Blogging for review of many books....!!

Heaven and Earth: Global Warming, the Missing Science (Paperback)

More in heaven and earth than is dreamt of in green philosophy, May 7, 2009
By Roger McEvilly (the guilty bystander) (Sydney, NSW Australia)

Ian Plimer is a Professor of Geology with a background in mining. He is a strong independent thinker, with a particular flair for interdisciplinary integration and overview, although his books are a bit hard to read. They contain a lot of dense information, but are perhaps weak on highlighting what is more important, and at times a little too emotional and bulldozing for some.

This is a timely book that attempts to survey ALL the basic data and debate related to climate change, rather than cherry-picking solely in the interests of green ideology. The book is very similar to Lomborg's `The Skeptical Environmentalist' (with just as many back-up footnotes-over 2000-so at worst it is at least a useful reference for alterative views and debates).

There are serious claims in this book; a general one being that data and debate about climate change is being suppressed by green ideology. Here are some assertions:

* There is no scientific consensus on the causes of recent (~last 150 years) global warming.
* Data and debate from solar physics, geological, archaeological, and historical circles is ignored in the media and within the political process.
* Gross, unscientific, major distortions of data and debate is occurring, largely due to ideological agendas, and parallels Soviet Union agricultural science and policies.
* Amongst other examples, scientific fraud has been committed with relation to the `hockeystick' graph of Mann et al. regarding temperature in the last ~1000 years, which has been widely circulated (eg IPCC 2001), and which shows distorted temperature trends.
* The influence of changes particularly in the sun, and in cloudiness, cosmic rays and volcanoes on climate changes has been under-estimated.
* There is a correlation between solar activity and earth temperatures, including in the last 150 years of warming.
* Recent global warming since about 1850 is minor and largely not related to human activities, but part of a natural climatic variation since the Little Ice Age.
* There has been no global warming since 1998 (at May 2009), and analysis of solar activity suggests a natural cooling trend in coming decades, which has already begun.
* Influence of increase in C02 level on temperature in the atmosphere tapers off once a certain level is reached. (Rather than `runaway greenhouse', we have 'atmospheric buffer')
* The `precautionary principle' is not a scientific principle, it is a social and political one (I concur).
* There is no such thing as a `tipping point' in science (I disagree-e.g. the term `catalyst' comes to mind).
* IPCC climate models do not accurately model observed temperature trends since 1998, undermining their projected global warming models.
* Computer models used by the IPCC are `computer games', as global climate trends are too big and complicated to meaningfully forecast.
* The global climate is too big for humans to have any meaningful effect.

The books strength is the variety of data, the weakness is the convoluted writing style. At worst, one might contend that Plimer is guilty of obfuscation, but at least there is a broad overview, including real gems you won't hear from extreme greens:

* the very small size of the Amazon rainforest during the last ice age,
* Strong legal disclaimers about climate projections from the very same agencies that want to enforce major legal changes using such data,
* the strong correlation between sunspots and earth temperature
* solar activity has increased in the last ~few hundred years
* that warm periods in human history generally occur with human prosperity,
* Siberian Soviet-age historical temperatures were fudged below -15C because towns received a vodka levy when -15C was reached,
* Parts of Greenland have been cooling since the early 20th century,
* The US, France, Italy, and UK squabbled over ownership of a new volcano in the Mediterranean in the 1800s, which then promptly sank beneath the ocean (which Plimer hopes will happen to global warming advocates).
* Global temperatures have been warmer on several occasions in the last several thousand years, with no adverse effects, rather, they generally correspond to human prosperity.
* C02 has been much higher in longer geological history, with no adverse effects.
* The use of the `precautionary principle' in banning DDT use resulted in an estimated 40 million deaths from malaria
* Ice is a rock
* Water vapour is the main greenhouse gas
* Many western cities have water shortages because new dams are not being built due to green politics,
* `Being creative and riding the waves of change is the only way we humans have survived', `sustainable living', on the contrary `is such that with the slightest change in weather, climate or politics, there is disease, mass famine, and death'.

Suffice to say in short review, there are some good examples of environmentally-driven distortion and cherry-picking of data, in the worst cases fraud (e.g. Mann's hockeystick), but I suspect, there is also errors on his side.

An example which bugs me: new, unpredictably/spontaneously generated changes and processes can produce large, longer term effects, (classic catastrophism versus uniformitarianism). However, Plimer states: "there is no such thing as a tipping point in science". If I read him right, this shows to me a basic limit of perception (what about e.g. catalysts and saturation points in chemistry?). Charles Lyell, one of the early uniformitarians, couldn't see the `catastrophes' written into rocks that were staring him in the face, (new, unpredictable changes, can produce large scale effects)- and neither could Charles Darwin (one of his few errors of judgement); I suspect that Plimer may have a similar data analysis problem (but this is just my opinion).

All in all a good overview, and although I'm not sure I agree with some of his assertions, I see a lot of value in the books' broader discussion of data and debate than is typically found amongst all the hot air that surrounds and distorts climate science and policy.

Whish side is right? Plimer will convince you, July 11, 2009
By Ron House (Qld, Australia)

Ian Plimer is perhaps best known as the geologist who debunked creationism in "Telling Lies for God". Here he turns his attention to the global warming beliefs that are now resulting in huge (possibly disastrous) policy changes by governments in the hope of avoiding "climate change". In "Heaven and Earth", I think Plimer does pretty well.

First off though, if you are expecting a simple read, this book is perhaps not it. Not that it is difficult to read, but it is technically dense, the average page having maybe ten references to academic papers to support its claims. And it has its mistakes. There is a diagram on temperature forecasts which is not properly explained, another one which, so it is claimed on the web, has been withdrawn by its author for errors. Also the author has a recurring habit of writing the opposite of what he means; it usually happens on unimportant points, but it distracts from following the argument. For example, he writes that the early half of the little ice age was more variable than the latter half (p 75), then a little later says the opposite (p 79). I noticed maybe ten such examples on my way through. They are not by any means fatal to his argument, but I am sure his opponents would dig them out and present them as if they were. But in a 500 page book, absolute correctness from cover to cover is, I think, far too high an expectation. The real question is: does he carry his main arguments?

I believe that he does. He shows, for instance, that CO2 in geological history has been up to 25 times higher than it now is, and that in this era it is at its lowest in the entire history of life on Earth. He shows how malaria is a disease of poverty, not of temperature, and has existed in England in the coldest of times. He discusses the major 'snowball earth' glaciations that most likely took ice all the way to the equator, but which, luckily, preceded the appearance of multicellular life. (If such an ice age happened now, it is hard to see how any multicelled life, let alone human life, could survive.) The main impression the book left me with was 'being given the complete picture'.

The main question I was asking myself when I first started investigating global warming in depth was which side is right? I came to the conclusion that the realists are (climate has always changed, and current temperatures and temperature changes are within historical limits). So this book was not the factor that convinced me. The single fact that did so, however, is included here. Pages 371 onwards discuss the IPCC's climate models, which predict an increasingly warm tropospheric 'hot spot' in the atmosphere, providing a 'warm blanket' that is heating up the planet. This 'warm blanket' simply isn't there, as Plimer explains. It boils down to this very simple fact: on a cold night, if you want to get warm, you must have warm air around you somehow - turn on a heater, put on a blanket, whatever, but unless warm air surrounds you, you won't get warm. The planet does not have any warmer air around it than it ever had, so it simply cannot be heating up due to insulation. Since that is the central claim of global warmism, the theory must be wrong. All the rest is 'sound and fury, signifying nothing'. But Plimer takes on that sound and fury, and shows it for the flim flam it really is.

If I were writing such a book, I might not choose Plimer's organisation. He starts with the geological history of the Earth's climate, and moves on to the Sun, the Earth (volcanoes, extinctions, desertification, etc.), then Ice (ice ages, glaciers, antarctica), then Water (sea levels, acidification, corals),then Air (greenhouse effect, temperature, hurricanes, carbon dioxide), and finishes with a very entertaining chapter called 'Et moi' - perhaps not so rumbunctious as some of the more acidic writings of Bertrand Russell, but good reading nonetheless.

Plimer has had his share of run-ins with shysters, as witnessed by his court battle with creationists, and he doesn't shrink from taking on the latest bunch - even speculating about the judgement St Peter might one day settle upon one of them! The concluding section puts the sheer evil and lunacy of the warming scaremongering into sharp relief. At the risk of spoiling the whole story, here is his final sentence: "Human stupidity is only exceeded by God's mercy, which is infinite."

When the current climate insanity is finally exploded, this book will, I am sure, be seen as one of the turning points.