Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Doing Science in Court

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  • JLM,

    I thought Sean did much better than usual on climate change issues, and I think he was right to focus on the politics, because that's what it's all about. Still, I hope his repacement has a better environmental ear.

    Judy Martin's southern sl… • Since Apr 2007 • 239 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    The Science Media Centre has the first round of responses from scientists.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg,

    Next we'll see all that gravity nonsense in court. And not a day too soon!

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 802 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    I have to say that these days it seems that the main reason for setting up a Trust is that the people they represent cannot be trusted.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi,

    Next we'll see all that gravity nonsense in court. And not a day too soon!

    Perhaps the NZCSET can start the ball rolling by hiring Gene Ray to help them out with all this "science" stuff.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 864 posts Report Reply

  • John Fouhy,

    innuendo about former Niwa scientist Jim Salinger

    No kidding!

    The coalition said the 1C 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 news media without permission.

    Not "Jim Salinger, lead author in the last IPCC report", or "Jim Salinger, nationally-famous weather scientist", but "Jim Salinger, who did some work for Niwa as a student and was later sacked for misconduct".

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 87 posts Report Reply

  • cindy baxter,

    I note that Brian admits his other "friends" or "political affiliations" are the ACT party.

    That he doesn't do the books isn't enough - that was a ridiculous answer - the public has a right to know whether this court case is being paid for by big business. I wonder if anyone at RNZ will go back and check with Terry, the bloke who does the books, or will they just let that slide?

    But of course today the climate "science" coalition will be crowing - they have gained more publicity today than they've been able to in a good long while. Presumably Media 7 will also discuss, as you've mentioned Russell, the "he-said-she-said" mode of journalism that suits the climate denialists so well. It serves their purpose: raise doubt in the public mind.

    By the way, did you know that the links between smoking and cancer have never been 100% proven?

    auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 99 posts Report Reply

  • Ewan Morris,

    Can we get Legal Beagle Graeme Edgeler on the job of explaining the legal basis of the CSC's case? Normally "we don't like your figures" isn't in itself a reason for going to court. Looking at the background information on the CSC website, they seem to be alleging a breach of statutory duties under NIWA's legislation.

    Since Nov 2006 • 46 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    the public has a right to know whether this court case is being paid for by big business.

    Since they've formed a charitable trust, they'll actually needto disclose their donations. Though they'll likely launder them through the NZCSC first.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1711 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    @I/S: this has echoes of Trevor Farmer's ACT donation launderings in 1996. This also has echoes of the McLibel lawsuit in the sense of what is tantamount to corporate censorship.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5418 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    If they're aiming for a breach of statutory duty by NIWA, it'll be this section of the Crown Research Institutes Act 1992 that they're hoping to use.
    At a guess the allegation will be that NIWA has failed to "comply with any applicable ethical standards" (s5(1)(d)) because an adjustment is unethical (their implication, not mine), and maybe that its climate change research is not being "undertaken for the benefit of New Zealand" (s5(1)(a)) and/or is a failure to to exhibit "a sense of social responsibility by having regard to the interests of the community in which it operates and by endeavouring to accommodate or encourage those interests when able to do so" (s5(1)(f)).

    The catch for all of those sections is that they're suggestive ("should") rather than mandatory ("shall"), which is a hurdle in the first place unless there's case law (Graeme?) that says that "should" is equal to "shall".

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    I see Doug Edmeades is a trustee. Some may remember the Maxicrop saga where he was the Ag scientist who said it didn’t do what the makers stated it should. Years of litigation followed. He won. Fascinating he is now putting himself on the other side of the fence. I would have thought that science might win here as well.

    I commented on a post to Sciblogs this morning

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1588 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    Went and found the C"S"C press release. Which includes their 'summary of claim', which may be aiming vaguely in the direction Matthew says by opening with "NIWA has statutory duties to undertake climate research efficiently and effectively for the benefit of NZ, pursuing excellence and observing ethical standards, while maintaining full and accurate records."

    They didn't seem to have sent Scoop the PR. Which just meant all the responses went up first.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1115 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    Matthew: yup - read the statement of claim.

    The problem for them is that the courts are likely to show a large amount of deference to NIWA over their scientific decisionmaking.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1711 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    Off topic, but I'm going to post it anyway - Jay Rosen blogs a strategy for framing citizens' agendas around elections.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • cindy baxter,

    I do hope they field the potty peer, Monckton as their scientific expert, as the GOP did in the US hearings.

    auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 99 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg,

    The problem for them is that the courts are likely to show a large amount of deference to NIWA over their scientific decisionmaking.

    Hah! You may think so, but Kiwiblog commenter Flipper has it all worked out already:

    NIWA weill have the opportunity of pleading mea culpa or filing a response to the Statement of Claim , prob most certain course
    They (NIWA) will ask for dismissal and costs
    That will be rejected.
    NZCSC will present expert scientific evidence (possiobly including world heavyweights) to debunk NIWA.
    NIWA’s Barrister will cross examine
    He/she & NIWA will be confirmed as goats – or worse

    I can't imagine what would be worse than goats.

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 802 posts Report Reply

  • Phil Lyth,

    George, that link to Jay Rosen Ph.D. of New York University is brilliant. This quote resonated for me:

    One of the big advantages of deploying a citizens agenda in campaign coverage is that it substitutes for that default agenda we’re all familiar with: horse race journalism, and the inside baseball style of coverage.

    I suspect though that Fairfax and APN would see their current online "comments" as sufficient.

    Wellington • Since Apr 2009 • 458 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    I'm imagining that the first application from NIWA in response will be a request for summary judgement, seeking to have the judge dismiss the entire case with prejudice (cannot be amended and re-filed). Whether that happens depends largely on the judge to whom the case is assigned but, unless they can wheel in some hefty scientific resumes to counter the pages of post-nominals and publications that will be appended to the names of anyone cited in NIWA's application, I suspect CSC may well find that, as IS says, judges tend to be fairly deferential to demonstrably-expert witnesses in a field.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    I guess anyone can sue anyone for anything, as the Mad Chalker of Manners Mall frequently demonstrates.

    ISTR some mechanism where the underlying funders of legal action can be held liable for costs??

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    Short version of the claim: the decision to allow Jim Salinger, and experienced and professional climate scientist, to do climate science was unreasonable and unethical.

    That's absurd on its face. How do they possibly think they can succeed? Are their heads so deeply buried in their own bullshit that they can't spot absurdity when they see it? (OTOH, given the nature of that bullshit, that's highly likely).

    Meanwhile, they get to libel every climate scientist in NZ through the courts, by alleging that "NIWA’s 1999 decision was influenced by the expectation that major NZTR warming would encourage funding for additional climate change research". Yeah, because scientists are about getting the $ (which is why they're working in underfunded, underpaid roles in NZ) rather than solving the puzzle.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1711 posts Report Reply

  • Carol Stewart,

    As Gareth says in his excellent summary, there is nothing in this bizarre move by the NZCSC that is being done in good faith - it is purely a cynical attention-seeking manouevre. He also points out that the fact that the action is being lodged by a recently-established charitable trust (the 'NZ Climate Science Education Trust') seems to suggest that they anticipate losing and are attempting to give themselves some legal protection. Which further underlines the cynicism.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2008 • 821 posts Report Reply

  • Phil Lyth,

    ACT MP John Boscawen on social media site says conclusion is solely due to NIWA making adjustments:

    ACT supports the Climate Science Coalition's actions as the increase in temperature that Niwa claims comes about solely because of adjustments; adjustments they made to the raw data that has been collected over many decades

    whereas Dr Glenn McGregor, Head of School of Environment at University of Auckland comments at Science Media Centre (thanks RB) in part:

    The CSC has drawn attention to the fact that temperature records that make up the composite NZ temperature series have been adjusted. No one in the climate science community denies this.

    There are very good scientific reasons, related to consistency of record, why climatologists make adjustments to “raw” temperature observations taken over long periods. Papers published based on the “adjusted” NZ record have been subject to stringent international peer review and there are insufficient grounds to contest the genuineness of this record.

    Well that sums it up.

    Wellington • Since Apr 2009 • 458 posts Report Reply

  • Phil Lyth,

    are attempting to give themselves some legal protection

    Let's hope NIWA's opening salvo is an application for security sufficient to cover 100% of their costs.

    Wellington • Since Apr 2009 • 458 posts Report Reply

  • Luke Williamson,

    George, that is a great link.
    I had to apologise to my children on Saturday night for swearing at the TV news (my own fault for watching it). The, let's say, 90 second story about the Aussie election was made up of 30 seconds of horse race and 60 seconds on Tony Abbot wearing Speedos. Arrrrrrrgh!
    I actually presume that this level of reporting will be applied to the CSC case as well and the public will be left thinking that NIWA are a bunch of fibbers because there's no time or inclination to understand and explain the case in the modern news format.

    Warkworth • Since Oct 2007 • 296 posts Report Reply

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