I have submitted an online complaint to the Autralian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), concerning Ian Plimer’s outrageous and misleading opinion piece, entitled “Legislative Time Bomb”.
Here is the full text of the complaint:
Ian Plimer’s opinion piece, entitled “Legislative time bomb” contains several egregious factual errors. Plimer has the right to express his opinions, no matter how cretinous or ill-informed they may be, but his propagation of obvious falsehoods is unacceptable. ABC has a duty to correct any clear errors of fact, even in an opinion piece.
There are at least two passages that require such immediate correction.
Plimer states: “Over the past 250 years, humans have added just one part of CO2 in 10,000 to the atmosphere. One volcanic cough can do this in a day.”
The first part of this statement seems to refer to the rise in CO2 concentration in the atmosphere from 280 to 385 parts per million (100 ppm = 1 part in 10,000). But there is no evidence whatsover that outgassing from a single volcano, even a primordial super-volcano, has ever achieved such a massive output of CO2 in a day. If Plimer can not provide a reasonable bona fide reference or source for this statement, ABC must afix a correction advising that the statement is utterly without foundation.
Plimer also writes the following: “Since 1850, there has been temperature increase (1860-1880, 1910-1940, 1976-1998) and decrease (1880-1910, 1940-1976,1998-present) and the rate of the three periods of temperature increase has been the same.”
The three recognized global temperature data series come from NASA, HadCRU and NOAA. The estimated linear trend for each monthly data series, expressed in degrees celsius per decade, is higher in 1976-1998 versus 1910-1940, as seen in this table:
Period NASA HadCRU NOAA
1910-1940 +0.124 +0.156 +0.126
1976-1998 +0.167 +0.173 +0.170
Differences +0.04 +0.02 +0.04
1976-2009 +0.168 +0.167 +0.170
Moreover, the final row shows near identical trends for 1976-2009 as for 1976-1998, contradicting Plimer’s claim of cooling in recent years.
This is not to suggest that there are no other errors. Indeed, the entire piece contains not a single sentence free of error or misleading information. But, at the very least, I trust you will append the appropriate official corrections to Plimer’s opinion piece as soon as possible. And ABC should consider apologizing for publishing such a clearly biased and misleading commentary.
As usual, Tamino has an excellent discussion of the “volcanic cough” howler. The second point I raised should be obvious, but here are charts of the two periods in question:
The higher trends in the period 1976-1998 are obvious, especially in NOAA and NASA series. As well, the near identical trends for 1976-2009 (shown as dashed lines) can also be seen.
To ABC’s credit, they do appear to have a complete and clear complaints process. However, even though the facts would appear to support an unavoidable finding in favour of this complaint, the available statistics suggest an uphill battle. In 2008, a scant 3% of all complaints were upheld (487 out of 16,601 submitted).
Of course, Plimer’s piece comes at a time of great political sensitivity in Australia, as the Australian Senate has just voted down the Rudd government’s climate change bill aiming to regulate greenhouse gases. It also coincides with Plimer’s pointed refusal to answer basic questions about his various claims and their sources, as he ducks and weaves in his ongoing shadow boxing match with George Monbiot.
Plimer’s latest travesty should also be seen in the context of a concerted public relations campaign by the Australian Climate Science Coalition, and its parent organization, the Australian Environment Foundation, a campaign that is politically motivated and clearly aimed at derailing greenhouse gas regulation in Australia. I’ll be returning to the subject of these organizations and their recent actions soon.
Meanwhile, it is noteworthy that the ABC opinion piece is Plimer’s first for the broadcaster’s “Unleashed” series. After this disgraceful performance, I trust it will also be his last.
[Update, August 17: I should clarify that Plimer is a scientific advisor to the Australian Climate Science Coalition, as well as a past associate of the Institute of Public Affairs (which in turn spawned the Australian Environment Foundation).]