Attacking credibility is easier than attacking Science

Attacks on the credibility and integrity of scientists who were the authors of the Fourth Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were without merit.  Yet the tag of “Climategate” stuck, and public support for measures against climate change dropped.

A group of New Zealand Denialists with the fanciful title of the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition, attempted to use this technique of attacking credibility to undermine reports from Government scientists.

The Coalition questioned adjustments to official temperature records that showed a .9 degree increase in average temperatures for New Zealand.  The Coalition claimed that New Zealand’s average temperature had not risen in one hundred years.  The Coalition formed a charitable trust (the Coalition Trust) to be the nominal claimant in an action against the Government alleging that the official records had been “manipulated”.

Two years later, a New Zealand judge dismissed the action. The judge found that the adjustment was in accordance with internationally recognized and credible methodology.

The judge rejected the “expert” evidence of one vocal spokesperson for the Coalition Trust. As for other evidence, the judge described it as tediously lengthy, and unsuited to resolve a dispute on scientific opinion.

That judgement did not stop attacks on credibility.  Only this time the attacks were against the judge.

A blog referenced on the Coalition’s website stated: “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark New Zealand”, a criticism of the judge’s rejection of expert evidence.

The Coalition Trust made public a request that the judge declare if he had an interest in forestry operations that could benefit from Government rulings. The clear inference: the judge might have an interest in upholding the government position. The judge declined to withdraw from the case.

The Coalition Trust had already commenced an appeal.  Just before the hearing was to begin, the Coalition Trust abandoned its appeal.  Having raised these issues, the Coalition Trust did not pursue them further before the New Zealand courts.

The last word on the case comes from an editorial in the New Zealand Herald: “[This] judgment was a strong riposte to the climate sceptics’ ongoing claims of a conspiracy by scientists.”

This sorry affair is a demonstration of how easy it is to make unsubstantiated attacks on the credibility of scientists.  And also judges!

For other blogs on the subject of scientific credibility go to

 Can Science be Trusted?

 Discussions with Friends about Climategate

Durban Day 8: Climategate Strikes Again!

 

 

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