Writing in the Australian, Christopher Pearson likens mainstream climate science to creationism

When Charles Darwin unveiled the theory of evolution, the world at once divided into rationalists and creationists. The theory that man-made greenhouse gas is causing potentially catastrophic climate change is another great divider. On one side are the sceptics, who want compelling evidence. On the other are the true believers.

Now there are some interesting parallels in the debates about evolution and global warming, but they don’t go the way Pearson insinuates. In both cases, the domination of the mainstream view in the scientific literature is so overwhelming that in the rare case that a creationist paper or a global warming skeptic paper is published, serious questions are raised about the peer review of that paper.

Next Pearson calls for the sacking of Ian Campbell, the Environment Minister, because:

after a few months in the portfolio, he said he had reviewed the evidence and accepted, as paraphrased in a report in this newspaper, “the greenhouse theory that emissions such as carbon dioxide from industry were the cause of global warming”.

Clearly a job requrement for the Environment Minister in Australia must be the ability to reject global warming no matter how compelling the evidence is.

But what, you might ask, is wrong with the evidence in the IPCC report? Pearson tells us:

One of the alternative explanations is that the main cause has been volcanic activity, much of it submarine and hard to detect.

Submarine volcanoes are causing global warming? This isn’t possible, since the total heat flow coming from the interior of the earth is much too small to cause significant warming. Where did Pearson get his “alternative explanation” from? The only source I could find was the same “Iceagenow” web site that David Bellamy got his false statistics about glaciers from. As George Monbiot put it:

Iceagenow was constructed by a man called Robert W Felix to promote his self-published book about “the coming ice age”. It claims that sea levels are falling, not rising; that the Asian tsunami was caused by the “ice age cycle”; and that “underwater volcanic activity – not human activity – is heating the seas”.

Is Felix a climatologist, a volcanologist or an oceanographer? Er, none of the above. His biography describes him as a “former architect”. His website is so bonkers that I thought at first it was a spoof. Sadly, he appears to believe what he says.

Felix doesn’t haven’t any actual data or measurements to support his theory that volcanoes are warming the ocean. He just lists news stories about undersea volcanoes and asserts that they must be contributing a tremendous amount of heat, but without any actual numbers. Apparently Pearson finds this more compelling than the IPCC reports with all their silly facts and numbers.

Pearson then goes on to quote William Kinimonth:

“It seems to me rather odd that so many scientists are embracing this one-dimensional, flat-earth theory without looking at how climate really works.”

Kininmonth was wrong — the IPCC report relies on three-dimensional, not one-dimensional climate models. Even Pearson could have discovered this if he had spent a few minutes on the Internet.

And this 2004 post from John Quiggin about another Pearson piece on DDT demonstrates that Pearson is a repeat offender:

Not only is almost everything in the article either false or grossly misleading, but it’s a fourth-hand recycling of points that have been flogged to death in the blogosphere.

Thanks to Jack Strocchi for the tip.


  1. #1 Ian Gould
    June 12, 2005

    Presumably, Pearson is claiming that greenhouse gases or aerosols from volcanic activity have a larger impact on global climate than anthropogenic emissions.

    This may even be true – it also happens to be irrelevant because so far as I know there’s no reason to assume these emissions have been growing rapidly for the past century and are expected to continue to grow.

    As I’ve pointed out previously, when the Earth’s average temperature is expressed in degrees Kelvin, the likely maximum increase from human emissions projected by the computer models is on the order of 1-2%.

    Pearson’s claim that submarine volcanic activity is “difficult to detect” will doubtless come as a surprise to the peopel of Aceh. (Yes I know the tsunami was caused by an earthquake not a volcano but large scale volcanic activity would likely have similar effects.)

  2. #2 Ender
    June 12, 2005

    Perhaps he got the data from Mr Hissink as this is one of his pet claims.

  3. #3 Eli Rabett
    June 12, 2005

    This is so easy to knock down that it is not even laugh worthy. If deep water volcanoes were resonsible for the observed warming the temperature profiles and CO2/HCO3/H2CO3 depthprofiles of the oceans would be very different than they are observed to be.

    Pap, sir, you are serving up veritable pap.

  4. #4 Nabakov
    June 13, 2005

    “one of the alternative explanations is that the main cause has been volcanic activity, much of it submarine and hard to detect.”

    Um, if something’s hard to detect, then presumably it’s hard to measure and so probably not generating a large and consistent body of data that can be used to rebut other data.

    Either that or Chris was talking about Louie Hissink-Fit venting.

  5. #5 Steve Reuland
    June 13, 2005

    “Now there are some interesting parallels in the debates about evolution and global warming, but they don’t go the way Pearson insinuates. In both cases, the domination of the mainstream view in the scientific literature is so overwhelming that in the rare case that a creationist paper or a global warming skeptic paper is published, serious questions are raised about the peer review of that paper.”

    In my experience, evolution deniers are also very likely to be global warming deniers. Once you’ve taken the leap of convincing yourself that scientists are part of a massive conspiracy to bamboozle the public for some inscutable purpose, it’s easy to apply this formula all over the place. Nearly all creationists are extremely zealous in their religious belief, so they tend to perceive enemies on all sides. Conspiracy theories come naturally to them.

  6. #6 euan
    June 13, 2005

    Another anti-Kyoto article in The Age.

  7. #7 Tim Lambert
    June 13, 2005

    Oh gees, the Age is usually better than that. Bob Carter gives a speech to the Farmers Federation spouting his usual nonsense and gets it all reported in the Age. I’ll bet that the reporter covers farming rather than science. This bit is a doozy:

    > Carbon dioxide was a minor greenhouse gas, responsible for 3.6 per cent of the total greenhouse effect, he said. Of this, only 0.12 per cent, or 0.036 degrees Celsius, could be attributed to human activity.

    Out by almost two orders of magnitude.

  8. #8 dj
    June 14, 2005

    I expect that Pearson takes his appreciation of the scientific model from the TimeCube guy.

  9. #9 Louis Hissink
    June 14, 2005

    Oh really

    Since the ocean covers 70% of the earth’s surface, and most of the temperature measuring devices are on the other 30% of the earth’s surface, coupled with the fact that submarine volcanoes are somewhat undetectable (eg the one near the Larsen Ice Shelf, which was only discovered accidentally), Pearson’s line of reasoning is, at least, plausible.

    But undersea volcanic activity contributing to global warming?

    What global warming?

    Not measured so far.

    However it seems to be prophesied from computer modelling.

  10. #10 Louis Hissink
    June 14, 2005

    Re #7

    Tim are you criticising Bob Carter or the Age’s reporting?

  11. #11 jet
    June 14, 2005

    Yeah yeah yeah. Once you convince the world of Global Warming (just about done there), you still have to convince them that it is better to fix it than to leave it be. And as much as Lomborg is demonized, I’ve yet to read anyone really take on his economics. His last summit’s worst criticism was that the guy promoting the Do-Something-Now crowd for Global Warming was too much of a proponent for change.

  12. #12 Eli Rabett
    June 14, 2005

    Oh well, now that he has officially been found not to be a scientist by the ministry he worked for, Lomborg will decide not to be an economist.

    On the more serious side, I would be a mite less sceptical if I saw all the folk praising Lomborg, out there working hard, contributing to and lobbying for all those more important things he is proclaiming.

    OTOH, I fully reject the notion that we are too poor to do it all.

  13. #13 Nabakov
    June 14, 2005

    “…coupled with the fact that submarine volcanoes are somewhat undetectable”

    “Pearson’s line of reasoning is, at least, plausible.”

    Or undetectable.

    I juz knew Louie would surface again to blow off the stuff stored in his lungs. RSS Hissink.

    As I’ve said before here, I know fuck all about climate science but I’m a world-leading pro at smelling out the astroturfing/PR/FUD stuff I used to do for a living.

    But I’ll give Louie credit for the kind of sheer relentless boneheaded wackiness that eventually and always scares off the traceable funding faucets. It’s now clear he’s not in it for the money. He’s an aging crank focusing fanatically on a few big shiny things ‘cos there’s fuckall else going on his life.

    “What global warming?
    “Not measured so far.”

    Yes, you can’t this make this stuff up folks. Even my former paymasters at Royal Dutch Shell would have blanched at that.

  14. #14 Ian Gould
    June 14, 2005

    Type “Lomborg” and “economics” into google.

    The msot obviously flaw in Lomborg’s reasoning is the forced choice implicit in his “Copenhagen Consensus”.

    Even if we accept that there are some activities which may have a greater return on investment than fixing global warming, we aren’t necessarily forced to coose between just these two options.

    Maybe investing $1 billion in, for example, vaccinations for children in develoepd countries has a higher expected net return than investing $1 billion in, for example, reafforestation, but we have a world economy worth at least $30 trillion a year.

    It shouldn’t be too difficult to identify existing ependiture which has a lower (or negative) rate of return than both.

    Having said that, Lomborg’s estimates of the coist and benefits of addressing global warming are suspect and he seems to have picked the figures that best advance his case in both instances.

  15. #15 Ender
    June 15, 2005

    Louis – I asked for you to show the data or research you had to support your hypothesis of the Earths heat contributing to GW.

    Yet to see it.

  16. #16 Louis Hissink
    June 15, 2005


    I have,

    But if you think that the earth has no effect on the the earth’s climate, on a thermal basis, then you must be a very lonely individual.

    You obviously believe that the climate has nothing to do with the earth.

    Without the earth, you would not have a climate.

  17. #17 Louis Hissink
    June 15, 2005


    I am still employed, and in cahoots with one of the biggest.

    You have yet to produce a fact, and lacking that, prefer instead to overwhelm us with waffling.

    Fact is you might be wrong.

  18. #18 Louis Hissink
    June 15, 2005

    Ian Gould – you are free to choose.

    Some of us don’t like being forced to choose.

  19. #19 Ender
    June 15, 2005

    No Loius I asked you a very specific question. Where is your data or research to support your argument that the earths internal heat contributes to atmospheric global warming?

    This is what you said “None of you realise that underneath us is an enormous source of energy, a source that probably has a greater influence on the temperature variation of the miniscule earthian atmosphere than we mere humans could possibly imagine. You, like King Canute’s courtier, seem to think we are all powerful. Perhaps in Climate Fantasy land but not in reality.”

    And this is what I replied “Where is your heat flow data about the heat output of the Earth? What is its magnitude? You are a scientist. I can get away with using other people’s data because unlike you I did not complete a science degree. You have no such luxury. For you to say “underneath us is an enormous source of energy” is not enough. You, as a scientist, have to include its magnitude in an SI unit so it can be compared to other forcings.”

    So where is the data? Surely a scientist of your calibre could put a thermocouple on the ground and measure the heat transfer.

    You cannot run from blog to blog peddling this stuff without data or research to back it up – so where is it??????

  20. #20 Meyrick Kirby
    June 15, 2005

    Louis Hissink: “You have yet to produce a fact, and lacking that, prefer instead to overwhelm us with waffling.”

    Okay, where is your fact that underwater volcanoes have suddenly been churing out more heat and/or greenhouse gases over the last century?

  21. #21 Louis Hissink
    June 15, 2005

    Meyrick Kirby

    1. Volcanoes often produce CO2 – Hawaii being a notable example.
    2. 70% of the earth’s surface is ocean – of which we know less than the surface of Saturn’s satellite, Titan.

    Some facts – 150 gigatons of CO2 are produced by the earth per annum (source IPCC).

    Of which 5-6 gigatons are from human activity (IPCC)

    So what part of the total CO2 was produced by volcanoes over the last century? I don’t know because no one measured it.

    In science we only focus on measurements.

    Religion, so I am told, feels unconstrained with such restrictions.

  22. #22 Dano
    June 15, 2005

    Wow. A bunch of dissociated facts. How do they go together, Louis?


  23. #23 Meyrick Kirby
    June 15, 2005

    Louis, I asked for evidence that underwater volcanoes had SUDDENLY (in the past hundred years) started producing larger amounts of CO2.

  24. #24 Meyrick Kirby
    June 15, 2005

    Come to think of it, nice try to imply that the 150 gigatons is mainly from volcanoes. Bet the IPCC doesn’t actually say that.

  25. #25 Ian Gould
    June 15, 2005


    Some of us don’t like being forced to choose.>>

    Then I suggest you spend the rest of your life in a cloistered monastic order.

    Choice is an essential part of life.

    Economists refer to it as opportunity cost.

  26. #26 Ian Gould
    June 15, 2005

    <<70% of the earth’s surface is ocean – of which we know less than the surface of Saturn’s satellite, Titan.>>

    Funny I must have missed the thousands of years of surface observation of Titan, the hundreds of years of submarine and diving bell exploration of Titan and the decades of high-resolution radar and video satellite data.

    Louis, if you’re going to keep trying to position yourself as the hard-nosed pragmatic man of science you might want to try and make fewer blatantly false and fatuous statements.

    You know like claiming no-one was observing the heavens before Galileo. Still waiting for an explanation of how the Chinese et al missed the changes in the Earth’s speed of rotation you claim happened bakc then.

  27. #27 Meyrick Kirby
    June 16, 2005

    I believe the Aztecs had detailed astronomy as well.

  28. #28 The Dark Avenger
    June 16, 2005

    is a little inroduction to the subject. As to be expected from a culture that committed human sacrifice to a Sun God, it mainly deals with a solar calender.

    Their MesoAmerican neighbors, the Maya, emphasized the planet Venus, and are said to have a calendar more accurate than their European contemporaries, which was probably true up to the time of the Gregorian reform in the 16th Century.

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