Four go a-court, with a hey, nonny-noRichard Treadgold | July 17, 2012
Four lawyers went to court today, among a total of 13 people: the judge and a clerk, four lawyers conducting business, one sceptical witness (yours truly – Bob was busy), two senior NIWA scientists, a friendly David Wratt and slightly sullen Brett Mullan, the friendly Tim Mahood (their general counsel), and three others who appear highly prosperous and might be lawyers. Six for them and one for us (not counting working lawyers).
From time to time one or two female journalists sit to one side tapping on their laptops. Just before lunch a fellow turned up and sat beside me. I introduced myself and he said he was a sceptic (“from way back”) who heard of the court case only yesterday and couldn’t wait to come along.
Today was the second day of the Coalition’s action against NIWA. Our counsel, Terry Sissons, was still taking Mr Justice Venning through our statement of claim. It should have been NIWA’s turn by now, but Terry wasn’t finished yet.
It was necessarily detailed, as every assertion must be evidenced by a document and every document must be produced in an approved fashion. Each side has produced a surprisingly impressive pile of folders. Most of them were ready to hand (it’s under tab 83, page 597, Your Honour).
But sometimes the page required could not be found, which led to periods of silence as the Coalition’s legal team flicked through large binders before announcing the reference.
The Coalition’s second cause of action is the 11SS. This was the temperature series hurriedly cobbled together in rebuttal by Jim Salinger and James Renwick after we published “Are we feeling warmer yet” — the paper that started the controversy over the national temperature record.
It was funny, though, because we said what are the adjustments and they said of course it needs adjustments. We went: huh?
Anyway, Terry quoted from the email in which Jim Salinger informed James Renwick, at NIWA, that these 11 weather stations were “pristine sites” and therefore formed an ideal temperature series to support the 7SS, which we’d criticised.
Then he itemised its deficiencies. Only three sites began in 1931 and it wasn’t until 1955 that all 11 existed, so they don’t constitute a series. Several stations (I think about five of them) had multiple years with multiple missing months; the literature specifically says such stations don’t constitute a series. The majority of sites were far from pristine — in fact, some were unusable.
When the methodology of Rhoades & Salinger (1993)(RS93) is used correctly, the warming claimed plunges to about 0.28°C (I think!) per century.
Terry described the criticism NIWA offered of Bob Dedekind’s statistical audit of NIWA’s 7-station review. They made two points:
1. He was too strictly formulaic and too rigid in using K=2, or two years before and after in comparing stations. Terry mentioned he had set out specifically to use RS93. I think he meant it’s little surprise he therefore used it consistently.
2. He had an incorrect approach to missing data. I didn’t catch NIWA’s argument here.
NIWA had no problem with Bob’s calculations or the principle of his using RS93. Even with NIWA’s criticisms, his paper shows they make sufficiently significant mistakes in calculating the new temperature series to justify a remedy.
After finishing with the scientific matters Terry moved on to legal issues. They refer to the legal responsibilities and status of crown-owned entities.
1. Is the pursuit of excellence an enforceable duty or something less than that?
2. In research, is good quality mandatory?
3. In the pursuit of excellence, what is the effect of a breach?
4. Mistakes of fact (I’m unclear what this means).
5. The effect of unreasonableness.
6. Whether or not a recent decision concerning Mercury Energy has any effect here.
Some of these questions seem astounding. For example, why do they seem to be considering “good quality” as an optional extra in a scientific research organisation?
The matters arise between the plaintiff’s (the Coalition’s) Statement of Claim (SOC) and the Defendant’s (NIWA’s) Statement of Defence (SOD). NIWA counter-claimed they had no obligation to pursue excellence or to use best-quality scientific practices and also that the national temperature record was not only not official, but they themselves had no obligation to produce or maintain it.
Never mind that nobody else had one, or that every time NIWA needed a national temperature record, say, in official court testimony, or at a planning hearing, or to answer questions in the Parliament, they pulled out the 7SS. It still wasn’t theirs and they still have no duty towards it.
Anyway, lunch was taken just after this and, as I had an appointment elsewhere, I missed the afternoon’s work. At the morning tea break I paid substantial coin for an application to access the documents in the case. If approved by the judge, I get to sift through the mountain and copy those documents I wish to keep. Then you get to hear more of the authoritative detail. Something to look forward to.
It’s late, I’m up early tomorrow, so that is all.