Christchurch coastal cock up: sea level “expert” de Lange clueless in NBR

IssacCordalBerlinWillem de Lange, the Waikato University coastal processes lecturer and one of the panellists nominated to review sea level rise advice relied on by Christchurch City Council, helpfully demonstrated the true extent of his climate expertise in the National Business Review last week [WebCite]. In an article titled Evidence doesn’t support rapid future sea level rise, written with Bryan Leyland, de Lange demonstrates just how slapdash his approach to the subject really is.

The piece is riddled with errors and misrepresentations. Here’s a selection:

  • The “recent” paper on sea level rise de Lange and Leyland (dLL) reference in their first paragraph is from 2010! The latest Royal Society of NZ climate info was published last month, and is presumably what dLL meant to refer to.
  • The rise in sea level around NZ over the last 100 years is 17cm, not 14cm, according to the RSNZ (page 28 here).
  • dLL claim that climate models are “flawed”, and have failed to predict current temperatures. In fact current global temperatures are more or less bang in the middle of model projections.
  • In discussing tidal gauge measures of sea level rise they refer to a denialist web site, not the primary sources.
  • They reference a textbook on sea level rise, but neglect to point out that it was published 15 years ago.
  • dLL state that the current rate of sea level rise measured by satellite is 3.2 mm per year, with “indications of recent decline in the rate”. In fact it is 3.4mm per year, and shows no signs of any recent slowdown. If anything, there are hints of an acceleration in the underlying rate.
  • dLL claim that satellite measures are “about twice the tide gauge rate”. They’re not. They’re in good agreement. From Trends and acceleration in global and regional sea levels since 1807, Jevrejeva et al, Global and Planetary Change, 2013 (pdf)
    There is an excellent agreement between the linear trends from GSL12 [latest tide gauge data] and satellite altimetry sea level since 1993, with rates of 3.1 ± 0.6 mm/yr and of 3.2 ± 0.4 mm/yr respectively.
  • The latest RSNZ projections are not “much more than anybody else” – they’re based on the IPCC’s AR5 and draw on the current literature. Larger projected future rises are widely used in planning overseas.
  • dLL state: All the observational evidence indicates that the sea level is likely to rise 0.1 to 0.2 m by 2100.” This appears to be nothing more than wishful thinking. The current SLR rate gives 30cm plus by end of the century as a minimum.
  • There’s strong evidence of increased and increasing ice sheet mass loss in Greenland and Antarctica, which will add significantly to the amount of sea level rise by the end of the century. If we’re lucky, that might only be a metre. If we’re unlucky, it might be a great deal more.

If this were de Lange and Leyland’s only contribution to the debate on how communities should cope with sea level rise, it might be possible to shrug it off as a slapdash attempt at propaganda from a couple of people with a long history of climate denial. But de Lange is getting involved with the Christchurch community’s efforts to deal with this most challenging of issues.

Do Christchurch ratepayers really want to pay for advice from an “expert” who can’t get his facts right, and who is apparently happy to put his name to rubbish? The council should immediately ask for his withdrawal from the panel.

Future sea level rise is a certainty. Dealing with it is going to be challenging for any coastal community. We need a national framework that covers realistic assessments of local risk, and provides a process that allows communities to adapt as equitably as possible as their coastline changes. Trying to ignore or downplay the problem is only going to increase the costs faced by ratepayers and taxpayers in future years. If we allow the process to be contaminated by the input of propagandists we simply set ourselves up for greater losses.

Christchurch’s coastal cock up: review panel padded with climate deniers

IssacCordalBerlinThe long running saga of the Christchurch city council’s attempt to introduce new planning guidelines for suburbs threatened by flooding and sea level rise has reached a new level of absurdity. A five person panel appointed to conduct a second peer review of a key report on coastal hazards includes two high-profile climate deniers with strong links to extreme right wing climate propaganda groups. From Friday’s Press:

The list of experts approved by the council included New South Wales University coastal engineer Dr Ron Cox, Canterbury University coastal studies senior lecturer Dr Deirdre Hart, Waikato University earth sciences senior lecturer Dr Willem de Lange, retired Environment Court judge Shonagh Kenderdine and statistician Dr Keston (sic) Green, of South Australia University business school.

Cox, Hart and Kenderdine are all highly respected experts in the field. However, Kesten Green and Willem de Lange both have long histories of working with and for groups seeking to delay action on climate change. It appears they have been added to the panel as a sop to deniers amongst the coastal residents campaigning against the council’s proposals. Continue reading “Christchurch’s coastal cock up: review panel padded with climate deniers”

Postcards from La La Land: the Cnut conundrum

New Zealand’s merry little band of climate deniers are turning out to be a right bunch of Cnuts. Sea level rise and its implications for Christchurch and the wider world have been making news in recent weeks — as have new projections of rapid sea level rise over the remainder of this century. So what does a good climate denier do? To stay faithful to their core belief — that climate change isn’t happening, or isn’t going to be bad — they have to argue against policies designed to deal with its impacts, as well as those intended to cut carbon emissions. Sea level rise? Like Cnut, they line themselves up against the waves.

I’ve blogged many times on the challenge sea level rise poses for post-quake Christchurch. The 2011 quakes caused large parts of the city to drop by up to half a metre — effectively delivering decades of sea level rise in a matter of minutes. For some areas of the city tidal and run-off flooding are now commonplace.

The current debate on sea level issues has been prompted by the city council’s long term planning process — which recommends1 that development should be restricted in areas where future sea level rise is expected to cause problems. Not surprisingly, this has some owners of coastal properties concerned that they will lose out. The council has also looked at the idea of building a tidal barrier across the Avon-Heathcote estuary to protect the city.

Local politics and property owner self-interest is bumping into the harsh realities of climate change, leading to a wide variety of responses — including “it isn’t happening”.

Continue reading “Postcards from La La Land: the Cnut conundrum”

  1. Based on a revised report (pdf) developed from consultants Tonkin & Taylor’s 2014 work. []

The dishonesty of de Lange and Carter: zombie lies under Greenland ice

According to Waikato University’s Willem de Lange and freelance climate denier Bob Carter, the whole Arctic is cooling strongly. When Bill and Bob plagiarised their own work for the Heartland-funded and published Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) second report, they were not just copying their own words, but also plagiarising earlier efforts by the NIPCC and Craig Idso’s Centre for the Study of CO2 and Global Change. In fact, a 2007 misrepresentation by Idso of a 2004 paper about temperatures up to the 1990s in a single Greenland fjord has been handed down through seven years, successive “authors” and NIPCC reports until it has become an unbelievable lie that de Lange and Carter are happy to repeat for a new audience.

When I was doing the research for my article on de Lange and Carter’s sea level rise report for Nigel Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Foundation, I was forced to dig around inside the chapter they had written for most recent NIPCC report — the second of its ilk (NIPCC2, Chapter 6). What jumped out at me was this paragraph, from the conclusions to section on page 792:

Regarding the Northern Hemisphere, the Arctic regions have been cooling for the past half-century, and at a very significant rate, making it unlikely Greenland’s frozen water will be released to the world’s oceans anytime soon. This temperature trend is just the opposite — and strikingly so — of that claimed for the Northern Hemisphere and the world by the IPCC. Accompanying the cooling, the annual number of snowfall days over parts of Greenland has also increased strongly, so an enhanced accumulation of snow there may be compensating for the extra runoff coming from mountain glaciers that have been receding.

That’s right. Carter and de Lange are happy to put their names to a statement that the Arctic has been cooling for the last 50 years. Everybody else thinks that the Arctic has been warming strongly for the last 30 years, as this graph of Arctic surface air temperatures shows:


Source: NOAA’s annual Arctic Report Card, 2013 update.

So how on earth do they justify a claim that the Arctic has been cooling “at a very significant rate”? The answer’s simple. They don’t. There is no supporting reference given for that statement. It is offered as a conclusion without a hint of a reason supplied in the text above it, or in the references below it. But Bill and Bob didn’t just make it up, they stayed true to form and copied it word for word from somewhere else.

Continue reading “The dishonesty of de Lange and Carter: zombie lies under Greenland ice”

Carter and de Lange’s GWPF sea level report plagiarises their own Heartland-funded NIPCC propaganda

Analysis of a report on sea level rise — Sea-level Change: Living with uncertainty — published earlier this month by Nigel Lawson’s UK climate lobby group the Global Warming Policy Foundation, and written by NZ scientists Willem de Lange and Bob Carter, shows that it extensively plagiarises last year’s heavily criticised Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) report, funded and published by US lobby group the Heartland Institute. The GWPF report’s conclusions are taken word-for-word from chapter six of the NIPCC report — Observations: The Hydrosphere and Ocean [pdf] — also written by de Lange and Carter. Nowhere in the report do the report’s authors or the GWPF acknowledge the extent to which they rely on the earlier publication. Carter and de Lange fail to credit themselves, Heartland, or the NIPCC beyond a single reference to their chapter in the list of sources appended to the GWPF report.

Here is the first policy recommendation from the GWPF report:

1. Abandonment of ‘let’s stop global sea-level rise’ policies

No justification exists for continuing to base sea-level policy and coastal management regulation upon the outcomes of deterministic or semi-empirical sea-level modelling. Such modelling remains speculative rather than predictive. The practice of using a global rate of sea-level change to manage specific coastal locations worldwide is irrational, and should be abandoned.

This bears a striking resemblance to the first of the “conclusions” offered on p796 of chapter six of the NIPCC report:

Abandon “let’s stop global sea-level rise” policies

No justification exists for continuing to base sea-level policy and coastal management regulation on the outcomes of deterministic or semi-empirical sea-level modeling. Such modeling remains highly speculative. Even if the rate of eustatic sea-level change was known accurately, the practice of using a notional global rate of sea-level change to manage specific coastal locations worldwide is irrational, and it should be abandoned.

The eagle-eyed will notice that words in italics are edited from the GWPF version, but in every other respect the two sections are identical. The final two GWPF conclusions are also drawn verbatim from the NIPCC chapter, as are many other parts of the GWPF report.

Where it draws verbatim on the NIPCC work, the GWPF report is both unoriginal and wrong, and where it can be bothered to be original it is also wrong. In either case it is work of shoddy scholarship that reflects badly on its authors, the institutions with which they are associated, and the GWPF.

Continue reading “Carter and de Lange’s GWPF sea level report plagiarises their own Heartland-funded NIPCC propaganda”