Member log in

Climate change deniers swamped in NIWA court challenge

BUSINESSDESK: A lobby group set up to challenge claims that humans are causing climate change has lost a High Court challenge to National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research data showing rising temperatures in New Zealand between 1909 and 2009.

RAW DATA: NZ Climate Science vs NIWA - The judgment of Justice Venning (PDF)

Judge Geoffrey Venning threw out claims by the NZ Climate Science Education Trust that the Crown Research Institute known as NIWA breached its statutory duties, were mistaken in fact, failed to consider mandatory considerations and acted unreasonably in publishing its work.

NIWA will be entitled to costs, which are yet to be set, as a result of the case, Justice Venning's judgment says.

"The plaintiff does not succeed on any of its challenges to the three decisions of NIWA in issue. The application for judicial review is dismissed and judgment entered for the defendant."

Some evidence in the case was ruled inadmissible, including that of Terry Dunleavy, a former journalist who is a founding member of the trust and secretary of the associated NZ Climate Science Coalition.

Justice Venning says Dunleavy "has no applicable qualifications" and "his interest in the area does not sufficiently qualify him as an expert".

He also questioned the credentials of Bob Dedekind, a computer modelling and statistical analyst whose "general expertise in basic statistical techniques does not extend to any particular specialised experience of qualifications in the specific field of applying statistical techniques in the field of climate science".

The trust's case stems back to the publication in 1999 by NIWA of a statistical trend series of nationally averaged annual mean surface temperature trends in New Zealand since 1853, known as the Seven Station Temperature Series, or 7SS, which indicates a warming trend of about 0.9 degrees Centigrade from 1909 to 2009.

The work relied on research compiled by climate scientist Jim Salinger.

The coalition criticised the accuracy of 7SS and in response NIWA published an 11 Station Temperature Series, or 11SS, in late 2009. A year later, NIWA published a review of 7SS. All the work supported the conclusion that New Zealand's climate warmed in the 100 years to 2009.

It was this body of work that the trust challenged in seeking a judicial review in proceedings started in July 2010.

"I am satisfied that the methodology applied by NIWA was in accordance with internationally recognised and credible scientific methodology," Justice Venning says.

According to the coalition's website, the group's aim is to "represent accurately, and without prejudice, facts regarding climate change; to provide considered opinion on matters related to both natural and human-caused climate effects; and to comment on the economic and socio-political consequences of climate change".

It includes links to articles such as Why The 'Warmists' Are Wrong About Climate Change.

A wikipedia entry on the coalition cites an article published on the global warming blog that says the Heartland Institute, a US body "that plays a key role in organised climate denial", made a $US25,000 grant to the NZ Climate Science Coalition.

Comments and questions

Justice Venning evidently doesn't understand that science depends on logic and measurement, not on the qualifications of the supposed experts. There have been many cases of serious injustices resulting from courts persistently overlooking that fact when considering "expert" evidence.

I haven't seen the evidence presented by the plaintiffs so can't really comment on the judgement. However, the prime issue would surely be whether the degree of warming claimed by NIWA is actually correct rather than whether it is consistent with what was done elsewhere.

Alan, have a look at the decision

This denier groups was stupid to bring this to the High Court. They just showed their won ignorance and mistakes.

Looks like they didn't get proper legal advice till far too late.

"I consider that unless the Trust can point to some defect in NIWA’s decision-making process or show that the decision was clearly wrong in principle or in law, this Court will not intervene. This Court should not seek to determine or resolve scientific questions demanding the evaluation of contentious expert opinion."

That pretty much determined the outcome I would think.

Generally, I ignore people who use the term "denier" with respect to science.

It indicates that they are motivated by something other than science

'won'? Who's ignorant!

But then of course, many experts say the rate of corruption in New Zealand is very low..

What the case reveals is the following:
1.There are respectable arguments that the adjustments made by Niwa to the data are not scientifically right;
2.If the data is wrong, all inferences in support of a warming trand or a cooling trend are unscientific and of no use to anyone...other than those with some agenda to pursue
3.Niwa is not interested in allowing any independent review of the data to restore confidence in it
4.Niwa's stance is very odd for a so called independent, scientific agency

1. I don't really see how. They were eventually able to come up with an acceptably-phrased list of complaints, but were not able to justify them.
2. If the data is right, all inferences against a warming trend are pernicious and of no use to anyone...other than those with some agenda to pursue
3. Partly in response to this kind of complaint, NIWA had their methodogy peer reviewed in 2010. The data is available.
4. Have a nice day.

This is excellent news. I hope the costs awarded against them run to tens of thousands of dollars. Mind you all the NZ Climate Science Coalition will then do is slink back to the Heartland Institute for another dollop of blood money. Oh what it must be like to be the subsidised NZ mouthpiece of an extreme right wing group funded by big coal and big oil.

Not everyone who has legitimate doubts as to anthropomorphic CO2 driven climate change is right wing. I sense an inability to argue the science so hey attach the man attitude showing.

Sanctimony is an inappropriate attitude for those who are claiming to be arguing science.

The science is already done and dusted Shane. The only ones arguing otherwise are the fellow travellers of the creationists and the flat earthers.

Science is never "done and dusted" - anybody who suggests it is doesn't undersatnd science. It is always open to challenge as new data become available

You wouldn't have a clue what science is about. If you did you would accept the overwhelming evidence and concensus on man made climate change.

I suppose when you go to your physician and he tells you that you to stop smoking because it causes lung cancer you challenge that as well do you?

You miss the point entirely - science is not and has never been about consensus - it is about continuously testing theories against new evidence. By the way, science is also not about calling people names because you don't agree with them

I would be interested to know the basis for your claim that NZCSC is funded by coal and big oil?

I am willing to bet they were talking about this "Mind you all the NZ Climate Science Coalition will then do is slink back to the Heartland Institute for another dollop of blood money." Since the Heartland already paied out $250K to them. Some people think that the Heartland Institute is funded by coal and big oil, hence the referance.

Try and keep up with the news Objectivity. The Heartland receive big bucks from the Koch brothers (they would be US oil billionaires) and a variety of other Carbon kings. If you dont know facts like that how can you be objective? Go check out DeSmogBlog.

And guess what - the Heartland then pass on big dollars to NZCSC. Now can you work it out?

Crowd Pleaser
You need to get the facts straight. Koch Bros gave the Heartland Inst. US$25,000 a few years back. It was for a Health related iniative , nothing to do with their climate change activities.

Yes of course Ross. A 'health related' initiative.

Your either gullible or sucking on the same teat as NZCSC.

Well you can check for yourself

Spot on Anon. The Heartland tried to tap the Kochs for another $200,000 after that but they didnt get it because by then Heartland's activities and funding sources had been revealed - bit to toxic even for the Koch boys to touch.

"I am satisfied that the methodology applied by NIWA was in accordance with internationally recognised and credible scientific methodology," Justice Venning says.

Justice Venning is qualified to offer opinion on the quality of NIWA's methods but Bob Dedkind and Terry Dunleavy are not allowed to submit evidence in court .... is that how the courts work these days?

Is Justice Venning a climate expert, what's going on here?

#9 Anonymous: you've got it in one.....or is that 'won'?
Take a trip to the High Court, handling a leaky homes' claim or the Weathertightness Homes Tribunal and you will see so many former spa-pool salesmen, used car dealers, painters and bad plumbers, Auckland City Council ex-employees etc (now, miraculously 'Master Builders' though as dumb and useless as they were in their previous jobs) being referred to as 'experts'.
Oh, dear. Many of them caused the very problems they now pretend to advise on......and here's the tragic bit.....the INEXPERT High Court judges.....bow to their superior knowledge.
Most of the homeowners who have experienced the disaster first-hand are far more EXPERT than the clowns dancing for Her Honour's approval.
PS the name Venning does seem to pop up a lot in these 'interesting' cases. Anyone know why?

The court just rubber-stamped science by consensus and arduously avoided any discussion of the scientific facts at hand. So it goes.

The stink around this Salinger-NIWA temperature data just seems to envelope anybody who goes near it. Bureaucrats, scientists, politicians, lawyers, judges, it is an equal opportunity.

Btw, what's with the 'denier' emotive rhetoric headline?

Read the judgement, this was wrong from the start, they were trying to get a ruling in law about science. I'm very glad as a tax payer that costs are to be paid by those that brought this ill-founded case, as I find it extremely objectionable to have to pay when a credible organisation genuinely interested in the truth would have hired scientists and produced a peer-reviewed paper making an credible argument (but, yeah, I don't think they could do that either, no solid grounds.

It's simple, the judge found NIWA, it's work and it's experts were credible, whereas the 'experts' and evidence produced by the claimants were less than desirable. They obviously couldn't find anyone actually qualified in the field, this isn't the sort of situation where you can have a lay person expound on the stand and have them taken seriously. They needed true experts, they didn't have them.

They wanted costs and penalties themselves, so I'll be waiting to see them wear this and cough up the dough. They knew that was a very likely a loss could occur and they should be prepared for it. Is that 'trust' that was set up specifically just before the case was taken able to pay? I hope they don't try and dodge this.

The fact still remains that NIWA can't justify their adjustments to the data. The method they say they used was not the method they actually used.

Just shows we have a court system not a justice system. Our system is unfair, but isn't that life according to Bill Gates

This is an argument for the science journals and the media, not the courts. All the CSET did was waste time and money with this frivolous action. If they wanted court action, then it should have been in the pursuit of full disclosure of NIWA's data and methods. They might have been successful in that endeavour.

I figured this would be the outcome when I first read the case. The courts are no place for debating sceince. This is a victory for science and jurisprudence. I'd hold the same opinion if the situation was reversed and a consclusion from a science research institution that AGW is negligible was being legally challenged by some wingnut environmental activists.

Greg , I can see your point but I don't think the CSET was going for a debate on the science. I'm not a legal expert but they were after a judicial review on how the temperature data was collected and analysed. I don't think that is a debate on climate science as such.
It seems to me the Judge got it very wrong in not allowing Bob Dedlind's evidence --we are talking about basic statistical analysis common to many fields . To say there are statistical experts in climate science is just a laugh.

A bunch of ill informed and unqualified amateur meterologist victims of group think have come a guster. Not before time

Judicial review is plainly not an appropriate way to challenge NIWA's thinking/scientific approach/methodolgy/etc. Any lawyer who didn't have a financial interest in it would tell you their challenge was doomed to fail. It was a waste of public funds (both Court time, and NIWA's funds).

Even if it had succeeded, do we care if a High Court Judge has a view on climate change? The proper way to challenge NIWA is through public debate and scientific research and publications. Not through attention seeking publicity stunts.

You can't challenge NIWA when they don't provide the necessary information to do so. I agree with the comment above that probably should have been the focus.

What's Rodney say about this then team?

In other scientific fields scientists will sometimes be tempted to fudge their data to get the result they want. If they get found out it's often the end of their reputation/career.
I think a reason why climate change scientists get away with fudging their temperature recordings is that as climate gate has shown they all seem to do it and so therefore it can't be wrong as everyone is doing it.

Once again proof that we need specialist judges. NIWA has not won anything here, just as the consensus of the Church did not win anything when the gauged out Galileo's eyes.

No science is ever settled, otherwise we wouldn't have the accelerator under France and Switzerland.

Fiddling results to give a favourable political or funding imperative outcome is not only very bad science, it is the worst kind, corruption of methods and validation upon which real science is based, and always will be if it is scientific science, not politically corrupted science.

It is a disgrace however when private citizens do not get a fair shake in court, double so when the opponent is financed by the state.

The challenge was not about global warming, it was about whether a state funded organisation had deliberately manipulated raw historic data in order to produce a different result to the one that existed before. Fiddling with the original raw data, then allegedly losing the calculations, cannot be acceptable under any rigorous scientific approach. As this is not what judges study, I fail to understand how it can it be that a non-specialised judge have standing to deliberate on such matters?

of course there's global warming caused by man (chuckle) -- look up in the sky with the geo-engineering programs they want to TRY out? ONLY realistically they have been doing this (weather mod) for decades all with an agenda. A CLIMATE tax. This is the ONLY man-made global warming there is...funded by our tax dollars and delivered by the military. And no one will admit that it's being done. Nice use of my taxpayer dollars.

Conspiracy theory’s are you all fringe nutters?
The record is solid, temperature are rising as predicted by science dating back over 100 years.The pointless disputing of science is running out of gambits to try. ETS and the other schemes to mitigate the effect of co2 have failed.The best we can now do is evaluate the effects and begin planing for the future.

How come the newspapers 30 years ago were full of dire warnings by scxientists we were heading for an ice age ?

And your pointless strawman arguement is designed to illuminate what exactly?

Supposidly NBR is read by the business elite of NZ. God help us all, these pages seem populated by climate change denying rednecks. I hope your apologies to your children and grandchildren stick in your throats.

Jonathon Underhill's headline is just as misleading as the temperature trend that NIWA would have us pay taxes for. The term "Climate change deniers" cannot be accurately ascribed to those who brought the challenge. No one who has a brain can deny that climate changes, it's more a question of whether the real cause of climate change is within mankind's power to change, for instance if the axis of the world is changing, no amount of tax or research is going to stop that.

How can Venning not have recused himself on this one? After all he has to come down on the side of carbon credits an climate change given his involvement in a forestry scheme himself that lead to him being booted off Trinity tax case?

......I think you might have answered my question.
Anyone have any idea on how we do so well in the anti-corruption stakes then?

Just saw a lengthgy comment on this very matter on the Whaleoil Blog.

Seems Justice Venning may have a pecuniary interest in the perpetuation of the ETScam...

What is it with this country and our judges?

Anyone thinking NIWA is about science should check out their Mission statement here: Nothing there to suggest good science, just commitment to the Treaty and "valuing our environment " and a good smattering of pandering to other social values. Too bad for science . . . . Better to fund a court to upend them than fund NIWA itself to ensure that their staff 'work and private lives are balanced'. Humbug!

PS anybody wondering why #38 is anonymous should know that I do work for government departments - not prudent to be visible in this toxic PC environment. If you think otherwise, re read the NIWA mission statement and realise that every government department has similarly inane mission statements equally unrelated to their core purpose!

Now theres a truth. The reason so many need to be Anon is because of where we work and NZ is a little village with small minded folk who would have no problem making life miserable if you pour scorn on the PC stuff...powhiri anyone? Sometimes I feel we are closer to the old east gemany fear mentality than any democracy.

Climate change has become, sadly, politicised by peole like Al Gore and others. Thus, there is no real balanced debate any longer, as exemplified by the comments above. The science is not "settled" and in terms of the life of the planet, 100 or 200 years is neither here nor there. Much is being done to reduce carbon dioxide (and other harmful gas) emmissions, but for the environmental extremists only a total (generally negative) change in the lifestyles of everyone will satisfy them. Most people won't buy into this extremism.

This news changes nothing.
My take on this little farce of a result is that the judge merely says that he accepts NIWA scientists fudge figures because that is standard practice and hey they are the experts because of some nebulous qualifications as opposed to some inferred amateurs.
As far as I'm concerned NIWA employees are cheats and no amount of pompous ass commentary is going to make me believe they are any better scientists than the old lady up the road with a oija board and crystals.

Interesting little article on the judge and his relationship to the forestry industry:

The conversations above are very illuminating - the more emotive language (and attacks), appear to have been employed by those wishing to rigourously subdue doubts about AGW. If so, it would not be the first time for this subject.
I had initally been for the AGW perspective, but having read much about the situation from both sides, I now share the view of Mr. L Fergusson above, and others.
Regardless of the rationale behind the court case, the information provided above would suggest that its outcome - and existance - does not alter what can now be seen to have been inappropriate practices by the IPCC and associated organisations, in propping up a premise - a belief - that is provably based on flawed science.