Nov 132009

[Peter has very kindly sent me his impressions of the lecture. Many thanks, TonyN]

I went to the Plimer Lecture organised by The Spectator and thought I would share some of my first impressions.I arrived early with my son Leo and we were ushered into the reception area for drinks; not free I may add. Whilst standing there I spotted Lord Monckton, and as he was not at that moment chatting to anyone we boldly walked up and introduced ourselves. We were joined by Roger Helmer MEP and a number of others. My overriding impression from this chat is that politicians are so far out of touch with their electorate that I fear for Democracy itself. More to come from this chat.

On to the lecture, which  was very well presented in the form of a plotted history of the earth from 5.4 billions years last Thursday until today.  It was delivered with humour, and it was obvious that Ian Plimer knew his stuff.  For me I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know, but I didn’t expect to, having read his book.

We then had questions from the audience.  In the main these were in the form of a thank you and questions on how or what can be done to ge the message across to politicians and the “masses” for want of a better word. There were a few requests for qualification and I thought that Ian was less at ease when answering questions not directly related to his work.  There was nothing revealing coming out from these early questions.

Andrew Neil then asked for only questions from the pro-warming camp and 95% of the hands went down.  We had a Carbon trader trying to suggest that by trading carbon we were actually cleaning up other pollutants and, although he was a sceptic, carbon trading would perform a good service.  He could be right in one sense, but pollution control technology does a better job. Pilmer’s reply missed this point and therefore his answer did not come across as if he fully understood the point. Also I would say carbon trading is more to do with money than cleaning up the environment.  To be fair to Plimer had  made the point that he would only answer questions from the point of view of his science.

We had another environmentalist who went on quite strongly about Sulphur, Nitrous Oxides and particulates, and linked Carbon with these other harmful pollutants.  Again this is an easy question to answer but it was not dealt will well enough I thought. The environmentalist was    the only one to try and interrupt Plimer prompting Andrew Neil to remind him that we had listened to him without interruption. This was a telling moment because it demonstrates that the warmist side cannot accept that there is another view.

A schoolteacher stood up to counter the accusations that they are scaring our children. He was trying to convince us that it is the schoolchildren coming to him concerned about the climate, which is complete nonsense.  Another questioner had pointed out that climate change    questions come up in GCSE exams in all subjects and was agitated about this.

The schoolteachers again did not demonstrate that they understood the subject but were quite prepared to teach our children in the absence of a full understanding.  For me the education thing goes far deeper with too much emphasis at too early an age on social matters and far too    little on learning and understanding the subject matter so that the ourchildren then have the skills to put the social aspects into proper context. This point was missed I think, but Plimer is doing a children’s version of his book for Australian Schools.

The audience was very sceptical and I would guess was older in nature.    Leo probably felt he was the youngest there, although I did spot a younger schoolboy.  Monckton and Helmer were keen to gauge what Leo had to say, so I guess they don’t get enough exposure with the young,    especially the non captured or working 20 some-things.  A very good point was made about older people thinking about the future of their grandchildren and the younger people thinking about the here and now. Perhaps this is why older people are more sceptical.

Plimer thought it would not be until our pockets are empty that we will come to our senses, so I guess that should happen any day now in the UK.

We thought that Plimer would not be the best debater on his own, but I    thought that if he was part of a team that contained a good orator then he would be a huge asset. He struck me as yet another of those technical people who run this world of ours behind the scenes, but have become frustrated that its being taken over by a bunch of celebrities who know very little about anything, and its not until our world has been destroyed that science and engineering will again take over to drive forward innovation and progress.

After the event I met with Robin [Guenier] and we had a quick beer (thank you Robin) whilst sheltering from a biblical downpour that soaked us. It almost had me dialling 999 and asking for Noah.

Must be climate change!

23 Responses to “Plimer’s London lecture: what happened”

  1. Peter:

    It would be interesting to hear more about your conversation with Monckton and Helmer

  2. “My overriding impression from this chat is that politicians are so far out of touch with their electorate that I fear for Democracy itself.”

    I laughed out loud at that (although perhaps tears might have been more appropriate).

  3. Hi,

    I went to the Plimer talk as my dad has said and I wish to add a few things to this from my point of view.

    Firstly the lecture itself was a brilliant short, and relatively simple for such a complex subject, explanation of the evolution of our planet and her ecosystems.

    It was not however, as I look back on it, really useful in knocking people off the fence about current climate change propaganda. Let alone a tool for conversion.

    As my dad has said Plimer was not the greatest of debaters and I personally put this down to him being a scientist entirely. He deals with absolutes and proof, not ideas per se.

    One of the things that struck me was the members of the audience who thought that saying CO2 wasn’t destroying the world was the same as saying don’t recycle and go burn tyres.

    I myself had my hand up but didn’t get a chance to ask my question which was a pity, but hey, life goes on.

    Hope I’ve added something

  4. Leo:

    Yes it does add something, particularly this:

    One of the things that struck me was the members of the audience who thought that saying CO2 wasn’t destroying the world was the same as saying don’t recycle and go burn tyres.

    It’s a great way of making anyone who asks awkward questions seem irresponsible. Being sanctimonious used to be seen as a character defect; not any more.

  5. Thanks for the reports – pere et fils, particularly since I couldn’t attend.

    You are too pessimistic Tony. Anecdotally I have noticed something interesting the past few weeks – with people formerly disinterested or happy to be counted in the warming camp suddenly taking an interest in the subject skeptically. In every case it was a response to nagging in a work or a social situation, a new assertiveness from envionmentalists – which seems to be a consequence of the “10-10” campaign, and “50 days to save the world” rhetoric. But the sanctimony is repellent and causing people to question things previously trusted to the consensus.

    Presumably not what the environmentalists had in mind, but they really can’t help themselves.

    a consequn

  6. I should know better than to submit blog comments via the iPhone web browser, there’s always a text fragment just out of sight.

  7. Leo brings up a good point here, and again I have to say that there were ample opportunities for Ian Plimer to reinforce the view that scepticism on AGW is not in any way related to a carefree attitude to energy use or over exploitation of the environment. He hinted that this was his view but I feel he should have emphasized it more.

    I’m turning to the view that we need to be completely dismissive of the AGW brigade, as they are of any sceptical view, and rather than nitpick over science that is quite frankly almost totally in favour of the sceptic, and shift the argument to emphasising the alternative ways in which we should develop energy generation and trumpet some of the amazing engineering achievements already made, that most of the public are either oblivious of or are lead to believe by propaganda are yet to be resolved.

    Indeed a lot of work needs to go into reminding the public as what pollution really is. Once upon a time all school children were warned about CO, carbon monoxide and how dangerous it was. We were told that a car should never be started and run in a garage without the door open as it would rapidly fill with enough CO to kill you. Andrew Neil prompted Ian Plimer about this difference as it was obvious there was some confusion between CO and CO2.
    The point that should have been made that was not, is that technology has combined with sensible legislation to evolve a range of petrol and diesel engines that are so clean relative, to what they once were, that death by CO poisoning is now almost impossible. And these improvements now have now feed through to industrial equipment. The same technology has also eliminated NOx, HC, SO2 and particulate matter. The reason I emphasize this is these pollutants get dragged up as if nothing has been achieve in reducing them, and they are used as surrogate reasons for reducing CO2 when the reality is we have almost effectively eliminated them, an achievement that needs to be used as an example of how we need to continue.

  8. Andrew:

    I hope that you are right. Kevin Rudd said in his infamous speech that Copenhagen will be a turning point in the battle against AGW. I wonder if he could have been right about that, but but not in the way he intended. What you are describing is certainly what ought to happen.

  9. Leo, I too was struck by your comment about “members of the audience who thought that saying CO2 wasn’t destroying the world was the same as saying don’t recycle and go burn tyres.” This also ties in with DennisA’s comment on the “corporatisation” thread, where he draws the distinction between the people who actually care about the countryside and certain environmental groups and activists who apparently don’t. It’s what I’m starting to call the “unwrapping” of the green package (“unbundling” might also be an apt term.) In many ways we are all “environmentalists”. Who would not want to breathe clean air, drink clean water? I love trees and green spaces, and agree broadly with conserving wildlife, the countryside and urban parks. For instance, I’m a National Trust member and am also in support of the local Green Party members where they oppose tree clearance and building on Gunnersbury Park, a place close to where I used to work. What is important, though, is that there is a crucial distinction between “caring for the environment” and the self-destructive war on man-made CO2. The two are not the same.

    Peter, I’d also very much like to hear more about your conversation with Lord Monckton and Roger Helmer MEP!

  10. Hi all,

    After thinking about it I decided to ask people at work (which is pub work and I have just got back from it at the lovely time of 4:23) about their views of the sceptics.

    The general theme was (surprisingly for me) an agreement that man-made problems are not a real concern other than things like deforestation and massive construction.

    the flip side of this though was very depressing because it was a total victory for the ‘greens’ as they all thought that being a sceptic meant you were anti recycling and pro deforestation, non safe disposal of nuclear waste, etc.

    This has left me with a very heavy heart because I did honestly believe that people could add 2 and 2.

  11. I also attended the Plimer lecture last week. Far from being a debate (as originally billed and which would have been far more interesting and enjoyable), it turned out to be little more than a sceptics’ love fest. The Spectator (and I suspect Plimer himself) had messed up it’s negotiation with Monbiot – so the real point of the event was missing.

    He gave us a clear, authoritative, wide ranging overview of how temperatures, ice sheets, the atmosphere and sea levels have been in constant change throughout the earth’s history, showing how there is nothing remotely unusual about today’s conditions. The real threat today, he said, was government response to the so-called “problem” and the stifling of dissenting views. OK, I (and most of the audience) learned some new detail about geological history – but I doubt if many of the 600 or so people there (largely older, male, well-educated sceptics) hadn’t grasped his essential point already.

    As Peter Geany has pointed out, most of the “questions” were really on the lines of “thank you, that was a wonderful talk, Professor Plimer” – although it was interesting that, when Andrew Neil – the chairman – either found an AGW supporter to say something or asked a more challenging question himself, Plimer tended to deal with the point weakly.

    I suspect Monbiot might have scored a few points had he been there.

  12. I’ve listened to Ian Plimer on a number of internet broadcasts recently and I have to say that he isn’t a patch on his fellow Ozzie academic colleague Bob Carter.

    I think Bob Carter is a much better debater than Ian Plimer and would certainly pay good money (Peter/Leo did you to £25 each to see Plimer lecture?) see him debate any of the pro-AGW climate scientists (Peter Stott, Myles Allen, Ben Santer), particularly James Hansen.

    Peter and Leo, can I also ask what you talked to Lord Monckton and Roger Helmer MEP and the others that joined you about?

    I’d love to question Lord Monckton (LM) about Lindzen’ and Choi’s recent ERBE paper and LM’s claims that it is cutting refutation of the IPCC future climate sentitivity claims. Despite the L & C paper only being relative new LM is claiming that it proves that the IPCC’s claims for future climate sensitivity are exaggerated to the tune of SIX times what the L&C ERBE data show.

    Now don’t get ne wrong, I’m a big fan of LM (particularly because of how he’s recently shone light and what lies below the murky surface of the draft Copenhagen Climate Change Treaty) but I really think he’s ‘jumped the gun’ on this one, so much so that I think he’s about to get some serious egg on his face as a result. Which is a great shame as he’s being doing a great job so far in showing that the Emperor is stark naked and if not stark naked barely has a very small fig-leave to cover up his equal small private parts.

    Sorry for that last ad-hom, I couldn’t resist it :-).


  13. I think Monckton has made a PR error in using his “3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley” title (and putting crowns all over his publications). I agree with Kevin that he has done a most useful job in exposing much of the nonsense associated with the dangerous AGW scare – but I think it would have been more effective coming from plain Christopher Monckton.

    BTW, Kevin, there’s no need to apologise for your comment about the Emperor – he was a fictional person.

  14. I assume Monbiots decisiion not to debate was because he did not feel that, even though he is indeed a capable debater, allowing the views to be discussed on a level playing field would be anything but damaging to the alarmist cause. Most of the eco-fascist organisations have made the same decision. That doesn’t absloutely prove they have no case because the fact that the BBC tc can be guaranteed under all circumstances to promote alarmism means they are in a strong position.

    I assume Andrew Neil will not be allowed to make use of anything he has learned on the BBC or to replace one of the pop singers he normally brings on to discuss the great political issues with Plimer.

  15. Learn from the enemy.

    Start with a simple message. The TV ads have their main message as “the weather has been funny recently and it’s our fault”. The “funny weather” starter is a great barnum statement that works well – even though people have been talking about unusual weathwer since roman times. And the “it’s our fault” taps into a misguided collective guilt for having an advanced society that other people do not enjoy.

    Humour is a great weapon: I’ve got a t-shirt that says Global Yawning.

    And with the right audience ridicule as well: John Christy’s “We’re all going to die if we don’t change our light bulbs right now”

    For the more serious audience: “10 years of no warming – the climate didn’t get that memo”.

  16. KevinUK

    You referred to Lord Monckton’s reference to the recent Lindzen and Choi study with the remark that this study is still relatively new.

    I am currently visiting the USA and saw LM make a brief mention of this new study recently on the “Glenn Beck Show”.

    The L+C study is unusual not only in its conclusion of a low 2xCO2 climate sensitivity of 0.5° to 0.7°C, which is directly at odds with the IPCC stand (2xCO2 CS of 1.5° to 4.5°C), but also in the fact that this conclusion rests on empirical data based on physical observations from ERBE, rather than simply on model simulations, which form the basis for the IPCC conclusion.

    L+C tells us that the planet radiates more total SW + LW energy as the surface warms, thereby resulting in a net negative feedback (or dampening effect), while all the model simulations cited by IPCC have estimated that the total net radiation decreases with surface warming, thereby resulting in a net positive feedback.

    So I believe that LM is right when he states that L+C “is cutting refutation of the IPCC claims for future climate sensitivity”.

    L+C, together with earlier studies on cloud feedback (Spencer et al. and Norris), both also based on empirical data derived from physical observations (rather than simply model simulations) tell us that the notion of strongly positive net feedback with warming is based on false assumptions, which are not supported by the empirical data.

    These empirical data provide the strongest argument against the premise that AGW, caused principally by human CO2 emissions, is a potentially serious problem.


  17. KevinUK

    BTW it was funny when Glenn Beck asked the rather American question of Christopher Monckton, “how should I address you?”

    Monckton’s reply, “You can call me my lord”.

    But CM got his point across pretty well, even though some of the finer points of “climate sensitivity” and feedbacks went a bit over the head of Beck and his audience.


  18. OK all here is some of what we discussed with Monckton and Helmer.

    I just start the chat by asking how He Monckton thought that things were going. He had just been to a presentation at Lloyds and started the talk by taking a quick poll. He judged from this that the audience was going to be hostile so put up some equations and asked the audience to complete them. Of course none of them could but in this way he got their attention and from there was able to get his point across. For me what is obvious is that those in the city are interested and supportive of AGW because they can see a huge gravy train.

    We chatted about the Lindzen’ and Choi’s recent ERBE paper and about Roy Spencer comments on the paper. The numbers may have to be revised but the result remains the same. It completely undermines the IPCC hypothesis. LM had spoken to Lindzen about Spencer’s comments and Lindzen is now checking to see what revisions his work may need. What remains is for other atmospheric physicists to cheek the work and comment, not for the rest of us to say whether we believe it or not based on which side of the fence we are on. It’s time for science to step up to the plate.

    I asked some political questions of both Monckton and Helmer about the likely course of action of the Tories. Monckton thought that David Cameron has completely fatal Climatitus (my words) so he was concerned. Helmer thought that the Tories were being warm and fuzzy and trying to attract Lib Dem votes. We discussed how many Tories are voting UKIP in protest at Europe and the lack of democratic accountability, and how people are increasingly seeing climate change as a way of raising Tax. I did have some further questions but Godfrey Bloom joined us so the conversation turned to other matters.

    As mentioned previously Monckton and Helmer were very interested in talking to Leo and finding out what the young think. Leo will have to answer that as he and my other 3 children are definite sceptics and not representative, so my opinion is not valid. I do know the 30 something’s are changing, but it maybe some of the comfortable 40 or 50 something’s from the NuLabour generation (those that have done well) with degrees in sociology or media studies that are the stumbling block. I work with some with very clever people with degrees in computer science, but they are completely ignorant of some of the basics in biology, chemistry and physics. But because they are well rewarded for what they do they think they can dictate what the rest of us should do and think. They are still too comfortable to be thinking strait and have not grasped at all what has happened with the credit crunch and erosion of our freedom over the last 10 years.

  19. Hi all,

    On the subject of the talk with Monckton and Helmer it was very interesting. Monckton’s answer to my questions on how to deal with the large group of people that ‘believe’ was simply to shove the science in their faces (like he did to the Lloyds meeting).

    I went on to talk about how this wouldn’t work and how it was a failing of the education system as asking questions is getting almost to a taboo stage (despite being told often there is never something called a stupid question many of mine are dismissed as just that).

    As interested as they were in talking to me about it they also seemed to be slightly confused by my answers, something I am just going to have to put down to differences in generations.

  20. Max,

    I agree with much of what you’ve posted particularly about the recent work by Roy Spencer and others that show that IPCC is grossly wrong in supporting the built in assumption in all the GCMs that there is a net (significantly high) positive feedback from water vapour and clouds. Now that the ‘hockey stick’ is dead and the issues with the four main global temperatures indices exposed I’d personally like to see this issue of ‘postive water vapour/cloud feedback’ further exposed a sit is this egregious assumption in the GCMs that underpins the whole ‘catastrophic global warming’ claim.

    IMO the jury will still be out for quite sometime yet on the L&C paper as Peter G has indicated LM stated in their conversation. Its a good start but let’s wait and see.

    Peter and Leo it’s good to see that you were both so ‘bang up to date’ in your conversation with LM. This is no doubt primarily due to the power of the blogosphere (Wattsupwiththat and CA in particular)? It couldn’t have been no mor ethan just a few days before Plimers lecture that Roy Spencer posted on WUWT about his auditing of the L&C paper.

    I’ve just finished reading Christopher Booker’s new book ‘The Real Global Warming Disaster’ and was surprised just how up to date his book is. If you haven’t already rea d his previous book (co-authored with Richard North) ‘Scared to Death’ I can highly recommend it too.

    I think the blogosphere is pretty much making the scientiic journals like Science and Nature and the traditional ‘peer review’ process redundant now. It’s far quicker and cheaper to publish on the blogosphere first and gets lots of ‘free’ in depth auditing almost instantanteously in comparison to the traditional ‘peer review’ process. If I were a young ‘up and coming’ dendro I’d much rather that my latest work was subjected to scrutiny by Steve McIntyre than Michael Mann or Keith Briffa any day.


  21. Kevin UK

    I agree with everything you say-Journals like ‘Science’ obviously have their place (prestige!) but WUWT and other blogs are a great audit service with a very quick turn round. There are invariably one or two things to be added or removed once you have been through the mill at WUWT.

    Are you the KevinUK that used to post at Climate Audit?


  22. This Australian website has several posts dealing with the Monbiot/Plimer affair, including links to this thread:

  23. The Grauniad has a link to the Monbiot – Plimer exchange here:

    I have to say that in my (even skeptical) view Plimer loses on all counts because he comes across as being reluctant to acknowledge any possible error in his own work, however obvious it appears.

    This is a real shame since Monbiot does not prove the case the other way and in the light of the whole CRU affair should have been the one to squirm.

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