A group of leading climate scientists has announced the formation of the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition, aimed at refuting what it believes are unfounded claims about man-made global warming.

"We believe this is a significant development in opening up the debate about the real effects of climate change and the justification for the costs and other measures prescribed in the Kyoto protocols," said the coalition's secretary, Terry Dunleavy.

He said members of the coalition had had enough of "over-exaggerated" claims about the effects of man-made global warming and aimed to provide a balance to "what is being fed to the people of New Zealand".

The coalition includes such well-known climate scientists as:

* Dr Vincent Gray, of Wellington, an expert reviewer for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), most recently a visiting scholar at the Beijing Climate Centre in China.

* Dr Gerrit J van der Lingen, of Christchurch, geologist/paleoclimatologist, climate change consultant, former director GRAINZ (Geoscience Research and Investigations New Zealand).

* Prof August H. (Augie) Auer, of Auckland, past professor of atmospheric science, University of Wyoming; previously chief meteorologist, Meteorological Service (MetService) of New Zealand.

* Professor Bob Carter, a New Zealander, now at the Marine Geophysical Laboratory, James Cook University, Queensland, Australia.

* Warwick Hughes, a New Zealand earth scientist living in Perth, who conducts a comprehensive website: www.warwickhughes.com

* Roger Dewhurst, of Katikati, consulting environmental geologist and hydrogeologist.

* Owen McShane, of Kaiwaka, director of the Centre for Resource Management Studies, who is convenor of the establishment committee, said many scientists and economists were concerned that the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had an effective monopoly on public announcements on global warming.

"Its statements go largely unchallenged -- or go largely unchallenged in a format that will carry weight with governments, the media or the general public," said Mr McShane.

"Hence, a new 'sceptical consensus' has developed that, before the next IPCC report is published in February next year, there should be a panel, or panels, of experts who have established themselves as 'auditors' of the IPCC, both here in New Zealand and abroad.

"Those of us involved in forming this coalition believe that now is the time for individual countries like New Zealand to assemble their own national expert panels, so that these panels can form larger groupings with like minded-panels from other countries so as to be ready to deal with the reports to be published by the IPCC next year.

"Their aim should not be to repeat, or parallel, the work of the IPCC, but to audit its reports, and to let the members of the IPCC know that such auditors are waiting in the wings," said Mr McShane.

He said that the coalition's three main roles would be:

* To publish and distribute papers and commentaries produced by members of the coalition;

* To audit statements by other organisations, both in New Zealand and overseas, which are published in New Zealand, or are expected to influence New Zealand public policy and public opinion;

* To audit the forthcoming United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

The coalition has registered a website domain name, www.climatescience.org.nz, which it expects to have running within a day or two.