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Quite a few local bloggers* have commented on the legal action some New Zealand climate deniers are taking to get NIWA to change its national temperature record. This is only the latest step in a nasty little campaign by these people to deny the reality of climate change. Nasty because it distorts the data and facts and makes outrageous attacks on the integrity and honesty of New Zealand scientists. The latest step – but I do wonder if it is the last step – seeing it is likely to backfire.Initially this campaign attempted to take advantage of the “climategate” email hysteria to whip up local anti-science feelings. Of late, as this hysteria has dispersed the local deniers have deteriorated to a small but vocal clique making carping and dishonest attacks on NIWA. I guess they see this legal action as a way of somehow revitalising their campaign.

Legal action won’t change the climate

Don’t they know the story of King Canute? Several commenters have pointed out our understanding of reality is obtained by scientific enquiry, not legal action. That resorting to legal action is a sign of weakness. And that this legal action will probably backfire. Although, I guess when they are defeated that can always resort to the conspiracy theorist claim of “whitewash.” Russell Brown at Public Address suggests that journalists may actually be able to use reporting of this case to communicate some of the real science involved in climate change (see Doing Science in Court).

The political nature of this action, and the dishonesty of the charges, is well shown by the complete refusal of the denier groups to do any scientific analysis or checking of the NIWA data or conclusions themselves.  The raw temperature data is readily available and the methodology is published If the deniers seriously believed that NIWA’s adjustment of the data was faulty they had complete freedom to to their own anaylses and adjustments. They refused to do this and instead concentrated on attempting to impugn the honesty of NIWA scientists.

I wonder how they will answer these questions in court. Why did they not do their own analysis.? Why did they not calculate their own adjustments? Why did they not test the NIWA conclusions by repeating the analyses? After all, the data and methodology was available to them.

Lazy critics – won’t do their own work

This criticism of the refusal of the denier groups to undertake any analysis of their own is implicit in the comments several climate scientists made of the legal action (see Journals not court is place for scientific debate – experts for full quotes).

Dr Andy Reisinger, Senior Research Fellow, New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute and author of Climate Change 101:

“The Climate Science Coalition has not put forward any clear and consistent scientific arguments against this local or global temperature trend, has not published its views in scientific peer-reviewed journals, has not disclosed its own ‘scientific’ methods by which it claims to show that there has been a cooling rather than warming, and its members have little credibility in the climate science community.”

Dr Dave Lowe, former NIWA climate scientist:

“New Zealand climate change scientists employed by various Crown Research Institutes and Universities are amongst the best in the world and are internationally respected. Their research is continually scrutinised, peer reviewed and methods validated by independent research organisations world wide and this includes the techniques used to provide New Zealand temperature records.”

And:

“my suggestion is that the NZ Climate Science coalition should take the raw data used to produce the NZ temperature records (it is all publicly available) and work with it to produce the answer that they require. However their methods and results should then be subject to the same harsh international peer review and method validation processes as those undergone by the NIWA and other NZ climate scientists.”

Ralph Sims, Professor of Sustainable Energy, Director, Centre for Energy Research, Massey University:

“If they have a strong scientific argument as Mr Leyland is professing, why not simple submit a paper to a scientific journal in the usual manner and let the debate continue? Or is it that they simply want the publicity in order to keep their organization afloat?”

Euan Mason, Associate Professor, University of Canterbury:

“This legal suit is a nonsense designed to attract publicity and spread fear, uncertainty and doubt in the absence of a decent argument.  The media should ignore it and the judge should throw it out.  Let the “Climate Science Coalition” tender its own calculations and subject them to rigorous peer review by submitting a scientific paper.”

I have previously commented on this issue which has arisen because more and more scientific data, obtained by publicly financed research, is being made available (see Freedom of information and responsibility). Incompetent and frivolous use of this data should be controlled. There should be a requirement for proper scientific assessment of all reports and documents produced using the data. Whether the documents are produced by scientists or by those skeptical of the science.

(Related to this issue: Have a look at my email correspondence with the local climate change deniers. They outright refused to make available the data and methodologies they used in a discredited report attacking New Zealand scientists. So much for freedom of information.)

*See also:
Hot Topic’s When asses go to law.
Good background. Also NIWA v Cranks: Update one
Court challenge to Niwa ‘stupid’
Niwa challenged over accuracy of data – NZ Herald Report
Tumeke’s Shame on NZ Herald climate denier spin
Code for Life’s Opinion: Wanting to ’resolve’ (climate) science with legal games…
The Standard’s Attacking NIWA
No Right Turn’s Climate change: PR, not science
Dim-Post’s Inherit my wind

And a couple from the critics of the science:
Poneke’s Climate stunt won’t stop science eventually winning over propaganda and media beat-ups
KiwiBlog’s CSC v NIWA
Whaleoil’s N.I.W.A. taken to court over data accuracy

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