Beware of 'Plimer contrarianism' (letter)by Dr Brian E. Lloyd, AMNews Weekly
, May 30, 2009
Michael Gilchrist's review of Ian Plimer's book Heaven and Earth
, May 16, 2009) displays all the religious zeal of the climate contrarians.
I am continually disappointed with the coverage given to the typical single-issue contrarians, who latch on to supposed facts and fail to appreciate the breadth and depth of scientific complexity of the interacting issues that have to be understood.
To provide a contrasting view, I have been reading Dr Barrie Pittock's new book Climate Change: The Science, Impacts and Solutions
(CSIRO Publishing). It has been an illuminating experience.
During 2006/7, I devoted six months to undertaking my own study of the subject. As an engineer with a well-tuned reality meter, I took a broad view as an intelligent observer and not as a pretending expert.
Dr Pittock is a retired senior CSIRO climate scientist and, as a world figure, he presents a quiet and balanced understanding of the whole range of issues from paleo-climatology and atmospheric water vapour, to the nature and complexity of modern computer modelling.
He and his colleagues at CSIRO had to keep their heads down during the Howard years; but from my observation, CSIRO expertise on the subject of global warming is of world standing.
Dr Pittock displays an extraordinary breadth and depth of scholarship, and he backs up his writing with a mass of peer-reviewed scientific literature, while carefully distinguishing between predictions, scenarios and projections.
From my own independent studies of the literature, I am able to appreciate the value and scientific authenticity of his exposition.
My conclusion remains that the many eminent climate scientists around the world, including Dr Pittock, are neither crazy, nor crooks, nor dishonestly chasing research dollars, nor politically motivated, nor corrupted by "religious" zeal, and that, while their computer models predict nothing, they do present scenarios and projections that, if they were anywhere near possible, would put the future of the world in jeopardy.
Because I have a significant genetic investment in the future, I take note of that risk.
The great problems of this age are self-confident and assertive ignorance of real science, and of the associated political and media processes.
The media are about sensationalism, and they are not interested in the committed scientists who have difficulty avoiding the appearance of equivocators.
The real scientists always include the uncertainties and degrees of risk, and so are interpreted as not knowing what they are talking about. The single-issue contrarians get all the sensational attention.
The political process relies upon economists interpreting the science to lawyer-politicians. Economists and lawyers, of all people, are somewhat deficient in scientific understanding. For these reasons, real understanding is clouded and political expedience rules.
I am quite pessimistic. It looks as if mitigation actions will be delayed until some irretrievable climate tipping-point is reached.
And then I become concerned about my grandchildren. Perhaps some of the climate change contrarians have something to place on the scales of risk; but I have not heard anything yet to reduce my concern that the climate scientists hold the balance of risk probabilities.
An objective scientifically-based review of the Pittock book would be a service to the readers of News Weekly
, to balance the misplaced enthusiasm for the Plimer contrarianism.Dr Brian E. Lloyd, AM,
Hampton East, Vic.
(Past president, Institution of Engineers, Australia)