How deniers lie 4: using dubious experts

Your average man-in-the-street denier does not have any understanding of the language of science, let alone the methods of science. As a consequence, he does not have the wherewithal to even begin to pass an opinion on interpretations and modelling of climate based on the data obtained by experts and organisations who study climate science. Therefore, the man-in-the-street tends to rely on experts they perceive to be knowledgeable. However, while many of these supposed experts are scientists, most have little expertise in modern climate science, unlike those who have trained as undergraduates and postgraduates and have been employed as climate scientists and are experts in their field. I would not pretend to cast doubt on the existence of the Higgs Boson, or reality of solar activity cycles, or the role of adenosine triphosphate in energy transfer in cells of all living things, simply because that is not where my expertise lies. A few of these self-appointed experts are discussed below.

Theodor Landscheidt (1927-2004) was a German astrologer and amateur climatologist who, in 1989 predicted that there would be a series of sunspot minima after 1990, peaking in 2030, and which would lead to more intense cold periods. This in essence predicted that global warming would be reversed, something which has not happened1. Indeed, in 1996 the sun was at near minimum activity, and increased to near maximum activity in 2000. The sun operates on an 11-year cycle2, and these cycles have little influence on climate, unlike the average sun irradiance. However, the average irradiance decoupled from the earth’s temperature over 40 years ago, with the irradiance declining while the temperature rises3. The fact that Landscheidt was also an astrologer probably says a great deal about him. Astrology was born of ignorance and has been replaced by the science of Astronomy; the fact that any scientist could believe in astrology in the middle of last century, when it had for years been shown to have no basis in fact is amazing.

Bob Carter (1942-2016) was an English-born geologist and palaeontologist who mostly lived and worked in New Zealand and Australia, and became professor and head of the school of Earth Sciences at James Cook University in Townsville, in north Queensland4. For some reason, in 2011, he insisted that the planet was ‘currently cooling’, whereas all the data shows that it has consistently warmed over the decade before that statement was made and continues to do so subsequently5. Carter had received funding from the US denialist organisation, the Heartland Institute, and the Australian denialist Institute of Public Affairs6. Both of these organisations have received funding from fossil fuel companies, among others.

Ian Plimer (1946- ) is an Australian geologist and is professor emeritus at the University of Melbourne7. Plimer’s claims to infamy reside partly in his attacks on environmentalists who he claims are anti-environment, and that they are attacking western civilisation8. His infamy also resides in the old denialist chestnuts of: volcanoes pump out more carbon dioxide than humans (they don’t)9; it’s the sun (it isn’t)10; and that the Earth hasn’t warmed since 1998 (it has)11. A feature of Plimer’s recent work is that he is also a critic of creationism, and has published a book on that subject. What is ironic about that, is that creationists use the same invalid techniques as climate change deniers12. However, I suspect that the irony is lost on him.

Richard Lindzen (1940- ) is a US atmospheric physicist who has studied the dynamics of the middle atmosphere, atmospheric tides and ozone photochemistry. He was lead author on the Chapter 7 (Physical Climate Processes and Feedbacks) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change third assessment report13. This association has given him a certain cachet among climate change deniers. However, he still repeats the same errors expressed by other deniers, such as there has been no warming since 1998, etc. These are known to be incorrect11. Lindzen, is known to be a contrarian; a person who, by their very nature is inclined to take positions contrary to most other people in a field of study14. Lindzen has also debated the strength of the evidence for the damaging health effects of tobacco. He has also been in part funded by Peabody Energy, a coal company which has supported several climate-change denying organisations and individuals.

Just like you wouldn’t go to a geologist if you needed cardiac surgery, or to an ophthalmologist if you were attempting to search for deposits of silver-lead-zinc ore, the only people who deeply understand the climate and how and why it changes are almost certainly going to be those who study it in great detail. Those are climate scientists, real ones, not the self-appointed sort.





  • Jim says:

    Bob Carter was someone for whom I had some respect in this business. He was after all a very competent Quaternary geologist and presumably knew something about climate fluctuations over the last few hundred thousand years. I have not checked the provided references, but I remember Bob on Q & A one night stating that there was no doubt that global warming was occurring, but the question of human induced climate change was what he was questioning. I have heard him say much the same thing at a talk in Adelaide. I cannot remember what he thought was causing the present day global warming.

    • admin says:


      Never met him, but recently when I asked people about him, they would just roll their eyes. It’s a shame, really.

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