Brian Rudman 's Opinion

Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman: One small word, one giant setback for denial

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Unlike bloggers and tweeters, judges can't just let fly with a string of expletives. Photo / Thinkstock
Unlike bloggers and tweeters, judges can't just let fly with a string of expletives. Photo / Thinkstock

Unlike bloggers and tweeters, judges can't just let fly with a string of expletives. But they do have a quiver of high-sounding Latinisms up their sleeves to slip into a judgment when their exasperation meter flies into the red zone.

Words like prolix, which sounds so much more polite than declaring the submission just waded through was tediously prolonged, long-winded, palaverous, rambling and/or waffling.

For Justice Geoffrey Venning, the original statements of claim by the climate change deniers, accusing the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd of cooking the books over atmospheric warming was so, shall we say, prolix, that he couldn't help declaring as much in page two of his recent decision, throwing the claim out of court and ordering the flat-earthers of the NZ Climate Science Coalition to pay Niwa its costs, reported to be "well over $100,000".

Even more damaging to the credibility of the NZCSC, the judge dismissed much of the "expert evidence" of two of the lobby group's three main witnesses, in particular co-founder Terry Dunleavy, "retired journalist" and former National Party candidate.

The judge ruled that for Mr Dunleavy's evidence to be admissible, he would have to be "an expert in the particular field of the science of meteorology and/or climate. He is not. He has no applicable qualifications. His interest in the area does not sufficiently qualify him as an expert". Worse, parts of his evidence were not "impartial".

Mr Dunleavy and his fellow travellers went to court two years ago, alleging that, in effect, the Government's climate institute had acted fraudulently in preparing documentation to show that New Zealand's temperature had warmed by about 1C in the past 100 years.

Justice Venning said the court should be cautious about interfering with the conclusions made by specialist bodies within its own sphere of influence and that unless the NZCSC "can point to some defect in Niwa's decision-making process or show that the decision was clearly wrong in principle and in law this court will not intervene". It was not for the court "to determine or resolve scientific questions".

His conclusion was that Niwa's procedure "was in accordance with internationally recognised and credible scientific methodology" and was "peer reviewed".

Of course peer review is something the flat-earthers will never risk for their own claims. For years the deniers have been challenged to publish their arguments in a reputable scientific journal and allow it to be subjected to the examination of recognised experts in the field. Of course, to the deniers, the world's climate experts are all part of some global United Nations-backed conspiracy promoting "the lie" of man-made global warming. Just why they conspire is still to be explained.

For Mr Dunleavy, and NZCSC co-founder Professor Bob Carter, this defeat won't help their reputations in their parallel roles at the top of the International Climate Science Coalition.

The retired journalist is labelled "strategic director and founding chairman" of this world body and Professor Carter, who failed to convince Justice Venning in the Niwa case, is chief science adviser.

A taste of Mr Dunleavy's impartiality is on show in a YouTube clip of him addressing the second International Conference on Climate Change, run by the Heartland Institute in New York, March 2009. They were there, he declares, "to save the planet ... from being swamped by a tsunami of false propaganda about a catastrophe caused by we humans emitting a little too much of a colourless, odourless gas, carbon dioxide". The lies were being preached by "zealots" working under the auspices of the "United Nations".

The only light relief I could find regarding the Heartland Institute is that its headquarters are on South Wacker Drive, Chicago. But if our wackos were hoping to touch up their Wacker Drive mates for a loan to pay their court costs, they might be in for a surprise.

A misjudged billboard campaign by the ultra-conservative Heartland Institute this year resulted in a mass exodus of corporate donors. In May, Heartland erected billboards across Chicago with huge mugshots of notorious criminals, the Unabomber and cult leader and murderer Charles Manson, with the text "I still believe in global warming. Do you?"

The signs were removed within 24 hours but not before the departure of many supporters and several larger donors. Which suggests that Mr Dunleavy's best bet might be hoping he can persuade rich supporters like expat millionaire Alan Gibbs, listed No 2 on the ICSC advisory board, to come to the party.


Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

Brian Rudman

Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman's first news story was for Auckland University student paper Outspoke, exposing an SIS spy on campus during the heady days of the Vietnam War. It resulted in a Commission of Inquiry and an award for student journalist of the year. A stint editing the Labour Party's start-up Auckland newspaper NZ Statesman followed. Rudman decided journalism was the career for him, but the NZ Herald and Auckland Star thought otherwise when he came job-hunting. After a year on the "hippy trail" overland to London, he spent four years on Fleet St with various British provincial papers. He then joined the Auckland Star, winning the Dulux Journalist of the Year award for coverage of the 1976 Dawn Raids against Polynesian overstayers. He has also worked on the NZ Listener, Auckland Sun, and since 1996, for the NZ Herald as feature writer and columnist. He has a BA in History and Politics.

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