Is Ian Plimer on the right track?

My  review of Ian Plimer's book, 'Heaven + Earth: Global Warming: the Missing Science'.

The areas of knowledge covered by climate science are enormous, with an almost endless number of questions to be asked. Addressing these questions then requires an excellent understanding of many disciplines of science as well as of statistics, since extremely complex multivariate analyses and models are necessary to identify various marginal effects. Therefore it is very hard for a lay person with limited time to form an informed opinion on this subject. Most of us tend to, therefore, become 'believers' in this area, not thinkers. We either accept man-made climate change or we don't. Neutral, inquiring positions are becoming harder to find.

But truth has never given up its secrets to groups. No major advance in history ever emerged from group think. Individual analysis and independent opinion is mandatory for science to advance. Most advances in science take years if not centuries to be fully understood and internalised. For instance, the theory of evolution was proposed by a single individual, not by a committee, and has taken 150 years to be confirmed as a plausible representation of reality. Doing so has been relatively easy since of the millions of observations made, not one contradicted the theory. But one cannot say the same of climate science which is not only tens of times more difficult than evolution but has been marked by contradictory observations and data (or claims of such contradictions). The fact that no major Australian publisher was willing to publish Plimer’s book indicates the increasing dominance of group think in this area, and is surely a matter of concern.

Excellent compendium of issues
The book brings together a vast number of seemingly unrelated streams of science and shows that there are literally hundreds of diverse factors at work on the earth's climate, not simply greenhouse gases. It thus provides a wide range of information and educates the layman in the many complexities of climate science. Irrespective of how valid Plimer's conclusions are, his wide coverage of issues is good enough reason to have this book as part of one's personal library.

Polemical style
The book is somewhat repetitive and could have done with a couple of more revisions. However, having myself published a book (, with another on the way, I am sympathetic towards people who write books over and above their day time job. But the polemical style followed by Plimer almost becomes aggressive in places. Plimer could have achieved a more persuasive result through understatement (advice easier given than followed: I must make a note to follow this in my own writings as well!). But if you can ignore his rhetorical approach, you'll find considerable value in this book.

Does his story come together?
My preliminary research through the internet has convinced me that CO2 is a potential threat to mankind, but probably not as much as is hyped to be. However, I'm not an expert in this area and have no time to explore this issue further. Plimer's book assists by rapidly increasing one's knowledge of the vast number of issues involved in this area. Consider this: “The measurement of CO2 in the atmosphere is fraught with difficulty… [F]or much of the 19th century … the atmosphere CO2 was higher than at present and varied considerably” (p.416). That’s surely a shock ‘discovery’. The greater shock is the fact that current CO2 levels are close to the lowest ever in the Earth’s history. How true is this? Well, read for yourself.

While CO2 and its effects are an areas on which the jury is still out, I do know a fair bit about mathematical modeling. I therefore have strong reservations against mathematical models of 'everything', which is what climate models essentially are. Only God can know the precise model that runs the world. Therefore even imagining that we will be able to predict climate 200 years hence through computer modeling is a delusion. There are almost no linearities found in this world, and with hundreds of variables involved with complex non-linearities, uncertainties, feedback loops, interactions, automatic stabilisers and adjustments, the very idea that we can predict climate 200 years out is fantasy. Plimer raises similar concerns in his book, which lends it considerable credibility, at least from my perspective. Today, climate science can barely predict the weather three days out, so perhaps we shouldn’t get bowled over by computer models.

Plimer has thus offered a very strong and well-researched book that will take quite some serious refutation. If nothing else, this book demonstrates that climate science is far from settled.

Having said that, while Plimer makes a strong case against man-made global warming, I'm not ready to 'believe' one way or the other since I believe that the truth often takes its own sweet time to emerge – over the course of centuries. There is therefore perhaps no need to rush to judgement. Of course, if CO2 is (ever) unequivocally proven to be a major pollutant (which is perhaps not the case today), then various economic models could be used to enforce accountability and internalise the externalities involved.

In the end, strongly recommended weekend reading.


Here's an article published in The Australian today by Ian Plimer which summarises his arguments very well. I'm copying the entire article here for my reference in case the URL of the above link changes in the future.

Vitriolic climate in academic hothouse
Ian Plimer | May 29, 2009
Article from: The Australian

IT is well known that many university staff list to port and try to engineer a brave new world. The cash cow climate institutes now seem to be drowning in their own self-importance.

In a wonderful gesture of public spiritedness, seven academics who include three lead authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and a former director of the World Climate Research Program wrote to Australian power generating companies on April 29 instructing them to cease and desist creating electricity from coal.

In their final paragraph, they state with breathtaking arrogance: "The unfortunate reality is that genuine action on climate change will require the existing coal-fired power stations to cease operating in the near future.

"We feel it is vital that you understand this and we are happy to work with you and with governments to begin planning for this transition immediately.

"The warming of the atmosphere, driven by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases, is already causing unacceptable damage and suffering around the world."

No evidence is provided for this statement and no signatory to this letter has published anything to support this claim.

These university staff are unctuously understanding about the plight of those who face employment extinction in the smokestack towns of Australia.

They write: "We understand that this will require significant social and economic transition that will need to be managed carefully
to care for coal sector workers and coal-dependent communities.". This love for fellow workers brings tears to the eyes.

The electricity generating companies should reply by cutting off the power to academics' homes and host institutions, forcing our ideologues to lead by example.

Some 80 per cent of Australia's electricity derives from coal, large volumes of cheap electricity underpin employment and our self-appointed concerned citizens offer no suggestion for alternative unsubsidised base-load power sources to employ Australians.

The Emissions Trading Scheme legislation poises Australia to make the biggest economic decision in its history, yet there has been no scientific due diligence.

There has never been a climate change debate in Australia. Only dogma. To demonise element number six in the periodic table is amusing. Why not promethium? Carbon dioxide is an odourless, colourless, harmless natural gas. It is plant food. Without carbon, there would be no life on Earth.

The original source of atmospheric CO2 is volcanoes. The Earth's early atmosphere had a thousand times the CO2 of today's atmosphere. This CO2 was recycled through rocks, life and the oceans.

Through time, this CO2 has been sequestered into plants, coal, petroleum, minerals and carbonate rocks, resulting in a decrease in atmosphericCO2.

The atmosphere now contains 800billion tonnes of carbon as CO2. Soils and plants contain 2000 billion tonnes, oceans 39,000 billion tonnes and limestone 65,000,000 billion tonnes. The atmosphere contains only 0.001 per cent of the total carbon in the top few kilometres of the Earth.

Deeper in Earth, there are huge volumes of CO2 yet to be leaked into the atmosphere. So depleted is the atmosphere in CO2, that horticulturalists pump warm CO2 into glasshouses to accelerate plant growth.

The first 50 parts per million of CO2 operates as a powerful greenhouse gas. After that, CO2 has done its job, which is why there has been no runaway greenhouse in the past when CO2 was far higher.

During previous times of high CO2, there were climate cycles driven by galactic forces, the sun, Earth's orbit, tides and random events such as volcanoes. These forces still operate. Why should such forces disappear just because we humans live on Earth?

The fundamental questions remain unanswered. A change of 1 per cent in cloudiness can account for all changes measured during the past 150 years, yet cloud measurements are highly inaccurate. Why is the role of clouds ignored? Why is the main greenhouse gas (water vapour) ignored? The limitation of temperature in hot climates is evaporation yet this ignored in catastrophist models.

Why are balloon and satellite measurements showing cooling ignored yet unreliable thermometer measurements used? Is the increase in atmospheric CO2 really due to human activities?

Ice cores show CO2 increases some 800 years after temperature increase so why can't an increase in CO2 today be due to the medieval warming (900-1300)?

If increased concentrations of CO2 increase temperature, why have there been coolings during the past 150 years?

Some 85 per cent of volcanoes are unseen and unmeasured yet these heat the oceans and add monstrous amounts of CO2 to the oceans. Why have these been ignored? Why have there been five significant ice ages when CO2 was higher than now? Why were warmings in Minoan, Roman and medieval times natural, yet a smaller warming at the end of the 20th century was due to human activities? If climate changed at the end of the Little Ice Age (c.1850), is it unusual for warming to follow?

Computer models using the past 150 years of measurements have been used to predict climate for the next few centuries. Why have these models not been run backwards to validate known climate changes?

I would bet the farm that by running these models backwards, El Nino events and volcanoes such as Krakatoa (1883, 535), Rabaul (536) and Tambora (1815) could not be validated.

In my book, I correctly predicted the response. The science would not be discussed, there would be academic nit-picking and there would be vitriolic ad hominem attacks by pompous academics out of contact with the community.

Comments by critics suggest that few have actually read the book and every time there was a savage public personal attack, book sales rose. A political blog site could not believe that such a book was selling so well and suggested that my publisher, Connor Court, was a front for the mining or pastoral industry.

This book has struck a nerve. Although accidentally timely, there are a large number of punters who object to being treated dismissively as stupid, who do not like being told what to think, who value independence, who resile from personal attacks and have life experiences very different from the urban environmental atheists attempting to impose a new fundamentalist religion.

Green politics have taken the place of failed socialism and Western Christianity and impose fear, guilt, penance and indulgences on to a society with little scientific literacy. We are now reaping the rewards of politicising science and dumbing down the education system. If book sales, public meetings, book launches, email and phone messages are any indication, there is a large body of disenfranchised folk out there who feel helpless. I have shown that the emperor has no clothes. This is why the attacks are so vitriolic.

Ian Plimer is emeritus professor of earth sciences at the University of Melbourne. His book Heaven and Earth is published by Connor Court.

ADDITIONAL NOTES. I'm going to add a few links that are useful in this area:

A paper that summarises key data:

Fielding-Wong debate

Review of Plimer's work in The Spectator 8 July 2009.

A summary of 9 peer reviewed papers disproving anthropogenic global warming (AGW)

Australian Govt. issues paper (by Allen Consulting Group)

Scientists opposing AGW arguments.

A speech by Aynsley Kellow

Need to read: Climate of Extremes: Global
Warming Science They Don't Want You to Know by Patrick Michaels

Interview with Pat Michaels

Addendum, 25 October 2009. The book is a best seller!

Addendum Seeing through hoax of the century, by Janet Albrechtsen. The Australian.

Addendum 7 November 2009: Science is in on climate change sea-level rise: 1.7mm, The Australian. [evidence that sea levels have been rising VERY SLOWLY near South Australia]

Addendum 7 November 2009. Freaking Out over Global Warming. Mises Daily.

Addendum 9 December 2009: Climate claims fail science test by Michael Asten. The Australian.

Addendum 8 January 2009. Mr Rudd, your misguided warming policies are killing millions. Full open letter at here (PDF).

Here's something hilarious: Kenneth Davidson in his 8 February 2010 article in The Age (here) said, "Britain's Met Office says the world is on a path towards a potential increase in global temperatures of 4 degrees as early as 2060. If this occurs, only about half a billion people out of about 9 billion will survive, according to Professor Kevin Anderson, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate change and adviser to the British government". I explored this further and came across this article. I'm amused beyond belief at such atrocious 'science'.

Addendum 12 Feb 2010: Came across this useful summary.