Geologist: Plimer a "cherry-picking contrarian"

No agenda?

UPDATE: View the letters in response to Sandiford’s article here (thanks to reader Bruce in the comments).

Writing in The Australian Mike Sandiford takes a pop at Ian Plimer. Just by way of background, Sandiford:

  • approvingly quotes Naomi Oreskes, whose book, Merchants of Doubt, lumps in climate sceptics with those who deny the link between smoking and cancer
  • claims last year was the hottest “on record” (don’t forget, he’s a geologist)
  • writes for “The Conversation” (link) alongside such infamous names as David Karoly, Stephan Lewandowsky, Ian Enting, Ross Garnaut and  Ove Hoegh-Guldberg
  • is a signatory to an open letter from Australian warmists: “Climate change is real” (link)
  • writes alarmist articles for the Silly Moaning Herald (link)

so I will leave you to draw your own conclusions. Looks like Sandiford has had a problem with Ian Plimer for a while – another article in The Aus covering similar ground is here.

GINA Rinehart notoriously claims she has never met a geologist who believes “adding more CO2 to the atmosphere will have any significant effect on climate”.

To listen to prominent “contrarian” geologists such as Ian Plimer, you might imagine she never could.

But, despite the bluster, our contrarian geologists are out of kilter with their own community and seem deeply confused about the way the greenhouse effect – by adding more CO2 to the atmosphere, for example – has shaped both the past and the present.

All geology students learn of the importance of the greenhouse effect. It’s simply impossible to understand the geological record without it.

In his 2001 award-winning book A Short History of Planet Earth, Plimer has numerous references to the greenhouse effect.

He explains what all young geologists learn as the faint young sun paradox:

“The early sun had a luminosity of some 30 per cent less than now and, over time, luminosity has increased in a steady state.

“The low luminosity of the early sun was such that the Earth’s average surface temperature would have been below 0C from 4500 to 2000 million years ago. But there is evidence of running water and oceans as far back as 3800 million years ago.” The question is, what kept the early Earth from freezing over?”

Plimer goes on to explain: “This paradox is solved if the Earth had an enhanced greenhouse with an atmosphere of a lot of carbon dioxide and methane.”

Here’s another quote from Plimer, referring to a time 100 million years ago when the dinosaurs roamed the planet: “The peak of 6 per cent carbon dioxide was at the time of a protracted greenhouse and maximum sea level. At this time, mean annual surface temperatures were 10C to 15C warmer than now.”

The problem is, although his temperature estimate is about right, his CO2 estimate is about 50 times too high. CO2 levels were more like 0.12 per cent. At just three times present levels, this is a target we are on track to reach early next century.

Jump forward to 2009 and in his book Heaven and Earth Plimer seems to have quietly forgotten those geological lessons in stating: “Over geological time there is no observed relationship between global climate and atmospheric CO2.”

Exactly which Plimer are we

to believe?

Scientists are notoriously sceptical of the data collected by others. But ignoring a respected source is reprehensible. Cherry-picking only the data that fits is borderline. Deliberately misrepresenting data or making it up is just not on.

Here’s an example. In a section from his new book, How To Get Expelled from School, as reprinted in The Weekend Australian recently, Plimer claims: “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.”

Plimer goes on to say: “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.”

The implication is there must be something terribly wrong with the orthodox climate science and we are all being taken for a ride.

The problem is that the primary data sources explicitly state the Hawaiian Mauna Loa CO2 measurements for 1960 were in the range 313-320ppm, and that Siple air of age about 1900 has a CO2 content of 295ppm, with the 330ppm concentrations having an estimated air age of 1962-83, entirely in keeping with Mauna Loa.

Who has been taken for a ride?

Sadly, this is not an isolated case. Plimer has persistently claimed that volcanoes contribute much more CO2 to the Earth’s atmosphere than do our own activities, blithely ignoring US Geological Survey reference data showing just the opposite – volcanoes emit CO2 at about 1 per cent of the rate of anthropogenic emissions.

Another common meme promoted by our contrarian geologists is that it is now a fact that the climate is cooling.

But may we ask by whose data is this a fact?

Certainly not NASA’s, which showed last year was the hottest on record, followed by 2005, 2007, 2009 and 1998. In fact, NASA ranks nine of the hottest 10 years ever recorded between 2001 and last year. You’d reckon NASA had learned a few lessons about being careful with data.

Variations on decadal timescales are more relevant to climate trends than annual variations. NASA shows the average temperature over the decade 2000-09 was a full 0.2C higher than in the 1990s – the biggest decadal rise in temperature ever recorded.

With an increase of more than 0.5C over the past 40 years, the decadal trend is now warming faster than ever. It beggars belief that any serious scientist could assert the climate is cooling.

Our contrarian geologists also avoid the devil in the detail. NASA’s data shows that winters are warming faster than the summers and the Arctic faster than the tropics. While the lower atmosphere is warming, the upper atmosphere is cooling.

These characteristics provide diagnostic fingerprints of the heat trapping expected for a greenhouse effect. They provide the smoking gun that points to rising greenhouse gas levels as

the cause, and rule out warming because of additional heat input from the sun.

Could that be why you won’t hear our contrarian geologists refer to such data? Could their real agenda be in manufacturing doubt rather than the search for scientific truth?

If so, it wouldn’t be a first, as Naomi Oreskes points out in her recent book Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming.

Now here’s a point for those who, like Rinehart, think all geologists toe Plimer’s contrarian line.

Oreskes is a noted geologist. Having published groundbreaking research on the origin of the giant South Australian Olympic Dam deposit, she has arguably contributed more to the understanding of Australian mineral wealth than has Plimer.

Now just imagine a meeting between Rinehart and Oreskes – that would be interesting! (source)


  1. With respect, folks, if any scientific hypothesis/discovery is to be taken seriously these days it requires BOTH peer review (anonymous or otherwise) AND full online disclosure of the data behind it. With an online thread set up for followup analysis, disagreement or endorsement, fact-checking, correction if necessary, and general tyre-kicking.

    That way everyone, qualified or not, can see the full who, what, where, when, how and why of the issue concerned.

    Peer review by itself is, regrettably, subject to manipulation – as the Climategate emails have exposed. Online data presentation will help keep those same peers honest, and that’s no bad thing.

  2. Bigred: what exactly have the Climategate emails exposed? I am interested in your take on this?

    • Try Tom Nelson’s blog, Snowchi. Plenty of reading for you.

    • ”Climategate emails ” exposed that: all the Skeptics combined, know less than one lumberjack. Agronomist knows that 101 factors influence the thickness of tree-rings; but the Skeptic Smarties needed Climategate, to bring them some light / common sense in their life. It proved that they cannot judge anything for themselves / no common sense Smarties. Al Gore will give his kingdom for a packet of those Smarties.

      Here is the proof: the temperature is not monitored on 99,99999% of the planet’s surface 2] satellite takes 2 dimensional picture of temperature in the atmosphere – needs another Climategate for the Skeptics to learn that the troposphere is 3 dimensional 3] in the troposphere the winds are in every direction and never strop – releasing a balloon ones a month, unless can tell them for every few minutes, the temperature change in the atmosphere…?

      South Pacific exposed to Antarctic – warm air goes to Antarctic – cools instantly and shrinks = becomes much heavier per volume – earth’s centrifugal force picks that cold air and bring all over south pacific / Oceania – not a single thermometer in mid south Pacific to monitor when those ”HIGHS”’ start and instantly change the temperature by many degrees- that area is 10 times larger than USA +Europe, where most of the thermometers for IPCC are concentrated. When those ”highs” start, temp in mid and upper atmosphere drops by 4-5-6C instantly – when they stop after few days – can the thermometer from England notice that temperature 345km east of Wellington increased / decreased by 3-4-5-6C? Halo Skeptic PEERS! Get the cotton of your eyes first

      Warmist can get away with mass murder, literally; because the Skeptic Smarties prefer to listen to the top Warmist ”Bullshit Merchants” – than to take my real proofs / facts / formulas on board…

  3. Gee,

    You blokes are like a death town crier, standing with his back to the town, “The town is on fire”, the crowd says – no it isn’t, the fire has been put out, but still he bellows, “The town is on fire!”.

    We make a point – you don’t address that point and just bang on on mindlessly.

    Bruce – I did not say that I accept the temp data “may be corrupt”. I said that the BEST data might be flawed because the silly twits did not have it peer reviewed. I have no such concerns with NOAA, NASA or even EAST Anglia – having read summaries of the 7 “climate gate” inquiries which in some cases criticized aspects of their work – but found no fault in the actual science or their result.

    Snowchi – is right – I check the data sources on Wiki and the Wiki links I posted are scientifically correct. The is such a concept by the way – hot air clearly rises – just as water vapour and CO2 absorb long wave radiation ….

    WR Exavier – sorry – but the there is no consistent skeptic position – Bruce clearly questions rising CO2. Carter disagrees with Plimer’s sea floor theory. You need your own peer reviewed peak body.

    Bruce – “peer reviewed by the right people” – no Bruce – the stuff you post is peer reviewed by precisely – nobody. Your statistician, Carter, Plimer, ice core professor, are all peer reviewed by NOBODY.

    Bruce – Balanced? well my right wing friends recon I’m left wing and my left wing friends think I’m right wing. I think the both the far left/greens and the far right are both barking mad. I’m an evidence based thinker. For example – I’ve been opposed to Nuke on human frailty grounds – (if we build 10,000 nuke plants we’ll definitely crash a few). I’m now reading about the limitations of the Linear No Threshold theory and the effects of hormesis and I accept that the long term death toll Fukishima (beyond the immediate workers) MAY be ZERO. Note – that the medical peak bodies are ALSO considering these issues and are using Fukishima to gather evidence to reassess the LNT theory, (LNT is very conservative so they are holding to it until proven otherwise – what a mad idea, eh?). All that said – Nuke is financially unattractive in Oz (due to our abundance of cheap energy – France has no native coal/oil/gas by the way) and AGL and Origin for example – are simply not interested.

    * doesn’t under stand flux, hasn’t responded to the fact that the NASA CO2 satellite shows CO2 concentrations peaking where and when we expect them to
    * did not realise the very very very basic idea that that AGW clearly recognises the VERY obvious point that historically temp rose BEFORE CO2, (and so amusingly Bruce gave up on the rational debate).
    * hasn’t even addressed that peer review has clearly works extremely well in terms of actual scientific endeavor, (mars rovers airbus A380s ect)
    * bangs on mindlessly about the IPCC – but fails to respond to the question of how the peer review process – that clearly works very well but not perfectly, in all their other fields of endeavor – has completely broken down, just on the topic of AGW – in EVERY SINGLE peak body on their planet – despite their variety of funding sources, variety of leanings of their political leader ship, despite the TYPE of government, democracy, quasi- democracy or totalitarian. (WREXAVIER note that the same peak bodies support the IPCC position – it’s not debunked). Heck even 6 national geology peak bodies support AGW!! – (see way up above).
    * claims an ecconomist, who is card carrying member of fringe political and religious groups – is a a) objective b) a scientist c) a member of any IPCC panel – which he clearly is not.

    Bruce, WR Xavier – it’s not like there are one or two peak bodies that actually agree with you ….. no they are all evil and stupid. I might note that on this point – you lot cannot differentiate yourselves with the Flat Earth Society – who say the same thing…

    Bruce you don’t seem to read and absorb anything that challenges your views – I only say that because your “Get it!” post sort of provides prima facie EVIDENCE supporting this assertion.

    Bruce – you will note above that I have read and absorbed each your points and systematically responded to them – providing evidence – where you either not read, ignored or just thrown you hands in the air screaming “Evil Conspiracy !!”

    To Simon – the blog master, you seem like an intelligent, educated rational bloke – is the crank magnetism represented by the likes of Bruce and WR Xavier – sort of thing you were going for here?

    Also Simon – I must also congratulate you for your open approach – other blogs regularly edit posts – especially where they criticize the blog or the quality of the discourse. Good on you.

    Either way – I have actually found this edifying, though in a more experiential if not educational kind of way …

  4. WR Xavier says:


    No, I was a believed in the flat earth theory (called AGW now) but the predictions of the religion made me realise that something was seriously wrong and I found the light that the earth being flat was a lie and that it was no flat but round and that the flat earthers where just miss leading everybody.

  5. Balanced,

    There doesn’t seem to be much point continuing this discussion as we’re going around in circles.

    You refuse to acknowledge any of the points made by W R Xavier or myself for a variety of reasons – I’m not going to repeat them, check my previous posts.

    You twist evidence around to claim it supports your viewpoint in an irrational manner.

    How can one argue against an irrational person using a rational approach?

    Climate science is a sleazy scam perpetrated by corrupt scientists and environmentalists.

    I will repeat my three points made previously….

    1. More and more reputable scientists are publicly debunking the junk science, and this is being reported in the MSM

    2. Public perception of the integrity of climate science is rapidly deteriorating and support collapsing for the green energy industry.

    3. There is a flux of warmist scientists becoming skeptics and no sceptic scientists becoming warmists.

    The attitudes and approach of people like yourself are actually helping this collapse of the great global warming swindle.

    • “You refuse to acknowledge any of the points made by W R Xavier or myself for a variety of reasons – I’m not going to repeat them, check my previous posts.”

      Precisely which of my points did you accept Bruce? Any?

      I did ask you to present peer reviewed evidence to support your points, which you failed to do – and that is not my fault.

      The only 3 pieces of peer reviewed evidence you presented – actually support AGW and along the way demonstrated that you don’t under stand;
      * the AGW argument (natural cycle temp before CO2) and
      * or that the UHI issue has been studied as part AGW science since the early 90s
      * or the meaning of flux vs concentration – and despite banging on about the JAXA data (which also supports AGW as does JAXA) – you have STILL failed to respond to the NASA data that shows CO2 peaking where and when AGW expects it to ….

      You don’t bother or can’t respond to these items – but I’m irrational…..? Speaks for itself really.

  6. One more post.

    I too would like to thank Simon for running this blog.

    It provides one of the high lights of my day to read the latest news on the collapse of climate science.

    This blog stands out like a beacon of sanity in the swill of the left wing media.

    I have watched the readership increase from 2000 to 5000 in 6 months or so. Great work Simon!

    Discussions like this one also provide an opportunity for the readers of the blog to witness first hand the obfuscation, lies, double talk and data fudging which comprises climate science

  7. To Bruce, Balanced, snowchi and others who have contributed to this post, the purpose of this blog is, and will always be, to stimulate intelligent debate, and that has certainly happened here.

    Readers are welcome to disagree, since challenging ideas is how we move our understanding forward, and as long as people engage politely and discuss the issues in a mature way, comments will be posted.

  8. @Balanced

    This will be my last post Balanced.

    1. If you are a scientist and out forth a theory ( and that’s all AGW is, a scientific theory) that a dog is a horse, but only other scientists that accept that a dog is a horse and they agree with you, does that make the peer review legitimate? No, it simply makes peer reviewing meaningless. That’s what has happened when it comes to peer reviewed science with regard to AGW.

    2. All the peak bodies your talking about are funded by mostly governments or big green environmental activist groups. Of course they are going to say what their pay masters want them to say. However, and believe Simon has pointed this out on another post, if Bob Carter was ever given money by an oil company, the activists and alarmists would claim that he to was just saying what his pay masters wanted him to say, so tell me, how is it any different?? Effectively nothing the peak bodies are saying is independent enough regarding this issue because their is too much money imbedded in the scam now for what could have been reputable peak bodies to back down from the lie.

    3. You asked for peer reviewed papers after slandering Bob Carter at the beginning of this topic. I posted you his website link and suggested you go have a read of some of his “peer reviewed” articles you claim dont exist, did you do it? Probably not, because you probably dont want to see that the AGW religion is dead.

    4. As Bruce pointed out earlier, with some of your comments, you do seem to be involved in the science or movement of the AGW issue in so way, and yet you mention your “traveling” which is interesting when you said you planted tree to counter your CO2 footprint. You are aware that a couple of trees isn’t going to fix that right? While planing more trees is always a good thing, for somebody that agrees that man is causing global warming, you would think that teleconferencing would be a more earth friendly way of doing things domt you agree? Not as luxurious of course but more friendly.

    5. I’m not a scientist, but I do understand the basic concept of science, how it works and when it fails and how laws are made. Tell me, do you understand the laws of Physics? Most of what Bob Carter talks about in his book relates back the laws of physics. They make sense, do you understand the difference between a scientific law and a theory? Let me help you physics has several laws, they started out as theories and constantly been proven scientifically true, nobody has been able to debunk or disprove those theories hence they have become
    Laws. Evolution however was and still is a theory. Nobody has been game enough to continue to try to prove it right or your, it’s just accepted by most in the scientific community, until it’s proven or unproven it can never be a scientific law as isn’t likely to be one any time soon. That said, AGW is a theory. It’s been debunked in more than one level, the biggest case of its debunking and failure was when all data and processes regarding the theory were not released for other scientists to use and follow when “testing” the theory. Until all scientists agree, it’s always just going to be a theory. They only way that’s going to happen is if as has already been said here by somebody else, papers need to be published publically, they need to supply all data and processes publically, they need to be openly peer reviewed and the reviews names and affiliations and funding sources made publically available, the paper authors then new to answer openly and publically any and all questions about information both hypothetical and empirical contained in their paper, and they need to make sure that if they are using computer models that the data is backed up with emperical evidence over short time frames and be prepared to be held accountable for their remarks and study.

    Do you think that will ever happen??? No way, is that going to happen.

    Finally, and seriously, read agenda 21 if you can cope with the horror story.

  9. WRXavier

    1. This is a very naive view of the process. A group of scientists might review a piece of evidence – that does not in itself claim to prove or disprove AGW. Say for example they are looking at a temperature trend. they are only looking at the trend, not asking why it has occurred or even what it menbas, they are only checking if the data is correct and the statistical analyses are appropriate. Where a scientist queries something changes are made in accordance with time proven principles. It is quite conceivable then – that a scientist who opposes AGW – might agree with the other scientists looking at the trend and vice versa. Apart from identifying human error, to process is designed is to remove personal bias.

    2. This is the KEY question you blokes consistently fail to answer. Ok even if you accepted your statement, “All the peak bodies your talking about are funded by mostly governments or big green environmental activist groups…” – MOSTLY ?? So there should be AT LEAST a few peak bodies that agree with you. Say ones from Japan where the is no green moment no greens in parliament. Or China, where they don’t even have to worry about politics or public opinion…. Your argument, has a massive and rather obvious hole in it.

    3. That’s it do the old repeat an untruth thing that you chaps seems fall back upon – presumably for want of an actual valid point. My accusations against Carter are not slander because, quite simply – they are true. just like Plimer, Carter has made a number of massive blunders.
    here is more in addition to what I’ve already posted – no It’s not peer reviewed because my carter won’t submit for peer review. Sure opinions are opinions and there is some pretty prima facie stuff here.

    Just checked – there is nothing in the links you provided, that is peer reviewed – that opposes AGW. Yes Carter published a paper “knock Knock” – but it a) not an academic paper and b) errr NOT peer reviewed.

    Please maintain the quality of this debate and avoid making stuff up.

    4. I was one of the early adopters of the Next G network – I got my JASJAM before it was in store so I could use it for Skype Video – mobile – so we could reduce the number of people flying. I have one of the earliest skype user names and have been skype video conferencing since it’s beta version!. I note this attack on me, rather than answering the unanswered questions, pursuant to this debate.

    5. Wow……”Most of what Bob Carter talks about in his book relates back the laws of physics. They make sense, do you understand the difference between a scientific law and a theory?”

    OK so Bob Carter is the only one using physics then? So like, not err NASA or any number of atmospheric physicists? Don’t spose they’d know physics much eh. Wow, what a spectacularly unconvincing argument.

    I agree that the data should be published – there problem is that they are concerned that people would cherry pick the data and use it in a vexatious manner.

    “until all scientists agree …” ….. 500 years after Christopher Columbus circumnavigated the GLOBE – there are still flat earthers …. yes sure, todays flat earthers are not that well qualified – but nor is Bruce’s claimed Canadian IPCC Peer review scientist – who turns out to have NOTHING to do with the IPCC, is an economist and a creationist to boot – but whom has chosen to write about climate science – do we have to convince him too?

    Here you go just making stuff up again …
    “Probably not, because you probably dont want to see that the AGW religion is dead.”
    “read agenda 21 if you can cope with the horror story.”

    I have quite clearly, very throughly, read lots of skeptic science. Oh yeah I’m terrified of change. Having opposed nuke – my mind is now open to the possibility, that even with accidents, Nuke may not be unsafe. I’m far from convinced – but my mind is open and awaiting the data and peak body and peer reviewed journal findings.

    You suggest that I have cognitive dissonance because I might somehow have a pecuniary interest in AGW. I have made it clear that I’d much prefer climate sensitivity to be minimal. And no – I’m not involved in AGW science, although I am trained in and do have a working knowledge of, physics, chemistry, thermodynamics and psychrometrics.

    Quoting Bruce on the topic of cognitive dissonance..
    “Reduce the importance of the conflicting belief.”
    You blokes clearly hate the idea of paying for carbon and clearly have a pathological hatred for anybody who supports such a concept.
    I’d say, proving AGW wrong is extremely important to you, on both a financial basis and an ideological basis. Introspection seems to be in short supply with you – but despite it’s clear importance to you, you remain utterly convinced you’re unaffected by cognitive dissonance, even though you can’t find one single peak body on the planet, that agrees with you………….mmmm….

    I still accept AGW might amount to nothing and that ALL the peak bodies (not just the IPCC) might be wrong. Given that all the bodies being wrong is a much lower probability scenario, I’m sticking with it until proven otherwise . I still see no genuine acceptance on your part of the possibility of being wrong – sure sign of an ideological positioning …

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