On November 1, AFP joined news agencies around the world to cover the launch of an important academic document warning that our oceans were warming dramatically faster than previously thought.
The study was conducted by some of the world's most prominent climate scientists, using peer-reviewed, state-of-the-art modeling systems, and has appeared in one of the most prestigious academic journals.
There was only one problem: I was wrong.
Published in the journal Nature, the researchers' article at the University of California at San Diego and Princeton found that the ocean temperature warmed 60% more than current estimates.
They concluded, without the slightest sense of alarm, that even the most ambitious emission cuts planned under the global plan to prevent climate disaster would need to be further reduced by another 25 percent.
Soon after the publication, an independent climate scientist – who repeatedly expressed skepticism about the consensus that human behavior is causing global warming – detected an error in the mathematics of the journal Nature.
"After correction, the … results do not suggest a greater increase in ocean heat content than previously thought," Nicolas Lewis wrote in his Climate Science blog.
"Only a few hours of analysis and calculations were enough to discover seemingly serious (but certainly unnoticed) errors in the underlying calculations.
"It's very important that media outlets unveiling the findings of the document now correct the record as well. But that may be too much to be expected," he added.
With the rectified calculation, the authors quickly realized that they had made a mistake.
The new results have had a much wider range of possibilities in ocean temperature increases – between 10 and 70%: even hotter, but making the study vague even for the sometimes unknowable science of climate modeling.
"We quickly realized that our calculations incorrectly handled systematic errors in O2 measurements as if they were random errors in error propagation," wrote author Ralph Keeling at climatehome.org.
"We really stifled the margins of error," he told the San Diego Tribune.
– & # 39; Humbug of the weather & # 39; –
The correction has led some climate deniers to unveil the conspiracy theory that man-made global warming is done.
Some Twitter users have suggested that the study was funded by Democrats, that man-induced planetary warming was invented by former presidential candidate Al Gore to buy a home, and that decades of evidence-based research on the phenomenon constituted "pseudoscience."
But scientists came together around the authors, pointing out that the process around the publication and correction of the Nature article was really how scientific research should work.
"Science is a human endeavor and therefore imperfect. What is important is that the results are examined and replicated by others so that we can assess what is robust and what is not," Gavin A. Schmidt, director of the Goddard Institute of Space Sciences. at NASA, told AFP.
"The current climate change has been analyzed by thousands of scientists (and other interested people) and our understanding is quite solid," he said.
Since then, the AFP has corrected its coverage of the study, so its current findings are in the record of future stories about ocean warming.
Peter Frumhoff, chief climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the correction of the oceanic study was "a beautiful thing."
"The rapid and transparent recognition and correction of inadvertent errors in scientific articles … is at the heart of what separates science from dogma," he told AFP.
"This underscores our confidence in the robustness of scientific consensus findings, based on thousands of independent studies, on human-induced climate change."