The new “compact” NZ Herald has taken a downmarket tabloid approach to informing its readers by running an opinion piece about the recent courtroom defeat for NZ’s climate cranks by prominent climate sceptic and Auckland University geographer Chris de Freitas, without explaining de Freitas’ long history of association with the cranks he’s defending. In the article, de Freitas overstates the uncertainties associated with temperature records, even going so far as to imply that the warming trend over the last hundred years might be “indistinguishable from zero”1. He also overplays the importance of temperature series to policy-makers — a line straight out of crank litigant Barry Brill’s playbook, and self-evident nonsense.
Despite this transparent partiality, the opinion editors at the Herald credit him like this:
Chris de Freitas is an associate professor in the School of Environment at the University of Auckland.
But, as the Herald opinion team well know, de Freitas is much, much more than a mere associate professor in the School of Environment. He has a track record of activism against action on climate change that stretches back two decades. Here, for the poor misled readers of the new Herald‘s opinion pages is a handy, cut-out-and-keep guide to de Freitas’ long history of climate denial activism.
- Chris de Freitas (CdF) was a “science adviser” to the NZ Climate Science Coalition when it launched, and continues to provide advice today.
- CdF is a “consultant science adviser” to NZ CSC spin-off the International Climate Science Coalition.
- CdF holds “advisory” positions with other right wing think tanks in North America, and in 2006 worked with the Competitive Enterprise Insitute on a submission to the US Supreme Court arguing against regulations on carbon emissions.
- Both the NZ CSC and ICSC received funding from the far-right US group the Heartland Institute while CdF was their science adviser.
- CdF is listed as a “Heartland climate expert”
- CdF has addressed Heartland climate sceptic networking “conferences” in the USA and Australia.
- CdF was a co-author on the infamous McLean et al (where al is Bob Carter) paper purporting to show that ENSO drove global warming2, and was happy to misrepresent the paper’s conclusions to the media.
- CdF resigned as an editor at Climate Research after providing years of “pal review” for prominent sceptics such as Patrick Michaels.
- The Herald‘s own investigation showed that de Freitas was teaching climate denial to first year students.
- A Hot Topic investigation showed that in that course he was using material sourced from US think tanks, blog sites and even graphs prepared by fringe UK political activists.
- CdF has a long history of climate denial activism in other countries, especially Canada.
This long list is far from complete — not least because it doesn’t include all the sceptic nonsense he’s presented as opinion at the NZ Herald and National Business Review over the years3, but it should serve to give a flavour of the man that Herald readers might think was a humble and respectable geographer at the University of Auckland.
The Herald has no excuse for failing to explain de Freitas’ interests in this issue, and should print a clarification as soon as possible. Carrying a good piece by Brian Rudman may “balance” CdF’s effort in some eyes, but the paper really needs to do better. What next? An opinion piece criticising the Labour party by prime minister John Key, where he is described as “a retired banker”?
[Updated 13/9 to add CEI link, and CdF's publication record.]
- “Temperature trends detected are small, usually just a few tenths of one degree Celsius over 100 years, a rate that is exceeded by the data’s standard error. Statistically this means the trend is indistinguishable from zero.” [↩]
- It didn’t. [↩]
- A rough count suggests that since 1990 he has published around 77 opinion
pieces about climate change – with 32 in NBR and 27 in the Herald – partial publication record here. [↩]