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NZ Justice shows courts are useless in a science debate

The NZ court case of skeptics versus NIWA has come down against the skeptics.

The National Business Review does tabloid-style sensational namecalling in the headline (does it consider itself to be a proper newspaper?)

Climate change deniers shot down in NIWA court challenge”

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.

Why did the skeptics lose? According to the news report, it was not because NIWA provided good answers, or found the missing data, but because the skeptics didn’t have “authority” to question it.

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”.

Perhaps the judgement is quite different from what the NZ Business Review reported, but unless it is, the outcome had nothing to do with science, but everything to do with a logical fallacy.

What’s unnerving about this is that if “authority” is determined not by behavior, logic or quality of reasoning, but simply by government decree, then the court becomes a de facto arm of the government — because only people who are funded by the government (all “climate scientists” are funded by government) can give evidence that the court recognizes. Who can criticize and hold government or statutory authorities to proper standards? Not the citizens, for they are not “qualified”.

If non-experts protested unfairly at the NIWA results, surely NIWA would find it easy to explain why they were wrong, and a judge would be more than capable understanding, but if NIWA is not even expected to answer those questions then no justice has been done.

The credibility of NIWA staff ought to rest on their record rather than their titles. The unscientific behaviour of Jim Salinger and others is endorsed by the court, apparently, as long as they are paid by the government.

The courts are supposed to be independent of the government. When these two institutions are effectively working together we lose one of the major safeguards of democracy. All the more reason to fight to keep the free press, free. What else is left?

And again, we get the line that NIWA is OK, because it’s just as bad and incompetent as all the other agencies around the world which adjust data without detailed explanations, and which lose data ad hoc:

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

This decision is all the more preposterous given that even the highly questionable Australian BOM obviously didn’t endorse the NIWA methods and after asking for an Australian BOM review, NIWA went to extraordinary lengths to hide that review. Did they hide that review, because it would have lent support to the very evidence the so-called “non-experts” put forward?

NIWA will say they have been vindicated, yet they still can’t explain or defend the adjustments. The raw observations suggest NZ has barely warmed by 0.06C over the last 150 years, yet the headlines produced by NIWA claimed rises of 0.9C in the last century.

Whenever NIWA claim the court supports them, reply by pointing to this graph:

Graph from Watts Up

Information is our friend. We just need to keep repeating it and providing it to as many people as possible. Don’t be distracted by the failures of institutions that ought to be protecting us.

No one needs a PhD to read that graph, and NIWA still can’t explain it.

Richard Treadgold writes, and will write more on the Climate Conversation as he goes through the judgement in detail.

Associate Professor James Renwick, School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington immediately issued a press release, but as Treadgold points out,  to anyone who can read the case, what Renwick said had nothing to do with what the case was about.

The judgment is on the courts website and at NZ_Climate_Science_v_NIWA.pdf.


Other Posts on NIWA and it’s failings:

Don’t mention the Peer Review! New Zealand’s NIWA bury the Australian review

New Zealand – Where did that warming go?

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