Here Be the Braindead: NZCSC Tries Science by Court, Instead of Actually Doing Science

Written By: - Date published: 11:04 am, August 17th, 2010 - 10 comments
Categories: climate change - Tags:

As r0b already mentioned yesterday, NIWA is now being sued by the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition (NZCSC), on the basis of their stunning research paper “Are We Feeling Warmer Yet? Stunning as in “how could anyone possibly be this dumb?”. For what they did was take the raw temperature data from various NIWA sites and string it together to give us this:

Now what the NZCSC would have us believe is that this represents the real change in NZ temperatures, and that site effects that bias the way the temperature is recorded over the years are non existent. Strangely, these same site effects where all the rage in the US-climate denialosphere, or were until Anthony Watt’s opus magnum Is the U.S. Surface Temperature Record Reliable? was beautifully cluebatted by NOAA in their response “Talking Points related to concerns about whether the U.S. temperature record is reliable“. Basically, it turns out that you can use adjustments to mitigate biases in the temperature record caused by site effects, or changes in a stations history, such as being moved up a hill. As such to allow climate researchers to lump together geographically separate temperature records to give an average trend for a region, or for a whole nation.

I guess the NZCSC ironically missed the memo about the site effects that made the US temperature records “unreliable”.

Although thankfully I don’t need to go in the finer details, because some fellow NZ science bloggers have done that for me, with the most devastating being David Winter’s post on his blog The Atavism, Peer Review for the Climate “Science” Coalition. Which in brief, when you use not particularly fancy statistical tools to compare the NZCSC claims about 0.7°C drop per decade in Wellington’s temperature since 1860 – 2000 with the raw station data, not even the dreaded Excel gives a line of best fit  of -0.7°C per decade. The NZSCS trend of -0.7°C per decade also only explains 3% of variant, aka it’s entirely statistically non-significant*, where as when we let the standard linear regression analysis tools loose, the two lines of best fit David finds explains 25 and 28% of variance. Which given the noisiness of the data set, is actually quite impressive, and off the top of my head, likely is statistically significant**. Though really, the data needs to be smoothed, before trying to find a line of best fit.


Further more, both Ken of Open Parachute and Gareth over at Hot-Topic also covered NZSCS’s “research”, noting some rather impressive bits of stupidity and lying on NZCSC’s part. What it boils down to is the NZCSC ignoring site effects and thus assuming that the stations environments are completely the same, irrespective of altitude and site history factors that would render them dissimilar. Nor was there any scientific review of at all of any of the claims the NZSCS made. Which if you’re not well acquainted with standard denialist tactics, may come across as rather strange given the seeming importance of the claims leveled by the NZSCS at NIWA and Jim Salinger. But I suppose I should get on the recent news, and point out the stupid there within.

Stupidity Redux:

He said the New Zealand Meteorological Service had shown no warming during the past century but Niwa had adjusted its records to show a warming trend of 1degC. The warming figure was high and almost 50 percent above the global average, said Mr Leyland.

The coalition said the 1degC warming during the 20th century was based on adjustments taken by Niwa from a 1981 student thesis by then student Jim Salinger, a Niwa employee who was later sacked after talking to the media without permission.

The Salinger thesis was subjective and untested and meteorologists more senior to Dr Salinger did not consider the temperature data should be adjusted, it said.

The coalition would ask the court to find Niwa’s New Zealand Temperature Record invalid.

Wait, could someone please remind me what meteorologists do again? Oh that’s right, one of the many things they don’t do is climatology, meaning that of course they’re going to think adjusting the temperature data for site effects is pointless. Because long term temperature changes only matter if you’re looking at general changes in weather patterns decades down the track, rather than say what the weather’s doing this week, or this month. i.e. meteorologists are not experts on climate change, meaning asking them for their opinion on climate change, particularly methodology is pointless, for other than rhetorical reasons.

Like trying to convince the general public that NIWA are lying.

Hmmmn, where have I seen that before? Oh that’s right, it’s a standard denialist tactic that I’ve seen over and over again with creationists using medical doctors and chemistry boffins etc as “experts” to refute evolution.

It also seems the NZSCS and their fell sockpuppet spawn the New Zealand Climate Science Education Trust (NZCSET) have no understanding of The Thesis, in that generally with science thesis’s when you hand it in, a collection of your superiors proceeds to torture you and rip apart your claims, in a quaint ceremony known as “defending your thesis”. And this is after your supervisor has scribbled mysterious, chthonic, Lovecraftian glyphs in red ink on the drafts and demanded rewrites of various bits, and followed by external reviewers digging into it. Which if only if your thesis (and you) survive are you granted your degree. And so is generally a sign that the claims, conclusions and methods within a given thesis are solid, and can be applied again and that the person who wrote it is now an expert in the narrow field their thesis covers. Thus, a thesis is very unlikely to be “subjective”, let alone “untested”, especially considering the good quality of our four main universities.

Gibbs and NZCSC, NZCSET and CSC.

Frank brought this up earlier in the comments, and yes, Alan Gibbs does have links to the NZSCS, though they’re not exactly direct and more by association from what is in the public eye. On the other hand from that link we can see that the NZCSC has strong ties to the International Climate Science Coalition, which Gibbs is directly involved in. And out of the likely suspects to be involved in funding the NZCSET’s legal actions, Gibbs is the clear and only front runner. But as per usual, get donation information out of these so called non-profit organisations is rather difficult, and until someone does us a favour and leaks the NZCSC’s and NZCSET’s funding sources, we’re stuck with strong inferences.

*Statistical significance in a nutshell: whether or not the test-stat your standardisation of the data produces is large enough given the sample size and alpha value that your results are not due to chance.
**Haven’t re-installed and learnt how to use R+ yet, so can’t check. So don’t quote me on it.

10 comments on “Here Be the Braindead: NZCSC Tries Science by Court, Instead of Actually Doing Science”

  1. ghostwhowalksnz 1

    Reminds me of the Scopes trial.

    • NickS 1.1


      That’s one thing I forgot to cover. There’s also been other court cases in the US to do with creationism and intelligent design in the last 50 years, but that’s mostly been due to the ACLU and Federal/State cases to remove creationist classes from high schools.

      The closest one to home actually was across the ditch in Australia, I think in Perth, in which one of the HIV denialist groups tried to use a court case about an HIV positive man having unprotected sex to try and throw out present science on HIV. Which failed spectacularly of course.

  2. roger nome 2

    Maybe the title of this post should be “stupidity tries …. and tries …. and tries…”

    This song could be their lament…

  3. Big industry really is desperate to keep polluting without constraint.

  4. r0b 4

    Anyone want to get together a case to sue the Climate Science Coalition for false advertising, re the abuse of the word “Science” in their name? I think a judge should rule it invalid, don’t you?

    • NickS 4.1

      Well, if you can find an eccentric business person who has the money to spare for what would a lengthy and amusing court case, go for it.

      But it’s far more elegant personally to leave that issue alone and score sarcasm/irony points on it each time they appear 😛

  5. NickS 5


    Also, I should the phrase “especially considering the good quality of our four main universities.” was wrong of me. Pretty much they all are, in spite of some of the idiots that have come out of them. Apologies to any of those feeling somewhat miffed.

  6. Thanks for the link, and for being on the side of the angels here 😉

    What I should have pointed out in that article was the C”S”C constructed their cooling trend in Wellington by stitching together two series which each had a warming trend! Can you imagine what the climate change in-activists would say if they found something like that in the real data!

    • NickS 6.1

      Heh, not a problem 😛

      I’m sort of the resident evil-science-student person who merrily hunts down stuff through google scholar to whack the unwary with. Which reminds me, I really need to check out what alt-med crap ACC pays for and get the meta-studies the likes of Orac have posts on…

      Something I forgot to bring up here when the ACC cuts were all a rage.

      And as I said, you had pretty much the best take down, that also include enough pictures for people to get drawn in and see just how pathetic the NZCSC claims were.

      What I should have pointed out in that article was the C’S’C constructed their cooling trend in Wellington by stitching together two series which each had a warming trend!
      Personally, it was pretty clear from what you wrote that was the case, but, heh, I can understand philosophers of science even with untreated depression + insomnia, so I might not be the best judge on that…

      Can you imagine what the climate change in-activists would say if they found something like that in the real data!

      Heh, first they actually need to be able to do 2nd year statistics 😛

      And I doubt the likes of Treadgold couldn’t even manage first year stats.

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