Wednesday, 20 January 2016

NZ climate scientist dies—and why you should care


"Scholar’s scholar” and widely-respected New Zealand climate scientist* Bob Carter has died at home in Townsville, aged 74—but you’ll be unlikely to hear that news in the mainstream press.

You won’t hear that news in the mainstream press because Bob Carter was a widely-respected climate skeptic. And skeptics are simply excluded from popular mainstream discussion.

Dr. Carter was a palaeontologist, stratigrapher, marine geologist and environmental scientist with more than 30 years professional experience. He earned degrees from the University of Otago (New Zealand) and the University of Cambridge (England). He held tenured academic staff positions at the University of Otago (Dunedin) and James Cook University (Townsville), where he was Professor and Head of School of Earth Sciences between 1981 and 1999.
    Dr. Carter served as Chair of the Earth Sciences Discipline Panel of the Australian Research Council, Chair of the national Marine Science and Technologies Committee, Director of the Australian Office of the Ocean Drilling Program, and Co-Chief Scientist on ODP Leg 181(Southwest Pacific Gateways).
    Dr. Carter was one of the world’s leading authorities on the science of climate change. He was the author of two books on the subject,
Climate: The Counter Consensus (2010) and Taxing Air: Facts and Fallacies about Climate Change (2013) and coauthor of several more, including three volumes in the Climate Change Reconsidered series produced by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) and published by The Heartland Institute. Shortly before his death he coauthored Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming (2015).
    Dr. Carter’s public commentaries drew on his knowledge of the scientific literature and a personal publication list of more than 100 papers in international science journals. His research on climate change, sea-level change and stratigraphy was based on field studies of Cenozoic sediments (last 65 million years) from the Southwest Pacific region, especially the Great Barrier Reef and New Zealand.
    Dr. Carter has acted as an expert witness on climate change before the U.S. Senate Committee of Environment & Public Works, the Australian and N.Z. parliamentary Select Committees into emissions trading and in a meeting in parliament house, Stockholm. He was also a primary science witness in the Hayes Windfarm Environment Court case in New Zealand, and in the U.K. High Court case of Dimmock v. H.M.’s Secretary of State for Education, the 2007 judgment which identified nine major scientific errors in Al Gore’s film
An Inconvenient Truth.

This is in addition to being a founding member of the skeptical NZ Climate Science Coalition.

You can begin to see why his death is unlikely to be reported here.  Yet this is unlikely to have bothered him.

Bob was the very embodiment of the “happy warrior” in the global warming debate [says colleague Joe Bast]. He was a scholar’s scholar, with impeccable credentials (including a Ph.D. from Cambridge), careful attention to detail, and a deep understanding of and commitment to the scientific method. He endured the slings and arrows of the anti-science Left with seeming ease and good humor and often warned against resorting to similar tactics to answer them.

Being skeptical (which used to mean, being a scientist) exacted a professional price. The slings and arrows were many.

He was a man who followed the scientific path [says Joanne Nova, author of The Skeptic’s Handbook], no matter where it took him, and even if it cost him, career-wise, every last bell and whistle that the industry of science bestowed, right down to his very email address. After decades of excellent work,  he continued on as an emeritus professor, speaking out in a calm and good natured way against poor reasoning and bad science. But the high road is the hard road and the university management tired of dealing with the awkward questions and the flack that comes with speaking truths that upset the gravy train. First  James Cook University (JCU) took away his office, then they took his title. In protest at that, another professor hired Bob immediately for an hour a week so Bob could continue supervising students and keep his library access. But that was blocked as well, even the library pass and his email account were taken away, though they cost the University almost nothing.
    It says a lot about the man that, despite the obstacles, he didn’t seem bitter and rarely complained. He dealt with it all with calm equanimity. Somehow he didn’t carry the treatment as excess baggage.

Jo Bast has compiled an extensive collection of Bob Carter’s writings, talks and videos, including this short commentary on climate protests in Paris last month . . .

. . .  and this longer panel discussion at the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, California, presenting Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science, in which he was a leading participant [Carter’s 15-minute presentation begins about 19 minutes in].

* Born in England, but educated in New Zealand. He obtained a B.Sc. (Hons) in geology from the University of Otago in 1963 before beginning a career there as an assistant lecturer in geology, before completing a Ph.D. in paleontology from the University of Cambridge and advancing to senior lecturer at Otago, where he stayed until being appointed professor and head of the School of Earth Sciences at James Cook University in 1981.


  1. Nice to hear a proper scientist talking about climate for a change. When you look at the evidence you are virtually compelled to put on a tin foil hat because the evidence is such that there must be a political conspiracy on a global scale to push an agenda, knowingly built on lies, to the detriment of mankind.


  2. I have long said that only someone trained in paleontology can truly discuss ecological shifts. It's only after one gains a deep understanding of the past that one can hope to predict the future (this is basic Uniformitarianism). While I am nowhere near as prominent as Dr. Carter, I have seen just what fait awaits anyone brave enough to point out that the fossil and rock records do not support alarmist claims, and have a deep sympathy for anyone willing to continue the fight after experiencing the vitriolic hatred spewed forth against anyone who doesn't conform to the party line.

    I love the fact that his first point is that the entire debate is out of context--that is perhaps the most important point that paleontology can contribute to this debate.

    I have to confess, I love IOS 11. If you want to destroy the Alarmist position, point out IOS 11--it represents the worst-case scenario they present (well, the sane one), and there was NO associated loss of biodiversity.

    I'm glad to see his findings are in agreement with what I've found in my reading of the literature. He's absolutely correct in saying that attempting to stop climate change is futility--regardless of the cause, there is no way to stop the climate from changing. It's actually worse than he presents, however, because the fossil record quite clearly and irrefutably demonstrates that the Holocene is a transitional period from the Pleistocene to the Anthropocene. The biological regimes the IPCC is attempting to return us to are inherently unstable--their goals are not just futile, but sheer and unadulterated folly.

  3. For interest I have been studying Civilisations several thousand years ago, ie China and Sumeria. Often reported is that these people's place in the world was changed dramatically by climate change, [as well of course as volcanoes, war, and catastrophic events] . This is climate change affecting water, ambient temperature, food sources, desertification and so on. But this is quite strange, how could there be climate change thousands of years ago, it is absurd, we had not industrialised the world yet, and the USA was not even in existence .. It doesn't make sense. There must be some valid other reason, for Civilisation collapses. Climate change started in the 1950's.

  4. On Greens/Greenpeace - pond scum has more value and integrity. I thought they had scraped the bottom of the barrel when you posted about their glee of exploding babies; your post about their glee at a crocodile eating a human. The latest confirmation of their inhumanity / human hating comes with an obituary for Dr Carter. {I was going to provide the link to the Whale Oil article 22Jan, but it is not proper on this page of commemoration}
    Not often that I ever swear, but when approached by Greenpeace I tell them to fuck off. (Ungraceful and intolerant - unlike Dr Carter)


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