NZ cranks finally publish an NZ temperature series – but their paper’s stuffed with errors

You can’t teach old dogs new tricks, it seems — certainly not if they’re gnawing a much loved old bone at the time. The lads from the NZ Climate Science Coalition — yes, the same boys who tried to sue NIWA over the New Zealand temperature record and lost, and who then folded a trust to avoid paying court-ordered costs — have finally found a learned journal gullible enough to accept and publish their shonky reworking of NZ’s temperature record. Earlier this month Environmental Modelling and Assessment published A Reanalysis of Long-Term Surface Air Temperature Trends in New Zealand by CR de Freitas & MO Dedekind & BE Brill (DOI 10.1007/s10666-014-9429-z).

My attention was drawn to dFDB 2014 by an NZCSC press release, and yesterday Richard Treadgold, the man who kicked off the whole sad affair five years ago, posted a disingenuous and misleading article about the paper at his blog. As you might expect given the authors, the paper does not call for an upward revision in the amount of warming NZ has experienced over the last century. The abstract concludes with the following:

Current New Zealand century-long climatology based on 1981 methods produces a trend of 0.91 °C per century. Our analysis, which uses updated measurement techniques and corrects for shelter-contaminated data, produces a trend of 0.28 °C per century.

As you might also expect, given the authors and their respective track records, the paper is riddled with schoolboy howlers and outright misrepresentations. It would probably never have seen the light of day without the assistance of Chris “Pal Reviewde Freitas and his undoubted ability to steer tosh to publication.

Continue reading “NZ cranks finally publish an NZ temperature series – but their paper’s stuffed with errors”

Brill’s bills still unpaid, but Barry’s off to Vegas

The attempt by a small group of climate cranks to bring a legal case against the New Zealand temperature record will leave the taxpayer to pick up a bill likely to run into hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to Radio NZ News yesterday. Efforts by the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) to recover court-ordered costs of $90,000 from the NZ Climate Science Education Trust (CSET) are virtually certain to fail according to the official liquidator, leaving the bill to be met by taxpayers. The Trust has no assets, and the prospects of any pay out are rated “unlikely”. But despite initiating the legal case and orchestrating the trust’s attempts to avoid meeting its liabilities, Barry Brill, the retired lawyer and former National Party politician who chairs the NZ Climate “Science” Coalition, is flying off to Las Vegas to speak at the latest climate crank networking event organised by far-right US lobby group the Heartland Institute.

The latest report from the official liquidator (pdf) makes it obvious that the CSET was formed with the express intention of bringing the court action and as a cover to protect the litigants from the financial consequences of failure. It also raises serious questions about the way that the case was funded. The evidence is damning:

  • The CSET’s statement of claim against NIWA was filed with the High Court on July 5th, 2010.
  • The CSET’s deed of trust is dated July 30th – more than three weeks after the case was filed in its name.
  • The CSET was not officially registered as a trust until August 10th, 2010.
  • The CSET did nothing except bring an action against NIWA.

In addition, according to the liquidator’s report, the CSET had no assets, did not receive or disburse any monies, and did not keep any financial records. But CSET trustee Bryan Leyland told the Sunday Star Times in January:

We spent a large amount of money on the court case, there were some expensive legal technicalities.” Funding had come “from a number of sources, which are confidential”.

The statements made to the liquidator tell a different story:

The trustees were questioned about how the charitable trust funded the legal proceedings against NIWA. They advised that all legal advice and representation was provided on a pro bono basis and Mr Brill paid for the court fees personally.

Leyland’s comments to the SST are clearly not compatible with the statements made to the official liquidator. If a “large amount of money” was spent on the case, but legal representation was provided pro bono, where was the money spent and why was it not channeled through the trust and properly recorded in the CSET’s accounts? Either Leyland was misleading the Sunday Star Times, or he was misleading the official liquidator.

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NZ climate cranks’ trust folded, Brill et al try to escape justice

The New Zealand Climate Science Education Trust (NZCSET), the body established three years ago to bring a legal case against the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), has been put into liquidation without paying the costs awarded against it after its case failed — confirming my suspicion when the trust was formed that it had been created purely to protect the litigants from the consequences of a failed action. The NZCSET owes NIWA at least $89,238.90, but Steve Kilgallon at the Sunday Star Times reports that no monies have been paid:

NIWA chief executive John Morgan said it was still considering pursuing two of the trust’s key players – former wine journalist Terry Dunleavy, a Justice of the Peace and MBE, and retired lawyer Barry Brill, a former National MP – for the money, but was waiting for the liquidation process to finish.

He added: “On the surface it looks like the trust was purely for the purpose of taking action, which is not what one would consider the normal use of a charitable trust”.

Kilgallon also spoke NZCSET trustee Bryan Leyland:

Trustee Bryan Leyland, when asked about its assets, said: “To my knowledge, there is no money. We spent a large amount of money on the court case, there were some expensive legal technicalities.”

Funding had come “from a number of sources, which are confidential”.

Leyland thus confirms — perhaps inadvertently — that the NZCSET was created solely to bring the court action, and to protect its own trustees from the consequences of their actions. It was apparently able to find “a large amount of money” to pay its lawyers to run the action, but not to pay the costs awarded against it.

A quick look back at some of the dates associated with the trust and its case against NIWA is instructive:

  • The NZCSET’s Statement of Claim against NIWA was filed in the High Court on July 5th 2010.
  • The NZCSET’s Deed of Trust is dated July 30th, so the trust did not exist at the time the case began.
  • The NZCSET’s registration as a trust was not granted until August 10th, shortly before news of the case hit the press.
  • In the two and a half years since the formation of the NZCSET there is no sign that the trust attempted to meet any of its stated educational objectives.

It is quite clear from the actions of the trust, and the glib statements made by its trustees, that it was never intended to do anything other than bring a case against NIWA. It was always a legal manoeuvre — an attempt to hide the perpetrators of a piece of politically and ideologically-inspired tomfoolery behind NZ trust law.

If NIWA decides not to pursue Dunleavy, Leyland and Brill for restitution of its legal costs, then the NZ taxpayer will have to pick up the bill. Even if funds are forthcoming, they will not cover the huge waste of scientist and management time spent in handling the case. Having failed to make warming go away by litigation, they must now face up to the heat of public outrage at their scandalous misuse of public money.

Prat watch #13: still crazy, after all these years

There’s a parallel world out there — the planet inhabited by climate cranks and deniers. It’s a world where you can say whatever you like, be as wrong as you like, be shown to be wrong repeatedly, even comprehensively lose court cases, and yet you never have to say you’re sorry, or admit to your mistakes. It seems incredible to those of us who have to deal with reality, but there are people out there who will hang on your every word and take it as gospel, however outrageously wrong it may be. The latest dazzling effulgence from the pen of Richard Treadgold is a fine example of the genre. And yes, he is still banging on about NIWA and the NZ temperature record:

First, for the serially dishonest critics of our persistence on this topic, let me explain (yet again) that we have never disagreed with the occasional need for adjustments, we merely wish to know how NIWA makes them.

The serial dishonesty on display is Treadgold’s own. Here’s what he had to say when he launched this sad fiasco back in 2009:

The shocking truth is that the oldest readings have been cranked way down and later readings artificially lifted to give a false impression of warming, as documented below. There is nothing in the station histories to warrant these adjustments… [my emphasis]

I struggle to see how this statement is congruent with Treadgold’s re-imagining of history in his latest post. But he’s capable of much worse, it seems…

After all these years, after questions in the Parliament, a court case and an aborted appeal, newspaper and blog articles, radio reports and private emails, NIWA scientists have still not told us how they make the adjustments.

That’s an outright lie. NIWA published an exhaustive account of the methods they used when calculating their latest long term NZ temperature record — which turned out to be more or less identical to the old one. There are 169 pages of excruciating1 detail — as Treadgold well knows, because he links to it from his article one paragraph later! The mind boggles at the mental — er, agility — required to contradict yourself so comprehensively in the space of so few words, in a post headlined Epic fail, NIWA! Your methods are a global secret.

Continue reading “Prat watch #13: still crazy, after all these years”

  1. Sorry, Brett and the team! []

NIWA v cranks: costs are in, losers start whinging

Having successfully defended the High Court challenge to its New Zealand temperature reconstructions brought by NZ’s climate cranks and being awarded costs by the judge, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric research (NIWA) is said to be seeking costs of $118,000 from the plaintiffs. Richard Treadgold, the instigator of the whole sorry affair, has posted the figure being sought at his blog and added this interesting snippet to a lengthy (and extremely tedious and tendentious) post on the subject:

It [NIWA] actually names two individuals who, it claims, should personally pay the $118,000 – and they weren’t even parties to the court case. Terry Dunleavy is the honorary secretary of the NZ Climate Science Coalition and Barry Brill is the chairman of the Coalition, and a lawyer, who helped bring the court case.

It’s a scandal, because the parties, of course, were the NZCSET and NIWA. No individuals were involved on either side.

Treadgold conveniently ignores the obvious “scandal”: that Dunleavy formed the NZ CSET specifically to bring the case1. Until the case came to court and a Queens Counsel was retained to argue on their behalf, the legal case was being run by Barry Brill2. Dunleavy queered his pitch even further by presenting himself to the court as an “expert witness” giving impartial evidence, despite being the founder of the trust bringing the case. In his judgement, Justice Venning was scathing about Dunleavy’s soi-disant expertise:

Section 25 could only apply if Mr Dunleavy was an expert in the particular area of the science of meteorology and/or climate. He is not. He has no applicable qualifications. His interest in the area does not sufficiently qualify him as an expert. […] substantial passages of Mr Dunleavy’s evidence are inadmissible.

NIWA’s decision to pursue Dunleavy and Brill suggests that they and their advisers have little confidence in the NZ CSET’s ability or willingness to meet the costs awarded. As I have noted more than once, if a trust can be formed solely to avoid personal liability in a failed High Court case, then there is a big risk of abuse of process by plaintiffs who pursue cases they have no hope of winning, purely to make political points.

Treadgold attempts to run a “public interest” defence in his blog post, claiming that if the CSET had won, the taxpayer would have been saved billions of dollars by the removal of the need for action on climate change. As examples of self-delusion go, that takes more than a mere biscuit, it purloins an entire warehouse full of chocolate hobnobs3.

The New Zealand temperature record, whatever it may say about how warm or cold NZ has been in the past, has never underpinned NZ government decision making on climate matters. Nor would a decision in favour of the CSET have changed the laws of physics.

Treadgold — and by extension all of the cranks involved in bringing this futile legal action — are so disconnected from physical and political reality that they are obviously finding it hard to cope when cold facts intrude on their little epistemic bubble. I do hope they have pockets deep enough to face up to facts, and to live with the folly of their actions. The New Zealand taxpayer deserves nothing less.

  1. Details here: Dunleavy was the founder of the the Trust (with Bryan Leyland and Doug Edmeades) and trust deed was not filed until several weeks after the court documents, and not granted until six weeks after the case began. []
  2. The trust’s legal case was so ineptly run that the judge awarded costs on a higher scale than usual — because it had changed arguments at the last minute. []
  3. Rik Mayall takes the Treadgold role, obviously. []