Category Archives: Questionable Science

New Zealand Research and Climate Change

I have taken a leaf out of Jo Nova’s book, and thought I would take a quick look at research funding for climate change in New Zealand. I seem to recall that at some time, the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition has looked at this, so this might serve as an update. The only source I am looking at is the Ministry of Science and Innovation (MSI), and there will undoubtedly be other sources of funding that will be available. The MSI website has an excellent search function, and my first search was for the keywords ‘climate change‘, with no start or end date specified (the earliest grant was awarded in 1996). The results were a little startling, as follows:

Number of awards: 92,

Value of awards: $341,732,959.40

I also conducted a search for ‘climate change global warming’ and produced 7 results with a total value of £65 million. I have found some of the numbers to be a bit odd, but can only go assume that the information from the website is correct. I downloaded the results as a spreadsheet, and took a quick glance through the titles of the funded projects, and it seems that most of them were focused directly on climate change research. It will be unsurprising to find that National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd. (NIWA) was a major recipient, with grants as follows totalling $161,130,930. It will also come as no surprise to find that New Zealand universities were also each awarded several grants.

Other large grants were primarily awarded to crown research institutes; GNS Science Ltd. with over $36 million,  Landcare Research Ltd. with $54 million, AgResearch Ltd.  and Scion, both with just over $8 million, with some other examples of major grants being Industrial Research Ltd with about $4.5 million, New Zealand Institute for Crop and Food Research Limited with $22 million,  Institute of Environmental Science and Research Ltd. with about $3 million.
When looking at these grants, and the search term, it must be remembered that climate change is a real phenomenon. It is whether humans have a major impact on climate that is questionable. Nevertheless, I think we can safely assume that these grants are given based upon the latter point; that the grants are a response to the theory of anthropogenic climate change. The problem is that, NIWA’s data has shown that warming has come to a halt in New Zealand. As such, this research appears to be investigating a non-problem. And the cost of the research is huge.

I have reproduced one of the explanations of NIWA’s grants at the end of the post (I have added formatting for readability), and the original can be found here. The grant is for $29 million. If you read the grant explanation carefully, it is possible to find some very worrying justifications. As just one example, the Stern report is cited, which has been widely criticised as alarmist and unjustified on economic grounds, with the Cato Institute suggesting that Stern’s investment advice is ‘sheer lunacy‘. However, the main problem is that there is an absolute acceptance of anthropogenic global warming theory, and absolutely no discussion of any alternative or investigation of any alternative.

During economic ‘good times’, it may be less harmful to use money on wasteful research. However, these are not ‘good times’, but actually a time when the economy is going through a tough time. The only comfort in the search was that new grant starts seem to have reduced in size and quantity. However, having said this, a case might be made for new grants to investigate climate change. In particular, despite the NIWA grant proposing that they would provide a sound foundation for New Zealand policy, their work has been found to be biased (e.g. see here), and one of their key scientists has been shown to be biased in the extreme (actually participating in activity to get a skeptical scientist sacked from his job). Therefore, perhaps a grant to investigate the skeptical position is overdue?

NIWA’s Research Grant

The Drivers and Mitigation of Global Change (DMGC) programme serves to integrate research in the fields of stratospheric change, tropospheric composition and climate change, and atmosphere-surface interactions.

  • It provides in-depth scientific understanding of the drivers of global environmental change.
  • The programme provides an international context for the impacts of stratospheric and surface climate change on New Zealand’s environment, and an authoritative basis for the development of national and international policies to mitigate global change.
  • The research directly serves New Zealand’s obligations under international treaties, including the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer (and Montreal Protocol), the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (and Kyoto Protocol), and the Antarctic Treaty System.
  • In addition to research on global scale issues, there are objectives that focus on topics of national importance, principally the emission of greenhouses gases from agriculture and the physical properties of solar/UV radiation because of their influence on the health of New Zealanders and the performance of construction materials and energy availability.

Thus the programme provides a sound basis for the management of New Zealand’s environment and economy, and information for improved policy development and societal decision-making. Over the term of this contract (2004 – 2007), the research has greatly improved understanding of the climate change issue. Global concern with respect to climate change is mounting in response to the:

  • greater certainty in the science: it is regarded as extremely likely that humans have exerted a substantial warming influence on climate through combustion of fossil fuels (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; IPCC);
  • widespread acceptance of the economic costs of climate change and that mitigation cost incurred over the next few decades could avoid the risks of very severe consequences in the future (Stern Report);
  •  widespread recognition that major action to cut fossil CO2 emissions is needed within the next two decades in order to avoid dangerous climate change and/or global mean temperature increases of <3°C above pre-industrial levels (IPCC).

To help address the mounting concern by governments and the public at large on the impacts of global change, this programme provides essential physical data, models and interpretation of the processes that determine the human induced changes to the composition of the atmosphere and its radiative properties. Key personnel have been involved as lead and contributing authors in the 4th assessment report of the IPCC, the WMO 2006 Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion, and the 2006 UNEP Effects Panel, all released in 2007.

The Earth’s climate system is currently undergoing rapid change, primarily in response to changes in the natural abundance of long lived greenhouse gases (GHG)s. Global atmospheric concentrations of the most important GHGs (carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide) have increased markedly as a result of human activities since AD1750 and now far exceed the pre-industrial values obtained from ice cores spanning many 1000s of years. Measurements of carbon dioxide made at Baring Head, New Zealand, within this programme form the longest continuous baseline record in the Southern Hemisphere and are a key component of observational evidence in the IPCC’s 4th assessment report published in May 2007.

These data show that, despite the GHG emission limitations proposed in the Kyoto protocol, carbon dioxide concentrations, currently around 380 ppm, continue to increase at an exponential rate in the atmosphere. Concentration measurements at Baring Head are supported by carbon dioxide isotope and oxygen measurements to assist in determining the magnitude of source/sink processes in the carbon cycle. The programme also made a significant contribution to predictions of stratospheric ozone recovery. A key science member within the programme was lead author of the 2006 WMO Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion. This important document assesses the status of global ozone depletion and its impacts. At a national level, the programme not only monitors local stratospheric ozone levels, but also continues to measure and map solar and UV radiation over New Zealand.

This work is essential to understanding the impacts of UV on human health and materials. Recent work has highlighted the potential connection between very low winter UV and reduced population levels of vitamin-D in New Zealand. Further research on this issue is to be advanced with the health sector over the coming year. Science information resources: Water and Atmosphere: Greenhouse gas data: http://www.niwascience.co.nz/rc/prog/greenhouse/info/graphical Simple climate model: http://www.niwascience.co.nz/pubs/wa/14-4/climate Nitrous oxide: http://www.niwascience.co.nz/pubs/wa/15-2/oxide Ozone hole: http://www.niwascience.co.nz/pubs/wa/15-1/ozone UV radiation: http://www.niwascience.co.nz/rc/atmos/uvconference/ UV atlas: http://www.niwascience.co.nz/services/uvozone/atlas Ocean-atmosphere studies: http://www.niwascience.co.nz/rc/atmos/sage/intro Ocean gas exchange: http://www.niwascience.co.nz/pubs/wa/14-2/gas Iron fertilisation: http://www.niwascience.co.nz/pubs/wa/14-2/iron

 

The Weather is Getting Worse?

Oh, dear. Philip Duncan at the New Zealand Herald has written a story that uses the idea that storms are getting worse due to climate change. He is described as a ‘weather analyst’. I have no idea what a ‘weather analyst’ might be, but it is hard to imagine that it has anything to do with science. For example, he says the following:

But the problem with diagnosing climate change as the reason for the increase in worldwide severe weather is that you need decades to really review it, and by then it may be too late to reverse. Talk about stuck between a rock and hard place.

Fact: the world is heating up. Fact: insurance companies are paying far more than before for weather-related disasters. Fact: organisations such as Niwa and NOAA have been warning us for over a decade that climate change will lead to more floods in summer and more snow storms in winter.

Let’s deal with his ‘facts’. First of all, although the world has warmed, the reason for the warming is the issue i.e. is it due to human activity? The other problem is that he uses the expression that’ the world is heating up’, despite there being a pause in the warming. This from Judith Currie:

This concept of a recent pause in the warming seems to be fairly widely accepted by many mainstream consensus scientists (e.g. the recent Greenwire article),with explanations ranging from aerosols, to solar, to oceans. The duration and magnitude of a pause that is significant in the context of the AGW debate is debatable, but I have made some suggestions.  Note that the short time scales considered here preclude determination of a statistically significant trend at the 95% confidence level, although lack of statistical signficance does not negate the existence of a pause as defined here.

The facts about insurance companies paying out more is absolutely true. However, the reason is straightforward. There is more building/population increases in places which are at risk of extreme weather events; for example the massive coastal developments in places like Florida, or the building of housing on flood plains in the UK (see here for serious analysis). This is from Dr. Roger Pielke Jr., who specialises in climate change and natural disasters.

There is seemingly a bottomless well of nonsense on disasters and climate change. I have long ago accepted that such nonsense is, like the presence of arguments rejecting the basic science of climate change, a situation to be lived with rather than changed. Even so, I can still poke some fun.

As just one of his many examples, Dr. Pielke gives the following:

  • Climatewire reports uncritically a claim coming from Swiss Re that “the financial toll of global weather disasters amounts to between 1 and 12 percent of U.S. gross domestic product annually.” This totals $160 billion to almost $2 trillion.

Reality Check: The actual number for global losses as a percent of US GDP is closer to 0.1%, with the maximum about 1.2% in 2005. The total cost of all hurricanes since 1900 in normalized dollars is about $1.4 trillion. The media (in general) rarely question numbers given to them from the reinsurance industry and on disasters and climate change have a strange aversion to the peer reviewed scientific literature. Innumeracy.

In another post, Dr. Pielke summarises the widespread reporting of connections with climate change and disasters saying the following:

The information above documents a pattern of misrepresentation of the science of disasters and climate change in the Stern Review report, the reports of the IPCC, an the US CCSP. The pattern of misrepresentation has three common characteristics:

1. Reliance on non-peer reviewed, unsupportable studies rather than the relevant peer reviewed literature.

2. Reliance on and featuring non-peer reviewed work conducted by the authors of the assessment reports.

3. Repeated reliance on a small number of secondary of tertiary sources, repeatedly cited such that intellectual provenance is lost.

The evidence presented here, and in great detail via the links, is unambiguous and unequivocal in support of my claims. Though if you would like to refute them with evidence, please do so in the comments. Until the climate science community cleans up its act on this subject it will continue to give legitimate opportunities for opponents to action to criticize the climate science community.

Interestingly, deaths from extreme weather events are actually at a low point, global tropical cyclone activity has reduced, and there is a host of other evidence that questions whether there are more natural disasters than before (see here for links to many other sources, and my previous discussion of an IPCC report on climate change and disasters). In summary, whilst it is correct that insurers are paying out more, there is no evidence that this is a result of climate change creating more extreme weather. I end the point with a long quote from Professor Judith Currie:

Judith Curry, chair of Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.
The substantial interest in attributing extreme weather events to global warming seems rooted in the perceived need for some sort of a disaster to drive public opinion and the political process in the direction of taking action on climate change. However, attempts to attribute individual extreme weather events, or collections of extreme weather events, may be fundamentally ill-posed in the context of the complex climate system, which is characterized by spatiotemporal chaos. There are substantial difficulties and problems associated with attributing changes in the average climate to natural variability versus anthropogenic forcing, which I have argued are oversimplified by the IPCC assessments. Attribution of extreme weather events is further complicated by their dependence on weather regimes and internal multi-decadal oscillations that are simulated poorly by climate models.

I have been completely unconvinced by any of the arguments that I have seen that attributes a single extreme weather event, a cluster of extreme weather events, or statistics of extreme weather events to anthropogenic forcing. Improved analysis of the attribution of extreme weather events requires a substantially improved and longer database of the events. Interpretation of these events in connection with natural climate regimes such as El Nino is needed to increase our understanding of the role of natural climate variability in determining their frequency and intensity. Improved methods of evaluating climate model simulations of distributions of extreme event intensity and frequency in the context of natural variability is needed before any confidence can be placed in inferences about the impact of anthropogenic influences on extreme weather events.

As for the claim in the Herald article that ” organisations such as Niwa and NOAA have been warning us for over a decade that climate change will lead to more floods in summer and more snow storms in winter.” This fact is indeed correct (e.g. see here). Ok, but has there been any evidence that might support this taking place in New Zealand? I do not mean anecdotes, I mean rigorous scientific analysis. None is given in the article. As has been discussed, there is no evidence on a global scale. Another problem with the article is that Philip Duncan starts with an anecdote, as follows:

During the snow storm last August many people commented “so much for global warming”. The thing is, a warmer planet means bigger snow storms. Winter temperatures will still fall below freezing but a couple of degrees more warmth in the air can lead to more moisture and that makes bigger snow storms.

This paragraph is followed by the discussion of the ‘facts’ quoted earlier, implying that the snow is the result of climate change, but then he later suggests New Zealand might benefit from climate change

Dr Renwick also said something else: New Zealand may actually benefit from climate change. But how will we cope with the world wanting to move here in 100 years? And what about the millions who will suffer as a result of more droughts, floods and extreme weather?

Another concern is Philip Duncan’s poor attempts to suggest that he is something of a neutral observer.

Personally, I don’t subscribe to the scaremongering from the climate-change supporters, or deniers.

But the amount of severe weather around this planet in the past 10 years has been staggering.

The article describes exactly the kind of scaremongering that he purports to not to subscribe to. In his conclusion, he says the following:

The reason why the world is warming is something I still am not sure of, but I do know something is changing. And if we don’t get on top of it in the short term, our grandchildren may have to deal with something mankind hasn’t faced in thousands of years: a heatwave followed by an ice age. While Western nations will adapt to climate change, the poor nations of this world will not. And we are talking about hundreds of millions of people who may suffer.

This is, from any reasonable point of view, scaremongering. In places, he tries to dress up the piece with expressions of doubt and balance, but the entire impetus of the article is towards ‘we are doomed’, with the further implication that we can do something about the problem. Despite at times trying to appear to take a balanced view, his use of the word ‘denier’ in the article reveals that there is nothing balanced in his view.

As a last note, I am currently unaware of any scare mongering from the skeptic side of the argument, except to point out the potential for economic harm from policy to mitigate global warming. It is a very, very odd statement. The skeptical position is the opposite of scare mongering…..

Overall, another big ‘fail’ for the quality of discussion about climate change in the New Zealand Herald.

Climate Change and Disasters

The latest output of the IPCC has caused some stir, which is ‘The IPCC Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation‘. This is some commentary from Richard Black of the BBC who was leaked the report:

While it is “likely” that anthropogenic influences are behind the changes in cold days and warm days, there is only “medium confidence” that they are behind changes in extreme rainfall events, and “low confidence” in attributing any changes in tropical cyclone activity to greenhouse gas emissions or anything else humanity has done.

[and]

And for the future, the draft gives even less succour to those seeking here a new mandate for urgent action on greenhouse gas emissions, declaring: “Uncertainty in the sign of projected changes in climate extremes over the coming two to three decades is relatively large because climate change signals are expected to be relatively small compared to natural climate variability”.

[and]

It’s impossible to read the draft without coming away with the impression that with or without anthropogenic climate change, extreme weather impacts are going to be felt more and more, simply because there are more and more people on planet Earth – particularly in the swelling “megacities” of the developing world that overwhelmingly lie on the coast or on big rivers close to the coast.

This is from Andrew Revkin of the New York Times:

While the summary warns of enormously increasing risks from drought and flooding in decades to come, it is bound to disappoint climate campaigners — and it frustrated at least one, Joe Romm, even before it was released. The section on disaster losses correctly reflects the uncertainty injected in such analysis by confounding factors, including rapidly shifting human populations and the paucity of solid data over long periods.

Perhaps the most amusing take on the report comes from Joe Romm, who is mentioned in the New York Times report, who headlines that the report was a missed opportunity to warn of coming catastrophe. However, he takes some comfort in the following:

Fortunately, the public already understands that global warming makes extreme weather more severe, as new polling reveals:

[diagram of poll removed]

September polling by ecoAmerica found that 57% of Americans already understand “If we don’t do something about climate change now, we can end up having our farmland turned to desert.”

That’s okay then. Even if the sainted IPCC says things that do not agree with doom-mongering, as long as people are scared, all is well with the world. He then goes on to cite a series of articles that he believes prove that global warming is a catastrophe. Sitting in the middle of the debate, Judith Currie has the following to say about the report:

This report is better than I expected, although I suspect that some of their conclusions are based on weak arguments  (we will have to wait for the full report).  The two most important aspects IMO are the recognition of the importance of natural variability and also vulnerability.  The dominance of natural variability for the past 40-60 years  in determining extreme events makes the AGW extreme events attribution exercises (see here) seem even more pointless.  The weakest part of the report is the high confidence level of the future projections (including  one “virtually certain.”)  I suspect that different authors worked  on the “Observations” section than those working on the “Future” chapter; too bad the “Future” authors didn’t read the “Observations” section first.

I would most strongly recommend that, if following any of the links here, the most interesting is Judith’s evaluation of the report, which is detailed and incisive. On the skeptic side, this is what the Global Warming Policy Foundation has to say about the report:

If and when mankind’s influence becomes apparent it may be just as likely to reduce the number of extreme weather events as increase them.

Surveying the state of scientific knowledge IPCC scientists say they cannot determine if mankind’s influence will result in more, or fewer, extreme weather events over the next thirty years or more.

Jo Nova has the a more direct and scathing approach to the report:

This is another big tipping point on the slide out of the Great Global Scam. IPCC scientists — facing the travesty of predictions-gone-wrong — are trying to salvage some face, and plant some escape-clause seeds for later. But people are not stupid.

A conveniently leaked IPCC draft is testing the ground. What excuses can they get away with? Hidden underneath some pat lines about how anthropogenic global warming is “likely” to influence… ah cold days and warm days, is the get-out-of-jail clause that’s really a bombshell:
“Uncertainty in the sign of projected changes in climate extremes over the coming two to three decades is relatively large because climate change signals are expected to be relatively small compared to natural climate variability”.

Translated: The natural climate forces are stronger than we thought, and we give up, we can’t say whether it will get warmer or colder in the next twenty years.

This multipurpose prediction means that in the future, if it’s colder, they’re right; if it’s warmer, they’re right; and they have it covered for more or less storms, floods, droughts, blizzards and frost too.

Jo captures some of the shifting sands of the debate. Despite all the uncertainties, one way or another, we are all nevertheless doomed. It is part of the ongoing trend in the AGW camp to muddy the waters as predicted outcomes of climate change are not taking place/following the script. interestingly in the updates, Jo quotes ‘scientists’ who nevertheless insist that the signal of AGW will emerge one day, with the implication that the report changes nothing about the necessity for urgent action. Jo points out:

Wait for it, in trying to control the damage from this, Prof Palutikof reveals a deeply unscientific, religious mindset. There is no signal yet of man made influence, but she “knows” it will emerge. A real scientist would wait for the observation. [below was in quotes in the original]

Jean Palutikof, director of the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility at Griffith University, in Queensland, said the findings of the UN report would “not surprise anyone involved in climate science”. Professor Palutikof said it would take a while for the effects of climate change to become visible. But without action, she said, “gradually, over time, that signal will emerge with resounding clarity”.

From my perspective, I view the report with the same cynical view that I apply to all the output of the IPCC. As I have discussed before, there are some good and honest scientists working for the IPCC, but the organisation also has some characteristics that mean that their reports are not to be trusted. In other words, it is not possible to dismiss the IPCC reports which are supportive of the AGW thesis, then accept the reports that are less supportive as being ‘good science’.

However, the report is interesting in that it seems that there is finally some explicit and very clear acknowledgement of the uncertainties involved in understanding the impacts of climate, although the coverage is patchy (again, see Judith Currie’s discussion). This seems to be a positive step forward, but we will have to wait for the full report in February to see whether the devil is in the detail.

James Hansen causes a stir….

James Hansen, as reported in the UK’s Independent newspaper has suggested that the sceptic position on global warming is gaining ground and I really love this quote from the story:

In a briefing at the Royal Society , Dr Hansen, pictured, was frank about the success with public opinion of what he termed “the climate contrarians”, in effectively lessening public concern about global warming. He said: “They have been winning the argument for several years, even though the science has become clearer.

“There’s been a very strong campaign by those who want to continue fossil fuel ‘business as usual’, and the scientific story has not been powerful enough to offset that push.”

Part of the problem, he said, was that the climate sceptic lobby employed communications professionals, whereas “scientists are just barely competent at communicating with the public and don’t have the wherewithal to do it.”

The result was, he said, that in recent years “a gap has opened between what is understood about global warming by the relevant scientific community, and what’s known by the people who need to know – and that’s the public. However there’s nothing that has happened to reduce our scientific conclusion that we are pushing the system into very dangerous territory, in fact that conclusion has become stronger over that same time period.”

Why do I love this quote? It is because it flies so blatantly in the face of reality. For example, a particular bugbear of this blog is the New Zealand Herald, which offers particularly biased coverage of the debate. A quick site search of the Herald produced the following:

1. An editorial titled ‘Gillard Shows Courage on Climate Bill’, in which, you guessed it, coverage of Hansen’s comments is included. In addition to this we have commentary such as:

Either way, the country’s first step towards a cleaner economy sends a clear message to the world’s developing nations. Finally, one of the most notable climate change loafers has acted. The excuses for inaction are dwindling. The tax also delivers a strong verdict on the perils of global warming to the public. In so doing, it heightens the prospect of informed debate.

2. A more balanced article on the carbon dioxide tax in Australia

3. An article on…..yep, Jim Hansen’s comments on the climate change debate.

4. An article on Gillard’s wider political position which includes discussion of her position and debate on the carbon dioxide tax.

5. A couple of other articles also briefly touch on climate change, but are not addressing the subject….

I could go on, but the point is that Hansen’s comments only serve to refute Hansen’s comments. He claims that the debate is being lost due to lack of communication of the non-sceptic side of the debate, but Hansen’s comments are themselves widely reported, alongside some highly dubious ‘evidence’ he presents for the anthropogenic global warming thesis. Where are all these communications professionals on the sceptic side of the debate?

They are nowhere to be seen in most of the mainstream media.The Herald just serves to make the point with extensive coverage of Hansen’s views and comments, alongside endorsement of Gillard’s position on the carbon dioxide tax. These communication professionals should be looking for new jobs, as they do not seem to be having any impact.

The real point of interest here is the miracle of growing scepticism in the face of the ‘warming’ bias of the vast majority of the mainstream media. This bias is in turn supported by a huge ‘industry’ of NGOs with communications professionals, all of whom are seeking to promote the global warming scare. Two sociologists promoted the myth of the power of the sceptic camp with the following diagram:

However, in a rather brilliant response, Jo Nova presents the following:

It is really rather comical that the non-sceptic side bleats about communication professionals on the sceptic side when most of the mainstream media is supportive of their cause. For example, the lack of coverage of the scientific fraud of NIWA over the New Zealand temperature record in the press is a disgrace (see previous post here). If you would like to evaluate which of the above diagrams is closer to the truth, the New Zealand mainstream media tells the story; Jo Nova’s diagram paints the accurate picture.

As I have said, the real story is that, despite so much positive coverage in the media for the non-sceptic side of the debate, the sceptic debate is winning. Perhaps that just reflects the growing strength of the arguments of the sceptic side of the debate? Now, there is a novel explanation of why the sceptic argument is winning, and one which does not seem to occur to the non-sceptics.

Note: This is the second version of the post, due to initial technical problem. Among many problems, all links disappeared in the first version, so I hope all of this is reproduced accurately as per the original post.

The New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme – News

There has been news on the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), and this is the introduction from a report from the New Zealand Herald:

The soft start to New Zealand’s carbon pricing regime is set to get softer still.

The Government yesterday released a review of the emissions trading scheme chaired by David Caygill and its own preliminary response to it.

The headline for the report is ‘Softer still on climate change’. I like the idea that it is possible to be ‘soft’ on climate change which is rather an odd notion; in particular when there has been no scientific evidence presented to suggest any warming in New Zealand. I do not want to go into the details, but the essence of the story is the implementation of the ETS is being slowed down, such that the costs for business and households will kick in over a longer period.

There is an interesting response to the phased introduction in a TV One interview, in which the interviewer discusses the concept of a ‘climate crisis’ before introducing an interviewee  who has just participated in an alarmist event arranged by Al Gore. Described simply as an ‘expert’ (e.g. the title of the interview is ‘Expert Responds to ETS Changes’), Dr. Rod Oram’s profile on Wikipedia is as follows:

Rod Oram is a New Zealand journalist writing on corporate, economic and political issues. He is a columnist for the Sunday Star-Times and Good Magazine, a regular broadcaster on radio and television and a frequent public speaker. He is an adjunct professor in the business school at Unitec in Auckland and he has contributed to several regional economic development projects.

I checked the Unitec staff search facility and was unable to find his details and I am somewhat puzzled as to what, exactly, he is an expert in. Likewise a written piece on the TV One website describes him as follows:

A New Zealand climate change expert says people need a cash incentive to change their habits, and delaying an emissions trading scheme will not help.

This is the definition of ‘expert’ from dictionary.com:

a person who has special skill or knowledge in some particular field; specialist; authority:

I am sure that Dr. Oram is an ‘expert’ in something, but I am at a loss to see how he might be an expert in climate change. Nevertheless, this is how this person is characterised, and it comes as no surprise to hear that he is against the slower implementation of the ETS. My favourite moment was when he suggests that the ETS is not about ‘saving the world from New Zealand’ but ‘about making New Zealand a great deal more efficient in both energy and other terms’. He goes on to give a personal example of how he installed solar power and reduced his electricity bill by 40% and purchsed smaller cars. So there we perhaps have an example of his ‘expertise’; he installed solar power and purchased smaller cars?

This is an example of New Zealand journalism at its very worst. A person with no apparent expertise in a subject is characterised as an ‘expert’, and that person by coincidence is a climate alarmist (as evidenced by his participation in Al Gore’s event). It is all very, very shabby.

In another TV One interview the Environment Minister Nick Smith is interviewed over the phone, and the report cuts to images surrounding climate change, for example showing pictures of wind farms after a picture of a chimney bellowing out smoke. Within this montage there are pictures of burning forests and forest destruction, and there is even an image of a lonely polar bear floating on a piece of ice. I particularly liked the polar bear image as polar bear populations are stable, despite their use as the poster-animal of climate change.

The bottom line is that, during the interview, TV One might as well have added captions while Nick Smith was talking, saying that he was a ‘Polar Bear Killer’, or ‘Forest Burner in Chief’. The use of this footage during the interview was calculated, biased and completely underhand. It is yet another example of biased media coverage.

TV3 offers another example, titled ‘Government’s ETS changes help consumers but not planet’. With a title like this, you know the direction of the piece, and it delivers as expected. The report gets off to a fine start by characterising CO2 as a pollutant, even though it is essential to life on earth, and describes those who emit the gas as, for example, ‘big polluters’, whilst discussing how companies will ‘not have to pay for their pollution’. The reporter’s summary at the end of the piece is of particular note, saying that the government will ‘spend $500 million’ by not implementing the ETS faster. It is not clear how this might be seen as ‘spending’ when it is a tax that is foregone. The reporter goes on to say that the policy will do ‘nothing to save the planet, in fact it just puts it off for another day’. A balanced report – I think not….

I hope that the point I am making is clear. There is an agenda in the reporting in the New Zealand media, and it is not even difficult to see it. It is brazen and shameless, and it almost seems that they wear their bias on their metaphoric sleeves with pride. However, what they are presenting to the people of New Zealand is their own views, and seeking to use the power of the media to shape the views of the New Zealand people. Instead of presenting the facts of the situation, the news media are seeking to manipulate opinions to their own version of events/their own perspectives. Whilst all news media have some degree of bias on most subjects, the issue of climate change stands out for the crass and open way the bias is expressed.

The bias of the media would not be such a problem if it were not for the fact that all of the major outlets seem to be following the same path. At present, the New Zealand public have no alternative to the climate alarmism bias in any major media outlet, leaving them with no option but to be spoon fed the alarmist perspective. In my last post I discussed the self-censorship of the media over the scandal of the scientific fraud being conducted by NIWA. This is the other side of the coin, which is the relentless bias against any view/policy that goes against climate alarmism. It is a very, very sorry state of affairs.

Climate Change and Science

Some readers may wonder why I have doggedly pressed Professor Keith Hunter to clarify his comments on the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition. I hope that news coming out of the US will help explain. These are the results of a new survey:

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of American Adults shows that 69% say it’s at least somewhat likely that some scientists have falsified research data in order to support their own theories and beliefs, including 40% who say this is Very Likely. Twenty-two percent (22%) don’t think it’s likely some scientists have falsified global warming data, including just six percent (6%) say it’s Not At All Likely. Another 10% are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

There is growing concern amongst the public about the honesty of scientific researchers, and the concern revolves around climate change. The climategate scandal, of course is one of the key issues. However, a review by Dr. Roger Pielke Jr. of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) highlights another matter of concern. Published in Climatic Change, the abstract of his paper is as follows:

Abstract Authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) received guidance on reporting understanding, certainty and/or confidence in findings using a common language, to better communicate with decision makers. However, a review of the IPCC conducted by the InterAcademy Council (2010) found that “the guidance was not consistently followed in AR4, leading to unnecessary errors . . . the guidance was often applied to statements that are so vague they cannot be falsified. In these cases the impression was often left, quite incorrectly, that a substantive finding was being presented.” Our comprehensive and quantitative analysis of findings and associated uncertainty in the AR4 supports the IAC findings and suggests opportunities for improvement in future assessments.

The original paper is well worth a read, but Dr. Pielke has also presented a blog post on the paper, with the headline ‘How many findings of the IPCC AR4 are WGI are incorrect? Answer 28%.’ The actual paper concludes with the following:

Although the IPCC has made enormous contributions and set an important example for global assessment of a vexing problem of immense ramifications, there remain clear opportunities for improvement in documenting findings and specifying uncertainties. We recommend more care in the definition and determination of uncertainty, more clarity in identifying and presenting findings and a more systematic approach in the entire process, especially from assessment to assessment. We also suggest an independent, dedicated group to monitor the process, evaluate findings as they are presented and track their fate. This would include tracking the relationship of findings and attendant uncertainties that pass up the hierarchy of documents within AR5. Strict rules for expressing uncertainty in findings that are derived from (possibly multiple) other findings are needed (see, e.g., the second example in the Supplementary Material).

It is not the purpose of this note to discuss other, related scientific assessments of climate change knowledge; but, we do note that our preliminary analysis of the U.S. Global Change Research Program Synthesis and Assessment Products suggests a far less systematic application of the guidance supplied to authors of those documents and far less consistent application of the defined terms. We believe that the concerns we have expressed here, and the resulting recommendations, apply more broadly than the IPCC process.

The point of the paper is best expressed in the blog post.

What does it mean?  Nothing too interesting, really — science evolves and any assessment is a snapshot of knowledge in time. However, I suspect that some people will get excited or defensive to learn that by the IPCC’s own logic, the report’s future-looking findings could include 28% or more that will not stand the test of time. Of course, such excitement and defense are part of the context that the IPCC and its critics have together created, which has led to incentives to hold the IPCC up as some sort of sacred text or to denigrate it as a sham. Our work suggests neither. Instead, from the perspective of its assessment products it is a valuable if imperfect organization.

As Dr. Pielke has identified, the IPCC reports are used as a sacred text, but science is not about sacred texts. The IPCC is presented as an authority which cannot be questioned, which ends up as an argument from authority rather than an argument about the evidence and theory. A further problem is the reluctance of key researchers to release the raw data, and details of the adjustment to data, that is the foundation of much of the science that the IPCC relies upon.

For example, Steve McIntyre has had to doggedly pursue data from several key papers with endless obstructions used to block his access to the data. Just one example can be found here, but taking the time to read the blog will find a long and sorry tale of questionable behaviour on the part of those presenting the science (or reviewing the science) of climate change. A similar tale can be found here in New Zealand, with endless obstructions to the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition’s (NZCSC) investigations into NIWA’s temperature records. Richard Treadgold offers a good summary of the rather shabby story here, saying the following:

NIWA has enjoyed tremendous support in our dispute with them. Much has been written about it and much obloquy heaped on my and my Coalition colleagues’ heads. This scientific review of NIWA’s report provides justification for our initial scepticism and our perseverance. Seeing what this audit reveals, it’s hard to find reasons to support NIWA.

At first, we hinted strongly at malpractice, to goad the ever-languid NIWA scientists into releasing the data they had withheld for many years. Our goading eventually succeeded in prompting the reconstruction of the NZTR.

Examining the results of that work has uncovered stronger evidence of unscientific and even possibly unethical behaviour than we ever imagined. We certainly never hoped for this. To clarify: this does not please us. We never wanted to find evidence of dishonesty, never imagined that we might and we are disappointed to discover that they failed to do what they said.

There really is something shabby about all of this. In my own work, in an unrelated discipline, I have found similar problems. For example, in a mirror of problems with skeptical researchers have had with reviews, I found an example in which a piece of research that refuted a broadly accepted theory was reviewed by the originator of the theory. It may come as no surprise that the review saw the paper rejected for publication (not my own research I might add, but I have had a similar if less dramatic experiences).

Those on the skeptical side of the debate have, as Richard Treadgold puts it, have obloquy heaped on their heads. Terms such as ‘flat earthers’ and ‘deniers’ are applied. The problem is that much of the skeptical side of the debate resolves around questions about the empirical evidence and theory. On the other side of the debate, in addition to the ‘honest’ science, there is concealment and/or distortion of data, invocations of arguments from authority, and blocking of access to the supposedly gold standard of science, the peer reviewed literature. The general public are starting to notice.

Dr. Pielke is correct when he implies that there is good science on the warming side of the debate, but the bad ‘science’ creates doubt in the minds of the public about the science overall. There are perfectly honest researchers on the warming side of the debate, who are undoubtedly conducting their research with integrity. The problem is that they will end up being tarred with the same brush. More broadly, ‘science’ as a concept is being tarred with the same brush.

It is for this reason that the defenders of the bad science need to be called to account, in particular when those people are in a position of influence. Organisations like NZCSC are the defenders of science, but are instead portrayed as nuts/cranks.Those who insult these defenders of science cloak their insults with the name of science. In doing so, they undermine science as a whole. In other words, it is time for the defenders of science to be given the respect that they deserve.

Note: What constitutes ‘science’ has long been a problematic question. However, I do not think that anyone would reasonably suggest that practices such as distorting data to fit theory or blocking critical work just because it is critical would be accepted as ‘good science’.

Professor Keith Hunter – Again

I posted this as an update on my last post but, on reflection, felt that it deserved the status of a full post. In particular, as you will see below, there are some causes for concern. This is copied from the update on the last post, with a couple of minor changes.

I just remembered that I needed to add an update on the ‘saga’ with Professor Keith Hunter (perhaps saga is too strong an expression, but…). If you click on the link, you will get the gist of the story. Professor Hunter is pro-vice chancellor of sciences at University of Otago, and I suggested that his discussion of the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition’s (NZCSC) court action against NIWA had been on the wrong side of science. I asked him to clarify his position in light of events showing that NZCSC had revealed the problems in the ‘science’ used by NIWA. His most recent response was to indulge in an ad hominem attack on me (sound familiar – see previous post). I suggested that he might respond to the substantive issue. I checked my email today, and still no response.

It seems a little sad that a person in such a position within the scientific community might not come out and clarify that they are firmly on the side of good science. Whether he likes or dislikes the position of NZCSC, it seems that a person in such a lofty position should want to be actively supportive of action that served the interests of science. Instead, what we have is an attack on my integrity, and a refusal to clarify his position.

In this case, Professor Hunter has allowed a newspaper to quote him, and is not willing to stand by his comments, or clarify his position. It is very easy to dish out quotes but it seems that individuals should be held responsible for such quotes, in particular when they hold positions of responsibility and influence. It seems that, in light of the events that followed the quotes, he should want to use any outlet to clarify his position, if indeed he regrets his comments. In light of the refusal to clarify the quotes, it might be that Professor Hunter does indeed stand by the quotes. If so, one can only express concern for the scientific endeavours of the University of Otago. After all, if Professor Hunter does stand by his comments, one can only wonder at what he believes is good science.

Bearing in mind Professor Hunter seems to take a dim view of this blog, he might want to clarify his position in another outlet. Perhaps a press release in which he explains his position, but the mode of clarification is not an issue? After all, if he stands by the quotes, he should explain why. We should know why such a high profile scientist stands by such a position. If he regrets his attack on NZCSC, then he should make this public, as the comments were, to be quite frank, rude. I have highlighted in my posts on this issue that Professor Hunter’s quotes might be seen as problematic in regards to good science. He might have forgotten that he issued the quotes, and this might explain why he did not previously clarify his position.

However, now that I have pointed out the problem, if he does not stand by his quotes, it seems a matter of courtesy and also personal integrity to express regret for such an intemperate and rude attack. It does not have to be here, but in any public forum. If he does stand by the quotes, it seems that he has a responsibility to explain his position. After all, he is in a position of responsibility in one of New Zealand’s leading research universities. His discussion of the messenger (this blog) should not at be issue, except that he might not choose to comment here but instead comment elsewhere. Or does he think that a person in his position should not be held responsible for their public statements?

Once again, over to you Professor Hunter. I look forward to reading your clarification somewhere (and you are always welcome to comment here if you so choose).