The last refuge of scoundrels

By Gareth Renowden 14/10/2013


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”.