William Connolley is on side of anti-science not the late Bob Carter

In the past week there have been a number of tributes to Professor Bob Carter, retired Professor of Geology and leading climate sceptic. This includes Jo Nova, James Delingpole, Steve McIntyre, Ian Pilmer at the GWPF, Joe Bast of The Heartland Institute and E. Calvin Beisner of Cornwall Alliance. In complete contrast William Connolley posted this comment in a post Science advances one funeral at a time

Actually A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it, but I’m allowed to paraphrase in titles. And anyway he said it in German, naturally. Today brings us news of another such advancement in science, with the reported death of Robert Carter.

Below is a comment I posted at Climate Scepticism

I believe Max Planck did have a point. In science people tenaciously hold onto ideas even if they have been falsified by the evidence or (as more often happens) they are supplanted by better ideas. Where the existing ideas form an institutionalized consensus, discrimination has occurred against those with the hypotheses can undermine that consensus. It can be that the new research paradigm can only gain prominence when the numbers dwindle in the old paradigm. As a result the advance of new knowledge and understanding is held back.

To combat this innate conservatism in ideas I propose four ideas.

First is to promote methods of evaluating competing theories that are independent of consensus or opinion. In pure science that is by conducting experiments that would falsify a hypothesis. In complex concepts, for which experiment is not possible and data is incomplete and of poor quality, like the AGW hypothesis or economic theories, comparative analysis needs to be applied based upon independent standards.

Second is to recognize institutional bias by promoting pluralism and innovation.

Third is to encourage better definition of concepts, more rigorous standards of data within the existing research paradigm to push the boundaries.

Fourth is to train people to separate scientific endeavours from belief systems, whether religious, political or ethical.

The problem for William Connolley is that all his efforts within climatology – such as editing Wikipedia to his narrow views, or helping set up Real Climate to save the Mannian Hockey Stick from exposure of its many flaws – are with enforcing the existing paradigm and blocking any challenges. He is part of the problem that Planck was talking about.

As an example of the narrow and dogmatic views that Connolley supports, here is the late Bob Carter on his major point about how beliefs in unprecedented human-caused warming are undermined by the long-term temperature proxies from ice core data. The video quality is poor, probably due to a lack of professional funding that Connolley and his fellow-travellers fought so hard to deny.

Kevin Marshall

Douglas Carswell on Ian Pilmer’s Heaven & Earth

Like Douglas Carswell MP, I too ordered Pilmer’s Heaven & Earth following the Spectator’s article, and, like him, am only half way through.


At the half-way point Carswell point to six things he hadn’t previously known:

1.  Over the past million years, way before industrial man came along, the climate has often changed very significantly, very quickly.

2.  When climate changes, the shift is from being warm and wet to cold and dry.  Or vice-versa.  If global temperatures are rising, it’s most likely getting wetter, not drier. 

3.  Warm-wet climates are generally better for life on earth than cold-dry climates.

4.  CO2 levels have been far, far higher in the past – yet CO2 levels in the atmosphere don’t seem to have been a significant driver of climate in the past.

5.  Human activity accounts for a relatively tiny portion of global CO2 emissions.  To quote Plimer, “One [submarine] hot spring can release far more CO2 than a 1000 mW coal-fired power station”.  There are many, many thousands of such springs.

6.  Plimer suggests that the really significant drivers of climate change are the sun, ossiclations in the earth’s orbit, and volcanic emissions of sulphur dioxide.  Indeed, the 1784 eruption of Laki in Iceland put 150 million tonnes of SO2 into the atmosphere – which wiped out crops and caused famine in the northern hemisphere for a couple of years.



The major aim of the Pilmer’s Heaven & Earth is to provide to put the human influence on climate in perspective (both in magnitude and time scale), along with the limits of what we know. For instance on p.112 Pilmer says that a 1% change in the cloud cover could account for the entire C20th warming, whilst on p.115 we find that we can only measure cloudiness to an accuracy of 1%.

The broad sweep of the book is sufficient (to reasonable people) to put on hold any new policies to combat climate change. In particular any policy trying to negate runaway global temperatures. Pilmer shows the earth has a number of powerful forces affecting climate that gives fairly wide fluctuations over millions of years, but also countervailing forces (negative feedback) that gives sufficient stability to sustain life.


However, those who are about to read the book should be aware of the lack of an editor. The following can criticisms can be made

–         Pilmer uses every possible criticism available. So the temperature rise of the last century could be explained by a number of factors.

–         The case for the influence of climate on human history may be over stated, but still raises questions on the current orthodoxy.

–         There are a number of errors or exaggerations, that will be used as an excuse to dismiss the book. See George Monbiot in the Guardian at http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/georgemonbiot/2009/aug/05/climate-change-scepticism. Some of the “errors” may be a matter of opinion, but they only counter points 4 and 5.

–          It is written in a polemical style, that may confirm the belief of the doubters, but will not gain many converts from the AGW true believers. It is repetitive, introduces new topics at random and gives too many, poorly supported, examples.


On the evidence to page 223, there is scope at least for a second edition. More plausibly, for a journal is better able to draw together the diverse bits of information than one person working alone. Pilmer’s book is more than sufficient to undermine the case for delivering the human race into poverty and serfdom to “save the planet” to the unbiased person weighing the arguments. Sadly, policy-makers are being railroaded in one direction by political techniques more akin to the USSR than modern democracies.

Ian Pilmer v George Alagiah on Global Warming

The first episode of the BBC’s three Part series on the “Future of Food” made claims about the impact of global warming, that are the opposite made by Ian Pilmer in his book “Heaven and Earth”  (or a short video here)

Will Global Warming cause food shortages?

Alagiah interviews a Masai chief, whose 700 head of cattle have declined to 30 due to the prolonged drought in Kenya caused by Climate Change. He also interviews IPCC chief Dr. Rajendra Pachauri who claims that each one degree rise in temperatures in India will lead to at 10% to 20% in temperatures, and that a we could see falls in food production in Africa of up to 50%. Alagiah also mentions recent food riots as being a result of rising prices cause by climate change.

Pilmer claims that the warm periods (such as the Medieval Warm period and the Roman Period) had were times of plenty. Southern Italy had rain all the year round in the 2nd century AD (now only winter rain). North Africa, Central America and Central Asia were warmer and wetter. (p.59)  This was a time of population increase, with crop failures and famine becoming a rarity.(p.60). A simliar story for the MWP, where England and China (p.68) flourished. It was warm enough for a Viking colony to establish on Greenland, growing crops.

He also claims that the benefit of the current (more modest) warming is that the increased CO2 may lead to increased crop yields, although this could be offset by pollution (P.197)

Will Warming lead to more volatile climate?

On the BBC, we were shown pictures of flooding, and the destruction of crops, such as strawberries. A bit a warming has meant more volatility in weather. This can only increase.

Pilmer claims that it is the cooler, drier periods that have the more volatile climate. This lead to population decreases in the dark ages and at the end of the MWP. Plague did much to reduce the population in these periods.

Who to believe?

The BBC only gives short examples, and concentrates on current, localised, examples. Pilmer gives the long-term sweep of history, with lots of examples. Although Pilmer may have lots of errors (see here and here), these critics do not contradict the the implication of Pilmer that a little warming would be of net benefit to both humankind and other living things. For instance the late 20th century warming may have increased the number of species on mountain tops in the European Alps (p.195)

It is easier to give localised examples to give totally the wrong picture e.g. the droughts being caused by local deforestation elsewhere – or appearance of more extreme weather patterns due to looking for variations. It is like watching cricket. In any season, no end of records and novel facts to be recorded in every season, because there is an endless number of statistics to be collated. However, over the long period, general trends are observed, and the claimed theories contradict the data more difficult to maintain.