Professor Ian Plimer
Geologist & author of ‘Heaven & Earth, Global Warming: The Missing Science’
Professor Plimer, thank you for coming.
I’m a Geologist, and the one thing that we miss out on in looking at climate change is the past. Climates have always changed. Climate changes in the past have been greater and faster than anything we experience in our lifetimes. And sea levels have always changed. Not by the modest couple of millimeters that people are having connections about, but we’ve had in the past sea level changes of only 1500 meters. That’s a sea level change. And if we look back in the history of time, the atmosphere once had a very large amount of carbon dioxide in it. It’s now got less than .04%. Where did that carbon dioxide go to? It went into chalk, limestone, gels and life, and we’ve been sequestering carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere for only 10,500 million years. This planet has been de-gassing carbon dioxide since it first formed on that first Thursday 4,567 thousand million years ago. Carbon dioxide is a natural gas. It has dominated the atmosphere for an extraordinarily long period of time. And we now are at a dangerously low level. If we halved the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere we would have no terrestrial plants. Carbon dioxide is plant food. It is not a pollutant. To use words like pollution with carbon dioxide is misleading and deceptive. But the past gives us a wonderful story. In the past we’ve had six major ice ages. We are currently in an ice age. It started 34 million years ago when Sth America had the good sense to pull away from Antarctica and there was a circum polar current set up which isolated Antarctica and we started to get the Antartic ice sheet. We’ve had periods of glaciation & interglacials. We are currently in interglacial. And during that 34 million years we have refrigerated the earth. But for less than 20% of time we have had ice on planet earth. The rest of the time it’s been warmer and wetter, and there’s been more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And what did life do? It thrived. Six of the six great ice ages were initiated when the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere was higher than now, in fact up to a thousand times higher. So we have from the geological evidence absolutely no evidence that carbon dioxide has driven climate. For some odd reason the major driver of climate is that great ball of heat in the sky which we call the sun. That’s … you heard of heat first, that’s really quite unusual, and we change our distance from the sun. Every hundred thousand years our orbit changes from elliptical to circular. And we have a cycle of 90,000 years of cold & 10,000 years of warm. We’re in one of those warm cycles now. And every 43,000 years the axis of the earth changes a little bit, and every 21,000 years we get a little bit of a wobble. Each of those orbital events puts us further from the sun. Every now and then we get bombarded by cosmic rays, coming from the super nova eruptions somewhere out there, and if the sun’s magnetic field cannot drive these away, we start to form low level clouds. We’ve got extremely good evidence that this process has been going on for a very long period of time. Every now and then continents start to move, and they move at very rapid rates. They move about (holds hands up to measure) 8 inches every year. And at one time a continent can be over a pole and at another time it can be at the equator. Those moving continents change the major heat balance on the earth. And that’s the ocean currents, the oceans carry far more heat than the atmosphere. Every now and then because of major geological processes we get a great bulge on the ocean floor of new volcanic rock. That changes ocean currents. Every year we have 10,000 cubic kilometers of sea water that goes through new volcanic rocks in the ocean floor. That exchanges heat. The reaction between sea water and the rocks stops the oceans becoming acid. When we run out of rocks the oceans will become acid, but don’t wait up, it will be a long time. We see 1500 terrestrial volcanoes on planet earth. We only measure 20 of them. And very few of those measurements are really accurate, but they tell us that a little bit of carbon dioxide leaks out of those volcanoes. But what we don’t hear is that there are at least 3.74 million volcanoes on the sea floor which leak out huge amounts of carbon dioxide. We have got pools of liquid carbon dioxide on the sea floor. So early earth’s carbon dioxide, where did it go? It went into rocks. Where did it come from? It came from rocks. What did it do to the planet? We did not fry and die, we didn’t have runaway greenhouse. Well that’s just geology. That’s not important so let’s look at more modern times we’ve had drill cores that have gone through the ice sheets. Snow when it falls captures some air. That air is then trapped in the ice and we can later extract it from drill core and measure the amount of carbon dioxide in the air. And we can see with our cycles of glaciation and interglacials that when we finish an interglacial event, then we release carbon dioxide some 800 years later. So, what’s that telling us? It’s telling us that temperature’s driving carbon dioxide, not that carbon dioxide is driving temperature. Oh yes but that’s only hundreds of thousands of years ago. Forget that. Well let’s go to more modern times. We’ve been measuring temperatures accurately since 1850 and the accuracy’s plus or minus one degree Celsius as ancient measurements. We have been told that this point seven degrees Celsius rise is going to create a disaster. I’ve only got to move over to here (steps one step right) and I’ve had a point 7 degrees temperature rise. Where do you people go for your summer holidays? You go to a warmer climate. We like warm climate. If someone from Helsinki moves to Singapore there’s an average temperature rise of 22 degrees Celsius. Singaporians don’t drop dead in the streets from the temperature. So we are creatures of warm climate, and we have been measuring temperature and we have seen a slight warming from 1860 to 1890, then a slight cooling til 1910 then a warming until 1940 so much so that the North West Passage was open. Then a cooling until 1977, and then a warming until the end of the century and now we’re in a period of cooler. So we’ve had these cycles of warming and cooling. Strange that these cycles are actually related to changes in the heat balance in the oceans. So we have these 60 year cycles over a long warming event. We are in a period of global warming. It has been warming since the minimum 330 years ago. These are the times when you had the ice fairs on the Thames. These are the times when the Dutch Masters painted hoar frosts and bitterly cold conditions. That was the time when the sun was a bit inactive & we had no sun spot activity. So we’re in a long period of warming and one of the questions that I ask in this book, which part of the last 330 years of warming is due to human activity? And which part is natural? This is the question that kids should ask their school teachers and they’re deliberately unanswerable questions. Because I am of the view that many children are getting fed environmental propaganda in the schools and are not being given the critical and analytical facilities to be able to dissect the argument. So we’re in a period of warming. What’s the worry? It’s quite normal. And let’s just look at history. The one thing that the climate industry, which it is, ignores, is history. In Roman times, it was warm, it was considerably warmer than now. We know that. They kept good records. They grew olives up the Rhine river as far as Bonne. They had wine grapes in Yorkshire. We know from their clothing that it was warm. Possibly they were going to an orgy but I think it more likely it was warm. And that warming suddenly stopped in 535 AD. And we entered the Dark Ages. And in 535 AD we had Krakatoa filling the atmosphere with aerosols. And it wasn’t a big volcanoe. Only 30 cubic kilometers of aerosols going into the atmosphere. We’ve had bigger ones. Yellowstone. We’ve had even bigger ones in NZ where 10,000 cubic kilometers of aerosols have gone into the atmosphere, and we pray for another one because that’s the only way we’ll ever beat them at Rugby. Wipe them out! We had two volcanoes, one in Rubal and one in Krakatoa in Indonesia in 535, 536. We went into the Dark Ages. It was cool. What happened? Crops failed. We starved. We had civil unrest. We had cannibalism. We broke out of that, into the medieval warming. First afield it was the Vikings. The sea became calmer. They could go further fishing. They actually went to New Finland which they called Vinland. In Greenland, grapes and barley were growing. In Greenland the graves were deep because there was no permafrost. It was a wonderful benign climate. Five degrees warmer than now. Eric the Red was saying ‘come to Greenland, it’s a wonderful climate’ and it was. And then we went through a period of silent inactivity and in 23 years we went from the medieval warming into the little ice age. And that little ice age ended 330 years ago. So what do you think would happen after a little ice age? Would it get colder or do you think it would get warmer? The only reason that the arguments of science have got any traction in society is that they have been related to the last 30 years or 40 years of temperature measurements. I see with great interest the Met office is telling us that this is the hottest year on record, but you might be on a different calendar to me but I don’t think this year’s finished yet and this time last year I was in London as I was the time before the year before and it was miserable, it was cold, it was very cold. So those sort of predictions made just before a climate conference, one has to be very skeptical of. So in science skepticism is not a pejorative word, there is no concensus. In science there are constant battles. A good example, we all knew that we got ulcers from an acid stomach and from stress & we took pills and rubbed our bellies & hoped the ulcers would go away until two scientists who were not following the mainstream, were not following the consensus were arguing that this was due to a bacteria, and no one listened. Ultimately one of them took the bacterium, developed ulcers, took the antidote, and for that they get a Nobel Prize. You do not get a Nobel Prize for following the consensus or saying the science is settled. I believe we’ve had enormous corruption of science and the scientific method. I believe that the monies that are floating around for climate research, which is a current fad and fashion are quite perverse. I believe we’re putting science backwards. And come the next inevitable pandemic we may not have the weapons to handle it. We might go waving herbs and chanting rather than creating an antidote. So this for me, this climate industry has been a huge attack on the scientific method. It has been an attack on my science, and history and things fortunately are changing. I’ll finish with one last point. You’ve got your climate change Act, we’ve just had a carbon tax in Australia. Nineteen bills went through parliament, and our carbon tax is to lower the emissions of carbon dioxide from our employment generated industries in Australia. And it’s wonderful. We’ve led the world in suicide, and our carbon tax is to knock down our emissions by 5%. Now you can do the sums, and the sums are very simple. The IPCC says that 3% of annual emissions are from humans. Why is it that 3% drives climate change and not the other 97 is beyond me but that’s another matter. Australia puts out 1.5% of the world’s CO2 emissions. You can do the calculations, and by Australia knocking back their emissions by 5% we will by the year 2050 have lowered global temperatures by 0.00007 degrees Celsius. So I do hope you enjoy our sacrifice in giving you a warmer climate here in England. Thank you.