Strike two for TVNZ


A few days ago I reported on TVNZ’s naughty porky after James Renwick’s March interview. I have since been in correspondence with TVNZ and have news.

In their reply TVNZ have made an amazing error. Like a careless schoolboy failing to read the exam directions, someone didn’t read my letter properly. They’ve given a response that annoys me and will surely displease senior managers.

I wrote to TVNZ on Monday (see scanned letter above and full text below) pointing out that their press release of 17th March stated incorrectly:

“Dr Renwick told the programme that global warming was the only explanation for the drought.”

How did I know this? Because I had asked Dr Renwick and he denied he said it. This is an extract from his email to me:

I note a number of people … have made the leap to thinking that I said “the drought is caused by climate change”. This is just not so.

My letter to TVNZ concluded:

We are interested to know why you reported that Dr Renwick made that statement and whether you will apologise.

Reply was prompt, just wrong

I had their reply just two days later, on Wednesday. I’m willing to bet the committee’s secretary skimmed my letter and said to herself: “I can bounce this one back right fast!” Because the letter didn’t address my complaint. It simply said they could not accept it “as it is out of time.”


I didn’t complain about the broadcast interview, and therefore the Broadcasting Act doesn’t come into it. All right, perhaps I sent the letter to the wrong department, but it’s hardly my job to funnel their work into the channels most agreeable to them. They’re quite capable of shifting a letter to the right department.

Another letter is on its way to them expressing astonishment at their reply. It mentions the intense interest here and overseas in “whether Dr Renwick has abandoned a position of considerable scientific importance to the global warming debate” and expresses concern that our public broadcaster “should make such a serious public relations blunder.”

I just hope someone reads it.

CCG’s initial complaint

TVNZ Formal Complaints,
PO Box 3819,
20th May 2013
Dear Sirs,
Formal complaint
I operate a blog called the Climate Conversation Group (CCG) at About a week ago, I became aware of a statement apparently made earlier this year by Dr James Renwick.
On 17 March, TV1 broadcast an interview between Dr Renwick and Corin Dann concerning New Zealand’s climate in the context of global warming (or climate change). Miss Wood’s introduction emphasised the current severe drought, but Renwick and Dann initially didn’t mention the drought.
A few hours after the broadcast TVNZ issued a press release on Scoop stating: “Dr Renwick told the programme that global warming was the only explanation for the drought.” That same statement was subsequently taken up by the NBR and (last week) by Rodney Hide.
Those with an interest in global warming, like readers at the CCG, know that credible scientists like Dr Renwick have long maintained that global warming does not cause individual weather events such as cyclones, torrential rain or droughts because there’s no evidence to support a link.
We were therefore startled to hear that Dr Renwick had contradicted this and I looked in the NBR’s transcript and in the video for his exact statement. I could not find it, so last Thursday (May 16th) I emailed Dr Renwick asking if he said that the drought was caused by global warming. He promptly replied to deny he said that:
I note a number of people … have made the leap to thinking that I said “the drought is caused by climate change”. This is just not so.
We are interested to know why you reported that Dr Renwick made that statement and whether you will apologise.
Thank you in anticipation of your prompt reply.
Yours faithfully,

Richard Treadgold,
Climate Conversation Group.

TVNZ’s reply dated 21 May is visible in the image at top; click for a larger version.

UPDATE 24th May

Here’s the letter sent today to TVNZ.

24th May 2013
Dear Sirs,
Formal complaint — TVNZ press release 17 March
Thank you for your letter dated 21st May. I regret I failed to make my meaning clear in my letter of the 20th instant.
You say “this formal complaint cannot be accepted as it is out of time” and you refer to the Broadcasting Act. I am astonished you should say this, because I did not complain about the broadcast.
My letter complains about your press release, issued on 17 March, which claims that Dr Renwick blamed the drought on global warming; but he did not.
The members of the CCG were startled to learn of this statement because it meant that Dr Renwick was contradicting a long-standing scientific understanding that specific weather events cannot be attributed to global warming. But when I looked for the claimed statement I couldn’t find it in the video.
So I emailed Dr Renwick and he denied saying it. We now look to you to broadcast a repudiation of your March press release, to remove the false impression it created. I have no doubt an apology to Dr Renwick wouldn’t harm your cause, either.
Because this error threatens your credibility. Global warming causes concern around the world, as you know. Many countries follow the United Nations in fighting global warming and Dr Renwick plays a leading role in that fight both here and with the IPCC. So there is keen local and international interest in Dr Renwick’s seeming abandonment of a position with significance in the science of global warming.
As New Zealanders, we’re simply upset that you misreported Dr Renwick. Aside from any global repercussions, we’re concerned that our public broadcaster should have made such a public relations blunder.
Yours faithfully,
Richard Treadgold,
Climate Conversation Group.

Views: 98

17 Thoughts on “Strike two for TVNZ

  1. Mike Jowsey on 24/05/2013 at 8:47 am said:

    You need to emphasise that you are complaining about the Scoop article, not the broadcast.

    This is the crux of the issue:

    Dr Renwick told the programme that global warming was the only explanation for the drought, saying the average around which temperatures vary is changing and will be hotter over time.

    Contradicted by this:

    I note a number of people … have made the leap to thinking that I said “the drought is caused by climate change”. This is just not so.

    Keep holding them to account RT.

    • You’re right. Thanks Mike. I should add that my letter states my complaint exactly and anyone reading it would know that — you, for example. For TVNZ to mistake my meaning in the way it did displays carelessness, at the very least.

      I note in passing an ambiguity in Renwick’s denial to me. It must be entirely accidental, but to what, precisely, does he refer when he says: “This is just not so”?

    • Mike Jowsey on 25/05/2013 at 1:43 pm said:

      Despite the double meaning, I am sure he meant to say that it is not so that he said that, rather than it is not so that the drought is caused by warming. But well-spotted, RT. Ambiguous speech is not good in this situation or in scientific matters generally.

  2. Andy on 24/05/2013 at 10:10 am said:

    It’s not just the Scoop article, as the broadcast deliberately put the drought in context with the lead-in from Susan Wood, thereby making the association between the drought and human induced climate change.

    So, clearly it was a propaganda exercise, but then the State Broadcaster does this in most countries, not least the BBC.

    There was no mention of science in the interview, other than assumed probabilities of an increase in drought

    Most people that might actually be interested in this (i.e farmers) were probably not watching Sunday morning TV anyway

    • It’s true about Wood’s intro, Andy. It’s easy to see the whole show gave a misleading message, but I knew it was too late to complain about the broadcast — not officially. We can still make a fuss about it. They’re reasonably sensitive to public opinion, I think.

      The science angle was covered by having Renwick there, I think. But he didn’t get much of a chance to enlighten us — Dann took charge with an overbearing manner and shallow thinking.

  3. Andy on 24/05/2013 at 10:25 am said:

    There is another point we seem to have missed here. Renwick never mentioned mitigation in the interview, only adaptation

    • I’m not quite sure what you’re getting at. Do you suggest it indicates a change in his thinking? That he’s given up on strong warming, climatic effects will be minor and we can simply cope with them?

    • Andy on 24/05/2013 at 11:30 am said:

      Climate scientists are starting to back off the alarmist “we need to take action on curbing emissions” mantra, and started to push the adaptation line.

      I guess it gives them a backdoor out if the whole alarmist message falls over.
      At least they can say that we need to adapt to climatic changes, whether anthropogenic or not.

      This, of course, is good advice. Whether it is stating the bleeding obvious is a separate question

  4. Andy on 24/05/2013 at 1:34 pm said:

    With Bill McKibben’s upcoming tour of NZ it will be interesting to see how TVNZ covers this.

  5. Andy on 24/05/2013 at 2:45 pm said:

    More objective journalism from Jim Salinger in the Horrid

    “Jim Salinger: Climate hurtling towards a hothouse Earth”

    Levels of the climate warming greenhouse gas carbon dioxide have reached 400 parts per million in the atmosphere for the first time in human history.

    The last time the planet had atmospheric carbon dioxide levels this high was 3 to 5 million years ago in the Pliocene era. The world then was quite a different place, with temperatures 2 to 3C above those of today and sea levels 20m higher.

    Geological records tell us this is where we are heading – is this the planet we want?

    • Mike Jowsey on 24/05/2013 at 6:18 pm said:

      Total crappola, straight out of the “Scare ’em to death” handbook. And it seems comments are turned off for this bs. Not surprising.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 24/05/2013 at 7:16 pm said:

      >”sea levels 20m higher” @ “400 parts per million”


    • Andy on 24/05/2013 at 8:14 pm said:

      Yes, the inquiring mind might suggest that CO2 and these previous events might not be related

      As Richard Feynman suggested, Cargo Cult Science

  6. Huub Bakker on 25/05/2013 at 9:04 pm said:

    Richard, you need to look at Willis Eschenbach’s latest post on Wattsupwiththat; Stacked Volcanoes Falsify Models.

    A wonderfully crafted analysis that suggests that the current climate models are seriously out of touch with the climate response after volcanic eruptions. It does my heart good to see clever analyses that are simple and discerning.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 26/05/2013 at 12:59 pm said:

      Huub, re “…the climate response…”

      In the Otto et al CS post thread [the forum for this discussion perhaps rather than this thread] I asked Andy the following question (along with other questions) in regard to a Nic Lewis article on it because Andy has been following CS issues closely:-

      Does CS methodology account for the thermal lag in the sun-ocean-atmosphere system Andy?

      Trenberth 6 and 10 – 100 years, Abdussamatov 14 +/- 6 years, Scafetta 1 and 12 years.

      Not fair on Andy and I probably should direct that at Nic Lewis at Bishop Hill but I wanted to see what Andy had to say given his interest (no specific answer yet).

      Now I see Willis Eschenbach saying essentially the same:-

      What can’t be seen in this type of analysis is the effect that the different results have on the total system energy. […]

      So after ten days of extra cool weather, your garden needs ten days of warm weather to catch up. Or perhaps five days of much warmer weather. The point is that it’s not enough to return the temperature to its previous value. We also need to return the total system energy to its previous value. […]

      The results in Figure 5 show that it took a mere 48 months to regain the lost energy entirely. Figure 5 shows that the actual system quickly returned to the original energy condition, no harm no foul.

      By contrast, the models take much larger swings in energy. After four years, the imbalance in the system is still increasing.

      Now folks, look at the difference between what the actual system does (black line) and what happens when we model it with the IPCC sensitivity of 3° per doubling, or even the model results … I’m sorry, but the idea that you can model volcanic eruptions using the current paradigm simply doesn’t work. In a sane world, Figure 5 should sink the models without a trace, they are so very far from the reality. […]

      In this case, the models are showing an average energy deficit that is ten times that of the observations

      So there’s fast responses (18, 48 months) and (very, 100 years+) slow responses

      And, “catch up” being system lag and “total system energy” being entropy and the method of Abdussamatov’s determination (Scafatta’s statistically, Trenberth’s undisclosed in his article ‘The Role of the Ocean in Climate’). Figure 6 shows energy “deficit” which is similar to Abdussamatov’s “deficit”:-

      The difference being that the current solar deficit wont be made up until about 1000 years have elapsed because it’s a deficit relative to the Modern Grand Maximum.

      Note: I’m not forgetting there’s also the direct sun-atmosphere system too that cuts out the oceanic thermal lag and the response timeframes of that are what Willis is expounding on (I think).

      Along with Eschenbach, I see some very fundamental flaws in CS methodology but I don’t think I’ll have the time over the next week or so to go at it with Lewis directly at BH while it’s still topical.

      Maybe you can play interlocutor Andy?

    • Andy on 26/05/2013 at 1:24 pm said:

      I am just the messenger, Richard

      Nic Lewis has played an interesting role in this debate. He exposed some issues with the calculations of CS, in particular the use of uniform priors in Bayesian models, and also the issues around the latest aerosol models.

      I am still playing catch up trying to understand how this all fits together.

      However, the interesting thing is that Nic has now published a paper in Nature co-authored by some of the most well known names in this field. I am wondering how much his influence has had on his co-authors.

      So if you, Richard C, have issues with the calculations or assumptions, then I am not the person to address. Nic Lewis seems genuinely helpful in his comments at Bishop Hill and elsewhere, so I would take my concerns straight to the man.

      Lewis seems to drive a wedge though all this “fake sceptic” stuff. He has directly addressed the issues in the mainstream IPCC science, found flaws, and it looks like the scientists have taken notice

      For this, he is to be commended.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 26/05/2013 at 3:12 pm said:

      >”…so I would take my concerns straight to the man”

      OK, fair enough Andy. That was an option I thought was the best resort anyway but unfortunately I just don’t see myself having the time in the near future (after about 5pm today) to give proper attention to an exchange with Nic which could go on for a while.

      All coming out in the open anyway if Willis’ post conclusion and subsequent comment thread are anything to go by e.g. the conclusion (not that he’s necessarily right in everything):-

      “I think it is the most compelling evidence I’ve found to date that the basic climate paradigm of temperatures slavishly following the forcings is a huge misunderstanding at the core of current climate science … but I’m biased in the matter.”

      A hornets nest looks to have been stirred up now that the focus is on CS methodology and a wider audience are getting to grips with the intricacies of it other than statistical e.g. physical processes.

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