Climate disruption denier Ian Plimer debunks climate disruption denier Ian Plimer

When you’ve been following, analyzing, and reporting on climate science and politics for as long as I have, a few things become apparent. First, most climate disruption deniers have no real clue about actual climate science and are instead simply regurgitating talking points they heard from their favorite denial-peddling think-tank, politician, commentator, or news source. Second, the arguments against human-caused climate disruption almost never change, so you’ll be rebutting the same thing over and over again. And third, most arguments you hear are incompatible or self-contradictory, although not always obviously so.

Today, John Cook of the denial-debunking uber-site Skeptical Science published a detailed examination of some of the many self-contradictory claims by Ian Plimer, the Australian author of the thoroughly and widely debunked book Heaven and Earth – global warming: the missing science. Cook writes in his introduction to the examination itself that

On 30 October, Ian Plimer wrote to The Weekend Australian, lamenting that noone had explained to him how anyone could be concerned about carbon dioxide given that most of its sources were supposedly natural. However, a thorough explanation of how we know humans are causing the increase in CO2 levels can be found on pages 414 and 415 of a 2009 book on climate change. The book is called Heaven and Earth. The author, Ian Plimer.

My personal favorite contradiction from Cook’s list is this, from Heaven and Earth:

Together with water vapour, CO2 keeps our planet warm so that it is not covered in ice, too hot or devoid of liquid water. (p411)


Temperature and CO2 are not connected. (p278)

So global temperature and CO2 aren’t related, and yet CO2 and water vapor keep the Earth warm enough for liquid water to exist. Riiiiiight….

Plimer’s book is considered by many climate disruption deniers to be an excellent source of information on how the vast majority of climate researchers are totally, completely, and utterly wrong about everything (or are supposedly paid to lie about it in service of some socialist/communist agenda). Given the glaring self-contradictions, Plimer and his book should probably be laughed out science.

Alas, there is another thing you learn after following climate disruption news for as long as I have – human-caused climate disruption deniers have a remarkable ability to ignore facts that conflict with their talking points.

16 replies »

  1. Denialism has nothing to do with actual science and everything to do with politics; denialism is about obfuscation and inserting doubt and uncertainty into the national discourse about AGW. Conservatives know that you can say practically anything about anything no matter how outlandish or untrue and get away with it if you sufficiently politicize an issue; the media will then do your work for you by repeatedly framing your lie as somehow being morally and/or intellectually equivalent to the truth rather than risk being labeled and attacked as “biased” or partisan for reporting truthfully and accurately.

    Unfortunately, media coverage of AGW is fraught with editors and writers who prefer to hide behind false equivalencies that elevate denialism to the same level as peer-reviewed science rather than report impartially and objectively about the scientific consensus behind AGW.

  2. Well said. It drives me crazy that the media, in an effort to be fair and balanced, thinks they need to present the other side of everything, even science. But they dont get that the other side of science is different science, not superstitious nonsense.

  3. Well done, Brain. Plimer is, indeed, pushed by Australian deniers as The Man. But, you know these contradictions which would end any scientist’s career will be just another speed bump in Plimer’s rear view mirror as he speeds along the disinformation superhighway.

  4. (1) Is it true or not, that human contribution to atmospheric CO2 is about 3%? If yes, how can changing that by a tiny amount significantly affect the climate?
    (2) Is it true or not that the historic record clearly shows that temperature changes precede changes in atmospheric CO2 levels? If true, how can changing CO2 concentration be driving temperature variations when it follows temperature (i.e. is an effect not a cause)?

    • Fred, human contribution to atmospheric CO2 is presently about 2 ppm per year, and it all adds up. Since the start of the industrial revolution, atmospheric CO2 has risen from about 285 ppm to about 390 ppm (measured data since the late 1950s available here). Nearly all of that is due to human activity. So humans have added about 105 ppm CO2, or if you prefer, increased the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere by 36.8%.

      If we treated the atmosphere like a bank account that earns compound interest at 3%, we’d use the following equation:

      where r is 3% (0.03) and n is the number of years of continually compounding increases. Solving for n, we get

      So, by your own 3% argument, it would only take about 11 years to rise from 285 ppm to the modern 390 ppm.

      Now, given that 285 ppm CO2 is from about 1750, let’s use a more realistic value of n of 261 years and then calculate what the rate r should be. Solving the first equation above for r gives us the following equation:

      That’s 0.12% increase in CO2 annually. 0.12% of 390 ppm is 0.47 ppm, or about 1/4 what the actual rate was over the last year. Using these equations, and assuming a 0.51% annual rate of increase (the same rate as the last year), we’ll hit 450 ppm in 28.13 years (early 2040).

      Now, as for your second point, here’s a link to where I explain in detail why it doesn’t work that way.

  5. Oh no! Please tell me we have not changed the name of this again? “Climate disruption”?? I was just getting used to “climate change”.

    • Nope, not at all. I’ve referred to global warming (a scientific misnomer) by the more scientifically accurate “climate disruption” since October 22, 2008. Simple Google searches show that it’s been used by scientists since at least 2003. It’s hardly a new description.

  6. “Nope, not at all. I’ve referred to global warming (a scientific misnomer) by the more scientifically accurate “climate disruption” since October 22, 2008.”
    Does this coincide with the “environmentalists” 1970 predictions of global cooling? How about we just call it weather? And there is no way to predict the weather for more than about three weeks accurately. Give me a break. Maybe we all need to do a little more research and pay attention to time in a grander scale say 400K years or so: http://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils/last_400k_yrs.html

      • Bob, a paper was published in 2008 which showed that scientists were publishing more papers warning about how the Earth would warm than they were publishing papers about how the Earth was going to cool. This graphic was created from the data in that paper:

        Click on the image to get more information on it

  7. It seems that Cook has deliberately quoted out of context and misrepresented Plimer..

    The second quote:

    “Temperature and CO2 are not connected.”
— Ian Plimer, Heaven & Earth, p. 278

    Prof Ian Plimer was discussing the long term CO2 record from Vostok Ice cores comparing it with temperatures [instances of] in the past.

    “….at 800,000 and 650,000 years ago, atmospheric CO2 dropped below 180 ppmv yet temperatures were unchanged. Temperature and CO2 are not connected [in this instance]. Furthermore, there was a long-term trend in CO2 which rose by 25 ppmv from 800,000 to 400,000 years ago and then fell by 15ppmv thereafter. Again [another instance], a disconnection between temperature and CO2” – Heaven and Earth, p411

    This is not contradicting CO2 is a greenhouse gas

    • Barry, I’m not sure how you adding the context changes Cook’s point a bit. I’d argue you just made Plimer look worse, in fact.

      When you look at the ice core data from Dome C (which has the 800kya data – Vostok is only 400 kya) there are clear changes in the deuterium content that correlate with CO2, which indicates that the sea surface temps from which the water evaporated (and later precipitated into snow and froze into the ice cap) were going up and down at the same time as CO2 was going up and down. So Plimer’s claim that there is not a correlation between temperatures in CO2 in the Dome C core is factually wrong (source: https://www.bas.ac.uk/data/our-data/publication/ice-cores-and-climate-change/).

      Looking at the data, I’d guess that, even if there is a trend from 800kya to 400 kya, it’s not statistically different from 0.

      Essentially, your quote indicates that Plimer is ignoring all the rapid changes that show high correlation between CO2 and SST, while claiming that slow changes demonstrate that CO2 is uncorrelated with temperature. That’s nonsense.

      I’ll grant you that the quotes are not inherently contradictory over specific timescales and given other atmospheric effects that can mask or enhance CO2-driven temperature changes. But in one quote, Plimer is saying that CO2 affects global temperature, in the other he’s saying it doesn’t. And your added context makes it clear that the second quote is not actually out of context at all, but a reasonable summary. That’s pretty clearly a contradictory set of statements.

      I’m sure that you’ve looked at the complete Plimer vs. Plimer comparison at SkS, though, which shows that Cook’s point – that Plimer’s views on climate are self-contradictory – is entirely accurate. In case you missed it, the link is in the OP.