Stop Climate Change
If we humans want to stop climate change, then we have a huge
task ahead of us.
We need to stop continents moving, stop the shape of the sea
floor changing, stop pulling apart the ocean floors, stop building
mountains, stop volcanoes belching out greenhouse gases and dust,
stop hot flushes of gas rising from the Earth's core, stop earthquakes,
stop comets breaking up in the upper atmosphere, stop the changes
in the Earth's orbit, stop the cycles of solar changes and stop
radiation hitting Earth from deep space. Our generation did
not discover climate change, the Earth's climate has always changed.
If we Australians stopped burning fossil fuels, this would
make not one iota of difference to the global climate. The forces
of Nature are far greater than the motor car. Previous climate
changes have been cyclical and sudden. Previous changes have
been in the order of decades and temperature changes have been
far greater than recent temperature changes. Because of lags
resulting from the large volume of seawater and ice, any sea
level rise or changes in the ice sheets result from events that
took place hundreds to thousands of years earlier.
Over time, humans have endured great climate changes. Periods
of cold climate, especially combined with decreased sunspot activity,
volcanicity and pandemics, have greatly depopulated the Earth.
Humans and other organisms have thrived in times of warm climate.
We humans live on ice sheets, on mountains, at the tropics, at
sea level and in deserts. We are adaptable.
If we moved from Hobart to Darwin, the average temperature
rise would be 18 degrees Celsius yet this warmth does not seem
to be lethal for Darwinians. Both animals and plants constantly
migrate to adapt to climate change.
The main greenhouse gas is water vapour. Without water vapour,
planet Earth would enjoy an average temperature of a balmy minus
18 degrees Celsius. Other greenhouse gases are trace gases, including
carbon dioxide. Only 0.117% of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
is of human origin and carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. It
is plant food. The addition of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere
has been taking place for 4,600 million years. It is still taking
place. Balancing the books on where carbon dioxide comes from
and where it goes is hopelessly inadequate showing how little
we know about how big natural systems on planet Earth work.
The climate change cacophony demonstrates that the community
knows little about how our dynamic evolving planet works. A little
bit of basic geology would be a good start. An understanding
of the processes of science would be another good start. Science
is married to evidence that derives from observation, calculation,
measurement and experiment. Scientists argue about the validity
of this evidence and whether the evidence is in accord with everything
else that has been validated. Science then tries to explain the
evidence with a theory. Theories are refuted with new thinking
and new evidence. Science is evolutionary, self-adjusting, anarchistic
and bows to no authority. Science has no moral, political or
religious view about anything.
The current President of the Royal Society told us that the
science on human-induced global warming is settled. A previous
President of the Royal Society also used his authority, this
time to inform us that it is impossible for heavier than air
machines to fly!
Science is not about consensus or belief, these words are
those of politics and religion. Science is a celebration of uncertainty.
Scepticism and criticism are valued and information from all
different disciplines is integrated in an attempt to understand
the world around us. Because the current theory on human-induced
climate change is not in accord with validated geology and astronomy,
then the theory must be rejected. However, the idea that wealthy
western humans change global climate is an attractive ascientific
idealistic political idea and this idea is currently promoted
with great missionary zeal.
The tail has wagged the dog and squeaky wheels and a sensationalist
media have forced both major political parties, against their
better judgment, to make political comments about climate change.
These comments have nothing to do with science. They are pragmatic
What is interesting is that the squeaky wheels are in affluent
western countries that have lost the religious structure to society.
Climate change has become the new dogmatic religion and woe betide
heretics, sinners and the wealthy. We are all now to pay papal
carbon indulgences to the Archbishops of climate change (on the
condition that such payments only hurt a little).
My concerns are that the great gains made in the Renaissance
regarding logic, argument, challenges to authority, rationality,
the use of evidence and an understanding of the world around
us have been lost in the space of a decade. This was an incredible
politically driven social change. The word sceptic is now a pejorative
word and criticism, questioning and the integration of a broad
spectrum of science is either dismissed or regarded as evil.
There is no climate change debate, only dangerous dogma, the
constriction of thinking processes and a negative view of the
Any future great environmental problems can only be solved
by science and if the weapons of science are removed, then we
place society at risk. Children now have a negative view of the
future rather than equipping themselves with the tools to make
the Earth a better place. We are now starting to reap the rewards
of dumbing down science education. The real message from the
politics of climate change is that science education in Australia
is in a woeful state. Society is again in one of its great backward
The only good news is that those who have only known the good
times are reminded to be frugal with energy and resources and
not to throw waste into our waterways and atmosphere. But we
knew this anyway, didn't we?
Ian Plimer is the Professor of Mining Geology at The University
of Adelaide and Emeritus Professor of Earth Sciences at The University