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A study published earlier this year stated that a number of animal and plant species might eventually go extinct as a result of climate change over the next 50 years. Media coverage of the research was extensive — but largely inaccurate, erroneously claiming that one million species would go extinct by 2050.

In this letter to Nature, Richard Ladle and colleagues from the University of Oxford argue that this misrepresentation of scientific research could potentially damage the work of conservationists.

The inaccurate reporting can be traced back to press releases and agency newswires, which ranged from the cautious to the sensational, they say. The scientific community must ensure that the media cover research findings with clarity and accuracy, as oversimplifications may play into the hands of anti-environmentalists.

Link to letter in Nature

Reference: Nature 428, 799 (2004)

Link to supplemental results of survey of news coverage of the study