A geologist's view of climate change

Adjunct Professor Ian Wilson
23 August 2019 4:00pm–5:00pm
Room 309, Steele Building (#03)


This talk examines the evidence for climate change and possible causes of global temperature increases since the 19th century in a context based on the geological record. The current global temperatures are comparable to earlier warm periods during the current and other Pleistocene interglacial phases, despite current CO2 concentration in the atmosphere being much higher than in any of those times. A similar poor correlation between CO2 and temperature is noted from the earlier paleorecords. An analysis of energy absorption by the greenhouse gasses confirms that CO2 is not the prime cause of climate change. Satellite observations support this conclusion. Other potential causes of climate change are examined including solar output, Earth’s albedo, orbital variations, plate tectonics, volcanism and ocean currents. A combination of solar, orbital and cloud effects is the most likely control on climate change.


Ian worked for 47 years in the Queensland government in various roles in the Mining, Environment, Premier’s and Emergency Services portfolios. After 18 years in the Geological Survey he moved into environmental work including environmental impact assessment and policy development. He played a major role in the development of contaminated land and environmental protection legislation in Queensland and was involved in policies related to climate change, mine rehabilitation, geothermal energy and carbon sequestration. He was Director of environmental compliance for the mining and petroleum industries for three years.

Since retiring from government in 2011, Ian has provided consultancy services to governments in Australia, Vietnam, China and Rwanda. He has been on the organising committee for four Life-of-Mine conferences held in Brisbane by the AusIMM.

Ian’s university studies included geology, physics, mathematics, economics and business subjects which have been supplemented by professional development courses on remote sensing, risk management and chemical exposure. He has published more than 70 papers and is currently an Adjunct Professor in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Queensland.