When asses go to law

In a bizarre twist to the tale of New Zealand’s climate sceptics and their strange obsession with the minutiae of the history of temperature measurement in New Zealand, it now emerges that they have lodged papers with the High Court [Stuff & NZ Herald, via NZPA], seeking to have the court rule that the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) should:

  • set aside NIWA’s decisions to rely upon its Seven Station Series (7SS) and Eleven Station Series (11SS), and to find the current NZTR [NZ temperature record] to be invalid
  • to prevent NIWA from using the current NZTR (or information originally derived from it) for the purpose of advice to any governmental authority or to the public
  • to require NIWA to produce a full and accurate NZTR [text from their press release]

The mind boggles. Just what is an “invalid temperature record”, and how on earth is a judge expected to rule on that? Given that NIWA has received funding to do a thorough re-working of the long-term temperature history of NZ, mainly as a result of the earlier kerfuffle, why are the cranks so keen to go to court now? Science is not done in law courts. Then there are questions to be asked about the organisation and funding of this legal effort, as well as questions about possible abuse of process and waste of taxpayer funds…


The genesis of this story goes back to November last year, when Richard Treadgold and the NZ Climate “Science” Coalition trumpeted the release of a “study” that showed (in Treadgold’s words):

We have discovered that the warming in New Zealand over the past 156 years was indeed man-made, but it had nothing to do with emissions of CO2 – it was created by man-made adjustments of the temperature. It’s a disgrace.

It was a shonky study, as I showed conclusively at the time, in what has proved to be the most widely-read Hot Topic post to date. NIWA’s response was to develop a new temperature series, using data from places where adjustments had either never been required or were very minor, and it demonstrated that warming was unequivocal — if anything slightly greater than in the original “seven station” series. Since then, Treadgold and the C”S”C have — with their friends in the far-right ACT Partytried to turn the affair into a scandal, with no success. This latest legal ploy is a transparent attempt to get some more mileage out of what should, by all sensible measures, be the deadest of dead horses.

The case is being brought not by the NZ Climate Science Coalition or Climate Conversation Group, but by a newly-incorporated charitable trust, the New Zealand Climate Science Education Trust. The trustees are NZ CSC stalwarts Terry Dunleavy and Bryan Leyland, together with relative newcomer Doug Edmeades. An application for charitable status was made at the end of July and it was granted on August 10th. The Deed of Trust can be read at the Ministry of Economic Development’s Societies and Trusts Online site: search for “2539286 – NEW ZEALAND CLIMATE SCIENCE EDUCATION TRUST”. The stated aims of the trust (section four of the trust deed) look innocuous enough, but include a standard “do what you like” clause: 4.2.8: Such other activities and enterprises to further the charitable purposes of the Trust as the Trustees may decide. The documents sent to the press over the weekend can be read, in lightly edited form, at Treadgold’s blog.

It’s clear that Dunleavy, Leyland and Edmeades have some questions to answer. Their “charitable trust” was registered on August 10th, and within days they had lodged their legal action with the court. Was the trust formed specifically to bring the action? I understand that using a trust to bring a legal action provides some protection for the litigants if they lose their case and find costs awarded against them. But if that is the real reason for the trust’s existence, then surely it cannot be regarded as a charitable trust? Whatever the law may say — and I am sure that Dunleavy and co will have had legal advice (C”S”C chairman Barry Brill is a retired lawyer) — it cannot be morally or ethically acceptable for them to hide behind or misuse a charitable trust in this way. It also demonstrates rather nicely that they have no confidence that their case will succeed…

There are also questions to be asked about the funding of this legal effort to discredit NIWA and its scientists. Legal advice isn’t cheap, especially when seeking to bring a case before the High Court. The NZ C”S”C has always been rather coy about its funding, maintaining that it’s just a group of interested individuals who volunteer their efforts. Nevertheless, it has strong links with the US think tanks organising and funding campaigns against action to reduce carbon emissions, and has developed close ties with the Rodney Hide’s ACT Party — one of whose most generous supporters is climate sceptic and multi-millionaire Alan Gibbs. Of course, the NZ C”S”C might just have had a sausage sizzle outside a North Shore New World, and a bit of a whip round their membership, but on Radio NZ National’s Morning Report this morning [at 8:13am] Bryan Leyland admitted that Gibbs was “one of our friends”.

The question of funding is particularly important, because any reasonably objective assessment of their statement of claim shows it to be highly unlikely to succeed. The summary attached to the NZ C”S”C press release is pretty tedious, but it’s worth taking a look at the second paragraph:

The official NZ Temperature Record (NZTR) […] the historical base for most Government policy and judicial decisions relating to climate change, wholly relies upon a “Seven-station series” (7SS), adopted in 1999.

You don’t to need to read any further, to be honest, because this is sufficient to establish the statement of claim as nonsense. As I’ve said before, the NZ temperature record is interesting, fascinating even for those of a meteorological or climatological bent, but there is no such thing as an “official” temperature record that has formed any sort of “historical base for most government policy and judicial decisions relating to climate change”. No NZ government of any flavour has ever relied on NIWA’s temperature series for anything much, certainly not used it as the basis for any policy. NZ government policy in this area depends far more on the international scientific and diplomatic context than it does on the temperature in Hokitika in 1890.

So if the case is pretty much certain to fail, why go to the expense of bringing it in the first place? It’s a waste of good money, surely? Dunleavy et al, and their mysterious backers, clearly disagree — and the reason’s obvious. This is not about science, or improving the NZ temperature record, it’s about attention seeking. Having failed to get the government to delay the introduction of the ETS at the beginning of July, the C”S”C and its “friends” are getting desperate. Like spoilt children, they’re pouting and screaming and throwing toys out of the pram.

The results of this hissy fit are predictable. My guess is that the court will refuse to consider the case — which will give the CSC another excuse for a loud public whinge. Questions in Parliament by Hide and Boscawen? A racing certainty, I reckon. But much judicial time and public money will have been wasted in the process, and the NZ temperature record will continue to show what it always has and always will do — significant warming over the last 100 years. Meanwhile the world will continue to warm

Twas the night before… the ETS

Tomorrow morning, a large chunk of New Zealand’s much debated Emissions Trading Scheme comes into effect. Forestry’s already been in it for two years, but July 1st is the day that the liquid fuels and electricity generation sectors start to have to account for their emissions, and it’s the first day that consumers might see a change in fuel and electricity prices that can be blamed on the ETS. Last week’s National Business Review had a pretty good overview of the state of play here. The scheme has also come in for some robust criticism in a new book, The Carbon Challenge, by Sustainability Council executive director Simon Terry and VUW economist Geoff Bertram (of which more in another post soon, I hope).

Federated Farmers have been out protesting in force — even though agriculture gets a free pass until 2015, and then gets 90% of its emissions “grandfathered” (effectively free). A few weeks ago Farmers Weekly editor Tim Fulton popped in for a cuppa and interviewed me about my views on climate change, agriculture and the ETS for an article that appeared a couple of weeks ago. Most of what I said won’t be news to Hot Topic readers, but I thought it worth passing on my thoughts on agriculture and the ETS to a wider audience:

Continue reading “Twas the night before… the ETS”

Garth goes off the deep end

Another week, another load of tripe from Garth George in the Herald. He emerges from his sulphurous lair stirred by stories of volcanoes in Iceland to lend his weight to calls for the suspension of the Emissions Trading Scheme. He makes so many egregious errors that he not only makes himself look foolish, but also calls into question the editorial standards of the Herald. Opinion is opinion (and Garth is entitled to his) but facts are facts, and the nation’s leading newspaper should not allow him to simply invent his own.

Let’s take a closer look…


Here’s his opening error:

…more and more evidence is available that gases such as carbon dioxide and methane have absolutely no effect on global temperatures.

What evidence would that be, one wonders, because Garth provides no clue. I haven’t heard of any major revisions in basic physics that would allow greenhouse gases not to warm the planet. I suspect Garth is just making stuff up, interviewing his typewriter (which, for all I know, may be about to win a Nobel prize for rewriting quantum physics).

I suspect that the eruption of Mt Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland shot more gases into the atmosphere in five minutes than New Zealand would in five years.

No need for suspicion. The figures are available, and even Garth could have Googled an answer to his rhetorical question. Leo Hickman at the Guardian has done the digging: Eyjafjallajökull has been emitting somewhere in the range of 150-300,000 tonnes of CO2 per day. New Zealand, on the other hand, emitted 74.7 million tonnes of CO2e in 2008 according to the latest MfE report. Garth could have argued that Eyjafjallajökull’s peak daily emissions were about the same as New Zealand’s, but they were also being more than offset by the cancellation of so many long distance flights.

The increasing scepticism over global warming throughout the world is not surprising after the shocking sub-zero weather which created chaos all over Britain, throughout Europe and in the United States in the depth of their winter.

It was the fourth warmest winter since records began.

There is increasing scepticism here, too, after one of the coldest winters in decades, which started early and finished late, afflicted much of New Zealand.

Wrong. New Zealand’s winter started early, and was quite cold, but it also ended early and August was the warmest in the record.

But the deception continues among the global warming scaremongers.

The chutzpah is breathtaking. A Biblical phrase about logs and eyes springs to mind.

Climate has been in a constant state of flux since God created the heavens and the land and the sea and placed the sun and the moon in their orbits.

When was that, Garth?

And I am persuaded absolutely that it is the sun, not the harmless, essential trace gas carbon dioxide, that drives climate change. So our emissions trading scheme will not just be a colossal waste of time and effort but an unaffordable waste of money.

Garth’s absolute certainty is ridiculously unpersuasive, based as it is on shoddy research and made-up “facts”. The Herald, if it wishes to retain any vestige of credibility in its opinion section, should apologise for foisting such ignorant and ill-informed ramblings on its readers.

Putting the F back in ACT

It’s hardly news that New Zealand’s parliamentary climate deniers — the ACT party — have difficulty understanding climate science, but an astonishing leaflet from the party being stuffed into letterboxes around the country demonstrates that they are now losing touch with reality. The leaflet calls for opponents of the Emissions Trading Scheme to “rise up” and attend a series of public meetings. It gives an alarmist account of the costs of the scheme, and then offers this amazing justification:


That’s right: “scandal after scandal” at the IPCC “has unearthed evidence of a global fraud to create mass hysteria and transfer trillions of dollars from countries like New Zealand to largely corrupt dictatorships.” I wonder why this amazing revelation isn’t making front page news all round the world. Could it be that it’s a figment of the fertile imagination of John Boscawen, whose portrait adorns the leaflet? Let’s see your evidence John. I’m sure you must have plenty, because you wouldn’t publish and distribute something that was untruthful, would you? Just to help you out a little, here’s the truth about those IPCC “scandals”.

[Hat tip to HT reader Le Chat Noir, who received the leaflet this morning and forwarded it to me.]

Sorry seems to be the hardest word

homer.jpgLate last week Richard Treadgold, author and principal promoter of the recent attempt to cast doubt on the long term temperature record for New Zealand, popped up on Hot Topic to leave one of his typically rambling and pompous comments. Regular readers may recall that following the publication of his Climate Conversation Group/Climate “Science” Coalition “paper” last year, I told Treadgold (after a similar long comment) that he was no longer welcomeat Hot Topic:

Until you are prepared to withdraw and apologise for the incompetent analysis you released, and specifically apologise to the scientists whose good name you have felt free to smear, I will be forced to conclude that you remain a liar and a charlatan.

Until such an apology and withdrawal is made you are not welcome here.

His report has not been withdrawn, and no apology has been forthcoming. He therefore remains unwelcome here. I reminded him of this in an edit to his comment last week (the first he’s made since December), and deleted two subsequent attempted comments.

If you’re going to join the conversation at Hot Topic, you have to play by the house rules. Some of them are reasonably flexible — I like people to be polite, but I’m not too fussed if the language or argument are robust — but there is one thing that I don’t tolerate, and that is the casual smearing of working scientists, most of whom are in no position to defend themselves. Reputations are hard won things, and can be lost in a flash. Playing vicious politics with people’s careers is the worst aspect of the current campaign to delay action on climate change, and it’s a tactic Treadgold seems to have adopted with relish. Let’s look again at the CSC/CCG report Are we feeling warmer yet? and review some of his recent blog posts.


In a post titled Apologise? Why? back in February, Treadgold appeared to have forgotten my earlier remarks, and asserted that “there’s no reason for us to apologise”. Following my deletion of his comments last week, he posted this:

From the response, you’d think we’d committed a crime. The only crime I can identify is a certain bunch of public so-called “servants” in charge of NIWA engaging in pervasive obstruction and citing references to us and the New Zealand public which proved to be entirely empty. They said the material we sought was there and it was not there.

One day soon they must account for that. They must also account for misleading their minister in guiding him to false replies to the Parliament.

Note the language and the allegations, which border on the defamatory. A couple of days later, he attempted a tactical revision of history in this post, claiming that his paper had been misinterpreted:

The sceptics shouldn’t look to our paper to refute local warming, because it doesn’t. It presents no evidence on the quality of the national temperature graph — it merely questions the data, expresses strong doubts about their accuracy and wonders what adjustments were made to them.

What does the paper actually say?

  • …the oldest readings have been cranked way down and later readings artificially lifted to give a false impression of warming
  • We have discovered that the warming in New Zealand over the past 156 years was indeed man-made, but it had nothing to do with emissions of CO2 — it was created by man-made adjustments of the temperature. It’s a disgrace.
  • Using NIWA’s public data, we have shown that global warming has not yet reached New Zealand (and what does that say for global warming?).

[My emphasis]

No misinterpretation at all. The paper was designed to make the public and the world believe that there were “problems” with the NZ temperature record, that there was no real warming. The press release that accompanied the paper was quite clear about it. Here’s the headline and opening sentence:

NZ climate scandal: NIWA “adjusts” records to show warming

New Zealand may have its own “Climategate”, including manipulation of temperature readings […] researchers claim that temperature readings from seven weather stations throughout New Zealand have been adjusted to show a higher degree of warming than is justified by a study of the original raw data.

And what was that about not supporting “no warming”? Here’s the press release again:

Spokesman for the group, Richard Treadgold, said that recent claims that New Zealand is warming have been proved wrong. “Official information clearly shows that temperatures in New Zealand have actually been remarkably stable since 1850.”

And here’s the attempt to smear Jim Salinger…

“NIWA’s official graph (done originally by Dr Jim Salinger, who features also in the emails leaked from the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia) shows considerable warming, which they give as 0.92°C per century, saying this is consistent with global warming over the 20th century. But the actual temperature readings taken from the thermometers show an almost flat trend for 150 years.

Back to Treadgold’s attempt to rewrite history. Later in that post he dismisses calls for an apology:

Those apologists for NIWA who complain about our paper smearing the reputations of their scientists should reflect on this: that these changes were made in secret, are still, today, undisclosed (Hokitika has apparently been fully described, but we have not finished checking it) and, by NIWA’s own admission, these changes introduce warming to raw data that show no warming and NIWA have refused requests for them from bona fide scientists for decades.

That really is a disgrace.

The disgrace is Treadgold’s. Adjustments were never made in secret, the raw data is available, and the techniques used to combine station records are well-established in the literature and in the public domain. NIWA last communicated with the Climate Science Coalition on the subject of the adjustments made when homogenising station records in 2006, when Jim Salinger exchanged emails with Vincent Gray. Gray reviewed the CSC/CCG paper before release, according to Open Parachute blogger Ken Perrott, who has been diligently attempting to hold Treadgold to account in comments at his site. Here’s Treadgold, prompted by Perrott, talking about Gray’s review:

Please don’t use Dr Gray’s comment allegedly admitting a mistake. He was being his normal conservative self and I disagree with him. He, being a scientist, found it hard at first to grasp the essentially political objectives of our paper and looked at it from the normal scientific point of view. So he was of the view that we should be describing error limits, doing statistical analyses and quoting learned papers.

Those techniques were no help to us – they weren’t even necessary. We set out simply to motivate scientists to talk to us for the first time in 30 years.

Revealing, eh? The paper is admitted to be “essentially political”, so normal rules don’t apply. Let’s ignore the science, let’s not do the hard yards to understand the subject, let’s just fling mud. And then expect the scientists to cooperate…

This whole affair has never been anything other than a thinly disguised propaganda exercise, designed to capitalise on the noise about stolen CRU emails toplay politics in New Zealand. That it has been jumped on by parliamentary sceptics like Rodney Hide and John Boscawen is perhaps not surprising, given the fawning treatment of ACT and its luminaries by Treadgold. Here’s an exchange in comments at Treadgold’s blog this morning, apparently between Hide and Treadgold:

Hide: And on the basis of these numbers, and this advice, the government has committed to an ETS that will cost NZ conservatively a billion dollars a year.

We need to hold NIWA to account. Good work!

Treadgold: Yes, one’s tempted to call it shonky, but it isn’t. The ghastly thing is that AGW was created and the ETS introduced in the full light of consciousness to achieve ideological objectives.

We’re fortunate to have in high places men like you with the courage to speak the truth and to question error.

Thanks, Rodney.

Hide’s comment (if it really was Hide) is remarkable. Neither this government or the last committed to an ETS solely on the basis of NIWA’s New Zealand temperature record. The NZ numbers are just one tiny part of an immense jigsaw of evidence handily summarised by the IPCC, and accepted by every government involved in the IPCC process. Even if New Zealand were cooling, it would have no discernible impact on the global picture, either on the need for emissions reductions or for policy to encourage those reductions. The NZ temperature record is interesting — fascinating, even — but it is not crucial to anything, let alone national or international climate science or policy. And that fact, perhaps more than anything else, is what shows Treadgold to be little more than a tawdry propagandist for inaction.

Meanwhile, the taxpayers of New Zealand might want to know how much of NIWA’s time has been wasted dealing with frivolous freedom of information requests and ACT questions in Parliament. NIWA time is public money, and Treadgold and his courageous friend Rodney are wasting buckets of it. Perhaps there might be scope for a question in Parliament…?

Finally, unless and until Treadgold withdraws his paper, apologises for the attempt to mislead the public, and for the direct smears on Salinger and the scientists working at NIWA, he will take no further part in the climate conversation at Hot Topic.

[Elton John, before hair transplant]