Dr. Robert M. Carter, R.I.P.

Published January 22, 2016

Climate Change Weekly #200

Editor’s Note: This is the 200th edition of Climate Change Weekly. Normally such a milestone would merit celebration, but the recent passing of renowned climate scientist Robert M. Carter, Ph.D. dampens our enthusiasm for self-congratulation. This edition of Climate Change Weekly is dedicated in its entirety to the life and work of Dr. Carter. Our prayers are with his family at this awful time. We will miss him.

In Memoriam
By Joseph L. Bast

It is with deep regret that I report the passing of a friend, colleague, and great scholar, Dr. Robert M. Carter. Bob died peacefully in a hospital surrounded by family and friends following a heart attack a few days ago. He was 74 years old.

Funeral arrangements are being made. It will most likely take place on Monday next week in Townsville, Australia.

This is almost unspeakably sad. Bob was the very embodiment of the “happy warrior” in the global warming debate. 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.

Bob never failed to answer the call to defend climate science, getting on planes to make the long flight from Australia to the United States, to Paris, and to other lands without complaints or excuses. He was a wonderful public speaker and a charming traveling mate. He was not an easy man to edit, though – he kept wanting to put unnecessary commas, “that’s,” and boldfacing back into his manuscripts – but the great ones never are.

Bob helped immeasurably with three volumes in the Climate Change Reconsidered series, a series of hefty compilations of scientific research he coauthored and coedited with Craig D. Idso and S. Fred Singer. Just a few weeks ago, he flew to Paris to speak at Heartland’s “Day of Examining the Data” and contributed to the completion and review of another book, Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming: The NIPCC Report on Scientific Consensus.

We honored Bob with a “Lifetime Achievement Award” at the 10th International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC-10) in Washington, DC last June. I regret that I missed that event due to the sudden onset of shingles, and so missed the opportunity to see my friend as well as publicly recognize his great achievements in science.

We’ve updated Bob’s online bio, which you can read below. A “guestbook” is being compiled below. If you have a comment or memory you’d like to share, please send it to Jim Lakely at [email protected]

Please remember Bob and his wonderful wife, Anne, in your thoughts and prayers.

— Joseph Bast

Robert M. Carter, Ph.D. Bio

Robert M. Carter, Ph.D., a long-time policy advisor to The Heartland Institute and a world renowned authority on climate change, passed away on January 19, 2016. He was 74.

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 the 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 served as an expert witness on climate change before the U.S. Senate Committee of Environment & Public Works, the Australian and New Zealand parliamentary select committees into emissions trading, and in a meeting in parliament house, Stockholm. He was 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 that identified nine major scientific errors in Al Gore’s film “An Inconvenient Truth.”

Dr. Carter’s research was supported by grants from competitive public research agencies, especially the Australian Research Council (ARC). He received no research funding from special-interest organizations such as environmental groups, energy companies, or government departments.

On March 3, 2015, Dr. Carter authored a lengthy correction of the scurrilous attacks by the environmental left against his friend and honorable colleague Dr. Willie Soon.

In December 2015, Dr. Carter joined Heartland’s contingent to Paris for COP-21 and presented at the “Day of Examining the Data.”

SOURCES: The Heartland Institute; Statement Regarding Allegations Concerning Dr. Willie Soon; and Day of Examining the Data


An interview with Dr. Robert M. Carter with Environment & Climate News Managing Editor H. Sterling Burnett.

Burnett: How did your work in paleontology, stratigraphy, and marine geology lead you to work on climate change?

Carter: Stratigraphy is the study of the Earth’s layered sedimentary deposits. The layering in most such rocks reflects their deposition on the floor of ancient rivers, lakes, oceans, and ice caps, with each layer corresponding to a particular depositional event. Such events may be seasonal, annual, decadal, centennial, millennial, or longer in recurrence. As such sedimentary layers accumulate one above the other, they build a rock record of ancient Earth environments.

Fossils occur commonly within sedimentary rocks and represent ancient ancestors of today’s living organisms. The study of fossils and chemical measurements of their host sediments can therefore be used to reconstruct ancient environments, including climate.

It follows that stratigraphy lies at the very core of climate research, because it is the only way that the actual history of climate on planet Earth can be reconstructed. Earth’s oldest sedimentary rocks are around three billion years old, and the long climatic record they represent tells us the Earth was not unusually warm at the end of the 20th century. Past changes in carbon dioxide preceded their parallel changes in temperature. Little correlation exists between major geological episodes of deglaciation, or warmth, and atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. And we currently live on a carbon-dioxide-starved planet, with atmospheric levels at 400 [parts per million], well below those optimal for most plant growth.


Burnett: At Heartland’s Tenth International Conference on Climate Change, you argued the world’s peoples would be better off adapting to climate change rather than trying to mitigate it. Why?

Carter: The issue is not climate change, which is and ever will be with us, but allegedly dangerous anthropogenic global warming (DAGW).

Despite all the hype, no actual evidence exists for DAGW. Instead, the changes that occurred in the natural world during the 20th century, including two episodes of mild warming, are consistent with the null hypothesis they were caused by natural climate change.

Second, no matter how much money you spend on trying to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, you cannot mitigate something, DAGW, that doesn’t exist except in the output of computer models. Meanwhile, spasmodic but damaging natural climate events and variation will continue to occur throughout the world on a regular basis–floods, droughts, storms, etc.–and cause great human misery and environmental and financial damage.

Therefore, any money governments spend on “climate change” should be devoted to preparing for and mopping up after such unpreventable disasters.


Burnett: Degrees of skepticism regarding the theory humans are responsible for climate change and whether its impacts on human well-being will be negative exist. Where do you fall on the spectrum?

Carter: It is undeniable that human activities have an effect on local climate. For example, all towns and cities are accompanied by a heat-island effect, whereby they are up to several degrees warmer than was the natural countryside prior to development. This is because industrial materials, such as steel, concrete, glass, bricks, and [asphalt], all absorb more radiant solar heat during the day–and re-emit it at night–than did the original native vegetation. Conversely, replacing native vegetation by light-colored crops, such as cereals, reflects solar radiation to space and causes local cooling.

It is a complete no-brainer that if you sum all such human effects around the globe, then mankind must have an effect on global average temperature, too. Yet, after thousands of scientists have spent about 30 years and several hundred billion dollars looking for it, nobody has been able to either calculate or isolate and measure the global effect.

Accordingly, my views on climate change are that local climate change caused by human activities is in some cases beneficial and in others deleterious. No accurate global accounting can be made of the net human effect, and neither can the human global signal be isolated and measured. Because damaging local or regional climatic events will always occur, attention needs to be focused on preparing for and adapting to such events rather than on “preventing” a speculative warming that can neither be measured nor shown to be dangerous.


Burnett: What is the most disturbing aspect of the way climate research and climate policy have developed in recent years?

Carter: Global warming alarmism became entrenched shortly after the formation of the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] in 1988. Since then, a rapid politicization of climate research has occurred.

The damage caused by this includes the demonization and economic penalization of the fossil-fuel industry, the waste of trillions of dollars on economically and environmentally farcical “alternative energy” sources, the waste of hundreds of billions of dollars on mediocre and often pointless climate “research,” the degradation of science teaching from top to bottom of the education system, and, worst of all, the shattering of the post-Enlightenment reputation of the scientific method as the best disinterested and effective method of understanding the world.

SOURCE: Environment and Climate News

For more of Robert M. Carter’s work see:

What Scientists Really Think About Global Warming

Acceptance of “Lifetime Achievement Award” at ICCC-10

Presentation on “Climate Change Reconsidered II: Human Welfare, Energy, and Politics” at ICCC-10 in Washington, DC, July 12, 2015

Presentation on “Attacks on Scientists and the Corruption of Science” at ICCC-10 in Washington, DC, July 12, 2015

Presentation titled “Why NIPCC Matters” at ICCC-9 in Las Vegas, 2013

Presentation on “The Misrepresentation of Science in the Public Domain” at ICCC-7

Presentation about Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science at the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, California, 2013

Public lecture titled “Climate Context as a basis for Better Policy” at the University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, in 2011

Interviewed by Terry Dunleavy of the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition in 2010

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