Saturday, January 23, 2016

Prof Ian Plimer: A Tribute to Professor Bob Carter


It is with great sadness that I report the passing of Professor Bob Carter on 18th January 2016, aged 74 years. He never recovered from a massive heart attack at his home in Townsville. 

I first met Bob as the newly appointed Professor and Head of Earth Sciences at James Cook University of North Queensland (JCU). He was appointed from the University of Otago as an international expert in sedimentology, marine geology and palaeontology. His academic career started as an assistant lecturer at Otago after his Cambridge PhD.


During his time as Head of Department (1981-1998) at JCU, he led from the front, mentored hundreds of young people, grew the Earth Sciences department from an ore deposit specialist department to one with numerous disciplines of international repute, published scores of leading edge “soft rock” geological papers, opened up new institutes and put JCU on the map internationally. This was not without many internal battles within his Department, Faculty and University which Bob handled with great guile. The university bureaucrats feared him because he was always well-prepared, used knowledge, common sense and logic. 

He received many honours such as the New Zealand Geological Society’s outstanding Research Career Award, Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand and Lifetime Achievement Award (Heartland Institute), he served in various editorial roles in his discipline where he was known as a pedantic editor with a careful attention to detail and the scientific method and he was appointed Chair of the Marine Science and Technology Commission, Director of the Australian Office of the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP), co-chief scientist on ODP Leg 181 (Southwest Pacific Gateways) and Emeritus Fellow (Institute of Public Affairs, Melbourne). 

In 1987, he was appointed to the Australian Research Grants Committee (ARC) and I spent 5 years closely working with him as a fellow member of the ARC earth sciences group. Here I saw a polymath who was insightful, could rationally objectively analyse and had the ability to instinctively see the weakness in a research project proposal, logic and scientific methodology. As chair of this ARC committee, he would mentor new university and museum appointees that we interviewed, offer partial funding to vice-chancellors on the condition that they topped up research funds of new and young appointees and guided many young people. He would always insist on funding for young researchers starting careers, would use some of the budget to fund curiosity-based research that commonly did not get the support of referees and was a fearless supporter of the discipline of earth sciences. 

He spent many hours each year in Canberra trying to get a bigger slice of the cake for geology, geophysics, meteorology and climatology research. Ironically, some of the more prominent names in current AGW circles in Australia who then were just commencing their careers received great support from Bob in his capacity as Chair of this ARC committee. This shows the character of the man. After travelling the continent, the final ARC budget sessions were always held on the Great Barrier Reef followed by wonderful hospitality on the mainland from Anne and Bob Carter. 

In international geological circles, Bob was well known for work on palaeoclimatology (especially with the Ocean Drilling Program), the Great Barrier Reef, sea level change and Cenozoic stratigraphy.This prepared him well for the next phase of life. He published more than 100 papers during his scientific career. After retirement, he was appointed adjunct professor at JCU. It was then he became known to the public for his critical analyses of the fraudulent foolish fad of human-induced climate change. He was always friendly and cheerful, a captivating public speaker and during debates when he had a tirade of ad hominem attacks heaped on him, he just kept to the script and devastated opponents with facts, logic, the scientific method and his intellect. By his principled, polite and persistent espousing of the truth, he was able to silence opponents, most of whom were the antithesis of Bob, a true scientist of integrity and a gentleman. He didn’t suffer fools but was always polite and courteous. 

He was an expert witness in court on climate matters and was interrogated by parliamentary select committees in many countries. He gave private briefings to politicians of all persuasions and was a witness to the US Senate Committee of Environment and Public Works. Bob became one of the most influential voices in the world on human-induced global warming, was always willing to help those grappling with understanding the issues and was very free with his time. He was a great communicator, always the educator, and had the ability in speech and writing to make important points succinct and understandable to the non-scientist. He had a keen wit and a good sense of humour. Bob was author of Climate: The Counter Consensus (2010) and Taxing air: Facts and Fallacies about Climate Change (2013) and co-author of the three-volume Climate Change Reconsidered produced by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change and co-authored Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming (2015). 

He will appear in CFACT’s film Climate Hustle. Bob was active in the Global Warming Policy Foundation and the Heartland Institute, both of which provided platforms for his promotion of science. He received no funding from special interest organisations such as energy companies, environmental organisations or government departments. This is no surprise because Bob was a fly in the ointment for funding groups who supported bespoke politically-correct science. Contrary to his opponents, he could not be bought and was fearless in showing that AGW was a false and dishonest philosophy. 

All Bob wanted in climate debates was common sense, repeatable validated evidence and scientific reasoning. He was not prepared to accept a popular concept, poor reasoning or concocted statistics and valued validated evidence over models. He was fearless and suffered because of it. He dared to use scientific training to analyse and criticise claims made by taxpayer-funded global warmists. In response to numerous crank calls, political pressure and complaints from those with vested interests, JCU withdrew his office facilities, unpaid adjunct professorship, his email address and library access. 

The bureaucratic and academic pygmies were tired of having to answer questions from the public and disposed of the person who gave them great public profile. They were tired of orchestrated complaints about Bob’s writings and lectures on climate change and could not handle the person who showed that polite argument against poor science and reasoning can defeat politicised science. JCU found it easier to blackball the person who had built up the discipline of earth sciences. It was not that Bob had his facts wrong but he was politically incorrect and his “views on climate change did not fit well within the School’s own teaching and research activities”. JCU clearly supported proscribed bespoke grant-attracting science and was uncomfortable with vibrant debate, scientific truth, academic freedom and great thinkers. They dismissed the person who put them on the map, Bob took this in good humour and would not be drawn into the petty quagmire of climate vulgarity. 

Bob was a gentleman of passion, a fighter and died with his boots on. We all owe him a great debt of gratitude and it was a privilege to know such a great man. We will miss him terribly. His wife Anne was always at his side and supporting him and our condolences to Anne and their family. 

Dr Ian Plimer is the Professor of Mining Geology at the University of Adelaide and Emeritus Professor of Earth Sciences at the University of Melbourne. This tribute was first published HERE. 

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