How a National Cabinet Minister was caught making false statements about the book ‘Air Con’
Imagine what would happen if you caught a National Government cabinet minister spouting the party line on climate change and bagging a New Zealand author, without having any evidence to back up the scurrilous claims? For five years, successive National ministers have been misleading the public about the book ‘Air Con’, and author IAN WISHART decided to call them out on it this summer:
Nov. 22, 2013
OFFICIAL INFORMATION ACT REQUEST
to SIMON BRIDGES, Acting Climate Change Minister
FROM: IAN WISHART, Author, Air Con
I’ve recently been passed a rote letter that you guys evidently churn out to people questioning climate change, where you stated and I quote:
“Many of the claims that are made in ‘Air Con’ have been thoroughly investigated and shown to be scientifically flawed.”
You signed this as Acting Minister for Climate Change Issues.
Accordingly, under the OIA please provide all reports held by the Government or by any officials who have briefed the National Government that relate to me and my work on Air Con, and the specific claims I made in that book.
I look forward to reading the comprehensive debunking of my work.
RESPONSE, 19 Dec. 2013
OFFICE OF HON. SIMON BRIDGES
TO: IAN WISHART
Thank you for your email of 22 November 2013 requesting, under the Official Information Act 1982:
“all reports held by the Government or by any officials who have briefed the National Government that relate to me and my work on Air Con, and the specific claims I made in that book.”
No such reports are held by the Government or its officials. I am therefore refusing your request under section 18(e) – ‘that the document alleged to contain the information requested does not exist or cannot be found.’
As bald statements go, Simon Bridges’ 19 December letter takes the cake. Caught out slagging the ‘Air Con’ book, and challenged to front up with the evidence, the Minister admits he has none – no government official has done any briefing or report or analysis on the climate change book ‘Air Con’.
Yet for years, people writing to the National government have been told that the claims in ‘Air Con’ have been “thoroughly investigated and shown to be scientifically flawed”.
It seems Bridges realised he’d been sprung, and raced to qualify his statement in the next paragraph of his letter:
“Although no such report exists, I would like to clarify [that] sentence from my earlier correspondence…
“As you know, many claims in your book are contrary to evidence which informs the Government’s policies on climate change. The Government relies on expert assessments of the available research on climate change.”
Among the supposedly credible expert assessments, Bridges cited “the Royal Society, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Those reports have robust and transparent standards for authorship, source material and expert review. The Government considers them authoritative sources of scientific information. You will appreciate that the same weight of evidence cannot be given to any single publication.
“Government officials are familiar with the latest research and assessment reports and are able to evaluate the claims in your book on this basis. In addition, since Air Con was published several issues have been addressed with greater understanding and completeness in the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report ‘Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis’.
All well and good, except as anyone who has followed the climate change debate knows, it’s a load of old cobblers. The Royal Society of New Zealand’s “authoritative” reports on climate change were decisively debunked years ago (of which more shortly), and the UN IPCC’s latest AR5 report has become an international laughing stock for using statistical techniques that the journal Nature recently reported were “ten years out of date”.
I stated as much in a further request to Simon Bridges:
8 Jan. 2014
I don’t envy you having to rely on officials who haven’t told you the full inconvenient truth about climate change, however let’s continue this Official Information Act request.
In your letter of 19 December 2013 you admit that no analysis exists of any alleged faults in my book “Air Con”, and that no investigation was done of my book by officials such as would justify the bald statement you and your predecessor have made to the public which was “Many of the claims that are made in ‘Air Con’ have been thoroughly investigated and shown to be scientifically flawed.”
I note that despite admitting you have no evidence to support this statement in regard to my book, you then repeat the false claim again, when you state in your reply to me, “As you know, many claims in your book are contrary to evidence which informs the Government’s policies on climate change…
“Government officials are familiar with the latest research and assessment reports, and are able to evaluate the claims in your book on this basis.”
Forgive me for pointing out the obvious logical flaw in your continued argument: if you and your officials have carried out no analysis of the ‘claims’ in “Air Con”, how on earth do you know what they are in order to pass judgement on them?
Can you please provide the evaluation your officials made of the “book on this basis”?
You then helpfully state that “Since Air Con was published several issues have been addressed with greater understanding and completeness in the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report ‘Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis’.”
Can you please provide documentation detailing what “issues” that I raised in ‘Air Con’ that have since “been addressed with greater understanding and completeness” in AR5?
For your assistance, I have compiled a list of possible items:
Air Con claims (based incidentally on peer-reviewed scientific papers as of April 2009):
1. The rate of temperature increase is falling despite swiftly rising CO2 levels
2. The computer models used by the IPCC and New Zealand scientists are crap
3. Oceanic heat exchange in the deep oceans may be a much bigger driver of climate over long time periods than anthropogenic CO2
4. The fastest-melting glacier on the planet, Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica, appears to be melting because of a volcanic eruption under it rather than CO2-induced warming
5. The 20th century marked the most active period for the sun in nearly a thousand years, coinciding with warming
6. The sun in 2009 was showing signs of powering down, and scientists were warning a cooling period could set in
7. Sea levels were not rising at rates capable of causing catastrophic rises by 2100
Current science (as presented in my bestselling new book ‘Totalitaria’):
1. Not only has there been no statistically significant global warming in nearly 17 years, but since 2003 a slight cooling trend has set in, despite swiftly rising CO2 levels (Source, AR5 and Fyfe et al in ‘Overestimated global warming over the past 20 years’, Nature Climate Change 3, 767-769 (2013) )
2. IPCC AR5 computer models shown to be crap, and the statistical analysis techniques used by the AR5 team are about ten years out of date (Source, Ding et al, Journal of Climate 2013, ‘Hindcast of the 1976/77 and 1998/99 climate shifts in the Pacific’, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-12-00626.1, and also the Bull. Amer. Met. Soc., 93, 485-498, April 2012, ‘An Overview of CMIP5 and the Experiment Design’, and also Katz et al, Nature Climate Change 3, 769-771, 2013, ‘Uncertainty analysis in climate change assessments’)
3. Long term oceanic climate shifts are much bigger drivers of global temperature change than CO2, (Source, Yosaka and Xie, Nature (2013) doi:10.1038/nature12534, also Ding et al (supra above))
4. Pine Island Glacier melt is substantially driven by volcanoes under the West Antarctic ice sheet, (Source, Nitscheetal, The Cryosphere, 7, 249-262, 2013, ‘Paleo ice flow and subglacial meltwater dynamics in Pine Island Bay’, see also Jordan et al, Geol. Soc. Of America Bulletin, Dec 30, 2009)
5. The sun is now at its weakest in 100 years and may be heading toward a ‘Little Ice Age’ solar minimum, (source, NASA announcement, 8 January 2013)
6. See 5 above
7. GRACE satellite confirms sea level rise has slowed from 3mm a year to 1.7mm a year average between 2002-2011, equivalent to only 6.7 inches per century, (Source, Baur, O., Kuhn, M. and Featherstone, W.E. 2013. Continental mass change from GRACE over 2002-2011 and its impact on sea level. Journal of Geodesy 87: 117-125)
On the basis of the above, I ask again for any evidence you have that disproves any of the major claims in Air Con? I would remind you, before you place too much trust in your officials, that they may include some of the scientists who were unable to answer hard questions at a news conference, and when they couldn’t answer them they cut the microphone: see http://briefingroom.typepad.com/the_briefing_room/2009/11/nz-climate-scientists-run-from-challenging-questions.html
If you cannot come up with unambiguous evidence disproving the science I have quoted, then I would ask the New Zealand Government to immediately cease and desist defaming me and my work on the basis of a so-called ‘thorough investigation’ of the ‘claims’ in my book Air Con that you have now admitted was never undertaken.
As of publication, no reply had been received. However, it’s worth briefly turning to the Royal Society of NZ advice to the government.
Back in 2009 former Climate Change Minister Nick Smith was also bagging Air Con on the basis of the RSNZ advice, so we decided to point out to the Government then that the RSNZ was embarrassingly wrong in many of its claims.
Professor Keith Hunter, FNZIC, FRSNZ, Vice-President – Physical Sciences, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology, Royal Society of New Zealand, claimed as an ‘incontrovertible fact’ that:
“The amount of extra carbon accumulated in the ocean and the atmosphere matches the known quantity emitted by the combustion of fossil fuels.”
Except, he appears to have forgotten that there’s a discrepancy between what’s been emitted and how much remains in the atmosphere, known to climate scientists the world over as “the missing carbon sink”. In other words, the Royal Society is wrong. The emissions don’t match at all and Hunter’s statement is a glaring error.
The Royal Society’s Hunter also states:
“It is also clear that the oceans absorb about 85% of the excess heat resulting from this radiative forcing by greenhouse gases (as well as about 40% of the carbon dioxide). Detailed measurements of the changes in oceanic heat content, and the temperature rise that accompanies this, agree quantitatively with the predicted radiative forcing.”
Which would be fine, except that the oceans are not warming up much at all, which the Argo project, discussed in Air Con, found, and which has also been detected in another 2009 study:
“Annual mean heat storage values have been determined for the full period 1999–2005 (Table 2) and these indicate that the heat storage change is not significantly different from zero within the error of the estimate for all boxes.”
Indeed, in 2008 the Argo project’s Josh Willis was forced to admit there had been no warming in the upper 700 metres of the oceans for four years. One analysis even found a slight cooling:
So I’d be fascinated to know who gave the Royal Society of New Zealand the daft advice not only that the oceans are significantly warming, but that they are warming demonstrably and primarily as a result of greenhouse gas emissions. A cite should be provided for Professor Hunter’s claim that: “Detailed measurements of the changes in oceanic heat content, and the temperature rise that accompanies this, agree quantitatively with the predicted radiative forcing.”
Given that there are massive discrepancies in the radiation budget, it seems a surprisingly silly statement for the Royal Society of New Zealand to make.
Professor Hunter then says this in the Royal Society’s briefing for the government:
“Furthermore, satellite altimetry shows clearly that the sea level has risen by the amount expected as a result of the warming-induced thermal expansion of the ocean.”
Er, no. As I wrote in 2009:
“Given that sea level rise for the 20th century averaged 1.7mm a year, and recent studies such as Leuliette and Miller (2009) show SLR of only 1.5mm a year between 2003 and 2007 (supposedly the hottest decade), how accurate are your forecasts and what is the evidence in support of catastrophically rising sea levels?”
In fact, as explained to Bridges above, the low rate of sea level rise has been confirmed in satellite data, meaning the Royal Society of New Zealand was wrong on every one of its major pieces of advice to the National Government.
Yet Bridges expects the public to believe National is getting good “authoritative” advice from its officials? Arguably you should believe the advice when Hell freezes over, based on the evidence.
On the other hand, based on the pictures of the American blizzard and the climate scientists trapped in Antarctic summer sea ice, and the warnings this month that we could be heading for a new mini Ice Age because of rapidly decreasing solar activity, maybe Hell freezing over isn’t such an improbability after all.