Climate court-action is delaying the inevitable
Nobody should be above the law.
Such platitudes will resonate with folk who welcome the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition’s latest bid to be noticed: Taking legal action against the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, in the name of the New Zealand Climate Science Education Trust.
Coalition, of course, is a misnomer, given the group can count few scientists, and even fewer climate scientists (and almost certainly no working climate scientists) in its ranks.
If an issue can be resolved by negotiation, it is generally bad idea to go to court. Even for a party confident it has the legal high ground, an outcome can all too often please neither it nor the other side. And where the overwhelming weight of evidence worldwide is unequivocally against the applicant…
But with issues of science, court action is plain unnecessary. The well-established tradition of peer review eventually exposes flawed science. And if this was the case here, anthropogenic global warming would have long-since been thoroughly bebunked. Tellingly, the group has not had the courage to subject its creative assertions to peer review.
Meantime, most halfway serious entities have accepted the reality of global warming. Even the science editor of conservative tabloid the Daily Mail has recently departed the denialist camp:
I have long been something of a climate-change sceptic, but my views in recent years have shifted. For me, the most convincing evidence that something worrying is going on lies right here in the Arctic.
The case sought against the crown research institute centres on Aotearoa’s temperature record. The New Zealand Herald reports the group as claiming:
The warming figure was high and almost 50 per cent above the global average.
Such a statement is flat wrong; the institute’s temperature record is in line with those of national climate bodies worldwide. Much will be made, if the case proceeds, of adjustments to data. This was the focus of the charges against the University of East Anglia’s climatic research unit, which were refuted by every inquiry held into the issue. Sadly, the public mostly remembers some dodgy-sounding statements in emails stolen from the research unit.
It is probable that the effect of this legal action will be similar. Most will be left with an impression that climate scientists massage data to get the results they want—‘to make the data fit the theory.’ That impression, however, will not endure. The warming trend in the institute’s unadjusted ‘eleven-station’ series is nearly 1° C in 77 years, and will increase another degree in a much shorter timeframe. The 0.7° C global increase is already at least doubling the chances of extreme weather events such as the jet-stream-linked Russian heat wave and Pakistani floods. Double that increase and extreme weather events are not merely doubled.
Court action against the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research will be used by many as an excuse not to learn about global warming—in any event they are unlikely to learn much from the mainstream media, which generally assigns journalists with little or no scientific acumen. But it will only delay the inevitable humiliation, at which point, defeated denialists will manage to blame ‘alarmists’ and the political advocacy scientists for their discomfort, in the style of the aforementioned science editor.
Such discomfort will not begin to compare with the predictably greater suffering visited upon children unborn and unnamed.
That will result from delaying the inevitable, by delaying climate action.