Prat watch #13: still crazy, after all these years

By Gareth Renowden 02/12/2013


There’s a parallel world out there — the planet inhabited by climate cranks and deniers. It’s a world where you can say whatever you like, be as wrong as you like, be shown to be wrong repeatedly, even comprehensively lose court cases, and yet you never have to say you’re sorry, or admit to your mistakes. It seems incredible to those of us who have to deal with reality, but there are people out there who will hang on your every word and take it as gospel, however outrageously wrong it may be. The latest dazzling effulgence from the pen of Richard Treadgold is a fine example of the genre. And yes, he is still banging on about NIWA and the NZ temperature record:

First, for the serially dishonest critics of our persistence on this topic, let me explain (yet again) that we have never disagreed with the occasional need for adjustments, we merely wish to know how NIWA makes them.

The serial dishonesty on display is Treadgold’s own. Here’s what he had to say when he launched this sad fiasco back in 2009:

The shocking truth is that the oldest readings have been cranked way down and later readings artificially lifted to give a false impression of warming, as documented below. There is nothing in the station histories to warrant these adjustments… [my emphasis]

I struggle to see how this statement is congruent with Treadgold’s re-imagining of history in his latest post. But he’s capable of much worse, it seems…

After all these years, after questions in the Parliament, a court case and an aborted appeal, newspaper and blog articles, radio reports and private emails, NIWA scientists have still not told us how they make the adjustments.

That’s an outright lie. NIWA published an exhaustive account of the methods they used when calculating their latest long term NZ temperature record — which turned out to be more or less identical to the old one. There are 169 pages of excruciating1 detail — as Treadgold well knows, because he links to it from his article one paragraph later! The mind boggles at the mental — er, agility — required to contradict yourself so comprehensively in the space of so few words, in a post headlined Epic fail, NIWA! Your methods are a global secret.

The rest of Treadgold’s post is a vain attempt to drum up some sort of outrage about anodyne statements made by NIWA’s chairman. Given the comprehensive failure by Treadgold, Brill et al to gain any traction with their ludicrous assertions about NZ’s temperature record, it’s perhaps not surprising that they resort to blowing smoke to cover their embarrassment.

An illustration of the Treadgold/Brill view of the world comes from this sentence in Treadgold’s post:

NIWA’s secret methodology grossly overstates the country’s warming as 0.91°C per century—using data from seven long-term weather stations, it increased every one of them—an incredible failure of chance alone.

If the New Zealand climate wasn’t warming, then that might be the case. But we know from other evidence — such as the shrinkage of NZ’s glaciers — that the climate has been warming. Seeing warming in the long term temperature record is exactly what you would expect. Physics and evidence trumps Treadgold’s naive interpretation of chance.

The Treadgold/Brill position, seen in the choice of words — the “secret methodology” that isn’t, that “grossly overstates” warming — only makes any kind of sense if you believe that NZ’s climate science community, and NIWA in particular, have somehow conspired to overstate warming in New Zealand.

That’s all the cranks have got left. There’s no science left to comfort them, no compelling evidence that doesn’t point to continuing warming, so they retreat into a fantasy world where everyone else is distorting the truth, and they are the sole guardians of some holy grail — the cup that cools.

Science is not done by fools and lawyers. It is not judged by courts or curmudgeons. It describes the uncomfortable reality in which the inhabitants of the world must live.

Meanwhile, one wonders if the trustees of the NZ Climate Science Education Trust, who brought the disastrous legal case against NIWA, have finally stumped up the costs awarded against them. If they haven’t, then the NZ taxpayer deserves to be told why not. That is a much more pressing question than any posed by Treadgold or Brill about NZ’s temperature record.

[Mr Simon, of course.]

  1. Sorry, Brett and the team!