Leyland and Carter: the rebuttal that isn’t and the hypocrisy that is

CarterFlatEarth.jpgSciblogs editor Peter Griffin recently gave climate denial activists Bryan Leyland and Bob Carter a “right of reply” to my post pointing out the errors and inconsistencies in a Dominion Post op-ed penned by the pair. Griffin took this action because of vociferous complaints from Leyland, who took offence at my discussion of his expertise (non-existent) and history of campaigning against action on climate. The result is billed as a “rebuttal”, but it isn’t, as I shall demonstrate.

The Sciblogs “rebuttal” is a mishmash of a so-called “fully referenced” version (pdf) of the op-ed that Leyland says was supplied to the Dominion Post, but he and Carter also prepared a very long-winded “response” (pdf) to the debunking of their piece by David Wratt, Andy Reisinger and Jim Renwick in the DP. The latter is a real eye-opener…

Life is too short to do another point-by-point demolition1, so I’ll select a few key issues that demonstrate that although they claim to be discussing science in a scientific manner, what they are actually doing is having the equivalent of an argument in a pub — prepared to say anything if they think it will help them “win”.

Continue reading “Leyland and Carter: the rebuttal that isn’t and the hypocrisy that is”

  1. Leyland & Carter may be retired, with nothing better to do than promote their crank viewpoints, but I have grapes and truffles to nurture through to harvest, and a book to write []

DomPost denier debacle: science has the last word

The Dominion Post, which blotted its editorial copybook last week by publishing a factually incorrect and highly misleading opinion piece by climate denialists, has today published a heavyweight reply by three of NZ’s top climate scientists — David Wratt, Andy Reisinger and Jim Renwick1. Headed “Human role in climate change is clear”, the article is clear about climate reality:

Human influence on the climate system is clear and growing, and impacts are evident on all continents. If left unchecked, climate change will increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.

We do have options to reduce risks by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to some climate change, but time is running short if we want to limit changes to manageable levels. Ignoring or misconstruing the overwhelming evidence is not a responsible risk management strategy.

It’s not clear whether the DomPost plans any further response to the rubbish they printed from Bryan Leyland and Bob Carter, but the editorial team at the newspaper would do well to reflect on the approach to the subject adopted by Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, introducing an important new series of features in that paper:

For the purposes of our coming coverage, we will assume that the scientific consensus about man-made climate change and its likely effects is overwhelming. We will leave the skeptics and deniers to waste their time challenging the science. The mainstream argument has moved on to the politics and economics.

Precisely. Rusbridger — who is retiring after 20 years as editor — wants his newspaper to do justice…

…to this huge, overshadowing, overwhelming issue of how climate change will probably, within the lifetime of our children, cause untold havoc and stress to our species.
So, in the time left to me as editor, I thought I would try to harness the Guardian’s best resources to describe what is happening and what — if we do nothing — is almost certain to occur, a future that one distinguished scientist has termed as “incompatible with any reasonable characterisation of an organised, equitable and civilised global community”.

That’s what a real newspaper does: takes on the big issues. If the Dominion Post wants to be more than a Noddy book newspaper publishing rubbish from the intellectual heirs to Big Ears, it’s high time it took a sensible approach to the climate debate, and followed Rusbridger’s lead.

Continue reading “DomPost denier debacle: science has the last word”

  1. David Wratt is an Emeritus Climate Scientist at NIWA, an Adjunct Professor in the NZ Climate Change Research Institute at Victoria University, and a Vice Chair of Working Group 1 of the IPCC. Andy Reisinger is Deputy Director (International) of the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre and served as coordinating lead author in the most recent IPCC report. James Renwick is a Professor of Physical Geography at Victoria University of Wellington and served as a Lead Author on the last two IPCC Reports. []

Stocker in Wellington: RSNZ to stream AR5 science workshop

Swiss climate scientist Thomas Stocker, joint chairman of the IPCC’s Working Group One, is in New Zealand for a few days, and the NZ Climate Change Centre and the Royal Society of NZ have taken the opportunity to put together a stakeholder workshop to allow Stocker and NZ lead authors to present the key findings of the recently published AR5 WG1 report. The workshop is being held tomorrow, Friday 11th, from 9am to 1pm at the RSNZ in Wellington, and is open to the public (spaces limited, register here). For the geographically challenged, the event will be web-cast live.

The workshop will open with an introduction by Richard Bedford, a council member of the RSNZ, and an overview of the IPCC process by WG1 vice-chair David Wratt. Stocker will present the key Working Group I report findings from about 9-10am. NZ’s coterie of lead authors — Dave Frame, Tim Naish, and Jim Renwick — will provide snapshots of the parts of the report they were involved with. From midday on, the Science Media Centre’s Peter Griffin will chair a “stakeholder panel” including Rod Oram, Federated Farmers vice-chair William Rolleston and Frances Sullivan from Local Government NZ to discuss how the report has been received and what it means for New Zealand.

Stocker is also being interviewed by Radio NZ National’s science correspondent Veronika Meduna, and that should be broadcast in her show next week.

A big week coming: meanwhile Anglicans divest

It’s shaping up to be a big week. On Friday in Stockholm (Saturday in NZ) the IPCC will release the final version (not the one that’s been leaked to and seen by all and sundry) of the Summary for Policy Makers of the Working Group One report of their Fifth Report (AR5 — official web site here). As you might expect, the usual suspects have been lining up to try and dominate the news media — to provide a carbon friendly “frame” through which to view the IPCC’s findings. Most of it has been singularly ineffective, as Graham Readfearn noted in the Guardian, but I’ll hold my fire until the final SPM is released. Watch this space…

Meanwhile, the Anglican Diocese of Wellington voted this weekend to join their colleagues in Auckland by divesting itself of any fossil fuel investments in its portfolio. The Auckland synod at the beginning of the month took the opportunity to listen to two presentations that I think it worth drawing attention to here. First, Jim Renwick from VUW (an IPCC lead author) lays out the basic science that underlies the case for action to reduce emissions:

…then economic commentator Rod Oram explains the “carbon bubble” in market valuations of fossil fuel energy stocks, and why it would make sense to avoid that risk:

Two compelling presentations, with an obvious conclusion that the members of the Anglican church were happy to accept. We should not be investing in companies whose value depends on the burning of excessive amounts of carbon.

The big warm: NZ heading for warmest-ever winter

If you think it’s been a warm winter in New Zealand, you’re right. NZ is rapidly approaching the end of a record-breaking winter — the warmest for at least 150 years1. Calculations by Auckland climate scientist Jim Salinger show that NZ’s average temperature for June/July/August is running at 9.5ºC, a remarkable 1.2 deg C above the 1971-2000 average, and comfortably ahead of 1998’s old record of 9.3ºC. Commenting on the numbers, Salinger notes the absence of cold snaps in recent months:

The door to cold spells from the Southern Oceans — apart from a brief surge in June — has been well and truly closed this winter. September-like temperatures have been occurring throughout August, giving the country its warmest winter and August ever.

The long term warming signal is clear, he says:

The clearest climate warming signal is seen in winter, where temperatures are now 1.1 deg C warmer than they were around 1870. The warming trends have been very consistent, especially since the 1950s, when frosts days have decreased dramatically across the country.

I can certainly vouch for the absence of frost. At Limestone Hills, we recorded 19 frost days in 2011 and 23 in 20122, but only 6 so far this year. Evidence of winter warmth can be seen in gardens around the country. The asparagus spear pictured above first poked its head out of our soil two weeks ago, and is now being joined by half a dozen more — at least a month earlier than normal for North Canterbury.

To unpick just why this winter’s been so warm, I asked VUW climate scientist Jim Renwick to look back at the atmospheric circulation set-up in the New Zealand region. Here’s his (lightly edited) analysis:

Continue reading “The big warm: NZ heading for warmest-ever winter”

  1. Reliable temperature records in NZ date back to the 1860s. []
  2. For the full year. Frost days are any day where the temp falls below zero, and are unusual (1 – 2 a year) after August. []