Bad Science Climate Change Non-Science

Untidy Minds #7 : Ian Plimer

Who do you trust ? Professor Ian Plimer or 100 years of science ? I know what my money’s on, and it isn’t the Australian geologist with mining interests.

That doesn’t stop British journalists going with Professor Plimer. They are sorely in need of some decent education, in my view. Unless they’re going with a sensational story to get revenue. In which case they still need a decent education in the history of Climate Change scepticism and denial, so they know how divisive it is amongst the population. Publishing Climate Change denial makes the Media seem irresponsible, from my viewpoint.

I want to touch on just a snippet from a recent Daily Express article in order to demonstrate my resistance to Ian Plimer :-

“CLIMATE CHANGE ‘FRAUD’ : Wednesday December 2 2009 by John Ingham : THE scientific consensus that mankind has caused climate change was rocked yesterday as a leading academic called it a “load of hot air underpinned by fraud”. ”

Er, no. The consensus wasn’t “rocked”. It’s still as firm as a rock, in fact. In fact, it “rocks”.

Let me give you a religious example. Consensus amongst Christians doesn’t mean that all of them believe the Pope to be infallible. Christians generally agree on the principles of behaviour discussed by Jesus; the forgiveness of God in his grace and mercy; the community of believers with each other and with God; the liberation of a life lived in love; Judgement and Resurrection. A large proportion of Christians, but not all of them, accept the divinity of Jesus. A small proportion don’t accept he was human. But most agree that he was a Messenger Servant of God, and that he was (or “is”) important, unique and worth following. If you were to lock a mixed bunch of Christians into a room and get them to admit genuinely what they believe, and try to collectively write a document they could all accept about their faith, they would argue.

In a similar, scientific way, the consensus over Climate Change doesn’t mean that all scientists say exactly the same thing about the numbers. And they don’t always use the same numbers. But they do broadly agree that Anthropogenic Global Warming and the attendant Climate Change is not only a real problem, it is a really significant problem.

The fact that scientists are prepared to cooperate within a broad framework, which takes in this spectrum of views, should indicate that the consensus is not only strong, but robust.

“Professor Ian Plimer […] said carbon dioxide has had no impact on temperature and that recent warming was part of the natural cycle of climate stretching over ­billions of years.”

Indeed : natural cycles in climate have been taking place ever since the first water vapour coalesced into a cloud on Earth, I expect. That, however, doesn’t explain the Global Warming of the last 150 or so years. The last century or so has seen unprecedented change. “Unprecedented”, meaning Global Warming at a rate never before seen, without some major vulcanism or meteorite impact or the switch on of ocean overturning after it switched off – but none of those things has happened recently, to my knowledge.

“Prof Plimer […] told a London audience: “Climates always change. They always have and they always will. They are driven by a number of factors that are random and cyclical.””

Well, yes, of course. Natural variation due to cyclical changes in the Earth systems, yes, naturally that will affect the climate. Yes, they will have a number of possible explanations. But natural cycles no
longer obscure the real, persistent Global Warming taking place in the last century. The signal has shown itself over the natural noise variation.

“Professor Plimer said climate change was caused by natural events such as volcanic eruptions, the shifting of the Earth’s orbit and cosmic radiation.”

Volcanoes. How many times do I have to say it : volcanoes are not responsible for the current Global Warming. This is a very sticky myth : the notion that “volcanoes cause Global Warming”. It was true during major periods of upheaval in Earth history. It is, however, nonsense today.

“He said: “Carbon dioxide levels have been up to 1,000 times higher in the past.” ”

Carbon Dioxide a thousand times higher in the past ? Maybe they were about 20 or 30 times higher when the Earth was first accreted. But not when multicellular Life on Earth formed, when they were only a few times higher than today. It is not clear if any Life on Earth could survive under the conditions present during the formation of the planet :-

” “CO2 cannot be driving global warming now. In the past we have had rapid and significant climate change with temperature changes greater than anything we are measuring today.” ”

Research shows that increases in Carbon Dioxide clearly played a major part in Global Warming episodes in Earth history. Where Carbon Dioxide emissions were great, from massive periods of vulcanism for example, there was intense Global Warming. And when there was Global Warming related to changes in the Earth’s orientation relative to the Sun, then Carbon Dioxide emissions from the land and seas rose, affecting temperatures to rise further.

In the data from the distant past, sometimes temperature rise leads Carbon Dioxide emissions, which leads to further temperature rise… And sometimes Carbon Dioxide emissions lead to temperature rise which leads to further Carbon Dioxide emissions…It’s a little bit chicken-and-eggy, but the basic chemistry is still there : add extra Carbon Dioxide to the air and the Earth will heat up.

Yes, in the distant past in Earth history, there were rapid (and slow) and significant climate changes, but these were associated with massive changes in Life on Earth, so are we willing to risk that now ?

“[Professor Plimer] cited periods of warming during the Roman Empire and in the Middle Ages – when Vikings grew crops on Greenland – and cooler phases such as the Dark Ages and the Little Ice Age from 1300 to 1850.”

Remember that recorded history only covers a small proportion of the Earth : Europe, in effect. There’s no reason to believe that the “Medieval Warm Period” in the Middle Ages was very significant or widely distributed. And there’s no reason to believe that the “Little Ice Age” was anywhere near as cold as he’d have you believe. We are regularly told that the Thames froze over during some of the coldest winters in the 1700s to 1800s. Well, if it had been a real Ice Age, there would have been a kilometre or so of ice over the whole river !

“[Professor Plimer] predicted that the next phase would cool the planet.”

Well, here we come to a nullifiable hypothesis. Let’s see in ten years’ time whether he still has the strength of faith to continue this line of projection.

Since the 2008 La Nina climate pattern has ended, and the 2009 El Nino has circulated back into phase, it has been getting rather hot. A group of scientists are betting on higher temperatures and put money on it :-

“…Professor Plimer, of Adelaide and Melbourne Universities, said that to stop climate change Governments should find ways to prevent changes to the Earth’s orbit and ocean currents and avoid explosions of supernovae in space…”

There you have it. Incontrovertible evidence that Ian Plimer is a cynic.

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