Ian Plimer and Bob Carter on CO2 and the geology of climate change

Ian Plimer is Australia’s best known geologist. In retirement he is Emeritus Professor at the University of Melbourne where he was the head of Earth Sciences. He was an editor for a five-volume Encyclopedia of Geology and he has written ten books for general consumption including an international bestseller Heaven and Earth. This collection Climate Change: The Facts is dedicated to the late Bob Carter who had an outstanding career as a leader in the field of climate studies based in stratigraphy, palaeontology and marine geology.

A striking figure in Plimer’s chapter shows the changing composition of the earth’s atmosphere over the last four billion years. At the start methane 65% and CO2 35% shared the atmosphere. CO2 declined steeply as nitrogen appeared followed by water until two million years ago methane was effectively gone and CO2 was reduced to a trace gas as oxygen appeared. During the last million years nitrogen and oxygen filled the air with water as the major greenhouse gas and CO2 at 0.04%.

There was no runaway warming when CO2 exceeded 5% of the atmosphere so it is hard to account for serious warming while CO2 is a trace gas. There were higher temperatures in the past and Plimer provides a deal of argument and evidence to indicate that the cycles of temperature and the coming and going of ice ages did not correlate with the level of CO2. This is not in the paper but it is interesting that CO2 has been rising steadily through the last century but from the 1940s to the 1970s warming reversed, with a fear of disastrous cooling led by James Hansen. Then the warming resumed in parallel with CO2 through the period of model building in the ‘80s and ‘90s followed by the warming paused while the CO2 continued upward.

One of the alarmist refrains is that the contrarians are not real climate scientists. This is clearly not the case and Wikipedia has a list of scientists who deny the consensus. The list is not designed to enhance the reputation of “deniers” and it is headed by a chart to show how real climate scientists cleave to the consensus while others do not. Still there are undeniably genuine climate scientists on the list like Lindzen, Curry, Paltridge and Spencer and it is handy to have the full list at hand, including a category of dead scientists including Bob Carter.

The main point in Bob Carter’s paper is that the IPCC model-based narrative is rooted in 150 years of measurements supported by a range of proxies like tree rings and ice core samples extending back around 1000 years. “This is an utterly inadequate period over which to seek to understand climate change”.

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9 Responses to Ian Plimer and Bob Carter on CO2 and the geology of climate change

  1. Louis Hissink

    Given weather is the physical behaviour of the atmosphere, climate is thus an artefact and intellectual abstraction that cannot be ever actually observed.

    This fact becomes even more acute when it is realised that the temperature anomaly plots centred on zero and varying within a thin envelope of plus/minus 0.5 degrees Celsius, is basically centering the bottom of plot of a degree mark on a standard meteorological thermometer and positioning the top of the plot on the next degree mark, so that the total computed temperature variation lies in the blank space between the two temperature marks.

    Whatever trends they compute, and all are computed not measured, it’s all trends in the blankness of the thermometer, and thus wholly in the eye of the beholder.

    I suspect not having recourse to the divine climate changes described in the Old Testament, the climate priests have started a new faith of wrath in the tomorrow based on their sacred determinations of the computer god’s edicts and so maintain the prophecies of yore in new guises.

    A new secular religion in other words, and which means that no debate will ever change the true believers.

  2. eb

    Hi Rafe,
    I think you meant billion… not million… in the third and fourth sentences of the second para.
    Meet Bob Carter at a rally in Canberra many moons ago. We had a very pleasant and enlightening, for me at least, chat.

  3. egg_

    Any clown who opines on CO2/CAGW/The Paris Agreement on the National broadcaster should be required to say one paragraph on the role of CO2 in the biosphere or STFU.

    Looking at you: Van Wrongsolong

  4. stackja

    IPCC model-based narrative is rooted


  5. Rafe Champion

    Thanks eb, I have looked carefully again (that is the kind of slip I make too often) and I find that Table 20.1 does refer to billions, then in the text on Planet Earth and carbon dioxide we find “Planet Earth has been degassing since its formation 4567 million years ago”. Indeed 4567 is a strange number that could raise eyebrows, but later in the section he wrote “Planet Earth is remarkable because liquid water has existed on the planet for some 4000 million years.” Now you have made me curious about the source of information to allocate those kind of timescales. Then I suppose it would be almost equally amazing if it was only millions that he was talking about.

  6. MACK

    One of the main reasons that there are plenty of climate realists in Australia compared to the generalised hysteria in Europe is that we have a major resources industry populated by thousands of geologists, geophysicists, and engineers who are mathematically and scientifically literate and whose livelihoods depend on high-quality analysis in fields with plenty of variables. For the same reason, 49 of the NASA scientists who actually put man on the moon, dispute the CO2-means-catastrophe theory: https://www.businessinsider.com.au/nasa-scientists-dispute-climate-change-2012-4?r=US&IR=T
    It is a case of theoreticians on one side, and experts working in the real world on the other.

  7. Confused Old Misfit

    The billion/million controversy. I believe that some people would call 4567 Million years: 4.567 Billion years.
    Defining a Billion as One Thousand Million.

  8. max

    Milankovitch Cycles and Glaciation
    The episodic nature of the Earth’s glacial and interglacial periods within the present Ice Age (the last couple of million years) have been caused primarily by cyclical changes in the Earth’s circumnavigation of the Sun. Variations in the Earth’s eccentricity, axial tilt, and precession comprise the three dominant cycles, collectively known as the Milankovitch Cycles for Milutin Milankovitch, the Serbian astronomer and mathematician who is generally credited with calculating their magnitude. Taken in unison, variations in these three cycles creates alterations in the seasonality of solar radiation reaching the Earth’s surface. These times of increased or decreased solar radiation directly influence the Earth’s climate system, thus impacting the advance and retreat of Earth’s glaciers.

  9. Rafe Champion

    Thanks Max, this is the link that illuminates the cycles. Fascinating!

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