Herald wrong in so many waysRichard Treadgold | September 17, 2012
The Herald has today editorialised its rancour against climate sceptics and repeated oft-heard unfounded criticisms (h/t – Andy). They make a couple of good points but so many blunders I’ve time for only a brief tour of them. Herald statements in green (emphasis added).
A year ago, James Hansen, one of the world’s top climate scientists, conceded that climate sceptics were winning the argument with the public over global warming. This, he said, was occurring even as climate science itself was showing ever more clearly that the Earth was in increasing danger from rising temperatures.
Just as Hansen didn’t justify his statement then, the leader writer doesn’t justify it now, but what precisely is meant by “showing ever more clearly” and “in increasing danger from rising temperatures”?
It could hardly have failed more comprehensively.
Well, I should mention that the judge said he didn’t adjudicate on any of the science – if that’s important. We think that leaves the most interesting bits for another session – somewhere.
The coalition alleged that the method used to collect national temperature records, which show a national warming trend of almost one degree Celsius in the past century, almost 50 per cent above the global average, had been unscientific. That had created an unrealistic and unreliable indication of climate warming, it said.
If the coalition had managed to discredit Niwa’s methods, it would also have discredited the evidence for climate change, and the part played by human activities.
It would have “discredited the evidence for climate change” – and that would have been news indeed; certainly news to us. The Herald has no reason to say this; the case never touched on the causes of global climate change. As well, the NZ temperature record makes only a small contribution to the global picture – although it may not be exactly trivial, as it might be applied to quite a large area of the Pacific.
But Justice Venning said Niwa had applied “internationally recognised and credible scientific methodology…”
Yes, he did. But the Herald has not observed that NIWA itself cited no authority for its methodology. After advising the Ombudsman that it would not release details of the BoM “peer review”, it abandoned (at the last possible moment) any reliance on it in court yet cited no publication that carried their methodology or international usage of it – nothing but a student’s PhD thesis. So, with no evidence of international recognition, it remains a mystery why the judge found that the methodology was internationally recognised.
… and, as such, did not breach any obligation it may have had to pursue excellence.
Yes, he said this, and how odd it is! For why did NIWA claim that it has no obligation to pursue excellence, and why does the judge concur that our premier climate watchdog has no need to pursue excellence? Although I suppose it’s not as if climate studies are very important or anything. There’s not much riding on them.
The coalition was also effectively branded as amateurish. The evidence of one coalition member was dismissed in large part by Justice Venning because “he has no applicable qualifications. His interest in the area does not sufficiently qualify him as an expert.”
Although not meeting the court’s high standards, Mr Dunleavy is nevertheless far better informed about climate science than the judge is.
This represented a refreshing approach from Justice Venning. Too often, the claims of unqualified people have been able to cast doubt on the view of the majority of active climate scientists who are certain human industry is contributing to global warming.
Claims are one thing, but questions are quite another. Anyone who looks at one of the global temperature records can see there’s been no warming this century. Why not ask about that – what qualifications does one need?
When NIWA’s data don’t produce NIWA’s graph, we ask them about it – anyone would. Why did they make such a production about giving an answer?
As has happened before, climate sceptics have reacted by seeking to shift the goalposts.
What? Unjustified assertions like these carry no more weight than common gossip.
In an Opinion article in this newspaper, Auckland University associate professor Chris de Freitas played down the importance of any court ruling, saying it was no substitute for the insufficient number of attempts globally “to reassess quantitatively the nature and reliability of homogeneity adjustments to complete national sets”.
That oddly overlooked the fact that the coalition had chosen the High Court as a battleground, thereby attaching its own importance to it.
The Herald is either not paying attention or it’s ignoring bits it doesn’t like. The Coalition did not “choose” to fight this out in the High Court. There is nowhere else. NIWA gave us the runaround for several years. Where else can you go to force a public body to give answers?
It also ignored the scathing nature of the judgment.
Well, of course it did. It’s hardly reasonable to criticise Chris de Freitas for not sharing the Herald’s opinion of the judgement. Scathing? Hardly.
So severe was this that it rendered the case outlandish and raised questions about how it could have occupied so much of the court’s time. Justice Venning’s judgment was a strong riposte to the climate sceptics’ ongoing claims of a conspiracy by scientists.
Many inquiries by British and American government agencies and independent panels have previously upheld the integrity and honesty of the scientists. This ruling reinforced that and represented a damning of the climate sceptics’ case.
We never claimed a conspiracy, and the judge’s decision didn’t mention one, so I can’t see how the decision constitutes any kind of riposte.
Several incompetent, tepid inquiries conducted by parties with vested interests didn’t even test the “integrity and honesty” of a few overseas scientists, so they could hardly have “upheld” them. This hearing didn’t consider those overseas inquiries, or even similar matters, and thus did not reinforce them.
The Herald is speaking from an entrenched position that prevents acknowledgement of a sceptical view of dangerous anthropogenic global warming. It does however allow in its pages a categorisation of climate sceptics as cranks and deniers.
Their interpretation of the court decision therefore comes as little surprise, but I’m grateful that at least they haven’t sullied their leading article with those despicable terms.