Listener lambasted concerning climate claims

An excellent sceptical letter sent to the NZ Listener on 14 May and copied today to Climate Conversation.

Rupert Wyndham in New Zealand

To the Editor
NZ Listener

quill pen

14th May 2011

Dear Ms. Stirling,

I am a visitor to New Zealand, and only yesterday had sight of your 14 May edition of the New Zealand Listener with its entertainingly fanciful lead story, accompanied by appropriately lurid graphics.

Since this is a topic which raises much controversy, let me try and see if I can encapsulate in a few lines what it is that you would wish your readers to believe. You propose, it would seem, that marginal increases in the concentrations of what is no more than a trace gas, amounting in total not to 10% of the earth’s atmosphere, not even to 5% — nay, not even to 1%, can bring about cataclysmic changes in global climate.

So, what exactly is the percentage concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere? Why, to be sure, it is a gasping, asphyxiating 1/27th part of a single percentage point. But even that’s not the complete picture, is it? After all, as someone (such as you) who has addressed the data for herself will know, even human-induced climate change proselytisers acknowledge that, by itself, the radiative potential of CO2 (vanishingly small anyway) fails to account for the “scenarios” promoted by them and by unquestioning and compliant organs of the media — such, indeed, as The New Zealand Listener.

So, to get over this little inconvenience, what should be done? Why, to be sure, invoke another critical, life-affirming compound (dihydrogen oxide) to provide a “positive forcing”, thereby adding to the so-called greenhouse effect. Regrettably, the very scientists (well, anyway, let’s call them that for the sake of convenience) can’t actually tell you whether the forcing resulting from atmospheric water vapour is positive (so allegedly bringing warming) or negative (so allegedly bringing the opposite). Clouds, for example, have a cooling effect. Have these ‘climate scientists’ with their rinky dinky computers ever managed to incorporate them in their so-named General Circulation Models? Answer: the heck they have!

And neither still is that the whole story, is it? For, while CO2 might have some modest radiative potential, that potential is governed by a relationship to concentration that is logarithmic, not linear. In simple layman’s terms, the more you shove in, increasingly less do you get out. In other words, the system is self limiting — well, well, fancy that!

So, to you, let me pose a multi-part question. Even at first sight, does this seem plausible? Possible? Or, is it, perhaps, just stark barking?

Listener cover

Finally, let’s pause briefly on your Gotham City phantasmagoric cover photo. This, from its appearance, could quite easily be a fictional montage designed, of course, to promote a propagandist scaremongering agenda to an ill-informed public. In any event, and as far as New Zealand is concerned, as a journalistic professional dealing with a matter of major public importance, you personally should be fully aware that the Flinders University, Adelaide, trans-Pacific tidal buoy project, after ten years of careful monitoring, was wound up a year or two ago after failing to find evidence of any increase whatsoever in rates of sea level rise. These data have since been confirmed by satellite readings — much disliked by AGW propagandists, since they usually undermine the party line. Neither are such contra-indicative findings confined to the S. Pacific. If, in the face of such scientific findings, you have published your story, then you are guilty of lying. If you were unaware of such data, you are guilty of professional negligence, and I speak as a one-time journalist myself in publications somewhat more elevated (or, at any rate, more globally celebrated) than the New Zealand Listener.

Actually, let’s be candid. Your piece is not journalism at all, is it? It is mere agit-prop. In essence, as between what you have published (and, I suspect, publish routinely) and what your counterparts disseminated in Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia and Maoist China any difference is negligible.

Rupert Wyndham

Leave a Reply

11 Comment threads
11 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
10 Comment authors
Notify of
Richard C (NZ)

“Clouds, for example, have a cooling effect. Have these ‘climate scientists’ with their rinky dinky computers ever managed to incorporate them in their so-named General Circulation Models? Answer: the heck they have!” Actually they have to a degree but low level cloud has not been modeled. This led to the attribution of mid to late 90s warming to CO2 when the reality was that cloud cover (particularly low level) reduced allowing more insolation, but now that those clouds are back the warming has been inhibited. This is one of the major model failures due to neglect of natural cycles and variations that render the IPCC AR4 set of simulations invalid and of no consequence until they are reconfigured and new runs carried out. Clouds seem to be making a mockery of a certain faction of climate science on a regular basis. Dr Renwick (NIWA) made his 2010/11 summer prediction of “cloudless skies” and “drier air”. This was immediately followed by 97% humidity in Auckland and cloudy skies for most of summer in NZ (the departure from that prediction was more radical in Queensland) except for a brief late summer period. On the other… Read more »


Hi Richard C…
From discussion with R C E Wyndham following his demolition of the Listener I am sure he would not question your qualification re clouds. But there was not room in his relatively punchy response.
Good stuff tho.
Hot Topic is a worry. Flat Earth Society may be a more appropriate name.

Richard C (NZ)

Flipper, that’s the difficulty with letters to the editor and comments below articles where there are word or character count limits. How to communicate an impeccable and credible refutation in the space allowed? Meanwhile, gormless journalists get acres of column space. Wyndham has made good use of his allocation. Roger Tattersall (Tallbloke) writes a scientific case but it has a word count of 1222 and 6188 characters:- ————————————————————————————————————————————— What caused global warming in the late C20th? 1) Downwelling longwave radiation from greenhouse gases (mostly water vapour, plus co2) can’t penetrate the ocean surface beyond it’s own wavelength. This is well known physics. But the assumption has been that the warming of the surface by this longwave ‘back radiation’ is ‘mixed down’ into the ocean. This is incorrect. When pushed, the physics people supporting the idea of co2 driven warming say that rather then ‘back radiation’ warming the ocean, the effect of additional co2 is to raise the altitude at which the bulk of radiation to space takes place at. This will have the effect of ‘thickening the blanket’ and hence causing the ocean to cool at a slower rate than the rate energy… Read more »


I’m wondering how best to couch the information for full effect.

Richard C, this is of course the $64 question.

Your post makes so many good points, but how many of the “twitter generation” will have the attention span to even grasp 1/10th of what you say?

We are dealing with a religious dogma here, in my view.

Richard C (NZ)

I’ll send Tallbloke’s original hypothesis complete with references, author attribution and his contact address off to PMSAC/CC Office one day soon. I’ll do a follow up with the other science that’s come to light when I find time.

As for the Twitter generation, I’ll confine any argument to – “Name one of the 7 key climate metrics that is following the AGW prescription?” That gives them enough rope to hang themselves.

Richard C (NZ)

I added the ratio incorrectly, should be 4:1 in this sentence (my VERY bad).

“This is because the specific heat capacity of water is much, MUCH higher than air [4000:1]”

Richard C (NZ)

The Hot Topic parrot is still squawking madly.

A Perfect Moral Storm

by Bryan Walker on June 2, 2011

Humanity is facing an extreme risk from unabated climate change. The science is widely understood and accepted. Yet we seem paralysed when it comes to reducing the threat: in spite of 20 years of international talk emissions continue to rise alarmingly………………

No Bryan, we are not paralysed when it comes to “reducing the threat” (but have a cracker anyway Polly).


As an aside, I was recently informed that our house may be up to 50cm more above sea level than it was before Feb 22nd. Other parts of Christchurch may be the same, but in the opposite direction.

This all happened within 20 seconds. Yet the media would have us believe a similar change in sea levels over a 100 year period is the biggest crisis facing this country.

Ian Cooper

Excellent letter to the editor. I like his style. No mucking around.

Just as an aside, and while someone was mentioning Dr Georgina Griffiths. I was bemused by her appearance on TV 1’s morning programme last week where she was using the high temperatures of May around the country as evidence that we were experiencing global warming first hand. This was before the numbers were finally in. As I pointed out to the Weather Watch site, this May warmth is not inprecedented at all. For my area I have the mean of Palmerston North at 17.6C this year but in 1962 the mean was 17.9!

There are a lot of continuing similarities between this year and ’62 as well. The striking one is the predominence of winds from the northerly quarter which look to continue for some time. Back in 1962 the northerlies were dominant until December! Although the direct data I have is for Ohakea air base, one can take it as read that a large chunk of the North Island and most of the South Island would be experiencing a similar scenario.

Richard C (NZ)

So for Georgina Griffiths, warm La Nina temperatures around New Zealand are evidence of GLOBAL warming?

A quick peek at AMSU-A shows near surface 0.12 C cooler than this day last year and mid-trop 0.49 C cooler, much as it has been since January.

Griffiths’ pronouncement is unprofessional, unethical, dishonest, misleading and incorrect. Was she speaking on behalf of NIWA or on her own volition (but on whose time?). Salinger was fired for similar rantings.

Jim Mck

The CO2 figures at Mauna Loa which peak annually in May are just out. They show the smallest annual increase in atmospheric CO2 since 1999 — which incidentally had followed an aberationally high figure in 1998.

While I think the only real significance is that there is no sign of an acceleration I had been hoping for a headline like “GLOBAL WARMING IS SLOWING DOWN”. I fear I will be disappointed.


“Smallest annual increase in CO2 since 1999”

Yet in the parallel universe occupied by The Guardian, we read…

Worst ever carbon emissions leave climate on the brink
Exclusive: Record rise, despite recession, means 2C target almost out of reach

Wonder why it’s an exclusive?

Jim, I’ve looked at but I can’t locate the figure you’re referring to. Do you have a reference?

Jim Mck

Yes I should explain

The monthly figure is the average of the five weekly May figures being 394.00, 392.94, 394.78, 394.97, 394.07 average 394.15. The site is still showing the April monthly figure of 393.18 but all the numbers are there to calculate May.

The 2010 May monthly peak was 392.96 so the increase was 1.19. The annual growth data gives historic.

Jim Mck

Hold the phone this is peak to peak and historic numbers are annual means. I think the conclusion is still correct but more work required.

Jim Mck

Hi Richard, Looking at the May peaks in CO2, May 2011 did show the lowest annual increase in ten years. In fact April on April did as well. The moving averages are moving down but have not yet broken long term trend lines. The raw data set is the “Monthy Mean”. It is in fact not a mean at all, it is the average of weekly figures which in turn are the averages of daily measures. This raw data set is manipulated in various ways one of which is the “annual mean rate of growth”. It is (roughly) the change in the seasonally adjusted average of the 4 months bunched around the end of each calendar year with the four months bunched around the start of the calendar year and is calculated once a year. Not a particularly useful number. There inevitably has to be a break out from the medium term straight line trend in atmospheric CO2. Because the data exhibits a nice regular 12 month pattern a straightforward 12 month moving average of the raw data is the best way to monitor that. I have down loaded the Maui sequence to… Read more »

rob r

Richard C

Salinger might have been fired but NIWA are using him in a consulting role so that dismissal was mainly window dressing.

Window dressing for what? An attempt to appear in control, do you think?

I’d just like to thank Richard C for his endorsement of the piece I wrote and ask him if he did send it to the PMSAC/CC Office. If he did, I’d be very interested to know about any response he got.

Keep up the good work down there, and well done on getting NIWA back on the straight and narrow with the NZ temperature record!

Regards to all


We’ll see. I think Richard C will see this.

Richard C (NZ)

Roger, great to have you check in to this blog.. No I haven’t send the piece you wrote to either offices (yet, see below) mainly because the Prime Ministers Science Advisory Committee does not respond except to say they have received it so it’s like feeding information into a black hole. It is also difficult to engage our public institutions at a level of discussion (or any discussion) where scientific issues are addressed on their merits (i.e. if the IPCC don’t say it it ain’t so). I ‘m also finding it difficult finding the time to put the arguments together at the moment due to work and keeping up with climate science developments. I have however gained a little traction by changing tack and approaching our Ministry for the Environment, Climate Change Office in the first instance with Cc to the PMSAC that has produced an exchange of letters. Robin Pittman, a NZ Elec. Engineer who checks in here from time to time has done similarly by presenting the latest Lindzen and Choi, Knox and Douglass and Spencer – Braswell papers to MftE CC but the difficulty is to elicit an informed and… Read more »

Hi Richard,
Yes, my own views on the ability of DLR to affect ocean heat content have developed since writing that piece. In a nutshell, the only way changes in DLR can affect the temperature of the ocean bulk is via air temperature. This is a very slow way to change it, and the change in the ocean heat content of the upper 700m in the period 1976-2003 before the ocean started cooling again is not going to be accounted for this way. Conversely solar SW is direct and efficient at heating the ocean and cloud cover in the tropics fell 1979-1998.

Postma’s ideas concerning the inadequacy of a diurnal average of insolation have merit if (as I suspect) the effect of SW on the ocean is non-linear. However the way Postmas ideas have been presented along with Claes Johnson’s have not been well recieved (on eiher side) and I doubt you’ll get anywhere with govt bodies quoting their work.

The KISS principle is the best way to deal with officials in my experience.

All the best


Post Navigation