A Few Things Ill Considered

How wrong does Plimer have to be?

I had an open thread a couple of weeks ago about Ian Plimer’s recent novel supposedly exposing the lie that is Anthropogenic Global Warming.

I have not read it. A few commenter’s defending the book asked how anyone can judge it if they have not read it.

Well, no one can read every book that is out there, not even every book about global warming. We all have to choose. This of course introduces the possibility of bias confirmation. If I feel it in my gut that this particular book will be crap, I won’t read it and I will assume I am right about it.

But here’s the thing, it is possible to read detailed and referenced discussions of the material and read reviews ([1], [2], [3], [4]) and from those, hopefully you actually can make an informed decision about whether or not you might actually learn something.

There is lots of stuff there that cries out for correction. But let’s focus on something simple. If any of the resident sceptics here can provide me with any remotely plausible excuse for the following, I will buy and read Heaven and Earth by Ian Plimer:

Over the past 250 years, humans have added just one part of CO2 in 10,000 to the atmosphere. One volcanic cough can do this in a day.

Before responding, please see Tamino’s demolition of this gross falsehood and show me where he is wrong and Plimer is right.

George Monbiot has 11 similar falsehoods that he has asked Plimer to explain or provide references for. A variation of the volcano claim above is number 10 on his list. Apparently Plimer has realized that he can not possibly justify or scientifically support his claims and rather than answer Monbiot as he agreed, he has submitted a list of his own questions that read like a post doc exam in atmosheric chemistry. Monbiot is asking Plimer to explain Plimer’s own writings, Plimer is asking Monbiot things like:

8. Calculate 10 Ma time flitches using W/R ratios of 10, 100 and 500 for the heat addition to the oceans, oceanic pH changes and CO2 additions to bottom waters by alteration of sea floor rocks to greenschist and amphibolite facies assemblages, the cooling of new submarine volcanic rocks (including MORBs) and the heat, CO2 and CH4 additions from springs and gas vents since the opening of the Atlantic Ocean. From your calculations, relate the heat balance to global climate over these 10 Ma flitches. What are the errors in your calculations? Show all calculations and discuss the validity of any assumptions made.

I kid you not, there are 13 similar questions, all clearly designed as a distraction and stalling tactic. Monbiot asks Plimer where is the data for his claim that “the last two years of global cooling have erased nearly thirty years of temperature increase” – simple and reasonable – Plimer asks Monbiot “From the annual average burning of hydrocarbons, lignite, bituminous coal and natural and coal gas, smelting, production of cement, cropping, irrigation and deforestation, use the 25µm, 7µm and 2.5µm wavelengths to calculate the effect that gaseous, liquid and solid H2O have on atmospheric temperature at sea level and at 5 km altitude at latitudes of 20º, 40º, 60º and 80ºS” – complex and irrelevant to defending his own words.

Seriously, why should I think my time will not be wasted reading anything written by anyone who can believe volcanos have caused the CO2 rise and many other patently ridiculous and standard denialisms?

Comments

  1. #1 greenfyre
    August 22, 2009

    “how anyone can judge it if they have not read it.”

    Shades of the Deniers and the IPCC reports … I find I am constantly replying to comments claiming things about what is “missing” from the reports when simply glancing at the table of contents (never mind actually reading them) shows the claim to be total fiction.

    As for their grasp of the simplest basics of the science that they could have garnered from a children’s site, never mind the “for beginner’s” tutorials on many sites, even that they have generally not managed … yet it does not seem to stop them making judgements.

    If and when they respond to the criticisms of Plimer with something remotely rational and informed, and which suggests that Plimer may have been misrepresented somehow, then I may be remotely tempted to read him to see if perhaps that is so. That the “refutations” and defenses of Plimer are more along the lines of ‘global warming is a hoax’ in All Caps, and Plimer’s juvenile bafflegab in response to Monbiot, strongly suggest critques have perhaps been far too kind.

  2. #2 Michael
    August 25, 2009

    To quote from Tamino:
    “The phrase “one volcanic cough” implies that routine volcanic activity, the kind of thing that happens regularly, is sufficient to alter atmospheric CO2 dramatically.”
    This is NOT what Ian Plimer is implying at all!
    This statement seems to be the basis of the entire article. If this interpretation is wrong then it’s pointless to go into all the details of volcanic activity. (facinating though it is)
    What I believe he IS saying in the book is that the amount of CO2 produced by mankind can be compared to the amount of CO2 emitted by one volcano in one day.
    He is NOT saying that one volcanic “cough” can alter the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.
    (Isn’t that fairly basic school level comprehension??)

    I have read Professor Plimer’s book. I have written about it previously in this blog.
    The main thing I got from the book was that the earth’s climate is extremely complex, and ever changing. It is NOT influenced by just CO2.

    Coby, surely to say in your intro to this thread that you haven’t read it but have a gut feeling that it’s crap, and then believe “reviews” written by fellow believers, is not terribly scientific, balanced, or fair.
    It reminds me of a quote from the genius of The Simpsons:
    (voice of Homer) “Wait a minute! I’m not signing anything until I read it or SOMEONE gives me the gist of it!”
    I know no-one can read every book written on Climate Change, but surely Prof. Plimer’s book has been mentioned enough times to at least be glanced over. (?)

    By the way, did you read my earlier post about correcting the title of this blog? I know you’re busy with kids and all, but I think it’s important.
    Thanks.

  3. #3 Ian Forrester
    August 25, 2009

    Michael said:

    What I believe he IS saying in the book is that the amount of CO2 produced by mankind can be compared to the amount of CO2 emitted by one volcano in one day.

    That is indeed what he is saying. And it is utter garbage. Do you ever do any serious reading before showing your “superior intellect” on the various science blogs?

    Here are two links which you should have looked at before uttering your usual drivel and nonsense:

    http://tamino.wordpress.com/2009/08/19/co2-and-the-volcanoes/

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/volcanoes-and-global-warming.htm

  4. #4 coby
    August 25, 2009

    “What I believe he IS saying in the book is that the amount of CO2 produced by mankind can be compared to the amount of CO2 emitted by one volcano in one day.”

    I don’t see how that does not imply “routine volcanic activity, the kind of thing that happens regularly” thereby making it unnecessary for you to pay attention to what tamino has written.

    Regardless, it is still utterly false in the most trivial way. All volcanoes together in a year only produce about 1/150th of the amount human’s do at current levels.

    I do not “believe” the reviews, I read then, see they are correct in the factual errors they point out and note that Plimer does not even try to answer the requests for clarification, substantiation or retraction.

  5. #5 Michael
    August 25, 2009

    Coby, that DOES imply that it’s a regular and natural occurrence. I’m not saying it doesn’t.
    As for those two links Ian, I’m really sorry, but I just cannot get over the mental block that my “superior intellect” seems to have, that ALL of these climate records and scientific “data” are represented in a way that suits the writer. In other words, they write from their own point of view.
    Why is it that every time that book is mentioned on this or any other “believer’s blog”, it is ALWAYS referred to as “fictional”, “a novel”, “ridiculous” etc, in the introduction? Does introducing the topic in that way influence the “angle” of the article towards the reader?
    I believe it “sets the tone” so to speak. (does that make sense?)
    Did you guys see my link to the Brisbane radio station? The one that shows the relative amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere?
    Is it scientifically correct or not?
    Please look at it, and let me know what you think.
    (and my other posts as well?)

  6. #6 dhogaza
    August 25, 2009

    What I believe he IS saying in the book is that the amount of CO2 produced by mankind can be compared to the amount of CO2 emitted by one volcano in one day.
    He is NOT saying that one volcanic “cough” can alter the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.

    Tamino looked at the amount of CO2 emitted by volcanic eruptions. Michael may not be aware that such eruptions very frequently last longer than one day …

    Which means that Michael’s interpretation makes Plimer even MORE WRONG than we think he is.

  7. #7 Michael
    August 25, 2009

    I’m really surprised that you guys are reading it that way.
    You are obviously all highly educated and intelligent, but you are reading it the wrong way ’round.

    To say it another way, which now seems necessary, he is saying that comparitively, the amount of CO2 emitted by humankind is insignificant compared to the natural emissions.

    (dhogaza, did you really just write that I may not be understanding that eruptions last longer than a day???)

  8. #8 Ian Forrester
    August 25, 2009

    Michael, too bad your “stupid intellect” wont allow you to read actual science.

    Here is a quote from one of the links:

    What the science says…

    As far as CO2 goes, volcanoes emit only 0.3 Gigatonnes of CO2 per year – about 1% of human CO2 emissions which is around 26.4Gt per year.

    So Plimer is telling lies when he says that volcanic CO2 emissions swamp anthropogenic emissions.

    Why do you believe lies from the likes of Plimer but refuse to even read the science as described by people who actually know what they are doing?

    The term “DENIER” comes to mind.

  9. #9 Eric L
    August 25, 2009

    To say it another way, which now seems necessary, he is saying that comparitively, the amount of CO2 emitted by humankind is insignificant compared to the natural emissions.

    That is exactly the way Tamino reads it. That is exactly the way Coby reads it. That is exactly the way I read it. And read that way it is very, very, very wrong. It’s not even close to true.

    Coby has provided links to data showing that this is wrong. You object on the grounds that that data is presented in a way to make the writer’s point. I presume your evidence for this is that the data makes the writer’s intended point. Can you find data that backs up Plimer’s claim that human emissions are insignificant compared to volcanoes? If so, Plimer would appreciate it, as Monbiot has asked him for that data and he has yet to provide it.

    My guess as to where this myth comes from? Read this site: http://cce.890m.com/intro/ Note how the telephone game is played. It’s not a stretch to figure someone heard one of these volcano myths, misremembered it and started another myth.

  10. #10 Neal
    August 26, 2009

    I’m someone doing a little personal research into this issue. I have only one comment/question from a layman’s perspective. Re: questioning the motives of Pilmer’s responses to Monbiot’s questions: His responses/questions seem so highly technical to me that it suggested he was challenging Monbiot to offer data that supports the prevailing theories considering relationships and other potential factors that hasn’t yet been considered or proven. Through these “answers” Pilmer provided, was he being facetious, pointing out factors that Monbiot hasn’t considered, offering the formula for his conclusions? I don’t know, wondering if anyone can clarify I’m interested and open-minded about this debate but it seems disingenuous to suggest that Pilmer’s responses to the questions as further proof that he’s a hack.

    Having only begun my research and my limited scientific knowledge, the complexity of the data, natural cycles and phenomena, and many other factors I can’t even imagine, makes me think any theory or argument could be proven a fallacy.

    From anyone on any side, can you explain what you think motives are for the opposing viewpoints? Maybe focus in on scientists that are in the minority and have no financial interests, not the people on both sides that are corrupt.

    Neal

  11. #11 Eric L
    August 26, 2009

    Neal,

    The problem is his response was not a response. Monbiot pointed out factual error’s in Plimer’s work. Plimer has not in any way addressed any of the questions. What are Plimer’s intentions? It looks like a couple of things: 1) To sound to the lay person like a very knowledgeable climate scientists 2) To make it look like Monbiot knows nothing about the subject of the debate 3) A lot of them can be read as standard denier talking points translated into questions. And yeah, he was probably being a little facetious. But, for example, his questions on volcanoes do not give any data sources that would back up his claims on volcanoes. If you want a rundown of what the questions mean, Real Climate did an excellent post on the subject: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/08/plimers-homework-assignment/

    As for what motivates those who aren’t in it for the money… It’s not always easy to say, but for a lot it is political libertarianism/conservatism. Accepting the reality of this problem tends to lead to asking what is to be done about it, and there aren’t a lot of solutions that sit well with someone uncomfortable with government regulation of markets. If you believe any attempt to address it will be a disaster, it’s easier then to hold the belief that not addressing it will not be a disaster. If you want to read more on this subject, you might find this paper interesting: http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/admin/publication_files/resource-2590-2008.05.pdf

    As for your own research, I recommend you read the site I pointed Michael to, it’s a straightforward site that you can read from start to finish in a day covering the basic science and evidence and where a lot of the myths come from.

  12. #12 Eli Rabett
    August 27, 2009

    Gavin Schmidt did a demolition of Plimer’s questions on Real Climate. The bottom line is that most of these questions are

    a. Irrelevant
    b. Ignorant

    When Eli was a graduate student we had a two question qualifies

    Explain the universe
    Give two examples

    Plimer’s “questions” are like that.

  13. #13 Daniel J. Andrews
    August 29, 2009

    @Eric L. The site you linked to, http://cce.890m.com/intro/ , triggered my McAfee software and the following warning appeared.
    —–
    cce.890m.com/intro may cause a breach of browser security.

    Why were you redirected to this page? When we tested, this site attempted to make unauthorized changes to our test PC by exploiting a browser security vulnerability. This is a serious security threat which could lead to an infection of your PC.
    —–
    Maybe McAfee is overly cautious.

  14. #14 Physicalist
    August 30, 2009

    @ Eric L:

    Very interesting history of the volcano CO2 myth. I’d been wondering about where that came from.

  15. #15 wagdog
    September 1, 2009

    Michael: The main thing I got from the book was that the earth’s climate is extremely complex, and ever changing. It is NOT influenced by just CO2.

    Imagine a man who believes that gravity is a hoax. He shows that there are many other forces than can move objects like wind, magnetism, static electricity, or tiny swarms of insects. The forces that act on any object in motion are extremely complex and every changing. He writes a book on it that borrows heavily from bloggers who also are in denial about gravity. These bloggers are fond of pointing out deviations in the gravity predictions such as the Pioneer Anomaly and that the gravitationists had to invent Dark Matter to make their equations work right. They point out that there is no consensus on the nature of gravity since it hasn’t been resolved against quantum mechanics. In fact, the book author’s favorite tactic when challenged by his critics is to challenge them back by posing questions such as predicting the chaotic motion of the double pendulum, or the effect of gravity on configurations of fundamental particles. Of course we can leave such people to suffer the consequences of their own belief should they turn out to be mistaken. But would you let those who read his book and are convinced by his arguments, design the next mass transit aeroplane, roller coaster or skyscraper?

    This is how I detect bullsh!t. If you can adapt the contrarian’s arguments and apply them to a less contentious and widely accepted truth, you know you’re really dealing with a denialist.

  16. #16 Eric L
    September 1, 2009

    @Daniel J. Andrews

    I contacted the site owner. Apparantly 890m.com is a free web hosting site, and someone else put spyware on their 890m website about a year ago, and now McAfee treats anything from the 890m.com domain as suspicious. Anyway, CCE assures me his website is spyware free (and my antivirus software doesn’t complain).

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