must have known. See for example the statement by the malaria specialist Professor Chris Curtis at http://tinyurl.com/2rklxc (PDF), in which he states:

Even though malaria can occur in cool climates, there would tend to be even more malaria where it is hotter. That is because Plasmodium would be more likely to complete its complex development in the mosquito before the mosquito died … However, in fact I do not think it likely that global warming will bring much malaria transmission back to northern Europe because malaria is transmitted from humans to mosquitoes to humans and northern mosquitoes could only become infected from imported human cases. However such cases are nearly always promptly treated by the good health services in the north.


The narrative, both in the above statement and in the statements which follow, focuses only on one disease, malaria, and attempts to mislead the viewer into thinking that because malaria is unlikely to spread northwards as a result of climate change, therefore there are no other diseases that are likely to do so. This is false, and is another clear misrepresentation of the facts. For example, Professor Curtis writes (http://tinyurl.com/2rklxc):

In the case of pathogens transmitted from reservoirs in wild mammals (e.g. tick borne encephalitis) or birds (West Nile virus) via arthropods to humans the reservoirs are not treated and establishment or increase of the human disease would presumably depend on, among other things, the effect of climate on the biology of the pathogen and the arthropod vector. I have heard that the less severe winters in Sweden are now causing an increase in tick borne encephalitis.


The narrative, both in the above statement and in the statements which follow, focuses only on whether or not diseases are likely to move northwards as a result of climate change; and ignores the fact that many diseases are likely to become much more widespread as a result of climate change without necessarily moving northwards – for example, cholera (see IPCC: http://tinyurl.com/36nrbm). Thus the misleading and quite inaccurate impression was given to the viewer that climate change is unlikely to have much impact on human health, whereas in fact it is likely to have a very considerable impact on health. It is difficult to believe that the film maker was simply ignorant about this subject; and it would thus appear that he set out to mislead the audience in this respect as well.]

(In breach of the 2003 Communications Act Section 265, Ofcom 5.7, 7.2, 7.3, 7.6, 7.9)

[Comment 110: Reiters 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 worlds 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)

[Prof Paul Reiter]

Mosquitoes are not specifically tropical. Most people will realise that in temperate regions there are mosquitoes – in fact, mosquitoes are extremely abundant in the Arctic. The most devastating epidemic of Malaria was in the Soviet Union in the 1920s: there were something like 13 million cases a year, and something like 600,000 deaths – a tremendous catastrophe that reached up to the Arctic Circle. Archangel had 30,000 cases and about 10,000 deaths. So its not a tropical disease; yet these people, in the global warming fraternity invent the idea that malaria will move northwards.

[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)


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 [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)

[Prof Paul Reiter]

I was horrified to read the Second and the Third Assessment Reports because there was so much misinformation, without any kind of recourse, or virtually without mention of the scientific literature – the truly scientific literature – literature by specialists in those fields.

[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 Reiters 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 films 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)

Extract from Appendix C: Backgrounds of the Contributors to the Programme


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. Reiters 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 worlds 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 Reiters 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, Reiters 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).


He is a CEI Expert (see: http://tinyurl.com/2slt25) [Note: In our complaint we originally linked to http://tinyurl.com/2f427u, which was the page on the CEI website that listed Professor Reiter as a CEI Expert, but this page has since been taken down. The current link is to an archive copy of that CEI webpage, as it appeared at the time this complaint was submitted] and contributing author (see: http://tinyurl.com/yrbfcq) with the Competitive Enterprise Institute.


He is a member of the Science and Economic Advisory Council for The Annapolis Center for Science-Based Public Policy (see http://tinyurl.com/26rdf5).


He is a Science Roundtable Member of the Tech Central Science Foundation (see http://tinyurl.com/yuf3ld).

Extracts from 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].



Competitive Enterprise Institute or CEI

[Note: Contributors to the film who have links with the CEI:
Professor Patrick Michaels
Professor Paul Reiter]

An anti-regulation lobby group at the centre of the global warming misinformation campaign.

In May 2006 it ran a television advertising campaign in 14 US states featuring two 60 second films which claimed that increasing the levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide is good for us, and included the statement: carbon dioxide: they call it pollution; we call it life! See www.cei.org/pages/co2.cfm, http://tinyurl.com/ltb9w and http://tinyurl.com/j45yg. The campaign was the subject of a complaint by Professor Curt Davis, whose studies one of the films had quoted. He said the advertisement had intentionally misrepresented his research, and called it a deliberate effort to confuse and mislead the public – see http://tinyurl.com/r62fk.

In August 2003, the CEI sued the US Federal Government (see http://tinyurl.com/38w8e3) in order to suppress two major scientific reports concerning the current state of scientific knowledge about global warming. The CEI action failed, and the report was published to worldwide headlines focussing on the fact that the Bush administration was now admitting the science of climate change.

Subsequently a copy of an email was obtained by Greenpeace under the Freedom of Information Act (see analysis at http://tinyurl.com/34vsoa and the email itself at: http://tinyurl.com/2m5sku), which was sent on June 03, 2002 by Myron Ebell, a Director of the CEI, to Phil Cooney, who at the time was the Chief of Staff for President George W. Bushs Council on Environmental Quality. Despite holding a position that one might assume would require scientific training, Cooney is a lawyer and holds a bachelors degree in economics, with no known scientific qualifications (see Wikipedia: http://tinyurl.com/2l9cz6).

Before taking that position, Cooney was a lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute, the main US trade association for the oil and natural gas industries (see page 145 [of the full complaint], and Wikipedia: http://tinyurl.com/39gllu and http://tinyurl.com/2l9cz6).

The email from Ebell to Cooney appeared to show Federal Government collusion with the CEI over trying to dampen down the headlines over the reports publication. It also appeared to show collusion over trying to force the resignation of the then head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Christine Todd Whitman. (She subsequently did resign in May 2003: see news report at http://tinyurl.com/yqtgzz).

Disclosure of this email led the Attorneys General of Maine and Connecticut to write to US Attorney General John Ashcroft calling for an investigation (see http://tinyurl.com/2erpof).

In late 2003, the CEI withdrew its lawsuit, but only after the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) added a caveat to the website hosting one of the reports, stating that it had not been subjected to the OSTPs Information Quality Act Guidelines – without mentioning that these guidelines did not exist when the report was written, and that had they existed at that time, the report would have met them. The CEI then distorted the meaning of this caveat in a press release – see http://tinyurl.com/3cjokm and http://tinyurl.com/34v5n2 (PDF).

In 2005, after media attention on the whole affair, and leaking of documents, Phil Cooney resigned from the White House and went to work for ExxonMobil.

On March 19, 2006, The Washington Post reported: The Competitive Enterprise Institute, which widely publicizes its belief that the earth is not warming … because of the burning of coal and oil, says Exxon Mobil Corp. is a major donor largely as a result of its effort to push that position. (see http://tinyurl.com/mvod4).

The CEI has received $2,005,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998 (see ExxonSecrets: http://tinyurl.com/yvbmtz) as well as receiving funding from Ford and General Motors (see DeSmogBlog: http://tinyurl.com/j45yg).

[Note: The above figure was accurate when this complaint was submitted. For the up-to-date figure, see: http://tinyurl.com/yvbmtz [ExxonSecrets].]

Tech Central Science Foundation or Tech Central.com

[Note: Contributors to the film who have links with the Tech Central Science Foundation:
Paul Driessen
Dr Tim Ball
Professor Patrick Michaels
Dr Willie Soon
Professor Ian Clark
Professor Richard Lindzen
Professor Paul Reiter
Dr Roy Spencer]

An anti-regulation lobby group and website that has received $95,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998 (see ExxonSecrets: http://tinyurl.com/2ffueo) and has also been funded by General Motors (see DeSmogBlog: http://tinyurl.com/35ee9v).

[Note: The above figure was accurate when this complaint was submitted. For the up-to-date figure, see: http://tinyurl.com/2ffueo [ExxonSecrets].]

The Annapolis Center for Science-Based Public Policy

[Note: Contributors to the film who have links with The Annapolis Center:
Professor Richard Lindzen
Professor Paul Reiter]

A lobby group that argues against the idea that global warming is the result of burning fossil fuels, and which has received $841,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998 (see ExxonSecrets: http://tinyurl.com/ywptzr).

[ Note: The above amount was the total ExxonMobil donations figure received from ExxonSecrets researchers at the time that this complaint was submitted in June 2007. Subsequently, new data has been uploaded and data entry and programming errors have been corrected, causing the total figures for some organizations, including The Annapolis Center, to be somewhat overstated or understated in this complaint. For the accurate updated figures and links to Exxon source documents, see: http://tinyurl.com/ywptzr [ExxonSecrets].]