Thursday, 6 August 2009
The Fight of the Year: Monbiot v Plimer
Any antipodeans who are watching the Ashes in the hope of seeing the usual slaughter of the England lemmings must be a little disappointed, but if you want your fill of defenceless animals being led to the slaughter the speactalce is still on offer in the form of Monbiot versus Plimer; a debate coming to somewhere, sometime.
George Monbiot is a legend in his own lunchtime, a fellow veteran of the Direct Action protests of the 1990s. Our paths never actually crossed as whilst I was hiding in slimy northern tunnels he was proudly proclaiming in parts of the home counties that This Land Is Ours. He is now Britain's foremost environmental columnist by a considerable margin.
Plimer is Ian Plimer, a hitherto unknown Australian geologist who has written a book called Heaven and Earth - Global Warming: the Missing Science. He is a climate change denier and less charitable people than myself might suggest that 'the missing science' refers to the numerous errors in his thesis.
In his book Plimer claims arctic ice is expanding and that volcanoes produce more carbon dioxide than humans. On the way he also claims that we orbit the core of a supernova explosion - which would make the sun a neutron star or black hole, and that termite farts are more potent to greenhouse gases than the emissions of 6 billion fossil fuel consuming humans.
There's more, and more, and more.
Anyone following that link will find 38 pages of why Plimer is wrong.
However this hasn't stopped Plimer becoming the poster boy of climate change deniers and the cover story for our own Spectator magazine last month. Judging by what they've written about the book I would presume the Spectator is the traditional sort of publication thta only employs chaps from good schools who studied classics and doesn't let grubby scientists over their threshold.
Somewhere along the line Plimer got a bit cocky and challenged our George to a debate. Monbiot initially turned him down, not wanting to share a platform with a man who can pull imaginary statistics out of a hat, some of which can take up to a minute on Google to prove wrong. However Monbiot had second thoughts and agreed to the debate provide Plimer answered some written questions on some of the more startling claims in his book.
Plimer initially turned the challenge down but then, possibly because word of his refusal to answer questions had got as far as his Wikipedia entry, he accepted. Monbiot printed his 11 questions in the Guardian today.
I don't know if the debate will ever actually happen, but if it does it will probably be a lot less interesting than Plimer's response to these questions. Some, like the termite gaff, he could just claim are typos, but I don't know how he will get round the others.
Like most deniers our antipodean friend enjoys playing the outlaw martyr and in picking a fight with Monbiot this would be Ned Kelly may be about to make his last stand. Is his armour up to it?
Watch this space.