The Monbiot vs Plimer debate is getting a little beyond common sense (see here for our previous coverage). Below is an excerpt from Lateline featuring both ‘contestants’ – Plimer simply can’t answer a very, very simple question put to him. If anyone want’s to jump to Plimer’s aid and support his case, please comment below. It’s beginning to look a little one-sided…
Here is the link to the ABC transcript, and here are the full versions on Youtube: Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3.
I watched the entire episode.
Plimer came out of this much the worse for wear I thought – evasive, shown to be deceptive, going off on irrelevant tangetns which Monbiot caught him on every time.
Monbiot did appear rude and badgering though – while I appreciate his frustration at Plimers evasions a little more respect would have done his/our cause more good.
Oh dear, you’ve almost got to feel sorry for Prof Plimer. Dodging and evading the questions, he didn’t seem to handle the pressure of the interview very well at all.
However its interesting to note the accusations by Monbiot of Plimer’s cherry picking of the evidence is precisely the charge climate sceptics are putting on the scientists at the University of East Anglia. Very confusing for a non-scientist.
It’s interesting if you look at the email history of this debate between Monbiot and Plimer. Plimer had agreed to answer those very same questions five months ago after they were sent to him by Monbiot back then. So it’s very hard to believe that Prof Plimer had not found the references after five months! It really seemed that Plimer was using obsfuscation to cover his deception – which made it worse. Monbiot’s frustration and needling style of debate is understandable given Plimer’s ongoing avoidance in answering those very fundamental questions. If those points of Plimer’s are wrong, Plimer has no case.
This is not an insignificant point. Plimer is an academic, and uses his academic profile as a platfrom for his message. Also, climate change is a major public issue.
Meanwhile, the real scientific debate is about whether the feedbacks kicking in now are an indication that we have already passed the tipping point into runaway warming.
-The acidification of the oceans reducing the ability of the sea to absorb more CO2 – thereby further increasing the rapidity of atmosphere CO2 rise.
-Summer Arctic sea ice melting, resulting in less heat reflected into space and more absorption of heat into the ocean – creating warmer oceans.
-Thawing tundra resulting in large methane and CO2 release into the atmosphere.
-Increase in burning forests from changed rainfall and higher temperatures resulting in release of stored biomass.
-The beginning of release of methane from the ocean floor of the Arctic possibly indicating the melting of methane clathrates from the sea floor resulting from high sea temperatures.
Monbiot clearly has not understood the main contentions of Professor Plimer’s book, that Climate is always changing, that’s what climate does. It is clear that there have been many periods in the history of the earth when global tempratures were higher than now. Monbiot concntrated on a short span of years whereas Plimer is concerned with the long history of the planet.
Monbiot overlooks that Cabon Dioxide is agreed by both sides to be presently 385ppmv, parts per million by volume. That is 0.0035% of the atmosphere. The man-made portion of that is between 3 and 4%, which equals 0.001%. Reducing that amount by 50% by 2020 would reduce atmospheric CO2 man-made to 0.0005% of the atmosphere. This is just simple mathemantics. The question is Does this trace gas cause Global Warming? You don’t have to be a scientist to answer that – all you need is common sense and simple arithmetic. In fact an article in The Guardian has agreed that such a reduction would be ineffectual. I agree – it would make no difference at all to climate. But it would generate a lot of money. If we were to admit that the Global Warmers are right (which I don’t)the policies proposed to prevent Global Warming and ergo Climate Change, ie cutting emissions of CO2, will clearly have no effeect whatsoever on either Global Warming or climate, which will continue to change no matter what we humans do.
If you think that this Plimer’s main contention, he’s clearly missed the point (see here for more information on ‘natural’ rates of change http://www.skepticalscience.com/climate-change-little-ice-age-medieval-warm-period.htm). The fact that there have been “periods in the history of the earth when global temperatures were higher than now” doesn’t negate the ecological issues of climate change.
This isn’t common sense – your arithmetic a little too simple and deliberately misleading. Humans emit an estimated 26 gigatonnes of CO2 per year, whilst CO2 in the atmosphere is rising by 15 gigatonnes per year. Much of human CO2 emissions is being absorbed by natural sinks – see here for a more discussion: http://www.skepticalscience.com/human-co2-smaller-than-natural-emissions.htm
Ian Plimer, who I know of from the University of Adelaide, has no trouble handling seminars to the general public, where questions may be anything from detailed and on-topic to somewhat unhinged. Plimer in person can be quite entertaining; his geology lectures in the 80’s and 90’s at several Australian universities have prompted favourable comments from ex-students. It is more than fair to say that Plimer knows how to handle himself when interviewed, and especially when interviewed for the second time by the same interviewer on the same topic, and including some of the same questions. He should have mean able to fend off George Monbiot and Tony Jone’s questions with devastating scientifically accurate and easily comprehensible replies.
And yet, Plimer couldn’t bring himself to answer even the most straightforward questions about statements he made in his book. He simply did not want to provide the honest answers to some questions.
Plimer, by the way, has been travelling all throughout rural Australia “selling” an incorrect message about the current government’s policy and the expected impacts. He has criss-crossed the Angloglobe doing much the same thing. Furthermore, he has well and truly hitched himself to a very particular right-wing group, whose main goals are (very) free markets – ie no or little regulation – and essentially to support conservative government. In Australia the opposition now has a very conservative Catholic frontbench, and most of those do not accept even the fact that human fossil fuel burning is increasing the overall CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. I mention the Catholic connection for the frontbench because it is directly relevant to the expected policies on some sensitive social issues – abortion, stemcell research, family baby bonuses, etc. – and when previously in power, several of these opposition politicians acted upon those social issues largely in line with Catholic doctrine.
As far as I am aware Plimer is an atheist, however. He has stated that he feels what he considers as extreme green activism is some kind of quasi-religion, and that this is what has inspired him to take up the cudgels, as it were. The problem with this is that the existence of such people is typically overestimated by a large factor, making them seem more numerous than is the case; also their impact upon government policy is typically overestimated as well.
Now, to tackle the “climate is always changing and has done for billions of years” meme: climate scientists do not claim that the Earth has been in some sort of climate stasis for billions of years until the 1850’s when industrialisation began in earnest. Climate scientists are by their very nature and by their professional work exposed very early to the dynamism of the paleoclimate. After all, they use some of the same tools and theory as geologists (eg like Plimer) to tease out a picture of past climatic shifts. Perhaps this sort of meme started up because the recent research has highlighted only the accelerated changes to the atmospheric composition as a result of human activity, and in particular upon global warming as a probable result of this. That focus on only the current (and future) human-invoked change unintentionally suggests that by extension, if humans weren’t around there would be no climate change.
I’ve mentioned Plimer’s associations because he has ventured a long way from the science and political neutrality to going right into the political fray of advocating that Australians vote for the Liberal coalition in the coming election. By doing that in the particular manner that Plimer has he has used science only where it suits either the promotion of his book or the conservative group he belongs to – currently well represented by the opposition party in Australia.
Plimer declares in his book that he is a director of three mining companies, and has been for many years – he is a mining geologist.
Hope that clears a few things up.
Donald – great dissection of the “climate is always changing and has done for billions of years” meme. You hit the nail squarely on the head with this.
Unfortunately the ostensible topic of the debate (AGW) took a backseat to the personal confrontation.
Also, the debate was not about climate change, but about Plimer’s book about climate change (which I have not read). Even if Plimer’s point about volcanic CO2 is shown to wrong (and I’m not saying it is), it doesn’t necessarily disprove the central thesis of the book.
Also, while Monbiot at least acknowledges the seriousness of the climategate issue, I do not think that he appreciates quite how serious it is, and as a non-scientist nor should he.
I’m also a little puzzled as to why Plimer seemed to back down on the “world has been cooling for the last decade claim” – even Tim Flannery acknowledged this on a recent Lateline interview.
But whether or not the world is cooling (or heating) right now is immaterial. The central issue is whether or not CO2 is having any influence on our climate at all.
We know, of course, that the sun has a massive influence (why else do we have seasons). Does CO2 have any influence at all? I’ve yet to see any evidence presented. All I ever get when I ask this question is an appeal to authority (the IPCC said it’s true etc) – never an appeal to science.
Can anyone present some evidence from first principles?
Plimer is wrong about volcanoes.
The world hasn’t cooled for the last decade.
Start with the IPCC AR4 report – let us know how you go.
Do you realize that you have done exactly the thing I predicted? A scientific question is met by an appeal to authority. Instead of some first principles evidence, you’ve essentially said “the IPCC said so.”
Can you tell me what the evidence is yourself?
As I said before, if you are really interested in the science and not in the debate, start with the IPCC AR4 report – the ‘first principles evidence’ is there for anyone to read. Let us know how you go.
You don’t understand – I already HAVE read the report, some time ago. Here’s what it contains:
1. Measurements of global temperatures
2. Measurements of CO2 levels
3. “Estimates” based on computer modelling. These computer models themselves are based on the unproven assumption that CO2 drives climate.
There is nowhere, as far as I can see, where they’ve PROVED that CO2 is driving climate. I can’t find any evidence whatsoever. Have you read the report yourself? Can you show me the bit where they prove this? What have I missed?
That’s remarkably similar to this comment!
What are you missing? Click here for a simple explanation from Skeptical Science, or re-read the AR4 report again.
Again, I have read the AR4 and can see nothing other than assumptions, estimates and models. On which page or section do they present empirical evidence of man-made global warming?
If you have actually read it yourself, and understood it, it should be very easy for you to point me to the right section.
As noted in Chapter 1 of the AR4 report, “95% of all the
climate change science literature since 1834 was published
after 1951. Because science is cumulative, this represents considerable growth in the knowledge of climate processes and in the complexity of climate research.” Here’s some select reading from pre-1960 (plus a few others) that should point you in the right direction as to the mechanism of CO2 induced warming:
Martin, P.E., Baker E.F. (1932) The Infrared Absorption Spectrum of Carbon Dioxide. Physical Review 41: 291-303
Callendar, G.S. (1938) The artificial production of carbon dioxide and its influence on temperature. Q. J. R. Meteorol. Soc., 64, 223–237
Plass, G.N. (1956) Effect of Carbon Dioxide Variations on Climate. American J. Physics 24: 376-87
How did you go with the link from Skeptical Science? The empirical evidence is pretty straightforward:
Do you have (or can you get) copies of these three papers? I don’t have access to an academic library myself. If you wish I can give you my email address and you can send them to me. What information do they contain?
As for the “skeptical science” website I’m afraid I don’t quite get it. What exactly is “skeptical science?” – last I looked, all science is “skeptical.” Conclusions should be based on verifiable data and nothing else – not opinions, assumptions or models, and I’m afraid that’s all I saw on that website. In other words, I don’t think they are skeptical at all – they should change their name.
Sure, send me your email address.
You are welcome to disagree with the name, but how about the content? It answered your point fairly succinctly: