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Monckton Misrepresents Specific Situations (Part 2)

Posted on 23 February 2012 by dana1981, Alex C, Tom Curtis

Monckton Myths (200 x 70 pixels) On 19 July 2011, Monckton debated Richard Denniss, a prominent Australian economist, author and public policy commentator.  During that debate, Monckton delivered his usual Gish Gallop, repeating a number of long-debunked myths and misrepresenting climate science research.  A few days later, we at Skeptical Science detailed the various Monckton misrepresentations in the debate.

Monckton has recently responded to our comments, defending his debate arguments.  However, Monckton's defense amounts to little more than additional misrepresentations.  As John Cook recently alluded to, we will proceed to examine the mishmash of Monckton misrepresentations that ensued.  In his response, Monckton misrepresented scientists' own work (as we saw in Part 1), specific situations (as we will see here in Part 2), and reality in general (as we will see in Part 3).

Monckton Misrepresents Garnaut and the Australian Government

In the original debate, Monckton claimed that the Australian government's central climate sensitivity estimate is 5.1°C surface warming for doubled CO2, as opposed to the IPCC's central value of 3°C.  In his recent response, Monckton again repeated this claim, attributing it to Australian economist Ross Garnaut.

"The estimate is that of Professor Ross Garnaut, the Australian Government’s economic adviser on climate questions. It is on that figure that his economic analysis – accepted by the Australian Government – centres."

If true, this would be problematic, because the Australian government would be over-estimating the climate response to increasing CO2.  However, Monckton's claim is flat-out false.  Chapter 4 of The Garnaut Review actually states as follows (page 88-89, emphasis added).

"Projections of global mean surface air temperature for the 21st century show the increases continuing for all emissions cases. Figure 4.5 shows the projected temperature increases for the three emissions cases for the best-estimate climate sensitivity of 3ºC, with dashed lines indicating outcomes for climate sensitivities of 1.5ºC and 4.5ºC. Temperatures are projected to be slightly higher between 2020 and 2030 under the 450 case than under the 550 case, as rapid declines in aerosol emissions are associated with reductions in fossil fuel emissions, and the cooling influence decreases.

By the end of the century the global average temperature increase under the no-mitigation case is 5.1ºC, and still increasing at a high rate. The 550 and 450 cases reach 2.0ºC and 1.6ºC respectively, with the temperatures changing only minimally by 2100 in both cases."

In short, contrary to Monckton's misrepresentation of his work, Garnaut (and the Australian government) uses the IPCC climate sensitivity best estimate of 3°C for doubled CO2.  The 5.1°C warming figure refers to projected warming in a business-as-usual scenario where CO2 more than doubles.

Monckton Misrepresents the Medieval Warm Period

In both the original debate and recent post, Monckton suggested that the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) was warmer than Present.  To support this assertion, he first slandered the scientists contributing to the IPCC report, as discussed below.  More recently he referenced Craig Idso's website, which has compiled regional records which suggest that local temperatures in certain geographic locations may have been hotter than Present at various points in time.  Skeptical Science has previously discussed the misrepresentations of the scientific literature at co2science

A key omission in Monckton's reference to the co2science compilation is that the studies in question find that different regions experienced peak MWP temperatures at different times - it was not a globally synchronous event.  Hence compiling certain regional studies which find that some geographic areas were warmer than current temperatures at one point or another over a several-century period does not support the conclusion that the MWP was hotter than today.

As we noted in our original post, every peer-reviewed Northern Hemisphere and global millennial temperature reconstruction study has concluded that current average surface temperatures are hotter than at the peak of the MWP (Figure 2).  Even 'skeptic' temperature reconstructions demonstrate that Monckton is wrong and current temperatures are hotter than during the MWP (see the temperature reconstruction by Craig Loehle).

 Figure 2: Composite Northern Hemisphere land and land plus ocean temperature reconstructions and estimated 95% confidence intervals. Shown for comparison are published Northern Hemisphere reconstructions (Mann 2008).

Monckton has misrepresented the data by suggesting regional studies represent global temperatures.  John Abraham also previously contacted some of the scientists whose work Monckton claims supports a hotter MWP.  As we've come to expect, these scientists confirmed that Monckton had misrepresented their research.

Also, more important than the absolute temperature during the MWP and Present is the rate of change, for it is the rate of global warming that concerns us.  The rate of warming over the past century substantially exceeds anything we've seen over the past several thousand years.

We would also be remiss not to once again note that large internal variability and a hot MWP suggests that climate sensitivity is high, which contradicts Monckton's own favored low climate sensitivity argument (discussed in Part 1).

Monckton Misrepresents Michael Mann and Colleagues

Monckton had claimed in his debate with Denniss:

"...the fabricators of the 2001 UN report - purported abolition of the Medieval Warm Period - are now under criminal investigation for defrauding taxpayers by tampering with data and results?"

Monckton continues to defend this slander against the many contributors to the 2001 IPCC report, and the many contributors to the section discussing millennial temperature reconstruction.  Only one of these scientists, Michael Mann, has been under any sort of investigation (as far as we know), and yet Monckton defames every single contributing scientist with a broad brush.  Monckton owes these scientists a retraction and an apology.

As for Michael Mann, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has indeed initiated a politically-motivated investigation against him, but it is not a criminal investigation.  According to the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act, the baseless accusations against Mann involve a civil, not a criminal offense.  Moreover, the investigation involves research funded by the State of Virginia, which does not include the Mann et. al 'hockey stick' research.  The one grant in question awarded to Mann in Virginia involves research which had very little to do with climate change (Resolving the Scale-wise Sensitivities in the Dynamical Coupling Between Climate and the Biosphere) - see Cuccinelli's revised Civil Investigative Demand.  The sole basis of the investigation is that Mann may have included his authorship of the 'hockey stick' research on his resume in applying for the grant, which says more about Cuccinelli than it does about Mann.

With these slanderous accusations, Monckton has grossly misrepresented reality on many different levels.

Monckton Misrepresents History

In his debate with Denniss, Monckton claimed that Ben Santer singlehandedly added a statement to the 1995 IPCC report, attributing global warming to humans.  As we detailed in our response, this is simply an attempt to re-write history, and displays ignorance about the way the IPCC functions (as a consensus body).  However, Monckton ignored our debunking of this myth, and simply repeated it once again.  We have now created a rebuttal to the myth "Ben Santer changed the 1995 IPCC report," and we recommend that Monckton actually read it this time, rather than continuing his attempts to re-write history.  We remind Monckton and his fellow "skeptics" that repeating a misrepresentation does not make it any less false.

Monckton Misrepresents the Precautionary Principle

In the original debate, Denniss argued that given the overwhelming support amongst experts for the theory of anthropogenic climate change, we should take action to address it, which Monckton criticizes as the fallacy of argumentum ad populum.  As Denniss said at the beginning of his presentation, he is not a climate scientist, but an economist, and that his goal in this debate is

"to talk about the way that economists and certainly politicians as a general rule go about making decisions under uncertainty."

It is this theme that Denniss works with during his first ten-minute presentation.  The underlying principle that he references for his argument is the "insurance principle," also known as the precautionary principle.  This is an economic argument, and can be summed up as the idea that in the presence of suspected but yet scientifically unverified harm from a course of action, the burden of proof for a lack of harm rests on the proponent of that action.  The implied result is that, in the absence of proof of no harm, the action should not be taken, and/or actions to insure against the results of that action should be taken (subject of course to their own consideration under the precautionary principle).  Denniss likens this to buying insurance for your car, even though you don't have evidence that you will get into an accident.  Skeptical Science had a similar discussion - Prudent Risk.

There are two critical divergences from the argumentum ad populum Monckton asserts Denniss uses, and the precautionary principle which he actually does:

1) The argumentum ad populum fallacy in this case would argue that the consensus proves the human-caused warming theory is true.  Denniss does not make this argument.  Instead, he asserts that the consensus view of the science is reason enough for us to take action - there is an important distinction between asserting a claim is objectively true because of consensus, and asserting that it is economically advisable to act as if it were true because of the consensus.  Denniss advocated the latter, and as such did not commit the fallacy.

2) As Denniss explains when he first explicitly names the principle:

"Now, even though the scientific community leaves very little room for doubt, and very little room for uncertainty, even if there was uncertainty, most humans most of the time actually adopt the insurance [precautionary] principle when considering how to make decisions."

the precautionary principle assumes a lack of scientific consensus.  It is not required for consensus to be had, if we accept the precautionary principle, to act according to it.  This is not the case with argumentum ad populum, for which (at least a supposed) consensus of the proposed view is necessary to satisfy.

This is decidedly not the case with climate science, at any rate.  On the contrary, if we accept the precautionary principle, then we should be compelled by the scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change, which is derived from the vast consensus of evidence, to take action to address it.

It is this economic argument that Denniss makes, and whether Monckton agrees with it or not does not justify his casting of it as the argumentum ad populum fallacy.

In Part 3 of this series we will examine further Monckton misrepresentations of scientific research, reports, and reality in general in his response to our critique of his factually-lacking debate performance.

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Comments 1 to 21:

  1. It is no easy thing to unpack the kind of layered distortions Monckton lays on without making the rebuttal convoluted, and to make the text easy to read and follow. This post succeeds admirably. Great job.
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  2. If we want even a remote chance that Monckton will read the rebuttal "Ben Santer changed the 1995 IPCC report", then we best fix the link :)
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  3. Reality and Monckton reside in 2 different worlds that intersect only occasionally, causing the latter to devise all manners of defense mechanisms against the revelations that suddenly hit him on these occasions. I would not be too worried about him not being able to access any piece of reality, I'm sure he carefully avoids such voluntary encounters, since dealing with the inevitable ones is enough work already...
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  4. Monckton seems like an intelligent person but makes copious errors in logic. Given that by definition half of the population has an IQ below 100, is there any hope for them when so many more intelligent people get it egregiously wrong? Is there really only a small fraction of the population capable of understanding this science?
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  5. Link to the Monckton x Dennis debate leads to an empty page.
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  6. The bad link in question is: in the very first paragraph. I think it's also bad in the first part. Without it, we don't understand the full basis of this series, so please fix it.
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  7. Joe, it is not that Monkton lacks the intelligence to understand climate, it is that he does not try to understand. He tries to win and that prevents him understanding. He wants to believe that it is not happening and looks for evidence to support his preferred beliefs. There could be an element of game playing and trying to prove how smart he is too.
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  8. Monckton is so convincing, and so wrong. We are not trained to deal with someone who knows enough to lie convincingly, and then does so with great authority. I'm reminded of Julius Sumner Miller, who would ask a rhetorical question, and then if an audience member was dumb enough to attempt to answer, Julius would "correct" them with his enthusiastic "rigour". But he'd "correct" them, even if they were right... Of course, if you challenge Monckton later, and persist (as Peter Hadfield aka potholer54 has), he backs down. But its too late then, as the show is over, the theatre is dark and everyone has gone home.
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  9. Lloyd Flack @7, Good observation. To further support it, let's quote from Monckton's reply to SkS linked in the article: "Mr. John Cook (sic) [...] seems annoyed that I won the 2011 televised debate with Dr. Denniss of the Australia Institute, and has published a commentary on what I said" So, the discussion about the veracity of facts is just a minor aspect for him, "annoyance", while the main aspect is the fact that he "won" in advance, regardeless of underlying veracity. Clearly, in his mind, the winner can remake the history: he is experienced doing it as we've seen above. I've seen the video of debate with Dennis. Indeed, to the layman unaware of climate science and economics, and unwilling/unable to check the facts, Moncton looked much better on the merrit of his excellent presentation skills. That's why such laymans do follow him. This is very evil attitude and it's dangerous if left without debunking. People in the past have made the mistakes of letting such attidude go. In case of Monckton, already a large part of Congress have fallen victim of such attitude by in viting him to testify. Hopefuly no more of that.
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  10. I almost think the best way to handle a Gish Galloper in a debate is not to try to refute all their lies, but rather 1: First explain to the audience that it takes much longer to refute a lie than tell one 2: Spend the rest of your time absolutely gutting one of the Galloper's lies, showing in detail not only how it false and misleading, but also the process by which the Galloper twisted it and his or her history of repeating the lie despite having been corrected on multiple occasions.
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  11. Monckton illustrates very well why the 'skeptics' are always calling for public debates, and why climate realists rarely participate. Public debates are 'won' by whoever can make the most convincing-sounding argument. It has little do to with who is actually right, or there would be no purpose for debate teams. Monckton clearly does not understand climate science, but he is an excellent debater. Thus he "wins" debates by convincing the audience he's right when all he's really doing is misinforming them by misrepresenting his sources. Apologies for any broken links in the article - they've now been fixed.
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  12. dana1981@11 not quite fixed the link (2nd in OP) points to : should be :
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  13. Yes Dana, we can see the page because we're authors. I'll make the change, thanks for the catch pbjamm.
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  14. Moncton is more than a good debater; he's the classic definition of a demagogue. The 'argumentum ad populum' is a good example. Consensus in the AGW world means a consensus of evidence (AR4) that is strong enough for common sense to initiate a response. It isn't precautionary (just-in-case) - it's real. Climate Science & Opinion Moncton re-arranges the message to misrepresent that as opinion polls about AGW. He slides it into an argumentum fallacy presentation. Because there's so much attention to public opinion, no one notices his fallacy. Now he can launch the grenade that says its a product of their false groupthink opinion ...
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  15. If you are going to debate him don't do it live. Have it pre-recorded over several days with say a day or two between replies to give people time to check others claims. That way you can expose the half-truths and fabrications. Given the sloppy way that he reads things his replies could well put him into ever deeper holes.
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  16. Monckton has apparently responded, as was promised, to potholer54 (aka Peter Hadfield's) enumeration of his repeated lies, deceits an misrepresentations. As previously noted on another thread here, I was anticipating that Mr Watts would allow Monckton considerable leeway in his response. This, however, is mind-boggling. Be warned. Get a bucket handy before opening the following link:
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  17. Hi folks, Lord Monckton chaired the meeting I attended in the UK's Palace of Westminster (22 Feb) at which Professor Lindzen regurgitated his ICCC4 keynote address from May 2010. Unfortunately, there were so many misrepresentations of fact in this, I was foolish to try and address one of them before asking a question (and so was not allowed to ask it). However, it would seem that my 1800 word email to Professor Lindzen is getting noticed, because none other than Lord Monckton joined a discussion on the website of the UK's Independent newspaper a couple of hours ago in order to mock me then disappear again (in typical style). You may be amused to see the ongoing (mostly insane) discussion. I must say I am disappointed by the piece by Simon Carr and the insanity of many contributors to the discussion (I always thought the Independent was a sensible paper); but at least they sent someone to report on the meeting. I will publish my 1800 word email (critique of Lindzen's talk) on 28 Feb. (24 and 27 Feb are already taken up with 'James Delingpole - and ideological sceptic' and 'Climategate 2.0 - the first nail in the coffin of climate change denial' respectively.
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  18. Any chance of an article describing each of the proximity methods for recreating the temperature record before we had weather stations with emphasis on the positive and negative aspects of each method. It could become one of those iconic articles that is often referred to and sent to skeptics and not skeptics alike.
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  19. Can we really let this obnoxious individual get away with endangering us? Surely the time has come to put a stop to him and his deceit once and for all. This site concentrates on the science of climate change, and does a very good job of it. From my perspective, the only thing missing here, and I guess it is due to a lack of published papers on the subject, is in-depth analysis of what is likely to happen for each degree of warming if the likes of Monckton get their way and we fail to take the necessary action to combat it. I know it is crystal ball stuff, but I think it necessary to be able to produce documentary evidence that Monckton is wrong, has been informed by recognized expert opinion that he is wrong, but ignores such information in subsequent presentations. We also need to demonstrate that he has to be aware of the dangers to human life of hindering or stopping action to combat climate change i.e. the degree by degree analysis. He makes great play of the fact that he is a Lord. Well, I wonder if we can get him stripped of his title on the basis of the dangers he is putting his country in. Though, quite frankly, I would like to see a situation where losing his title would be the least of his worries. As Peter Hadfield, in his Monckton Maneuvers videos, clearly shows, Monckton admits to not being a scientist, says to his audience that he can support any claims he makes, yet not only routinely fails to produce that support when asked, but changes (maneuvers) to a position where he eventually agrees with the science . The trouble is that by the time he gets round to agreeing with the science, the audience have long gone, possibly to rattle the cage of their parliamentary representative in order to demand that any action on climate change be halted because it is not the threat the ‘alarmist research fund seekers’ make it out to be. Meanwhile Monckton is off somewhere else repeating his misinformation to yet another bedazzled audience sitting rapt by this real English Lord, and a Viscount to boot, Wow! There can be no question that he wins the debates he takes part in, while being wrong on nearly every count (and I am sure we can prove that in many instances he is either deliberately so or can’t understand the science). You get a feel for Monckton’s persuasive powers by visiting WUWT –snip– (self censored!) and read the adulation he draws. I expect his theatre audiences feel the same way, “Don’t ya know?” I look forward to part 3 and perhaps the subsequent comments might include some pest control suggestions.
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  20. idunno @ 16 The Monckton attack at the link you posted is typical of the chappie. In this case, he is not only an expert on Climate Science, he is also a consultant on American state and federal law. His degree is in what? Classical Basket-weaving? He certainly weaves an impressive fabric from broken threads of logic. It is a shame that a facile mind like his cannot be directed to a pursuit more likely to benefit his fellow man. Oh, I forgot, that is not his agenda, is it?
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  21. I notice on Monckton's WUWT response is that he seems to have learnt since his abysmal reply to Abraham. I remember his reply to Abraham as being easily disposable but here he pulls off sleight-of-hand after sleight-of-hand that allmost seem reasonable till you ask yourself about the assumptions and presuppositions he displays. It seems sceptical science has made him work harder which is a plus but I think it might become harder to displace his style in the public square.
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