Correspondence with Ian Plimer

Here are the emails I’ve exchanged with the climate change denier Ian Plimer.

Letter to the Spectator from Ian Plimer, published 15 July 2009

Sir: The normal suspects are fulminating because James Delingpole actually dared to thoroughly read and review my book Heaven and Earth: Global warming — the missing science. It appears that an alternative view on climate change by an established scientist should not be aired in our green utopia. The Guardian’s George Monbiot, who criticised this magazine’s decision to publish James Delingpole’s interview with me, should put his money where his mouth is — or is he just hot air? I am happy to fly to London at my expense to debate Mr Monbiot on ‘Humans induce climate change: myth or reality’.

28 July 2009

Dear Professor Plimer,

Here is the letter I sent to the Spectator in response to yours. We await your answers with great anticipation.

Yours Sincerely,

George Monbiot

Sir,

Ian Plimer challenges me to debate his claims about climate change. I accept. In fact I accepted a fortnight ago, when I began this debate by taking him to task.

Along with other critics, I have laid out a list of specific errors of fact and misrepresentations, which he uses to support his argument. The ball is now in his court. To participate in this debate, he should answer the points I listed, as well as the other issues raised by Tim Lambert, Ian Enting and David Karoly. Then we can reply. But Plimer, as far as I can discover, has yet to produce any specific response to the very serious allegations made by his critics, preferring to heap insults on them instead.

These are all scientific matters, some of which are complex. To engage in this debate, we need to establish the facts and provide references. This is why it is better to debate these issues in writing; ideally, as Plimer’s critics have done, in electronic format, so that people can follow the links. Attempting to resolve these issues in person is likely either to become extremely boring or to degenerate into a slanging match. The Guardian’s website is open to him, and we look forward to his responses.

Is he up to this, or will he keep ducking our challenge? The floor is his.

George Monbiot

29 July 2009

Dear Mr Monbiot,

The view of critics you cite is second hand, unrefereed and on unedited blogs and www sites. This is not scholarship, it is cant. From critics’ comments they clearly did not read the book. At least three of my critics were sent photocopies of small parts of the book and this was used for their public criticism. I suspect that you have also not read my book.

As you state, the floor is mine. I ask James Delingpole (copied into this email) to organise a venue for a Spectator debate between the two of us on Monday 30th November. This will give you time to read my book. No debate I have had has been extremely boring or a slanging match because I stick to the science. By contrast, blog and www sites are the venue for slanging matches.

I will book my flights and accommodation today to spend the week 30th November-4th December in London.

Kind regards,

Ian Plimer

29 July 2009

Dear Ian,

Thank you for your message. I see no reason why we should wait until November, or why I should waste my time talking to a man who resolutely refuses to answer his critics. You have been challenged on straightforward matters of fact. Your claims are either right or wrong. You have the opportunity, right now, to defend them in a public forum. Why don’t you take it? Why, indeed, have you never taken it? Are they not defensible?

The Guardian’s website is open to you now, and as soon as you send us a response we will publish it.

With best wishes,

George Monbiot

01 August 2009

Dear Ian,

I don’t know whether or not the Spectator has passed this on, but I have agreed to the debate, on the following conditions.

1. It’ll be a joint Guardian/Spectator event.

2. Ian Plimer responds to my challenge, and writes precise and specific responses to each of the numbered questions that I will send him and you over the next few days, for publication on the Guardian’s website. The reason for this condition is that I don’t want him to use our debate as an excuse not to answer my points. I accept his challenge if he accepts mine.

3. We can cross-examine each other. Ideally I would like the event to take the form of a trial, in which we each test each other’s claims.

I hope you are able to accept.

With best wishes,

George

03 August 2009

Dear Mr Monbiot,

I agree to your first condition (the debate will be a joint Guardian/Spectator event) subject to agreement from The Spectator. Any questions that you may have regarding the hypothesis of human-induced global warming can be put to me at that debate for my refutation. I will also be putting questions to you in this debate hence your points 2 and 3 are superfluous and not in the spirit of a public debate. This means that both challenges can be dealt with in front of the debate audience.

Kind regards,

Ian Plimer

03 August 2009

Dear Ian,

So you are ducking the challenge, in other words? I accept yours but you won’t accept mine? So much for your enthusiasm for debate!

In case you have somehow missed the point of condition 2, let me spell it out. In a face-to-face debate, we will be speaking in broad terms and making sweeping statements – such is the nature of these events. We might also make some specific claims, but these will be impossible for the audience to check during the event. In a written exchange, containing links and references, the readers can see for themselves whether or not your specific claims stack up. The two debates are complementary: having had the opportunity to check your specifics, people at the face-to-face debate can better assess your generalisations. There is no good reason that I can think of why you would wish to avoid this process: in fact it gives you an excellent opportunity to answer the very damaging allegations made by your critics. There is an obvious bad reason.

Condition 3 allows us to put each other’s claims to the test. Again, I can understand why you might wish to avoid this, and again it does you no credit.

These are my terms and I am sticking to them. If you want a face-to-face debate you must first answer the allegations of grave factual errors and deliberate distortions made by your critics, which I will put to you in the form of numbered points. Will you accept this, or are we to conclude that you can’t face the music? Does all this posturing as the brave maverick exposing a global conspiracy really conceal a broad yellow streak?

Yours Sincerely,

George Monbiot

04 August 2009

Dear Ian,

here’s an article of mine posted on the Guardian’s website today:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/georgemonbiot/2009/aug/03/ian-plimer-climate-change-denial?commentpage=1

I do hope you will reconsider.

With my best wishes, George

[In this article I accuse him of cowardice]

04 August 2009

Dear Mr Monbiot,

I have nothing to reconsider as I still await the questions you were to send to me as per your email of 3rd August. I will in return be asking you questions. My condition is that the written and verbal debates have an air of civility, if the science pertaining to global warming can not be debated by using science then this is a poor reflection on those advocating their positions. This condition is hardly necessary with a scientific debate between gentlemen however, in the past, I have had far too many debates with creationists.

Kind regards,

Ian Plimer

05 August 2009

Dear Ian,

I am delighted to hear that you have reconsidered your position, and that you are now prepared to engage with me in writing. Here are my questions. Please answer without resort to bluff or bluster. I am looking for precise and specific responses, with references attached.

There are dozens of grave concerns raised by scientists about false claims, misrepresentations and distortions in your book Heaven and Earth. Were I to try to represent them all, this post would run to many pages. So I have chosen just a few. The criteria I have used are as follows:

– These statements are either right or wrong, sourced or unsourced.

– They are critical to your argument. If they turn out to be false, they torpedo your thesis.

– If your claims are correct, you should be able to answer my questions briefly and easily.

For a fuller list of the alleged falsehoods, fabrications and distortions your book contains, please see the critiques by

Tim Lambert http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2009/04/the_science_is_missing_from_ia.php

Ian Enting,

http://bravenewclimate.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/plimer1a9.pdf

Barry Brook,

http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/04/23/ian-plimer-heaven-and-earth/

Michael Ashley

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,,25433059-5003900,00.html

David Karoly

http://www.abc.net.au/rn/scienceshow/stories/2009/2593166.htm

and

Kurt Lambeck

http://www.abc.net.au/rn/ockhamsrazor/stories/2009/2589206.htm

Once you have given clear and precise answers to these questions, we can confirm the date of our face-to-face debate.

1. The first graph in your book (Figure 1, page 11) shows global temperatures, as measured by the Hadley Centre (HadCRUT), falling by 0.3C between 2007 and 2008. In reality the fall recorded by the HadCRUT3 data series is 0.089C.

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climatechange/science/monitoring/hadcrut3.html

How do you explain the discrepancy between the HadCRUT3 figure and your claim?

2. Figure 3 (page 25) is a graph purporting to show that most of the warming in the 20th Century took place before 1945, and was followed by a period of sharp cooling. You cite no source for it, but it closely resembles the global temperature graph in the first edition of Martin Durkin’s film The Great Global Warming Swindle. Durkin later changed the graph after the film was exposed for massaging the curve and falsely extending the timeline.

http://www.ofcomswindlecomplaint.net/FullComplaint.pdf

In your book it remains unchanged.

Tim Lambert has reproduced the graph here:

http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/upload/2009/04/plimerfig3.png

a. What is the source for the graph you used?

b. Where was it first published?

c. Whose figures does it use?

d. How do you explain the alteration of both the curves and the timeline? http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/04/23/ian-plimer-heaven-and-earth/

3. You maintain that “the last two years of global cooling have erased nearly thirty years of temperature increase.” (page 25) Again you do not provide a reference. As you can see here, the Met Office HadCRUT3 series shows that this claim is untrue.

http://hadobs.metoffice.com/hadcrut3/diagnostics/comparison.html

a. Please give the source for your claim.

b. How do you reconcile it with the published data?

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?

5. Discussing climate trends in the Arctic, you state that “the sea ice has expanded” (p198). Again, you give no reference.

a. Please give a source for this claim.

b. How do you explain the discrepancy between this claim and the published data? http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/

6. You state that “If the current atmospheric CO2 content of 380 ppmv were doubled to 760 ppmv […] [a]n increase of 0.5C is likely” (p366). Again you give no source. Please provide a reference for this claim.

7. You claim that “About 98% of the greenhouse effect in the atmosphere is due to water vapour.” (p370). Ian Enting says “In some cases the numbers given by Plimer are exaggerated to such an extent as to imply that without water vapour, Earth’s temperature would be below absolute zero – a physical impossibility.”

He explains this as follows.

You state:

“The Earth has an average surface temperature of about 15C […] If the atmosphere had no CO2, far more heat would be lost from Earth and the average surface temperature would be -3C.” (p366)

Enting says:

“The implication of attributing 18C of warming to CO2 while saying […] ‘About 98% of the greenhouse effect in the atmosphere is due to water vapour’ is to imply that in the absence of CO2 and H2O, the temperature would be 900C lower, i.e. well below the physical limit of absolute zero.”

Again you give no source.

a. Please provide a reference for your claim about water vapour.

b. Please explain how your two statements (98% of the greenhouse effect is caused by water vapour and 18C can be attributed to CO2) can both be true.

8. You cite a paper by Charles F Keller as the source of your claim that “satellites and radiosondes show that there is no global warming.” (p382)

This is what the paper says:

“The big news [is] the collapse of the climate critics’ last real bastion, namely that satellites and radiosondes show no significant warming in the past quarter century. Figuratively speaking, this was the center pole that held up the critics’ entire “tent.” Their argument was that, if there had been little warming in the past 25 years or so, then what warming was observed would have been within the range of natural variations with solar forcing as the major player. Further, the models would have been shown to be unreliable since they were predicting warming that was not happening. But now both satellite and in-situ radiosonde observations have been shown to corroborate both the surface observations of warming and the model predictions.”

http://www.thescientificworld.com/TSW/toc/TSWJ_ArticleLanding.asp?jid=141&FromPage=Search&ArticleId=2516&navFrom=Search&From=Result

a. How did you manage to reverse the findings of this paper?

b. Was it a mistake or was it deliberate misrepresentation?

9. You state “The Hadley Centre in the UK has shown that warming stopped in 1998″ (p391). Again you produce no reference.

This is what the Hadley Centre says:

“The evidence is clear – the long-term trend is that global temperatures are rising, and humans are largely responsible for this rise. Global warming does not mean that each year will be warmer than the last. Natural phenomena will mean that some years will be much warmer and others cooler. You only need to look at 1998 to see a record-breaking warm year caused by a very strong El Niño. In the last couple of years, the underlying warming is partially masked caused by a strongLa Niña. Despite this, 11 of the last 13 years were the warmest ever recorded. […] Over the last ten years, global temperatures have warmed more slowly than the long-term trend. But this does not mean that global warming has slowed down or even stopped. It is entirely consistent with our understanding of natural fluctuations of the climate within a trend of continued long-term warming.”

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/corporate/pressoffice/2008/warming_goes_on.pdf

a. Please give a reference for your claim.

b. How do you explain the discrepancy between your account of what the Hadley Centre says and theirs?

10. You state that “Volcanoes produce more CO2 than the world’s cars and industries combined.” (p413)

This is similar to the claim in The Great Global Warming Swindle, whose narrator maintained that “Volcanoes produce more CO2 each year than all the factories and cars and planes and other sources of man-made carbon dioxide put together.”

But you do not provide a source for it.

This is what the US Geological Survey says: “Human activities release more than 130 times the amount of CO2 emitted by volcanoes”.

http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/hazards/gas/index.php

a. Please provide a reference for your claim.

b. How do you explain the discrepancy between this claim and the published data?

11. You maintain that “termite methane emissions are 20 times potent than human CO2 emissions”. (p472) Please provide a source for this claim.

Thank you,

Yours Sincerely,

George Monbiot

06 August 2009

Dear Ian,

Here’s today’s article. I’m looking forward to your response.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/georgemonbiot/2009/aug/05/climate-change-scepticism

With my best wishes, George

[This article contains my questions to Professor Plimer]

07 August 2009

Dear Mr Monbiot,

After undergraduate lectures have finished today, I will start compiling questions for you and will start addressing your questions. Thank you for your efforts.

Kind regards,

Ian Plimer

10 August 2009

Dear Mr Monbiot,

Attached are my questions for you.

Kind regards,

Ian Plimer

1. From the distribution of the vines, olives, citrus and grain crops in Europe, UK and Greenland, calculate the temperature in the Roman and Medieval Warmings and the required atmospheric CO2 content at sea level to drive such warmings. What are the errors in your calculation? Reconcile your calculations with at least five atmospheric CO2 proxies. Show all calculations and justify all assumptions.

2. Tabulate the CO2 exhalation rates over the last 15,000 years from (i) terrestrial and submarine volcanism (including maars, gas vents, geysers and springs) and calc-silicate mineral formation, and (ii) CH4 oxidation to CO2 derived from CH4 exhalation by terrestrial and submarine volcanism, natural hydrocarbon leakage from sediments and sedimentary rocks, methane hydrates, soils, microbiological decay of plant material, arthropods, ruminants and terrestrial methanogenic bacteria to a depth of 4 km. From these data, what is the C12, C13 and C14 content of atmospheric CO2 each thousand years over the last 15,000 years and what are the resultant atmospheric CO2 residence times? All assumptions need to be documented and justified.

3. From first principles, calculate the effects on atmospheric temperature at sea level by changes in cloudiness of 0.5%, 1% and 2% at 0%, 20%, 40%, 60% and 80% humidity. What changes in cloudiness would have been necessary to drive the Roman Warming, Dark Ages, Medieval Warming and Little Ice Age? Show all calculations and justify all assumptions.

4. Calculate the changes in atmospheric C12 and C13 content of CO2 and CH4 from crack-seal deformation. What is the influence of this source of gases on atmospheric CO2 residence time since 1850? Validate assumptions and show all calculations.

5. From CO2 proxies, carbonate rock and mineral volumes and stable isotopes, calculate the CO2 forcing of temperature in the Huronian, Neoproterozoic, Ordovician, Permo-Carboniferous and Jurassic ice ages. Why is the “faint Sun paradox” inapplicable to the Phanerozoic ice ages in the light of your calculations? All assumptions must be validated and calculations and sources of information must be shown.

6. From ocean current velocity, palaeotemperature and atmosphere measurements of ice cores and stable and radiogenic isotopes of seawater, atmospheric CO2 and fluid inclusions in ice and using atmospheric CO2 residence times of 4, 12, 50 and 400 years, numerically demonstrate that the modern increase in atmospheric CO2 could not derive from the Medieval Warming.

7. Calculate the changes in the atmospheric transmissivity of radiant energy over the last 2,000 years derived from a variable ingress of stellar, meteoritic and cometary dust, terrestrial dust, terrestrial volcanic aerosols and industrial aerosols. How can your calculations show whether atmospheric temperature changes are related to aerosols? All assumptions must be justified and calculations and sources of information must be shown.

8. Calculate 10 Ma time flitches using W/R ratios of 10, 100 and 500 for the heat addition to the oceans, oceanic pH changes and CO2 additions to bottom waters by alteration of sea floor rocks to greenschist and amphibolite facies assemblages, the cooling of new submarine volcanic rocks (including MORBs) and the heat, CO2 and CH4 additions from springs and gas vents since the opening of the Atlantic Ocean. From your calculations, relate the heat balance to global climate over these 10 Ma flitches. What are the errors in your calculations? Show all calculations and discuss the validity of any assumptions made.

9. Calculate the rate of isostatic sinking of the Pacific Ocean floor resulting from post LGM loading by water, the rate of compensatory land level rise, the rate of gravitationally-induced sea level rise and sea level changes from morphological changes to the ocean floor. Numerically reconcile your answer with the post LGM sea level rise, oceanic thermal expansion and coral atoll drilling in the South Pacific Ocean. What are the relative proportions of sea level change derived from your calculations?

10. From atmospheric CO2 measurements, stable isotopes, radiogenic Kr and hemispheric transport of volcanic aerosols, calculate the rate of mixing of CO2 between the hemispheres of planet Earth and reconcile this mixing with CO2 solubility, CO2 chemical kinetic data, CO2 stable and cosmogenic isotopes, the natural sequestration rates of CO2 from the atmosphere into plankton, oceans, carbonate sediments and cements, hydrothermal alteration, soils, bacteria and plants for each continent and ocean. All assumptions must be justified and calculations and sources of information must be shown. Calculations may need to be corrected for differences in 12CO2, 13CO2 and 14CO2 kinetic adsorption and/or molecular variations in oceanic dissolution rates.

11. Calculate from first principles the variability of climate, the warming and cooling rates and global sea level changes from the Bölling to the present and compare and contrast the variability, maximum warming and maximum sea level change rates over this time period to that from 1850 to the present. Using your calculations, how can natural and human-induced changes be differentiated? All assumptions must be justified and calculations and sources of information must be shown.

12. Calculate the volume of particulate and sulphurous aerosols and CO2 and CH4 coeval with the last three major mass extinctions of life. Use the figures derived from these calculations to numerically demonstrate the effects of terrestrial, deep submarine, hot spot and mid ocean ridge volcanism on planktonic and terrestrial life on Earth. What are the errors in your calculations?

13. From the annual average burning of hydrocarbons, lignite, bituminous coal and natural and coal gas, smelting, production of cement, cropping, irrigation and deforestation, use the 25µm, 7µm and 2.5µm wavelengths to calculate the effect that gaseous, liquid and solid H2O have on atmospheric temperature at sea level and at 5 km altitude at latitudes of 20º, 40º, 60º and 80ºS. How does the effect of H2O compare with the effect of CO2 derived from the same sources? All assumptions must be justified and calculations and sources of information must be shown.

10 August 2009

Dear Ian,

and your answers? When will we have the pleasure?

Best wishes,

George

11 August 2009

Dear Mr Monbiot,

I can not see my questions posted on your blog site. Can you please direct me to the correct posting? You might also care to correct what are the errors of fact on your blog site as I never reconsidered my position. My answers to your questions are being compiled in non-lecturing periods. When can I expect the calculations, justification of assumptions and answers to my questions?

Kind regards,

Ian Plimer

12 August 2009

Hi Ian,

Here’s my latest:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/georgemonbiot/2009/aug/12/climate-change-climate-change-scepticism

When are you going to answer my questions?

With best wishes, George

[This article contains Plimer's questions and my response to them]

14 August 2009

Dear Mr Monbiot,

There are seven versions of Heaven and Earth and only my Australian
publisher and I know the differences in diagrams, references and text
between the seven. It has taken some time to look at your questions
and determine which version was used for compilation of the
questions. Can you please confirm that you have actually read Heaven
and Earth and that your questions derive from that reading.

I am aware that Damian Carrington has a copy, that John Vidal had two
and that you will receive a copy on Monday.

Kind regards,

Ian Plimer

14 August 2009

Dear Ian,

yes, I have read Heaven and Earth. The copy I have is a hardback, which has a black cover with a picture of a ball of cracked mud on the front. (I’m away from my office at the moment so I don’t have more details). I am very much looking forward to your answers, at your earliest convenience. In the meantime, I think I should inform you that you are currently being torn into tiny shreds on the comment thread following my article and on a number of other internet forums. Your tactic doesn’t seem to have gone down very well.

With my best wishes,

George

20 August 2009

Dear Mr Monbiot,

I too have been away on field work.

Can you please give me an indication when I will get the answers to my questions of science and why you will not debate me on the Michael Medved radio show?

Kind regards,

Ian Plimer

1st September 2009

Dear Ian,

Please accept my apologies for not replying before. I am recovering from surgery.

You ask: “Can you please give me an indication when I will get the answers to my questions of science”.

I told you in my last post that “I am unqualified to answer them” and “you’re asking the wrong person”.

Fortunately, however, someone far better qualified than either me or you – Gavin Schmidt of NASA – has stepped into the breach and answered them on my behalf:

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/08/plimers-homework-assignment/

As Gavin remarks, your questions are

“quite transparently a device to avoid dealing with Monbiot’s questions”

and they are

“designed to lead to an argument along the lines of “Monbiot can’t answer these questions and so knows nothing about the science (and by the way, please don’t notice that I can’t cite any sources for my nonsense or even acknowledge that I can’t answer these questions either)”.”

What Schmidt shows is that some of your questions are pure pseudoscientific gobbledegook. As he notes, “The throwing around of irrelevant geologic terms and undefined jargon is simply done in order to appear more knowledgeable than your interlocutor.”

The remainder can be answered immediately – as Schmidt has done – because the information you seek has already been provided by other means.

In all cases they raise grave doubts about your judgement and your scientific competence. Some of them give cause for concern even about your credentials as a geologist, let alone your extravagant claims to expertise in other branches of science. In desperately seeking to avoid my questions, you have dragged your own name still further through the mud.

Please regard Gavin’s response as my final answer to your 13 questions – I can’t do better than him.

Other people have also engaged with your questions, such as Chris Colose:

http://chriscolose.wordpress.com/2009/08/12/ian-plimers-questions-to-george-monbiot/

Greenfyre:

http://greenfyre.wordpress.com/2009/08/12/monbiot-is-wrong-about-plimers-questions/

and Andrew Dodds:

http://tamino.wordpress.com/2009/08/12/monbiot-vs-plimer/#comment-34157

Here’s the wiki page set up to address them:

http://campaigns.wikia.com/wiki/Plimer_questions_Monbiot

You must be flattered by all the attention.

In the meantime, my questions remain unanswered. In fact, this appears to have been the sole purpose of your time-wasting exercise.

My questions concern only what you purport to know. You made precise and specific claims in your book. Many of them are either unsourced or blatantly misrepresent your sources. I have simply asked you to cite your sources and explain your statements. This should be quick and easy to do – if you have a leg to stand on. The longer you delay and seek to distract, evade and bluster, the more obvious it becomes that you cannot answer them.

You also ask: “why you will not debate me on the Michael Medved radio show?”

I have no idea what you are talking about. I have never heard of the Michael Medved show and no one has contacted me on its behalf. We have agreed to conduct a public debate sponsored by the Guardian and the Spectator. This can go ahead when you have answered my questions and agreed that we may cross-examine each other. You have so far done neither.

So to concentrate your mind, I am now giving you a deadline. You have already had almost a month in which to answer my questions, which I put to you on Thursday 6th August. I am now giving you a further ten days. If you have not sent me precise and specific answers to each of my questions by Friday 11th September, I will conclude that your have thrown in the towel and chickened out of the debate.

With my best wishes,

George

02 September 2009

Dear Ian,

here is my latest blog post about your failure to answer my questions:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/georgemonbiot/2009/sep/01/heaven-earth-answers-plimer

With my best wishes,

George

06 September 2009

Dear Ian,

I am writing to remind you that the deadline for your answers falls on Friday. If you have not responded by 5pm British Summer Time on Friday 11th September, I will take that as confirmation that you have chickened out of our debate. If you wish to avoid this outcome, please send precise and specific responses before the deadline expires.

Thank you,

With my best wishes, George

12 November 2009

Dear Mr Monbiot,

I return from abroad, interstate and outback to a very large number of emails, including a number from you.

As you are aware, I challenged you to debate me. Contrary to normal debate procedure, you imposed a condition (i.e. I answer your questions) hence my condition for a debate was that you also answer my questions. My questions derive from some 40 years of examining students to ascertain whether they have actually undertaken the minimum amount of reading, whether they understand the subject, whether they have critically analysed the validated available information, whether they have plagiarised and whether they have the basic skills to communicate knowledge. By contrast, your questions appear to derive from a person with an unhealthy incandescent anger hence the lack of structure, coherence, internal consistency and hints of irrationality.

My thirteen questions were also to check whether you have really read Heaven and Earth because this is where the answers to my questions lie. This was a double blind test to see if I could validate your claim that you had actually read my book or whether you had plagiarised questions from the handful of Australian critics with undeclared interests in the matter of human-induced climate change. In any University examination, plagiarisation means instant failure and dismissal from a degree course. I impose this test on my students and I have also imposed it on you. There are now nine print versions of Heaven and Earth, your description of the cover of a UK edition (August 20 email) does not mean that you have actually read the book and, because all nine print runs are different, your questions show that they derived from a print version that you did not describe. At the debate, I will expand on this will leave it to the debate audience to make a decision on your claim that you have actually read the book at the time you made that claim.

Most of my critics have not read Heaven and Earth which demonstrates that critics’ arguments have no intellectual basis. If you had actually read the book, you could not have escaped the central themes: (a) the past is the key to the present, (b) that integrated interdisciplinary science shows that Earth is a very complex non-linear open system and (c) that science does not operate by consensus, bullying, fads, fashions, authority, government decree, beliefs, intuition or vested interests. If you had read the book, these themes would have been reflected in your questions. You asked me no questions about these three themes, if your claims of reading my book are correct then one can only conclude that you have accepted my arguments. My questions to you were such that you could calculate and prove the validity of two of these themes thereby showing that human-induced global warming is a tenuous hypothesis. This may change your thought processes from unhealthy dogma to a healthy uncertainty and scepticism which underpin all science.

I just can not accept that you are unqualified to answer my questions (September 1 email) and I ascribe this comment to post-surgery traumatic confusion or, perhaps, an eclectic sense of humour. Maybe you are astute enough to realise that my questions forced you to demonstrate to yourself from first principles that human-induced global warming is a discredited hypothesis.

You have established yourself as a populist scribe on matters concerning the environment, especially in the area of human-induced global warming. To write incessantly on such matters, you must have scientific training to be able to understand the basic science and the strengths and weaknesses of the scientific arguments concerning human-induced climate change. If you do not have such knowledge, qualifications and training on matters scientific, then this should be declared in your writings on human-induced climate change. Such a declaration was made by James Delingpole in The Spectator, you have not made a similar declaration hence your readers can only conclude that you have the qualifications to write on a scientific matter. Without such a declaration, you would be engaging in misleading and deceptive conduct.

You have the honour of being the UK journalistic expert on matters concerning human-induced climate change, a subject underpinned by science. It is just simply not possible to bathe in this reputation yet claim that you are now suddenly unqualified to answer elementary scientific questions on matters of human-induced climate change in the absence of a declaration similar to that of Delingpole. Furthermore, I was told that you have read for a degree in science and, unless this degree was obtained from a US degree mill for $20, you certainly have the training to answer simple questions concerning elementary science.

If you can not understand elementary science, then as a journalist writing on matters underpinned by science you are certainly not qualified to write a balanced newspaper article or provide dispassionate comment. Blog and WWW sites are quite correctly the places for anonymous unbalanced unsubstantiated opinion which is why my one and only blog entry was to challenge you to a debate. Until blog and WWW sites are edited, peer reviewed and transparent, they remain an outlet for ignorance, anger and misinformation and do not constitute the process of science. Scientists who spend time on blogs and their own narcissitic WWW sites are not undertaking science. They are involved in political activism, which is not a process of science.

If you have no scientific training or now, because of probing questions, suddenly claim that you are unqualified to answer my questions, then you are not qualified to write on matters concerning the science of climate change. In financial circles, there are very strict laws to stop financial advice and opinion unless that opinion is delivered by a person of standing. It is the same in my field of geology. The same should apply to you. If you can not answer my questions of science, you are not qualified to ask me questions of science because my scientific answers therefore become pearls to swine. I foolishly assumed you had a bachelor’s degree in science and had some scientific knowledge, I will now amend my answers to a language suitable for a scientifically illiterate person. It is very simple. Either you answer my questions or you declare in public that your writings on scientific matters such as the environment and human-induced climate change are unrelated to science hence totally ill-informed.

The debate topic, Global Warming: Myth or Reality, is a matter of science and I look forward to hearing the science that supports your beliefs. I regularly engage in such debates, the last of which was yesterday Sunday 6th September in Sydney. I will, of course, interrogate you on matters of science or may demand you to undertake a number of simple mathematical calculations to substantiate your beliefs on matters of science. This will demonstrate in public that you actually understand elementary science. In my book Telling lies for God, there was a section on debate tactics of the creationists. The parallels are uncanny. Just for my own peace of mind, can you please assure me that you are not a young Earth creationist?

I have booked and paid for travel and organised accommodation in London. I arrive in London on 9th November, depart on 13th November and will attend the debate at the Savoy Place on 12th November. If I pay a few thousand dollars to come to London to debate you, then I have put my money where my mouth is. This trip is not being paid for by my publishers, The Guardian or The Spectator. Time for you to also put your money where your mouth is and answer elementary questions of science and justify your beliefs on a scientific matter in a public debate.

To avoid answering my questions or to claim that you are now suddenly unqualified to answer simple questions of science demonstrates that you are unwilling to be intellectually challenged and that you can only provide unqualified unbalanced opinion on blog sites. I have only ever looked at one site and your supporters demonstrate that they can not spell, do not write in English and hence demonstrate a lack of clarity of thought. If this is the level of the intellectual foundations and public support that underpin your beliefs, then I feel very sad for you. In former times, such troubled people were sent from the UK to Australia to connect with Nature, spirituality and the real world. I have an outback station (31 deg 51 min 30.29 S, 141 deg 11 min 31.19 sec E) some 30 km west of Broken Hill (NSW) and would be delighted to have you as a guest to allow what may well be a necessary reflective monastic period of time. I have recently used my station for this purpose to recover from the emotional trauma of international cricket and rugby losses.

One presumes that you will continue to refuse to answer my simple questions of science. I will submit my answers to your questions when you simultaneously submit your answers to my questions. This is because the tone of your emails (e.g. Phoebe Vela, September 3) is ungentlemanly and you have already telegraphed that you may not be answering my questions. It now looks like an event of theatre on the stage immediately before the debate at the Savoy Place. I will hand over my written answers to your questions concurrent with you handing over your written answers to my questions.

Kind regards,

Ian Plimer

08 September 2009

Dear Ian,

I can confirm that I have read your book from cover to cover. Now that I am back at my desk I can tell you that the edition I have read is published in the UK by Quartet books, ISBN 978 0 7043 7166 8. I gave the page and figure numbers as they appear in the text of the edition I possess, which, to judge by other people’s references, is the same text (with the same numbers) as in all other editions.

You say that the answers to your questions lie in this book. But your book answers nothing. It is incoherent, contradictory and, most importantly, plain wrong on page after page. Moreover, your questions are pure pseudoscientific gobbledegook, and designed not to be answered. As you no longer appear to wish to debate me, I will wager you £10 that you are unable to provide cogent, coherent and complete answers to your own questions, which meet the standards you have laid out in this letter. You have two weeks in which to respond.

But of course the true purpose of your questions is to provide yourself with an excuse for not answering mine. Mine are simple and direct questions based only on the statements you have made in your book. They require no more knowledge than you purport to possess. You are simply kicking up as much dust as possible because you are unable or unwilling to answer them. Gavin Schmidt remarked that yours were:

“designed to lead to an argument along the lines of ‘Monbiot can’t answer these questions and so knows nothing about the science (and by the way, please don’t notice that I can’t cite any sources for my nonsense or even acknowledge that I can’t answer these questions either)’.”

Perhaps he has prophetic powers, as this is exactly what you have done here.

I would remind you that it is not over yet. You still have three days in which to answer my questions, whereupon – once you have also agreed that we may cross-examine each other – I will be delighted to debate you on the date we have agreed. You are the one who requested this debate. If you want it to go ahead, you know what to do.

But perhaps you feel braver addressing the audience by yourself. If so, I don’t blame you. As our correspondence has shown, you seem to be incapable of meeting a direct challenge.

With my best wishes,

George

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