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More on Plimer

I have read Ian Plimer’s, Heaven and Earth and cannot recommend it on any basis. It is a rant – not a piece of scientific writing.   According to Plimer almost all climate science is wrong and compiled by greenie environmentalists at the IPCC seeking research funds.  The media according to Plimer have collaborated in this conspiracy. This is foolishness.

The analysis repeatedly states that warming has not occurred for the last decade – this is a misleading claim that has been repeatedly refuted.  The analysis is also heavy on verbiage and in stating the obvious – ‘climate is dynamic’, ‘climate has always changed’ etc. which have no bearing at all on the case for AGW.

Pick a standard text on climate change – one of my favourites is by Sir John Houghton, Global Warming – The Complete Briefing –  and not only are the facts different but the facts are written as science.  There are no attempts to hector or ridicule.  Houghton did Chair important Working Groups for the IPCC – the allegedly villanous group that Plimer identifies – but he is also professor of atmospheric physics at Oxford and a leading figure in world meteorology.  He has 50 years of publication in the area of meteorology and climate science. There was no commotion when his book was published.

As I noted earlier, Plimer doesn’t seem to have any refereed papers in climate science.  The conspiracy to suppress the truth must indeed be strong if a man with such striking views has been unable to get any of them published in refereed publications.

So I would not recommend to students or members of the public that they purchase the Plimer book. But others go further than this. I have no reason to disagree with them. A review of Plimer’s book by a Professor of Astrophysics at UNSW, Michael Ashley argues:

‘Plimer probably didn’t expect an astronomer to review his book. I couldn’t help noticing on page 120 an almost word-for-word reproduction of the abstract from a well-known loony paper entitled “The Sun is a plasma diffuser that sorts atoms by mass”. This paper argues that the sun isn’t composed of 98% hydrogen and helium, as astronomers have confirmed through a century of observation and theory, but is instead similar in composition to a meteorite.

It is hard to understate the depth of scientific ignorance that the inclusion of this information demonstrates. It is comparable to a biologist claiming that plants obtain energy from magnetism rather than photosynthesis.

Plimer has done an enormous disservice to science, and the dedicated scientists who are trying to understand climate and the influence of humans, by publishing this book. It is not “merely” atmospheric scientists that would have to be wrong for Plimer to be right. It would require a rewriting of biology, geology, physics, oceanography, astronomy and statistics. Plimer’s book deserves to languish on the shelves along with similar pseudo-science such as the writings of Immanuel Velikovsky and Erich von Daniken’.

There is more commentary on this at Deltoid.  It is not wrong to challenge orthodoxy anywhere but the work of Plimer is unscientific and both irresponsible and dangerous – he has provided a social diservice.  The extensive publicity he has received has had an entirely undeserved impact. 

Forget Plimer, read the science.

11 comments to More on Plimer

  • Sir Henry Casingbroke

    Quiggin hops in too.

  • Sinclair Davidson

    Irrespective of Plimer’s writing style (I agree to say that a theory is ‘invalid’ does grate as opposed to saying ‘evidence does not support …’). But I was intruigued by the very first graph – the difference between forecasts and observations. That sort of thing must be problematic for the AGW argument.

  • james

    What I can’t understand is this. Ian Plimer used to be a passionate, not to say ferocious, not to say obsessive, opponent of religion in general and Christianity in particular. And yet the publisher of his new book is a Catholic imprint. Does this publisher now suppose that anti-religious obsessives are OK as long as they vociferate against Greens? ‘Tis a puzzlement, as Yul Brynner used to say.

  • I think Plimer’s first graph is a bit more of a problem for Plimer.

    1. He doesn’t say where it comes from.

    2. The graph of observations in that figure is wrong

  • James, Plimer finishes his book like this:

    The influence of human activity on planet Earth needs some perspective. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI:
    “It is important for assessments in this regard to be carried out prudently, in dialogue with experts and people of wisdom, unihibited by ideological pressure to reach hasty conclusions, and above all with the aim of reaching agreement on a model of sustainable development capable of ensuring the well-being of all while respecting environmental balances”

    Human stupidity is only exceeded by God’s mercy, which is infinite.

  • james

    Thanks, Dr Lambert; not having read Plimer’s new book to date, I didn’t know that it made any religious references at all, let alone that it included a quotation from the Pope.

  • Sinclair Davidson

    1. He doesn’t say where it comes from.

    Tim, you claim he doesn’t say where it comes from, yet in your post you know exactly the source of the graph. So how is that a criticism? Second, even if your red line is correct (I notice you haven’t given the source of tour data), how does that undermine the argument? The red line appears way below the forecast. If anything you have shown a minor correction if not just an update – not a refutation.

  • Krystian

    I am always amused how they roll out Vaclav Klaus to recommend these books or attend climate skeptic conferences, he is the token Head of State who still subscribes to these kooky anti-climate change theories (in addition to doing other kooky things as the President of the Czech Republic…).

  • Ken Miles

    James, Plimer’s earlier anti-creationist book “Telling Lies for God” makes clear that he is attacking creationism, not Christianity. He quotes religious figures (including the Pope) in support of the view that evolution isn’t incompatible with Christianity.

  • John Mashey

    However, I do take a minor exception, over at Deltoid to the idea that Plimer belongs on the shelves with the pseudo-science of Velikovsky and von Daniken.

    I think anti-science belongs on a different lower shelf.

  • rog

    Havent read the book but his performance on ABC Lateline was astonishing – he refuted all the data (how can you get a mean global temp?) by referring to the same data (mean global temps have fallen).