Ian Plimer, ABC and the lie that won’t go away

The “global cooling since 1998” myth is an ever-present talking point emanating from virtually all contrarians. Australian geologist and “Heaven and Earth” author Ian Plimer is no exception, as I pointed out in my discussion of his ludicrous error-filled piece for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) online “Unleashed” series.

Of course, the claim does not stand up to any serious analysis, as I discussed in great detail in my dissection of a National Post column by Canada’s own Lorne Gunter.

Now it turns out that Plimer and Gunter have something else in common: they both thought that 1934 was the warmest year on record (and for all I know Gunter still does). Even worse, an examination of the ABC interview that discussed these very claims shows that ABC management knew very well that Plimer had no credibility on climate issues, and yet still offered him a platform for his propaganda.

Many readers will be aware of Plimer’s continued refusal to answer George Monbiot’s eleven basic questions about his “facts” and sources. The claim about 1934 as “the warmest year on record” was addressed in question 4:

4. In your discussion of global temperature trends, you maintain that:

“NASA now states that […] the warmest year was 1934.” (p99)

a. Are you aware that this applies only to the United States?

b. Was this a mistake or did you deliberately confuse these two datasets?

(Monbiot’s questions 1, 2, 3, 8, 9  address Plimer’s various other distortions of the recent temperature record).

Recently, I ran across a very telling Plimer interview by  Tony Jones of ABC’s LateLine (although I’m certainly not the first to discuss it – Tim Lambert covered it back in April).  Here’s Jones raking Plimer over the coals:

TONY JONES: Let’s look at the evidence from this Hadley centre, the data for global mean temperatures. You’ve acknowledged they’re reliable, they say 1998 is the hottest year on record, 2005 the second hottest year on record, the third hottest is 2003, the fourth 2002, the fifth hottest 2004, the sixth 2006.

Now, if these figures are right, isn’t it reasonable to state that global temperatures remained on a remarkably high plateau rather than cooling, as you’re suggesting?

IAN PLIMER: No, in the 1930s, it was much hotter. We had from 1920 to 1940 far less arctic sea ice than now, much, much warmer temperatures. [Emphasis added]

Wow! Not only has it been cooling, but the 1930s were warmer than present. Jones persists in trying to get Plimer to see reason, by showing how 2008 fit into the overall record:

TONY JONES:  … Let’s look at 2008 when the La Nina event impacted on temperatures. As you’ve written, it led to blizzards in China, 40 per cent of the rice crop killed by the cold in Vietnam, record low temperatures in Mumbai and Minnesota. So you actually signal out one year to make a demonstration yourself. Yet the Hadley data shows that 2008 was still warmer than any year prior to 1995. Than any year back to 1880.

IAN PLIMER: A number of things – that’s been widely criticised, as I’ll now mention three times, NASA tried to do the same, and that was withdrawn by NASA.

TONY JONES: Well, it wasn’t, but I’ll come to that.

A little later, Jones grills Plimer on the “correction” to NASA’s global temperature record:

TONY JONES: Let’s go back to your book. Pages 98, 99, where you tackle the issue of NASA’s claim that 2005 was the hottest in recorded history. You state that NASA had to reverse – I think you’ve just repeated it a moment ago – NASA had to reverse that position on the basis of work undertaken by Toronto based statistician Steve McIntyre, that’s right, isn’t it?


TONY JONES: So it’s correct.

This is, of course, a reference to McIntyre’s discovery of a Y2K data collation problem in NASA data processing that led to a small correction of recent continental U.S. temperature data, with a negligible impact on the global record (as discussed in my piece on Gunter). It turns out that, in “Heaven and Earth”, Plimer made the same mistake as Gunter and confused the U.S. and global temperature records.

Plimer twists and turns, and never actually admits the mistake. But neither does he dispute Jones’s claim that he did make the mistake, even though he doesn’t repeat it once confronted. It’s almost as if he’s just working it out for the first time, although with Plimer it’s always hard to tell (hence the second part of Monbiot’s question).

TONY JONES: But your book on those pages essentially claims that in the 1930s we saw the hottest years on the world record, and that’s what NASA had to change.

IAN PLIMER: We saw them in the US.

TONY JONES: You actually said the correct thing here, it’s in fact in the United States. It isn’t in the world.

In other words, Plimer got it completely wrong, but still refuses to admit it. And, of course, along the way Jones has completely demolished Plimer’s claims about recent global cooling.

In a comment on my previous Plimer post, Chris Colose described ABC’s response to his efforts to provide a rebuttal to Plimer’s “Unleashed” piece (something Colose is eminently qualified to do):

I have received a reply from Catherine Taylor of ABC. It doesn’t appear that they want to put up a rebuttal article on the basis that they want to move away from the climate change issue for a little while. Apparently they’ve had quite a few recent articles on the topic (with Plimer’s being the only one on the “denial” side) but she simply recommended to leave objections in the comments forum.

So not only does ABC management refuse to correct Plimer’s egregious errors, but they categorically refuse even to allow a rebuttal. Even worse, it is crystal clear that ABC management knew that Plimer’s assertions were likely to be rubbish, as their own star journalist had demonstrated Plimer’s penchant for deception just a few months before. And yet ABC still offered Plimer a venue where he could spew his disinformation without effective challenge, implicitly validating his assertions as plausible.

So, to which version of the “global cooling” lie does the title of this post refer to? In the end, it doesn’t much matter. The “global cooling since 1998” meme is perhaps more widespread, but the more egregious “the 1930s were warmer than now” is remarkably persistent.

And that’s the way it’ll stay, as long as managers at complaisant media outlets like ABC and the National Post continue to flout even a minimum standard of journalistic ethics.


40 responses to “Ian Plimer, ABC and the lie that won’t go away

  1. Pingback: Bulls are but inflated frogs « Greenfyre’s

  2. http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/hadcrut3vgl/from:1998/to:2009

    Just using my eyeballs, it does appear that global surface temperatures have been cooling since 1998.

    Could a reasonable person accept the HadCRU measurements as authoritative?

    [DC: If you pick a different start year and/or a different temperature series, you might have a different impression. For instance try Gistemp from 1999.

    Of course 10 years is way too short to draw any conclusions, especially when a record year is cherrypicked as the starting point. A more compelling analysis would note that long term linear trend are as high or higher compared to the period ending in 1998, or that the 2000s are significantly warmer than the 1990s, on average. In all data sets, including HadCRU.]

  3. “If you pick a different start year and/or a different temperature series, you might have a different impression”

    That may be the case, but you made a specific claim, which is that “global cooling since 1998” is a “myth.”

    Your claim was NOT that that reasonable people might disagree about whether there has been cooling since 1998. Your claim was NOT that global cooling over the last 11 years is not signficiant enough to draw conclusions.

    I’m interested in discussing the claim you actually made. Unless of course you are retracting your claim.

    Do you still maintain that “global cooling since 1998” is a “myth”?

    And by the way, you never answered my question: Could a reasonable person accept the HadCRU measurements as authoritative?

    [DC: The point is cherrypicking particular years and/or analyzing short periods is not a legitimate way to characterize climate. So, yes, “global cooling since 1998” is a myth.

    Each of the three major surface data series (and, yes, that includes HadCRU) shows significant warming in the decade since 1998, compared to the decade up to the end of 1998. But if you don’t want to take it from me, here is the “authoritative” HadCRU:

    … Thirteen of the fourteen warmest years in the series have now occurred in the past fourteen years (1995-2008). The only year in the last fourteen not among the warmest fourteen is 1996 (replaced in the warm list by 1990). The period 2001-2008 (0.43°C above 1961-90 mean) is 0.19°C warmer than the 1991-2000 decade (0.24°C above 1961-90 mean). [Emphasis added]

    So the “authoritative” HadCRU definitely does not agree with you.

    Also look at this graph from “authoritative” HadCRU, which shows increase of about 0.15 deg C in centred 5-year moving average from 1998 to 2006.

    You’re wrong. Get over it.]

  4. Pingback: ABC claims Ian Plimer is “a legitimate voice” « Deep Climate

  5. I’m a little confused. It sounds like your position is that any claim about global surface temperatures over an 11 year period is necessarily a “myth.”

    For example, suppose I were to claim that there was global warming between 1987 and 1998. By your reasoning, 11 years is a “short period” and therefore the claim is a “myth.”

    “But if you don’t want to take it from me, here is the ‘authoritative’ HadCRU:”

    Please show me a graph (and the source). Thank you.

    “Also look at this graph from ‘authoritative’ HadCRU, which shows increase of about 0.15 deg C in centred 5-year moving average from 1998 to 2006”

    I don’t see any graph. Anyway, by your own reasoning, any claim about temperature change between 1998 and 2006 is a “myth.”

    Or does the “myth” rule apply only to claims about cooling and not about warming?

    “You’re wrong. Get over it.”

    What exactly did I say that was wrong? Please QUOTE me where I was wrong.

    And if I am the one who is wrong, why are you evading my simple question?

    For the third time, could a reasonable person accept the HadCRU measurements as authoritative?

    [DC:I’ve added the links to the HadCRU text and graph both here and above.

    To repeat: a proper analysis does not compare individual years. The HadCRU analysis shows a smoothed trend based on a five-year average. The overall trend is clearly one of warming over the last thirty years, including the most recent period up to 2006 (2006 being the latest centred five-year average). I’m only highlighting that period to show that your claim of cooling since 1998 is wrong according to the HadCRU analysis that you have already said is authoritative.

    HadCRU does not produce “measurements”; rather, they produce an analysis of the temperature record, based on measurements from a number of sources. I consider that analysis, taken as a whole, to be one of three authoritative analyses (the other two being NASA-GISTemp and NOAA-NCDC. That analysis, of course, includes the graph and text I have quoted above. Apparently, though, *you* don’t want to accept that analysis as authoritative.

    I assert that “global cooling since 1998” is a myth. You assert that it is not. You are wrong.

    I’ve given you ample room for your feeble arguments, but you are being exceedingly tiresome. It’s time for you to move on and let others judge which of us is right for themselves. So please don’t comment on this thread any more.]

  6. “So please don’t comment on this thread any more.]”

    Then why not just answer my simple questions instead of evading them?

    [DC: Probably I shouldn’t have answered them, as it’s a waste of time. But I already did answer them.]

    (1) Could a reasonable person accept the HadCRU measurements as authoritative?

    [DC: I already patiently explained to you that there is no such thing as “HadCRU measurements”. But, to repeat, the HadCRU surface temperature analysis is one of three generally considered authoritative].

    (2) Was there global warming between 1988 and 1998?

    [DC: As I patiently explained already, there was global warming from about 1975 to present.]

    (3) Please QUOTE me where you think I was wrong.

    [DC: Above, I said: “I assert that “global cooling since 1998″ is a myth. You assert that it is not. You are wrong.”

    On your blog, you said: “…let’s face facts: Global cooling since 1998 is not a myth.”

    By the way here is a list of other posts debunking the “global cooling since 1998” myth.]

    Oh, and

    (4) what conclusions should I draw from the fact that you are unable to answer simple questions about your position?

    [DC: I can’t imagine what conclusion you will draw from your fanciful interpretations, but most readers would draw the conclusion that I have been remarkably patient with you. That patience is at an end; you are no longer welcome here. Goodbye.]

  7. [Comment deleted: Abusive, inappropriate language.]

  8. The correct question would be:
    Has the trend changed since 1998. Yes it has.
    No one can dispute that. It has changed to a cooling trend.
    The the Total Heat Content of the earth been trending down since 1998? No, but it sure has been since 2002.
    Have the models, that are used to predict trends, fallen outside their error bars? Yes, some have and need a close examination as to why.

    [DC: There is no evidence for any of these assertions, as has been explained over and over here and elsewhere.]

  9. On a short term time scale, the earth has warmed. 1920-2008 However, we are still, at current temps, approx .3C cooler than the MWP and approx 2C cooler than the Halocene climate optimum.

    [DC: Wrong again. Read this piece from RealClimate and follow the references.

    The best available evidence from recent peer-reviewed studies suggests that annual, global mean warmth was probably similar to pre-20th century warmth, but less than late 20th century warmth, at this time (see Kitoh and Murakami, 2002).


  10. A newer study.

    Loehle, C. 2007. A 2000-year global temperature reconstruction based on non-treering proxies. Energy & Environment 18(7-8): 1049-1058

    [DC: That study has a lot of problems (and was not published in a recognized science journal). Try Mann et all 2008 in PNAS.

    Some of the issues you raise are not really on topic, but I’ve allowed it as you are at least succinct, and appear to be at the beginning of your journey of understanding. I hope you’ll understand if I repost future comments elsewhere, per comment policy.

    Sig, you are being badly misled. I suggest you try the start here page at RealClimate and go from there. Good luck!]

  11. [Portion deleted – MWP is off topic]

    I will stand with my statement that we have changed trend in temp globally since 2002. The most dramatic evidence is OHC.

    [DC: Your information on OHC is not up to date. Please see this discussion at realclimate.org.

    Initial results from the Argo data seemed to indicate that the ocean cooled quite dramatically from 2003 to 2005 (in strong contradiction to the sea level rise which had continued) (Lyman et al, 2006). But comparisons with other sources of data suggested that this was only seen with the Argo floats themselves. Thus when an error in the instruments was reported in 2007, things seemed to fit again.


  12. Pingback: NYT’s Andy Revkin backtracks (but not nearly enough) « Deep Climate

  13. Pingback: Contrarian Education at NOAA « Deep Climate

  14. Pingback: Friends of Science hits the airwaves « Deep Climate

  15. What makes any of you think that 1934 wasn’t the warmest year? It certainly appears to be when we have evidence no subject to leftist rigging.

    Monbiot made an idiot of himself in that debate. It was Monbiot who refused to answer any questions on climate science. Whereas Plimer wrote a book on the matter and answered the questions in the book. He also answered the questions during the debate when he could get a word in edgeways.

    Plimer, during this rigup, made it quite clear where his estimate for volcanic CO2 was coming from. From the chemistry of sedimentary rocks. This was his proxy.

    The Monbiot/Jones claims were total idiocy. It was outrageous. Since Monbiot and Jones, and this ought to be a sackable offense for Jones, chose to make gospel a 1991 study that claimed that sub-sea volcanic emissions and open air volcanic emissions were roughly similar. A self-evidently ridiculous contention in 2009.

    It was George Monbiot who would answer no questions? Monbiot merely deflected the fact that it was he who would answer no questions, by claiming it was Plimer who would not answer any questions.

    All Monbiot did was refuse to answer questions and claim frantically that it was Plimer who was doing this. In other words this was a frantic leftist reversal from Monbiot.

    Plimer gave us enough facts for anyone with a brain to see that the Monbiot and Tony Jones claim was utter idiocy. Since there are 240,000 underwater volcanoes, and 68000 kilometres of volcanic underwater rift zones.

    So if industrial activity was to release 130 times as much CO2 as volcanoes. If this were the case as Monbiot and Jones, being complete idiots and liars, had claimed, this would be more than the CO2 output of a hypothetical 31, 200,000 underwater volcanoes and more than the equivalent of 8,840,000 kilometres of underwater riftzones.

    That many riftzones ringing endlessly around the globe in such a way as we could never get away from volcanic activity.

    So it was Monbiot, Tony Jones and anyone who fell for their charade, shown to be idiots on this matter and not Plimer. Anyone with any affinity for science would have understood that.

    Jones ought to be sacked over this attempt to mislead the public. From the above it appears to have been a successful attempt.

    [DC: I think you are the first to defend Plimer’s claims, so I’ll let this through. Other than that, I’m speechless for the moment.]

    • “The time has come,” the Walrus said
      “To speak of many things;
      Of shoes and ships and sealingwax
      Of cabbages and kings
      And why the sea is boiling hot
      And whether pigs have wings”

      Obviously it’s all those volcanoes down there.

  16. DC, is this your first exposure to Graeme Bird?

    If his post above leaves you speechless, check out his latest blog post

    We Have Got To Get Rid Of This Bogus Doctrine To Do With The Conservation Of Mass And Energy.

    [DC: Thanks, I think.]

  17. Graeme Bird stood fo parliament in Australia a few years back (2004 election?). I believe he received about 47 votes…

    I think he’s with the CEC, which is an incredible organisation. La Rouche devotees who think that Prince Phillip is leading some grand conspiracy to reinstate the British Empire as some World Govt… Madness.

  18. [DC: No more on GMB, please. In return, I promise not to let him post again (he’s already posted several abusive and/or off-topic comments that have been removed).]

  19. Why post that link dhogaza. There is no question that his logic is impeccable in this matter. For the conservation of energy and matter to hold it is indeed manifest that the universe must have been around for ever with exactly the same amount of energy and mass as there is right this moment.

    So of course Graeme is right. When you have a post dhogaza, their ought to be a point to it.

    [DC: I’m taking the last word on this. Of course, dhogaza is correct that GMB makes little or no sense on any topic. However,this is not the venue to discuss these matters. No more on GMB, please, or his theories of physics.]

  20. I’m not with the CEC. I’m not with the La Rouche. I’m not aware of any conspiracies Prince Philip is involved with. I’m only aware that he puts his foot in his mouth a great deal.

    [DC: Edited off topic material on Prince Philip. I have allowed GMB to answer a particular statement about him. Now this is over. Thanks!]

  21. The idea that Plimer is lying does seem to hinge on the notion that we put out 130 times the amount of CO2 as the volcanoes. Does anyone wish to stick up for this point of view? Would you put your knowledge of this matter up against Plimers?

    If so why? What do you know that the rest of us don’t know? Can you give us a breakdown by region of CO2 output? We are talking tens of thousands of kilometers of volcanic activity here. I wonder what is making people so sure of this matter?

    [DC: I would put up the US Geological Survey (USGS) against Plimer.

    Comparison of CO2 emissions from volcanoes vs. human activities.
    Scientists have calculated that volcanoes emit between about 130-230 million tonnes (145-255 million tons) of CO2 into the atmosphere every year (Gerlach, 1999, 1991). This estimate includes both subaerial and submarine volcanoes, about in equal amounts. Emissions of CO2 by human activities, including fossil fuel burning, cement production, and gas flaring, amount to about 27 billion tonnes per year (30 billion tons) [ ( Marland, et al., 2006) – The reference gives the amount of released carbon (C), rather than CO2, through 2003.]. Human activities release more than 130 times the amount of CO2 emitted by volcanoes–the equivalent of more than 8,000 additional volcanoes like Kilauea (Kilauea emits about 3.3 million tonnes/year)! (Gerlach et. al., 2002)

    http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/hazards/gas/index.php (and click on the Effects tab).

    By the way, Plimer recently reduced his volcanic CO2 claim by a couple of orders of magnitude. Several more to go, though. I’ll post about this soon.

    The facts are beyond debate, and so we must stop there, unless you can point to peer-reviewed literature substantively disputing the USGS sources cited above. Thanks!]

    • Not only is DC stating the accepted facts, but the same claim was also one made in the original TGGWS.

      Durkin removed this claim from all later versions of TGGWS when it was shown to be false. Why would he do that if there were any doubt?

  22. Alfred Nock is one of Bird’s sock puppets

    • Thanks Tim.

      Odd thing is, the sock seems less (well, slightly) of a raving loon than the real thing.

      [DC: Both names have already had several comments deleted, per comment policy.]

  23. Alfred Nock is one of Bird’s sock puppets

    Oof, yes, of course …

    (see, DC, I told you to look out for Bird’s socks! 🙂

  24. The Monbiot Plimer debate on ABC was notable for more than Monbiot’s ad hominem attacks and Plimer’s poor memory. Tony Jones the Australian ABC TV host gets an honorable mention for another hatchet-job on non-compliant scientists. He previously smeared Prof. Frederick Singer (fair enough) but unforgivably gave him no right of reply, in the prelude to the “Swindle Debate” featuring four skeptics and eight warmists, which it appears was stage-managed by panelist Robyn Williams, the ABC’s climate science gatekeeper.

    In the Monbiot Plimer debate, both were given roughly equal time of reply. HOWEVER: Monbiot interrupted Plimer an astonishing eighteen (18) times. To which Jones intervened only twice after the event. Jones himself interrupted Plimer three (3) times. This behavior does NOT show up in transcript, only in the footage. Plimer interrupted Monbiot once. Both called the other side fraudulent, only Monbiot called Plimer a liar. Both Jones and Monbiot had the look of cats who had drunken their fill of milk after the mauling. Monbiot’s interruptions with adjudicator Jones’ complicity ensured Plimer could not get a reply in edgeways.

    So to sum it up, it was Tony Jones of the ABC whose abyssmal performance stands out, followed by Monbiot for lack of any social grace. Plimer, on the ropes and reeling, but integrity intact, would have won by default, but for the star performer whom only the alert audience would have observed: the live footage of icy weather on the white snow-covered streets of Copenhagen behind Monbiot’s satellite screen.

    • Gavin's Pussycat

      DC, the “Okkie” spam turned also up on Deltoid, courtesy “Oksanna”. And heaven knows how many more places. Can it, he/she won’t even notice.

    • DC, please note that this person is going around several blogs doing a drive-by. No need to try and initiate a discussion.

    • Point taken, but I thought I would take the opportunity to mention that “Okkie” is not even referring to the Plimer interview I discussed. The fact that this person is spouting the same nonsense everywhere explains a lot – she hasn’t even bothered to read what she’s criticizing!

      The real problem is that ABC continues to give unqualified commentators ample room even though they have been caught in falsehoods over and over again.

      As for Plimer’s so-called “integrity”, Plimer and ABC have been less than transparent about his connection to various mining companies and bogus science groups like the International Science Coalition, which are simply propaganda fronts for anti-AGW forces.

    • “HOWEVER: Monbiot interrupted Plimer an astonishing eighteen (18) times. ”

      That’s what happens when one party to the debate Gish Gallops and avoids addressing a question. Using Gish Gallop is far more ignorant than the other insisting on a straight answer to a straight question. Monbiot explains it…

      Plimer went off at a tangent, starting to list the numbers and kinds of submarine volcanoes. This, I soon found, was a characteristic tactic: when faced with a tricky situation, he starts throwing out random facts. I pointed out that he had been told many times that the USGS figures include submarine volcanoes: he was making a claim on national television that he knew to be wrong.

      Tony Jones raised another of the questions I had tried to put to Plimer: the professor has stated that the Met Office’s Hadley Centre has shown that warming stopped in 1998. Where, Jones asked, does the Hadley Centre say that? Again the random facts came thick and fast: there are four major centres that measure temperature. Some of them use thermometers. (Would you believe it?) Some use radiosondes, some use satellites. And if you look at page 481 of my book, you’ll find that I nailed the University of East Anglia, which is actually just a few yards down the road from where Monbiot lives, and, and …

      It was a weird form of free association, which might have contained answers to any number of questions – but not the one he was asked.


  25. No the real problem is that you haven’t retracted your lies about Plimer.

    [DC: Sorry, false and unsubstantiated accusations are not allowed here. Even when they are against me. Please refrain from posting any more. Thanks! ]

  26. Delicious. A criticism of a diatribe entitled “The lie that won’t go away” is “not allowed here” because “false and unsubstantiated accusations are not allowed…” By the way you are right it was a drive-by but I did not know about the earlier interview, so thank you. May I suggest that you allow a little dissonance into your blog, it will make it much more interesting?
    – Oksanna

  27. Joseph Cambria

    “Presumably that’s ‘delicious’ because you don’t understand the word ‘unsubstantiated’.”

    Well don’t just sit there dripping in faux-mystery. Tell us your unique description of the word “unsubstantiated” The point is that Plimer substantiates his claims …. and yet Deep Climate refuses point blank to do so.

  28. Plimer’s claims – on volcanoes, temperature series and many other subjects – are wrong, as I and many others have shown over and over. If you think the USGS is wrong in their statements, you’re entitled to your opinion, no matter how misinformed. But the criticism of Plimer is hardly “unsubstantiated”.

    On the other hand, the commenter Rothbard made an accusation and did not even mention which statement was a “lie”, let alone why he considered it to be. That is about wholly unsubstantiated as you can get.

    But I’m really not interested in extended discussion of these peripheral meta-issues. There will be tighter moderation from here on in. Thanks!

  29. Joseph Cambria

    “Plimer’s claims – on volcanoes, temperature series and many other subjects – are wrong….”

    Prove it. Your false claims are repetitive and you refuse to substantiate them.

    [DC: Get a grip. For example, the above is one of many posts on the manifestly false claim, made by Plimer and others, that 1934 was the warmest year in the global temperature record. It clearly was not the warmest year; in fact, almost all years from 1998 on were warmer.

    If you have a substantive point to make on this specific issue, make it. Otherwise your comments may earn a well-deserved oblivion.]

    • Gavin's Pussycat

      > Prove it.

      The sad thing is, you could do so yourself, easily — and would, if you were an honest person. The data is out there, in abundance.