The Environment Court is currently hearing the appeal against consents granted for Meridian Energy‘s Project Hayes windfarm in Central Otago — and has been forced to sit through some evidential nonsense from climate cranks. Auckland property developer Roch Sullivan joined the appeal last year, and announced that he intended to bring some leading climate cranks to give evidence. Last Friday it was Chris de Freitas’ turn and he did our plucky little NZ cranks collective proud, as the Otago Daily Times reports under the headline “Professor denies greenhouse effect“:
Prof de Freitas, of the University of Auckland, said there was no evidence to suggest carbon dioxide was the major driver of climate change. “Climate is not responding to greenhouse gases in the way we thought it might. If increasing carbon dioxide is in fact increasing climate change, its impact is smaller than natural variation. People are being misled by people making money out of this,” Prof de Freitas said.
He said mild warming of the climate was beneficial, especially in a country such as New Zealand, which had a prominent agricultural industry.
“One could argue that carbon dioxide is quite beneficial. There may be benefits of wind farming that I may not be aware of, but there is no data to show benefits in terms of mitigating potential dangerous changes in climate by offsetting carbon dioxide,” he said.
No evidence to suggest carbon dioxide was the major driver of climate change? I think the good professor is somewhat understating the case — at the very least, being economical with the truth. How a respected academic can ignore 150 years worth of physics and four successive IPPC reports is a matter that might be of interest to psychologists (perhaps even his head of department), but it gets better.
Prof de Freitas admitted there was debate about climate change, when questioned during cross-examination by Central Otago District Council lawyer Graeme Todd. “The debate centres on causes. There is a possibility climate change could be impacted by human beings, but it is not a significant impact,” he said.
In response to a question by commissioner Alex Sutherland, Prof de Freitas said the jury was out on climate change, and preemptive action could be dangerous. “There’s no basis for alarm. We might be shooting ourselves in the foot if we act on what turns out to be a bubble-less pot,” he said.
The jury is still out, not on the reality of climate change, but on whether so misrepresenting the evidence amounts to a contempt of court. The duties of an expert witness before the Environment Court include:
5.2 Duty to the Court
5.2.1 An expert witness has an overriding duty to assist the Court impartially on relevant matters within the expert’s area of expertise.
5.2.2 An expert witness is not an advocate for the party who engages the witness.
Since de Freitas’ areas of expertise include tourism, climate in caves, and suitable clothing for Canadian winters, it appears he is somewhat overstating his expertise in daring to advise the court in those terms. I do hope the judge is lenient, for his sake. Or perhaps de Freitas simply wishes to be acknowledged as an inexpert witnessâ€¦