NIWA climate record court decision – experts respond

The High court has has ruled in favour of NIWA, rejecting a legal challenge of the Crown Research Institute’s national temperature record.

In 2010 the  New Zealand Climate Science Education Trust applied to the high court for a judicial review of the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA)’s actions in publishing its national temperature record, claiming that adjustments in the data used led to an artificial increase of 1 deg C warming between 1909 and 2008.

Justice Geoffrey Venning, in a High Court ruling released today, rejected the Coalition’s challenge of the official NIWA temperature record.

The full ruling is available here. The summary states:

“The plaintiff does not succeed on any of its challenges to the three decisions of NIWA in issue. The application for judicial review is dismissed and judgment entered for the defendant.”

Justice Venning also awarded costs to NIWA.

In response to the ruling a number of leading climate scientists issued a media statement, copied below:

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Leading Climate Scientists Welcome Judge’s Decision on Temperatures

A group of leading New Zealand climate scientists (listed below) welcomed Justice Geoffrey Venning’s ruling to throw out the claim by the New Zealand Climate Science Education Trust (CSET, a small group of climate change “sceptics”) that NIWA had acted fraudulently* in putting together its ‘7-station’ temperature series.

Spokesperson for the group, Associate Professor James Renwick of Victoria University said he was pleased that the court had respected and reaffirmed the credibility of the scientific process. It was a strong message to those wanting to challenge widely-agreed scientific findings to do so honestly and openly in scientific forums.

Dr Renwick went on to say “Scientific analysis and discussion is carried out through the peer-reviewed literature. The basic science of climate change (global warming) has been established for well over a century, and almost all scientists active in climate research agree that human activity is causing the climate to change. For a small group of scientists to appeal to a court of law to find otherwise is bizarre.”

New Zealand temperatures have warmed by about 1°C in the last 100 years, associated with loss of glacier ice in the Southern Alps, reduced frost occurrence, and other changes. Globally, evidence of climate change includes sea-level rise, melting glaciers, and rapidly diminishing arctic sea ice.

The court case has helped raise the profile of the claimants. Much more importantly, the case represents a massive waste of New Zealand tax payer’s funds. In defending the claim, NIWA has spent a huge amount (estimated at well over $100,000) and has diverted a number of its scientists away from their research. The country can ill afford to waste such an amount. “This misguided action of a small group adds confusion to a simple issue – the world is warming and future generations of New Zealanders will have to deal with the consequences” Dr Renwick said.

This release was jointly prepared by, and is endorsed by:

Associate Professor James Renwick, School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington
Professor Jim Salinger, currently visiting Stanford University
Professor Martin Manning, Climate Change Research Institute, Victoria University of Wellington
Professor Peter Barrett, Antarctic Research Centre, Victoria University of Wellington
Professor (Emeritus) Blair Fitzharris, University of Otago
Professor Keith Hunter, Pro-Vice Chancellor Science, University of Otago


*NB: The NZ CSET has pointed out that it did not claim fraud in its Statement of Claim to the High Court. Instead, it challenged NIWA’s decisions on the basis of deficiencies in the data and departures from recognised scientific opinion (challenges which the ruling did not uphold).