The Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency have confirmed that the decision to commission and publish a document called Accurate Answers to Professor Plimer’s 101 Climate Change Science Questions was made in reaction to outrage from teachers and scientists about Ian Plimer’s climate sceptic book aimed at children.

As Matthew Knott reported in The Power Index and Crikey back in April, a number of teachers and climate scientists were concerned that conservative think-tank The Institute of Public Affairs had paid for hundreds of copies of Plimer’s How to get expelled from school: a guide to climate change for pupils, parents and punters to be sent to schools across the country.

After teachers and climate change scientists “raised concerns with the department that this book was being provided to schools” the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency put together a document rebutting each of Plimer’s 101 climate change questions, a spokesperson for the department told Crikey. “The accurate answers document was developed in response to these concerns,” they said.

The 41-page “Accurate Answers” document announces in its introduction:

“Many of the questions and answers in Professor Plimer’s book are misleading and are based on inaccurate or selective interpretation of the science. The answers and comments provided in this document are intended to provide clear and accurate answers to Professor Plimer’s questions. The answers are based on up-to-date peer reviewed science, and have been reviewed by a number of Australian climate scientists.”

The report then goes on to number each of Plimer’s 101 questions and answer them directly, noting which ones are “misleading” or “incorrect”. Each answer has facts and figures, graphs often appear and there are links to other scientific resources.

When asked if the department had ever rebutted a climate sceptics book in a similar fashion, the spokesperson replied: “The Department has previously provided general advice to address climate change misinformation presented in many documents, reports and books. The document on Professor Plimer’s book How to Get Expelled from School is a more detailed analysis of misinformation on climate change and is consistent with advice that the Department has provided on these questions previously.”

Skeptical Science, the popular climate sceptic myths debunker blog run by scientist John Cook, is mentioned several times in the accurate answers document, which quotes graphs and figures compiled by Skeptical Science.

“It was important that someone responds to Ian Plimer’s book,” Cook told Crikey, noting that others had asked him to do a similar thing. “He [Plimer] wrote this book with 101 questions, it’s just a lot of work,” said Cook. “It’s a standard technique to generate an endless stream of questions. It takes a long time to go through and thoroughly answer them properly and make sure it is accurate.”

Cook estimates it would have taken “many months” for a document like this to be produced and checked by scientists.

The climate scientists who reviewed the answers are not named, but the spokesperson from Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency told Crikey that “climate scientists and science communicators from CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology, the University of Queensland and the University of Melbourne were engaged in reviewing the document and providing feedback.”

John Roskam, executive director of the IPA told Crikey last month that Plimer’s book had been welcomed by schools: “A couple of teachers have told us they’ll use it and refer to it [in class]; others have said, ‘we’ll put it in the library,” he said. “Parents — even more than principals or teachers — have said they’re grateful for us getting it into schools.

“School kids are being indoctrinated by teachers every day. There should be two sides to the story and the science is far from settled.”

The document appeared on the department’s website last Wednesday — along with a list of other trusted sources on climate science, including the CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology, the latest Australian Academy of Science report and the latest review from the Climate Commission. No press release or public notice was sent out to coincide with its release.