Monday, 13 April 2009

Professor Ian Plimer takes on the Climate Taliban

To describe Australian professor Ian Plimer as a curmudgeon is to do somewhat of a disservice to curmudgeons the world over. He has developed a reputation over the years for combating lunatic ideas that have somehow gained a foothold in the public square.

He is most famous for taking on creationism and, specifically, the Noah's Ark nonsense.

Being a geologist by profession it therefore comes as no surprise that Plimer does not buy into the latest leftist fad of climate change (aka global warming, aka climate variation).

Such is Plimer's concern that the reputation of science is being sullied by a small group of rather moderate scientists and a much larger group of activist environmental groups that he penned a book, Heaven And Earth, as a counter to the weight of agitprop from the Climate Taliban.

The book has been reviewed by the Sydney Morning Herald's Believer-In-Chief, Paul Sheehan, who is remarkably even-handed in his assessment.

Perhaps even the most ardent supporters are becoming uncomfortable with the fact that climate models are proving so horribly inaccurate.
What I am about to write questions much of what I have written in this space, in numerous columns, over the past five years. Perhaps what I have written can withstand this questioning. Perhaps not. The greater question is, am I - and you - capable of questioning our own orthodoxies and intellectual habits? Let's see.

The subject of this column is not small. It is a book entitled Heaven And Earth, which will be published tomorrow. It has been written by one of Australia's foremost Earth scientists, Professor Ian Plimer. He is a confronting sort of individual, polite but gruff, courteous but combative. He can write extremely well, and Heaven And Earth is a brilliantly argued book by someone not intimidated by hostile majorities or intellectual fashions.

The book's 500 pages and 230,000 words and 2311 footnotes are the product of 40 years' research and a depth and breadth of scholarship. As Plimer writes: "An understanding of climate requires an amalgamation of astronomy, solar physics, geology, geochronology, geochemistry, sedimentology, tectonics, palaeontology, palaeoecology, glaciology, climatology, meteorology, oceanography, ecology, archaeology and history."

The most important point to remember about Plimer is that he is Australia's most eminent geologist. As such, he thinks about time very differently from most of us. He takes the long, long view. He looks at climate over geological, archaeological, historical and modern time. He writes: "Past climate changes, sea-level changes and catastrophes are written in stone."

Much of what we have read about climate change, he argues, is rubbish, especially the computer modelling on which much current scientific opinion is based, which he describes as "primitive". Errors and distortions in computer modelling will be exposed in time. (As if on cue, the United Nations' peak scientific body on climate change was obliged to make an embarrassing admission last week that some of its computers models were wrong.)

Plimer does not dispute the dramatic flux of climate change - and this column is not about Australia's water debate - but he fundamentally disputes most of the assumptions and projections being made about the current causes, mostly led by atmospheric scientists, who have a different perspective on time. "It is little wonder that catastrophist views of the future of the planet fall on fertile pastures. The history of time shows us that depopulation, social disruption, extinctions, disease and catastrophic droughts take place in cold times … and life blossoms and economies boom in warm times. Planet Earth is dynamic. It always changes and evolves. It is currently in an ice age."

If we look at the last 6 million years, the Earth was warmer than it is now for 3 million years. The ice caps of the Arctic, Antarctica and Greenland are geologically unusual. Polar ice has only been present for less than 20 per cent of geological time. What follows is an intense compression of the book's 500 pages and all their provocative arguments and conclusions:

Is dangerous warming occurring? No.

Is the temperature range observed in the 20th century outside the range of normal variability? No.

The Earth's climate is driven by the receipt and redistribution of solar energy. Despite this crucial relationship, the sun tends to be brushed aside as the most important driver of climate. Calculations on supercomputers are primitive compared with the complex dynamism of the Earth's climate and ignore the crucial relationship between climate and solar energy.

"To reduce modern climate change to one variable, CO2, or a small proportion of one variable - human-induced CO2 - is not science. To try to predict the future based on just one variable (CO2) in extraordinarily complex natural systems is folly. Yet when astronomers have the temerity to show that climate is driven by solar activities rather than CO2 emissions, they are dismissed as dinosaurs undertaking the methods of old-fashioned science."

Over time, the history of CO2 content in the atmosphere has been far higher than at present for most of time. Atmospheric CO2 follows temperature rise. It does not create a temperature rise. CO2 is not a pollutant. Global warming and a high CO2 content bring prosperity and longer life.

The hypothesis that human activity can create global warming is extraordinary because it is contrary to validated knowledge from solar physics, astronomy, history, archaeology and geology. "But evidence no longer matters. And any contrary work published in peer-reviewed journals is just ignored. We are told that the science on human-induced global warming is settled. Yet the claim by some scientists that the threat of human-induced global warming is 90 per cent certain (or even 99 per cent) is a figure of speech. It has no mathematical or evidential basis."

Observations in nature differ markedly from the results generated by nearly two dozen computer-generated climate models. These climate models exaggerate the effects of human CO2 emissions into the atmosphere because few of the natural variables are considered. Natural systems are far more complex than computer models.

The setting up by the UN of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 1988 gave an opportunity to make global warming the main theme of environmental groups. "The IPCC process is related to environmental activism, politics and opportunism. It is unrelated to science. Current zeal around human-induced climate change is comparable to the certainty professed by Creationists or religious fundamentalists."

Ian Plimer is not some isolated gadfly. He is a prize-winning scientist and professor. The back cover of Heaven And Earth carries a glowing endorsement from the President of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus, who now holds the rotating presidency of the European Union. Numerous rigorous scientists have joined Plimer in dissenting from the prevailing orthodoxy.

Heaven And Earth is an evidence-based attack on conformity and orthodoxy, including my own, and a reminder to respect informed dissent and beware of ideology subverting evidence.
Interesting, isn't it, that the Climate Faithful - a group not noted for given any time to their political opponents - now includes members who are prepared "...to respect informed dissent and beware of ideology subverting evidence"?

Sheehan will be exorcised from the Church of Climate Change for that.

Good on Ian Plimer for writing the book.

Given his dog-with-a-bone reputation the Climate Taliban can look forward to quite a bit of pain from Plimer in the future.

UPDATE 20 April - from a commenter who has read Plimer's book:
I have just finished reading Professor Plimer's very detailed, logical and utterly convincing 493 page overview of planet Earth's climate history and the incredibly complex natural forces and feedback mechanisms which are known to influence planet Earth's climate. He cites over 2000 scientific references.

One is left in awe of Nature, its power and complexity - and somewhat embarrassed by the simplistic ideas, scientific illiteracy and ignorance displayed by so many politicians and well-meaning environmentalists.

"Heaven and Earth: Global Warming - The Missing Science" should be a compulsory text for all lawmakers and environmentalists worldwide.

Let's hope they immerse themselves in the peer-reviewed science Professor Plimer presents. Let's hope they spend the time required to comprehend the big picture concepts and some of the important detail. Let's hope they have the bravery to admit that many of their beliefs have no scientific foundation. Let's hope that scientific reason prevails at the Copenhagen meeting on climate change later this year - anthropogenic global warming is a myth and emission trading schemes are a foolish, expensive waste of worldwide resources.
(Nothing Follows)

7 comments:

James Sloan said...

Thank you for posting this review. This truly shocked me. I've not heard of Paul Sheehan before but I do take you at your word when you call him a "Believer-In-Chief". I think all of us "climate deniars" know the type well by now. Close-minded zealots does not begin to describe most of them. It's refreshing to see that perhaps there are finally some cracks in the dam appearing. Something else for the Climate KoolAid drinkers to keep in mind; I've not yet seen one, not one, scientist who had formerly questioned the IPCC/AlGore orthodoxy say anything like "Oh my, the latest evidence is really starting to change my mind and I'm now starting to believe CO2 is the danger they say it is." There are now literally dozens of scientists who have come out the other direction however. That should send a pretty strong signal to even the thickest head.

Anonymous said...

Spelling error! "creationism", not "crationism".

Anonymous said...

I'm pleased to see that Plimer's book is scheduled to be released in the U.S. at the end of May (according to amazon.com).

Thanks for publishing this article!

Stevo said...

i admire ian plimer for his stoush against allen roberts, unfortunately he lost that one. i think he got the raw end of the pineapple on that legal battle. still dunno why.

i'm not a big poster on global warming, or now climate change, because i don't know what is the real science. it's mixed up with politics and it's swirling like the poo going down the s bend at the moment.

of course science and politics & religion have been fighting for centuries plus. from our earliest astronomers, to the ones under house arrest. i see a similar stoush with the same protagonists today.

as an analogy, are we drinking some wine, but adding a bit of CO2 to the mix and we all go silly?

i love the discourse. keep it up ...

Anonymous said...

I have just finished reading Professor Plimer's very detailed, logical and utterly convincing 493 page overview of planet Earth's climate history and the incredibly complex natural forces and feedback mechanisms which are known to influence planet Earth's climate. He cites over 2000 scientific references.

One is left in awe of Nature, its power and complexity - and somewhat embarrassed by the simplistic ideas, scientific illiteracy and ignorance displayed by so many politicians and well-meaning environmentalists.

"Heaven and Earth: Global Warming - The Missing Science" should be a compulsory text for all lawmakers and environmentalists worldwide.

Let's hope they immerse themselves in the peer-reviewed science Professor Plimer presents. Let's hope they spend the time required to comprehend the big picture concepts and some of the important detail. Let's hope they have the bravery to admit that many of their beliefs have no scientific foundation. Let's hope that scientific reason prevails at the Copenhagen meeting on climate change later this year - anthropogenic global warming is a myth and emission trading schemes are a foolish, expensive waste of worldwide resources.

Jack Lacton said...

Thank you, anon, for providing that feedback. I've added it to the post as an update.

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