The annotated Rodney Hide: treating parliament with contempt

By Gareth Renowden 10/02/2010

rodenymorph.gifHow far can a Minister of the Crown go in misrepresenting the facts of a matter before he is guilty of misleading the House? That’s not an easy question to answer, but any sensible reading of Rodney Hide’s speech in response to prime minister John Key’s statement to the House yesterday would suggest that if there’s a line to cross, Hide’s not just trodden on the chalk but taken a flying leap into touch.

Hide is certainly parliament’s highest-profile climate “skeptic” (his spelling), with a long track record of spouting the standard climate crank arguments, but yesterday Hide combined a complete misrepresentation of the so-called “climategate” affair with a scurrilous attack on the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, based entirely on the discredited smear campaign emanating from the NZ Climate “Science” Coalition and Richard Treadgold’s “Climate Conversation Group”. Here’s the relevant section of Hide’s diatribe, annotated by me to show just how far from the truth he strayed…

After an opening dig at the ETS, Hide climbs straight into the so-called “climategate” affair:

Climate-gate is now the greatest scandal in the history of science.

Astonishing hyperbole, but straight out of the denial campaign’s play book. Try Googling “greatest scandal in the history of science” and see where the hits are coming from…

It turns out that the prestigious agencies involved in leading climate change science were breaking official information laws,

Where does he get the plural from? One agency — the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in the UK might have failed to meet the relevant freedom of information standards, but it was the subject of a coordinated campaign of frivolous FOI requests at the time, emanating from the Climate Audit blog — details here.

arbitrarily adjusting raw data,

Wrong. The “raw” data, supplied by national met services around the world was processed to create a global temperature record — a far from arbitrary process, and one fully described in the literature.

hiding the reasons for those adjustments,

Wrong. The methodology is fully described in the scientific literature.

then somehow contriving to lose the original unadjusted data so that it could not be independently checked,

Wrong. Most of the temperature data is freely available from national met services. Anyone wishing to independently check the CRU process could obtain the data in the same way as the CRU. Some met services do not make their data available free of charge (NIWA, for example, charged for access to its data until 2004), but will often provide it free to bona fide researchers.

thereby making claims that were not remotely justified by the state of the science,

Wrong. The various global temperature datasets produced by the Hadley Centre and CRU are very similar (though not identical) to those produced by NASA’s Godddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) and the various satellite data series.

and in some cases simply making it up.

Complete nonsense.

The so-called scientific agencies responsible for the climate-scare have ruthlessly suppressed competing theories and contrary data controlling and manipulating the peer review process.

More nonsense. If this were true, how did McLean et al (2009) slip through the net? The simple fact is that the most vocal sceptics are not working scientists, and do not submit papers to the peer-reviewed literature.

Government sponsored climate science has proved to have more in common with the Spanish inquisition than Popperian science.

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. Falsifiability is difficult to arrange with only one planet upon which to experiment.

Climate-gate, Glacier-gate, Africa-gate has left the once vaunted IPCC totally discredited.

Although “gates” are certainly proliferating in the media, when the substance of the allegations is examined the “mistakes” turn out to be minor. The IPCC’s fourth report is over 3,000 pages long. It would be a miracle if there were no mistakes in it, but it has certainly not been “totally discredited”.

I have always been a skeptic.

In mid-2008 (well after the publication of AR4). Hide was apparently happy to accept the state of the science as contained in the IPCC reports. Not so “skeptical” then. I wonder what happened to change Hide’s mind? Anything to do with ACT receiving large donations from millionaire climate sceptic Alan Gibbs?

When I started studying environmental science in 1975 many of the same so-called scientists were trying to scare the pants off us all with the coming of a new ice age. That’s because the world had been cooling for thirty years.

Hide studied for a Masters of Science in Resource Management at the Centre for Resource Management studies at what is now Lincoln University. One of his classmates at the time reports that Hide could have passed the paper without any reference to the primary scientific literature. Climate science wasn’t covered.

The “global cooling scare” never happened. There were a few media reports based on some speculative studies, but no “scare”.

It then warmed apparently for twenty-three years. So the same scientists turned global cooling into global warming. When the warming stopped in 1998, and the earth started to cool, the scare switched to climate change. That way the alarmists couldn’t be wrong. They were right whatever the temperature.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established in 1988. Republican strategist Frank Luntz suggested in a notorious memo in 2002 that Republicans should stop talking about “global warming”, and refer only to climate change as less “frightening”.

The world did not stop warming in 1998. Hide is repeating one of the oldest and most widely debunked canards in the crank catechism, but here’s the real irony: 1998 is only the warmest year in the record in the global temperature dataset produced by… wait for it… the Hadley Centre and CRU, the very body Hide has accused of “making stuff up”.

Our own NIWA is caught up in the scandal and its scientific credibility shredded.

NIWA has had nothing to do with any “gate” that Hide has mentioned.

NIWA’s raw data for their official temperature graph shows no warming. But NIWA shifted the bulk of the temperature record pre-1950 downwards and the bulk of the data post-1950 upwards to produce a sharply rising trend. Their warming trend is not a consequence of measurement but of manufactured adjustment.

Hide appears happy to forget that stations that have not been adjusted show the very same rising trend.

Well, there may be good reason for the adjustment.

So, before Christmas, I asked NIWA to disclose the adjustments and their reasons. They said they would.

But they have just told the Climate Science Coalition they don’t have the record of the adjustments.

As I discovered a couple of days ago, that’s not what NIWA told the CSC and Treadgold. The adjustments are described in the literature, and references were provided. Hide is clearly misrepresenting the facts of the matter here, taking his cue from the NZ CSC and Treadgold.

NIWA’s entire argument for warming was a result of adjustments to data which can’t be justified or checked.

A straightforward lie, and a direct attack on the scientists working at NIWA. The shareholding ministers for NIWA are finance minister and deputy PM Bill English, and minister for research, science and technology Wayne Mapp. They should immediately demand that Hide withdraw his allegation, and apologise.

It’s shonky. The entire thing is.

What’s shonky is the “work” done by Treadgold and the CSC. That Hide should rely on stuff that had already been widely and publicly discredited says a very great deal about his willingness to play fast and loose with the facts in order to pursue a political agenda.

But on the basis of shonky science, our government is whacking Fonterra with a $100 million-a-year bill, taxing the average dairy farm $10,000 extra and hiking fuel and power costs to every business and householder in the country.
Even if the science was perfect you wouldn’t have an ETS. But the science is not just settled. It’s descended into a farce.

The only farce here is that a member of the government, the minister for local government, should be prepared to tell lies in the House and participate in a smear campaign concocted by the Climate “Science” Coalition and the “Climate Conversation Group”.

Hide’s performance in the House yesterday was scandalous, and he should be held to account for it. His comments on climate science amount to a pot pourri of misrepresentation, lies and innuendo, and a direct attack on the reputation of NIWA and the scientists working there. Members of Parliament are free to speak their minds in the House — they have absolute freedom of speech, and cannot be sued for libel. But they are also obliged not to mislead the House, and it is clear that Hide’s performance yesterday was misleading in the extreme. There is a wider issue too: if a minister of the crown can lie with impunity about matters outside his ministerial responsibilities, how can the public have any confidence in his statements about areas in which he works? John Key needs to make Hide aware that credibility is hard won and easily lost, and he now has none. But I won’t be holding my breath.

[Update: At the same time as Hide was asserting that NIWA couldn’t justify or check the adjustments made to the temperature, NIWA was publishing on their web site that very data. Did he think to check with NIWA before attacking them? Obviously not.]