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Posts Tagged Climate cranks

Federated Farmers: sticking their heads in the soil? cindy May 12

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Dryland farmingFederated Farmers says farmers don’t need to worry about the causes of climate change, they only need to cope with the impacts. Feds President William Rolleston says they have “no position” on whether mankind is influencing global warming, and say that looking at the causes is not that helpful. No position?

“We [farmers] need to basically adjust to the realities that are being dealt to us, and why it may or may not be happening isn’t really as important, as actually being prepared for what we actually do get dealt,” their “climate change spokesman” Anders Crofoot told Radio New Zealand today.

You can’t have “no position” on the climate science — it’s like telling your bank manager you have “no position” on your finances, despite the numbers being there for all to see. I’m calling it climate denial. I’ll come back to that later, but let’s look at WHY they’re saying that.  If you were to take a position, that is, agree that climate change is real and caused by humans, you’d have to act. You’d think.

 

So I guess it’s blindingly obvious why Federated Farmers want to avoid talking about the causes of climate change, because farming, at 48 percent, is the largest contributor to our burgeoning greenhouse gas emissions, and the present government has exempted them from the emissions trading scheme, the one they’re consulting on at the moment.

But let’s look at impact of climate change on farmers — what they might be “dealt” as a result of the climate change they’re contributing to but not willing to do anything about, and what they have to look forward to.

One climate impact we can look forward to in New Zealand is increased drought. We’re starting to experience droughts here already, like never before. One obvious problem with increased drought is lack of water. And the expansion of industrial dairy farming — often chopping down forests that used to act as carbon sinks — is driving a massive investment into irrigation and increased water use.

In February this year, during the worst drought experienced by the South Island farming community, maybe ever, Fed Farmers’ Environment and Water spokesman Ian Mackenzie was on the radio slamming the Government’s Crown Irrigation Fund for providing loans for famers, rather than actual investment for irrigation schemes.  The pressure is going on, with both Federated Farmers and Irrigation NZ both pushing hard for Government — and therefore the taxpayer — to front the costs.

What is climate change costing us?

This year’s drought has shaved 0.5% off GDP growth, according to ANZ. Farmers freaked out in February as the unprecedented Canterbury drought forced the shutting of the Opuha Dam for irrigation.  

Meat prices dropped as farmers, unable to feed their animals, had to cull them.

Even Bathurst Resources, which, in the face of plummeting coal prices, is having to rely on supplying coal domestically, reported a drop in income in the first quarter of this year because its main customer, Fonterra, had less milk to dry and therefore used less coal.

The 2013 drought in the North Island was the “worst in history” according to scientists and cost the country around $1.3 billion.  This drought has now been confirmed by scientists to have been made worse by climate change.

The 2007-08 drought had a $2.8 billion economic impact, in on-farm and off-farm costs.

And that’s just the droughts

Let’s turn now to the damages from floods and storms — the type of extreme weather events that are expected to come from climate change. By September 2014, weather-related Insurance had cost $135.4 million. The Insurance Council of NZ predicts that this type of event will cost, on average, $1.6 billion a year, as climate impacts kick in.

Of course not all of this cost will be laid only at a farmer’s door, but if you look at the Insurance Council’s list of big disasters the insurance industry has had to pay out for in recent years, it’s clear that farmers have certainly suffered their fair share of impacts.

Back to the science

Given that 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate change is happening, and that we’re causing it,  and we’ve now had no less than five IPCC reports, the question has to be asked: where has Federated Farmers been?

Its leader-with-no-position, William Rolleston, is supposedly a smart man. According to this profile, “his appetite for all things science is fuelled by reading on the origins and workings of the universe, biology and natural history.” He sits on the Ministry of Science, Business and Innovation’s Science Board.

So you’d think he’d maybe have read the IPCC summaries, or consulted some of his colleagues on that board about the science of climate change, its causes and its projected impacts, and realised that you can’t have “no position” on climate science. If you are a scientist, you don’t get to pick and choose which bits of evidence you believe in. You live with the facts.

For a group that purports to be acting on behalf of farmers, one would think that in 2015 Federated Farmers would be taking this issue, and its causes, extremely seriously.

The droughts that farmers are feeling today, at 0.8ºC of warming, are already having a serious economic effect on their industry and, given that current projections are that we’re heading to 4ºC of warming, you’d think they’d be going all out to do what they can to stop it. But denying its very existence? Seriously?

I just hope that the rest of the country’s farmers, ie the 85 percent who are not represented by Federated Farmers, aren’t quite that stupid.

But if Federated Farmers refuse to take any responsibility for — or do anything about the causes of climate change — and instead continue upping production without paying any attention to emissions, the question has to be asked: why should the taxpayer, and the Government, continue to give them handouts for drought relief or storm relief, or give them a free ride on the costs of their emissions to the rest of the economy? Why should we stump up for massive irrigation schemes to pay for even more irrigation so they can ramp up production further?

Climate battle at NBR: Rodney’s rubbish versus Wiggs wisdom Gareth Renowden Apr 26

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New Zealand’s leading business media outfit — the National Business Review — has long dallied with climate denial, providing a platform for former ACT party leader Rodney Hide (amongst others) to push climate tosh. Last week Rodney used his regular opinion column to attack the government’s emissions policies (behind paywall) — fair enough, given that they are rubbish — but his rationale was that it was a waste of time because climate change wasn’t happening:

So what about the temperature record? Where is this being reported? Where is the headline? It’s the easiest question to ask, the best news to report and the only salient fact in an ocean of green wash and government propaganda.

And what’s that news? No global warming for nearly 20 years.

So far, so predictable… and so wrong. Here’s the latest news:

GISStemp20153

The last 12 months have been the hottest in the long term record. So was the year ending in February. With an El Niño event brewing in the Pacific, 2015 is on course to set a new record for hottest calendar year. 14 of the 15 hottest years have occurred this century. And that’s just if we look at surface temperatures. If we look where most of the heat is going — into the oceans — there’s no sign of any pause at all.

Rodney’s column attracted a comment from another NBR columnist, Lance Wiggs, a man with some real business chops and a respect for scientific evidence. That in turn sparked a battle of the columnists in this week’s NBR: Rodney’s rubbish, versus Wiggs’ wisdom.

 

A comparison is instructive. Rodney doubles down on his denial, blustering away for all he is worth: taking umbrage at being called a denier, dissing the models, moaning that costly action now will impoverish future generations. Wiggs prefers a more measured tone, provides plentiful references, and on the cost issue makes this telling observation:

Rodney Hide does not want to spend money, but it’s pretty easy to see that if we don’t invest now in combating and mitigating change, then we will be passing an ever-increasing burden on to the future. We advise people to start saving early for retirement because of the compounding effect of interest, and it’s the same with action on climate change – as CO2 emissions increase the job we all have to combat the crises gets harder and harder.

To rub salt into the wound, Wiggs advocates a carbon tax as the best policy to price emissions — exactly the policy Hide advocated in parliament before his Damascene conversion to climate denial.

Wiggs also notes that “the climate damage is already done”, and that we will have to live with the consequences by investing in resilience to climate change as well as cutting emissions. His final paragraph is something I am happy to endorse in full:

So what’s the worst that could happen if we work together to reduce carbon emissions? More business efficiency, lower emissions of the other nasty pollutants and power generation that is driven by free resources. That’s a future I’d like to live in.

Amen to that. In the meantime, would it be too much to ask NBR’s editor at large Nevil Gibson — himself something of a climate contrarian, to judge by the coverage he gives the subject — to ask Rodney to stick to writing about things he understands. Whatever they might be. Ballroom dancing, perhaps.

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 05

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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

The wrinkled retainer returns with a Peer-reviewed Peer Gareth Renowden Jan 22

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There is much ado at Tannochbrae Manor, because the Laird has once again disproved global warming. One equation is all it takes! And an article in a new Chinese science journal with some friends, and lo!

Take away that inappropriate and misapplied equation, remove the unjustifiable tripling and the climate “crisis” vanishes.

You couldn’t make it up1. Although the Laird is a past master of self-parody, his triumphant article at WND is really something else. But enough: there is much ado at Tannochbrae Manor, because Scrotum has returned!

It’s been nearly two years since the last of my Monckton tales, and fully six since Old Scrotum first trod the boards at Hot Topic, so it’s a great pleasure to see someone else picking up the characters and beating around the bush with a pheasant in the hand and a peasant in the pocket. Izen has summoned the wrinkled retainer from retirement in order to help him express his astonishment at the chutzpah of the good Lord in writing and promoting his latest opus, which is being widely greeted with yawns — and some preliminary debunking. There will be more.

There may even be more from Scrotum. I hear rumours that the Laird’s attempts at spoken Mandarin are not going down well…

  1. No, wait a minute. You can. He has. And I might be persuaded…

Hot Air on TV tonight Gareth Renowden Dec 30

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Alister Barry’s Hot Air, a superb documentary on the slow and sorry evolution of climate policy and politics in New Zealand is getting its first TV airing tonight on Maori TV at 8-30pm. Alister wrote about his film at Hot Topic back in July, and according to the Listener, it makes for “compelling and absolutely terrifying” viewing. If you miss tonight’s showing, Hot Air will be available to stream from the Maori TV web site. Recommended.

[Update 31/12: Hot Air streaming here.]

Is earth’s temperature about to soar? (No pause, no hiatus, only warming) Gareth Renowden Dec 10

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This is a guest post by the statistician who blogs as Tamino, cross-posted from his Open Mind blog with his permission. It’s important reading…

A recent blog post on RealClimate by Stefan Rahmstorf shows that when it comes to recent claims of a “pause” or “hiatus,” or even a slowdown in global surface temperature, there just isn’t any reliable evidence to back up those claims.

TempCP3

Yet for years one of the favourite claims of those who deny the danger of global warming has been “No global warming since [insert start time here] !!!” They base the statement on the observed data of earth’s surface temperature or its atmospheric temperature. Then they claim that such a “pause” or “hiatus” in temperature increase disproves, in one fell swoop, everything about man-made climate change.

They seem a bit worried lately because it is very likely that the data from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) will record this year as the hottest on record; we won’t know, of course, until 2014 is complete. A single year, even if the hottest on record, has only a little to do with the validity of such claims, but a lot to do with how hard it is to sell the idea. Perhaps they dread the prospect that if the most recent year is the hottest on record — in any data set — it will put a damper on their claims of a “pause” in global warming. If they can’t claim that any more, it deprives them of one of their most persuasive talking points (whether true or not). Still the claims persist; they’ve even begun preparing to ward off genuine skepticism spurred by the hottest year on record.

I seem to be one of very few who has said all along, repeatedly and consistently, that I’m not convinced there has been what is sometimes called a “pause” or “hiatus,” or even a slowdown in the warming trend of global temperature — let alone in global warming.

And it’s the trend that’s the real issue, not the fluctuations which happen all the time. After all, if you noticed one chilly spring day that all that week it had been colder than the previous week, you wouldn’t announce “No more summer on the way! No more seasons since [insert start time here]!!!” You’d know that in spite of such short-term fluctuations, the trend (the march of the seasons) will continue unabated. You wouldn’t even consider believing it had stopped without some strong evidence. You certainly wouldn’t believe it based on weak evidence, and if the evidence is far too weak …

Why am I not convinced? Because the evidence for claims of a “pause” or “hiatus” or even slowdown is weak. Far too weak.

Let me show you just how weak their case is.

Rahmstorf’s post is based on a mathematical technique known as “change point analysis” (with the kind assistance of Niamh Cahill, School of Mathematical Sciences, University College Dublin) applied to data from GISS (NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies). The result is that the most recent change point (the most recent change in the trend) which is supported by the data happened back in 1970, nearly 45 years ago. As for a change in the trend more recently than that (which is the basis of claims about a “pause”), there’s just no evidence that passes muster.

Of course, the data from GISS isn’t the only well-known data for global surface temperature; there’s also the aforementioned NOAA data, the HadCRUT4 data (from the Hadley Centre/Climate Research Unit in the U.K.), the data from Cowtan & Way (an improved — in my opinion — version of the HadCRUT4 data), the CRUTEM4 data which cover only earth’s land areas (also from the the Hadley Centre/Climate Research Unit), and the land-only Berkeley data (from the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project). There’s also data covering, not earth’s surface but its lower atmosphere (often called “TLT” for “temperature lower-troposphere), one from UAH (University of Alabama at Huntsville), another from RSS (Remote Sensing Systems).

With so many data sets to choose from, sometimes those who deny the danger of global warming but don’t like the result they get from one data set will just use another instead, whichever gives the result they want. Then again, some of them might accuse Rahmstorf, in his blog post, of choosing the NASA GISS data because it was most favourable to his case; I don’t believe that’s true, not at all. We can forestall such criticism by determining the result one gets from different choices and compare them. In fact, it’s worth doing for its own sake.

Let me state the issue I intend to address: whether or not there has even been any verifiable change in the rate of temperature increase — and remember, we’re not talking about the up-and-down fluctuations which happen all the time, and are due to natural factors (they’re also well worth studying), we’re talking about the trend. If there’s no recent change in the trend, then there certainly isn’t a “pause” or “hiatus” in global warming. I’ll also apply a different technique than used in Rahmstorf’s post.


First a few notes. Those not interested in technical details, just skip this and the next paragraphs. For those interested, I’ll mention that to estimate the uncertainty of trend analysis we need to take into account that the noise (the fluctuations) isn’t the simple kind referred to as white noise, rather it shows strong autocorrelation. I’ll also take into account that the noise doesn’t even follow the simplest form of autocorrelation usually applied, what’s called “AR(1)” noise, but it can be well approximated by a somewhat more complex form referred to as “ARMA(1,1)” noise using the method of Foster & Rahmstorf. This will enable me to get realistic estimates of statistical uncertainty levels.

I’ll also address the proper way to frame the question in the context of statistical hypothesis testing. The question is: has the warming rate changed since about 1970 when it took on its rapid value? Hence the proper null hypothesis is: the warming rate (the trend, not the fluctuations) is the same after our choice of start year as it was before (basically, since 1970). Only if we can contradict that null hypothesis can we say there’s valid evidence of a slowdown.


Spoiler alert: there’s no chance whatever of finding a “slowdown” that starts before 1990 or after 2008. Therefore for all possible “start of trend change” years from 1990 through 2008, I computed the best-fit statistical model that includes a change in trend starting at that time. I then tested whether or not the trend change in that model was “statistically significant.” To do so, we compute what’s called a p-value. To be called “significant” the p-value has to be quite small — less than 0.05 (i.e. less than 5%); if so, such a result is confirmed with what’s called “95% confidence” (which is 100% minus our p-value of 5%). Requiring 95% confidence is the de facto standard in statistics, not the universal choice but the most common and certainly a level which no statistian would find fault with. This approach is really very standard fare in statistical hypothesis testing.

So here’s the test: see whether or not we can find any start year from 1990 through 2008 for which the p-value is less than 0.05 (to meet the statistical standard of evidence). If we can’t find any such start year, then we conclude that the evidence for a trend change just isn’t there. It doesn’t prove that there hasn’t been any change, but it does lay bare the falsehood of proclamations that there definitely has been.

I’ll also avoid criticisms of using some data set chosen because of the result it gives, by applying the test to every one of the aforementioned data sets, four for global surface temperature, two for land-only surface temperature, and two for atmospheric temperature.

I can graph the results with dots connected by lines showing the p-values for each choice of start year, with the results from different data sets shown in different colours. The p-values are plotted from highest (no significance at all) at the bottom to lowest (statistically significant) at the top, with a dashed line near the top showing the 5% level; at least one of the dots for at least one of the data sets has to rise above the dashed line (dip below 5%) to meet the “Statistical Significance for Trend Change” region in order to claim any valid evidence of that (think of it as “You must be this tall to go on this ride”). Have a look:

Pvals

In no case does the p-value for any choice of start year, for any choice of data set, reach the “statistically significant” range. Therefore, for no choice of start year, for no choice of data set, can you make a valid claim to have demonstrated a slowdown in warming. As a matter of fact, in no case does the p-value for any choice of start year, for any choice of data set, get as low as the 10% level. To put it another way, there’s just no valid evidence of a “slowdown” which will stand up to statistical rigor.

Bottom line: not only is there a lack of valid evidence of a slowdown, it’s not even close.

But wait … there’s more! Imagine you roll a pair of dice and get a 12 in some game where that’s the only losing roll. You might suspect that the dice are loaded, because if the dice were fair then the chance of rolling a 12 is only 1 out of 36, or 2.8% (hence the “p-value” is 2.8%). You can’t prove the dice are loaded, but at least you’ve got some evidence.

Now suppose you roll the dice 20 times, and at least once you got a 12. Do you now have evidence the dice are loaded? Of course not. You see, you didn’t just roll once so that the p-value is 2.8%, instead you gave yourself 20 chances to get a 12, and the chance of rolling a 12 if you get to try 20 times is much much higher than the chance of rolling a 12 if you only get to try once. In fact the chance is 43%, so the p-value for all the rolls combined is 43%. That’s way way way higher than 5%. Not only do you have no valid evidence based on that, it’s not even close.

In the above tests, we didn’t just test whether there was valid evidence of a trend change for a single start year. We did it for every possible start year from 1990 through 2008, 19 choices in all. That means that the actual p-value is much higher than the lowest individual p-value we found — it’s just too easy to get results that look “significant” when you don’t take into account that you gave yourself many chances. The conclusion is that not only is there a lack of valid evidence of a change in trend, it’s nowhere near even remotely being close. Taking that “you gave yourself multiple chances” into account is, in fact, one of the strengths of change point analysis.

I repeat: not only is there a lack of valid evidence of a slowdown, it’s nowhere near even remotely being close. And that goes for each and every one of the 8 data sets tested.

A hottest-on-record for 2014 will dampen the enthusiasm of those who rely on “No global warming since [insert start time here] !!!” Yet, in my opinion, this never was a real issue because there never was valid evidence, even of a slowdown, let alone a “pause” or “hiatus.”

Based on the best estimate of the present trend, using the data from NASA GISS (as used in Rahmstorf’s post), this is what we can expect to see in upcoming years:

Giss2

Of course there will still be fluctuations, as there always have been. But if future temperature follows the path which really is indicated by correct statistical analysis, then yes, Earth’s temperature is about to soar.

Does the data prove there’s been no slowdown? Of course not, that’s simply impossible to do. But the actual evidence, when subjected to rigorous statistical analysis, doesn’t pass muster. Not even close. Those who insist there definitely has been a “pause” or “hiatus” in temperature increase (which seems to include all of those who deny the danger from man-made climate change) either don’t really know what they’re doing, or — far worse — they do know what they’re doing but persist in making claims despite utter lack of evidence.

I will predict, however, with extreme confidence, that in spite of the lack of valid evidence of any change in the trend, and even if we face rapid and extreme warming in the near future, there’ll be no “pause” or even slowdown in faulty claims about it from the usual suspects.

Solid Treadgold, easy action (NZ still warming fast) Gareth Renowden Dec 03

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It’s time to return to the delusions harboured by New Zealand’s little coterie of climate cranks about the NZ temperature record. Readers may recall that — somehow — the men who lost a court case against NIWA and then folded the charitable trust they’d used to bring the case in order to avoid paying costs, managed to get their “reconstruction” of the NZ temperature record through peer review and into the scientific literature. To no-one’s surprise, they found that warming in NZ was only one third of that found by NIWA and a generation of NZ climatologists. To do that, they had to torture the data beyond endurance, as I showed at the time.

Equally unsurprising is that Richard Treadgold, prime mover of the whole fiasco, felt moved to respond in a number of typically prolix posts at his blog. His first, What Mullan actually says, purports to lay out the disputed points:

…I think these are the debating points he’s trying to make, lined up with the passages in which he makes them.

One small problem. This is not a debate. The facts are what the facts are, just as the temperature data is what it is. No amount of handwaving — or appeals to judicial authority — can change the facts of this matter. What can change is the interpretation placed on those facts, and that’s where Treadgold et al went wrong on day one.

In 2010 they decided — and explicitly told the world — that NZ’s climate scientists had been cooking the books. Everything they’ve done since has been a part of building a false narrative, a silly superstructure of misinterpretation and misdirection clumsily bolted together, designed to fool anyone sympathetic to their position. The new paper, by de Freitas, Dedekind & Brill 2014 (dFDB 2014) is just the latest effort to prop up that tottering edifice.

I have no intention of wasting time by playing along with Treadgold et al’s narrative. There are so many misdirections and misunderstandings on display in his sequence of posts that it would take a magnum opus to deal with them all. If I thought that by doing that I might change their minds — win them over to the world of climate rationality — then I would be happy to do it, but Treadgold et al are not what I would describe as rational actors. They admit no facts that are inconvenient to their world view, and show no sign of educability on climate science.

I will confine my response to a few simple points. In his “debating points” post, Treadgold’s point 8 is:

The de Freitas et al. (2014) paper should have discussed the relevant literature, including Mullan (2012).

The response (one presumes from Dedekind) is:

Mullan (2012) is not relevant literature.

I fell off my chair with laughter on reading that bald statement. A paper that explicitly deals with the statistical techniques described in the paper dFDB 2014 claims to base its reconstruction on, as applied to the temperature data dFDB 2014 uses, is somehow “not relevant”!

Let’s be blunt. Any peer-reviewed paper discussing the NZ temperature record should refer to all the recent published literature on NZ temperatures. We’re not talking about a field so crowded with publications that some selection might be necessary. Even more importantly, because Mullan (2012) explicitly points out the correct application of the techniques that dFDB claim to apply, they really had no option but to deal with that in their paper — at least, if they wanted to be taken seriously.

That dFDB 2014 did not even cite Mullan (2012) tells us two things: that the peer reviewers were not familiar with the local literature or they would have insisted the authors address the points raised by Brett Mullan’s paper, and that dFDB were keen to avoid dealing with inconvenient arguments.

Treadgold’s point 4 is:

In compiling Mullan et al. (2010) minimum/maximum data were looked at as well as the mean data used for the publication. These calculations were supplied to BOM.

This misses my point, even though he quotes my post above his summary. If you are going to insist that you will only adjust series if there is a statistically significant difference between sites, then you have to consider the significance of maximum and minimum temperature changes, not just look at the mean. Dedekind tries to hand wave his way around this crucial point:

Min/max records are useful on occasion, but it is the mean that is adjusted up or down and therefore it is the effect on the mean that is of interest to readers. This is why all 170 pages of M10 discuss adjustments to the mean data and only mention min/max data in passing (in relation to Albert Park station).

It is of course possible to prepare a full adjusted minimum or maximum chart along with the adjusted mean temperature chart, but our purpose in the paper was to prepare a mean temperature reanalysis.

A very telling comment. Their “purpose” was not to look at the data — all the data — and see if adjustments were necessary. They were not interested in trying different approaches to test the sensitivity of their approach — something any real scientist would do, and which was explicitly a part of the Rhoades and Salinger method as described in their 1992 paper.

Again, let’s be blunt. If you are going to use statistical significance as your break point for applying an adjustment, then you have to consider maximum and minimum temperatures, not just look at the mean, or you will exclude adjustments that should be made. Surely that wasn’t what they were aiming for?

Treadgold’s point 3:

All of Jim Salinger’s original calculations for the 1992 version were made available during discovery in the High Court proceedings.

His reply (presumably from Barry Brill) is a classic of its kind:

NIWA’s discovery process was a classic example of the “blizzard of documents” trick. Barry Brill, NZ Climate Science Coalition chairman and solicitor for the NZCSET, was led into a mid-size room at NIWA’s Wellington premises where climate data spreadsheets were stacked 2-3 cartons deep around all the walls, to a height of about 5 feet. However, he found some cartons marked “Salinger” which he was told had been sitting in Jim Salinger’s office for untold years.

He finally came across one that seemed to relate to the MetService work. It was a total mess. There was no way in the world anybody could have found data relating to the seven stations, let alone identified the adjustments or the calculation techniques. The only reference to adjustments were updates done by Maunder and Finkelstein. The lack of adjustment calculations is unsurprising. Salinger92 says they “set the computers rolling” rather than do them manually.

Presumably Brill was unable to locate the manila folders clearly labelled with the station names — one or more folder for each of the 24 stations homogenised in Salinger et al (1992). If he had opened those folders, he would have discovered computer printout headed up “Program Adjust”, with site cross-correlations, adjustments, standard errors, and phrases like: “12 months used before and after each change”. Then, next page: “24 months used before and after each change”, and on the next page: “48 months used before and after each change”. Perhaps Brill, a lawyer and former politician with no apparent interest in climate science until taking over the chairmanship of the NZ Climate “Science” Coalition, having called NIWA scientists incompetent and dishonest, found it difficult to ask for their assistance in interpreting the information there for him to examine.

Whatever happened in that room at NIWA, it is clear that Brill failed to inform himself and his clients about what was really in those boxes piled so deep. Had he done so, it would have been clear that the narrative they had constructed was untenable when tested against the facts — something the judge in their failed court case was able to spot. Worse, it makes it clear that the central contention of dFDB 2014 — that theirs is the first application of the Rhoades and Salinger techniques to the long term NZ temperature record — is a straightforward falsehood.

There is more — much more — that I could write about dFDB 2014 and the pathetic attempts by Treadgold, Dedekind and Brill to defend their actions and their shoddy paper, but as I said earlier, life really is too short to enter their alternate universe and deal with it on its own terms — especially when that universe is sorely lacking in entertainment or intellectual stimulation. Nevertheless, I suspect dFDB 2014 will get a further response in due course where it belongs — in the peer-reviewed literature. That will put the matter to rest in the real world, but in the tough little epistemic bubble inhabited by Treadgold, Dedekind, de Freitas and Brill, there will be a wailing and moaning and gnashing of teeth — but very little else will change.

[T Rex]

National Business Review: last bastion of climate denial in NZ pushes de Freitas tosh Gareth Renowden Nov 18

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The National Business Review — New Zealand’s biggest-selling business weekly — provides a happy media home for climate deniers of all stripes. Columnists like former ACT Party leader Rodney Hide and right wing spin doctor Matthew Hooton1 are given free rein to rant and rave about climate issues, but occasionally editor Nevil Gibson offers its august platform to others so that they can spout fatuous piffle. Last week’s issue featured an opinion column by Chris de Freitas, in which he waxes lyrical about his recent paper on the NZ temperature record — the shonky one that claims to find warming to be only one third of what real experts calculate.

The NBR hides most of its material behind a paywall, so I can’t link directly to the text — but the less scrupulous chaps at the NZ Climate “Science” Coalition2 are happy to host a pdf lifted from the NBR site.

As you might expect, de Freitas doesn’t restrict himself to narrow concepts of truth and factual accuracy. He mentions the cranks’ court case…

The High Court ruled against the trust and ordered it to repay court costs.

… but neglects to point out that the trust has since failed to pay those costs. It has of course been put into receivership, thus allowing the trustees to escape the $90,000-worth of financial consequences of losing their crackpot case.

de Freitas also misrepresents the membership of the trust.

The trust was suspected of hosting global warming sceptics, which was clearly not the case, as the group was not asserting climate warming does not exist. Rather it represented the view of those who are sceptical of alarmist claims that dangerous human-caused global warming is taking place.

The trustees were Bryan Leyland, Terry Dunleavy and Doug Edmeades, with Barry Brill acting as their lawyer. Leyland, Dunleavy and Brill are men with long track records as “global warming sceptics” — not least Leyland, who is on record predicting imminent global cooling.

The rest of de Freitas’s op-ed repeats the misdirections that can be found in the text of his paper, mostly dealt with in my first post on the matter a couple of weeks ago, but there are two I can’t let pass:

The newly published work aimed to apply the method set out by Rhoades and Salinger exactly as they describe, without adjusting it in any way.

dFDB 2014 chooses to interpret the methods suggested by Rhoades and Salinger in a very particular way — one that has the effect of reducing the apparent warming trend. If those methods are properly applied, as in Mullan 2012, the warming reappears3.

de Freitas also attempts to justify the whole farrago:

National temperature trends are widely used for a large number of societal design and planning purposes and it is important that they should be as reliable as modern methods allow.

This is transparent nonsense. Historical temperature trends are interesting, but they play no useful part in future planning. To plan in the face of rapid climate change, we need good regional projections for temperature changes, sea level rise and increases in weather extremes. Those will come from climate models, not temperature records.

de Freitas’s paper is nothing more than a political exercise — a part of the climate cranks long running campaign against NIWA. It’s dressed up as an academic paper — but like the Emperor’s new clothes, the finery is only visible to the cranks themselves.

The NBR, meanwhile, confirms its position as the last bastion of climate denial opinion. As I’ve said before, it could be argued that the business community gets the journalism it deserves. It would appear New Zealand’s business community continues to be in deep, deep trouble.

  1. Hooton’s last column on climate matters appeared two weeks ago, and managed to be a spectacular home goal. But then he’s no stranger to those.
  2. Let’s not forget that they are quite happy to register a charitable trust to bring a court case against NIWA, and then fold it so that the trustees can escape the financial consequences of their actions, so the fact that they are happy to disrespect the NBR’s paywall should come as no surprise.
  3. There will be more on this in future posts at HT on the dFDB 2014 paper and the desperate attempts by the authors to justify their conclusions.

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