The Telegraph has been described as “Fleet Street’s last dinosaur of climate change denial” by climate science expert Dr Bob Ward, and with good reason.
The paper has been responsible for a number of false, inaccurate or misleading stories about climate science over the last few years.
Yet even on issues as important as this, IPSO has failed to order an investigation.
Among the articles found to be misleading are:
- “Theresa May is about to spend £1 trillion on a pointless policy. This climate madness has to end”, a story which relied on unsourced figures, which could easily be disproved by official records.
- A leader, “Theresa May’s net-zero target is the wrong approach to climate change” which was based, in part, on further misleading figures used in the previous article. This included an estimate for the cost to GDP of moving to a carbon net-zero economy which assumed the UK had the same economy as New Zealand.
- “The Government’s green ambitions will come at enormous cost”, an editorial which omitted the various cost efficiencies the economy is likely to benefit from a move to more renewable energy sources, and referred to a Parliamentary report which did not exist
- “The war on meat has begun, and there are many reasons to join the resistance”, an article which made the claim that a “meta-analysis” of peer-reviewed papers found that switching to a vegetarian diet would only cut an individual’s total emissions by 4.3%. This figure does not appear in any specific review and appears to have been generated by relying on assumptions and a dated study which only examined a handful of countries. The most recent data suggests that, in fact, vegetarianism could lead to a reduction of up to 10% in annual emissions.
And the Telegraph’s pseudo-science doesn’t end with climate change. Recently, when it has come to COVID coverage, the Telegraph has again been caught out promoting falsehoods and misleading content.
These have included:
- On 28th March 2020, the Telegraph published, “This unprecedented curtailment of our freedom must end as soon as possible”. Critical of expert projections which informed the decision to lockdown, the article indicated that authors of a report at Imperial College had previously projected 250,000 deaths and were now projecting only 5,700. The reality is that these were different projections, by different authors, at different times, and based on different assumptions.
- On 26th March 2020, the paper published, “Data from the free Covid Symptom Tracker suggests that one in 10 Britons may now be carrying the virus.” But the paper was called out by FullFact, who pointed out, “This data cannot be extrapolated to the UK population. The number of people with Covid-19 may be higher, lower, or the same as claimed.”
- On 1st April 2020, the print edition of the paper claimed, “Ten times more people die of flu than COVID-19”. In fact, this was based on a single week when the COVID death rate was particularly low. The paper also wrongly classified all respiratory illnesses as “flu”.
- On 16th May 2020, the Telegraph warned “Neil Ferguson’s Imperial model could be the most devastating software mistake of all time”; citing its use of the outdated language of “Fortran”, and that it was “non-deterministic”. The LSE pointed out, however, that its modelling did not use “Fortran”, and that the modelling was indeed deterministic.
- On 25th June 2020, The Telegraph published the article “Day by day, the coronavirus edges ever closer to extinction. Time to get back to normal”. It contained various misleading comments. Rubbishing the prospect of a second spike in infections, the article announced, “The virus has all but disappeared.” In fact, the second spike not only materialised but was responsible for almost 90,000 more deaths.
- On 26th June 2020, the paper announced: “Exclusive: Half of UK’s imported COVID-19 infections from Pakistan” (headline since edited). It later emerged that not only did the headline refer to just a three-week period, but that the paper were either not willing or not able to explain how they had come up with the figure of “half” – which did not come from any publicly available records.
- On 11th July 2020, the paper and website published a since-deleted article, “When we have herd immunity Boris will face a reckoning on this pointless and damaging lockdown”. It included the erroneous claim that having been infected with the common cold could provide immunity from COVID-19.
If ever there were grounds for a standards investigation, surely false and misleading coverage of national emergencies like COVID and climate change should be sufficient?