Expert says Australian geologist’s false climate change claims 'designed to mislead and confuse'

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Videos of a climate change denier falsely claiming that human-caused carbon emissions are not driving global warming have been viewed tens of thousands of times online. One climate expert told AFP that the arguments put forward by Australian geologist Ian Plimer during a gathering of political conservatives had been "designed to mislead". There is consensus among climate scientists that global warming is driven by human activity, and in particular the burning of fossil fuels especially since the end of the 19th century.

A video of the false claim was posted on Facebook here on October 27, 2022 by CPAC Australia, a conference of politically conservative activists and politicians.

It was shared more than 2,400 times, and viewed more than 42,000 times.

The one-minute 12-second video shows an excerpt from a speech geologist Ian Plimer gave at the CPAC Australia conference in Sydney on October 2.

"I don't have opinions, I have demonstrable facts," Plimer tells the audience.

"Fact number one: No one has ever shown that human emissions of carbon dioxide drive global warming -- never been shown."

He adds: "And if it could be shown, then you would have to show that the 97 percent of emissions, which are natural, do not drive global warming. Game over. We are dealing with a fraud, that's a scientific fraud from day one."

Plimer then speaks about the "propaganda" that increases in carbon dioxide will bring about runaway global warming, telling the audience that the "exact inverse" is in fact true.

The Facebook post's caption links to the full speech on ADH TV, an independent Australian media channel.

A screenshot of the misleading post, captured on December 2, 2022

The same video was also shared on CPAC Australia's Twitter account here, where it was viewed more than 18,300 times. The tweet links to a video of the full speech on the conference's YouTube channel.

Almost identical clips of the speech were also shared by users based in France here and the Netherlands here.

A clip of the speech posted on TikTok here was shared more than 3,600 times and viewed more than 195,000 times.

There is scientific consensus, however, that human activity -- in particular the burning of fossil fuels -- has driven climate change.

'Designed to mislead and confuse'

According to a 2021 report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), "It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land".

The report shows that emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are responsible for approximately 1.1 degrees Celsius (1.98 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming since pre-industrial times. It also predicted that over the next 20 years, average global temperatures would reach or exceed 1.5C (2.7F) of warming.

Graphs of temperature change since 1850 and simulations including and excluding human influence, and of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere over the last 400,000 years. ( AFP / Eléonore HUGHES, Jean-Michel CORNU, Simon MALFATTO, Jonathan WALTER)

The IPCC's conclusion reflects a global scientific consensus on the issue.

According to a 2021 survey, 98.7 percent of the 153 climate experts indicated that Earth is getting warmer because of human activity such as burning fossil fuels.

This nearly 100 percent consensus was also reflected in peer-reviewed scientific literature, according to a 2021 review.

Asked about Plimer's claims, Monash University climate change researcher John Cook told AFP: “They are false arguments designed to mislead and confuse the public about the reality of human-caused climate change.”

Cook is the founder of Skeptical Science, which published articles on global warming misinformation. He and his team have tackled claims made by Plimer before.

Cook told AFP on November 30 that Plimer's argument that natural carbon dioxide emissions are larger than human emissions is "oversimplification".

He said: "Over the last few millennia, we see that nature was in balance and atmospheric CO2 was stable until humans started emitting large amounts of CO2 into the air."

Chris Jones, an expert on carbon cycles at Britain's Met Office weather service, told AFP in July that human activity is "entirely responsible for the imbalance" in the "carbon budget".

The "carbon budget" is the balance of gases from different sources in the atmosphere -- including the carbon given off and absorbed by natural processes.

"The change in CO2 since pre-industrial (times) is entirely human-caused, and this is from multiple lines of evidence," said Jones, a lead author on a 2013 IPCC report on the subject.

"In fact, we have emitted about twice as much as this change, and nature has removed about half."

According to data from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the global average carbon dioxide concentration in Earth's atmosphere reached 414.72 parts per million in 2021 -- a new record high.

AFP has debunked a number of false and misleading climate change claims here.

December 7, 2022 This article was edited to correct the temperature conversions in the 15th paragraph.
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