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Complainant Name:
Mr David Fairbairn

Clauses Noted: 1

Publication: The Times


Mr David Fairbairn OBE complained to the Press Complaints Commission that an article - reporting a debate on climate change held at Wellington College - had stated that "a man in the first flower of old age told the 350 people in the chapel that there was absolutely no peer-reviewed scientific evidence whatsoever that there was a warming trend or that human activity was contributing towards it." He said that the remark was inaccurate, as he had been the only person who spoke from the floor on the issue of peer-review, and his point was that - although scientific evidence supported the existence of global warming - the extent of such climate change had been exaggerated by the computer program used to calculate the magnitude of warming. He also believed that the article had misrepresented the underlying tenor of the debate. He said that there had been no outright denial of climate change, and that the concerns raised merely disputed the extent of global warming.


The newspaper said that the article was based on the sound recollection of the writer, who - whilst sure that the remark had been made in the terms reported - was unable to identify the individual who had made the statement. It said that the disputed remark was an indirect, unattributed quote, and as such, raised no breach of the Code. The complaint was resolved when the newspaper offered to append the following note to the online article:


David Fairbairn, OBE, a former director of the National Computing Centre, has asked us to note that although he made a contribution to the Wellington College climate change debate he is not the man referred to in David Aaronovitch's opening paragraph. Mr Fairbairn's point was that there had been no peer review or scientific substantiation of the computer modelling used to generate a forecast of the degree of climate change, not of the scientific evidence itself.

Date Published: 21/04/2010

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