The Australian has continued its war on science by printing an extract from Ian Plimer’s new book, How to Get Expelled from School. The extract is largely plagiarised from this press release on a recent paper in Science by Funder et al finding large fluctuations in Arctic sea ice over the last 10,000 years. Plimer did change this passage in the press release
In order to reach their surprising conclusions, Funder and the rest of the team organised several expeditions to Peary Land in northern Greenland.
In order to reach their unsurprising conclusions, Funder and the rest of the team organised several expeditions to Peary Land in northern Greenland.
Plimer contradicts his alteration of the plagiarised text in his next paragraph:
What is interesting about this study is that the new understanding came from getting away from computer modelling and doing fieldwork in pretty inhospitable areas.
Is it a “new understanding” or is it “unsurprising”? And while this sentence is original, it’s also wrong — the study’s estimate that Arctic ice was 50% less 7000 years ago came from computer modelling. Plimer would have known this if he read the paper instead of just the press release. He perhaps would also have noticed that the paper begins with this:
Global warming will probably cause the disappearance of summer sea ice in the Arctic Ocean during this century
But Plimer’s plagiarism and errors on Funder’s work doesn’t qualify the article for an entry in The Australian‘s War on Science. No, what qualifies the piece is this nonsense:
As snow falls, it traps air. This air is preserved as the snow becomes an ice sheet. This air remains trapped and uncontaminated in ice, otherwise it cannot be used to measure past atmospheres. 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.
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.
What is wrong is the number Plimer gives for Siple — the correct value for 1900 is 297ppm (green dot in the graph below) AND the number he gives for Mauna Loa — the correct value for 1960 is 317ppm (red dot in the graph below).
And guess where the graph comes from? It’s figure 5 in HTGEFS and it’s on the same page and immediately following the passage where he gives the incorrect numbers from Siple and Mauna Loa. Plimer is famous for contradicting himself, but this may have set a new record.
Plimer doesn’t bother with providing citations for any of his claims in HTGEFS, so it’s often hard to determine whether he just made stuff up or copied it from some random website, but two wrong numbers is enough of a fingerprint to find the source. It’s
an editorial by Jack Schmitt, published by SEPP on their website. Schmitt wrote:
For example, the Siple Antarctic ice core indicates that carbon dioxide reached a level of about 330ppm in about 1900. Comparison with the 1960 initial Mauna Loa measurement of 260ppm suggests that either (1) the Siple data is just wrong, or (2) there was a drop of about 60ppm in carbon dioxide level between 1900 and 1960, or (3) it takes 80-some years for the carbon dioxide gas system to close.
Plimer copied Schmitt’s wrong numbers but somehow forgot to copy Schmitt’s third possibility, that it takes 80 years for the carbon dioxide gas system to close. This third possibility is the one that’s been well established as correct, so Plimer has managed to add a third error to Schmitt’s pair. Whether he did this deliberately or through incompetence, I cannot say.
Long time readers will recognize that Schmitt is just repeating Jaworowski’s long-discredited argument that ice cores provide unreliable measurements of past CO2 levels. Jaworowski’s argument has even been debunked at Watts Up With That. This is one of the websites that Plimer recommends as a good source of information about climate science, so you would have hoped he would have noticed.