Prominent climate sceptic Christopher Monckton has arrived in New Zealand for a series of public talks, but his hosts are struggling to find a platform for his views.
Scientists approached to challenge the hereditary peer say debating well-established facts about climate change is a backward step which is bound to mislead the public.
The eccentric Viscount Monckton, a former journalist and politician, was invited by Climate Realists New Zealand, a group founded by Gisborne farmers Neil and Esther Henderson.
The group shares Viscount Monckton's view that humans have minimal impact on climate. Climate Realists had planned to pit him against meteorologists, politicians and environmentalists, but all parties have turned down invitations to a debate.
Viscount Monckton comes to New Zealand after a troubled tour of Australia, where he was banned from four venues after referring to the Government's former climate adviser Professor Ross Garnaut as a Nazi.
TVNZ's Close Up and Q+A reportedly expressed interest in interviewing him but both backed out after no alternative voice could be found.
Green Party MP and climate change spokesman Kennedy Graham, who was invited to challenge the Englishman, said there was no longer a debate about greenhouse gases.
"The climate change challenge is not being properly met if we continually relitigate the science, which has been largely settled by consensus globally. While we respect everybody's personal view, there is no longer a debate about the science - it's about how you handle it."
Climate scientist Jim Salinger said he was not available for the debate, but would have refused anyway: "I'm perfectly happy to discuss the science with someone who fully engages in the science and who is a scientist. But when you have someone who cherry-picks and changes the subject, it's pointless." Groups associated with Viscount Monckton's tour have come under fire.
PRINZ, the PR group which was facilitating several of his events, pulled out of the Auckland leg, citing poor registration for the $50-a-head meeting. PRINZ acting chief Tim Marshall said the main reason for pulling out was lack of interest, but he acknowledged his organisation had come under pressure from its members and the public for giving Viscount Monckton a platform. PRINZ will continue to facilitate the Wellington event, where registrations are stronger.
The group said it did not endorse Viscount Monckton's views but wanted to host a debate which dealt with the issues of communication around climate change. But after no alternative voice could be found for the Auckland debate, an academic with a sceptical standpoint was enlisted.
Wellington PR consultancy Four Winds Communications is a sponsor of PRINZ, and said it had also received negative feedback for its peripheral connection to the tour.
Managing partner Daniel Paul also said his organisation did not share Viscount Monckton's stance, but added that "everyone was entitled to a view".