Category Archives: Ian Plimer

Rinehart on climate: deeply concerned about our “lack of understanding” on issue

There is very good reason to be concerned about Fairfax under the control of Gina Rinehart. As reported today in The Age, Ms Rinehart made her views on climate change very clear in a statement made to the ABC a few weeks ago:

It also put Mrs Rinehart’s views on a range of subjects, including climate change. ”She remains concerned by the lack of understanding in the media on this issue,” it said.

”To lessen the fear the media have caused over these issues, Mrs Rinehart suggests that the media should also permit to be published that climate change has been occurring naturally since the earth began, not just the views of the climate extremists.

Climate extremists? That would be NASA, every scientific academy on the planet, the UN, the US military and 95% of climate scientists.

Are the “extremists” Rinehart refer to those tofu-munching Luddites Greenpeace? Well it’s a funny old world when environmentalists are in agreement with the world’s militaries and scientists.

Rinehart seems to be under the illusion that denialist views are somehow ignored? Has she read The Australian or Herald Sun…

Of course she has. The problem for Rinehart is that some parts of the media are still accurately reporting the science.

Remove Fairfax, problem solved right Gina?

Rinehart has also taken it upon herself to lecture us on the causes of climate change:

It is a fact that there have been ice ages, then periods of global warming to end the ice ages, and these have occurred naturally, including due to the earth’s orbit, and not due to mankind at all.”

No shit, really? The climate has changed in the past?

Because all those thousands of scientists working on the problem would have never thought of that. Thankfully Rinehart – who incidentally mines and exports coal – has pointed out the great big flaw in climate science.

She also takes the time to praise her tame geologist Ian Plimer and fan-boy Andrew Bolt:

The statement spoke glowingly of climate sceptics Ian Plimer, a geologist, and Andrew Bolt, a columnist in Rupert Murdoch’s News Ltd.

”Mrs Rinehart admires people like Ian Plimer who have independently chosen on their own accord to stand up against this tidal wave, which has caused fear, and despite substantial attacks by some of the media and extremists.”

Plimer independent?

You mean the same man who is both out-of-step with the scientific community and sits on the boards of two of her companies – including Queensland Coal Investments.  

Gina has come to clarify the climate change issue all right. Just what that means for the health of our democracy and the quality of our media is another question.

 Thanks Gina, I have a very good understanding of the politics of your move against Fairfax.

The war for the North: the Rinehart Fairfax raid is a sideshow… what is really at stake?

How much of Australia does Rinehart want?

Reports that Gina Rinehart is looking to increase her political influence by increasing her stake in Fairfax media sent a chill down my spine yesterday.

Rinehart is buying influence, and no doubt hopes control of the media will give her that.

It is more than likely she has the IPA in her pocket as her unofficial ministry of propaganda – hence the reason for its dramatic increase in funding.

The question is why.

If you want a picture of the future – at least one envisioned by the likes of Ian Plimer, Gina Rinehart and their paid mouthpiece the Institute of Public Affairs – then consider a future in which wealthiest individuals lock up over a third of the Australian continent in a “special economic zone”.

Rinehart is pouring her monies and effort into the very Orwellian sounding Australian for Northern Development and Economic Vision (ANDEV).

Lead by Rinehart its members also include her favorite pet “climate sceptic”, Ian Plimer.

In this playground of the rich and rotund, companies will be able to operate freely from inconveniences such as “high taxes” and “green tape” and “high wages”.

The war for the north

This is the real battle, the “commanding heights” that Australia’s super rich and resource companies are fighting to obtain. The fights over the Resources Super Tax and the very modest Carbon Tax were merely side shows, part of the much broader “war” being fought. The prize is Australia’s mineral resources and who controls them.

Consider what Gina Rinehart and her troop of winged monkeys – err, sorry I mean the IPA’s gaggle of policy wonks and corporate hacks – are fighting for;

The creation of a ‘Northern Economic Zone’ that will offer tax advantages to attract and retain individuals and companies.

No Henry Resource “Super Tax” (or similar)

Lower personal income tax or tax rebates for those who live and work in the Northern Zone

Lowered / eliminated payroll tax

No FBT

Policies that welcome and attract investment

Policies that enable growth

The creation of attractive towns or cities in these remote zones away from capital cities that attract people and support businesses for the long haul.

It is nothing more than a desire to return to the “robber baron” days of the 19th century, free from the interference of unions, governments and legislation.

In this land of coal and honey, “attractive” employment policies will allow mining companies to substitute an Australian workforce – who expect to be paid reasonable salaries – with foreign workers who can be paid far less;

Consideration of the temporary utilisation of foreign workers for construction phases only; not longer term operations.

Don’t worry; they’ll only build the infrastructure. Of course they won’t stay: unless it makes very good business sense.

ANDEV: “Think of the children!”

What I personally find galling – if not sleazy – about the marketing of ANDEV is the attempt to sell this billionaires fiefdom for the benefits of “our” children.

If you examine their website you won’t find any pictures of the old, rotund billionaires and corporate hacks whose personal interests ANDEV is designed to serve.

Indeed, it is peppered with images of smiling, photogenic children excited about the prospect of their very own “special economic zone”:

“Daddy, can I have low taxes when I grow up?”

ANDEV is trying to convince you that it is all about “our kids future”:

Industry needs to take the fight to the government and media.  The guts to do the right thing by our children. It’s their future too.

Here we have the distasteful spectacle of billionaires hiding their greed and desire for power behind the “needs” of children:

Finger painting and open cut mines: the two always go hand-in-hand

I’m sure ANDEV is very concerned about children, and it has very little do with the desire for increased power and profits of a certain secretive billionaire:

Not on the ANDEV site Gina?

After all, it wasn’t that long ago children made some of the more effective – and cheapest – workers:

Kids and mining, a long-established tradition…

A picture of the future

To loosely paraphrase an author I admire:

We have seen a picture of the future; a world constrained by resource shortages, battered by increased extreme weather events and where millions of lives are diminished. In this world, nations and powerful companies will compete for the ever shrinking reserves of oil and gas.

And as the storms rage, cities flood and droughts bake once productive farm lands, the billionaires will employ their newly acquired media empires and think tank apologists to tell us it is not happening. Perhaps, this new world was meant to be – perhaps there are no alternatives and that it is will be the “best of all possible worlds”.

They’ll be nothing left but the thrill of increased profits and power, and the sensation of domination for those who trample the few that question their motives. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a newly built coal station – only recently constructed despite all the evidence it shouldn’t be – belching carbon into an increasingly chaotic climate; forever.

Pepper spraying the truth and speaking in dead tongues: how the deniers seek to irritate, confuse and blind us

There is much to be said for stepping away from the climate change “debate” and coming back refreshed.

In many respects it’s disheartening in a way to see to the same old deniers trotting out the same old tired arguments: “the climate has always changed”; “it’s the sun”; the absurd “it’s not happening”; and the wonderfully insane “it’s a conspiracy!”

Watching Plimers recent performance in London reminded me of  some of the basic tactics employed by the denial machine and its operatives.

Firslty, just how proficient the deniers are at what is called the Gish Gallop: throwing out hundreds of little factoids and arguments in order to a) sound authoritative and b) confuse.

Fact checking their statements is both tedious and time consuming: the “Gish Gallop” allows them to make dozens of absurd claims without risk of being challenged. Both Ian Plimer and “Not-really-a-Lord” Monckton are practitioner’s par excellence.

Playing dress up

Coming back into the debate also reminded me how much the deniers love nothing better than playing the adult version of dress-ups by assuming the garb and vocabulary of scientists and other authority figures.

Plimer loves to take the “trust me I’m a scientist” line in order to assume the authority of science, while simultaneously attacking what is settled science.

It is why Monckton is so strident in his attempts to claim he is a “member of the House of Lords” when he clearly is not.

But in order to accept the claims of Plimer and Monckton and the roles they want to play, one needs to also wave away hundreds of uncomfortable facts.

Even though Monckton is famously not a member of the House of Lords, to his supporters he “really is”.

It helps explain why Jo Nova and Andrew Bolt will accept Monckton’s claim to being a “Lord’ over official statements by that very body. One only has to see Jo Nova’s post on the issue to see the depth in which the denial community is desperate to protect the status of one of their “tribal elders”.

Can Monckton claim to be a member of the House of Lords Nova asks rhetorically?

According to a constitutional lawyer. Yes, quite so.

Monckton, on returning fromAustraliafrom his tour this autumn, consulted Hugh O’Donoghue, a leading constitutional lawyer at Carmelite Chambers, overlooking the River Thames just a mile downstream from the Houses of Parliament. His question: “Am I or am I not a member of the House of Lords?”

O’Donoghue, who specializes in difficult human-rights cases and Peerage law, spent months carefully researching Monckton’s question. He says Lord Monckton “was and is correct at all points”. The conclusion of his 11-page opinion (see PDF at bottom of this article), reviewing 1000 years of Peerage law, is clear on the issue:

Yes… because the opinion of one single lawyer trumps the official view of the UKs upper house.

I mean this lawyer sits just one mile downstream from the Houses of Parliament! Golly gosh, that makes them really authoritative. And its 11 pages!

To have any real validity, either statute law would need to be changed or the matter taken to court where a Judge would make a determination.

Until then, this advice is merely an unsubstantiated opinion.

Caution, extreme usage of dead languages ahead

The classically trained Monckton loves to sprinkle his monologues – and I say monologues because Monckton doesn’t have conversations, he simply talks and talks, and talks – with snatches of Latin.

Monckton’s use of dead languages is intended to do two things: intimidate his critics and demonstrate his arcane knowledge to impress his gullible audience.

It very much reminds me of the very things George Orwell noted in his famous essay, “Politics and the English Language“.

Cautioning the reader against words used to “dress up a simple statement and give an air of scientific impartiality to biased judgements”, Orwell notes:

“Bad writers, and especially scientific, political, and sociological writers, are nearly always haunted by the notion that Latin or Greek words are grander than Saxon ones…”

Monckton arguments are so fatuous, fact free and incredibly fanciful that he needs to dress them up what is essentially verbal pyrotechnics.

To which all I have to say is caveat emptor.

Pepper spraying the truth

So why all this dressing up and verbal pyrotechnics?

The denial movement exists to do one thing, and it does it very well: to confuse.

It uses a variety of tools and techniques to support this strategy of confusion: denying climate change is real; attacking the reputations of scientists; hacking into computer systems; threatening scientists with death threats; engaging in email campaigns of intimidation and  harassment; plastering online forums with sound bites and denier memes.

Their campaign is nasty, relentless and effective.

I call it “pepper spraying the truth” because their tactics are designed to itimidate, bully and force us to look away.

The millions of words generated by the denier blogs posts and Andrew Bolt articles are simply the individual particles of a pepper spray applied to the public debate. It forces the closure of our eyes, blinding us to urgency of climate change.

In their application of their pepper spray, the deniers have degraded public discourse.

There is no “debate”.

There is no “reasoning”.

There is the denial machine whose only function is it is whip out the pepper spray and violently apply it to the public “eyes”.

“But what if climate change is real? What can we do? What should we do…” asks the public

“It’s not real! Look away! “ the deniers scream as they keep up a steady spray of false memes.

Read any online forum or comments section on a newspaper article discussing climate change and you’ll see the “spray” of denier memes and arguments. Every word, every post, every article from the deniers angrily sprayed into our eyes.

Don’t look.

Don’t engage.

The “pepper spray” makes it too painful to engage in any form of discussion or debate.

Tragically all of us are left irritated, confused, and blinded

What the denial movement has wrought: the collapse of public trust in science

Bad moon rising.

  

Quite a few blogs – and readers of this blog – have already made mention of the fascinating study “Social influences on paranormal belief: popular versus scientific support“.  

In short, the study looked out how individuals weighted the opinion of the majority versus the scientific consensus (in this case ESP). As suspected, it was found the more popular a view the more readily the individual would accept that consensus of the majority.  

However – shockingly – if the scientific community discounted the pseudo-scientific belief, and it was seen to have broad popular support, then individuals where more likely to reject the view of science. Here’s the abstract:  

“Paranormal claims enjoy relatively widespread popular support despite by definition being rejected by the scientific community. We propose that belief in paranormal claims is influenced by how popular those claims are as well as by dominant scientific views on the claims. We additionally propose that individuals will be most likely to be positively influenced by the views of science when claims are unpopular. An experimental study varied instructions to participants in a 2×2 design which informed participants that a particular paranormal belief/claim (ESP) was very popular or not and was rejected by science or not. Participants then watched a brief video that appeared to present evidence of ESP. As predicted, participants became more likely to believe in ESP when claims were more popular. Contrary to predictions, participants appeared to react against the views of science when evaluating claims, particularly when they believed those claims were unpopular. This finding may reflect decreasing trust in the institution of science…”  

Some of the observations are worth noting:  

“Although trust in science remains generally high, Americans are willing to depart from dominant views of science on particular issues such as evolution and global warming (Lang 2005). The 2009 Pew poll which found that trust in science remains high also found increasing scepticism about science. When asked America’s greatest achievement in the prior 50 years, 47% of Americans in 1999 listed a scientific achievement. In 2009, only 27% of American’s listed a scientific achievement in response to the same question. The growing acceptance of paranormal claims combined with a decreased trust in science and willingness to depart from science on particular issues leads us to predict that individuals will selectively adhere to dominant views of science…”  

It should be noted, that views most frequently rejected but the public those that directly contradict the world view of some religious conservatives (evolution) or represent a threat to specific industries (CO2 emitters).  

That both creationists and the denial movement are now working together and share the same tactics is no coincidence.  

There paper concludes:  

“Overall, our research demonstrated that individuals responded positively to perceptions of the popularity of paranormal claims when making decisions about belief in those claims. Results also suggest that participants reacted against the views of science in making decisions about paranormal claims. These findings may be due to individuals seeing paranormal belief as a matter of faith rather than evidence and therefore reacting against science. Alternatively, perhaps endorsement from peers provides a stronger source of legitimacy for paranormal beliefs than authorization from a higher authority. Or, the findings may result from a decreasing trust in the institution of science…”  

For both myself and other advocates of science and reason it highlights what we have been saying for some time: the collapse in trust of science has been manufactured and orchestrated by the denial movement.  

It is having an adverse effect not just on climate science, but all science.  

Both the denial movement and religious conservatives are waging a bi-partisan war on science. Alternative medicine directly challenges the efficacy of evidence based medicine. Today more people believe in pseudo-science than ever before.  

Individuals would prefer to surrender their reason to the beguiling siren song of astrology, “The Secret” and the “Da Vinci” code. How comforting it is to be told “The universe really does revolve around you!”.  

Thanks to poor media reporting on science we have a perfect storm of misinformation: counter knowledge masquerading as facts.  

Public opinion on climate change is important: without it our political responses are paralysed as individuals either pay no attention to the the reality of global warming, or alternatively become hostile to proposed solutions.  

Thanks to the likes of Andrew Bolt, Jo Nova, The Institute of Public Affairs and Ian Plimer both politicians and the public are being actively mislead.  

Reality is not a democracy – even if 90% of the population chooses to belief climate change is not happening, it does not stop the reality that scientists been observing for decades.  

However, our democracy is being corrupted by these agents of the “anti-enlightenment”. Like all anti-science movements they refuse to engage in the scientific debate because they have no evidence or research that supports their claims.  

Their goal is simple: stall our response to climate change by shaping public opinion.  

I lay this collpase in trust at the feet of the deniers. They are one of the chief members of the chorus that tells us “not to trust” the scientists.  

And what have their actions wrought?  

We have missed the opportunity to prevent climate change. We now have only have two courses of action: mitigation and adaption as the reality of climate change makes itself more manifest over the coming decades.  

Our children will come into a world fundamentally different from the one we grew up in, and that our parents and grand parents took for granted.  

All us – those alive today, and those who have only just entered the world – shall inherit the wind.

Tagged

Ian Plimer caught out again: “CO2 is magic” argument, continues to “lie” about volcanoes

Repeated enough times, it becomes a "fact"

Chief scientist for the denial movement, Ian Plimer, continues to actively disseminate false information. Viz a recent interview on one of the ABC’s rural stations, Bega 2550. Plimer seems to spend his time plying his agenda in rural areas, as the Age profile some months ago highlights. Plimer makes all kinds of false and misleading statements:  

“Professor Plimer, a prominent critic of the theories of carbon-related human causes for climate change, is enjoying nature’s show of power through volcanic activity.  

“I think it’s wonderful.  

“It isn’t an issue, because carbon dioxide is plant food, and the more than we get in the atmosphere the better it is for agriculture and the better it is for forests growing.”  

No one has ever questioned that Co2 is necessary for plant growth. Plimer simply recycles one of the denial movements well worn canards. We’ve already addressed the same argument used by Jo Nova.

It’s a silly argument, no mainstream scientist questions the role of CO2 in plant growth.  

Plimer also continues to make his false claim:  

“Professor Plimer says volcanoes emit far more carbon gas into the earth’s atmosphere than human’s 3 per cent annual carbon release….”  

Plimer has been told again, and again that he is wrong. But he refuses to admit it. Skeptical Science easily dismisses his argument:  

Volcanoes emit CO2 both on land and underwater. Underwater volcanoes emit between 66 to 97 million tonnes of CO2 per year. However, this is balanced by the carbon sink provided by newly formed ocean floor lava. Consequently, underwater volcanoes have little effect on atmospheric CO2 levels. The greater contribution comes from subaerial volcanoes (subaerial means “under the air”, referring to land volcanoes). Subaerial volcanoes are estimated to emit 242 million tonnes of CO2 per year (Morner 2002).  

In contrast, humans are currently emitting around 29 billion tonnes of CO2 per year (EIA). Human CO2 emissions are over 100 times greater than volcanic CO2 emissions. This is apparent when comparing atmospheric CO2 levels to volcanic activity since 1960. Even strong volcanic eruptions such as Pinatubo have little discernable impact on CO2 levels. In fact, the rate of change of CO2 levels actually drops slightly after a volcanic eruption, possibly due to the cooling effect of aerosols.  

This is a classic tactic used by both the creationists and denial movement: cite some statistics and hope no one checks your references. He was called on this in the ABC debate with George Monbiot. And still, he clings doggedly to it.  

As well as the old “we’ve never seen this before argument”:  

“We have not yet seen experience of we humans changing global climates….”  

Yes, because until a few hundred years ago there was no industrial civilisation digging up, burning and emitting carbon into the atmosphere. As it’s been said before, humanity is conducting a gigantic experiment. We should be very concerned about the possible results of this “experiment”.  

One continues to wonder what happened to Ian Plimer.  

A scientist who fought the good fight against creationism is now reduced to mimicking their tactics.

New denialist campaign from IPA: the counter offensive has begun

A source of mine (hat tip to Big Buck Hunter) has alerted me to a new push by the denial movement in trying to shape the debate.     

A new book has been published by the Institute of Public Affairs and includes articles from some of the denial movements most prominent figures (Plimer, Monckton):    

The counter offensive has begun

  

 Climate change, the facts. Note the irony in my delivery of that last sentence.    

Apparently some Members of Parliament (MPs) are getting hit with brochures and email spam for the above. The IPA have created a web site to accompany the book at http://climatechange.ipa.org.au/  

Free copies will most likely be distributed to politicians, so expect a fresh batch of “talking points” from “sceptical” politicians.  A copy of the book is coming to me: analysis of contents soon.     

The site declares:    

The world’s best scientists and economists on why we need an honest debate about the facts of climate change.    

Governments around the world want to dramatically increase taxes, regulate energy supplies and limit individual choices to deal with climate change.    

But what do we really know about the science of climate change? Is climate change caused by humans?    

Is there really a ‘scientific consensus’?    

If you come across this flyer, email spams etc. let Watching the Deniers know.    

This is the start of their counter offensive.    

Let’s keep our eyes out.

Plimer: “Somewhere along the way, Ian lost his membership card to the science club”

Plimer... what happened?

  

As a lay person, I have the utmost respect for the work of scientists and for the scientific process itself. It’s not blind faith. I recognise like all human institutions its imperfect. To paraphrase Churchill’s quip about capitalism “science is the worst system until you consider the alternatives”.  

In my mind the scientific method is the best way to test claims about the natural world. It’s a filter for good and bad ideas.  

However, I’m no starry-eyed science groupie. I appreciate the claims made by science need to be backed up with evidence. I admire individual scientists such as Richard Dawkins and E.O. Wilson. Not only because they are brilliant thinkers and entertaining writers, but because each has striven to make science accessible to a lay audience.  

Dawkin’s “Selfish Gene” had a profound effect on my world view, while one of my favourite autobiographies is Wilson’s “The Naturalist”. Each has done a marvellous job in bringing the results of science into the public realm.  

The decline and fall of Ian Plimer  

Still, I recognise scientists are fallible human beings, subject to the same prejudices and cognitive biases we all are.  

Therefore there is nothing sadder than the fall of Ian Plimer, the once respected sceptic and trained scientist. What is sad is his descent into AGW denial. It is both confusing and disappointing.  

I say disappointing is because nearly fifteen years ago I purchased a copy of Plimer’s book “Telling lies for God”. In my mind it is still one of the best books out there dissecting the claims of creationists. Over the years I passed my copy of “Telling lies for God” around or recommended it others interested in the debate. The writing was accessible, the book itself entertaining and informative. However, Plimer seems to have turned his back on science.  

I say confusing, because he has clearly seemed morph into the very thing he spent a great portion of his life fighting. I watched his performance on ABC’s late line a few months ago and was struck by how clearly he had morphed into a caricature of the creationists he so actively fought.  

Stare into the abyss and you end up looking at yourself  

I watched the debate and was immediately struck by what Plimer was doing: the “Gish Gallop“.  

Again and again, Plimer would throw out a mess of unrelated facts in an attempt to confuse the audience and George Monboit who he was debating. Every time Monboit tried to tie him down, he squirmed away with more red herrings and falsities.  

The Gish Gallop was named after the prominent creationist Duane Gish Plimer used to debate. Gish would commonly throw out dozens of facts, assertions and arguments in a rapid fire delivery style. The intent was to bamboozle the audience and bludgeon the opponent with arguments.  

Plimer’s performance and his recent writings on climate change mirror Gish’s strategy. Plimer has become the thing he fought. He has morphed into an anti-science “maverick”.  

Pariah or maverick? The Good Weekend profile  

Last weekend the Melbourne Age published an interesting profile on Plimer. The journalist spent time with Plimer and talked to colleagues and scientists. What emerges is a fascinating portrait of a man fighting against the tide of scientific evidence [1].  

Why Plimer chooses to deny the science we will probably never now. It seems like professional jealousy, to quote the article;  

“As for the science of global warming, Plimer’s critique is rooted in two main grievances. Firstly, he feels his own science has been ignored. “That’s why I wrote the book [Heaven and Earth],” says Plimer… and if you expunge geology,. you exclude the dimension of time…Secondly, he abhors the (relatively) young science of computer modelling.”  

Plimer is given sufficient time to make his points. The article strives for the journalistic standard of “balance”. However it is the articles ending that is the most telling. Mike Archer, a noted palaeontologist who used to tag team with Plimer in debates with creationists notes with sadness Plimer’s descent into denial:  

“Ian’s a danger today, because he’s the excuse that too many who need to act are citing for not doing so,” says Archer. “My worry about Ian’s activities is that he seems to be applying what he and I loathed about the creationists we debated. Sorry to be so blunt, but I think that somewhere along the way Ian has lost his membership card to the science club.”  

Indeed, Prof. Plimer may very well have.  

[1] Climate of doubt, John van Tiggelen The Age “Good Weekend” March 6 2010, page 21 ff.

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