Storm threatens on Copenhagen horizon

BY PAUL GORMAN
Last updated 05:00 24/11/2009

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New Zealand climate change scientists are caught up in an international email scandal two weeks before next month's crucial Copenhagen talks.

Thousands of leaked emails and other documents have been pounced on by sceptics as evidence of the climate change gravy train, selective science and even collusion in preparing reports for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Hackers leaked onto the internet emails sent between scientists and other reports from the University of East Anglia's highly regarded climate research unit, devoted to the study of natural and man-made climate change.

Included in the "Climategate" emails are messages from sacked National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) scientist Jim Salinger and others that name Niwa scientist James Renwick and Auckland University climate scientist Chris de Freitas.

The gloves are now off between the believers and deniers in the lead-up to the fortnight of talks to broker a new emissions deal in Copenhagen.

De Freitas, one of the authors of a paper that provoked outrage from Salinger and Renwick in July, said the leaked information showed there was an "industry" supporting the pro-change lobby.

The article co-authored by de Freitas in the American Geophysical Union's Journal of Geophysical Research concluded that in the past 50 years the average global temperature in the lowest layer of the atmosphere had risen and fallen in rough agreement with El Nino or La Nina conditions, and not because of increasing greenhouse-gas levels.

The leaked emails include notes written by Salinger to others and to Renwick, working out a rebuttal article to the research.

"The paper was threatening the status quo in their eyes," de Freitas said. "They thought they would gang up on it.

"It is an industry now, [with] jobs, careers, research money, if you base your reputation on a particular stance. There's no evidence at all, not a shred, to show humans are causing dangerous climate change.

"There's dirty tricks on all sides – no-one is squeaky clean on this."

Salinger said the leak was "a violation of privacy".

"If I'm going to communicate with [University of East Anglia climate research unit professor] Phil Jones I'm not going to ring him up because that's very expensive."

That increasing greenhouse gases caused warmer temperatures and that burning fossil fuels was responsible were "beyond dispute".

Renwick said there was no "secret stuff" going on in the scientific community around climate change.

"Sure, there's academic disagreements and debate," Renwick said.

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"But there's no evidence of cover-ups or deceit going on as far as I know."

The paper by de Freitas, Bob Carter and John McLean had been "a piece of not-credible research masquerading as something that was credible, in my view".

Blue Skies Weather director Tony Trewinnard said scientists and the public had to consider that "maybe some of the higher-profile science the IPCC reports were based on is tainted and possibly flawed".

"As many have said over the last few years, consensus is not science – science can only thrive in an environment of argument, dissent, and alternative critical thinking. I'm sure most global-warming research is conducted honourably and with rigour, but this episode suggests that some of it has not been."

Canterbury University philosophy professor Denis Dutton, co-editor of climatedebatedaily.com, said the clearest single lesson to draw was the "science behind global-warming hysteria is not settled".

"If it were, its chief proponents would not be trying to figure out how to fiddle charts to `hide' temperature declines or pressure the editors of journals that publish dissenting points of view."

Gareth Renowden, of blog site Hot Topic, said from the time the hacked data and emails hit the internet there had been "a huge effort to blow it up into a massive story".

"The timing, the content of this, the huge and immediate reaction from every corner of the sceptic's world, makes it look very much like another part of a PR campaign.

"Scientists working on an area that has become heavily politicised because of the lobbying by the big emitters – it's not surprising they are fairly catty to those who are saying they are frauds.

"There's nothing in these emails that in any way undermines the basic science of climate change."

Taxpayers fund iwi leaders' Denmark trip

The Government has offered to fly iwi leaders and kaumatua to Copenhagen for next month's climate change talks at taxpayers' expense.

Concessions to the Maori Party over the Government's emissions trading scheme include a promise to pay for two members of the iwi leadership group to travel to Denmark with the official delegation.

Much of the Government's negotiation over forestry concessions was done through the iwi leadership group.

In a letter to group members last week, Climate Change Minister Nick Smith also suggested kaumatua might travel to Copenhagen to help the Government push for a change to forestry rules.

Smith said yesterday he made no apology for the trip by group members Roger Pikia and Chris Karamea Insley being funded by taxpayers. Both had relevant experience and would be able to put New Zealand's case strongly to developing nations.

Other industry groups were sending delegates to Copenhagen, but a list had not been finalised, Smith said.

In Opposition, National sparked controversy over Maori protocol after it labelled Maori objections to things like roadworks "PC nonsense". Smith had attacked the cost of a handing-over ceremony for Nelson city's new chief executive as hypocritical in the face of the then-Labour government's emissions trading scheme after six staff flew from Wellington to Nelson for the day.

The talks in Copenhagen are aimed at thrashing out a deal on climate change targets to succeed the Kyoto protocol.

- The Press

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