401 of 462 people found the following review helpful
on May 7, 2009
Ian Plimer is a Professor of Geology with a background in mining. He is a strong independent thinker, with a particular flair for interdisciplinary integration and overview, although his books are a bit hard to read. They contain a lot of dense information, but are perhaps weak on highlighting what is more important, and at times a little too emotional and bulldozing for some.
This is a timely book that attempts to survey ALL the basic data and debate related to climate change, rather than cherry-picking solely in the interests of green ideology. The book is very similar to Lomborg's `The Skeptical Environmentalist' (with just as many back-up footnotes-over 2000-so at worst it is at least a useful reference for alterative views and debates).
There are serious claims in this book; a general one being that data and debate about climate change is being suppressed by green ideology. Here are some assertions:
* There is no scientific consensus on the causes of recent (~last 150 years) global warming.
* Data and debate from solar physics, geological, archaeological, and historical circles is ignored in the media and within the political process.
* Gross, unscientific, major distortions of data and debate is occurring, largely due to ideological agendas, and parallels Soviet Union agricultural science and policies.
* Amongst other examples, scientific fraud has been committed with relation to the `hockeystick' graph of Mann et al. regarding temperature in the last ~1000 years, which has been widely circulated (eg IPCC 2001), and which shows distorted temperature trends.
* The influence of changes particularly in the sun, and in cloudiness, cosmic rays and volcanoes on climate changes has been under-estimated.
* There is a correlation between changes in solar activity and earth temperatures, including in the last 150 years of warming.
* Recent global warming since about 1850 is minor and largely not related to human activities, but is being driven by the sun and is part of a natural climatic variation since the Little Ice Age.
* There has been no global warming since 1998 (at May 2009), and analysis of solar activity suggests a natural cooling trend in coming decades, which has already begun.
* Influence of increase in C02 level on temperature in the atmosphere tapers off once a certain level is reached. (Rather than `runaway greenhouse', we have 'atmospheric buffer')
* The `precautionary principle' is not a scientific principle, it is a social and political one (I concur).
* There is no such thing as a `tipping point' in science (I disagree-e.g. the term `catalyst' comes to mind).
* IPCC climate models do not accurately model observed temperature trends since 1998, undermining their projected global warming models.
* Computer models used by the IPCC are `computer games', as global climate trends are too big and complicated to meaningfully forecast.
* The global climate is too big for humans to have any meaningful effect.
The books strength is the variety of data, the weakness is the convoluted writing style. At worst, one might contend that Plimer is guilty of obfuscation, but at least there is a broad overview, including real gems you won't hear from extreme greens:
* the very small size of the Amazon rainforest during the last ice age,
* Strong legal disclaimers about climate projections from the very same agencies that want to enforce major legal changes using such data,
* the strong correlation between sunspots and earth temperature
* solar activity has increased in the last ~few hundred years
* that warm periods in human history generally occur with human prosperity,
* Siberian Soviet-age historical temperatures were fudged below -15C because towns received a vodka levy when -15C was reached,
* Parts of Greenland have been cooling since the early 20th century,
* The US, France, Italy, and UK squabbled over ownership of a new volcano in the Mediterranean in the 1800s, which then promptly sank beneath the ocean (which Plimer hopes will happen to global warming advocates).
* Global temperatures have been warmer on several occasions in the last several thousand years, with no adverse effects, rather, they generally correspond to human prosperity.
* C02 has been much higher in longer geological history, with no adverse effects.
* The use of the `precautionary principle' in banning DDT use resulted in an estimated 40 million deaths from malaria
* Ice is a rock
* Water vapour is the main greenhouse gas
* Many western cities have water shortages because new dams are not being built due to green politics,
* `Being creative and riding the waves of change is the only way we humans have survived', `sustainable living', on the contrary `is such that with the slightest change in weather, climate or politics, there is disease, mass famine, and death'.
Suffice to say in short review, there are some good examples of environmentally-driven distortion and cherry-picking of data, in the worst cases fraud (e.g. Mann's hockeystick), but I suspect, there is also errors on his side.
An example which bugs me: new, unpredictably/spontaneously generated changes and processes can produce large, longer term effects, (classic catastrophism versus uniformitarianism). However, Plimer states: "there is no such thing as a tipping point in science". If I read him right, this shows to me a basic limit of perception (what about e.g. catalysts and saturation points in chemistry?). Charles Lyell, one of the early uniformitarians, couldn't see the `catastrophes' written into rocks that were staring him in the face, (new, unpredictable changes, can produce large scale effects)- and neither could Charles Darwin (one of his few errors of judgement); I suspect that Plimer may have a similar data analysis problem (but this is just my opinion).
All in all a good overview, and although I'm not sure I agree with some of his assertions, I see a lot of value in the books' broader discussion of data and debate than is typically found amongst all the hot air that surrounds and distorts climate science and policy.
108 of 131 people found the following review helpful
on July 30, 2009
I am a lay (that is scientifically uneducated) reader, with an inclination against the thesis of anthropogenic forcing--less pretentiously "global warming". (My reasons: I don't like the spectacle of rich folks pulling up the ladder of economic progress against those a generation or so behind them). I expected to find arguments in "Heaven and Earth" to support my leanings and I did, but I was also alarmed by the book's weaknesses which have made it easy to dismiss.
We see this by examining how much the author succeeds in making his arguments against the three bases upon which we might accept the thesis of anthropogenic forcing: theory, evidence and modelling.
As to theory, the author restates Freeman Dyson's telling point that carbon dioxide, so far from being a poison is a plant food: that's why we introduce it into greenhouses at 2½ times atmospheric concentrations. (Though mind you, greenhouses are hotter than most of us would wish to tolerate.) He also draws our attention to the complexities bearing upon terrestrial temperature, among them variation in solar orbits and radiation, the chemistry of ice, ocean currents, the variety of greenhouse gasses entering the atmosphere in the natural course of things and much else. Unfortunately, his argument is so discursive and repetitive as to give the "and another thing" impression of someone uncertain of the quality of his own material. It may simply be that he needed a tougher editor, but it leaves the thoughtful reader with an uneasy feeling, particularly as most--like me--will not be competent to test the science or have the time or inclination to check the 2311 references.
This takes us to evidence, where the author reminds us of the uncertainty arising out of the recent record, in particular the medieval, Roman and Minoan warming periods, which occurred without any contribution from anthropogenic carbon dioxide; and of the inconvenient truth that temperatures have been falling for the last decade. This is good stuff and Professor Plimer could have gone further by reminding us that many climate evangelists have abandoned "global warming" for the infinitely slippery "climate change". The author also dwells on geological warmings and coolings, principally to remind us that life survived such episodes, and leading us to some more or less irrelevant material about extinctions. These miss the point as presumably we would prefer to avoid disruption well before we get to extinction. Finally, Professor Plimer introduces some decidedly eccentric comments which seem to argue that the helium/hydrogen model of solar composition is mistaken. (Yes, I did say I'm not a scientist, but I think that even I would have caught it if such a central astrophysical theory had been seriously challenged.) I can't see how this bears upon the book's core argument and I could really have done without remarks so much smacking of bats in the belfry.
As to modelling, the author has some knock-about fun with Michael Mann's ludicrous "hockey stick" graph. As it happens, modelling is something I know a bit about (I was trained as an economist and worked for many years as a securities analyst), so I am correspondingly sceptical about arguments based on them, particularly given the simplifications made by the modellers concerned and their well-documented reluctance to make their calculations and assumptions known to third parties. Indeed, in private conversation with climate modellers, they have shared their unhappiness with the extravagant claims of some of their number. But on the other hand, Professor Plimer himself uses a graph that has been discredited, as omitting data from the last 20 years. This is either dirty pool or just lazy.
There is quite a lot of ad hominem material, some of it very interesting, for example the analysis of the tiny number of actual IPCC authors, but ultimately these are irrelevant to the rights and wrongs of the argument. I agree unreservedly with the author's characterisation of global warming as a latter-day religion for those disenchanted with the modern world. But his tone is often at least as intemperate as those he criticises. To conclude, I get the feeling that inside "Heaven and Earth", there is another better book, possibly more than one, in which Professor Plimer gets himself a decent editor so that his arguments can be made more effectively; and the one or two egregious failings are corrected. I would like to read that book and the debate very much needs it.
162 of 205 people found the following review helpful
on July 11, 2009
Ian Plimer is perhaps best known as the geologist who debunked creationism in "Telling Lies for God". Here he turns his attention to the global warming beliefs that are now resulting in huge (possibly disastrous) policy changes by governments in the hope of avoiding "climate change". In "Heaven and Earth", I think Plimer does pretty well.
First off though, if you are expecting a simple read, this book is perhaps not it. Not that it is difficult to read, but it is technically dense, the average page having maybe ten references to academic papers to support its claims. And it has its mistakes. There is a diagram on temperature forecasts which is not properly explained, another one which, so it is claimed on the web, has been withdrawn by its author for errors. Also the author has a recurring habit of writing the opposite of what he means; it usually happens on unimportant points, but it distracts from following the argument. For example, he writes that the early half of the little ice age was more variable than the latter half (p 75), then a little later says the opposite (p 79). I noticed maybe ten such examples on my way through. They are not by any means fatal to his argument, but I am sure his opponents would dig them out and present them as if they were. But in a 500 page book, absolute correctness from cover to cover is, I think, far too high an expectation. The real question is: does he carry his main arguments?
I believe that he does. He shows, for instance, that CO2 in geological history has been up to 25 times higher than it now is, and that in this era it is at its lowest in the entire history of life on Earth. He shows how malaria is a disease of poverty, not of temperature, and has existed in England in the coldest of times. He discusses the major 'snowball earth' glaciations that most likely took ice all the way to the equator, but which, luckily, preceded the appearance of multicellular life. (If such an ice age happened now, it is hard to see how any multicelled life, let alone human life, could survive.) The main impression the book left me with was 'being given the complete picture'.
The main question I was asking myself when I first started investigating global warming in depth was which side is right? I came to the conclusion that the realists are (climate has always changed, and current temperatures and temperature changes are within historical limits). So this book was not the factor that convinced me. The single fact that did so, however, is included here. Pages 371 onwards discuss the IPCC's climate models, which predict an increasingly warm tropospheric 'hot spot' in the atmosphere, providing a 'warm blanket' that is heating up the planet. This 'warm blanket' simply isn't there, as Plimer explains. It boils down to this very simple fact: on a cold night, if you want to get warm, you must have warm air around you somehow - turn on a heater, put on a blanket, whatever, but unless warm air surrounds you, you won't get warm. The planet does not have any warmer air around it than it ever had, so it simply cannot be heating up due to insulation. Since that is the central claim of global warmism, the theory must be wrong. All the rest is 'sound and fury, signifying nothing'. But Plimer takes on that sound and fury, and shows it for the flim flam it really is.
If I were writing such a book, I might not choose Plimer's organisation. He starts with the geological history of the Earth's climate, and moves on to the Sun, the Earth (volcanoes, extinctions, desertification, etc.), then Ice (ice ages, glaciers, antarctica), then Water (sea levels, acidification, corals),then Air (greenhouse effect, temperature, hurricanes, carbon dioxide), and finishes with a very entertaining chapter called 'Et moi' - perhaps not so rumbunctious as some of the more acidic writings of Bertrand Russell, but good reading nonetheless.
Plimer has had his share of run-ins with shysters, as witnessed by his court battle with creationists, and he doesn't shrink from taking on the latest bunch - even speculating about the judgement St Peter might one day settle upon one of them! The concluding section puts the sheer evil and lunacy of the warming scaremongering into sharp relief. At the risk of spoiling the whole story, here is his final sentence: "Human stupidity is only exceeded by God's mercy, which is infinite."
When the current climate insanity is finally exploded, this book will, I am sure, be seen as one of the turning points.
103 of 133 people found the following review helpful
on July 12, 2009
The one star reviews were written by "Believers." These are individuals who will accept no science, no contrary position and rarely have conducted any research of their own. Mostly they have not even seen the book let alone read it. The so called critics of the book and 'scientific' criticisms have been from advocacy groups in Australia and from people who don't have any climatology' qualifications at all. For each criticism there has been a well constructed counter argument.
With that preamble out of the way this book is about cycles of change on our planet spanning long time periods. The critics have missed this underlying point. It is not a book that is a detailed discussion on all of the hundred or more disciplines that cover the sciences of climatology. The solar cosmic influences for example are, apart from the work of people like Henrik Svensmark (The Chilling Stars), still being investigated.
Plimer is a geologist. This is the science of climate in the truest sense. He is not an expert in all the other fields but like any good researcher can find a plethora of papers that support his thesis, something the Believers cannot do for theirs. Apart from the word "IPCC" Believers don't use references because the science is "settled." Plimer uses over 2000 of them because it isn't.
This book looks at the history of climate from the viewpoint of the galaxy in which we live; to the Sun that provides our heat and the systems on our planet that also affect it. The book is a very significant weight on those on our planet who want to rush off on some fairytale system like ETS based on fear and greed rather than science. If you want the science read this book, if you want fairy tales then read Gore's publications instead.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on June 21, 2010
This book is not an easy read. Frankly, it is quite wordy and repetitious. On the good side there are over 2000 references that can be used to examine Plimer's points in detail. On the bad side there are over 2000 references that slow down your reading a lot. Plimer is at times inconsistent in his writing. He cites a book "Useless Arithmetic" as a criticism of mathematical modeling of geophysical phenomena. Apparently, he is oblivious to the fact that the book ends with a ringing endorsement of climate models (cf., Amazon reviews). He also exhibits a form of irrationality that is a tired feature of his opponents, i.e. my cited correlations mean something and yours don't; my cited proxy measurements are true and yours aren't.
The geology sections are reasonably well written and the arguments seem plausible enough. Chapter 3, The Sun, is a mess. He seems to place great value in Svenmark's theory of cosmic ray fluxes producing clouds. As far as I know it is still just a theory, and a not a very good one in my opinion. Theories have to be falsifiable to be theories. Plimer also repeats an argument that has also puzzled me to no end when he states that there is some critical level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and any carbon dioxide amount added in excess of this level has no effect on absorption. He offers the analogy of drawing a curtain across a window to shut out the sunlight. Once you have one or two curtains drawn then the difference of adding any more is negligible. This is an argument without an explanation. I am pretty sure Gilbert Plass refuted this same argument in 1956 (cf. Wikipedia).
I am sympathetic to Plimer's conclusion - being somewhat of a skeptic myself - but his attempt illustrates the dangers of stepping outside of your domain of knowledge when you rely on the interpretations and analyses of others. I think his project would have been better served if he had co-authored the book with a working climate scientist.
120 of 162 people found the following review helpful
on May 5, 2009
Ian Plimer's brave book challenges the climate-change fundamentalism that blinds so many otherwise intelligent people. Indeed, Plimer contends that the entire beat-up serves to fill the spiritual emptiness that pervades the western world. Plimer exposes the "experts" of the IPCC as self-serving, deluded, extremist environmental activists, and reveals the scientific consensus on climate-change as being tenuous at best.
Read this book. Read it carefully. Then read it again. Open your mind to theories that challenge orthodoxy, or you become nothing more than a shrill evangelist, jumping up and down on the spot, yelling "LA LA LA LA LA!" whilst holding a finger firmly in each ear.
87 of 119 people found the following review helpful
on May 10, 2009
Extremely well researched, footnoted and written in easy-to-understand language. Gives information you won't get from the popular press? Fascinating insights.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 14, 2014
The premise of this book is that "Man-Made Global Warming" is a fraud perpetrated by a small group of pseudo-scientists and ideologues in the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and promoted by environmental extremists; all for political purposes. And this book's author attempts to prove it. He does so by reporting the results of more than 2300 scientific studies in the disciplines of archaeology, astronomy, atmospheric studies, climate, geology, history, palaeoclimate, and solar physics which bear on the Earth's climate and the causes-and-effects of climate change throughout the Earth's multi-billion-year history.
The results of these independent studies, according to this author, prove beyond any reasonable scientific doubt that:
1) Carbon Dioxide (CO2), which comprises about 0.039% of the Earth's atmosphere, is not a pollutant, as claimed, but, rather, is a fundamental building block of life on Earth.
2) Due to `natural' causes, the Earth's temperature has been trending upward since the end of the Little Ice Age; a frigid period in the Earth's recent past.
3) All forms of life on Earth thrive when the atmospheric temperature is higher than it is today and fail when it is significantly lower (cold has been the killer, not warmth).
4) There is no correlation between the concentration of CO2 in the Earth's atmosphere and the atmospheric temperature.
5) The concentration of the CO2 in the Earth's atmosphere has been much higher in the past than it is today, both in times when the Earth was warmer and in times when it was cooler.
6) CO2 derived from human activity produces only 0.1% of global warming and there is a maximum threshold for CO2, after which an increase in CO2 has very little effect on atmosphere warming.
7) The historical record clearly shows that the concentration of the trace gas CO2 in the Earth's atmosphere lags the Earth's temperature (Ergo: CO2 is not and never has been the driver of temperature change.).
Also, according to this author, when, in 1998, "Mother Earth" refused to submit to the IPCC's dire prediction of cataclysmic global warming and instead initiated the global cooling which we now enjoy; "man-made global warming" somehow morphed into "man-caused climate change." This, it seems has many added benefits. The activities of modern man, particularly in capitalist countries like the United States, can now be blamed for almost anything: heat, cold, rain, ice, snow, famine, drought, dead polar bears, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis, you name it. Who could argue with that?
All of this led this book's author to reach some dire conclusions of his own; which he summarized in the first paragraph of this book's final chapter, stating that: "We are facing the greatest global threat in my three score and two years. It is not global warming. It is the threat from policy responses to perceived global warming and the demonizing of dissent. These policies also threaten freedoms and the nature of science and religion. Policy changes have the ability to reduce base load energy supplies of electricity that underpin employment and the standard of living."
The most surprising thing to me about this book, however, wasn't the depth of the author's research or even his dire conclusion; but that, despite its subject matter, this was such an easy and at times almost fun book to read. I particularly enjoyed the author's sometimes not-so-subtle humor which he injects from time to time.
Bottom line: I think this book should be read widely and thoughtfully considered. But it should not be taken as the definitive work and final assessment of 'man-made global warming.' To understand why, I suggest you read 'The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars by Michael E. Mann and MORE IMPORTANTLY 'Climate of Extremes' by Patrick J. Michaels and Robert C. Balling Jr. which is, perhaps, the best book currently available on the subject of 'climate change.'
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 3, 2013
Heaven and Earth, without question, is the best book I have read about the time line associated with our changing climate. I would recommen this book to all who are serious students of the climate.
From the geologic and historic point of view, the book is almost perfect. However, from the pure scientific point of view, I would like to see more evidence of the true role of physics and chemistry in climate change.
I find no fault with what Ian covered, I just want to know more about the sciences of things.
Emanuel P. Peters
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 17, 2013
Met every expectation. Most erudite review on the nonsense that passes for science today. Recommended it to friends that are scientists as well. I am not, but took many science classes at University. Friends are pleased as well. His combination of concise scientific deduction and an Aussie's dry wit make it very enjoyable, and even an occasional "laugh out loud".
question: Why/how is his book "Telling Lies for God" so hard to find, and when available extremely costly?