Ian Plimer

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Ian Plimer
Quote: "... you can double [carbon dioxide] and quadruple it and it has no effect ... To demonise it shows that you don't understand school child science. (Ian Plimer, interviewed on ABNNewswire, June 2009[1])

Ian R. Plimer (born February 12, 1946), a mining geologist, mining company director and anthropogenic global warming denier with no evident expertise in climate science, has written the "denier's bible", a book called Heaven and Earth, which makes mutually-inconsistent claims[2] and was panned as being riddled with errors. In 2011 he wrote the "anti-warmist manual" How to Get Expelled From School: A guide to climate change for pupils, parents and punters, which reviewers found to be full of scientific errors, containing flawed and undocumented diagrams, and sloppily edited.[3][4][5]

Background and affiliations

Plimer is Professor of Mining Geology at the University of Adelaide, South Australia, and Emeritus Professor of Earth Sciences at the University of Melbourne.

A biographical note on the Ivanhoe Australia website states that Plimer "has previously been on the staff of North Broken Hill Ltd, and is a prominent Australian geologist who has spent most of his industry, consulting and scientific life working on base metal deposits, particularly in Broken Hill, epithermal gold deposits, especially in the Mediterranean, and tungsten-tin-molybdenum deposits. He has predicted and discovered a number of epithermal gold deposits in the Mediterranean."[6]

Anti-science affiliations - IPA, NRSP, GWPF

Plimer is listed as an associate of the Institute of Public Affairs,[7][8] a conservative think tank with close ties to the Liberal Party of Australia.[9] In 2007, Plimer was listed as an "allied expert" for the Natural Resources Stewardship Project, a Canadian anti-Kyoto Protocol advocacy group.[10] In November 2009, Plimer was named as a member of the academic advisory council for Nigel Lawson's global warming skeptic group, the Global Warming Policy Foundation.[11]

Conflicts of interest

Plimer is a director of seven mining companies: Ivanhoe Australia, a subsidiary of Bob Friedland's Ivanhoe Mines,[6][12] CBH Resources,[12] Kefi Minerals,[13][14] Australia-based coal gas company, Ormil Energy,[15] and Gina Rinehart's Hope Downs iron ore mine.[16] He is also a director of Rinehart's Roy Hill Holdings and Queensland Coal Investments.

As part of his employment agreement with Ivanhoe, Plimer can forgo annual directors fees of $65,000 in return for a total of 100,000 share options "for nil consideration." The options are available in four installments on September 1 each year from 2008 through to 2011, subject to Plimer continuing in employment with the company.[17] (Ivanhoe Australia, which has an interest in uranium exploration, stated in its 2008 prospectus that "one of the arguments for nuclear energy is its substantially reduced level of carbon emissions".)[18] Plimer is also non-executive Director and Deputy Chairman of Kefi. He has 3.6 million shares in Kefi which, at the July 2010 value of 8 to 95 British pence each, would be worth between £288k and £3.42M.[19][20][21] CBH Resources paid him $A125,000 in 2009 and $A181,003 in 2008. As of June 2009, Plimer had options on 3,569,633 CBH Resources shares.[22] At the early November 2009 share price of .10, Plimer's options would be worth approximately $A356,963.. However, CBH's annual report does not list details of what price, if any, the options would be available at or when they would have to be exercised by.

Plimer claims that his mining company directorships have no impact on his beliefs,[12] even though he has extensive financial interests in mining companies that would be negatively affected by any limits placed on carbon emissions. Plimer himself has argued that the proposed Australian carbon-trading scheme could decimate the Australian mining industry,[23] and "probably destroy it totally",[24] as well as creating "massive unemployment".[24]

In 2012, Plimer was appointed to the boards of Roy Hill Holdings, Queensland Coal Investments and the new Hope Downs iron ore mine by Australia's richest woman, Gina Rinehart. Rinehart, like Plimer an AGW denier, is openly contemptuous of any attempts to constrain greenhouse gas emissions.[25]

Book: Heaven and Earth

Plimer's denialist book on global warming was published in 2009 and sold about 20,000 copies in Australia and a similar amount in the USA. The book was universally panned by scientists as full of errors and even accused of plagiarism.[26]

Ian Enting compiled "the definitive list of errors" for the book.[27]

Political influence

Plimer was cited by the leader of the Australian Liberal Party, Tony Abbott,[28] in dismissing the IPCC and its findings:

"I think that in response to the IPCC alarmist - in inverted commas - view, there've been quite a lot of other reputable scientific voices. Now not everyone agrees with Ian Plimer's position, but he is a highly credible scientist and he has written what seems like a very well-argued book refuting most of the claims of the climate catastrophists."

Abbott's views on global warming and carbon trading were subsequently described by the man he unseated for the position of leader, Malcolm Turnbull, as "bullshit".[29]

Debate with George Monbiot - "Gish gallop"

After the publication of his book met with harsh criticism from The Guardian's George Monbiot, who derided the book, saying that "Since its publication in Australia it has been ridiculed for a hilarious series of schoolboy errors, and its fudging and manipulation of the data",[30] Plimer challenged Monbiot to a public debate on the issues covered in the book. Monbiot responded by insisting that Plimer, who is known for his "Gish Gallop"[31] approach to debates (a rapid-fire presentation of arguments and changing topics very quickly),[32] first answer a series of written questions for publication on the Guardian's website.[33] Plimer refused and Monbiot labeled Plimer a "grandstander" with a "broad yellow streak" who has never answered the accusations of serious errors in his Heaven and Earth book, and accused him of trying to "drown out the precise refutations published by his book's reviewers".[34] Plimer then reversed his decision, and agreed to answer written questions in return for a live debate.[35] However, instead of the expected answers, he sent a series of questions to Monbiot.[36][37][38] Negotiations with Plimer for a face-to-face debate eventually broke down and no debate was held.[39][40]

The two did eventually cross swords on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation program Lateline in December, 2009.[41] After the debate, Monbiot published an article in The Guardian summarising the debate and stated that Plimer had been "soundly thrashed".[42] The video shows Plimer obfuscating, refusing to answer questions, and clearly discomforted when his erroneous scientific statements about global warming were directly challenged.

Peter Jackson of the Canadian paper, The Telegram, summarised the debate so: "For Plimer, it was an unmitigated disaster. He fudged and distracted at every turn like a senile old goat. In the end, he refused to answer a single question put to him by Monbiot or the moderator. His credibility - and that of his book - withered away into oblivion."[43]

Other fringe views

Fringe weather theories - El Niño cause

Plimer holds some unusual views on a variety of weather-related topics. He believes that El Niño is caused by earthquakes and volcanic activity at the mid-ocean ridges.[44] This contrasts with the view held by the meteorological and oceanographic communities, which is that El Niño arises from dynamical interactions between the atmosphere and ocean.[45] Plimer told Radio Australia that Pacific island nations are seeing changes in sea level not because of global warming, but due to "vibration consolidating the coral island sands", extraction of water, and extraction of sand for road and air strip making.[46]

Makeup of Sun

In his review of Heaven and Earth for The Australian, astronomer Michael Ashley[1] wrote:[47]

"Plimer probably didn't expect an astronomer to review his book. I couldn't help noticing on page120 an almost word-for-word reproduction of the abstract from a well-known loony paper...[that] argues that the sun isn't composed of 98 per cent hydrogen and helium, as astronomers have confirmed through a century of observation and theory, but is instead similar in composition to a meteorite."
"It is hard to understate the depth of scientific ignorance that the inclusion of this information demonstrates. It is comparable to a biologist claiming that plants obtain energy from magnetism rather than photosynthesis."

Submarine volcanoes

Plimer's central thesis[48] is that volcanoes emit more carbon dioxide (CO2) than humans. Plimer claims that submarine volcanoes, in particular, emit huge amounts of CO2 and that the influence of the gasses from these volcanoes on the earth's climate is drastically underrepresented in climate models.[49]

George Monbiot[50] and The Guardian columnist James Randerson[51] dispute Plimer's argument, stating that humans emit 130 times more CO2 than volcanoes based on calculations made by the U.S. Geological Survey.[52] During a debate between Plimer and Monbiot on Australian television,[53] Plimer stated that the USGS had failed to take into account the CO2 emitted by submarine volcanoes. The host responded that a UK journalist had in fact gone back to the USGS and asked it whether or not submarine volcanoes were included in its calculations, and the USGS said that they were. Plimer responded that there are many huge undersea volcanoes which are not known about or measured.[50][54]

Climate scientists Gavin Schmidt of NASA and Barry Brook[55] of the University of Adelaide also dispute Plimer's position on this issue,[56] as does lead IPCC author David Karoly.[57] Karoly points out that Plimer is completely wrong on this issue, saying that:

  1. The net movement of carbon dioxide is from the atmosphere to the ocean, based on measurements that the concentration of dissolved carbon dioxide in the ocean is less than in the atmosphere. So the ocean (and its volcanoes) cannot be a net source of CO2;
  2. In addition, measurements show that the concentrations of two other long-lived greenhouse gases with human-related sources, methane and nitrous oxide, have increased markedly over the last 200 years, at the same time as the increases in carbon dioxide. This is not possible due to sources from underwater volcanoes.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has stated that Plimer's statement "has no factual basis" since "Volcanoes are only responsible for a couple of hundred megatons per year of CO2 —a couple of orders of magnitude smaller than human emissions— and are balanced by deep ocean burial", and because volcanoes produce 200 million tons of CO2 a year compared with 600 million tons from U.S. passenger cars alone.[58][59]

Kettle logic

Climate scientist Brook finds it "rather strange" that Plimer argues for volcanoes as the cause of rising CO2, after trying to convince his audience that CO2 is an unimportant trace gas and doesn’t change climate anyway.[55]

On a 60 Minutes chat in 2006, Plimer stated that "volcanoes that leak out carbon dioxide have caused global warming in the past",[60] a statement that starkly contrasts with his later claims that CO2 levels have no effect on climate.


In 2008, Plimer claimed that white asbestos, known as chrysotile, is not really asbestos, whereas the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services calls it the most common form of asbestos.[61] Plimer went on to assert that chrysotile is not a carcinogen, even though in 2008 the WHO (World Health Organisation) said it was a carcinogen, and so do medical authorities throughout the world.[62]

By 2011, Plimer no longer denied that chrysotile was a carcinogen, but still denied that it was a form of asbestos;[62] NIH's Report on Carcinogens, Twelfth Edition  (2011) says that "asbestos is the generic name for a group of six naturally occurring fibrous silicate minerals, including the fibrous serpentine mineral chrysotile...".[63]

Copenhagen Climate Challenge 2009

During the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009 (COP15), Plimer spoke at a rival conference in Copenhagen called the Copenhagen Climate Challenge,[64] which was organised by an Exxon-funded lobby group called Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow.[65][66] While COP15 attracted 33,200 delegates, the rival sceptic conference was attended by 60 people (15 journalists, 18 speakers, 27 audience).[64] According to Lenore Taylor of The Australian, the attendees had an average age "well over 60".[67] In closing his speech, Plimer stated that “They’ve got us outnumbered, but we’ve got them outgunned, and that’s with the truth.”[64] Plimer also stated that "It's been freezing in Perth and bucketing down". In fact, Perth (Western Australia) had below average rainfall in 2009, and, as Plimer spoke, temperatures in Perth reached 38°C (100°F);[68] while 2011 proved to be Perth's hottest year on record.[69]

Battle with creationists

Plimer is an outspoken critic of creationism and wrote a book called Telling Lies for God: Reason vs Creationism. Creationists claim Plimer makes numerous scientific errors in this book.[70]

In the late 1990s, Plimer engaged in a quixotic and ultimately self-defeating battle with creationists. He went to court alleging misleading and deceptive advertising under the Trade Practices Act 1974 against creationist minister Allen Roberts, arising from Plimer's attacks on Roberts' claims concerning the location of Noah's Ark. Leading up to this, Plimer was forcibly ejected by police from several public meetings at which Roberts spoke. The court ruled that although the minister had indeed made false and misleading claims, they were not made in the course of trade or commerce, so Plimer lost the case,[71] and was ordered to pay his own and Roberts' legal costs estimated at over AU$500,000.[72][73][74]

Plimer's debating style has been criticised as counterproductive by some of his fellow skeptics. He was criticised for making false claims and errors in his debates with creationists by skeptic Jim Lippard.[75]

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. "Doomed Planet: Transcript: Ian Plimer interview". Quadrant Online (June 16, 2009).
  2. John Cook (2011-12-09). Plimer vs Plimer: a one man contradiction. Skeptical Science. Retrieved on 2011-12-09.
  3. Prof Ian Enting (December 2011). Comments on `How to Get Expelled from School' by Ian Plimer (PDF). ausmc.org. Retrieved on 2011-12-13.
  4. RAPID REACTION: Ian Plimer launches new book on climate change – experts respond -- AusSMC - Australian Science Media Centre. aussmc.org (2011 [last update]). Retrieved on December 13, 2011.
  5. Howard launches 'anti-warmist manual' for kids - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) (2011-12-13). Retrieved on 2011-12-13.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Ivanhoe Australia, "Board of Directors", Ivanhoe Australia website, accessed July 2009.
  7. The Global Warming Sceptics Club — a Crikey list - Crikey. www.crikey.com.au. Retrieved on 2009-08-30.
  8. Ian Plimer. www.ipa.org.au. Retrieved on 2009-08-30.
  9. http://www.liberal.org.au/about/partypeople.php
  10. Natural Resources Stewardship Project (NRSP) (Dec 2007). Archived from the original on 12/02/2007. Retrieved on 08/07/2009.
  11. The voices of climate change sceptics. guardian.co.uk. Retrieved on 2009-11-24.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Penelope Debelle, "Why I'd put global warming on ice", AdelaideNow, May 28, 2009.
  13. Kefi Minerals, "Board of Directors", Kefi Minerals website, accessed October 2009.
  14. Harry Norman, "Kefi Minerals has How many gold prospects in Turkey?", Proactiveinvestors.co.uk, December 19, 2007.
  15. Readfearn, Graham. Australia prepares to swallow Monckton yet again. ABC Australia. Retrieved on 6 May 2011.
  16. Rinehart names favoured daughter to board. businessspectator.com.au (2012 [last update]). Retrieved on 16 February 2012.
  17. Director's Interest Notice - Ian Plimer - Ivanhoe (PDF). Australia Securities Exchange (2008). Retrieved on 2009-10-27.
  18. Ivanhoe Australia, "Ivanhoe Australia Prospectus", July 2008, page 57.
  19. KEFI Minerals deputy chairman buys further 1.6m shares - Proactiveinvestors (UK). www.proactiveinvestors.co.uk. Retrieved on 2010-07-28.
  20. Proactive Investors (AU) - KEFI Minerals deputy chairman buys 1.8m shares. www.proactiveinvestors.com.au. Retrieved on 2010-07-10.
  21. Kefi Minerals. www.kefi-minerals.com. Retrieved on 2009-10-27.
  22. CBH Annual report. Retrieved on 2009-10-27.
  23. Ian Plimer, "Warming up", Mining Journal, March 27, 2009.
  24. 24.0 24.1 "Ian Plimer joins Lateline Business", Lateline Business, November 11, 2008.
  25. Rinehart appoints Plimer to board roles -- Perth Now. perthnow.com.au (2012 [last update]). Retrieved on 1 February 2012.
  26. Plimer the plagiarist : Deltoid. scienceblogs.com. Retrieved on 2009-10-26.
  27. Ian Plimer’s ‘Heaven + Earth’—Checking the Claims. Retrieved on 2011-03-21.
  28. Marian Wilkinson. smh.com.au. Retrieved on 2009-12-01.
  29. Turnbull blasts Abbott's ETS 'bullshit'. www.theaustralian.com.au. Retrieved on 2009-12-07.
  30. "Spectator recycles climate rubbish published by sceptic, by George Monbiot, The Guardian, 9 July 2009
  31. Gish Gallop - RationalWiki. rationalwiki.com. Retrieved on 2009-10-31.
  32. Plimer does the Gish gallop. SiloBreaker (April 2009). Retrieved on 2009-08-10.
  33. George Monbiot (August 2009). Let battle commence! Climate change denialist ready for the fight. The Guardian. Retrieved on 2009-08-10.
  34. George Monbiot (July 2009). Why can't the champion of climate change denial face the music?. The Guardian. Retrieved on 2009-08-10.
  35. George Monbiot (August 2009). Let battle commence!. The Guardian UK. Retrieved on 2009-08-06.
  36. Plimer resorts to attack as the best form of defence, George Monbiot, The Guardian, August 12, 2009
  37. Monbiot told Plimer that he is not qualified to answer Plimer's questions (although Gavin Schmidt of NASA did answer them )
  38. Plimer questions Monbiot - Campaigns Wikia. campaigns.wikia.com. Retrieved on 2009-09-02.
  39. This professor of denial can't even answer his own questions on climate change. guardian.co.uk. Retrieved on 2009-09-20.
  40. Spectator's new editor fails to tell a straight story. guardian.co.uk. Retrieved on 2009-09-23.
  41. Lateline - 15/12/2009: Plimer, Monbiot cross swords in climate debate. www.abc.net.au. Retrieved on 2009-12-16.
  42. Ian Plimer's volcano claims vaporise under questioning on Australian TV. guardian.co.uk. Retrieved on 2009-12-17.
  43. The Telegram - St. John's, NL: Columns. www.thetelegram.com. Retrieved on 2010-07-13.
  44. Kirby, Simon (2007-04-12). Mankind 'can't influence' climate | National News. News.com.au. Retrieved on 2009-04-14.
  45. What is an El Niño?. NOAA. Retrieved on 2009-07-07.
  46. Australia Network News:Stories:Australian scientist sceptical of climate change. australianetworknews.com. Retrieved on 2009-08-19.
  47. Michael Ashley (2009-05-09). No science in Plimer's primer. The Australian. Retrieved on 2011-12-16.
  48. http://www.abc.net.au/rural/content/2010/s2878843.htm?site=southeastnsw
  49. Plimer, Ian, Heaven and Earth : Global Warming — The Missing Science, Conner Court Publishing (2009), pp. 207-225.
  50. 50.0 50.1 Ian Plimer's volcano claims vaporise under questioning on Australian TV. guardian.co.uk. Retrieved on 2010-04-21.
  51. "How climate change sceptic Ian Plimer dodges valid criticism", London: guardian.co.uk (2009-12-14). Retrieved on 2009-12-14. 
  52. Volcanic Gases and Their Effects
  53. Lateline - 15/12/2009: Plimer, Monbiot cross swords in climate debate. www.abc.net.au. Retrieved on 2009-12-16.
  54. Iceland volcano gives warming world chance to debunk climate sceptic myths. guardian.co.uk. Retrieved on 2010-04-21.
  55. 55.0 55.1 Ian Plimer – Heaven and Earth « BraveNewClimate. bravenewclimate.com. Retrieved on 2010-04-28.
  56. Joss Garman: Climate change deniers cost the earth - Commentators, Opinion - The Independent. www.independent.co.uk. Retrieved on 2009-12-06.
  57. Heaven + Earth - review by David Karoly - Science Show - 13 June 2009. www.abc.net.au. Retrieved on 2010-04-25.
  58. Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases Under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act: EPA’s Response to Public Comments Volume 2: Validity of Observed and Measured Data (PDF). US EPA (May 2009). Retrieved on 2010-04-23. , p. 2.
  59. Right-wing blogs promote global warming skeptic who falsely claims volcanoes to blame for CO2 in the atmosphere. mediamatters.org. Retrieved on 2010-04-28.
  60. Australia's fault: Geologist Ian Plimer. sixtyminutes.ninemsn.com.au. Retrieved on 2010-05-24.
  61. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2005). "Asbestos." Report on Carcinogens, Eleventh Edition.
  62. 62.0 62.1 Peacock, Matt (2011 [last update]). PM - Plimer launches kids' climate sceptic book 13/12/2011. abc.net.au. Retrieved on December 14, 2011.
  63. Report on Carcinogens, Twelfth Edition. U.S. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved on 2011-12-16.
  64. 64.0 64.1 64.2 COPENHAGEN CALLING: Bolstering Barack - Giles Parkinson - News - Business Spectator. www.businessspectator.com.au. Retrieved on 2009-12-09.
  65. Climate Change skeptics stage rebel Copenhagen conference – Rooted. blogs.crikey.com.au. Retrieved on 2009-12-10.
  66. Plimer addresses Copenhagen 'heretics'. smh.com.au. Retrieved on 2009-12-09.
  67. Plimer the toast of Copenhagen sceptics meeting. www.theaustralian.com.au. Retrieved on 2009-12-10.
  68. It's been freezing in Perth and bucketing down, says climate sceptic Ian Plimer. www.perthnow.com.au. Retrieved on 2009-12-09.
  69. 2011 Perth's hottest ever year. watoday.com.au (2012 [last update]). Retrieved on 4 January 2012.
  70. Ian Plimer's Bloopers — a selection. Creation Ministeries International. Retrieved on 2009-07-13.
  71. Leigh Dayton (June 1997). Ark verdict spells ruin for geologist. New Scientist. Retrieved on 2009-07-16.
  72. Carl Wieland. Plimer Settles. Creation Ministries. Retrieved on 2009-07-16.
  73. Denialist ark a wobbly craft. The Australian (May 2009). Retrieved on 2009-07-13.
  74. Geoff Maslen. Noah's Ark case leaves professor high and dry. Times Higher Education. Retrieved on 2009-07-16.
  75. How Not To Argue With Creationists by Jim Lippard, issue XXIX of Creation/Evolution, 11(2):9–21, Winter 1991–1992

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