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Dr Muriel Newman

Open Letter to the Minister of Climate Change Issues

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“I can assure you that the government has investigated the evidence on the science of climate change from a number of different sources and I can appreciate that there are many different perspectives on the matter. However, the government is convinced that climate change is a serious and legitimate issue and that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) provides the most reliable information on climate change science. In its most recent assessment, the IPCC states that the evidence for climate change is unequivocal, that humankind’s emissions are very likely the cause of these changes and that, unless action is taken to reduce emissions, dangerous changes in the climate system will result.”

– Hon Nick Smith, Minister for Climate Change Issues, in response to submissions on New Zealand’s 2020 Emissions Target.

Dear Minister,

It is very clear that you have been able to convince the Prime Minister and your Caucus colleagues that the evidence for human induced catastrophic climate change presented by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is irrefutable. On behalf of those New Zealanders who despair at your actions – given the economic damage your emissions trading scheme (ETS) is going to cause to Kiwi families and small businesses – I would like to ask you to justify your stance by responding to the issues raised in this open letter.

First of all, why are you rushing the ETS legislation through Parliament, committing New Zealand to this course of action when you don’t even know what the rest of the world will decide at Copenhagen in December? Why not extend the two-week timeframe for submissions (which is scandalously short for a Bill of this magnitude) until Christmas and deliberate on the Bill next year, when your government will be able to make an informed decision.

Secondly, how can you reconcile implementing an ETS when it will totally undermine your government’s goal of catching and matching Australia by 2025? This is an especially important issue in light of the new Government requirement that is coming into force on November 2, which will require Ministers to sign a statement to justify that the benefits of their new legislation “not only exceed the costs but will deliver the highest level of net benefit of the practical regulatory options available”.[1] How can your ETS possibly pass such a test when it will not only cost jobs and destroy wealth, but it will make it virtually impossible for your government to achieve the three percent growth a year that will be needed to achieve its 2025 goal?

Thirdly, how can you claim that the “reliable information” provided by the IPCC is dependable enough to base the future of New Zealand on, when that body is now embroiled in a huge scandal over the fabrication of the data it has been using to claim that man-made global warming is causing catastrophic climate change? When the fraudulent data is removed from the IPCC’s climate models, modern day global temperatures are seen to exhibit natural climate variability – in other words, there is no man-made crisis demanding massive government intervention.

Minister, given that the scientific advice provided to yourself and the government appears to originate from state agencies that are heavily influenced by the IPCC – and is therefore unlikely to be independent – you may not have been briefed about this new development, so let me explain.

You will be aware that since 2001 the IPCC has claimed that global temperatures in the late 20th century were hotter than at any other time over the last 900 years, and that this situation has been caused by man’s emissions of greenhouse gases. It is this claim that gave rise to the Kyoto Protocol and has led to world-wide attempts to restrict the production of greenhouse gases through emissions trading schemes like to one you are poised to impose on New Zealand.

Minister, the IPCC’s claim that the planet is hotter now than in the past is based on fraudulent data.[2] When the corrupted data is removed from the climate models, there is no late 20th century catastrophic warming. Below is a graph of the world’s climate that was published in the IPCC’s First Assessment Report in 1990. In this report the IPCC noted that the warming of the late 20th century – as the planet emerged from the Little Ice Age – was essentially within the bounds of natural variability. The Medieval Warm Period, when the Vikings colonized Greenland, was seen to have temperatures greater than modern times – temperatures which were clearly unrelated to emissions of man-made greenhouse gases.Climate graphHowever, by 2001, the IPCC had changed its tune and the above graph of historic temperatures had not only vanished, but so too had the Medieval Warm Period. Without the Medieval Warm Period as a reference point, the IPCC was able to state that the late 20th century demonstrated unprecedented global warming: “the 1990s has been the warmest decade and 1998 the warmest year of the millennium”.Hockey stick graphThe IPCC’s “hocky stick” graph became an overnight celebrity, starring in Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth” and creating widespread fear of an impending climate Armageddon.

The “hockey stick” graph was based on the work of US climatologist Michael Mann, an IPCC lead author, who relied heavily on temperature “proxies” from some bristlecone pine trees found on Sheep Mountain in California. As you know, tree ring widths make good proxies for climate, since tree growth is largely dependent on temperature.

However, the bristlecone pine trees were problematic in that the 20th century growth spurt that they displayed was caused by a fertiliser effect, not by temperature, since the data did not match the records of a nearby weather station. When Michael Mann knowingly used the contaminated data, he was able to create the hockey stick and a climate crisis. Once the data was removed, the hockey stick shape disappeared from his graphs and the climate of the 20th century was seen to be unexceptional.

It was Canadian policy analyst Stephen McIntyre along with Dr Ross McKitrick, Professor of Economics at Guelph University, who uncovered the fraud. As a result the US Congress ordered two reviews into the matter both of which condemned the hockey stick graph, but in spite of this, while the IPCC dropped the offending graph, it refused to acknowledge the controversy and continued to deliberately misrepresent the warming of the late 20th century. To do this they used studies by a UK scientist Keith Briffa, who was using tree ring proxies from the Yamal Peninsula in Siberia to create a similar classic hockey stick shape. As with Michael Mann, the IPCC appointed Keith Briffa as a lead author – ostensibly in recognition of his work, but in reality to prevent criticism of his highly controversial findings from surfacing in their reports.

On seeing the re-emergence of these hockey stick shaped graphs, Steve McIntyre requested the data in order to examine the anomaly. While clear data-sharing scientific protocols exist, for nine years Steve’s requests were turned down. That is until recently when a journal editor finally ordered that the data be released. When it was analysed, the reason for the hockey stick anomaly became clear.

Professor Ross McKitrick, who worked with Steve McIntyre to analyse the data, is this week’s NZCPR Guest Commentator. In his article Defects in key climate data are uncovered, he picks up the story:

“The sharp uptrend in the late 20th century came from cores of 10 living trees alive as of 1990, and five living trees alive as of 1995. Based on scientific standards, this is too small a sample on which to produce a publication-grade proxy composite. The 18th and 19th century portion of the sample, for instance, contains at least 30 trees per year. But that portion doesn’t show a warming spike. The only segment that does is the late 20th century, where the sample size collapses. Once again a dramatic hockey stick shape turns out to depend on the least reliable portion of a dataset.

“When the paleoclimate data archive was searched to see if there were other tree ring cores from at or near the Yamal site that could have been used to increase the sample size, a set of 34 up-to-date core samples, taken from living trees in Yamal were found. When these were added to the original small sample, the hockey stick spike collapsed and the temperature trend in the late 20th century was seen to be “unexceptional compared to the rest of the millennium”!

In other words, Minister, the IPCC’s claims of catastrophic global warming – and the enormous policy consequences for countries all around the world including New Zealand – are based on the flawed analysis of tree ring data from 5 trees in Siberia. When that fraudulent data is removed from global climate reconstructions, the late twentieth century temperatures are seen to be within the norms of natural climate variability. That explains why global temperatures have been falling for the last 11 years, in spite of carbon dioxide levels rising – because carbon dioxide is not a driver of the earth’s temperature.

So Minister, while you have convinced your colleagues that catastrophic climate change is such a real and dangerous threat to mankind that an ETS must be urgently imposed on New Zealand (even though at 0.2 percent we produce an almost infinitesimal proportion of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions), your argument is based on fraudulent evidence. What’s more, you have asked New Zealanders to place their utmost trust in the IPCC, yet it is an organisation that has knowingly used this flawed evidence to maintain the perception of a climate crisis.

What this means, Minister, is that your attempts curb man-made greenhouse gases through your ETS will be a gross misuse of public funds that will seriously impeded New Zealand’s chance of a prosperous future. And if you were not aware of the data scandals surrounding the IPCC, then I suggest you put your ETS on hold while you contact Dr McKitrick yourself.

Finally, Minister, when the Labour Government tried to introduce a “fart tax” in 2003, they failed because the public rose up in opposition. New Zealanders understood that trying to tax farmers for emissions from cows and sheep was a really dumb idea. In 2005, when Labour tried to introduce a carbon tax, you, Minister took a lead in campaigning against it, warning, “A further concern of the carbon tax is its impact on inflation, interest rates and the exchange rate. It will add to the costs of fuel and power and these flow right through the economy to basics like food. This puts pressure on inflation, which in turn drives up interest rates and the kiwi dollar. The Government’s carbon tax is a classic example of the way the Government is making things tougher for the productive exporting sector.[3]

If you re-read your statement – see here – you could have been talking about your ETS. The same principles apply. After all an ETS is a fart tax or a carbon tax by another name. You urged the public to actively oppose the 2005 tax stating that “We need to bury this lemon”. With respect, Minister, isn’t that is exactly what should happen to your 2009 ETS?

Yours sincerely
Dr Muriel Newman
Director New Zealand Centre for Political Research

1.Treasury, Government Statement of Regulation
2.Ross McKitrick, Response to David Henderson’s Governments and Climate Change Issues: The Flawed Consensus and Ross McKitrick’s archive of research papers 
3.Nick Smith, Farming Column Dec 2005