Posts Tagged Bryan Leyland

Leyland and Carter: the rebuttal that isn’t and the hypocrisy that is Gareth Renowden Mar 25

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CarterFlatEarth.jpgSciblogs editor Peter Griffin recently gave climate denial activists Bryan Leyland and Bob Carter a “right of reply” to my post pointing out the errors and inconsistencies in a Dominion Post op-ed penned by the pair. Griffin took this action because of vociferous complaints from Leyland, who took offence at my discussion of his expertise (non-existent) and history of campaigning against action on climate. The result is billed as a “rebuttal”, but it isn’t, as I shall demonstrate.

The Sciblogs “rebuttal” is a mishmash of a so-called “fully referenced” version (pdf) of the op-ed that Leyland says was supplied to the Dominion Post, but he and Carter also prepared a very long-winded “response” (pdf) to the debunking of their piece by David Wratt, Andy Reisinger and Jim Renwick in the DP. The latter is a real eye-opener…

Life is too short to do another point-by-point demolition1, so I’ll select a few key issues that demonstrate that although they claim to be discussing science in a scientific manner, what they are actually doing is having the equivalent of an argument in a pub — prepared to say anything if they think it will help them “win”.


It’s instructive to look at the references Leyland and Carter supplied to support their original op-ed, and use in their Sciblogs article. They include a blog post by Roy Spencer and others at µWatts and The Hockey Schtick, graphs that either don’t prove what they claim, or are scaled to make it difficult to see what’s happening, reports at right-wing web sites (Breitbart, International Business Times), and Congressional evidence given by climate denial activists. Precious little real science on display, in other words.

Worse, where they do cite real science they get the reference wrong. To support their claim that climate models have failed to project the slowdown in surface temperature trends, their Sciblogs piece cites “IPCC AR5 Chapter 9, Box 9.3.2″ supporting this sentence:

The IPCC’s 5AR states that 111 out of 114 their climate model runs failed to reproduce the actual temperature record.

No mention of which Working Group report they’re citing, but the phrase “111 out of 114″ appears in Chapter 9 (pdf) of WG1. Unfortunately, it is not in Box 9.3.2 in Chapter 9. There is no Box 9.3.2. There is a Box 9.2, and it does contain a sentence they paraphrase incorrectly:

However, an analysis of the full suite of CMIP5 historical simulations (augmented for the period 2006–2012 by RCP4.5 simulations, Section 9.3.2) reveals that 111 out of 114 realizations show a GMST trend over 1998–2012 that is higher than the entire HadCRUT4 trend ensemble (Box 9.2 Figure 1a; CMIP5 ensemble mean trend is 0.21oC per decade).

A carefully nuanced statement in a long discussion of what the IPCC refers to as “the hiatus” — and certainly not a statement about “failing to reproduce the temperature record”. Worse, if you bother to read the whole thing, you find that Leyland and Carter have been cherry-picking stuff that suits their argument, while ignoring the points that don’t. Also from Box 9.2:

There is hence very high confidence that the CMIP5 models show long-term GMST trends consistent with observations, despite the disagreement over the most recent 15-year period.

Enough of that. Time to dig a little deeper. Leyland and Carter’s “Discussion of remarks made by Wratt, Reisinger & Renwick (WRR) in the Dominion-Post on global warming” (pdf) is worth perusing, because it is a perfect illustration of their approach to the evidence. Recall for a moment that a central claim of their DP op-ed was that “the world has not experienced any significant warming over the last 18 years”. Now read this paragraph from their “discussion”:

Though the statement [that the earth is warmer than 100 years ago] is true, 100 years is too short a period of time to assess true climatic change, consisting as it does of just three climate data points.

Leyland and Carter insist that 18 years is enough to know that warming has stopped, but 100 years isn’t long enough to prove there has been real warming. The sheer intellectual hypocrisy evident here is breathtaking — and very revealing.

This isn’t a scientific debate. This isn’t how people with real expertise in climate science approach the subject. This is posturing trying to pose as academic debate. Serious scientists wouldn’t touch that style of argument with a barge pole.

Leyland and Carter are acting like defence lawyers desperate to convince a jury that their client — man-made emissions of carbon dioxide — is not guilty. They want to create an illusion of doubt to delay action, and their audience is not the climate scientists of the world, it’s the readers of the Dominion Post. Doubt is Leyland and Carter’s product, a technique honed and refined by tobacco defenders decades ago.

One final point. In my original post, I pointed out that Leyland & Carter’s stated confidence that “man-made carbon dioxide does not cause dangerous global warming and that the predictions of computer models of the climate are worthless” was not supported by 97% of climate scientists — the people with real expertise in the field.

Their response both misquotes me and attempts to hide the pea under the thimble:

“In contradiction, Mr. Renowden asserts that “the vast majority – 97% or thereabouts…would beg to differ with our statement”. This is irrelevant. Science is not concerned with consensus. It is about evidence and hypothesis testing.

What that 97% represents is the balance of evidence. The overwhelming majority of people working in the field, however you choose to measure it, think we have a big problem with atmospheric carbon. Those that don’t are a tiny minority — a crank fringe supported by fossil fuel interests — making their arguments in opinion columns instead of the peer-reviewed literature. The rest of us live in the real world. We’ll ignore their attempts to blow smoke in the face of public opinion, and get on with trying to find a solution.

  1. Leyland & Carter may be retired, with nothing better to do than promote their viewpoints, but I have grapes and truffles to nurture through to harvest, and a book to write

[This post was edited 12.31pm on 27/03/15 - Ed]

DomPost denier debacle: science has the last word Gareth Renowden Mar 10

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The Dominion Post, which blotted its editorial copybook last week by publishing a factually incorrect and highly misleading opinion piece by climate denialists, has today published a heavyweight reply by three of NZ’s top climate scientists — David Wratt, Andy Reisinger and Jim Renwick1. Headed “Human role in climate change is clear”, the article is clear about climate reality:

Human influence on the climate system is clear and growing, and impacts are evident on all continents. If left unchecked, climate change will increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.

We do have options to reduce risks by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to some climate change, but time is running short if we want to limit changes to manageable levels. Ignoring or misconstruing the overwhelming evidence is not a responsible risk management strategy.

It’s not clear whether the DomPost plans any further response to the rubbish they printed from Bryan Leyland and Bob Carter, but the editorial team at the newspaper would do well to reflect on the approach to the subject adopted by Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, introducing an important new series of features in that paper:

For the purposes of our coming coverage, we will assume that the scientific consensus about man-made climate change and its likely effects is overwhelming. We will leave the skeptics and deniers to waste their time challenging the science. The mainstream argument has moved on to the politics and economics.

Precisely. Rusbridger — who is retiring after 20 years as editor — wants his newspaper to do justice…

…to this huge, overshadowing, overwhelming issue of how climate change will probably, within the lifetime of our children, cause untold havoc and stress to our species.
So, in the time left to me as editor, I thought I would try to harness the Guardian’s best resources to describe what is happening and what — if we do nothing — is almost certain to occur, a future that one distinguished scientist has termed as “incompatible with any reasonable characterisation of an organised, equitable and civilised global community”.

That’s what a real newspaper does: takes on the big issues. If the Dominion Post wants to be more than a Noddy book newspaper publishing rubbish from the intellectual heirs to Big Ears, it’s high time it took a sensible approach to the climate debate, and followed Rusbridger’s lead.

Meanwhile, Bryan Leyland has posted what his web site describes as a “referenced version” of the text of the article that appeared last week. It’s available here (pdf), and is chiefly remarkable for the quality of what passes as references in crank circles. There are links to blog posts at µWatts and other climate crank sites, conspiracy-riddled pieces from extreme-right “news” services, and barely legible graphs. Where he does link to real science (on sea level rise), the underlying data doesn’t support the contentions in the article. Par for the climate crank Carterist “science” course, in other words.

  1. David Wratt is an Emeritus Climate Scientist at NIWA, an Adjunct Professor in the NZ Climate Change Research Institute at Victoria University, and a Vice Chair of Working Group 1 of the IPCC. Andy Reisinger is Deputy Director (International) of the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre and served as coordinating lead author in the most recent IPCC report. James Renwick is a Professor of Physical Geography at Victoria University of Wellington and served as a Lead Author on the last two IPCC Reports.

25 ways the DomPost failed its readers by publishing Leyland and Carter’s climate crap Gareth Renowden Mar 06

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The Dominion Post, the newspaper of record for New Zealand’s capital city, today gave great prominence to an opinion piece by high profile climate denialists Bob Carter and Bryan Leyland titled Hypothetical global warming: scepticism needed1. It’s a “Gish Gallop” of untruths, half-truths and misrepresentations — a piece so riddled with deliberate errors and gross misrepresentations that it beggars belief that any quality newspaper would give it space.

I will deal with the factual errors in a moment, but the DomPost‘s lack of editorial judgement extends well beyond any failure to fact check the article. Carter and Leyland’s expertise on the issue is misrepresented. The newspaper’s readers are not given a true picture of their “standing”. They are in fact paid/sponsored propagandists, way out on the crank fringes. Here’s how Carter is credited.

Professor Bob Carter is an honorary fellow of the Royal Society of NZ. His expertise is in geology and paleoclimatology — deducing past climates from geological records. He has written several books on climate change.

All of that is true2, but it is far from a full picture. In fact, Carter has been a propagandist against action on climate change since the 1990s, with a history of paid work with and for far-right wing organisations in Australia and the USA – including being paid by the notorious Heartland Institute in the US to produce shoddy pseudo-academic publications. In the right wing Australian journal Quadrant, where links to right wing organisations obviously play well, Carter’s credit runs like this:

Bob Carter is an Emeritus Fellow of the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) and Chief Science Advisor to the International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC).

The IPA campaigns against climate action, and Carter recently starred in its Climate: Change the facts tour around Australia promoting a new propaganda pamphlet. As an adviser to the ICSC — a group attempting to promote climate denial around the world, he works to:

“…directly educate the public about what science, engineering and economics are really concluding about climate change and the downside of misguided plans (e.g., wind turbines, “carbon sequestration”, etc.) to “solve the crisis”. This includes newspaper articles, letters to the editor, radio and TV interviews, public presentations, regular postings on our, and others’, Web sites and use of all forms of popular social media.”

In other words, Carter and Leyland managed to con the DomPost into playing along with their propaganda campaign.

The DomPost credits Leyland thus:

Bryan Leyland is an engineer specialising in renewable energy. He is an accredited reviewer for the IPCC and has contributed several articles on renewable energy technologies to overseas publications.

In fact, Leyland has a long track record of activism against action to reduce carbon emissions. He was a founder member of the NZ Climate Science Coalition and a trustee of the NZ Climate Science Education Trust — formed to bring a court action against NIWA’s handling of the national temperature record. When the case was lost, the trust was folded so that Leyland and his fellow trustees could avoid paying $90,000 of court-ordered costs.

Leyland is notorious in NZ media circles for his attempts to push climate denial. It beggars belief that the DomPost did not know about his track record, and went ahead with publishing an article under his name without prominently noting his role as an activist.

As propagandists, the product that Leyland and Carter are pushing is doubt — a tactic first used by the tobacco industry, but since refined by fossil fuel interests keen to avoid emissions cuts. Leyland and Carter “win” every time a mainstream media outlet gives their views credence by giving them prominence. Newspapers do not regularly provide platforms for cranks, but that is exactly what Leyland and Carter are, as we shall see in a moment.

24 ways to be wrong about climate

Let’s be clear about this. The errors and misdirections outlined below are not mistakes. They are not reasonable constructions that an independent commentator might make when looking at the totality of the evidence. They are arguments deliberately selected to present a distorted picture of reality.

The article gets off to a bad start with this opening sentence.

1: We are constantly told that man-made carbon dioxide has caused global warming that will bring doom and disaster in a few years.

Wrong. Man-made CO2 has certainly caused global warming (IPCC, 2014), but very few people — and certainly no scientists predict doom and disaster in the near future. All bets are off for the latter half of this century, however.

2: These predictions are largely based on the output of computer models, rather than observations of what is happening in the real world.

Wrong. Paleoclimate — supposedly one of Carter’s specialities — tells us a great deal about what may happen as CO2 rises. The models are useful for giving us an idea of what might happen in the future and what we can do to affect the outcome.

3: – the world has not experienced any significant warming over the last 18 years -

Wrong. There has been some slowdown in the upwards trend of surface temperatures — the so-called “hiatus”, but no reduction in the amount of heat accumulating in the system — mainly in the oceans.

4: – more accurate satellite records -

Wrong. Satellites estimate temperature of layers of the atmosphere by using the same radiation transfer calculations as the climate models so derided by Leyland and Carter. The satellite record is interesting and useful, but cannot stand in or substitute for real temperature measurements taken at the earth’s surface.

5: – models “failed to predict this lack of warming”.

Wrong. There has been no lack of warming. Model runs are not forecasts, but when the model runs are examined, those that most closely match what’s happened over the last 15 years (such as the state of the El Niño Southern Oscillation) track recent temperatures well3.

6: We can now be confident that man-made carbon dioxide does not cause dangerous global warming and that the predictions of computer models of the climate are worthless.

Wrong. Carter and Leyland may assert their personal confidence, but that is not shared by the vast majority — 97% or thereabouts, however it is measured — of the scientists with genuine expertise in this field. To act on their say-so would be like backing a three-legged horse in the Melbourne Cup.

7: Global sea ice area is well above the 1979-2013 average.

Wrong. Over the last 35 years global sea ice area has declined by 35,000 square kilometres per year, or about -1.5% per decade. (Source)

8: In the Arctic it is close to average…

Wrong. This week’s Arctic Sea Ice News & Analysis from the NSIDC in the US reports that last month had the third lowest February ice extent in the satellite record, and suggests that there is a possibility that this year could set a new record for lowest sea ice maximum extent.

9: In the Antarctic it is at the highest level since 1979…

Wrong. The February extent of 3.58m km2 according to the NSIDC was the fourth highest summer minimum extent on record, trailing behind 2008 (3.75m km2), 2013, and 2003.

10: Once again, there is a large disparity between the computer based predictions of ever increasing loss of sea ice and reality.

Correct, but misleading. Models have consistently underestimated sea ice decline in the Arctic.

11: …rate of sea level rise has slowed…

Wrong. According to the IPCC, the rate of sea level rise has accelerated in recent decades, and is expected to increase further as warming melts land-based ice.

12: Polar bears

Still listed as endangered, and continued loss of sea ice — their preferred hunting grounds — will increase pressure on bear numbers. See this excellent recent overview for a realistic assessment of the state of the bears.

13: Coral atolls are not disappearing beneath rising oceans.

Misdirection. Coral atolls have not yet disappeared, but conditions for human habitation on a number islands — including Tuvalu — are becoming difficult, and will become impossible later in this century if sea level rise continues as expected by the experts.

14: About 15,000 years ago sea levels were rising at 3m a century and coral atolls and the Great Barrier Reef survived.

True. But there were no human populations on Pacific Islands at the time. 3m per century rise over the next century would be catastrophic for cities and populations all round the world. The “survival” of reefs would be the least of our worries.

15: Glaciers are retreating some areas and advancing in others.

Trivially true but hugely misleading, because the number of retreating glaciers far outweighs the few advancing. The World Glacier Monitoring Service estimates non-polar land ice (glaciers and ice caps) are losing mass at an increasing rate.

16: 5,000 years ago the European Alps had less ice than now and the Canadian tree line lay further north.

Misleading. That was during the Holocene optimum, when northern hemisphere regions were receiving more summer warmth than now due to Milankovitch cycles in the earth’s orbit. It tells us nothing about what will happen when the planet “catches up” with the heating effect of current atmospheric CO2 levels.

17: Historical records show that the world was warmer during the Middle Ages Warm Period.

Wrong. This is a canard, one much beloved of climate cranks, but not supported by current science. Some parts of the world may have been as warm as today, but it was not a global phenomenon.

18: Ocean acidification … the ocean is alkaline and is at no more risk of becoming acidic …

Puerile misdirection. “Acidification” is the process of becoming more acidic, and that is what is measured to be happening as CO2 dissolves into the world’s oceans. CO2 + H2O = carbonic acid. The effect on oceanic ecosystems will be huge.

19: Increased levels of carbon dioxide have boosted plant growth worldwide … modern greenhouses burn natural gas to double the CO2 concentration and hence increase production by 40%.

True, up to a point, but also a huge misdirection. Increasing CO2 will benefit some plants, some of the time, but not all. Any benefits will be offset by increasing droughts, floods and heatwaves and rapid polewards migration and distortion of ecosystems.

20: … an IPCC study shows that the frequency of droughts has hardly changed and cyclones have declined …

Misdirection. Studies show increases in rainfall extremes, heatwaves and other weather extremes, and these will increase (as will droughts) as the climate system warms.

21: The British Meteorological Office has predicted that the current lack of warming will continue until 2018 at least.

But they’re using climate models, and those can’t be trusted! The hypocrisy burns.

22: Scientists who study natural climate cycles and the effect of the sun and sunspot cycles on the climate believe that the world has — or soon will — enter a cooling cycle.

This really is crank fringe nonsense. About as credible as backing that three legged horse for a Melbourne Cup/Aintree Grand National double.

23: Most mainstream climate scientists agree that 2 degrees C extra of warming would not be harmful

Nonsense. “Most mainstream climate scientists” understand that 2 degrees of warming will cause a great deal of damage to the climate system. 2ºC is a political target, not a scientific one.

24: The obvious conclusion is that the science is not settled.

The obvious conclusion is that Carter and Leyland are desperately trying to sell “doubt at any price”. The real climate debate is not a scientific debate, or a debate about the science, it’s about how we deal with an issue which is going to shape the lives of everyone over the next few hundred years. Carter and Leyland are selling all our futures to satisfy their inflated egos — and to please the people who sponsor, support and pay for their activities.

Nothing that I write here or that is written in the Dominion Post is likely to change the views of Carter and Leyland, because they are not wedded to science and a rational assessment of climate risk. Their loyalty is to a cause, and they will be counting their DomPost article as a major triumph. The newspaper, however, faces a very big problem. Their 25th mistake.

Giving climate cranks prominence in the paper, and to allow them to misrepresent the facts in such a cavalier manner, is a gross disservice to the DomPost‘s readers, and a huge blow to the newspaper’s reputation. If the paper is really incapable of spotting nonsense when its offered to them, then what confidence can its readers have in its judgement on other matters? What can we expect next? The paper advocating in its leader column that a homeopath should be appointed minister of health?

Readers and other interested parties may wish to consider making a complaint to the editor, and if a satisfactory response is not received, pursue the matter further with the Press Council. As a bare minimum, I believe the Dominion Post should, as a matter of urgency:

  • Apologise to its readers for publishing an opinion piece so riddled with deliberate errors and misdirection.
  • Provide readers with a more accurate understanding of the activist backgrounds of Leyland and Carter.
  • Publish and give greater prominence to a rejoinder from senior scientists with genuine expertise in climate science.
  • Introduce guidelines that provide that opinion or comment pieces that make controversial or counterfactual claims are provided by authors with significant expertise in the area under discussion, or should be subject to fact-checking by people with the necessary expertise.

The Press Council’s own guidelines state that:

Material facts on which an opinion is based should be accurate.

…and that for comment and opinion pieces “requirements for a foundation of fact pertain”.

Leyland and Carter’s propaganda piece clearly falls foul of those guidelines. It is now up to the Dominion Post to address the issue and respond appropriately. It may help them if they consider the 2012 judgement by the Australian Communication and Media Authority against talkback host Alan Jones ands station 2GB, requiring them to take fact checking seriously, or the decision by the LA Times not to publish letters asserting climate change is not real:

Saying “there’s no sign humans have caused climate change” is not stating an opinion, it’s asserting a factual inaccuracy.

And factual inaccuracies should have no place in a newspaper that aspires to be a newspaper of record.

  1. On page A7 – opposite the leader. Not currently available on the web, but a scan has been posted on Twitter — see this comment below.
  2. Except perhaps for the professorship. Carter has no current academic affiliation that I know of, so I wonder why the DomPost is granting him that status? Surely he wouldn’t have misrepresented himself to the paper?
  3. See, for example, Huber and Knutti, Natural variability, radiative forcing and climate response in the recent hiatus reconciled, Nature Geoscience 7, 651–656 (2014) doi:10.1038/ngeo2228

Brill’s bills still unpaid, but Barry’s off to Vegas Gareth Renowden Jun 19

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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.

It’s worth recalling that Brill’s original presentation of the CSET’s arguments was so bad that the trust had to call in a barrister — Terry Sissons — to lick their arguments into shape, and present the case in the High Court. Did Sissons represent the CSET pro bono? On the face of it, that seems unlikely. If he did not, was he paid by Brill, the trustees or a third party, and why was that not recorded by the Trust as expenditure on their activities?

It is clear that Brill and the trustees have serious questions to answer regarding the management and funding of their legal action, and their misuse and mismanagement of a charitable trust.

Meanwhile, Brill is off to the Heartland Institute’s 9th “conference” on climate change. Readers with long memories may recall that the last time Brill addressed the world’s assembled cranks1 he was pushing legal action against national temperature records as something that should be tried all over the world.

Brill’s travel expenses are likely to have been funded by Heartland — who have a history of funding NZ climate crank organisations. He is set to appear on a panel2 discussing “international perspectives on climate change”, along with potty peer Christopher Monckton and Sebastian Luning from Germany.

I think we can safely assume that Brill will not be describing the failure of his much vaunted legal action, or passing the hat round in order to help the New Zealand taxpayer meet the costs of his stupid, self-serving and politically-motivated legal action.

  1. In Washington in 2011, see footnote 2 here.
  2. From 4pm to 5pm on Tuesday , July 8, full schedule here.

Stuff’s stuff-up: climate liars on the loose Gareth Renowden Feb 23

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Stuff Nation was introduced a couple of years ago as the reader-led section of Fairfax Digital’s NZ news site, home to quiz groups and news submitted by readers. Sadly for them, one or two of their readers have been taking them for a ride, to judge by one of this weekend’s lead stories — a “reader report” by one Tom Harris titled We must adapt to climate change. Harris is highly unlikely to be a regular reader of Stuff Nation, being based in Ottawa, but he is executive director of the International Climate Science Coalition, a spin-off from the NZ Climate Science Coalition established with money from US extreme right-wing lobby group the Heartland Institute.

The ICSC lists Bryan Leyland and Terry Dunleavy — two of the trustees of the NZ Climate Science Education Trust that are trying to avoid paying the costs they incurred in taking an idiotic court case against NIWA and the NZ temperature record — as key players, and it is probably safe to assume that Leyland, who has in the past boasted about his ability to “twist arms” in Fairfax newsrooms2, is responsible for placing Harris’s piece with Stuff. It’s an op-ed riffing off John Kerry’s comments about climate change during his recent Indonesia visit, so compelling and well-argued that it’s been featured in high profile outlets around the world including The Bahamas Weekly, and — well, that’s about it.

Harris’s piece should be an embarrassment to any media organisation that has pretensions to any kind of editorial standards. Among the lies, distortions and misleading statements are:

The Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change demonstrates that much of what we thought we knew about climate is wrong or highly debatable. The science is becoming more unsettled as the field advances.

The NIPCC is a Heartland-funded exercise designed to massage the facts and mislead. It is better described as Heartland’s big book of lies about climate change, as I noted a while ago. Meanwhile, real climate scientists are becoming ever more certain that we are in deep trouble.

We do not actually know how much climate will change as carbon dioxide (CO2) levels continue to rise. We do not even know whether warming or cooling lies ahead.

Future warming is certain unless and until atmospheric CO2 levels begin to reduce. Future cooling is only possible should there be a large number of big volcanic eruptions, the sun reduces its energy output significantly, we pass through a large cloud of interstellar dust, or someone rewrites quantum physics to show that everything we know about radiatively active gases is wrong. Even if that were to happen, the oceans would still acidify and cause us huge problems.

While atmospheric CO2 concentrations have increased about 8 per cent over the past 17 years, even the IPCC now acknowledges that planetary temperatures have not risen during this period for reasons they do not understand.

The planet has warmed over the last 17 years. The hottest year in the long term global record was 2010, and the next El Niño (2014/15?) is likely to usher in a new record.

Of greater concern than hypothetical future warming is the possibility that the past decade’s cold weather records are a harbinger of significant global cooling. Solar scientists are forecasting that cooling is inevitable as the sun weakens into a ‘grand minimum’ over the coming decades.

“Solar scientists” are forecasting no such thing. An oddball Russian scientist may be, but no one with real solar chops is suggesting that cooling is likely. If this is the official view of the ICSC, then it places them so far out into left field that they should probably be asked to leave the stadium.

…governments across the world are planning only for warming, a relatively benign scenario and one that is appearing increasingly improbable.

Warming will only be benign if carbon emissions are cut with extreme urgency, and if we can reduce the atmospheric carbon load to 350 ppm or lower as soon as possible. If we don’t — or can’t — do that, we are far more likely to be on the road to ruin.

And finally, Harris reveals his real agenda:

Moving away from coal and other hydrocarbon fuels to flimsy alternative power sources because of climate concerns would be suicide.

Failing to move away from coal and hydrocarbon fuels is the truly suicidal approach, but inconvenient to the fossil fuel interests that have bankrolled the campaign against emissions reductions, in which Harris has a been a bit-part player.

Harris’s interpretation of reality, born of an expedient ideology that lauds fossil fuels above all others and denies the reality of climate danger, is about as useful to any public debate on climate matters as a fart in the thunderstorm that’s just rattled through my neighbourhood. The digital overlords of Stuff Nation at Fairfax NZ have been made to look foolish. Their reader-led exercise in news gathering is only going to be useful if they do some cursory fact-checking. Or perhaps they have just demonstrated that they are willing fellow travellers with Harris on the highway to hell. Either way, they should be ashamed of themselves, and at the very least apologise to their readers for so egregiously misleading them.

  1. Internet home of Fairfax’s NZ newspapers, principally The Dominion Post (Wellington) and The Press (Christchurch).
  2. See update 2 to this post.

Memo to Brill and his NZ climate cranks: pay up or shut up Gareth Renowden Feb 04

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I suppose it had to happen. Jim Salinger’s excellent summary of the strange case of the climate cranks and their attempt to sue the New Zealand temperature record has attracted a response from deep inside La La Land. Barry Brill, chairman of the NZ Climate “Science” Coalition and litigant in chief, has posted a piece of piss-poor propaganda trying to make their actions seem reasonable. He fails spectacularly, as you might expect — but he also fails to mention the most salient fact of all.

Brill is the ex-lawyer who put the losing court case together. He, together with the trustees of the NZ Climate Science Education Trust — Terry Dunleavy, Bryan Leyland and Doug Edmeades — are in default of the costs awarded against them by the judge. It’s a cool $89,000, and if Brill et al don’t pay up, the NZ taxpayer will have to foot their bill. As one of those taxpayers, I object strenuously to funding their absurd political posturing.

Brill, Leyland, Dunleavy et al would do well to remember that in the “court of public opinion” people who welch on their debts and try to avoid the consequences of their actions are regarded as mountebanks and charlatans. They should shut up until they’ve paid up.

Salinger upsets cranks: Treadgold’s toys exit cot Gareth Renowden Jan 27

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Jim Salinger’s analysis of the climate crank campaign to cast doubt on New Zealand’s long term temperature record, published last week at The Conversation, has drawn an astonishing response1 from Richard Treadgold (left), the man who kicked off the whole sorry process over four years ago. In an intemperate and libellous comment at his web site, Treadgold accuses Salinger of deception, stupidity and questions his mental stability:

Painting our efforts as some kind of attack on science is stupid. Salinger is either mentally unstable or he’s trying to hide his deceptive treatment of the national temperature records. We asked for details. You’re obviously hiding something if you call that anti-science.

The truth, of course, is that Treadgold and his friends at the Climate “Science” Coalition have spent the last four years quite deliberately attacking Salinger and the science team at NIWA by alleging they acted to deliberately overstate warming in New Zealand. They’ve taken their case to the High Court, and lost. Now they’re running away from facing the legal consequences, by refusing to pay court-ordered legal costs and leaving the NZ taxpayer to foot the bill2.

This has never been about science. It has always been a political campaign, as Treadgold himself acknowledged when he admitted to the “essentially political objectives of our paper”. Having the lost the argument, he’s now behaving like a spoilt child, throwing a hissy fit at Salinger for telling an uncomfortable truth. His pettiness even extends to posting articles suggesting that Salinger’s affiliations with the Universities of Auckland and Tasmania may be false3.

The last line of his typically prolix comment is interesting.

Finally, it’s insufficient that you merely repeat Salinger’s empty allegation of ‘errors’ in our audit. If you want us to respond to the allegation, specify the errors.

The hypocrisy evident here is breathtaking. The “audit” refers to a reconstruction of the NZ temperature record produced by Treadgold’s Coalition pals4 that was submitted as evidence in their High Court case. Treadgold and the CSC know perfectly well that NIWA found significant errors in that reconstruction, because a detailed description of those errors formed an important part of NIWA’s evidence produced in court.

If Treadgold and the CSC are so sure that their “audit” is faultless, why do they not submit it for peer review at an academic journal? I’m sure that Chris de Freitas, never averse to lending his academic weight to the climate crank cause, would be willing to act as lead author and help to usher it past peer review, as he has done for so many papers over the years. I hear that Pattern Recognition in Physics could have a new publisher who might be interested. In the meantime, if Treadgold has any sense of decency he will apologise to Salinger for so maligning an honest man. Past history would suggest that I should not hold my breath.

  1. Web cited so that he can’t “disappear” the evidence.
  2. I will have a great deal more to say on this issue, unless and until Barry Brill, Terry Dunleavy, Bryan Leyland and Doug Edmeades pay the costs awarded against their shonky trust
  3. They aren’t.
  4. Statistical Audit of the NIWA 7-Station Review, NZCSC, July 2011, available here.

When climate cranks lose at law: Salinger on the failed attempt to sue the NZ temperature record Gareth Renowden Jan 23

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If you do nothing else today, take the time to read Jim Salinger’s account at The Conversation of the attempt by New Zealand’s little coterie of climate deniers to cast doubt on the country’s temperature record. It’s a useful summary of the cranks’ ludicrous effort, but Jim points out that it is just a small part of a much larger global PR campaign — drawing heavily on the strategies and tactics first used by the tobacco lobby — to undermine action to reduce emissions:

Earlier this month, the news broke that major tobacco companies will finally admit they “deliberately deceived the American public”, in “corrective statements” that would run on prime-time TV, in newspapers and even on cigarette packs.

It’s taken a 15-year court battle with the US government to reach this point, and it shows that evidence can trump doubt-mongering in the long run.

A similar day may come for those who actively work to cast doubt on climate science.

Frankly, that day can’t come soon enough.

Meanwhile, the latest news on the attempt by the men behind the trust used to bring the legal action — the NZ Climate Science Education Trust, fronted by Bryan Leyland, Terry Dunleavy and Doug Edmeades — to dump the costs of their failed case on the New Zealand taxpayer is that the official liquidator rates the “prospect of dividend” – that is, a payout by the trust — as “unlikely”. In the latest report (pdf) posted at the Companies Office1, the liquidator comments that he has only be able to contact one of the NZCSET trustees and that “he has thus far been co-operative with the liquidation”. If the other two trustees are not helpful, the liquidator warns that “they will be summonsed to attend a meeting to provide the necessary information”.

It may be that Christmas and summer holidays is slowing down the process, but if the NZCSET trustees are being deliberately unhelpful, I hope the Insolvency Service uses all of its powers to make them comply with the law. These men have wasted large amounts of taxpayer money pursuing their idiotic political agenda, and must be made to pay for their folly.

  1. Go to the Societies and Trusts Online section, click search register, then use the NZCSET registration number – 2539286 – to find the documents.

NZ climate cranks’ trust folded, Brill et al try to escape justice Gareth Renowden Jan 12

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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.

The last refuge of scoundrels Gareth Renowden Oct 14

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Tomorrow, in the Appeal Court in Wellington (pdf), Justices Harrison, French and Miller will hear argument in the case of the NZ Climate Science “Education” Trust (NZCSET) versus the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), in the continuing effort of the cranks to litigate away warming in New Zealand over the last 150 years. According to the man who kicked off the whole process, Richard Treadgold of the “Climate Conversation” web site, the NZCSET bases its appeal on two main points:

The focussed grounds are that all three NIWA temperature series resulted from serious mistakes of fact, which impugned the rationality of the Crown Entity’s decisions.

This seems somewhat surprising, given that the judge in the original case was so scathing of the NZCSET’s expertise in his judgement delivered a year ago. One wonders how the Appeal Court will react to any attempt to relitigate the original decision, given Justice Venning’s findings. But then perhaps the whole appeal has rather more to do with the second basis for appeal:

The Coalition is also seeking reversal of the High Court’s costs order.

Costs of $118,000 were awarded against the NZCSET — a trust formed specifically to bring the original court case, and which did not legally exist until weeks after the original court documents were filed. Could it be that the trustees of the NZCSET, being Terry Dunleavy, Bryan Leyland and Doug Edmeades1, aren’t happy to pay the costs incurred by their leader and legal eagle, Barry Brill? One hopes that they’re not planning to fold the trust in the event that their appeal isn’t successful, thus avoiding having to pay NIWA’s costs. After all, they founded the trust with lofty aims:

… to promote a heightened awareness and understanding of, and knowledge about, the climate, environment and climate and environmental issues among scholars and researchers, members of the professions and members of the public… (see Sec 4.1.1 of the certificate)

I have a few questions for the trustees:

  • How much money has the trust disbursed amongst scholars and researchers since it was established on July 30, 2010? Over three years of fund raising and charitable endeavour has surely delivered more than a footling little court case?
  • In what ways, other than by bringing an unsuccessful court case, has the trust “heightened awareness and understanding of climate”?
  • In the event that you are unsuccessful in your appeal, are you planning to pay up in full for the costs awarded against you by Justice Venning? If not, why not?

I eagerly await assurances from the NZ Climate Science Education Trust that their laudable education effort continues, and that it has adequate funds to meet the costs they’ve incurred by taking NIWA to court. No doubt they will have plans for further and more productive education efforts in the near future. But I won’t be holding my breath…

Update: Tuesday 15th @ 3-50pm

Word reaches me that the NZCSET have just capitulated and abandoned their appeal against Justice Venning’s decision — in other words, a comprehensive victory for NIWA and a further vindication of the work done by their team on the NZ temperature record. The Appeal judges have reserved their judgement on costs, but it’s possible that the NZCSET’s legal bill might just have increased a fair bit.

  1. According to the certificate of incorporation: go here, click on Register Search, insert 2539286 in the appropriate box, and click “search”.

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