Malcolm Walter on Plimer

One of the claims that Ian Plimer likes to make is that as a geologist he takes time into account in a way that the IPCC does not, so it is worthwhile looking at what another geologist thinks of Plimer's error-filled book. Professor Malcolm Walter, Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, concludes:

There is fallacious reasoning. Take this statement on page 87: 'If it is acknowledged that there have been rapid large climate changes before industrialisation, then human production of carbon dioxide cannot be the major driver for climate change.' This would only be true if carbon dioxide concentrations were the only driver of climate change, something that no-one proposes, as far as I know. This level of naiveté, if that's what it is, is hard to comprehend. ...

I think Plimer is entirely sincere in his efforts to argue against anthropogenic climate change. But he is misguided, and his interpretation of the literature is confused. Why do I have any credibility on this issue? Like Plimer I am a geologist, with a very long experience in basic fieldwork. I have particular experience in working on the evidence for severe glaciations in the past, and on understanding the early history of the Earth. I am also a planetary scientist with an interest in other planets in the solar system, including their climates.

Reviewing this book has been an unpleasant experience for me. I have been a friendly colleague of Plimer's for 25 years or more. I admired his support for innovative geological research during his early career as a mineral explorer in industry. I cheered him on when he took on the so-called creation scientists and their bogus nonsense, a crusade that cost him dearly in the end. I have enjoyed his always lively and entertaining lectures. But this time, in my opinion, he has done a disservice to science and to the community at large.

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Given that Plimer's book has induced many public statements by various people, it might be useful to:

1) Accumulate, in one place (maybe Wikipedia on Heaven and Earth, a dense list of relevant people who've commented on Plimer's book, probably in two parts, given the bimodal distribution of opinions:

a) Those who love it.
b) Those who do not.

This is actually a nice test, and *it is worth recording positions*, both pro and con, for future reference. It might be interesting to see if there is any differentiation between those of the pro side and those of the con side. :-)

2) Consider updating Wikipedia pages on commenters to point at this.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 10 Jun 2009 #permalink

Oops, I forgot. RCWiki has a start on this.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 10 Jun 2009 #permalink

Walter suggests that Ian Plimer's arduous battle with the creationists taught him a lesson: that the anti-science crowd is nasty and relentless, and that being anti-science is rewarding and a whole lot easier than the real thing. They especially like to invite real scientists to their causes.

A powerful, evil lesson indeed.

By Mark Shapiro (not verified) on 10 Jun 2009 #permalink


It is really interesting that both Lambeck and Walter have failed to notice the supposed errors in Plimer's book that you "documented" a while back.

Odd, don't you think?

By Dave Andrews (not verified) on 10 Jun 2009 #permalink

Dave, they're just adding to the catalogue.

4 Dave Andrews,

So unless everyone else mentions every one of those errors every time they mention Plimer's book, they somehow don't exist any more? And how about the ones that Barry Brook and Ian Enting "documented"?

What a bizarre world some people live in!

By TrueSceptic (not verified) on 10 Jun 2009 #permalink

Dave Andrews,

What led you to the assumption that:

that both Lambeck and Walter have failed to notice the supposed errors in Plimer's book that [Tim]"documented"


Perhaps this quote from Walter is apt to describe Dave's attempt here,"This level of naiveté, if that's what it is, is hard to comprehend. ...

By Mark Byrne (not verified) on 10 Jun 2009 #permalink

Dave@4: Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Dave 'The Schoolgirl' Andrews

Oooooh Lambeck and Walter had a party and you weren't invited, Tim.

Why's that, Tim?

Since you're supposed to be such good friends.

Dave, Dave, Dave, Dave, Dave,

Let us imagine, just for the sake of argument, that the entire book is horse shit, several hundred pages of horse shit. What are the odds that two people picking examples of horse shit from the book would pick the same piece of horse shit? Very small.

You pointing out that they are picking out different pieces of horse shit as if this were proof that there is no horse shit there, that is kind of pathetic.

I think Plimer is entirely sincere in his efforts to argue against anthropogenic climate change. But he is misguided, and his interpretation of the literature is confused.

Wow. That neatly sums up much of all "denialist" stuff on this subject.

I'll have to remember these two sentences.


> So unless everyone else mentions every one of those errors every time they mention Plimer's book, they somehow don't exist any more?

'Skeptic' 'logic' at work, as always. I imagine there's some sort of Skeptic Logic Labs™ where they simply string together words in random ways and see which ones trigger a "Yes! Al Gore is Fat!" response from wingnuttia.

Here's transcript of an interview with Kurt Lambeck regarding Plimer's book:

"Much is made in the book of the difficulty in reaching a reliable assessment of the modern sea-level rise from the instrumental record. From my own work, I agree that the analysis is difficult and not without pitfalls and that in the past different conclusions have been reached because some of these pitfalls were not recognised. But with time these have been addressed, new data has been identified, and analysis methods have improved. To argue therefore that because there are discrepancies with superseded results we cannot believe any of the results is to take a strange view of the process of science. There is in fact a quite remarkable convergence of the interpretation of the observational evidence of what has been happening to sea level in the past 100 or so years. This points to an increase in the globally averaged rates by a factor of about 2, and this is consistent with what is expected from the climate models that include both natural and anthropogenic forcing. None of this is discussed in the" book."

This assumption of an increase in the rate of sea level rise by a factor of 2 is in direct contrast to Wilco Hazeleger:…

'In an op-ed piece in the December 11 issue of NRC/Handelsblad, Wilco Hazeleger, a senior scientist in the global climate research group at KNMI, writes:

âIn the past century the sea level has risen twenty centimeters. There is no evidence for accelerated sea-level rise. It is my opinion that there is no need for drastic measures. It is wise to adopt a flexible, step-by-step adaptation strategy. By all means, let us not respond precipitously.â

This opinion, of course, chimes with the statement by Professor Marcel Stive that I quoted earlier:

âFortunately, the time rate of climate change is slow compared to the life span of the defense structures along our coast. There is enough time for adaptation. We should monitor the situation carefully, but up to now climate change does not cause severe problems for our coastal defense system. IPCC has given lower estimates for the expected sea level rise in four successive reports.â

As far as I am concerned, this settles the matter. KNMI has spoken. It has spoken clearly. There is no imminent danger of accelerated sea-level rise'

Offhand, I'd say the Dutchman Hazeleger has a much more immediate interest in the rate of sea level rise, and his
measurements and estimates of future rise would be much more reliable than those of Stive. So your source, Stive, can also be mistaken on occasion.

By Alan D. McIntire (not verified) on 11 Jun 2009 #permalink

I can't see anything wring with the original statement - it says "major", not "the only one". And then, if the man-made CO2 is not "major", why should we bother so much about it?

Alan McIntire prefers Wilco Hazelger's judgement. Let us see what he puts in this paper: "Katsman, C.A., W. Hazeleger, S.S. Drijfhout, G.J. van Oldenborgh and G.J.H. Burgers, Climate scenarios of sea level rise for the northeast Atlantic Ocean: a study including the effects of ocean dynamics and gravity changes induced by ice melt
Climatic Change, 2008

"The resulting set of climate scenarios represents our best
estimate of twenty-ï¬rst century sea level rise in the northeast Atlantic Ocean, given the current understanding of the various contributions. For 2100, they yield a local rise of 30 to 50 centimeter and 40 to 80 centimeter for the moderate and large rise
in global mean atmospheric temperature, respectively."

That is a foot to a foot and a half sea level rise for a temperature rise at the current rate (no acceleration in temperature), and over two feet for 4 degrees C (and no sign of stopping at the 2100 either). Nothing to worry about at all!

Well actually it is, but we have 90 years to plan for it. But not if we put it off.

By t_p_hamilton (not verified) on 11 Jun 2009 #permalink


Is "schoolgirl" meant to be an antipodean insult?

How pathetic!

By Dave Andrews (not verified) on 11 Jun 2009 #permalink

Comment 13: So you have two opinions on climate change impact on global ocean level to choose from, and you simply take the answer you prefer? That's depressing, but not surprising.

The referenced paper for Hazelger is easy to find here []. Where you will find the following:

At present it is unclear how the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets will
respond to atmospheric warming, as recent observations and modeling results disagree (see Solomon et al., 2007a, and the discussion below). As a consequence, large uncertainties are involved in the estimate of their contributions to sea level rise.

A good scientist living in a country below sea level should be a lot more cautious about the nature of those "large uncertainties". Neither opinion, as expressed in the media "settles the matter" in any sense. We have better tools in science for evaluating competing ideas.

Is "schoolgirl" meant to be an antipodean insult?

Not at all David, we have a vast storehouse of insults to draw from down here. I'm just suggesting that if you want to make a serious critique, you might do well to not sound like one of the mean girls from a teen drama. It comes across, as they say in the north, pathetic.

Wouldn't an antipodean insult be the inverse mirror analog of the left-handed compliment?

Wouldn't this mean Dave likes being called a schoolgirl?

Dave, you are so brave.

By luminous beauty (not verified) on 11 Jun 2009 #permalink

*"Is "schoolgirl" meant to be an antipodean insult?*

I have a daughter who is a schoolgirl and I can assure you she would feel grossly insulted at being compared with someone capable of the inanity found at #4.

Gaz at #20.

My two daughters are not yet schoolgirls - heck, they're both under 18 months old - and I am sure that they would be similarly insulted at such a comparison, the first day that they are able to comprehend the ridiculous muddle-headedness of Dave Andrews' comment.

I can only assume that his single logic-neurone apoptosed prior to his making that statement...

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 11 Jun 2009 #permalink

Funny, isn't it? Just when you think there's a limit to *stupid*, someone shows that there are depths previously unplumbed!

By TrueSceptic (not verified) on 12 Jun 2009 #permalink

1) Firefox+greasemonky+killfile works here.

2) This brings to mind a weird connection. Last night at the Computer History Museum, I hosted an interview with Dave Hitz, one of the founders of the larg. He wrote a recent book about his background and experiences growing a company from nothing to ~8000 employees. The book is How to Castrate a Bull: Unexpected Lessons on Risk, Growth, and Success in Business" and is both insightful and wryly amusing.

Great guy - I hired him in 1986 into an intense startup right out of undergrad school, even with the weirdest resume I'd ever seen, including the skill after which the book is named, as well as mentioning his extensive experience with softwear, e.g., leather.

3) The book has occasional amusing sidebars, of which the one relevant here quotes his cofounder James Lau:

"The Pig

I once overheard James talking about me on his cell phone. He said, "Arguing with Dave is like mud wrestling with a pig. Eventually you realize the pig likes it."

However, not all arguments with people named Dave help create multi$B companies...

By John Mashey (not verified) on 12 Jun 2009 #permalink

Since FF3 (now FF 3.0.11 for Mac Intel); no killfile appears.
Tried reloading Greasemonkey; posted query at killfile's page.

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 12 Jun 2009 #permalink

I was wondering if anyone here could assist me. Last night I had a discussion with someone who complained of the lack of a clear book refuting claim's such as Plimer's. I pointed out the information was all available online, but he argued that we still live in a culture where books matter and it would be more effective to have a dead tree version.

I was able to point to quite a number of books that partly do the job, but had to admit all had problems - either they were too technical for the general reader, badly written or had the science as only part of the book, with most of it taken up with advice on how to reduce one's own emissions. The nearest I could think of was not a book but New Scientist's guide from a year or so back.

Anyone know of a book I can refer him to. If not, is this not a gap that should be filled?

By Stephen L (not verified) on 14 Jun 2009 #permalink

Stephen, there's no clear book refuting Alistair Crowley's work either.

Neither is David Ike's lizard conspiracy been debunked in paper in a clear and concise way.

Or Scientology, really.