Bum notes from the Brill building (and a question for the minister)

The new chairman of the NZ Climate “Science” Coalition, Barry Brill OBE, is certainly not shy about parading his point of view to the world at large. Brill, a lawyer and former junior minister in the 1975-81 “Think Big” Muldoon government, has attempted to argue with John Key’s science advisor, Sir Peter Gluckman, and last weekend followed in the oversize footsteps of Bob Carter by popping up at denier-friendly Aussie “journal of ideas” Quadrant Online with a lengthy rant on the “Crisis in New Zealand climatology”. Crisis? What crisis? It appears he means the ACT Party beat-up of the shonky analysis by Richard Treadgold and un-named “researchers” at the Climate “Science” Coalition. Brill seems blissfully unaware of the real controversy surrounding this affair, but his article — and its appearance at places such as Watts Up With That— gives me another chance to demonstrate that this whole affair is nothing more than a politically-inspired attempt to undermine action on climate change.


Underpinning this manufactured controversy is one big lie: that the New Zealand temperature record has been important in determining government policy on climate change, and has somehow been influential on a global scale. Here’s Brill:

For nearly 15 years, the 20th-century warming trend of 0.92°C derived from the NSS [NIWA’s “seven station series”] has been at the centre of NIWA official advice to all tiers of New Zealand Government – Central, Regional and Local. It informs the NIWA climate model. It is used in sworn expert testimony in Environment Court hearings. Its dramatic graph graces the front page of NIWA’s printed brochures and its website.

Internationally, the NSS 0.92°C trend is a foundation stone for the Australia-New Zealand Chapter in the IPCC’s Third and Fourth Assessment Reports. In 1994, it was submitted to HadleyCRUT, so as to influence the vast expanses of the South Pacific in the calculation of globally-averaged temperatures.

At the centre of advice to government? A foundation stone for the IPCC? Brill is channelling Treadgold, but doing us the favour of being explicit. He wants us to think that the NZ temperature record is really, really important. The bad news for Brill? It isn’t, and never has been. The New Zealand record is interesting, certainly, but has only ever been a tiny part of the global evidence that has persuaded governments around the world to enact policies designed to address climate change. The truth is that even if the NZ record showed cooling (which it doesn’t), the case for taking action wouldn’t change one iota. However, Brill wants us to believe that warming in New Zealand isn’t real:

First, we know what New Zealand’s average temperature was in 1867. The predecessor of the Royal Society of New Zealand (The New Zealand Institute) made a formal minute in 1868 of:

“Tables, which form the most reliable data for judging of the Climate of New Zealand, are extracted from the Reports of the Inspector of Meteorological Stations, for 1867”.

The mean annual temperature was 55.6F – the equivalent of 13.1C. Now consider this extract from NIWA’s “Climate Summary for 2005”: The national average temperature of 13.1°C made 2005 the fourth warmest year nationally since reliable records commenced in the 1860s.

No change whatever in 138 years! In fact, if 2005 was warmer than most 21st century years, New Zealand has obviously experienced some cooling during the past century or so.

Oh really? Brill is here lifting “work” from none other than Bryan Leyland, which I dealt with in this post in January last year. But for the purposes of further showing Brill to be wrong, take a look at the cover of this book:


This is the cover of a 2005 book from Canterbury University Press. The top sketch was painted by Julius von Haast in 1864, and shows the Cameron Glacier in the Arrowsmith Range in Canterbury. The photograph underneath shows the same scene in 2004. The glacier has retreated more than two kilometres. A lot of ice has vanished. I wonder how that happened? Fairies, perhaps? Or oofle dust? Here’s a photograph of the Cameron taken a few months ago. Still retreating, it would seem. As Jim Salinger noted in his PhD thesis, when commenting on a paper by Jim Hessell which purported to show little warming in NZ since 1930:

However, almost universal occurrence and synchroneity of the warming at 66 out of 70 sites associated with years of profound glacial retreat cannot be explained simply by instrumental or observer error.

We can be confident that New Zealand has warmed not just because the temperature record shows that to be the case, but because the country has lost a huge amount of ice over the same period. The ice melt is confirmation that the process Jim followed when adjusting station records for moves and changes was yielding results that pointed in the right direction.

Brill moves on to thank his supporters:

Piecing together the provenance of the New Zealand historical temperature record has been no easy task. Much of the detail is set out in the Climate Conversation blog. It has involved a myriad of investigative methods but the most productive has been the placement of nearly 50 Parliamentary Questions for Written Answer, for which credit must go to John Boscawen MP. The New Zealand mainstream media, all highly partisan on climate change matters, have evinced little interest in the scandal to date.

Fifty questions to Parliament, about a shonky analysis being given a politically-inspired beat-up? That sounds like an outrageous waste of tax payer funds to me. I wonder which MP will have the nous to ask Wayne Mapp, the minister responsible for NIWA, how much time and money the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research has had to expend on answering those 50 questions. Because that’s the legacy of Treadgold, Brill and the ineducable Boscawen — a spectacular waste of time and money.

There’s the real scandal. NIWA and its scientists have been subjected to baseless attacks and smears, and the organisation’s limited resources have been diverted to feed nothing more than the monstrous egos of New Zealand’s climate cranks, who are happily slinging mud as part of an extreme right wing political campaign to persuade the government to drop the ETS. Brill’s fact-challenged rant only demonstrates that he’s the latest in a long line of people prepared to spout nonsense in pursuit of inaction.

[The Animals, doing an appropriate Brill Building song (Mann/Weil)]

20 thoughts on “Bum notes from the Brill building (and a question for the minister)”

  1. Well said. Hyde, in his supplementary question, insulted and impugned Dr Salinger's reputation and work. A cheap shot which was objected to at the time, but fired off never-the-less.
    Apart from the utter waste of time and money as you noted, ACT in general and Hyde in particular today were just…embarrasing.

    1. The transcript of Hide's performance at today's Question Time is here. This was Hide's supplementary:

      Hon Rodney Hide: Does he have concerns about NIWA when Dr Jim Salinger, who manufactured The NIWA ‘Seven-Station’ Temperature Series for New Zealand without any supporting documentation, was sacked from NIWA for inappropriate behaviour and now figures prominently in the email loop of the discredited and demonstrably dishonest climate scientists exposed in “climate-gate”; if not, why not?

      Astonishing how low he's prepared to stoop, safe in the knowledge that parliamentary privilege means he can't be sued. Embarrassing is far too mild a word for that sort of calculated character assassination. He should be made to withdraw and apologise.

  2. Spot the trackback from Treadgold? Like a loyal puppy, he does his master's bidding. Here's a flavour of his nonsense:

    But I would ask him to show that the ice ever existed. That is to say, if precipitation on the glacier catchment area was reduced, then less ice formed, slowing the glacier down and allowing the terminus to recede, but that means the ice wasn’t “lost”, because it was never there in the first place.

    Well, Richard, Julius von Haast shows us the ice existed in the 1860s. You can walk up to the Cameron Glacier and view the fresh moraines left by the retreating ice… You can repeat the exercise at many places in the Southern Alps. You could talk to the glaciologists. But that might be inconvenient…

    Richard is also quite correct to point out that glaciers can lose mass without warming, if snowfall in the neve is reduced to the point that mass loss at lower levels exceeds mass gained high up. But that would require evidence of a significant reduction in Alpine rainfall over the last 140 years — a reduction of major proportions, a positive drought up at the main divide. Not much sign of that in the records. But perhaps NIWA and Jim S have been adjusting the rain gauges too. 😉

  3. Which of the comments re Jim Salinger were incorrect:
    1. That NIWA retained no documentation for the seven-station series?
    2. That he was sacked for inappropriate behaviour? or
    3. That he figures in the Climategate emails?

    Your post sees to suggest that Jim could sue on one or more of these statements if the comments hadn't been made in Parliament. Is that really what you believe?

    1. Hide clearly implied that Salinger's sacking was somehow related to the alleged "manipulation", which is bollocks. Salinger was sacked for talking to TVNZ, which is hardly crime of the century. The part about "discredited and demonstrably dishonest climate scientists" is also bullshit. I notice you didn't repeat that bit of slander.

    2. "Retaining documentation"? That's a red herring. What Jim S did is described in his PhD thesis. The idea that NIWA should somehow have kept Salinger's notebooks or whatever he used when doing the calculations, 15 years before the organisation even came into being is a ridiculous construct dreamed up by Treadgold and pushed by Boscawen & Hide.

      David Cunliffe and Gerry Brownlee both objected to Hide's remarks on the grounds they were an unwarranted attack on a member of the public, and the speaker ruled Hide out of order. You can read the transcript, linked in my earlier comment.

  4. I forgot to mention that your whole thread carries the implication that it doesn't matter if the NZ historical record is all wrong, because nobody takes any notice of it anyway. "The truth is that even if the NZ record showed cooling …the case for taking action wouldn’t change one iota."

    This seems to suggest that we don't need a NIWA doing climate research in NZ, and could just go directly to the IPCC for global figures. Why then is NIWA drawing on the taxpayer to produce and advertise these temp series?

    1. Back with your drivel again? This ground has already been well-covered. Stop parrotting this garbage, sock puppet.

      Incidentally, the notion that the Alps and Westland have got drier is palpably false.

    2. It "suggests" nothing of the sort. NIWA does hugely valuable work (see the recent guidance to local authorities on flood risk, for instance). The NZ long term temp series is only a tiny part of what it does — and far from being the poster child for global warming that Hide/Boscawen/Brill/Treadgold want you to believe.

  5. Interesting: it appears from John Boscawen's Facebook page that he's in Chicago for the Heartland climate crank conference. Apart from noting that he's in good company. I am bound to wonder how his trip was funded. Did he accept funding from Heartland? Did the ACT coffers stump up, or is the NZ taxpayer footing the bill? I hope it's not the latter…

  6. Treadgold demonstrates his inability to read:

    NIWA’s figures for 2005, that show the national average temperature was 13.1°C, the same as during the 1860s. That’s a fact. Will Gareth tell us why he scoffed at that fact?

    If that diligent seeker for the truth, R Treadgold esq, had followed the relevant link in my post, he would find that the comparison is bogus. Leyland/Brill/Treadgold are comparing apples and oranges, and ending up with a fruit salad they seem to find tasty. To the rest of us, it looks like simple incompetence. Or politically motivated misdirection. He's certainly skilled at that.

    And for the record, I am most certainly not implying that the seven station record is somehow indefensible. In fact I expect that when NIWA's team have finished reconstructing the series from first principles, the differences between it and Jim Salinger's original version will be inconsequential.

  7. From our Bazza – as you say in the footsteps of teh grating Bob Carter.

    (submission to Feb 2009 Select Commitee)
    "Despite the predictions of the computer models, there has been no warming this century. After cooling from 1940 to 1975, the global warming trend peaked during the 1998 El Nino."

    (submission to ETS Select Commitee October 2009)
    "The cooling of the last 11 years is incompatible with model projections."

    Actually, now I think of it, admitting that 1998 was high due to El Nino is not Bob Carter's style at all. Come on Baz, get with Bob's program.

    Bazza has plenty of other howlers for giggles. Read 'em and weep. Both have fullsome CVs attached. Read em' and giggle.

    October 2009 Feb 2009

    1. Excellent, John. Very glad to hear it. But I am concerned for your numeracy, because that's a fourth option. I do hope you have a better handle on the costs the ETS will impose.

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