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.

Climate battle at NBR: Rodney’s rubbish versus Wiggs wisdom

New Zealand’s leading business media outfit — the National Business Review — has long dallied with climate denial, providing a platform for former ACT party leader Rodney Hide (amongst others) to push climate tosh. Last week Rodney used his regular opinion column to attack the government’s emissions policies (behind paywall) — fair enough, given that they are rubbish — but his rationale was that it was a waste of time because climate change wasn’t happening:

So what about the temperature record? Where is this being reported? Where is the headline? It’s the easiest question to ask, the best news to report and the only salient fact in an ocean of green wash and government propaganda.

And what’s that news? No global warming for nearly 20 years.

So far, so predictable… and so wrong. Here’s the latest news:

GISStemp20153

The last 12 months have been the hottest in the long term record. So was the year ending in February. With an El Niño event brewing in the Pacific, 2015 is on course to set a new record for hottest calendar year. 14 of the 15 hottest years have occurred this century. And that’s just if we look at surface temperatures. If we look where most of the heat is going — into the oceans — there’s no sign of any pause at all.

Rodney’s column attracted a comment from another NBR columnist, Lance Wiggs, a man with some real business chops and a respect for scientific evidence. That in turn sparked a battle of the columnists in this week’s NBR: Rodney’s rubbish, versus Wiggs’ wisdom.

Continue reading “Climate battle at NBR: Rodney’s rubbish versus Wiggs wisdom”

National Business Review: last bastion of climate denial in NZ pushes de Freitas tosh

The National Business Review — New Zealand’s biggest-selling business weekly — provides a happy media home for climate deniers of all stripes. Columnists like former ACT Party leader Rodney Hide and right wing spin doctor Matthew Hooton1 are given free rein to rant and rave about climate issues, but occasionally editor Nevil Gibson offers its august platform to others so that they can spout fatuous piffle. Last week’s issue featured an opinion column by Chris de Freitas, in which he waxes lyrical about his recent paper on the NZ temperature record — the shonky one that claims to find warming to be only one third of what real experts calculate.

The NBR hides most of its material behind a paywall, so I can’t link directly to the text — but the less scrupulous chaps at the NZ Climate “Science” Coalition2 are happy to host a pdf lifted from the NBR site.

As you might expect, de Freitas doesn’t restrict himself to narrow concepts of truth and factual accuracy. He mentions the cranks’ court case…

The High Court ruled against the trust and ordered it to repay court costs.

… but neglects to point out that the trust has since failed to pay those costs. It has of course been put into receivership, thus allowing the trustees to escape the $90,000-worth of financial consequences of losing their crackpot case.

de Freitas also misrepresents the membership of the trust.

Continue reading “National Business Review: last bastion of climate denial in NZ pushes de Freitas tosh”

  1. Hooton’s last column on climate matters appeared two weeks ago, and managed to be a spectacular home goal. But then he’s no stranger to those. []
  2. Let’s not forget that they are quite happy to register a charitable trust to bring a court case against NIWA, and then fold it so that the trustees can escape the financial consequences of their actions, so the fact that they are happy to disrespect the NBR’s paywall should come as no surprise. []

Taxing Rodney: Hide’s carbon hypocrisy

Untroubled as he is by the responsibilities of public office, or any apparent need to appear consistent, the former leader of the far-right ACT Party, Rodney Hide, attempts to ridicule the Green Party’s new carbon tax policy in his column at the National Business Review this week. You can’t actually read the column, because it’s behind a paywall, but the ever-helpful Cameron Slater at Whale Oil comes to the rescue by copy/pasting all the best bits. Here’s Hide, 2014 style:

We desperately need the Russel-Norman. A tax to deal to a problem bigger than World War II, the Depression and the Plague all at once.

We must go Green, save the planet and get rich. What a plan! What a vision!

Years ago an old man grumbled to me. GST. Bah. He didn’t think taxing food was right. “What’s next? The air we breathe?” Nope. Our new tax is on a trace gas that we all breathe out.

But those of us with functioning memories will recall that back when Rodney was ACT leader and a minister in a National-led government — only six years ago — he was advocating that the Emissions Trading Scheme be dropped and replaced by — wait for it — a carbon tax. Here’s Rodney in 2010, talking to Guyon Espiner on TV1:

We don’t think we should be doing anything, but what we’ve said is, if you were going to do something, it would be far cheaper and far easier just to put a low tax across fossil fuels. That would achieve the same result, you could also subsidise forestry, and we’ve offered that up to the National Party as an alternative that would be easier. Why would it be easier? It would administratively much less costly, because you’d just put a tax across rather than try and operate a trading mechanism…

I think I sort of understand what’s going on in Rodney’s head. When he was trying to be an electable politician, he at least made an effort to make sense. Now that he’s just another libertarian ideologue with a soapbox he can say whatever he wants, and the green-hating rabid right so ably fed and watered at Slater’s blog will lap it up. Meanwhile, out in the real world, perhaps a carbon tax’s time has come…

NBR interviews Steve McIntyre: hard-hitting business journalism or fatuous piffle? You decide…

The National Business Review (NBR) is New Zealand’s biggest selling business weekly. This weekend it published a profile of Steve McIntyre, the ClimateAudit blogger and amateur statistician who has long had an unhealthy obsession with hockey sticks. Here’s how it introduced him on the web version of the article1:

A man who has become the arch-enemy of climate scientists for exposing serious flaws in a United Nations study on global warming believes the issue has been greatly overstated.

Vilified by global warming zealots, Canadian Steve McIntyre, who was passing through Auckland this week, told NBR ONLINE the impact of global warming is likely to be “about half” of what current scientific models are showing.

Unpacking all the errors and misrepresentations in just those two opening sentences is a major task, so I’ll restrict myself to a few bullet points:

  • McIntyre has pissed off a few paleoclimate people (Mike Mann in particular), but is no “arch-enemy” of an entire discipline.
  • He exposed no substantial flaws in any study, though he has tried hard to create that impression. The sum total of his efforts has done nothing to change our understanding of paleoclimate.
  • The United Nations doesn’t do climate studies. The UN and WMO coordinate the IPCC, which summarises all the science done in academic institutions around the world.
  • McIntyre’s main contribution to science has been to orchestrate and agonise over freedom of information requests sprayed around the climate community, especially the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, and thereby to waste a huge amount of real scientists’ time.
  • McIntyre lacks any credible expertise that would allow him to sit in judgement on the likely impact of a warming climate.

The NBR article continues:

Mr McIntyre, who is a mathematician and former mining company executive, says “the onus is on the people arguing it’s a big problem to really show in an engineering quality report why it’s a big problem”.

More to the point is that McIntyre has been up to his elbows in organised efforts to delay action on climate change for at least the last ten years, as DeSmogBlog’s record of his activities shows — but you wouldn’t guess that from the fawning interview by Rod Vaughan.

The really jaw-dropping moment, however, is when Vaughan presents McIntyre’s views on climate impacts:

Asked how much damage has been caused to the environment so far from global warming, he said:

[…]“Activists will tend to say that carbon dioxide emissions in the last 50 years have caused serious negative impacts.

“But from my point of view I would say I don’t know what they are and certainly on balance there’s been no serious impact.

There’s none so blind as those who won’t look at the Arctic, glacier retreat, increasing extreme weather events, or any of the many other signs of a rapidly changing climate system. McIntyre has made no contribution to the study of climate change, but he has made a huge contribution to the campaign to do nothing about it. His wilful ignorance, and his willingness to present it as wisdom, makes for unedifying reading. More’s the pity, then, that the NBR should choose to feature McIntyre’s piffle as worthy of its reader’s attention.

Climate change is already the biggest challenge the business community will have to face over the next century. Dealing with the impacts of climate change — from extreme weather events to shifting climate zones and ocean acidification — is going to be tough. Creating an economy in which business can thrive at the same as radically reducing emissions is an urgent necessity. It can’t be dismissed by the arm-waving of mining consultants with a political axe to grind.

It could be argued that the business community gets the journalism it deserves. On the basis of this dreadful and fatuous interview, it would appear New Zealand’s business community is in deep, deep trouble.

  1. A longer version is in the print edition. []