National Business Review: last bastion of climate denial in NZ pushes de Freitas tosh

By Gareth Renowden 18/11/2014


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.