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NZ Climate Science Coalition Reply To Greenpeace

The Greenpeace Press Release on the NZ Climate Science Coalition - A Deconstruction

On May 1, Greenpeace released a press statement in which they discussed the formation of a new climate science organization in New Zealand, the New Zealand Climate Science Consortium.

As explained below, those looking for wise words of guidance from Greenpeace on a major environmental issue have been sadly let down – yet again.

We comment, in numbered order, on twelve selected statements from Greenpeace’s review (their statements in italics):.

1. “The newly formed group of 'climate scientists' is about politics and big business, not science.”

As explained on our website*, the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition (NZCSC) is committed to providing New Zealanders with balanced scientific opinions that reflect the truth about climate change and expose the exaggerated claims that have been made about human-caused global warming.

The Coalition is led by scientists, and makes its appraisals using evidence-based science.

From its published comments on many issues, not just climate change, it is clear that Greenpeace does not base its views on science, but rather strives to achieve its environmental agenda through political ends.

2. "It is a sad day for New Zealand when we are subjected to the type of tactics endorsed by a Republican memo on how to confuse the public on the science, to allow the burning of fossil fuels."

This statement is entirely one of politics and innuendo. The notions of tactics and Republican endorsement are figments of Greenpeace's imagination.

3. The Republican memo which Greenpeace alleges NZCSC is following states:

"Should the public come to believe the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate."

Members of the public, like scientific experts, hold a wide variety of views on global warming and the degree to which it might be caused by human influence. The lack of scientific certainty regarding the causes of climate change is an established condition, not a political contrivance.

For instance, in April this year there was an interchange of letters in the Canadian media by two different groups of expert scientists who expressed polar opposite views on human-caused global warming, in public advice to incoming Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Editorialising on these letters, on May 3 the National Post wrote:

"We have clear evidence of scientific disagreement, and that's just in Canada. Internationally, the debate over climate-change theory intensifies daily. Two major conferences, one in Europe and the other in New Mexico, will explore the growing scientific conflict over climate change as it moves to new levels of understanding."

The editorial went on to add:

"It may be news to many Canadians, but the possible causes of global warming -- to whatever degree it might be happening -- range far beyond human carbon emissions. Changes in the behaviour of the sun, the role of aerosols and other natural factors may be as important, if not more important, than human behaviour."

By all accounts, this will be news to Greenpeace NZ too.

4. "It is a well known strategy by vested interests to cast doubt on the climate science. But the debate is over. The scientific majority agrees - climate change is happening and it is caused by human activities. What we are seeing in the formation of the Climate Science Coalition is the death throes of the climate change sceptic."

The first sentence is irrelevant innuendo, and also contains a false assertion: unlike Greenpeace, the NZSCS always aims to highlight the scientific facts and their sensible interpretation.

The second sentence is manifestly false. Greenpeace illustrates Orwellian 'double think' when it makes this statement and then disparages 'skeptics'. It can't have it both ways.

The third sentence is vacuous in that the climate has always changed and always will; it is also false in that not even the IPCC claims that climate change is solely caused by human activity.
Finally, the fourth sentence is political rhetoric divorced from reality.

5. "Carbon dioxide is one of the major contributors to climate change."
This statement is not supported by the available scientific data. Rather, it has become an article of faith, as is evidenced by the impulse to list the believers.

If it were scientifically established that atmospheric carbon dioxide was the primary cause of climate change, then the issue of belief would be - as it should be anyway in a science discussion - irrelevant.

6. "Those that stand to lose the most require a debate to encourage uncertainty to protect their interests."

Science progresses by scepticism, testing and debate. Science has no interests to protect other than reality and truth.

7. "Exxon-Mobil, the biggest oil company in the world, has spent more than NZD$18.8 million funding groups and climate sceptics to challenge the science of climate change."

Greenpeace seems here, and in other places, to be obsessed with big business. What Exxon-Mobil may or may not have spent encouraging scientific investigation is known only to Exxon-Mobil, and is anyway a matter of which they would rightly be proud, not ashamed.

NZCSC numbers amongst its members persons who are alleged (by Greenpeace members, amongst others) to have received funding from Exxon-Mobil. The allegations are utterly without foundation.

If Greenpeace wants to contribute sensibly to the public discussion on climate science, it needs to reorient itself away from politics and innuendo, and start acknowledging the primacy of the science of the issue.

8. "In 2003, Exxon-Mobil funded the Tech Central Science (sic) Foundation to the tune of NZ$151,430 and two of the members of the coalition - Vincent Gray and Bob Carter have been contributing writers to that foundation."

And so? Drs. Gray and Carter, as professional scientists, have also written invited articles on climate change for publications such as The Dominion Post and The Australian. Does this make them beholden to the Editors or owners of those newspapers?

The idea is simply absurd, and serves to reflect only that Greenpeace, without any substantive science to support its beliefs, is now reduced to throwing stones in the greenhouse.

9. "Why would anyone cast doubt on the largest body of scientific effort ever assembled on planet - the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) a collaboration of over 1,500 climate experts from around the world that 17 national academies of science have endorsed as the pre-emininent authority on climate science on the planet?"

Science is about observation, experiment and theory, not consensus. This statement is rhetoric, and weak rhetoric at that.
NZCSC stands for less rhetoric and more science.

10. "Why would anyone argue against 11 national science academies who issued a joint statement to the G8 Summit that acknowledged G8 nations have been responsible for much of the past greenhouse gas emissions? Or recent participants at Wellington's Climate Change and Governance conference who all agree climate change is real and happening."

No-one disputes that climate change is real and happening, that burning fossil fuels adds CO2 to the atmosphere, nor that G8 nations have contributed their share of emissions. In contrast, there is no agreement at all as to the portion of climate change that is human-caused, the likely magnitude of any temperature change that may follow from continuing human emissions, nor whether it is necessary to take remedial action.

Neither science academies, nor the IPCC, nor the recent Wellington conference has a monopoly on science wisdom about climate change. Indeed, some of the utterances of persons associated with these bodies conflict so dramatically with science reality, and with the views of independent expert scientists, that one is forced to conclude that these bodies are now operating to a significant degree in the political realm. Like Greenpeace.

11. "The International Climate Change Taskforce has said we have only ten years to act to avoid very dangerous levels of climate change."
This is a statement of opinion about unstated scientific propositions, and about the likely efficacy of human actions against hypothetical futures. The statement is inconsistent with the IPCC's support for the Kyoto Protocol, since Kyoto measures cannot conceivably avert such dangers.

When it suits its political agenda to do so, Greenpeace is clearly prepared to "cast doubt" on the IPCC. They’re in good company. So did the UK House of Lords in a recent authoritative report on climate change matters.

12. "The scientific community is united, the (climate) debate is over”.
United about what?

It is manifestly untrue that the scientific community is united about the causes of climate change, or that there are only 10 years left in which to act. On the contrary, there is vigorous ongoing debate about the science of climate change, and of the possible climatic effects of greenhouse gas emissions. To deny this is to deny reality.

Major uncertainties remain about the science of climate change and the likely levels of future greenhouse emissions. Greenpeace serves no useful purpose by seeking to hide these uncertainties from the public, and to suppress scientific debate.


Greenpeace’s entire statement is a strong reinforcement of the problem that NZSCS was set up to tackle, i.e. the emotional, illogical and political domination of the debate on climate change to the exclusion of the actual scientific evidence.

We reassert the NZSCS view that a much higher quality public debate is needed. We shall seek to continue to contribute to it.



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