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I couldn’t believe it when I heard the news. Surely its a belated April Fool’s joke, I thought?

How could a respectable newspaper like the Taranaki Daily News really publish an editorial leader passing off pseudoscientific climate sceptic spin as the official view of the International Panel on Climate Change?

I still don’t know the answer to that question. What I do know is that the Taranaki Daily News has owned up to its mistake and will be correcting the piece in tomorrow’s paper. In the paper’s official editorial today, which read like it was ghost-written by the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition – a loose collective of climate sceptics who deny much of the established science on climate change, the editorial writer has confused the IPCC with the NIPCC.

The former is the United Nations body that released its 5th Assessment Report update on Monday, featuring input from thousands of the world’s top scientists. It painted a grim picture of the future if greenhouse gas emissions aren’t mitigated. The NIPCC (non-governmental Panel on Climate Change) is a sceptic lobby group set up to present an alternative view of climate science and named purposely to cause confusion. It claims humans have an “indiscernible” impact on climate and everything will be just fine as emissions continue to rise.

One is credible, evidence-based and informs the efforts of governments around the world – the IPCC. The other has no credibility at all – the NIPCC.

Read the piece below (click to enlarge) in full which at the time of writing was still online and uncorrected here. But check out the following paragraph, which comes from a NIPCC paper but which was quoted as coming directly from the IPCC’s latest Working Group II report.

“No unambiguous evidence exists of dangerous interference in the global climate caused by human-related CO2 emissions. In particular, the cryosphere is not melting at an enhanced rate; sea-level rise is not accelerating; and no systematic changes have been documented in evaporation or rainfall or in the magnitude or intensity of extreme meteorological events. Any human global climate signal is so small as to be nearly indiscernible against the background variability of the natural climate system. Climate change is always occurring.”

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In an email from the Taranaki Daily News, editor Roy Pilott told me that the error had “slipped under my radar” and would be corrected tomorrow. Really, what about the rest of it? I think it warrants a new editorial, such was the extent to which the paper’s editorial perverted the scientific view.

As for the thrust of the editorial – the Taranaki Daily News is free to take whatever stance it wishes on climate change. But this is the most rabidly sceptical editorial I’ve seen in a mainstream outlet in New Zealand in years. Is this a simple error of quotation or something much more insidious and anti-science…?

It is a real shame, because the Taranaki’s news coverage of the IPCC report was solid – the local impacts of the scientists’ projections were considered and an opinion piece from IPCC chairman Rajendra Pauchauri was prominently featured. Unfortunately the paper’s own editorial has undermined the work of its reporters.