Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Human-induced global warming: a load of hot air? Ian Plimer weighs in

The recent postings on climate change (22 August, 4th October and 16th October) have certainly generated much discussion in the long run-up to Climate Change and the Minerals Industry ’11.

This morning I received the following email from Prof. Ian Plimer, author of the controversial book Heaven and Earth: Global Warming: The Missing Science :

It is claimed that there is a scientific consensus about human-induced climate change. There is no consensus. Consensus is a process of politics, not science. Science is married to evidence, no matter how uncomfortable.

Scientists who push the view that humans create climate change are young, trying to forge a career in a narrow field by fear, seek government and research grant favour and base their opinions on computer projections about the future. There are no natural scientists I know who have spent more than 40 years of integrated inter-disciplinary science who argue that humans change climate.

To argue that temperature has increased 0.80C since 1850 is misleading because the Little Ice Age ended in 1850 and it is absolutely no surprise that temperature increases after a long cold period. Since 1850, there has been temperature increase (1860-1880, 1910-1940, 1976-1998) and decrease (1880-1910, 1940-1976, 1998-present) and the rate of the three periods of temperature increase has been the same.

A simple question does not get asked: what part of warming and cooling since 1850 is natural? The first two warmings could not be related to human additions of CO2 from industry hence why wouldn't the 1976-1998 warming also be due to natural processes?

It is claimed that, since 1950, human additions of CO2 has been the dominant cause of warming. What is not mentioned is that CO2 is plant food, not a pollutant, and without CO2 there would be no life on Earth. The scales and rates of temperature change in the past have been far greater than when humans emitted CO2 from industry. What has caused the cooling (1940-1976 and 1998-present) or, by some tortured logic, is global cooling in this century actually global warming cunningly disguised?
At present, atmospheric temperature is decreasing and CO2 is increasing, again showing that CO2 is not the principal driver of climate change. Planet Earth is a warm wet greenhouse volcanic planet. The planet is dynamic; change is normal. Five of the six major ice ages occurred when the atmospheric CO2 content was up to 1000 times higher than at present and for half of Earth's history CO2 has been sequestered naturally into algal reefs, coral reefs, sediments, altered rocks, bacteria, plants, soils and oceans. This process is still taking place. Ice core drillings show that over the last 400,000 years, CO2 peaks at least 800 years after temperature peaks.

The hypothesis that high atmospheric CO2 drives global warming is therefore invalid. The Earths atmospheric CO2 initially derived from volcanic degassing. Much of it still does and the rest is recycled CO2 from the oceans, rocks and life.

The claim that warming will increase in the future has been disproved by the climate modellers’ own data. Climate models of the 1990s did not predict the El Nino of 1998 or the cooling in the 21st century. If such models are inaccurate only 10 years into the future, how can they be accurate for longer-term predictions? Furthermore, when these models are run backwards, they cannot be used to identify climate-driving processes involving a huge transfer of energy (eg, El Nino), volcanoes, solar changes and supernovae.

Climate models tell us more about the climatologists than they do about nature.

Another claim is that climate cannot be reversed. This invokes a non-dynamic planet. The fact that previous warmings with an atmospheric temperature some 5 degrees C higher than now (eg, Minoan, Roman, Medieval) were reversed is conveniently ignored, as are the great climate cycles driven by the Sun, supernovae, the Earth’s orbit, tectonics and tides seen on modern, archaeological and geological time scales.

“Tipping points” are another sensationalist unsubstantiated claim. In past times when atmospheric CO2 and temperature were far higher, there were no tipping points, climate disasters or runaway greenhouse. The climate catastrophists attempt to create fear by mentioning the carbon cycle but just happen to omit that significant oxygenation of the atmosphere took place when the planet was in middle age and this process of photosynthesis resulted in the recycling and sequestration of carbon.

The atmosphere now contains 800 billion tonnes (800 Gt) of carbon as CO2. Soils, vegetation and humus contain 2000 Gt of carbon in various compounds, the oceans contain 39,000 Gt and limestone, a rock that contains 44% CO2, contains 65,000,000 Gt of carbon. The atmosphere contains only 0.001% of all carbon at the surface of the Earth and far greater quantities are present in the lower crust and mantle of the Earth.

Human additions of CO2 to the atmosphere must be taken into perspective. Over the last 250 years, humans have added just one part of CO2 in 10,000 to the atmosphere. One volcanic eruption can do this in a day.

Climate chestnuts about polar ice are commonly raised. What is not raised is that ice is dynamic; it advances and retreats. While the Arctic is warming, the Antarctic is cooling and vice versa and if ice did not retreat, then the planet would be covered in ice. For less than 20% of time Earth has had ice. The Antarctic ice sheet has been with us for 37 million years, during which time there were extended periods of warmth and the ice sheet did not disappear. So too with the Greenland ice sheet which has enjoyed nearly three million years of expansion and contraction, yet did not disappear in extended times far warmer than at present.

Sea level is also dynamic and has risen and fallen over time by at least 600 metres. Since the end of the glaciation 12,000 years ago, sea level rose some 130 metres until 6,000 years ago when it was about 2 metres higher than at present. This is an average sea level rise of more than 2 cm per year. It is now rising at about 1mm per year. This sea level rise has flooded Bass Strait, the English Channel and destabilised the west Antarctic Ice Sheet. It is this sea level rise that has stimulated coral growth, created larger shallow water ecologies and changed the shape of landmasses.

The fear-mongering suggestion that oceans will become acid is also misleading. The oceans are buffered by sediments and volcanic rocks on the sea floor and even in past times when atmospheric temperature and CO2 were far higher than at present, there were no acid oceans. If there had been, there would be no fossils with calcium carbonate shells. Although industrial aerosols are decreasing, the climate catastrophists omit to state that volcanic aerosols kill. At least three of the five major mass extinctions of complex life on Earth were probably due to aerosols emitted by volcanoes.

If our climate catastrophists want to twiddle the dials and stop climate change, they need to play God and change radiation in the galaxy, the Sun, the Earth’s orbit, tidal cycles and plate tectonics. Once they have mastered volcanoes, then we can let them loose on climate change.

There have not been independent scientific review or financial due diligence on various nation's emissions trading schemes. All that there has been is spin and fear mongering.

It is these legislative time bombs across the developed world that will destroy productive industries in rural and industrial areas.

Professor Ian Plimer,
School of Earth & Environmental Sciences,
The Mawson Laboratories,
The University of Adelaide,


  1. stephan harrison21 October 2009 at 12:51

    I am glad that Ian Plimer has posted a message. I will debate the points raised when I get time...which will be early next week hopefully.

    Needless to say, the vast majority of informed scientists disagree with most of his points, and I'll point out why. Finally, I'll just say this....if Ian Pilmer can show that we are all wrong, why doesn't he publish his findings in the peer-reviewed scientific literature? There are literally dozens of journals that he could publish in...that's the way to do science.

  2. Let's get to the bottom line: it’s about funding “hidden agendas” through additional taxation. Let’s get to the net result: CO2 production will simply migrate to countries that do not implement the same taxation levels. Have we forgotten about the effects of global deforestation? Does this make sense?

  3. From JP Barnard Technical Manager at University of Stellenbosch, South Africa (via LinkedIn):

    There seem to be reasonable consensus amongst main-stream scientists that operate in the related fields around climate-change studies, that the pace of increase in greenhouse gasses are higher than at any time in natural historical records (e.g. ice cores). The marked increase of these concentrations seem to correspond to the advent of the industrial revolution and especially the past century, when industrial activity increased multi-fold over any previous era.

    The rate of heating of the atmosphere exceeds anything in natural historical records, as far as I know. We also have a few dedicated satellites up in orbit to watch the effects of climate change, so the data are fairly broad-based and of increasing quality.

    What might leave room for criticism of climate change models, are the chosen model structures, especially when applied to prediction.

  4. As an ex modeller I always worry when people tell me they are making predictions based on models and data with large errors in them. At best we can say that CO2 has risen in recent history; temperature has risen. But the apparent correlation is not the same as a causation... as I used to keep telling younger engineers who worked for me!

  5. stephan harrison30 October 2009 at 14:57

    Olaf Nolle said that the debate is about taxation....no it's not it's about science. I am now in a position to respond to Plimer's comments. Pressure of work stopped me earlier.

  6. I tend to agree with Olaf Nolle above. This climate change hysteria is fed by those who stand to make a buck. I draw comparisons with the Y2K scare at the turn of the century. It affected banks, airlines and a variety of daily human-interaction services. And what happened when the clocks ticked over? Nothing! Except that large sums of money were spent in 1999 upgrading systems, putting in safeguards against data loss, and various other expensive but un-necessary mechanisms. Undoubtedly there are agenda's being served.

    Perhaps there are signs of climate shift, are they not part of the naturally cyclical patterns that the earth has experienced since it's beginning?

    Another thing, while I have a science background, I am wary of results published by scientists with external funding, or working for institutions with external funding. Results are too often "generated" (or interpreted) to align with the funders interests. Such is mankind in the 21st century.

  7. Stephan's full response can be seen in the October 30th posting

  8. Stephan Harrison is clearly one of the majority of anthropogenic climate change advocates who benefits considerably, both financially and in mass approval, from his viewpoint. It is difficult to support his stance against the plethora of facts illustrated by Prof Plimer in support of his non-funded scientific view.

  9. Apparently, I am not the only person to question the motives of Politicians intending to implement taxation off carbon trading schemes. We need to think about the risk to CO2 intensive industries in these countries and the resultant shrinkage in the tax base. The ones to really benefit would be China and those countries that do not intend penalizing their industries in a similar way. CO2 production will simply follow the path of least resistance - Gibbs Free Energy Law (fact).


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