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NZ beaks give climate skeptics the bird

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A group of climate skeptics that includes Australian Dr Bob Carter has failed in its bid to have New Zealand’s High Court hear its complaint against that country’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA).

Dr Carter lined up with retired journalist Terry Dunleavy and computer modeler Bob Dedekind under the auspices of the New Zealand Climate Science Education Trust to accuse NIWA of fudging New Zealand’s climate record to present an alarmist picture of warming in New Zealand.

At issue was a data series first published in 1999 based on a series of seven weather stations (“7SS”), showing a 1°C warming trend in New Zealand over 100 years (which the Trust says is overstated), without applying a 1993 methodology developed by Rhoades and Salinger; that a later data set of eleven stations (11SS) was published in spite of what the Trust claimed were deficiencies in its data; and that the publication of 7SS “departed from recognized scientific opinion”.

In this 186-paragraph decision, High Court judge Geoffrey Venning rejected all grounds for the Trust’s case, noting along the way that the High Court is not competent to rule on questions of science.

Justice Venning noted “This Court should not seek to determine or resolve scientific questions demanding the evaluation of contentious expert opinion.”

A court can, however, resolve questions of evidence, and here, the judge had some harsh words for the NZ Climate Science Education Trust’s witnesses. As a journalist, Dunleavy’s status as an expert witness was dealt with sharply: “Mr Dunleavy has, in any event, failed to comply with High Court Rule 9.43, and could not be regarded as an impartial expert”.

In a decision that has been seized on by bloggers such as Jo Nova, the judge also dismissed Dedekind’s evidence, stating that his “general expertise in basic statistical techniques does not extend to any particular specialised experience or qualifications in the specific field of applying statistical techniques in the field of climate science.”

Even Dr Carter’s evidence, as the sole expert witness admitted by the High Court, didn’t convince the judge. The Trust asked the court to find that NIWA had failed in its statutory duty, that its methodology was at fault, that it made errors of fact, and that publication of the climate data was unreasonable. The court dismissed all grounds for action. ®

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