Arquivo da tag: Negação

An insider’s story of the global attack on climate science (The Conversation)

23 January 2014, 6.40am AEST

Stormy weather hits New Zealand’s capital, Wellington. (Sean Hamlin)

A recent headline – Failed doubters trust leaves taxpayers six-figure loss – marked the end of a four-year epic saga of secretly-funded climate denial, harassment of scientists and tying-up of valuable government resources in New Zealand.It’s likely to be a familiar story to my scientist colleagues in Australia, the UK, USA and elsewhere around the world.But if you’re not a scientist, and are genuinely trying to work out who to believe when it comes to climate change, then it’s a story you need to hear too. Because while the New Zealand fight over climate data appears finally to be over, it’s part of a much larger, ongoing war against evidence-based science.

From number crunching to controversy

In 1981 as part of my PhD work, I produced a seven-station New Zealand temperature series, known as 7SS, to monitor historic temperature trends and variations from Auckland to as far south as Dunedin in southern New Zealand.A decade later, in 1991-92 while at the NZ Meteorological Service, I revised the 7SS using a new homogenisation approach to make New Zealand’s temperature records more accurate, such as adjusting for when temperature gauges were moved to new sites.

The Kelburn Cable Car trundles up into the hills of Wellington. Shutterstock/

For example, in 1928 Wellington’s temperature gauge was relocated from an inner suburb near sea level up into the hills at Kelburn, where – due to its higher, cooler location – it recorded much cooler temperatures for the city than before.With statistical analysis, we could work out how much Wellington’s temperature has really gone up or down since the city’s temperature records began back in 1862, and how much of that change was simply due to the gauge being moved uphill. (You can read more about re-examining NZ temperatures here.) So far, so uncontroversial.But then in 2008, while working for a NZ government-owned research organisation, theNational Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), we updated the 7SS. And we found that at those seven stations across the country, from Auckland down to Dunedin, between 1909 and 2008 there was a warming trend of 0.91°C.Soon after that, things started to get heated.The New Zealand Climate Science Coalition, linked to a global climate change denial group, the International Climate Science Coalition, began to question the adjustments I had made to the 7SS.And rather than ever contacting me to ask for an explanation of the science, as I’ve tried to briefly cover above, the Coalition appeared determined to find a conspiracy.

“Shonky” claims

The attack on the science was led by then MP for the free market ACT New Zealand party, Rodney Hide, who claimed in the NZ Parliament in February 2010 that:

NIWA’s raw data for their official temperature graph shows no warming. But NIWA shifted the bulk of the temperature record pre-1950 downwards and the bulk of the data post-1950 upwards to produce a sharply rising trend… NIWA’s entire argument for warming was a result of adjustments to data which can’t be justified or checked. It’s shonky.

Mr Hide’s attack continued for 18 months, with more than 80 parliamentary questions being put to NIWA between February 2010 and July 2011, all of which required NIWA input for the answers.The science minister asked NIWA to re-examine the temperature records, which required several months of science time. In December 2010, the results were in. After the methodology was reviewed and endorsed by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, it was found that at the seven stations from Auckland to Dunedin, between 1909 and 2008 there was a warming trend of 0.91°C.That is, the same result as before.But in the meantime, before NIWA even had had time to produce that report, a new line of attack had been launched.

Off to court

In July 2010, a statement of claim against NIWA was filed in the High Court of New Zealand, under the guise of a new charitable trust: the New Zealand Climate Science Education Trust (NZCSET). Its trustees were all members of the NZ Climate Science Coalition.The NZCSET challenged the decision of NIWA to publish the adjusted 7SS, claiming that the “unscientific” methods used created an unrealistic indication of climate warming.The Trust ignored the evidence in the Meteorological Service report I first authored, which stated a particular adjustment methodology had been used. The Trust incorrectly claimed this methodology should have been used but wasn’t.In July 2011 the Trust produced a document that attempted to reproduce the Meteorological Service adjustments, but failed to, instead making lots of errors.On September 7 2012, High Court Justice Geoffrey Venning delivered a 49-page ruling, finding that the NZCSET had not succeeded in any of its challenges against NIWA.

The NZ weather wars in the news. The New Zealand Herald

The judge was particularly critical about retired journalist and NZCSET Trustee Terry Dunleavy’s lack of scientific expertise.Justice Venning described some of the Trust’s evidence as tediously lengthy and said “it is particularly unsuited to a satisfactory resolution of a difference of opinion on scientific matters”.

Taxpayers left to foot the bill

After an appeal that was withdrawn at the last minute, late last year the NZCSET was ordered to pay NIWA NZ$89,000 in costs from the original case, plus further costs from the appeal.But just this month, we have learned that the people behind the NZCSET have sent it into liquidation as they cannot afford the fees, leaving the New Zealand taxpayer at a substantial, six-figure loss.Commenting on the lost time and money involved with the case, NIWA’s chief executive John Morgan has said that:

On the surface it looks like the trust was purely for the purpose of taking action, which is not what one would consider the normal use of a charitable trust.

This has been an insidious saga. The Trust aggressively attacked the scientists, instead of engaging with them to understand the technical issues; they ignored evidence that didn’t suit their case; and they regularly misrepresented NIWA statements by taking them out of context.Yet their attack has now been repeatedly rejected in Parliament, by scientists, and by the courts.The end result of the antics by a few individuals and this Trust is probably going to be a six-figure bill for New Zealanders to pay.My former colleagues have had valuable weeks tied up with wasted time in defending these manufactured allegations. That’s time that could have profitably been used investigating further what is happening with our climate.But there is a bigger picture here too.

Merchants of doubt

Doubt-mongering is an old strategy. It is a strategy that has been pursued before to combat the ideas that cigarette smoking is harmful to your health, and it has been assiduously followed by climate deniers for the past 20 years.One of the best known international proponents of such strategies is US think tank, the Heartland Institute.

The first in a planned series of anti-global warming billboards in the US, comparing “climate alarmists” with terrorists and mass murderers. The campaign was canned after a backlash. The Heartland Institute

Just to be clear: there is no evidence that the Heartland Institute helped fund the NZ court challenge. In 2012, one of the Trustees who brought the action against NIWA said Heartland had not donated anything to the case.

However, Heartland is known to have been active in NZ in the past, providing funding to theNZ Climate Science Coalition and a related International Coalition, as well as financially backing prominent climate “sceptic” campaigns in Australia.

An extract from a 1999 letter from the Heartland Institute to tobacco company Philip Morris.University of California, San Francisco, Legacy Tobacco Documents Library

The Heartland Institute also has a long record ofworking with tobacco companies, as the letter on the right illustrates. (You can read that letter and other industry documents in full here. Meanwhile, Heartland’s reply to critics of its tobacco and fossil fuel campaigns is here.)

Earlier this month, the news broke that major tobacco companies will finally admit they “deliberately deceived the American public”, in “corrective statements”that would run on prime-time TV, in newspapers and even on cigarette packs.

It’s taken a 15-year court battle with the US government to reach this point, and it shows that evidence can trump doubt-mongering in the long run.

A similar day may come for those who actively work to cast doubt on climate science.

Corporations spending billions to exert ‘undue influence’ to prevent global climate action: report (


Oilsands file photo
 Oilsands file photo. Photograph by: Bruce Edwards, The Journal, File, Edmonton Journal

A handful of multinational corporations are “exerting undue influence” on the political process in Canada, the U.S. and other key nations to delay international action on climate change, alleges a new report released Tuesday by Greenpeace International.

The report documents a series of alleged lobbying and marketing efforts led by major corporations and industry associations, representing oil and gas companies as well as other major sources of pollution in Canada, the U.S., Europe and South Africa, which is hosting an international climate-change summit that begins next Monday.

South of Canada’s borders, industry stakeholders are investing about $3.5 billion per year to lobby the U.S. government on a variety of issues, as well as financing American politicians who “deny” scientific evidence linking human activity to dangerous changes in the atmosphere that contribute to global warming, estimates the report, titled: Who’s holding us back? How carbon intensive industry is preventing effective climate legislation.

“Carbon-intensive corporations and their networks of trade associations are blocking policies that aim to transition our societies into green, sustainable, low risk economies,” said the report, authored by Greenpeace staff from around the world, based on national lobbying registries and other public records from government and industry.

“These polluting corporations often exert their influence behind the scenes, employing a variety of techniques, including using trade associations and think-tanks as front groups; confusing the public through climate denial or advertising campaigns; making corporate political donations; as well as making use of the ‘revolving door’ between public servants and carbon-intensive corporations.”

The report raises questions about activities of energy industry companies including Shell, Koch Industries and Eskom, as well as BASF — a chemical products company, BHP Billiton — a mining company, and ArcelorMittal, a steel company created from a merger that followed the takeover of Canadian-based Dofasco by Europe-based Arcelor.

Most nations at the upcoming international summit in Durban, South Africa, have publicly said they hope to extend targets to reduce pollution under the Kyoto Protocol, the world’s only legally-binding treaty on global warming. But Canada, along with Japan and Russia, has openly indicated that it plans to walk away from the agreement which set targets for developed nations between 2008 and 2012 as a first step toward stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere.

“Canada goes to Durban with a number of countries sharing the same objectives and that is to put Kyoto behind us and to encourage all nations and all major emitting countries to embrace a new agreement to reduce greenhouse gas in a material way,” Environment Minister Peter Kent said Tuesday in the House of Commons in response to questions from NDP environment critic Megan Leslie.

Representatives of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, one of the lobby groups singled out in the report, have explained it supports balanced climate and energy policies that allow for growth of all energy sources to meet rising demands in the decades to come. But meantime, the association says its member companies are already adapting to new policies and pollution taxes from jurisdictions such as Alberta and British Columbia, while investing in new technologies to prepare for stronger standards in the future.

Natural deposits in Western Canada, also known as the oilsands, are believed to contain one of the largest reserves of oil in the world, but they require large amounts of energy, land and water to extract the fuel from the ground, with an annual global warming footprint that has almost tripled since 1990. The annual greenhouse gas emissions from this sector are now greater than those of all cars on Canadian roads and almost as much as the pollution from all light-duty trucks or sport utility vehicles driven in Canada.

The Canadian lobby group has opposed policies in jurisdictions such as the U.S. and the European Union that would discourage consumption of fuel derived from the oilsands or other sources that have a heavier footprint than conventional sources of oil.

The report highlights say the federal and Alberta governments have also been partners in a taxpayer-funded “advocacy strategy” led by Canada’s Foreign Affairs Department to fight international climate-change policies and “promote the interests of oil companies.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government and its Liberal predecessors have repeatedly pledged to regulate pollution from the industry without following through on their commitments. Kent also promised to introduce a plan to tackle emissions from the oilsands sector this year, but later retreated on the commitment.

“The reason that Canada has actually made it in here (the report), is because the Harper government has acted with and on behalf of tarsands companies to undermine international action on climate change,” said Greenpeace Canada climate and energy campaigner Keith Stewart. “When we look at this globally, if we’re serious about avoiding climate catastrophe, we can’t afford to let the Harper government and the tarsands industry grow the markets of dirty oil at the expense of cleaner alternatives.”

The report highlighted a pattern of industry lobby groups and chambers of commerce running advertising campaigns against any proposals to tackle climate change by warning people in the general public that their respective countries were acting alone and would kill jobs by adopting measures to reduce pollution. It also noted that some companies, which claim to defend action on climate change, are actively supporting industry associations that are seeking to undermine progress on the issue.

The Greenpeace report also coincides with the mysterious release on Tuesday of emails from a British-based climate research unit that was at the heart of controversy prior to a 2009 climate change summit when the stolen correspondence was used by climate skeptics to allege an international conspiracy by scientists to mislead the planet about the consequences of rising greenhouse gas emissions.

A series of independent inquiries have dismissed the conspiracy theories and cleared the scientists involved of any wrongdoing, but those responsible for stealing the emails were never caught.


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