Unreliable witness

NZETS.jpgDuring my appearance before the ETS Review committee earlier this month I was asked by committee chairperson Peter Dunne to comment on the evidence presented by the submitters who appeared immediately before me — McCabe Environmental Services, being one Bruce McCabe and Kathleen Ryan-McCabe. ACT member John Boscawen was clearly wondering how two sets of evidence could present such diametrically opposed interpretations of the basic facts.

The committee secretariat were kind enough to provide me with a recording of the McCabe’s oral evidence, as well as their written submission. My comments on the MEC submission were delivered to the committee on April 22nd, and are now available on the parliamentary web site here (direct link to PDF). The McCabe’s evidence is here. Not to put too fine a point on it, the MEC evidence is wrong in just about every material respect, choosing as they did to rely on Fred Singer’s Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change booklet as their primary source. You’ll find chapter and verse in my evidence, but I also took the opportunity to provide the committee with a quick list of arguments that signal the presence of cranks arguing for inaction:

  • Cooling since 1998, 2001, 2005, etc
  • There is no correlation between CO2 and temperature…
  • Climate models cannot forecast the future/are unvalidated…
  • Future warming from CO2 will be tiny/the greenhouse effect doesn’t work the way the IPCC thinks it does.
  • The hockey stick is broken.
  • The sun/sunspots/cosmic rays are the real cause.
  • “There is no consensus” or “The science is not settled”.
  • Any mention of Al Gore.

I leave it as an exercise for the reader to see how Bob Carter’s evidence (given today) stacks up against that list…

[PS: At the recent European Geophysical Union meeting Fred Singer’ announced his NIPCC is not yet dead. Apparently there’s an 800 page report due this year. Must be costing Heartland a fortune…]

350 ways to leave a mark

mckibben.jpg The Wanaka gig went well: a full house in the rather lovely “Crystal Palace” (a tent that thinks it’s a cross between a Victorian pub, a circus big top and a night club), to hear Bill McKibben and yours truly discuss the likely impacts of climate change on NZ and the world. Bill’s afternoon session was excellent, as he described the genesis and growth of 350.org, and the important role it has to play in the run up to the Copenhagen K2 climate meeting — giving the world’s politicians the popular backing to go for steep emissions cuts. This interview with Bill at Yale’s Environment 360 (10 ppm too many…) gives a good flavour of what he covered, but I would urge NZ readers to go and hear him for yourselves. There’s a full list of his talks here at the 350.org.nz site (Christchurch Friday May 1 at 9am, then Wellington in the evening, Raglan and Hamilton over the weekend, and finally Auckland on Monday – full details at the preceding link). It’s a pity we couldn’t get him in front of the ETS Review committee. Now, how do I come with a creative way to underline the 350 message come October 24th…? All suggestions gratefully received, or sign up and organise something yourself.

Hope piling up?

ObamaHope.jpgI realise that I have had several posts on signs of hope from the Obama administration, the last only four days ago, but I can’t forbear offering another one. I have just read the President’s address given to the National Academy of Sciences on Monday, and it confirms the enormous changes, indeed reversals, which seem to be under way in the US so far as climate change is concerned.

Continue reading “Hope piling up?”

Maybe, maybe not

WindturbineAlthough I emphasised the uncertainties of wind farms in the Waikato in my post a few weeks ago, it was dispiriting to read in the Waikato Times tonight that the massive wind farm Hauauru ma raki, proposed for the coastline south of Port Waikato, might never be built. The six-week Board of Enquiry hearing began this week. Contact Energy’s counsel explained that while the economics of the project looked unfavourable currently, Contact was seeking a ten-year lapse period for the project after consent was granted so that they have certainty that it can be built if and when it is needed. He emphasised that it was critically important to have consents that could be exercised when market conditions were favourable – meaning not just pricing but also such matters as security of electricity supply for the greater Auckland area if there are delays in upgrading the transmission grid.

It looks as if Contact is reluctant to spend as much effort on detailed engineering design for a farm which may not be built as the Board may require for a farm to which it is to give consent. The chairman said “There is huge tension between the flexibility you desire and the effects we need to consider.”

Hardly an auspicious beginning. We’ll keep watch on how things develop.

[GR adds: In related news, Mainpower has announced that it is to appeal the Mt Cass decision to the Emvironment Court. More, later.]

Sound of silence

jim_salinger.jpg The National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) has fired climate scientist Jim Salinger for “unauthorised dealings” with the media. Salinger has been one of New Zealand’s leading climate scientists since the 1970s, and his sacking has shocked many in the scientific community. The Dominion Post reports:

The Crown agency’s long-serving principal scientist was dismissed earlier this week, reportedly for trying to help TVNZ’s weatherman Jim Hickey with some “climate-related inquiries” and for doing an interview with Radio New Zealand’s Checkpoint programme without permission.

He said he received a letter in March from management summoning him to a disciplinary meeting for an interview he did with TVNZ in February commenting on Auckland’s hottest day. The interview had not been approved and was labelled “serious misconduct”. He was also reprimanded for talking to TVNZ about glaciers for which he thought he had permission.

I covered the offending glacier story here: it was an excellent piece of journalism, reflecting well on both TV NZ and the NIWA staff working on the survey. Salinger was also one of the five NZ scientists who complained last year about being on Heartland’s list of people whose work didn’t support global warming: a move which gained Jim a lot of support in the NZ media — hardly surprising when for years he’s been one of the main “go to” men for a quotable opinion on climate and weather issues.

NIWA have not commented on the dismissal, and they are unlikely to in the short term given that an employment court case is in the offing. Whatever the ins and outs of employment law, the Crown-owned research institute is going to have to work hard to avoid the suspicion that — in an echo of attempts by the Bush administration to muzzle Jim Hansen — management fired Salinger because he was refusing to be gagged.

The Green Party has already called on NIWA’s shareholding ministers, Wayne Mapp and Bill English, to ask the CRI’s board to investigate the sacking, but Mapp has refused according to the DomPost:

Dr Mapp said he would not intervene. “The matter is an employment dispute, which must be handled by the chief executive and the board,” he said.

I think Mapp has this wrong. Salinger’s dismissal raises questions of free speech and academic freedom, and if the government is to avoid suspicions of censoring inconvenient truths — at a time when cranks are being given time to spout nonsense before the ETS Review committee — then it needs to act swiftly to reaffirm that New Zealand scientists are not being muzzled. The international reputation of our science could be at stake.

See also: Stuff, Herald on Sunday, and for a critical take on the burgeoning role of bureaucrats in NZ science, an opinion piece by Doug Edmeades in Australasian Science this week (via the Science Media Centre).

[Simon & Garfunkel]