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Professor Ian Plimer reignites climate change debate.


MINING geology Professor Ian Plimer, from the University of Adelaide, has reignited debate on the issue of climate change with a book for "the average punter".

Heaven and Earth. Global warming: the missing science was launched in Adelaide this week by former Premier Dean Brown. The book professes to "destroy every single argument that has ever been raised about human-induced climate change".

But the University of Adelaide's climate change Professor Barry Brook says it "pushes mainstream science out of context, again and again".

"Ian's stated view of climate science is that a vast number of extremely well respected scientists and a whole range of specialist disciplines have fallen prey to delusional self interest and become nothing more than unthinking ideologues," he says.

"Plausible to conspiracy theorists, perhaps, but hardly a sane world view – and insulting to all those genuinely committed to real science."

An overwhelming majority of the world's climate scientists are convinced the planet is now warming as a result of human activity, mainly the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and gas.

About 2500 scientists, including more than 100 Australians, were involved in writing the major assessment reports for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which are widely held as a statement of scientific consensus on the topic.

Most of these scientists are concerned with recent changes to the Earth's atmosphere and how the planet can be expected to respond to rising levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases such as methane.

Professor Plimer believes the IPCC has neglected historical evidence of past climate changes, which are recorded in the rocks.

"When we look at the history of climate changes, not one has been driven by carbon dioxide," he says.

"Climate always changes, as do sea levels, as does life (on Earth) and we are living in times that are not extraordinary. The only way you can have the view that humans change climate is if you ignore history."

But Professor Brook rejects the claim that a huge body of scientific evidence, from geology and astronomy, has been ignored by the IPCC.

"This is an extraordinary proposition and quite at odds with the published literature, as reviewed by the IPCC," he says.

"I wonder if Ian has ever read their reports to find out what they actually do say."

Professor Brook was at the launch and has read Professor Plimer's book, but he is in the minority when it comes to climate scientists.

Australian Science Media Centre chief executive, Dr Susannah Eliott, has encouraged climate scientists to read the book and make informed comment.

"A lot of them haven't read the book and don't want to read the book," she said.

"I bought four copies and we've farmed it out to different people and said `read it, have a look at it, give us your comments'. So far what we gather is there isn't anything new in there, they are all old arguments."

SA Museum director Suzanne Miller says she attended the launch to support a colleague and bought the book, but hasn't had a chance to read it yet.

"I think that it is incredibly healthy to have a debate and discussion about the science behind climate change," she says.

"As a geologist I agree entirely with practically all other geologists, including Ian, that there has been change throughout the history of the planet. It's a very dynamic place."

UniSA chancellor Dr Ian Gould was also in attendance and was pointed out by Professor Plimer as having purchased 10 books.

A geologist by profession, Dr Gould has 40 years of experience in the minerals industry in diverse and senior positions, mainly within the CRA and Rio Tinto group.

Dr Gould says he was prepared to comment only as an individual, not as a representative of industry or the university.

"Climate change is real, it is happening, there's no doubt," he says. "It's only an issue of how much is about carbon dioxide caused by man-made processes."

Professor Plimer says he called in the "big guns" to back him up on this one, such as European Union President Vaclav Klaus, who has written a cover note.

"I've done that very deliberately to show that there is a great body of extremely clever and well-known people out there that do not agree with the Chicken Little arguments that are being put up," he says.

"What I've done is I've written this book as a compendium of the science so that the average punter can read it and validate the intuitive gut feelings that they've had because the punters out there are not stupid, they know when they've been fed rubbish."

Journalist Christopher Pearson from The Australian said he was honoured to serve as the master of ceremonies at the launch.

He says Dr Plimer has given sceptics a "campaign document" that contains all the ammunition they could want, packed into 493 eloquent pages.

"Heartened by it, perhaps some timid politicians in both main parties will at last feel at liberty to own up to their private reservations about warmist catastrophe," he says.