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Plimer a confident gadfly

Professor Ian Plimer does indeed have an impressive looking CV in his area of geology and mineralogy.  But looking through it, current to 2007, I could not see a single published article on climate change.  Of course he has a brain – apparently a good one – and the ability to think about areas of his specific expertise but I do wonder how he is able to be so confident in his views that dismiss essentially all modern climate science. To Plimer every part of the conventional story of AGW is wrong.  I am immediately suspicious.

In a Wikipedia entry Plimer is said to be:

‘…critical of greenhouse gas politics and argues that extreme environmental changes are inevitable and unavoidable. He suggests that meteorologists have a huge amount to gain from climate change research, and that they have narrowed the climate change debate to the atmosphere – Plimer claims that the truth is more complex. He suggests that money would be better directed to dealing with problems as they occur rather than making expensive and futile attempts to prevent climate change.

He differs markedly from the climate change consensus in contending that the Great Barrier Reef will benefit from rising seas, that there is no correlation between carbon dioxide levels and temperature, that only 0.1 % of carbon dioxide emissions are due to human activities, and that 96% of the greenhouse effect is due to water vapour.

Plimer claims that the current theory of human-induced global warming is not in accord with history, archaeology, geology or astronomy and must be rejected, and that promotion of this theory as science is fraudulent, and that the current alarmism on climate change is not science.  In 2009, Plimer released Heaven and Earth: Global Warming the Missing Science, a book in which he claims that climate models focus too strongly on the effects of carbon dioxide, rather than factoring other issues such as solar variation.’

If these types of mostly fairly standard denialist claims were correct and could be supported with evidence and argument why have they not been submitted to specialist climate science scientific journals where they would be subjected to peer review.  Are the science journals part of a global conspiracy? Until peer revire occurs and until IPCC scientists and climate scientists at CSIRO get the right to rebut these views, as a non-scientist,  I’ll stick to believing the established, published and peer-reviewed science.  Particularly because much of Plimer’s denialism is recycled material that has already been shown to be questionable. Tim Lambert points out what seem to be some failures – factual errors – in the Plimer book.  Barry Brook provides a more detailed critique that focuses on the selectivity – as well as errors – in the Plimer book 

Brook is a colleague of Ian Plimer. He makes a remark that sticks in my head:

‘Ian’s stated view of climate science is that a vast number of extremely well respected scientists and a whole range of specialist disciplines have fallen prey to delusional self interest and become nothing more than unthinking ideologues. Plausible to conspiracy theorists, perhaps, but hardly a sane world view — and insulting to all those genuinely committed to real science’. (my bold)

I guess Brook feels this sensitively as he is a scientist with a background in conservation biology and climate science.  Brook also questions why so much in conventional science is seen as wrong by Plimer – who essentially rejects the lot.

John Quiggin provides an overview of the range of conservative-based conspiracy theories.  My only additional thought here is that perhaps Plimer likes the gadfly role of social irritator. 

Of course if denialists such as Plimer are right they will have helped save the world the expense of addressing climate concerns with active mitigation options and reduced community anxiety about what many now see as the most pressing issue the human race has ever faced.  If they are wrong then, in collaboration with the irresponsible press, they will help feed enough skepticism to ultimately impose huge avoidable costs on us all.  There are huge costs here if critics act irresponsibly with an inappropriate lack of caution.

Plimer’s views have already proven to be a big hit with the National Farmer’s Federation.  This is why. My guess is that given the books well-promoted sales campaign – I wonder about the role of The Australian – that many others who would prefer to avoid difficulties rather than face them will follow suit.

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