Monday, August 16, 2010

Climate change: PR, not science

Yesterday our local denialist cranks in the New Zealand Climate "Science" Coalition launched an unprecedented lawsuit against NIWA over their climate data. According to their statement of claim, NIWA was unreasonable and failed in its statutory duty to "comply with any applicable ethical standards" by allowing Jim Salinger, an experienced and professional climate scientist, to compile a temperature record.

Put like that, the absurdity of the case becomes apparent. And its difficult to see how the cranks can succeed, given the high degree of deference the courts are likely to show NIWA over a decision like this. As Dean Knight has pointed out, there are varying levels of review in administrative law, and the most intense - a fresh look at the facts, with the court drawing its own conclusions - is not the one which will be applied here. Instead, the court will ask whether it is unreasonable, and likely demand a fairly serious error of logic or outright bad faith in order to overturn the decision. Appointing a suitably qualified staff member to perform duties within their area of expertise is unlikely to meet that threshold.

So why are they doing this? Its hard to escape the conclusion that having decisively lost the scientific debate over a decade ago, the deniers are now trying to relitigate it in a less demanding forum, by seeking to bamboozle judges (who are not experts in climate science). Its PR, not science. If the NZCSC had scientific evidence proving that climate change wasn't happening, they'd publish them in scientific journals. The fact they're resorting to the courts, and essentially mounting personal smears against individual climate scientists, is effectively an admission that they do not.

Read more at Hot Topic and Public Address.