Plimer and Howard maintain the rage with climate science denial

ON November 24 in Melbourne, Professor Ian Plimer launched his new book which aims to spread doubt and uncertainty on the science of climate change.

Targeting school children and teachers (at least superficially), Plimer told the audience: “These children are being fed environmental propaganda and these children are too young to be fed ideology”

Yet the book – How to Get Expelled From School – is being supported by the Institute for Public Affairs, a think-tank that exists to do little else than spread its own free-market ideology.

Not only that, but Professor Plimer, a geologist at the University of Adelaide, was actively fundraising for the IPA just last month when the Federal Government’s carbon price legislation was passed. (UPDATE: The executive director of the IPA John Roskam, former corporate affairs manager for mining giant Rio Tinto, is on the editorial board of the book’s publisher, Connor Court.)

During his 20-minute launch speech, Professor Plimer criticised climate scientists for being allegedly part of a “political movement”.

Yet in virtually the next breath, he told the audience “one of the aims of this book is to maintain the rage, because we have an election coming.”

So much for spreading ideology and taking the politics out of science?

Since that late November gathering, Professor Plimer has managed to fit in a trip to the UK to speak at a debate in London hosted by a group called Repeal The Act. The aim of the debate was to encourage people to sign a petition calling for the repeal of the UK Parliament’s Climate Change Act.

The group boasts as its patron Professor Bob Carter, the IPA’s science policy advisor and another Australian climate science “skeptic”.

Plimer is also on the advisory committee of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a think-tank chaired by former UK chancellor Lord Nigel Lawson and which has much in common with the IPA.

Both groups aim to spread doubt and confusion on the science of climate change and the efficacy of renewable energy and both have recruited Professor Carter and Professor Plimer as speakers and advisors.

Neither of them are prepared to reveal any details about their funders. Professor Plimer and Professor Carter are also advisors to the Australian Climate Science Coalition and the Galileo Movement – two other climate science denial “think-tanks” which exist entirely to attack climate science and oppose regulation on greenhouse gases.

A recent “research” paper from the GWPF criticizing the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change contained a foreword from former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, in which he described climate change campaigners as “zealots”.

Last night, Mr Howard was the star attraction at the Sydney launch of Professor Plimer’s book at the Sydney Mining Club. The IPA was again a supporter, as it will be for the launch in Brisbane later this month.

Mr Howard said he was an “agnostic” on climate science and displayed an odd paranoia of the “left” when he said: “The progressive left has got their grip on the commanding heights of education instruction in this country.”

When Mr Howard uses the term “agnostic” what he’s actually saying is that he isn’t able to accept the multiple lines of evidence contained in the decades worth of climate science published in journals across the world and backed by every major science academy on the planet that excessive burning of fossil fuels will very likely be bad.

Despite Mr Howard’s enthusiasm for the new book and its author, Professor Plimer has never actually had any research published on climate change in a peer-reviewed journal.

When he published his last book – Heaven and Earth – it was roundly and forcefully dismissed by actual climate scientists as being riddled with misrepresentations and errors of fact. This didn’t stop it from being widely popular around the world, and helping influence the likes of Opposition leader Tony Abbott and Australia’s most senior catholic, Cardinal George Pell.

Scientists have begun responding in much the same way to his new book (despite ordering the book myself more than a week ago, my order appears to have fallen into a black hole), by pointing out its errors and one-sided ideologically-driven narrative.

Review copies for the ABC and Fairfax newspapers have not fallen into a black hole, however. Rather, Plimer revealed in his Melbourne speech that the publisher Connor Court had refused to send them any review copies.

Media coverage so far has been relatively soft and unchallenging, with the ABC’s Radio national AM show failing to balance any of the views of Professor Plimer, Mr Howard or the receptive audience in the room of the miners’ club.

Plimer is among friends at mining venues. He is a director of mining companies Ivanhoe Australia, Silver City Minerals and the UK-listed Kefi Minerals, and is chairman of TNT Mines (he enjoyed remuneration of at least $140,000 from these companies and holds shares worth about $200,000). He resigned in November as a director of coal seam gas explorer Ormil Energy, even though he is still listed as a director on the company’s website.

These associations don’t tend to get a mention in media coverage and I doubt it’s in the author’s biography of his new book either (but I might be wrong).

But the contents of his Melbourne speech do reveal the same tired and long-debunked arguments that scientists diligently tore to shreds in 2009 when his previous book was published.

Plimer claims that the climate has always changed (which it has) and that CO2 is a trace gas (which it is, but is accumulating in the atmosphere thanks to human activity) that couldn’t possibly affect the climate (which it can, and does).

A recent analysis of Professor Plimer’s statements at the science-based website Skeptical Science – titled Plimer vs Plimer – shows how consistently he contradicts even his own statements.

At the Melbourne launch, for example, Professor Plimer said that there’s no relationship between carbon dioxide and global warming. He makes the same statement in his book Heaven and Earth on page 278, but then on page 411, he says “Together with water vapour, CO2 keeps our planet warm so that it is not covered in ice, too hot or devoid of liquid water.”

If Professor Plimer is aiming to target school children and families with his new book, then he’s also attune to the provocative and cynical nature of his pitch.

The book will in all likelihood help his followers and his fellow free-market ideologues to “maintain the rage” and their climate science denial – even if it is maintained on debunked science.

UPDATE: Ian Plimer is appearing on the Channel Ten primetime show The Project tonight to talk about his book. Coincidentally, Ten has a new board member in the shape of mining magnate Gina Rinehart, Australia’s wealthiest person. Rinehart likes to parade Plimer in front of Chinese ambassadors and state premiers at lunches at her home in Perth. Plimer is also a member of Rinehart’s lobby group ANDEV, which is pushing for a new low-tax low-regulation economic zone for the north of Australia, to help support investment in mining projects. The IPA is partnering with ANDEV to lobby for the cause.

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Author: Graham

Graham Readfearn is a Brisbane-based journalist. Go to the About page in the top navigation for more information.

22 thoughts on “Plimer and Howard maintain the rage with climate science denial”

  1. This is an absolute disgrace of an article. Inaccurate, biased, full or distortions and prejudice. You should be ashamed of yourself, if that is, you knew enough.

  2. Agreed. It is a shameful piece of nonsense- and has made me want to read everything written by Professor Plimer and Professor Carter. Such blatant smearing and anger suggests that they are right and we are indeed being led by the nose by the AGW “experts”.

  3. Thanks for a great article and set of links!
    (it also seems clear that Plimer’s book qualifies for the adjectives used by earlier commentors, not this article).

  4. #1 and #2 – Well, don’t hold back- go ahead, cite an example of ‘distortion’ or ‘inaccuracy’!

    No? You can’t? Didn’t think so…

  5. I also backup tis article for its quality of information, supported by reliable references.
    The fact that the top two commneters made some bold allegations without any arguments/evidence proves that the pejorative adjectives (i.e. “disgrace”, “shameful piece of nonsense”) are indeed far more appropriately applied to those comments rather than to the article.

  6. Makes me sick to think we in Australia are still arguing over the fact that climate change is happening. Wake up. It is the vested interests of the fossil fuelled corporations/lobbyists to maintain the status quo even while we are gasping and choking in the coal dust. 97% of scientists who publish on climate change agree it is real and we humans need to stop burning fossil fuels now. Base load solar has been around for over 5 years and ready to roll out with well laid plans to power the economy 100% using wind and solar technology. This is what we should be teaching our beloved children so they can have a future!

  7. Plimer and Carter (and other middle-aged and geriatric deniers) have the very good fortune that they will be dead in 20 years. The slow-motion train-wreck for human civilization, human agriculture and the planet won’t seriously inconvenience them. But what a tragic legacy for the 22nd century and following

  8. On Saturday 17 December 2011 the Australian published an extract from Professor Ian Plimer’s book: How to Get Expelled from School: A Guide to Climate Change for Pupils, Parents & Punters. entitled “Glacial Chill: Ebbs and Flows”.

    In this article , Plimer asks the question: “the alarmist media stresses that changing sea ice and continental glaciers indicate rapid global warming. Is this really so?”

    What follows is far from fact. Plimer cuts and pastes (with a little commentary) his first seven paragraphs from this press release by the University of Copenhagen. Rather than agreeing with Plimer’s point of view, the study indicates that:
    “Our studies show that there are great natural variations in the amount of Arctic sea ice. The bad news is that there is a clear connection between temperature and the amount of sea ice. And there is no doubt that continued global warming will lead to a reduction in the amount of summer sea ice in the Arctic Ocean.
    He continues on with supposed data from glaciers. Particularly, the Bolivian Telata glacier. Here is a press release from the CNRS: the French National Centre for Scientific Research who funded the Bolivian Study:
    The moraines were dated by measuring the concentration of certain elements(3) in the rocks, thus making it possible for the first time to reconstruct the history of the glacier during the Holocene, in other words over the past 10 000 years. During that period, the surface area of the glacier decreased and its front retreated by 3 km. The glacial retreat, which was initially slow, has accelerated since the beginning of the 19th century, retreating by 2 km since 1820….This is the first time that a study shows that the melting of these glaciers during the Holocene was closely connected to variations in surface temperatures of the tropical Pacific Ocean. The research therefore confirms the exceptional nature of the rapid melting observed since the industrial revolution. Melting since 1820 is not linked to variations in insolation but to other mechanisms. This work shows the extreme vulnerability, over the next decades, of these tropical glaciers, which are located at high altitude in an area where warming in the 21st century is predicted to be at its highest (4-5 °C in the Telata region).
    And for further information on glaciers, ice–cores etc, Prof Plimer could have gone here:
    Charney lecture:
    Past and Contemporary Climate Change: Evidence From Earth’s Ice Cover
    Presented by E. S. Mosley-Thompson, Byrd Polar Research Center, Ohio State University and Department of Geography, Ohio State University

    And here’s some snippets of what she had to say:

    The tropical ice core composite carries the signature of 20 th century warming particularly the last twenty years.
    Glaciers between elevations of 4 1/2 to 6 Km all show characteristics of melt.
    The Tibetan ice-core composite shows no Mediaeval Warm Period nor a Little Ice Age (because they were largely North Atlantic phenomena)
    EPICA ice core data shows modern CO2 concentrations (from data for the last 800,000 years) to be outside natural variability.
    Mt Kilimanjaro has lost 85% of it’s ice cover since 1912 and 20% since 2000. Similar rates were experienced in the Papuan glaciers near Puncak Jaya.

    And in finality, the last few sentences of the extract comment thus:

    “Antarctic ice core (Siple) shows that there were 330 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the air in 1900; Mauna Loa Hawaiian measurements in 1960 show that the air then had 260ppm carbon dioxide.
    Either the ice core data is wrong, the Hawaiian carbon dioxide measurements are wrong, or the atmospheric carbon dioxide content was decreasing during a period of industrialisation.
    As in all other areas of science, uncertainty rules.”

    If Plimer has done his research properly, he would, no doubt, take note of the following: From the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Centre (CDIAC):

    Historical Atmospheric CO2 record derived from the Siple Station ice core
    “An atmospheric CO2 record for the past 200 years was obtained from the Siple Station ice core. At shallow depths, atmospheric air still circulates through the open pores (Friedli et al. 1986). The enclosed air was younger than the surrounding ice because the enclosure of air in bubbles occurred only between depths of 64 and 76 m. On the basis of porosity measurements, investigators determined that the time lag between the mean age of the gas and the age of the ice was 95 years and that the duration of the close-off process was 22 years (Schwander and Stauffer 1984). Neftel et al. (1985) concluded that the atmospheric CO2 concentration ca. 1750 was 280 +or- 5 parts per million by volume (ppmv) and that it increased by 22.5% to 345 ppmv in 1984 essentially because of human factors. Graphs in Friedli et al. (1986) also reported that the preindustrial (pre-1800) CO2 concentration was ~280 ppmv.”

    And also this:

    Atmospheric CO2 concentrations (ppmv) derived from in situ
    air samples collected at Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii
    Source: C.D. Keeling T.P. Whorf, and the Carbon Dioxide Research Group
    Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO)
    University of California
    Year Annual
    1959 316.00
    1960 316.91

    So Plimer, in a few short sentences, has made the most palpable errors. The ice-core data is right, the Hawaiian (Mauna Loa) data is right and the atmospheric carbon dioxide content is still increasing.

    These manifest errors in Plimer’s substandard and unscientific polemic in no way support his contention that that glacier and ice-core data are not indicative of a changing climate.

    Isn’t it time that Professor Plimer, his supporters and backers: including Alan Jones of 2GB, Andrew Bolt Of the Herald Sun and sponsoring organisations such as the Galileo Movement and the Institute of Public Affairs admitted their errors. If this is any indication of other Plimer arguments presented in his book: then this statement “Are pupils, parents and the public being fed political propaganda on climate change? Now is your chance to find out” is absolutely true. But Plimer is the feeding station for this political propaganda and in this regard he has proven to be an abject scientific failure.

  9. “Coincidentally, Ten has a new board member in the shape of mining magnate Gina Rinehart, Australia’s wealthiest person. Rinehart likes to parade Plimer in front of Chinese ambassadors and state premiers at lunches at her home in Perth.”

    From what I understand – & I could be wrong – Gina Rhinehart is also responsible for getting Climate Contrarian radio shock jock and opinion writer Andrew Bolt his own TV show – ‘The Bolt Report’ – to push the climate contraraian agenda.

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