Advert overstates climate risks, says watchdog

Two Government adverts which used nursery rhymes to raise awareness of climate change have been banned for overstating the risks, a watchdog announced today.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that the adverts created on behalf of the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and based on the children's poems Jack and Jill and Rub-A-Dub-Dub made exaggerated claims about the threat to Britain from global warming.

The campaign went beyond mainstream scientific consensus in asserting that climate change would cause flooding and drought, the watchdog said.

It noted that predictions about the potential global impact of global warming made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) "involved uncertainties" that the adverts failed to reflect.

Two posters juxtaposed adapted extracts from the nursery rhymes with prose warnings about the dangers of global warning.

One began: "Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. There was none as extreme weather due to climate change had caused a drought." Beneath was written: "Extreme weather conditions such as flooding, heat waves and storms will become more frequent and intense."

The second advert read: "Rub-a-dub-dub, three men in a tub - a necessary course of action due to flash flooding caused by climate change." It was captioned: "Climate change is happening. Temperature and sea levels are rising. Extreme weather events such as storms, floods and heat waves will become more frequent and intense. If we carry on at this rate, life in 25 years could be very different."

Upholding the complaints, the ASA said the text accompanying the rhymes should have used more tentative language in both instances.

The newspaper adverts were part of a controversial media campaign launched by DECC last year which attracted a total of 939 complaints.

The watchdog found that the other elements of the campaign, including a television and cinema advert in which a father read his daughter a nightmarish bedtime story about a world blighted by climate change, did not breach its guidelines.

Environment Secretary Ed Miliband said: "The ASA has comprehensively vindicated the accuracy of the TV advert we made and rebuffed those who attempted to use the advertising standards process to question the reality of manmade climate change.

"On the one issue where they did not find in our favour around one word in our print advertising, the science tells us that it is more than 90% likely that there will be more extreme weather events if we don't act. In any future campaign, as requested by the ASA, we will make clear the nature of this prediction.

"We will continue to provide public information about the dangers of climate change."