Naïve fanfare silenced by foot-in-mouth NIWA

An ancient foot in the mouth

Quelle surprise! Network PR have taken down the page proclaiming their work with NIWA on “how to position itself in the climate change debate” (h/t to Andy).

It was here, but now the page of case studies doesn’t even mention NIWA. Here is the Google cache version, just to prove we didn’t imagine this.

When a company ceases to trumpet what they perceive as a good piece of work, you know their hand has been forced. In this case, who but NIWA would be doing any forcing?

Network PR has produced a monumental piece of naïvety in disclosing details of its work with NIWA. Network’s principals knew of their client’s adversaries, for the very purpose of the education campaign they fashioned was to deal with criticism from them, but the desire to trumpet their effectiveness was too strong to resist. It was a wonderful divorce from reality, to fail to imagine the adversaries hearing of this news and making use of it against their client.

So much for Network PR. Good luck to them. Now, through the careless eagerness of their supplier to leverage new business from success, NIWA’s senior managers have had their plainly self-absorbed thinking lit by a dazzling public spotlight and naturally it shames them. There are two threads in their error.

First, the leadership decided to use NIWA’s public funds for other than public purposes. That is, the organisation would not benefit from coaching their staff in how to avoid answering questions, only the individual scientists might be spared the irritation, embarrassment or simply the shame of answering questions exposing their unscientific methods, conclusions and agenda.

If that strikes you as unduly harsh, and that surely NIWA would never be unscientific, consider what it means for Dr Wratt to assert on the one hand that the rate of NZ warming over the last 100 years has been approximately 50% greater than the global rate, while on the other hand assuring us that, because we are in the middle of a great big ocean, he expects our future warming to be more moderate than the global warming. Those statements made by Dr Wratt, dear reader, are not scientific, because they are mutually contradictory. Then again, he hasn’t cited any references yet – perhaps he’s biding his time!

Second, the leadership consciously adopted a policy of refusing to answer scientific interlocutors and instead to concoct clever rebuttals focused on establishing their credibility (just trust us, ok?). This is about as anti-science as anybody could get, so the fact that actual scientists decide not to discuss the science is frankly astonishing.

No sensible manager would spend thousands of dollars (just a guess here, but surely the Parliamentary questions to confirm this are already planned) on public relations coaching just to avoid answering – for free! – a few straightforward questions.

Epic fail

At least, no manager who cared about the success of his organisation would waste money in such a useless effort.

But Dr Wratt has done just that, and now he seeks to conceal the fact by forcing his unruly PR consultant to take down a web page. EPIC FAIL, Dr Wratt: we’ve already seen the page and it will never disappear.

Among other self-congratulatory remarks, Network PR said:

A stinging attack by the leader of the ACT party to a Federated Farmers Conference was quickly repulsed using pre-prepared positions.

I agree it was a “stinging attack”, which is why I chose a nettle metaphor in posting Rodney Hide’s speech, which reveals the source of the sting is the simple truth – because everything Rodney said about NIWA is true.

He said:

  • NIWA produced (actually, Dr Jim Salinger alone produced, and NIWA somehow adopted) the seven-station series graph but failed in their statutory duty to document its construction or approval.
  • NIWA answered our questions evasively and produced no SOA describing and justifying the adjustments to the temperature readings.
  • NIWA misled its ministers in answering Parliamentary questions, blatantly giving references to documents which did not contain the answers sought, including the methodology Salinger used in his 1981 thesis and the Schedule of Adjustments belonging to the seven-station series.
  • NIWA then produced (actually, Dr Jim Salinger, working with Dr James Renwick, produced) the eleven-station series graph which, on examination by our scientists, raised grave questions of quality.
  • NIWA eventually agreed with our criticisms, without specifically saying so, and announced a fresh start at producing a new series, for which we are all grateful and are looking forward to seeing.

All of those points are true: the only possible “defence” is correctly answering the questions. They cannot deny they failed to answer them; if they do, let them point now to the answers. They cannot deny they referred to empty documents, nor that they produced no SOA, nor that they produced no authorisation or even discussion in adopting Salinger’s series as the official NZ temperature record (that, in other words, they failed in their statutory duty to keep proper records of public data).

Now they attempt to ignore these facts and answer with clever, expensive words alone.

NIWA has learned nothing from their mistaken responses over the last few months – they continue to refuse to answer our questions. If they did, how much easier could their life become?

But then, what would be the ramifications for their funding agenda if, in telling the truth, they destroyed all justification for fearing the future climate?

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20 Thoughts on “Naïve fanfare silenced by foot-in-mouth NIWA

  1. Andy on 08/08/2010 at 2:48 pm said:


  2. Richard C on 08/08/2010 at 5:01 pm said:

    Fortunately, NIWA now has the southern hemisphere’s largest supercomputer up and running. Expect the new improved NZ temperature record to show “Warming over New Zealand through the last century is *unequivocally* unequivocal”.

    Also look forward to vastly improved accuracy in next century’s warming predictions (probably to within one hundredth of a degree C plus or minus a few thousandths).

    It was a stroke of genius to have Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology audit the new record. The BoM’s in-depth understanding of warm-bias techniques developed while compiling the equivalent Australian record should enable them to spot any NIWA sleight-of-hand without undue effort.

  3. Andy on 08/08/2010 at 7:00 pm said:

    Meet the spin doctors:

    Mark Oldershaw: Network PR

    Mark has recently joined the Network PR team as Director – Government Relations and Advocacy.

    Immediately prior to joining the Network team Mark was General Manager of the NZ National Party, a role that Mark held through the Party’s transition from opposition to government in 2008. During this time Mark was in regular liaison with all key political players including the Prime Minister, all Cabinet Ministers and Members of Parliament.

    And also:

    According to Mr Oldershaw, “Interaction with government under an MMP political environment is becoming more complex and the traditional role of government relations is being challenged.

    The key strategy for successful practitioners is to provide collaborative leadership and tangible solutions to both government and industry. The classic win-win situation,” he says.

    • It sounds good, and that’s impressive experience. Mr Oldershaw wouldn’t make too many mistakes. Would he? Who was the other winner in the decision to release details of the NIWA strategy?

  4. Bulaman on 09/08/2010 at 7:44 am said:

    Re the Super Computer.. Lots of money “To make bad forecasts faster”!!

  5. Flipper on 09/08/2010 at 3:40 pm said:

    Is that not the same Mark Oldershaw who “retired” from National Party management due to “Ill health” ?
    NIWA is bound to exacerbate his problem.

  6. Quentin F on 10/08/2010 at 12:47 pm said:

    Is NIWA criminally fraudulent if they “have knowledge” that their science isn’t true or has a very low probability of being correct? Also, if they have tried to obstruct scientific debate and deliberately concoct data to try to “prove” a false theory?

  7. Clarence on 11/08/2010 at 2:25 am said:

    Network’s now-hidden site claimed that the PR firm handled a flurry of Parliamentary Questions about NIWA’s temperature record. Those questions were posed to the Minister of Research Science and Technology (Wayne Mapp) and answered in his name. The whole constitutional convention of PQs is to allow elected representatives to receive full accountability from the executive arm of government.

    Now we learn that rather than accept accountability for his CRI’s actions, the Minister referred the question to the CRI, who referred it to a firm of spin doctors, who gave it to the ex-manager of the National Party, who made up a form of words which would effectively say nothing. Now the spin doctors are boasting that they did such a good job that nobody even bothers asking questions any more.

    This PR-gate debases the whole concept of parliamentary democracy!

    • Yes, it’s as though the Parliament is just another public window, where the dressing must be attended to but not the substance. Only good men and women will notice the differences, and they are the only ones to care about the differences.

  8. Flipper on 11/08/2010 at 9:18 am said:

    So the Government can do a media supported FLIP-FLOP on mining. Now some media want a flip-flop on the .8 v .5 BAL (actually, the research caveat is 8 months old but the lamestream media ignore that).

    But the media/Government decline to act on the ETS/NIWA scandal. If the lamestream were doing their job they would be baying for a malfeasance suit to be brought against Wratt, Salinger, et al.

    • “lamestream media” – I like it!

      Forgive my ignorance, but what do you mean by “flip-flop on the .8 v .5 BAL” and what research caveat?

  9. Flipper on 11/08/2010 at 2:35 pm said:

    When the Government announced changes and matters for consaideration around Xmas last it also announced then, that research into the ./5 v .8 argument would probably be necessary. It made NO commitment then, and didx notgf do so szubszeq to change to .5. The lateszt announcement simply confirms tghe predvious statedmednt.
    It is theds mediaz (and “cxitizens for Rowling” look-a-likes that areds campaigning for a “flip-flop”.

    • Whoops! If you’d like to try again, I’ll replace the original. Now I’d like to know what “changes and matters” were announced and what the .5 v .8 argument is. Thanks.

  10. Flipper on 11/08/2010 at 2:38 pm said:

    Apologies for bad send in last message — error here. Hope U can translate it

  11. Flipper on 11/08/2010 at 2:52 pm said:

    Richard re lamestream media.
    Its “mine” – well it was. I think I pinched it from Marc Morano.
    But, pursuant to Clause 1 of the Climate Realists Charter, it is also “yours”!

  12. Flipper on 12/08/2010 at 8:56 am said:

    ‘morning Richard
    The post should have read:

    I dont want this to be a diversion, but when the Government announced changes to road rules/safety and associated matters for consideration around Xmas last, it also announced then, that further research into the .5 v .8 (breath/alcohol level) argument would probably be necessary.
    (The main reason is that only one NZ fatal accident involving breath alcohol levels between .5 and .8 has been noted over the past few years. Foreign studies do NOT factor in other changes such as road improvements.)
    It (neither Key nor Joyce) made NO commitment then, and did not do so subsequently, to change from the existing .8 to .5. The latest announcement simply confirms the previous statement.
    It is the media (and “Citizens for Rowling” look-a-likes) that are campaigning for a “flip-flop”.

    Would they showed as much commitment to the useless ETS.

  13. Quentin F on 13/08/2010 at 3:43 pm said:

    Its quite obvious that TVNZ just back most Gov propaganda regardless. Misusing the great myth of public opinion surveys, about as reliable as a 2 bob watch. (referring to the .5 vs .8 debacle)

  14. Pingback: Climate Conversation Group » NIWA’s review taking a hiding

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