A desperate plea to be noticed?

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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7 responses to “A desperate plea to be noticed?

  1. A pretty good review Ken, and an excellent title, “A deperate plea to be noticed”
    The Climate Science Foundation are just like the myriad of other denier organisations around the world, a sad and misguided band of duped individuals who have come together to “echo” the nonsense put out by the vested interests of the fossil fuel and energy industries.
    The same tactics of challenging data rather than presenting new data has been employed for years, and, this is the only avenue these deniers can travel for they have not been able to come up with any new data that supports their unsupportable case. Look at the amount of effort put into creating conflict with Dr. Michael Mann’s iconic work on temperature proxies for the past 1,000 years. He and his team’s work have been challenged time and time again and yet every inquiry conducted into the efficacy of his work vindicates his conclusions. Similarly, with the so called “Climategate” cheating scientists of the East Anglia University CRU, three independent inquiries found no fault with their scientific conclusions – Dr. Jones and his team were vindicated.
    It’s a poor day for New Zealand’s reputation of an honest and environmentally aware nation that the courts would even countenance a trial without first ascertaing that there some reliable permissable evidence to support the plaitiff’s case. Surely this is what the law, and ultimately justice, is about; the presentation of irrefutable evidence rather than the presentation of opinions or hearsay.
    But maybe the best short term action is to “bring it on” and then when the whole thing is thrown out of court would be to make sure that is publicised to the maximum.

  2. I think you are right Patrickdj.

    Bring it on. The denier groups get a little boost to the message to start with but if a court case goes ahead they are going to look pretty silly.

    It also gives a chance for the science to be aired properly.

  3. Richard Christie

    It also gives a chance for the science to be aired properly.
    Dunno about that Ken. Law Courts are not equipped to weigh scientific argument. Their Honors, more often than not, wouldn’t know ion from iron. They rely on opposing opinion proffered in an adversarial environment. They wouldn’t know if they were listening to sound science or mumbo jumbo. They simply haven’t the training.
    In my opinion it’s not the correct forum.

  4. I agree, Richard. Not the correct forum. But at least the claims of no adjustments necessary and the nature of adjustments should get aired.

    I would hope too that some hard questions would be put to the coalition and their mates.

    The problem is that the person in the street never gets to hear such issues and can easily get fooled by denier claims. I am sure a lot were taken in by the charge of unnecessary adjustments.

    Still it mat not even get that far because many will agree it is not appropriate.

  5. I can’t honestly disgree with Richard when he tells us judges are not equipped to weigh up the scientific argument, indeed they are not.
    But this is not a judge’s role, the role of a judge is to judge whether or not evidence is applicable, evidence is permitted to be given but most importantly that the evidence is factual and from a qualified source. Also to ensure the opposing forces are following judicial rules in terms of evidence, witnesses and questioning correctly.
    Based on this, any judge worth his salt would through out the CSF case for a lack of permissable and factual evidence. No need even to debate the science.

  6. Richard Christie

    Over on Poneke’s blog some clown is favourably likening Mockton’s court struggles to Galileo’s and saying courts are best places to settle scientific debate. He’s dead serious too.
    http://poneke.wordpress.com/2010/08/15/niwa-2/

  7. Pingback: A lesson for NZ critics of climate science? | Open Parachute

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