Howard, Plimer and The Folly of Climate Change Skepticism.

I’ll admit that for quite a long time I too was skeptical about the whole climate change movement. I attribute this to being ignorant of most of the science around the matter basing my opinion off “facts” I had heard over the course of my lifetime without bothering to look them up. The rise of my inner skeptic changed that however, taking an axe to many of my beliefs and forcing me to verify everything before I dared say that it was true. Today there is zero doubt in my mind that climate change is happening, it is affecting us in serious ways and, most importantly, we are to blame for it.

I will forgive anyone who dismisses me out of hand as just another blogger ranting about something, that’s fair enough. Realistically you have no reason to believe me at all, what with my qualifications placing me as far away from being an authority on this matter as most of the public. However I will make the point that my view closely echoes that of the greater scientific community which includes many people far more qualified than myself (and indeed most others who comment on this subject) in matters of climate change. It’s a common misconception that the science is still out on whether or not we’re the cause of the recent changes in our climate, but the truth is anything but that. 

Taking the figures presented here into consideration you can see why there’s a lot of confusion on this matter. Among the general public the acceptance of anthropogenic climate change is around 50~60%, a majority but enough to cause confusion amongst the uninformed. When you select for scientists (which includes people who’s area of expertise is not climatology) that number jumps up to around 70~80%. As we further select for climatologists we see that number soar to 90% with those who are actively publishing on the subject bringing the number to a staggering 97%. If 97% of all doctors told you that asbestos caused cancer you’d sure as hell believe them, so it still boggles me as to why people think otherwise.

It’s not helped when public figures jump on the climate change skepticism bandwagon either. Today as I was driving into work I caught whiff of a story that former prime minister of Australia, John Howard, was supporting a book that promotes kids questioning climate change:

Professor Plimer launched the book, a follow up to his book Heaven and Earth, at the Sydney Mining Club.

The new work includes 101 questions which it says students can use to challenge their teachers on climate science.

Mr Howard helped launch the book and last night said the “progressive left” had a “grip on the commanding heights of education instruction in this country”.

The book, How to get Expelled From School, comes to us courtesy of Ian Plimer. He’s a well published geologist and a director of 4 mining companies. He’s gone on the offensive against creationism in the past so you’d think that I’d be one of his supporters. Unfortunately, whilst Plimer does agree that climate change is occurring, he does not believe that humans are to blame for it. His stance is that the current scientific community ignores the geological evidence that says the current period of warming is a natural occurrence and that natural sources of carbon dioxide contribute far more than humans ever could.

These stances are, to say the least, unscientific.

One of Plimer’s main arguments was that volcanoes, including undersea ones which have been “drastically underrepresented” in current studies, contribute far more carbon dioxide than humans ever do. The reality is quite the opposite with human contributions to global carbon dioxide being on the order of 130 times greater than that of all volcanoes, including those ones under the sea. This has been confirmed several times over by independent bodies so the idea that humans are somehow producing less carbon than natural sources has no basis in reality and is little more than conjecture on the part of Plimer.

Indeed Plimer’s previous publication on the matter of climate change,  Heaven and Earth — Global Warming: The Missing Science, was met with heavy criticism from the scientific community. Like many climate change skeptics Plimer fell prey to the idea that the climate change movement is somehow a conspiracy, usually of the form of transferring wealth away from the rich west in order to prop up the third world. To say he has a vested interest in spreading such ideas is putting it lightly, as a director of 4 mining companies sowing seeds of disinformation about his industry’s impact on the world ensures his businesses can continue as they always have. I could go on, but there’s already a substantial amount of information about the error of Plimer’s ways out there, enough for anyone to conclude that he’s not to be trusted on this subject.

In the end it comes down to who you trust more, a lone geologist with a vested interest in denying humans are responsible for climate change or the greater scientific community? Just because someone has a rational approach to some subjects does necessarily mean they’ll apply that same rationality to others, especially when there’s money on the line. Howard’s support of Plimer’s views is disappointing but it shows that there’s little wiggle room for dissent when you’re stuck on the right. It’s a shame really as even Tony Abbott has finally come around and I would’ve thought he’d be the tough nut to crack. 

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