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Climate scientists respond to Monckton's misinformation

Posted on 22 September 2010 by John Cook

Climate Scientists respond to MoncktonOn May 2010, Christopher Monckton testified to the U.S. Congress, where he argued there was no need to take quick action to address climate change. Monckton made a number of assertions about CO2 warming, the benefits of elevated CO2, ocean acidification, temperature trends and climate sensitivity. Recently, a group of 5 scientists solicited responses to Monckton's testimony from more than 20 world-class climate scientists. Each climate scientist examined the part of Monckton's testimony related to their particular area of expertise and summarised their responses in the report Climate Scientists Respond. The result is thorough, methodical and devastating. Monckton’s assertions are shown to be without merit, demonstrating a number of obvious and elementary errors and based on a thorough misunderstanding of the science.

Climate Scientists Respond refutes Monckton's testimony in 9 major areas.

  1. Monckton misunderstands how carbon dioxide (CO2) played a role in lifting the Earth from a cold 'snowball' state, treating the events as if they were contemporaneous.
  2. He incorrectly argues that the present rapid increase in CO2 is harmless to coral, ignoring the vast difference in the rate of change of CO2 levels compred to millions of years ago
  3. Monckton claims a single benefit of higher CO2 levels – increased yields on selected crops – but fails to mention the wide-ranging negative consequences for plant species and agriculture.
  4. Monckton's claim that CO2 is not causing ocean acidification provide a compelling example of his lack of understanding of ocean chemistry.
  5. Despite Monckton’s assertions, compilations of global temperatures show that the late 20th century was exceptionally warm compared with the last 1500 years, with an exceptional rate of warming.
  6. His assertion that 'global warming ceased in 2001' is contradicted by recent, record-breaking global mean temperatures.
  7. Monckton ascribes the recent rise in global temperature to global brightening, citing a 2005 paper by Dr. Rachel Pinker. As the responses demonstrate, and indeed as Dr. Pinker herself has stated, his conclusions are based on a misunderstanding and misapplication of that work.
  8. Monckton argues climate sensitivity is low, based on his misinterpretation of the Pinker paper, as well as on a recent paper by Lindzen and Choi. Two recently published papers discussed in this report thoroughly discredit the paper by Lindzen and Choi, as well as Monckton’s conclusions.
  9. Monckton argues that “global warming is a non-problem”, and the correct response is “to do nothing”. This report states that a “decision to delay action to reduce greenhouse emissions is not a decision 'to do nothing'. It is a decision to continue emissions of CO2...committing the world to higher levels of global warming...with associated adverse impacts.”

As you read through the document, it becomes apparent why so many scientists were involved in this effort. For each of Monckton's claims, there are responses from a number of different scientists. The striking feature is each scientist addresses and explains a different error. Monckton's testimony is so riddled with errors, it takes a number of scientific expert to debunk all the disinformation!

This is an immensely useful, fascinating and important document. I would strongly recommend to any place where Monckton is public speaking that copies of this document are handed to the people attending the talk. I have one criticism. Why wasn't this done years ago?

Scientists who contributed to Climate Scientists Respond

  1. Dr. James Annan: Member of the Global Change Projection Research Program within the Research Institute for Global Change
  2. Dr. David Archer: Professor, Department of Geophysical Sciences, University of Chicago
  3. Dr. Ken Caldeira: Senior Scientist, Department of Global Ecology, Carnegie Institution, California
  4. Dr. David Easterling: Chief, Scientific Services Division, NCDC, National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA)
  5. Dr. James Hansen: Director, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
  6. Dr. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg: Professor of Marine Studies, University of Queensland, Australia.
  7. Dr. James Hurrell: Senior Scientist in the Climate Analysis Section and Chief Scientist for Community Climate Projects at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado
  8. Dr. David Karoly: Professor, School of Earth Sciences, University of Melbourne, Australia
  9. Dr. Jeffrey Kiehl: Senior Scientist, Climate Change Research Section, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado
  10. Dr. Nancy Knowlton: Holds the Sant Chair in Marine Science at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History
  11. Dr. Lee Kump: Professor of Geosciences, Pennsylvania State University
  12. Dr. Norman Loeb: scientist at the NASA Langley Research Center
  13. Dr. Michael MacCracken: Chief Scientist, Climate Change Programs with the Climate Institute in Washington DC
  14. Dr. Peter Reich: Regents Professor and Distinguished McKnight University Professor, University of Minnesota’s Department of Forest Resources
  15. Dr. Reto Ruedy: Scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
  16. Dr. Benjamin Santer: Research Scientist, Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison (PCMDI), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
  17. Dr. Gavin Schmidt: Climate Scientist, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
  18. Dr. Pieter Tans: Senior Scientist, NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado
  19. Dr. Kevin Trenberth: Senior Scientist and Head, Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado
  20. Dr. John Veron: Professor, University Center for Marine Studies, University of Queensland
  21. Dr. Bruce Wielicki: Senior Scientist Radiation Sciences, NASA Langley Research Center

The five scientists who organized the report were: Drs. Ray Weymann, Barry Bickmore, John Abraham, Michael Mann and Winslow Briggs.

Climate Scientists Respond: the full PDF report

Press Release

UPDATE 22/9/2010: The UK Guardian published an article about Climate Scientists Respond. Monckton sent a characteristically unhinged reply where he labels the climate scientists as either criminal, serial liars, mentally disable or having had their emails stolen in Climategate (good to see he still eschews ad hominem attacks). Barry Bickmore responds to Monckton's response.

Personal prediction: Monckton will follow this up in a few weeks with another Monckton Gallop of hundreds of questions.

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Comments

Comments 1 to 46:

  1. I will never understand why Monckton was allowed to testify to the US Congress since it's been clear for some time that he doesn't know what he's talking about.

    Look forward to reading to the report.
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  2. This is fantastic news!

    In fact, it made my day.
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  3. Long overdue. Thanks!

    The Yooper
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  4. That list of 21 climate scientists has some very impressive names. It's just too bad they have to waste their time debunking Monckton's nonsense.
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  5. Here's a nice presentation
    http://www.stthomas.edu/engineering/jpabraham/
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  6. This is a fantastic rebuttal using a who's who of climate change science. I can only imagine the response from Monckton. His head might just explode. If he issued over 400 question to Dr Santer from his presentations I can only imagine how long and delusional his rebuttal to this will be. That task may keep Monckton busy for another year or two...
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  7. Climate scientists respond to WHO?

    Will it be sent to the committee?

    Will they revise their conclusions?

    Why is this hind sight?
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  8. I kinda share John's criticism, but let's not be grumpy. I hope this is the first of a long row of public statements from climate scientists.

    Misinformation has been spread long enough without proper response.
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  9. I hope they're sending a copy of this to every member of Congress.
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  10. I note a careful "dissing" of the egregious Lord. He is generally referred to as "Monckton" without the title.

    I hope the US politicians get the subtle message that they should be talking about science to scientists, not publicists.
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  11. Note the last sentence on the cover page: "We encourage the U.S. Congress to give careful consideration to the implications this document has for the care that should be exercised in choosing expert witnesses to inform the legislative process".

    The US scientists present at the hearing must have profoundly embarrassed that their Congress had invited what amounts to a "climate quack" to give testimony. It would be like inviting a homeopathic practitioner to testify at a hearing on healthcare.
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  12. @1 Anne-Marie Blackburn
    I will never understand why Monckton was allowed to testify to the US Congress since it's been clear for some time that he doesn't know what he's talking about.

    Then, alas, you will never understand the sheer venality of American politics.

    It matters not a bit to his Republican denier sponsors that Monckton is a mendacious blowhard; he says the things they want to hear, so he is given a pulpit.
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  13. This is fantastic. It's great these scientists have taken time from their busy lives to do this. It's so incredibly important.

    I watched a video clip the other day of Monckton debating a climate scientist in AU on some news program (not sure which one now). It was fascinating. Once the climate scientist started to point out his inaccuracies Monckton reverted to talking over everything that anyone said including the interviewer. Almost meaningless and rambling stuff barely related to the issue.

    He really seems to be genuinely driven by paranoia of a global neo-nazi conspiracy where science is somehow at the center of it all. I'm sure that's now he will receive this report.
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  14. Alexandre@8:
    "I hope this is the first of a long row of public statements from climate scientists."

    Oh I hope not.
    They waste enough time already rebutting Monckton.
    That's just what he wants.

    Lets move on and improve the real science.
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  15. Actually, The Ville, I don't think Monckton takes well to criticism. Do you remember the outrageous responses he made to Dr Abraham's presentation? The least of which was calling him a "boiled prawn."

    That was one professor from a small college. This is 21 climate scientists with considerable reputations to back up their assertions. Monckton will surely take this as a frontal attack on his reputation.

    Expect a number of Fox News interviews to follow shortly.

    Who's making the popcorn?
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  16. The Ville #14

    You have a point there... but this nonsense has lasted long enough. I don't know how long it took for those great scientists to write that text, but it's well worth to drop a line to the broader public now and then and make the message clear.

    I hope they won't have to do this again. But I sure hope they'll do it again if needed.
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  17. SouthWing - I live in the UK and don't have much knowledge of US politics, though I'm learning much about it through debates on climate change and creationism. A system that allows unqualified people such as Monckton to testify on highly technical topics baffles me. Completely. I understand that it's a political battleground but it's going to take me some time to get used to such an absurd system.
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  18. In response to the question “Why wasn't this done years ago?”, there are several responses.

    For one, I don’t believe the scientific community took the "skeptical" criticisms seriously enough. More specifically, I think they [mis-]underestimated the degree to which contrarian views would dominate the scientific debate. This situation has now changed, and this report is evidence of that.

    Secondly, each of these distinguished scientists has his/her own career to pursue, requiring a very substantial investment of time and effort. Who has the time to write a response to someone so uninformed on the scientific issues? This partly comes down to a question of priorities, and in this regard, there is little prestige and recognition to be gained by publishing outside the traditional “peer-reviewed” journals. This too must change. The scientific community must roll up their collective sleeves, and get their message out. SkS is very much in tune with this goal, but will the authors of this report get adequate recognition from their administrators and home institutions. Here, SkS readers can potentially play a useful role, through thoughtfully worded letters of support sent to the appropriate institutions.

    Thirdly (although of much less significance), we all need to get involved, at no matter what level, and not allow the most strident voices to dominate. I actually initiated a minor effort back in October, 2008 to respond to a three-part article by Lord Monckton published in the dubiously titled journal “The American Thinker”. I went as far as to solicit comments from several prominent climate researchers, but ultimately, nothing came of it, owing partly to the challenges described above, partly to the overwhelming number of errors in the article, and partly to my "dropping the ball". The point of this “mea culpa” moment is that each of us has a duty to speak up on behalf of science, and not sit back and assume that reason will prevail.
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  19. CG, your stomach is stronger than mine. American Stinker is an awful place, I commend you for giving it a go.

    As for the scientists initially 'weak' dealings with the sceptics. I think everyone was a bit misled by the success of the campaign to reduce sulphate emissions because of the obvious impacts of acid rain. At the outset, with the formation of the IPCC, it looked as though it was going to go along the same path.

    Tedious hard work, long negotiations, eventual agreement, implementation.

    And now we're debating the physics of gases over and over and over again. With people who've been misled by the likes of Monckton and others wilfully conflating the issue with the Catastrophic Financial Meltdown alarmist nonsense.
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  20. Why wasn't it done years ago? Good question. It was important enough that it should have been done years ago. But it took a lot of work. No doubt that has a lot to do with why it was left undone for too long.

    But this is characteristic of Monckton's bad behavior: he strings together a lot of pseudo-scientific statements, each one of which sounds vaguely plausible to both Congressman and layman, and then states his conclusion very forcefully.

    Unfortunately, people really are heavily inclined to believe statements framed that way: scientists seem to forget what long training it took to get -them- out of the habit of doing so!

    So the result is that it takes only a little bit of work on Monckton's part to persuade the misinformed, but it takes much, MUCH more work to rebut him. No wonder his side has been winning for so long.
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  21. To my fellow Americans:

    Write to your elected officials and ask them to investigate Monckton and to consider if they believe he committed perjury. You can locate your Reps and Senators at USA.gov

    After doing that, consider writing to the top medial outlets. I have a lengthy list here.

    Do not be content to just applaud on a blog.
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  22. Re #21,

    Thanks Scott. Good points-- people need to be proactive. Those letters are not ignored and I have been told that, in my country at least, letters carry a lot of wait, especially nowadays.
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  23. Rob Honeycutt @ 15 ….”Expect a number of Fox News interviews to follow shortly”

    Well, maybe. My guess is that while the Murdoch media is willing to give Monckton a free pulpit from which to spew his nonsense, the wily and mischievous Murdoch will not publicly support Monckton’s views. Murdoch knows, as we all should by now, that anything Monckton says on global warming, climate change or its other effects, is wrong.

    My only quibble with Monckton’s critics is that they accuse him of misunderstanding science. He does not misunderstand, he deliberately and knowingly misrepresents.
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  24. New important study announced (NOAA):

    Scientists Find 20 Years of Deep Water Warming Leading to Sea Level Rise

    It should debunk Pielke Sr. new spin on the matter:

    New Paper “Recent Energy Balance Of Earth” By Knox and Douglas 2010

    Oh, and it might prove the new Antarctic / Greenland ice loss study correct?
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  25. Oslo @24,

    Thanks for the heads up. This is OT of course, but let us not forget the dismal Douglass et al. (2007)--which was co-authored with Singer-- before we give their findings too much weight.

    I have infinitely more faith in the UofW research that you linked to. That "missing" heat, it appears, is working its way down much deeper than thought-- quelle surprise.
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  26. I already had Douglas looked up ;-)

    Sorry to be OT, but it seemed important in context with the new article at Pielkes Sr. blog.
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  27. Ken #27, yes Monckton is just an eccentric extremist... who climate skeptics chose to represent their position before the US Congress.

    As to 'why people would oppose false views arguing against dealing with a dangerous problem'... gee that's a tough one.
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  28. Re #21 (ProfMandia) and #22 (Albatross). Can we please stay away from recommending criminal prosecution? It may be justified, but it makes us too similar to the Attorney General of Virginia threatening Michael Mann. Let's stick to the science.
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  29. Jeff T,

    Until not too long ago I would have agreed with you Jeff. But, IMHO, when appropriate, we now have to fight fire with fire. If compelling evidence exists of perjury, then surely as law abiding citizens we should not let such acts go unchallenged?

    Taking Monckton to task is not the same as the "witch hunt" undertaken by the Virginia AG. I hope that you can see the huge difference not only in terms of evidence, but motives to, in the case of Monckton. This is a very different kettle of fish.

    I agree that one should stick to the science, hence my delight that the scientists took the time and effort to counter Monckton using facts. Additionally, Monckton has been debunked so many times to no avail. So, IMO, suggesting that scientists are not permitted to take legal action when warranted, and nor should that be frowned upon, is not fair nor reasonable. Why should someone be given free pass in the event that they committed perjury?

    Taking the high road does not mean that we have to check our principles and justice system at the door.
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  30. Rob @34,

    I fear that John might edit this as it is OT, but I want to clarify something before letting everyone move on.

    The Virginia AG did not have grounds to investigate Mann, nor was it a legitimate action-- he was clearly on a witch hunt and fishing for something. In contrast, committing perjury is actionable and there is compelling and legitimate evidence to make that case here.
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  31. Albatross... Also sorry if we're going OT. I could be wrong but I think the AG probably can file a case regardless of whether it has grounds or not. And that's what happened. The case was completely without merit and was struck down by the judge.

    Literally, I think Cuccinelli was just trying to make noise in order to raise his own profile in politics. In that, the case didn't need to have any merit at all. It's just grandstanding for attention. For Cuccinelli it was mission accomplished.
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  32. Rob @36,

    No need to apologise to me, I'm just concerned that we are distracting from the point of the post-- that said, I do now feel obligated to answer questions asked of me. Hope John is not grumpy when he wakes up (;

    I'm sure that an AG can file a case whenever he or she chooses to (maybe I was not clear on that), but to do so without sufficient grounds is probably not good for one's career ;)
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  33. Albatross... Yeah, I'm sure as soon as John gets up we're both busted. ;-)

    Sometimes I think we're living in upside down world in US politics today where doing stupid things can actually propel your career.
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  34. Hi Rob @38,

    "But Dr. Scott Mandia started it!"-- says the albatross pointing a huge wing at post #22.

    Seriously though, I think some politicans have borrowed a page from Hollywood-types in terms of antics used to "advance" their careers.

    Hmm, I have a self imposed deadline to meet and am clearly procrastinating.
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  35. The Guardian still doesn't have a working link to this article.

    Look, the politicians are getting a lot of money from fossil fuel interests.

    Cuccinelli's dad used to work in marketing for the American Gas Association and now has two companies that do advertising and marketing--including for "European" companies.

    Sometimes these "professional services" are just ways of laundering money from foreign entities to US politicians.

    I have some experience of such "Europeans." They are going to try to destroy the scientists by hiring politicians and lawyers. They are going to take over consumer affairs. That's what they do in the part of "Europe" they come from.

    They don't care what is true. They want to sell gas.
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  36. Ken #37, brief foray into reality;

    * Climate scientists complained amongst themselves about a 'dissenting view'.
    * There is no evidence that they tried to prevent it being published.
    * It, in fact, WAS published.
    * Most of the editorial board of the paper which published it then resigned in disgust because it was immediately apparent that the paper was a complete fraud which never would have been released by any reputable journal.

    So where's the 'suppression of dissenting views'? This episode shows that skeptics can get even blatant nonsense published from time to time.
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  37. Climate skepticism is like the Gold Rush. There is so little gold to be had that it's truly not worth the effort. But then there are the clever ones, who do the cooking and the laundry and sell the booze to the miners. They're the ones getting rich. There are some very clever climate skeptics out there cashing in on the rush. Steven Mosher with his climategate book. Loehle, who wrote a book titled, believe it or not, "How to be a successful scientist." Yep, from the guy whose publication record is (almost?) exclusively in E&E...
    Then there is Watts, and all the ads he gets on his site, plus the exposure transferred to his electric car project. And Monckton with his speech tour. They're all working hard for the miners and raking in the dough.

    Quit wasting your time on a blog Ken, there is a large public out there ready to pay you to continue telling them what they want to hear. No data analysis required, no fancy statistics, no headache-generating line by line radiative transfer model, no Rossby Waves, just some good ol' talk in a book with a shocking title. Have at it, it's free money.
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  38. An insignificant point really to Dr. Verons response to Monckton's faulty logic; but on page 5 of Climate Scientists Respond there is the statement by Dr. Veron: "There were no corals in the Cambrian, symbiotic or otherwise: they had not evolved then."

    Maybe I'm missing something but some seemingly reliable internet sites state that corals did exist in the Cambrian. Maybe I'll have to dig out that 25 year old Historical Geology text.

    Anyway, a devastating rebuttal to Monckton. Cheers!
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  39. Roger... I believe solitary corals developed in the Cambrian but reef forming corals came about in the early Ordovician.
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  40. Thank you Rob re: @38. - that makes sense.
    Also - Thanks John C for the website
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  41. I've learned from an informed source that at hearings on "Extreme Weather in a Warming World" held two days ago (Thurs., 23-Sep), convened by the U.S. House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming that one Committee member requested that the scientists' rebuttal of Monckton be entered into the official record.

    The importance and value of this document is that it directly addresses Monckton's arguments, without requiring people who are less well grounded in the scientific evidence to juxtapose this evidence on their own. Bravo, again, to the climate scientists who worked on this.

    By the way... This led me to an interesting and potentially valuable information resource related to climate change I hadn't seen previously, providing a compilation of testimony presented before the Committee, plus lots of other multi-media resources. Nothing posted yet from Thursdays hearings.
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  42. UPDATE: Unless I missed it the first time, the hearing proceedings have just been posted: http://globalwarming.house.gov/pubs?id=0023#main_content
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  43. Re: CoalGeologist (40,41)

    Thanks for posting the links. I pulled this statement out of the Opening Statement by Representative Edward J. Markey, Chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming:
    "Meanwhile, concentrations of heat-trapping pollution continue to rise in our atmosphere, committing us to further warming in the decades ahead."
    Strong statement from a politician.

    Thanks again!

    The Yooper
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  44. I have this analogy that I would like some help with. If a patient with a heart condition sought an opinion from a heart doctor, this would be considered normal. If this patient sought an opinion from a foot doctor, about his heart condition, the patient would seem to be, at the very least, silly if not downright stupid. But what if that foot doctor actually gave an opinion about the patient's heart condition, what is that called? Unethical? Immoral? Perhaps even illegal? Would not that foot doctor receive some kind of condemnation from the medical community? So why then, are non-experts in climate science allowed to continue to stand beside true experts as equals?
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  45. It depends on the diagnosis, Ken. There'd probably be a second opinion from an expert, but if both experts concluded the same thing, and it was bad news, then the patient would probably . . . go looking for people who would tell him/her exactly what he/she wanted to hear. And if such a person was readily available--indeed, if many such people were being paid to be readily available--then it would be all too easy to jump on the bandwagon. At the funeral, many people would lament and blame everything on the liberal media.

    I appreciate the thorough debunking of Monckton, but it appears that the surface of the earth would have to be scoured of life before he admitted only to being wrong. As for the admission of deliberate disinformation, it'll never cross his lips, even if he were waterboarded. At most, confronted with the outcome of the disinformation campaign, he'd say he thought he was doing the right thing--the noble excuse of the ignorant wealthy.
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  46. "Why wasn't this done years ago?"

    I'd like to remind you of the existence of Complaint to Ofcom Regarding “The Great Global Warming Swindle” from 2007, which was "organised by three concerned citizens and was co-authored and peer reviewed by a group of 20 people. Some of the world’s most respected and experienced climate scientists, including former IPCC chairs and co-chairs, were involved, as were distinguished experts in epidemiology, entomology, economics, the media and renewable energy."

    As we know, “The Great Global Warming Swindle” was full of denier arguments, and this response goes through the film line by line, graph by graph, lie by lie. I still consider it a very nice resource.

    It's great that there is this new effort, but the old one is still worth remembering too!
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