Thursday, 4 September 2008

What's the evidence for strangling prosperity?

A blog reader contacted me this morning to tell me he'd just got off the phone to NIWA. He wasn't happy.

Given that parliament is currently under urgency to make room to pass the Emissions Tax Scam Bill next week (despite the Greens' Russel Norman saying only a week ago that they wouldn't support the Bill if it was pushed through under urgency), and since this is a bill that will strangle industry for this generation as successfully as the Resource Management has strangled development, my reader figured he'd check out the local research that backed up this anti-industrial bulldozer.

After all, David Wratt, NIWA's General Manager Climate Change, is on record as saying the evidence for global warming is "unequivocal."  Get that?  Unequivocal.  And being NIWA's General Manager for Climate Change, one would expect that he's just the chap to whom the politicians would go to seek the evidence.

So this is what my reader set out to do too. What he was after was a local data set that unequivocally illustrates this unequivocal warming trend (or lack thereof) -- in other words, the evidence from NIWA on which the politicians are relying.  The raw evidence that hasn't been tampered with.  The woman he spoke to at NIWA however was very evasive on the point.  What she had for him, in a word, was nothing.  Unequivocally nothing.  (Don't take our word for it, try it yourself on +64 4 386 0300, or email:, or fax: +64 4 386 0574, attention “Climate Enquiries.”  Details here.):

"I mentioned to her the website," he says. "I pointed out that one can go to the 'What the Stations Say' page on that site, and see what sort of warming trend there is (or lack thereof).  There is a world map there. You click on the area of interest, and the actual stations are presented with their corresponding records."

My reader spent about an hour on this site, clicking all over the world, and was unable to find anything, anything at all, that substantiated David Wratt's "unequivocal" warming trend. The records for New Zealand, Easter Island, and Antarctica are particularly interesting, he told the telephonist at NIWA. Here for example is the record for Christchurch and Invercargill to 2001:


Says my reader: "What I reasoned was that if these data are fiction, then Wratt should be able to produce the actual sets.If these were presented to the public, perhaps the warmist
perception can be corrected. Some local 'undoctored' data might be more convincing than Al Gore's propaganda."

Sadly, he wasn't successful.  NIWA's telephonist had nothing to offer him.

But you can find NIWA's own raw data yourself, online, if you sign up to NIWA's National Climate Database (go to and choose National Climate Centre) -- which I did -- and a very nice lady emailed me with comprehensive instructions on how to use the system -- which I did.

Now, just recall that the government is rushing through an Emissions Trading Scheme based almost solely on advice from NIWA that New Zealand and the rest of the planet is warming. But curiously, when signing up online to access this data one is given the caveat that "NIWA does not make, and the Recipient acknowledges that NIWA has not made, any representation or warranty (express or implied) as to: (i) the accuracy or completeness of the Data; (ii) the use to which Data may be put; or (iii) the results or outcomes which may be obtained from using the Data."

A curious thing to say, don't you agree, when it is data such as theirs -- in fact, data that is theirs -- on which the future prosperity of this country is now being made to hinge, yet they can offer no representation or warranty (either express or implied) as to the accuracy or completeness of the Data?

Curious indeed.

Curious too that when one downloads data for some of NZ's longer-term recording stations, one is at a loss to find the trend that Wratt and and the ETS rats claim is "unequivocal."  (See here for example for the raw temperature record for Kelburn from 1928 to 2005.) 

So New Zealand isn't warming.  No surprise, really, since our entire hemisphere shows no sign at all of warming.

However, it turns out that Wratt is neither relying on local data nor global data for his warning of unequivocal warming.  His case rests not on actual evidence of existing warming, but almost solely on the IPCC's "projections" of future warming, published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in their four successive reports. 

That is to say, not on evidence of warming, but on evidence of projections of future warming.

(Note that this is an organisation more political than scientific. "Its brief," says Christopher Brooker, "has never been to look dispassionately at all the evidence for man-made global warming: it has always taken this as an accepted fact. -- helmed by what John McLean calls an "incestuously linked ... core group of academics whose models underpin everything the IPCC wishes us to believe about global warming.")

These "projections" -- note, these are explicitly not "predictions"  -- are enormously complex to calculate. Explains one modeller,

one needs to estimate a multi-dimensional probability distribution that quantifies how likely different model parameter combinations are given knowledge of the uncertainties in our observations. The computational cost of mapping a multi-dimensional probability distribution for a climate model using traditional means [requires] 104 to 106 model evaluations for problems involving less than ten parameters...

Given the complexity, the answers delivered by the models have a tendency to be written by the limited number of assumptions, fudge factors and parameters one is able to build in.  In other words, "the answers are written in the assumptions."

Which leads one to ask, just how good are these ultra-long-term weather forecasts?  Since they've been making them for nearly twenty years now, a simple method is to see how how good they've been.

Simple answer: they've been crap at looking forward, but great at looking back.  As Marlo Lewis says when looking at how well projections match observations, "despite accelerating emission rates and concentrations" "there’s been no net global warming in the 21st century. Although seldom reported by the mainstream media, it’s quite a story, because no climate model predicted it."


Just to show you how crap, the "projection" from the IPCC's last report, the Fourth Assessment, of a temperature increase of 0.2 degrees per decade already overstates the amount of warming we have seen -- or in scientist-speak, "based on measurements since 2001, and the four statistical models described above the central tendency for projections communicated in the IPCC AR(4) falls outside the range consistent with real earth weather data." See:


And here:


Remember, this is despite accelerating emission rates and concentrations.

They've been making these projections now for nearly twenty years , yet despite being able to "backward project" quite well with later reports (as the other three trend lines produced from later reports in 1995, 2001 and 2007 all manage to do), they're not quite so good when they try projecting forward.        

A series of articles by Roger Pielke Jr published in January, before this year's temperature dip, shows just how crap the previous future projections have been. In Pielke's words, "It seems pretty clear that the IPCC in 1990 over-forecast temperature increases" [see below where he even tries to help by nudging the starting point], while the later record "is clouded by an appearance of post-hoc curve fitting."

              1990 IPCC verification

If you're about to vote to strangle New Zealand prosperity on the basis only of these projections, then may I urge you first to take the time to check Pielke's analyses from January this year:

               AR4 Verification Example

And if you're taking advice from David Wratt, then ask him to show you NZ's unadjusted temperature record, and don't take no for an answer.

I urge you: Don't strangle New Zealand's prosperity on nothing more than bullshit and pseudo-scientific guesswork.


  1. Interesting stuff, PC, although I think your reader was a bit mean to the poor NIWA receptionist!

    Readers might be interested in this Pacific Empire post about climate change, where I use the HadCRUT3 data to show that climate change DOES appear to be occurring.

    None of this evidence, of course, suggests that we should strangle prosperity. Beware the environmentalists: there is this huge problem, and you need us to make it go away … so our plan is to tax the holy bejesus out of you, ban kiwifruit, big cars and overseas holidays, and make electricity more expensive, just for starters ...

  2. the drunken watchman4 Sep 2008, 13:47:00

    luke h said...'I use the HadCRUT3 data'

    luke, what about starting with Auckland? (or wherever you live) Have you seen the temperature records for your own home town? The 'climate change' you refer to is presumably ocurring around you?

    Please refer us to THIS data.

  3. *(rolls eyes)*

    We're talking about GLOBAL climate change. Duh.

  4. the drunken watchman4 Sep 2008, 14:15:00

    luke, no need for insults. After all, you are the carer who thought calling NIWA and asking for data was 'a bit mean'.

    I hadnt realised you knew that the records show no warming in NZ for the last century or so. I don't think most of the voters are so aware.

    So any idea then why it isnt getting hotter in NZ, when it is globally?


1. Commenters are welcome and invited.
2. All comments are moderated. Off-topic grandstanding, spam, and gibberish will be ignored. Tu quoque will be moderated.
3. Read the post before you comment. Challenge facts, but don't simply ignore them.
4. Use a name. If it's important enough to say, it's important enough to put a name to.
5. Above all: Act with honour. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.