The Christchurch City Council should drop the two climate deniers it recently appointed to a new panel to re-review a coastal hazards report,  Coal Action Network Aotearoa said today.

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Christchurch City Council illustration of sea level rise

As part of its district plan, the council commissioned the engineering firm Tonkin Taylor to estimate the impacts of a sea level rise of around 40cm over the next 50 years, and one metre in 100 years.

After loud local protest from potentially affected residents,  the council has appointed a new panel to conduct a second peer review of the report.  But that panel now has two well-known climate science deniers on it:  Kesten Green and Willem de Lange, whose history of climate denial has been set out on the Hot Topic blog.  

“If Christchurch City Council wants to rely on sound science around its dealings with climate change, it should stick with proper scientists to review its work, not climate deniers,” said Cindy Baxter of Coal Action Network Aotearoa.

“Of course, the Tonkin Taylor report alarmed residents, because climate change IS alarming, especially the issue of sea level rise in New Zealand.  But you don’t deal with it by questioning the science. The Council should drop these two from its panel.

Recent studies around the rate of melting ice in the Antarctic and Arctic are predicting much higher levels than the maximum one metre of sea level rise in the Council report:  it may end up being a very conservative estimate.

“The sooner we realise that fighting the science by using climate deniers is not the way to deal with the threats coming from climate change, the faster we can get on with how we’re going to deal with this issue,” said Cindy Baxter

She noted that other councils have faced similar issues in dealing with coastal threats from climate change, such as the Kapiti District Council, where de Lange was employed by local residents to fight the science.

“This is clearly a situation where Government needs to step in and give proper scientific guidance and a national framework for the entire country, including addressing issues of compensation, instead of leaving local councils to deal with climate deniers and furious local residents,” said Baxter.

The Christchurch City Council case has echoes of a similar situation in North Carolina, where, under pressure from coastal property developers, the State Assembly passed a law forbidding local councils from acting on a sea level rise report.  A new report has now been written, but gives predictions only 30 years out, not 100 years.

Cindy Baxter commented:  “the US is full of climate deniers, brought about through campaigns funded by the fossil fuel industry’s funding of think tanks like the Heartland Institute.  Both the deniers on this new peer review panel have been associated with the Heartland Institute.”