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Heaven, Earth and science fiction

By Mike Pope - posted Thursday, 11 June 2009


You have no idea how relieved some people are to be assured by an expert (I mean, Ian Plimer is a professor putting forward factual and accurate information isn’t he?) that global warming has nothing to do with increasing CO2 in the atmosphere. According to the Professor's book Heaven and Earth - global warming: the missing science, it has nothing to do with human activity and the climate change we are experiencing is just a normal cyclical event.

Thanks to Plimer we now know (or are supposed to believe) that the more CO2 we add to the atmosphere, the better off we are since it promotes plant growth, not global warming or ocean acidification. Talk of carbon pollution is nonsense since, he asserts, if the atmosphere were being polluted we would all be in the dark because “carbon is black”. Sounds inane to me.

I wish I could write a book with a message of reassurance to a public becoming increasingly concerned, apparently about nothing. And just think about the lovely royalties from book sales which are said to already exceed 5,000 in Australia alone. You can bank royalties more easily than the truth.

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And, talking of the truth, one has to say that according to his critics, Professor Plimer treats it with a degree of economy and disdain, most people never expect from a scientist. On April 23, Tim Lambert (UNSW) provided a detailed, destructive demolition under the heading “The science is missing from Ian Plimer’s Heaven and Earth”. It is well worth a read. He makes some 60 criticisms, many of them damning. As far as I know, Plimer has yet to publish any rebuttal.

Then on May 9, The Australian published a devastating critique of Heaven and Earth penned by Professor Ashley (UNSW) describing Plimers offering as “a collection of contrarian ideas and conspiracy theories” in a book which is “rambling and repetitive, the arguments flawed and illogical”. After that kind of assessment, you might wonder if there is anything left to say. Well yes, I will have my two penneth, since, at the date of writing, others have yet to do so on On Line Opinion.

Plimer asserts that human activity is not responsible for atmospheric CO2. In support of this view, he claims that no link has been established between human activity and increasing CO2 levels, the latter being produced from natural sources, particularly volcanic activity.

In Chapter 9 of its 4th Assessment Report, the IPCC goes to considerable detail to show that human activity is responsible for by far the largest CO2 emissions in the world. It has to be assumed that Plimer has never read the Chapter since he makes no attempt to refute their findings.

He dismisses the content of Chapter 9, wrongly claiming it is only supported by five independent scientists, even though the chapter was authored by 50 reputable scientists. Ignoring reliable and important material which contradicts or fails to support a particular view saves one having to prove it wrong. Convenient but is it intellectually honest?

Plimer states that human activity is responsible for only 4 per cent of CO2 in the atmosphere, the rest being produced by volcanoes. No basis for this assertion is given. He claims that the eruption of Mt Pinatubo produced as much CO2 as did all human activities in a year. Again, no supporting citation is provided.

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The gas content of volcanic eruptions can be and is measured with reasonable accuracy. Measurements show that volcanoes do indeed emit CO2, in the order of 150-250 million tonnes annually. Emissions arising from human activity have been accurately calculated as being responsible for over 26 billion tonnes of CO2 entering the atmosphere annually. In other words, volcanic eruptions are responsible for less than 1 per cent of atmospheric CO2, the balance coming almost entirely from human activity.

No one could seriously support the Plimer contention that a single eruption of Mt Pinatubo produced over 26 billion tonnes of CO2 and he offers no evidence that this occurred, since none exists.

Plimer argues that atmospheric CO2 is not responsible for global warming and, in support of this view, he claims that a correlation between temperature variation and the level of CO2 in the atmosphere has never been shown and could not be shown because global warming is simply not occurring. He claims that IPCC records show that over the last 160 years, the earth has been cooling for 100 of those years and that since 1998 global temperatures have fallen.

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About the Author

Mike Pope trained as an economist (Cambridge and UPNG) worked as a business planner (1966-2006), prepared and maintained business plan for the Olympic Coordinating Authority 1997-2000. He is now semi-retired with an interest in ways of ameliorating and dealing with climate change.

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