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Sunday, November 2, 2014

Pre-Bunked by a court decision! WUWT arrives late to New Zealand

Sou | 6:43 PM Go to the first of 5 comments. Add a comment

Days after everyone else has read about it, WUWT decides to write about a paper by a bunch of deniers in New Zealand (archived here).

The paper is another, weaker, attempt by New Zealand climate science disinformers to reject global warming. They not only failed in their similar attempt to get the courts to reject climate science, these scoundrels didn't even have the honesty to pay the court costs they were supposed to pay. They lumbered New Zealand taxpayers with the bill. As the Chief Executive of New Zealand's NIWA is reported to have said of the so-called "charitable trust" set up by the deniers for the purpose:

On the surface it looks like the trust was purely for the purpose of taking action, which is not what one would consider the normal use of a charitable trust.

This paper did get published, so the deniers might regard that as "success". However it won't get any traction in scientific circles, and it won't enhance the reputation of the journal or its editors.

The journal lists the authors, but doesn't give any author affiliations, unusually. Nor is there any supplementary information or data. That would have made it too easy to debunk, I expect. Anyway, we know the affiliations of the deniers who wrote the paper. They are affiliated with various climate science disinformation organisations:
  • Chris. R. de Freitas - who has been rejecting climate science from his job at The University of Auckland in New Zealand. He's a mate of Bob Carter and one of John McLean's patrons.
  • Manfred Otto Dedekind - who is another science denier who lives in Auckland, who apparently has a BSc (Hons) and claims to be a computer modeller doing statistical analysis, whatever he means by that.
  • B. E. Brill - who has graced HotWhopper in the past, and is a New Zealand lawyer and ex-politician featured at De Smog Blog. He's currently listed at DeSmog Blog as being the Chair of the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition (one of the murky incestuous denier organisations that has links with the Heartland Institute and related organisations elsewhere). That organisation is very coy about just who is running the show.

There are only a small number of professional deniers across Australia, New Zealand and Canada who are probably outnumbered by the organisations they've created to hide behind - the various "Climate Science Coalition" organisations, the "Australian Environment Foundation" and so forth. These "organisations" have strong links with each other and with the Heartland Institute and probably others, and get funding from the USA. For example, Craig Idso is mentioned on their website as "reviewing" this new shonky paper. Lots of back-scratching goes on in deniersville.

Re-hashing flawed testimony from a failed court case

I'll let Gareth Renowden of HotTopic tell the story about the paper itself. It's apparently not much more than a rehash of the flawed testimony the deniers submitted to a NZ court when they failed in their bid to sue the NZ government over temperature records for New Zealand.
You can’t teach old dogs new tricks, it seems — certainly not if they’re gnawing a much loved old bone at the time. The lads from the NZ Climate Science Coalition — yes, the same boys who tried to sue NIWA over the New Zealand temperature record and lost, and who then folded a trust to avoid paying court-ordered costs — have finally found a learned journal gullible enough to accept and publish their shonky reworking of NZ’s temperature record. Earlier this month Environmental Modelling and Assessment published A Reanalysis of Long-Term Surface Air Temperature Trends in New Zealand by CR de Freitas & MO Dedekind & BE Brill (DOI 10.1007/s10666-014-9429-z).
My attention was drawn to dFDB 2014 by an NZCSC press release, and yesterday Richard Treadgold, the man who kicked off the whole sad affair five years ago, posted a disingenuous and misleading article about the paper at his blog. As you might expect given the authors, the paper does not call for an upward revision in the amount of warming NZ has experienced over the last century. The abstract concludes with the following:
Current New Zealand century-long climatology based on 1981 methods produces a trend of 0.91 °C per century. Our analysis, which uses updated measurement techniques and corrects for shelter-contaminated data, produces a trend of 0.28 °C per century.

ha ha. So the disinformers fudged the data to get the result they wanted. And here I thought that was meant to be a no-no in deniersville!

Gareth continues:
As you might also expect, given the authors and their respective track records, the paper is riddled with schoolboy howlers and outright misrepresentations. It would probably never have seen the light of day without the assistance of Chris “Pal Review” de Freitas and his undoubted ability to steer tosh to publication.

Nick, in the comments at HotTopic asks meekly:
Is this the first science paper pre-debunked by a court decision? Quite an achievement…

I enjoyed Nick's comment, even though it's not strictly true. The NZ judiciary leaves science to the scientists, but they did find in favour of the government not the deniers. You can read about it here at The Conversation, in an article by Jim Salinger, whose work was being attacked by this group of climate disinformers.

The HotTopic article gives some detail of all the things wrong with the paper. Here's the link again so you can read it. The article concludes with these comments:
Beyond any doubt, dFDB 2014 is a model of shoddy scholarship. How on earth did it get accepted for publication by Environmental Modelling and Assessment? An earlier version of dFDB 2014 was submitted to a much more relevant journal, Theoretical and Applied Climatology, but was sent back to the authors for substantial revision at least twice before being rejected. One can surmise that in that case peer review was an uncomfortable process for de Freitas, Dedekind and Brill because the peers being consulted were professional climatologists who understand the nitty-gritty of station adjustments.
At EMA, de Freitas seems to have found a more compliant editor and friendlier reviewers — so friendly that they were happy to allow an obviously and critically flawed paper through to publication. A few simple checks by the editors and reviewers should have raised warning flags.
They should have noted that de Freitas presents himself as lead and corresponding author, yet has no publishing track record in climate records and their homogenisation. He acts as front man for Dedekind and Brill — two men with no relevant academic affiliations or any publication track record — effectively prostituting his position at Auckland University to usher yet another rubbish paper through to publication3. If that wasn’t enough, then competent reviewers should have noted the obvious critical flaws and demanded changes.
As an example of ideologically-driven data torture, A Reanalysis of Long-Term Surface Air Temperature Trends in New Zealand is hardly unusual in the world of climate denial. What makes it stand apart is that such a poorly put together and politically-inspired effort has made its way into the peer-reviewed literature. That is a sign of a gross editorial failure by Environmental Modelling and Assessment, and it should be immediately withdrawn. Meanwhile, the NZ temperature record will continue to show what it always has – substantial and highly significant warming over the last 100 years.

Who is responsible at the journal it was published in? Well I went to have a look and this is what I found.

Jerzy Filar from Flinders University, is the editor. He is not a climate scientist but he does list expertise in game theory. He's not much of an expert in that either, is he, because he got gamed :)

I must say that if he saw the paper, I'm surprised he let it through. Being based in Adelaide, he should have heard about the fiasco these chaps got themselves embroiled in in New Zealand. It's only a hop, skip and a jump away. And if he has any interest in environmental modeling as is listed, you'd think he'd have come across climate modeling which would mean he'd have brushed up against climate science, which would mean he should know people he could have asked to review the paper. On top of that, the name "Chris de Freitas" should have sounded alarm bells even if he'd never heard of Barry Brill or Manfred Dedekind.

The publishing editor is Paul Roos from the Netherlands.

I wonder who the editor got to review the paper? It surely can't have been a climate scientist or anyone who had any expertise in temperature records and homogenisation. And if it wasn't, then they weren't doing their editorial job properly. If they did find a climate scientist to give a favourable review, one wonders who it was, and why they didn't check with more experts, given the controversial content.

At least the deniers can't claim they were gate-keepered out of publication. They can complain that people are quick to point out the flaws in the work.

From the WUWT comments

There are only five comments so far, which is a bit surprising given it's daytime in this part of the world. Here are two of them.

Ken Ring, professional weather astrologist, arrives to make a comment:
November 1, 2014 at 10:30 pm
Truth will eventually out. I came to similar conclusions in 2013, using NIWA’s own data.

FrankKarr thinks something or other about the CET record. Maybe he thinks New Zealand is in the middle of the UK:
November 1, 2014 at 10:54 pm
Matches very well with the Central England Temperature (CET) trend over about 350 years of 0.26 deg C per Century.

Data source: Met Office Hadley Centre

Frank is being misleading. Look at the chart above of decadal temperatures from the Central England record. (As always, click to enlarge it.) The temperature in Central England has gone up by around the same as the global average - by around 0.8 degrees Celsius in the past 100 years, and if you look back over the previous decades, it didn't change a lot, not counting the period of less reliable data. So to talk about a trend over 350 years doesn't mean anything in the context of what is happening now. (If you bring in that less reliable data, then the temperature is now more than a degree hotter than it was back 350 years ago - and more than 1½ and 2 degrees hotter than some decades back then.)

de Freitas, C. R., M. O. Dedekind, and B. E. Brill. "A Reanalysis of Long-Term Surface Air Temperature Trends in New Zealand." Environmental Modeling & Assessment (2014): 1-12. (link)


  1. I wonder what Chris de Freitas wrote about The Friends of Science.

    de Freitas, C.R., 2009. Friends of Science. In: Steven I. Dutch, editor, Encyclopedia of Global Warming. Volume II, Salem Press, Pasadena, California, pages 458-459. ISBN: 978-1-58765-563-0

    P.S. In your labels you call him Chris de Frietas.

  2. NIWA scientists produced a very clear explanation, with a lot of figures using Auckland as an example, why non-climatic changes need to be removed to get more accurate long term trends.

    1. The WUWT post on this is historically funny, i.e. has its traditional quality. As one comments notices about the main example shown:

      Richard Treadgold: "The graphs of temperatures from Rutherglen have nothing to do with the paper. Victoria is in Australia."

  3. For deniers the central England temperature record is akin to a collectible spoon. To most of us the dusty relic doesn't mean anything but in the contrarian heart it's quite important. Don't be noticed looking at the spoon or mention anything remotely connected to spoons when visiting or you'll hear yet another recitation of how it came to be sitting in the parlor.

  4. Interesting journal. After one whole year, the Web of Science (the pay-walled version of Google Scolar) now finally has this article in its database.

    (I got an email because the article cites one of my articles; a nice way to notice articles in your field in journals you would normally not read.)


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