Monckton Myths - a one-stop-shop for Monckton misinformation
Posted on 1 February 2011 by John Cook
To loosely paraphrase an old saying, a piece of misinformation can travel halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to put its pants on. This is the conundrum facing climate scientists as they attempt to communicate the realities of climate change, amidst the noise and fury of the internet. The problem is global warming skepticism is a renewable resource. When you take the time to closely follow online discussions, blog posts and op-eds, you find the same skeptic arguments appear repeatedly, well after they've been thoroughly debunked in peer-reviewed research.
Christopher Monckton is a prolific climate skeptic. Perusing all the articles published by Monckton and the arguments he uses, Monckton appears to be zealous about recycling skeptic arguments. The same ideas appear over and over again. Recycling is usually good for the environment but sadly not in this case.
Of particular interest are the arguments Monckton uses most often. There are several sitting atop the pile which presumably are Monckton's killer blows. A close examination of these favourite arguments reveals much about how Monckton presents the science to the public.
Monckton's most popular argument is that climate sensitivity, a measure of how much the earth warms from rising CO2, is low. As our planet warms from increased CO2 levels in the atmosphere, Monckton suggests negative feedbacks suppress the warming. This is supposedly our Get Out Of Jail Free Card - we can pollute as much as we like and nature will take care of things. To back up this claim, Monckton cites the work of Richard Lindzen who uses satellite measurements of outgoing radiation as evidence for negative feedback.
However, Monckton only presents half of the story. A number of subsequent papers have examined Lindzen's work and found fatal flaws in his analysis. As well as a questionable choice of end-point dates in his data, Lindzen looks only at the tropics. A number of other analyses using similar satellite observations spanning the entire globe find positive feedback that enhances global warming.
On top of this, many studies using a range of different observations find that the overall climate feedback amplifies global warming. Climate sensitivity has to be high to explain the dramatic climate changes we see in the past. To argue low climate sensitivity based on one study presents only half the story. In fact, not even that. It gives you barely a fraction of the full body of evidence.
Monckton's other favourite argument is that sea levels are not going to rise much in the future, citing the words of Nils Mörner who claims it's physically impossible for sea level to rise much above its present rate. Again, this gives you only a fraction of the full picture. The expectation of future sea level rise is based on many different observations. Recent research into glacier dynamics in Greenland and Antarctica yield a prediction of 80 cm to 2 metres sea level rise by 2100. Another recent study takes a different approach, matching past sea level rise to past temperature change to yield a prediction of 75 to 190 cm sea level rise by the end of this century.
Meanwhile, the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets are losing ice at a faster rate every year. Two decades ago, the Greenland ice sheet was in approximate mass balance - as much ice was growing in the middle as was being shed at the edges. One decade ago, the ice sheet was losing ice at a rate of 100 billion tonnes per year. Currently, it's losing ice at a rate of over 200 billion tonnes per year. Greenland's glaciers are sliding faster down into the ocean.
A clearer picture of our future can be found in the past. Around 120,000 years ago, global temperatures were about 1 to 2 degrees warmer than now. At that time, sea levels were over 6 metres higher than current levels. Many lines of evidence indicate we're facing significant sea level rise this century.
In Unsound Advice, Monckton describes "one of the shabbiest tricks of the climate-extremist movement" is to give only one half of the story. Misleading the public by giving only half the story is indeed shabby behaviour. Giving them barely a fraction of the story is even worse.
For this reason, at Skeptical Science we've developed a resource Monckton Myths. We've compiled a database of Monckton's articles and the skeptic arguments he uses. As Monckton publishes new articles with the same recycled arguments, let us know and we'll add it to the database. While misinformation may burst out of the blocks quickly, by the time it's circled the world to start all over again, perhaps this time it will find the full facts dressed up and ready for action.