A New Zealand group dedicated to downplaying the existence of climate change has been ordered to pay close to $90,000 in court fees for bringing a “faulty” lawsuit that had sought to invalidate data that proved the country’s temperatures were on the rise.
The New Zealand Court of Appeals ordered The New Zealand Climate Education Trust — a group that seeks to “reflect the truth about climate change and the exaggerated claims that have been made about anthropogenic global warming” — to pay fees to the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, an environmental science research firm. The lawsuit claimed that NIWA was unethically and intentionally misinterpreting temperature data to promote the idea that climate change was happening.
But Justice Forrest Miller ruled that the Trust was “mounting a crusade against NIWA and was not acting reasonably,” according to a report on Radio New Zealand.
“We never doubted the excellence and integrity of our science,” NIWA Chief Executive John Morgan said in a statement announcing the win. “Our scientists and have always rigorously defended the robustness and professionalism of our work.”
The Climate Education Trust’s lawsuit, launched in 2010, had challenged the findings of NIWA’s long-running ‘seven-station’ series, which records temperatures from local sites around New Zealand to show how temperatures have changed over time. Because the series compiles and then merges average temperature data from different locations, NIWA says it adjusts the data to take into consideration climatic differences from place to place. The most recent series found that the country’s temperature had risen by one degree Celsius over the last century.
Seeking to invalidate that temperature data, the Trust sued, claiming the agency’s methodology was flawed.
The Trusts’s lawyer, Terry Sissons, reportedly told the High Court during trial that “sudden site relocations” and regularly changing temperature gauges were causing inaccuracies in temperature data. An affidavit submitted along with the group’s lawsuit said NIWA’s allegedly inaccurate climate change projections were having a “profound impact on New Zealand’s public policy.” NIWA, it said, had “no need” to claim that the temperature changes were related to an increase in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.
“We’re not saying that climatic changes are not happening,” Sissons reportedly said, “but let’s at least ensure the evidence gathered for the benefit of New Zealanders is accurate and is done properly.”
But New Zealand High Court Justice Geoffrey Vanning ruled in a 49-page opinion in September 2012 that NIWA had “acted in accordance with internationally recognized and credible scientific methodology.” Vanning said it was “unnecessary for this Court to resolve this scientific debate,” as NIWA could have calculated temperature changes with a different method and “still have arrived at a similar result which would strengthen the robustness and validity of the previous results.”
The Trust appealed Vanning decision, but withdrew the appeal in October “following intense questioning from the court,” according to NIWA. It was not clear Thursday whether the Trust would appeal the cost award — a spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment.
This article originally cited the Trust as owing $80,000 in fees. Between disbursement and costs, the figure is actually closer to $90,000.