The chief troupier: the follies of Mr Monckton

Reposted from The Conversation. This is the ninth part in a two-week series Clearing up the Climate Debate.

CLEARING UP THE CLIMATE DEBATE: Associate Professor John Abraham puts Christopher Monckton’s climate claims to the test.

This summer, the people of Australia will yet again be treated to a circus tour. It will make light of one of the most pressing problems facing this planet.

That problem, climate change, will not go away even though an orchestrated group of contrarians wishes it would.

The most outspoken leader of this troupe is Christopher Monckton, a person with excellent credentials in speaking but no credentials in real science (he has not published a single peer-reviewed paper on any scientific topic).

Christopher Monckton presents himself as a fair and accurate interpreter of the science, but a careful examination of his views shows that he is anything but fair and accurate.

He was most recently seen comparing Ross Garnaut, the Australian government’s climate change adviser (and author for this series) to a Nazi.

Monckton nazi
Monckton succumbs to “Godwin’s Law” and compares Ross Garnaut to a Nazi.

Real scientists have never taken Mr. Monckton seriously. This hasn’t stopped him from traveling the world, presenting his views on science to anyone who will listen.

Mr. Monckton has been shown to have his science wrong on many occasions. Many real scientists have spent untold hours of effort to carefully document his scientific nonsense.

The documentation is critically important because in Mr. Monckton’s speeches, he cites study after study which give the impression that either climate change is not happening, or if it is, we don’t need to worry about it.

Mr. Monckton artfully mixes self-deprecation and humour among slides laden with graphs and scientific images that seem convincing to his audience.

I wondered, what does Mr. Monckton know that 97% of the world’s leading climate scientists don’t?

Is he some Galileo shouting truth from the rooftops?

I had to find out. Last year, I performed a little investigation. I actually read the articles that Mr. Monckton used as evidence against the concerns of climate change.

What I discovered was astonishing.

None of the articles I read supported the claims or inferences that Mr. Monckton was promoting. Just to be sure, I began to write to the authors of the papers. Of the 16 authors I wrote to, all of them agreed with me: Mr. Monckton had misrepresented or misunderstood their work.

So, where does Mr. Monckton’s science go astray? Nearly everywhere.

Here are a few highlights of his mistaken understanding:

I could go on and on … but we get the picture. Monckton’s science is wrong and Monckton’s interpretation of others’ work does not agree with the originators of the data.

He makes mistakes on polar bears, claims that the ocean is cooling, claims that the planet is cooling, claims that ocean rises will not be significant, claims that ocean acidification is not a concern, claims that recent global warming is caused by cloud changes, and so on.

It would be one thing if Mr. Monckton just gave speeches to partisan audiences.

It is an entirely different matter when he testified to the US Congress as an “expert” on climate change.

That testimony, in May 2010, presented nine key assertions that were without merit. Mr. Monckton’s assertions were so misleading that a group of 26 scientists (myself included) wrote a detailed, point-by-point rebuttal.

Scientists are generally a reserved group.

Despite this reservation, statements used to describe Mr. Monckton’s testimony included, “Mr. Monckton’s assertions on acidification are remarkable … the basics of this subject have been understood for a long time”.

Another scientist stated, “Monckton’s reasoning and calculation is incorrect … the remainder of his statement is simply chemical nonsense”.

Still another reported, “The submission from Monckton … is profoundly wrong … This is simply a red herring”.

What motivates scientists like myself to spend untold hours of time, without pay, to carefully document Monckton’s false claims?

The reason is simple.

We have a serious problem facing us. In order to make wise and informed decisions, we need accurate information.

Only with good information can we decide which pathway offers us the cheapest and most effective means to deal with climate change.

This is why CSIRO recently dropped sponsorship from an Australian conference at which Monckton will be speaking later this month. It’s also why Monckton was dumped from a private school networking event on the Gold Coast.

When people like Christopher Monckton misrepresent science, with an obvious agenda to delay action, they make our decisions more difficult and more expensive.

Instead of making light of the issue of climate change, instead of vilifying people who are genuinely concerned, instead of presenting inaccurate science, we should find ways to work together in a civil manner to collectively choose a path forward.

What Mr. Monckton doesn’t tell people is that the technology to deal with this problem is available right now. Enacting solutions now would provide many benefits.

Aside from addressing climate change, it would create jobs, improve national security and diversify our energy supply. Who can be against that?

Instead of fighting science and demeaning climate scientists, we should focus on solutions.

We really don’t need more Moncktons in this debate.

We need people who are respectful, scientifically literate and focused on solutions.

We need people who are not afraid of trusting in our own ingenuity to solve this problem.

We need people who have the courage to take action now for the sake of our future generations.

Wouldn’t that be a breath of fresh air?

Posted by John Cook on Thursday, 23 June, 2011

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