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A climate change text book for our peers

By Graham Young - posted Tuesday, 15 October 2013

When you are tried by a jury you are said to be judged by your peers, and your peers are held to be competent to make all kinds of decisions, including whether to believe one or another expert witness.

Cartoonist John Spooner, a global warming skeptic, and co-author with geologist Professor Bob Carter, of Taxing Air: Facts and Fallacies about climate change wants to know why, then, when it comes to climate change, so many "experts" say we shouldn't apply the same due diligence to their expertise as our legal system applies to any expertise? What's the difference?

His conclusion is that they have a weak case, and thus the collaboration between him and geologist Bob Carter was born.


Taxing Air is a solid book. If you have been applying your critical faculties to the climate change debate there is nothing surprising in it, but it lays down the facts and the arguments in a question and answer format which makes them easy to follow. And it provides the bullets to shoot back at the other side in the carbon wars.

Added to that it uses the cartoonist's skills to make the arguments more accessible and memorable. While climate change ought to be an area of scientific debate, it has become a battle ground for propagandists, with the loudest voices being politicians, activists, and politician-activist scientists deploying standard rhetorical, as well as some shonky, tricks to win debates rather than prove their argument.

The essence of cartoons is that they make you think by entertaining you at the same time they subtly dislocate your world, making you open to new perceptions. Combining cartoons with solid scientific evidence is a stroke of brilliance.

For those who say "peer review" in a learned journal is all that is required to make a paper true, this is a book which rests on the thesis that the court of public opinion is actually better placed to ultimately tell who is right and who is wrong.

In fact we know that at least half that is published in peer reviewed journals is wrong, so for any public official to take them at face value without applying their own intellect to probing them is an act of complete negligence.

Professor Bob Carter is the source of most of the scientific information in the book, with acknowledgement of the assistance of Bill Kininmonth, Martin Feil, Stewart Franks and Bryan Leyland.


This is a well-credentialed line-up, and Carter, as a geologist, is a climate scientist with a very long and sophisticated view of climate and climate change.

The book acknowledges that there is much common ground in the area. CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and all things being equal, more CO2 means a warmer earth. It is also true that the earth has warmed between 0.4 and 0.7 degrees Celsius in the last hundred years.

Carter narrows the argument down to three main points:

  1. Pages:
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This is a review of Taxing Air: Facts and Fallacies about climate change, Bob Carter and John Spooner (Kelpie Press, 2013) $30 plus postage.

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About the Author

Graham Young is chief editor and the publisher of On Line Opinion. He is executive director of the Australian Institute for Progress, an Australian think tank based in Brisbane, and the publisher of On Line Opinion.

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