Monday, August 23, 2010

My Seminar With Ian Plimer


Image source NASA.

Professor Ian Plimer, one of Australia’s leading Climate Change Inactivists, gave a talk at my School today. Professor Plimer has written a book about global warming, “Heaven and Earth”, which has an impressive list of inaccuracies and errors. I found out about the talk late, so I had very little time to get my thoughts together before the talk started.

Professor Plimer is a very good and charming speaker, but he didn’t make it clear where he was going in his talk. He gave a grand sweep of geological time, but even I who is a geological time geek, found it difficult to follow which way he was going. He was trying to show that temperatures and climate had varied a lot in the past and that CO2 was not the main driver, but because he hadn’t really set up the issue of modern global warming, it was unclear where he was heading.

In fact, he managed to talk about climate change without showing contemporary graphs of surface temperature change (with two exceptions which I’ll talk about later). He spent a long time talking about how surface temperature stations were bad (they are not; again, this was without showing the temperature record itself), then showing the satellite record at a scale where it was hard to see what was going on and claiming that a) satellites were more accurate (they have different problems) and b) temperatures had not changed (but satellite measurements confirm land surface measurements). He flashed up a small segment of the land surface record that was dipping while showing CO2 going up, but if he had shown the full CO2 /temperature record the picture would have been entirely different.

Image credit Real Climate. Showing how the satellite record of temperatures follows the surface temperatures.

He also showed a version of the dodgy sunspot cycle vs temperature graph from the "Great Global Warming Swindle" that I knew was spurious (hey, I run an aurora alert service, I know sunspots). And well... heck there was so much of it that was wrong (Roman warm period as global not local, misrepresenting the CO2 levels during neoproteozoic snowball earth, dodgy CO2 measurement graphs, virtually everything he got wrong in his book was trotted out) . It is of enormous irony that Professor Plimer, once a foe of creationism, should be using the Gish Gallop.

The main thing about the talk was it's overall contradiction, approximately half the talk tried to show temperatures weren't changing, and the other half tired to show that temperatures were changing and that the Sun (or cosmic rays or something; anything but people) was responsible.

When the Question time came I made a mistake, I should have gone for the inherent contradictions in the talk (If increasing sunspots track increasing temperature, doesn't that contradict your statement that global temperatures aren't rising). Instead I pointed out that the sunspot graph was wrong, and there was no correlation between sunspots and temperature in the contemporary period. Professor Plimer attentatively wrote down the details, perhaps in his next talk there will be one less error.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to talk to Professor Plimer after, I had to rush off to run a workshop for the second years. However, if Barry Brook can't convince Professor Plimer, I have no chance of influencing him.


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