Plimer’s Heaven + Earth

He argues, correctly I think, that governments have failed to do their due-diligence on climate change, as they should for any large commitment of public resources and still more for an open-ended commitment such as the ETS. He condemns, rightly in my view, reports suchas those by Sir Nicolas Stern and Professor Ross Garnaut that refuse to look at the evidence for themselves and have instead relied—against the tenets of responsible policy let alone intellectual rigor—on an ‘argument from authority’ (what Ross Garnaut called the ‘balance of probabilities’ that the assurance of official science bodies was right). His book provides the foundations for this due diligence and a demonstration that it takes an open mind and an empirical approach—rather than some scientific authority—critically to evaluate the evidence, at least for the purposes of good public policy.

He collects a mass of apparent supporting argument for his contentions. By creating a continuous series of footnotes (2311 of them) he seems to emphasize a point about the variety of climate science and the weight of evidence against to the orthodox insistence on ‘consensus’ for climate-alarm. The references are a nice compendium of relevant research. But they also pique a little skepticism on my part: I find it difficult to believe that he’s read more than the abstract in many cases. But he deserves the benefit of a doubt.

Updated: I found his research even on familiar topics such as the history of the ‘hockey stick’ fraud (what else to call it?) offered new insight. I did not know about the Wegman committee’s statistical investigation of Mann’s articles: the ‘cluster analysis’ of Mann’s peer-review network by Wegman was pretty interesting, and plausible. I did not know the the National Academy of Sciences had eventually endorsed the McIntyre/Wegman criticisms of the Mann articles. Nor did I know that the NASA/GISS claim that “nine of the warmest years in history have occurred since 1995″—a claim that Kevin Rudd has enlarged to to “twelve of the hottest years in human history”—was withdrawn by NASA when McIntyre demonstrated that 1934 was the hottest year in the past century (using NASA’s own GISS records). But Plimer’s report that NASA had to withdraw it’s claim that “nine of the warmest years in history have occurred since 1995” after Steve McIntyre criticized their data is misleading to the extent that it does not make clear that the adjustment showing 1934 to have been the hottest year was made to the the NASA GISS record for the United States, not to the global record.

Still more valuable to me, however, than his critical analysis of sloppy or dishonest orthodoxy, is Plimer’s demonstration that on the contrary that there are much more interesting ideas about the earth’s climate that have emerged from empirical enquiry (not from models) over the last couple of decades. These prompt wonder rather than alarm at the richness and complexity of climate systems. Finally, he collects convincing evidence of successful, pre-technological, human adaptation to climate changes much more dramatic than anything we face in what has been a happy and prosperous interval of the earth’s climate.

I found several areas of research that were new to me in his book. I was not aware, for example, of theory of the galactic origns of the extraordinary glaciations of the ‘neoproterozoic’ era (p 105). Although I had read Shaviv’s account of his own work on galactic-origin cosmic rays, I was surprised to learn of the independent ‘supporting’ (at least consistent) evidence available in the record of the changes in the chemical composition of seawater.

I confess I skimmed a lot of the book because the accumulation of evidence was a little tedious. There were also several things I found he explained obscurely. For example, the discussion of greenhouse theory, optical depth, and the infamous tropospheric ‘hotspot’ (p. 365ff) wandered around the point and did not clearly match the illustrations as far as I could see. It’s an important matter because it is a determinative fault in the IPCC case for a climate highly sensitive to GHG-caused warming. But I found IP’s account harder to follow, for example, than Richard Lindzen’s longer but clearer and more precise treatment. I also found Plimer’s tendency to jump back and forwards across eras in the History chapter was confusing in some places.

But, on the whole, I consider Ian Plimer should be congratulated for this book and I’m delighted to see that he has been rewarded for his effort with four reprintings (my bookseller told me that the next reprint would see a $10 price rise, too).

One Comment

  • Les Thompson wrote:

    I read Plimers book & am now re-reading it. I know a fair bit about science & I cannot find anything significant to criticise in it. Just from considerations of the relative sizes of the earth & sun & the fact that the sun warms the earth bysomething like 250 deg. from what it would be if floating remotely in space. I have long decided that it is silly to assume that a changing sun won’t affect the earth. And the sun does change. We all know about the 11 year sunspot cycle. A change of 1 deg. is 0.4% of what the sun does for us. That is hardly rocket science & critics of plimer seem not to see the obvious.

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